Our survey says…

Outboard motors ranked

Kim Fundingsland/MDN

BoaterInput recently completed a survey of outboard motor owners, asking them several questions about their motors. The objective? To determine if all major brands of outboards are pretty much the same or are some more dependable than others.

The results should be of interest to boat owners, maybe even provide them with more interesting data rather other than bragging rights. Keep in mind however, that the sample size is small.

The survey was divided into two categories – motors under 150 horsepower and motors over 150 HP and over. Here’s a summary of what was learned.

Under 150 HP

A total of 106 boaters participated in this survey. Boaters were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with their engines, regardless of age. Yamaha owners were especially content with their engine brand with a 9.3 rating out of 10. Honda and Suzuki had high scores too but a very small sample size. Evinrude, now defunct, rated an 8.9.

What about Mercury? Mercs received a satisfaction rating of 8.7. However, notes the survey, more recent Mercury owners appeared to be much more satisfied than their earlier predecessors with the satisfaction rate of 2010 or newer Mercury outboards a solid 9.3 versus Mercury motors produced in 2009 or older.

So, concludes the survey, Yamaha is the top-rated outboard but the gap “narrows considerably” when focusing on newer engines. Okay, now for a further breakdown in data.

In the under 150 HP class Yamaha received a near-perfect score of 9.7 for “reliability,” considered the most important attribute for an outboard. Mercury came very close to Yamaha in the reliability category and rated higher in terms of “ease of maintenance.”

When it comes to preference, the debate rages on. Kind of like Ford or Chevrolet, but Mercury wins the preference battle. Mercury also received higher marks for “greater parts and service availability.” However, states the survey, “Yamaha’s long and consistent track record of reliability is the main reason why many prefer this brand.”

The survey concludes that both Mercury and Yamaha “should deliver a satisfying ownership experience given that Yamaha and the newer Mercs are both extremely reliable.” There was a difference though when shopping for a used boat with older power. Yamaha was considered the safer choice.

150+ HP

A total of 159 boat owners responded to this survey category, some of whom owned more than one boat, for a total of 189 engines. Yamaha was the top rated outboard brand overall, followed by Evinrude, Mercury, and Suzuki.

The survey noted that engines have changed considerably in recent years, pre-2010 vs. 2010+. Not surprisingly, says the survey, “Yamaha satisfaction remained consistently high over time. This is what the brand is known for and why it is so highly regarded by many.”

Mercury received the “most improved” award, going from 8.3 pre-2010 to a solid 9.0 among 2010 or newer motors. As for reliability, Yamaha scored an impressive 9.7. Mercury owners considered their outboards reliable too, although not rating them quite as high as Yamaha. Owners considered their Mercs “smooth running” and “dependable” while praising performance as a key reason for their satisfaction.

In terms of consideration, 68% of boaters in the 150+ HP class would consider buying a Yamaha. Slightly less, 62%, would consider a Mercury.

The saltwater market has long been dominated by Yamaha, reflected by 62% of saltwater boaters preferring a Yamaha to just 17% for Mercury. As for freshwater, the numbers are virtually reversed. Mercury is “king” with 46% preference by those shopping for a new boat as compared to 28% for Yamaha.

Finally, says the survey, “both Yamaha and Mercury are quality engines and either should give you years of trouble-free service.” It adds that Yamaha’s reliability rating is “off the charts” and the lack of issues is a common theme among Yamaha owners.


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