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  1. Outboard vs. Inboard Outboard: Which Boat to Buy?
July 11, 2022

Outboard vs. Inboard Outboard: Which Boat to Buy?

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These days, many family boats are offered with a choice between outboard or inboard power. With both options available, some boat-buyers might be curious as to which one is right for them.



Types of Deck Boats

Deck boats in general provide incredible versatility. Built with a wide beam with plenty of room for passengers and gear, deck boats offer incredible stability and are the perfect platform for a day of fishing, cruising or watersports. However, there are two different types of deck boats on the market, each with their own benefits and features. The main differentiation between the models is whether they are driven by an outboard or an inboard/outboard engine (I/O).


Outboard Boat


Hurricane boat cruising through the water

Outboard boats are recognizable by the engine on the transom. They are very popular for their ease of use and typically lower price. While they lose some of the seating and lounging area of the back deck, the engine is easy to access and maintain and outboard engines provide excellent handling and torque for exhilarating performance.


Inboard Outboard Boat

Three friends having fun on a Hurricane boat

Inboard Outboard boats have the engine in a compartment inside. This allows a full back deck for lounging, watersports, or a swim platform. By having the engine enclosed and insulated it also make the engine much quieter resulting in a more enjoyable experience. The downside to Inboard Outboard boats is that the engine compartment takes up valuable real estate in interior compartments.


Types of Boat Motors

With the layout and use of the boat hinging on the type of propulsion it runs, a careful consideration of which is right for you must include a more detailed look at the engines themselves.


Outboard Motor

Outboard motors are self-contained units that include the engine, transmission, and propeller, mounted on the boat’s stern and sitting outside the hull. Outboard engines provide steering control in addition to propulsion by pivoting and controlling direction of thrust. These types of engines are typically right at home on fishing vessels, as well as pontoon boats.


Inboard Outboard Motor 

Inboard engines are contained within the structure of the boat and provide thrust and steering from the bottom of the hull. On most recreational boats, the style of inboard motor is an inboard/outboard motor, or I/O, which combines the engine mounted inside the boat with a steerable drive unit mounted on the stern – a sterndrive. This kind of engine has become a popular option for many boat styles and might be right for you.

Inboard Outboard vs Outboard Boat: Which Should You Buy?

There’s no one right answer as to which motor is the right choice for you. Each motor has its benefits for different activities and lifestyles, and you should carefully weigh those factors before making your decision.


Boating Location 

The style of engine you choose may also be impacted by where you plan on cruising – outboards can tilt up in the shallows, allowing access to sandbars and beaches, while a sterndrive’s higher weight can mean that it’s a more pleasant ride in rougher seas.


Boating Activities

The most crucial element of choosing an engine for your boat is thinking about what you plan to do with it. For many boaters, having a sterndrive is key as it allows for full use of the boat’s stern because it’s not taken up by an outboard. For those who plan to lounge and try to make the most of the boat’s interior, the uncluttered look is both more aesthetically pleasing and more functional. Additionally, an I/O engine will often be quieter, allowing for a more pleasurable cruise in some instances.


Boating Maintenance

When it comes to upfront cost of the two engines, an outboard will typically be cheaper than an I/O engine, although upgrades in outboard technology has made it so the two price points are often comparable. When considering down-the-road costs, such as maintenance, sterndrives may require more attention due to their many moving parts – a prospect that is slightly more difficult than with an outboard, as outboards are far easier to access and service with the full engine outside the boat. They’ll also be easier to move, replace and upgrade. On the other hand, inboard/outboard engines may have a longer lifespan, allowing for less overall cost in the long run.


Ultimately, the choice between an inboard/outboard and an outboard motor comes down to your personal preference. Many boaters have strong opinions on which works best for them, and you should try to form your own. Compare for yourself the differences between outboard deck boats and inboard outboard deck boats.