With longtime boat ownership comes inevitable decisions about making upgrades to your rig. And maybe for you, the time to make that decision is now.

With advancements in technology come new outboard engines with more power, more torque, improved fuel economy, and hushed sound levels. All of these advantages would be great to enjoy on your boat, and virtually every boater out there would appreciate a boost in horsepower. But if you want to keep the boat you presently own, that means repowering it.

Repowering a boat has the potential to be time-consuming and expensive depending on factors such as number of engines, boat size, and trailerability; however, finding a dealer who does the work can expedite the process exponentially. Of course, buying a new boat can be even more time-consuming and significantly more expensive. While these are just a few of the factors to consider, know that a repower also delivers peace of mind thanks to the reliability of a modern-tech engine versus that old, outdated, “always starts on the third try” engine.

Plus, if anything does go wrong, with a new motor you’ll have a warranty. The bottom line? Only you can decide if a repower is the right move — but we’re here to help make the decision a little bit easier.


As with any major purchase, the first step when deciding whether to repower a boat or not is to do a cost-benefit analysis of sorts. Here are 5 great reasons to pull the trigger:

1. Reliability

A new motor provides some serious peace of mind, especially if the old one was temperamental. Not only will you have to worry less, you’ll also catch more fish. Remember those times you had to call off a trip or end one early because of mechanical problems? Were you green with envy when you heard about the red-hot bite that took place while you were getting towed in? With a new motor, the chances of a repeat performance — and the dagger-like stares your fishing buddies would throw at you — go way, way down.

2. An Improved experience

If you’re taking a step forward in the tech department, your TOW will be a heck of a lot more enjoyable due to the reduced sound, vibration, and emission levels. And if you’re still choking the marina in a cloud of semi-burned two-stroke oil every time you crank the motors, repowering with four-stroke technology will improve your experiences on the level of a life-altering event. 

Improved engine monitoring. If you’re upgrading to digital gauges or displaying engine data on the MFD, you’ll enjoy reams of new benefits. At a glance you’ll be able to see your most efficient cruising rpm, how much fuel you’ve burned on any given trip or through the course of an entire season, engine fault codes, and more. In some cases, the new engine will even be Bluetooth-savvy, and you can pull this stuff up on your phone or bump a code to the dealer if need be. Mercury makes this functionality available through its SmartCraft suite of digital technologies, available on engines down to 25hp.

Improved control. If you’re upgrading to digital throttle controls, controlling the boat just got a whole lot easier. In some cases, it’ll even deliver goodies like cruise control, automatic trim, or the ability to microscopically dial in slow-speed trolling to 10 rpm increments. For Mercury, all of the aforementioned benefits are compatible with Digital Throttle & Shift controls and most mechanical controls, as long as the engine is SmartCraft compatible and properly equipped (your dealer can help you understand the features and compatibility).

3. Avoiding the cost of a new boat

Sure, repowering can be expensive. But have you looked at the price of new boats recently?! Buying a whole new boat of the same size and type would certainly cost you a lot more.

You can keep your “perfect” boat. The best reason to repower a boat is because you love it. If you’re one of those few people who’s found the perfect boat for yourself, your family, and your needs — but the engine is past its prime — repowering gives that boat a new lease on life and lets you keep on loving it. 

4. Better fuel economy & increased range

Even if your net gain is a big one, you’ll have to put an awful lot of hours on the engine before making up the expense of a repower. But it should reduce your monthly expenses a bit and considered over the long haul it can be a significant factor. Plus, you’re reducing your carbon footprint (without having to drive a Prius, thank God). Additionally, as fuel economy ticks up, so does range.

5. Increased speed & fast hole shot

This factor isn’t a given if you’re repowering with equivalent or lower horsepower, unless you consider the fact that newer engines are getting faster, lighter, and have more torque. But if you’ve upped the ante, it’s a safe bet you’ll also enjoy faster cruise and top-end, and more ponies means more pop as well.

Now, for the other side of the equation. Let’s look at the top 5 reasons why you might not want to repower your boat.

  1. If you don’t necessarily need a new engine, a repower could be expensive.
  2. You’ll lose the use of your boat for a week or two, in some cases maybe even up to a month.
  3. Now that you’ve got a new engine, it’s time to start considering all of the other potential upgrades you could make to your beloved boat.

Well, sorry…we know we promised you 5 reasons but that’s all we’ve got. Beyond these three things, how could anyone complain about having a new eng


The first step is doing your research. You’ll need to identify the repowering options and how each choice may affect your boat’s performance. Critical questions to ask include:

  • Is my boat worth repowering from a financial perspective? Truth be told, this is sometimes the toughest question of all to answer. In some cases, particularly with very old boats or those in poor shape which need significant repairs, you may actually devalue the engines by hanging them on the transom. Conversely, with some other boats you may significantly increase the value of the boat-motor package by repowering. This is generally the case when the boat is in good shape but the existing powerplant is not. The best way to research your own situation is to check the used boat market and see what similar models go for with original power, no power, and/or repowered. Check out local classifieds, online sources like Boat Trader or YachtWorld, and the NADA “blue book” values. As you do so remind yourself that repowering is generally not a money-making venture (the Covid-crazy used boat market of 2020/2021 notwithstanding). But hey, why worry about this in the first place? We don’t get boats because it’s an awesome financial move, we get them because we want to go fishing where we want, when we want, how we want — economics be danged.
  • Will you do the job yourself, or take the boat to a pro? If you have the gear and know-how to handle the job, completing a repower could perhaps be within your realm. That said, anything with digital gauges and controls and other electronic hardware can get very complex and there are several advantages to having a professional do the job. First and foremost is the busted-knuckle factor. But beyond that, if you do the job yourself and make any mistakes you may lose that warranty coverage. When an Authorized Dealer does the job, you know you’ll enjoy full protection. Plus, pros who deal with repowers day in and day out know to look for things that should be addressed during the process, like transom, fuel system, or electrical system issues. Let’s leave this one up to the professionals.
  • What is your boat’s horsepower rating, and how much horsepower do you really want? All boats have a max rating, and exceeding it is generally a bad idea. In some cases, exceeding the maximum can damage the boat, prove to be dangerous, void insurance coverage, or be downright illegal. On the flip side of the coin, settling below the maximum horsepower can lead to sluggish performance and will also make reselling the boat tougher down the road. So, as a general rule of thumb it’s usually a smart move to repower a boat right at its maximum rating.
  • Which engine(s) do I need? A lot more goes into answering this question than horsepower alone. You also have to consider shaft length, rigging issues, and weight. Shaft length is usually easy to match, but rigging can be very problematic, especially since some of the newer high-horsepower motors may not fit due to either width or tilt considerations. (Mercury engines are usually designed to fit common transom and engine spacing – a key benefit when repowering). Weight can be problematic too, though it’s less of an issue today than it was a couple of decades ago when repowering a boat designed for two-strokes with heavy early-generation four-strokes was a thing. Drops in weight (now a possibility with new four-strokes equivalent in power to some older models) are advantageous, but increases in weight need to be considered carefully. To get some idea of how a weight increase may affect performance and/or how the boat sits at rest, you can use five-gallon buckets of water. A gallon of water is eight pounds so each bucket equals 40 pounds. Place the appropriate number of buckets as far aft as possible, and see how your boat behaves.
  • Can I replace twin engines with a more powerful single engine (or replace a single with twins)? In some cases you may be able to, but the issues we’ve already listed out will dictate the answer. If it is a yes, then you have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option. A single will usually deliver better fuel economy, reduce maintenance and complexity, and lower cost. But for many anglers, especially those who travel far offshore, nothing beats the security of redundant powerplants. Also note, however, that making a switch can mean additional fiberglass work on the transom becomes necessary.
  • Which controls, displays, and gauges will I need? If your existing powerplant is relatively modern, the controls and gauges are in good shape, and you go with the same manufacturer, you may be able to dodge a bullet and reuse them. Considering how long many modern outboards live, however, this has become less and less common through the years. Plus, if you’ve been using mechanical controls and gauges you may want to take this opportunity to switch to digital. Today’s digital controls are far smoother than those old cables, and while you may not be able to patch them together with bubble gum and paper clips, they’re shockingly reliable. Digital gauges are also a big step up over the old-tech tachs, as they can deliver intel like fuel burn, engine history, and fault codes at the press of a button.
  • What else will I need to upgrade or pay for? On top of the engine itself, its controls, and the gauges, you may need other accessories and/or modifications. Steering can be a big question mark, especially since some of the newer outboards have integrated systems. Existing hydraulic systems may not match up, and autopilots and their pumps may not be compatible with new systems. Then, there’s the helm to consider. It probably has a lot of holes in it already, and you may need to plug some while making some new ones. Also think about networking issues. If you plan to display engine data on your MFD there will be cables to buy and possibly software to upload.
  • What will you do with the old motor? Unless you have a second boat with a bare transom, you’ll probably want to sell it and recoup some of the repowering expenses. And even with a blown powerhead, an outboard retains a significant amount of value for its parts. If you’re having a pro do the job they may take it in trade. Otherwise, most people will list the engine online at venues like the classifieds on BDOutdoors.


Chances are repowering your boat will make it feel even better than when you initially purchased it. While many are dissuaded from repowering by the though of having to come up with a large lump sum of cash up front, this should never be the case. By financing your repower job through a local dealer, you’d be surprised by the rates and terms that many locations are able to offer. Depending on the amount of the repower loan you require, your terms will generally range from about 5 years, to upward of 10 years. To find the optimal rates and terms that will allow you to drastically transform the performance of your boat, call or visit your local outboard dealer.

Okay, we’ve answered all the questions and a plan is now in place. Expect that when the job is done there may be a bit of a learning curve in store, especially if you’ve gone from old tech to new, as you figure out how to make all the cool new features work. Also expect that you may need to try playing with the props a bit, because the stock props that come on an outboard won’t always be the best choice for an older boat. But once all the bugs are ironed out, you point the bow for the hotspot, and nail that throttle, we can guarantee you one thing: that smile plastered across your face will be unstoppable.

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