Putting Dollars to Horses

Outboard engine price comparison

Published in the June 2011 Issue June 2011 Feature

We know the readers who take the time to turn to the back of our magazine to read the Power Profile feature each month are the devoted boaters. The ones who spend hours and days researching which engine to choose for their `toon or deck boat, and then even more time testing and tweaking to make sure they made the right choice.

That's why this month we're taking a departure from the usual fare found in this feature. Instead of highlighting a specific marine engine manufacturer, we'll be taking a closer look at pricing across the board. Why do this? Well, for one, we hope to give those devoted readers more insight into the sometimes confusing world of choosing an outboard for your craft. How much money can you expect to pay for a 90hp compared to a 150hp? At what power point can you find the best value in this market?

Wonder no longer. We've tirelessly gathered all the relevant statistics and compiled them into one easy-to-understand article. What we've come up with is an interesting look at the pricing strategies of the Big Five outboard manufacturers: Evinrude, Honda, Mercury, Suzuki and Yamaha. We gathered the retail pricing for the outboards each manufacturer offers and then averaged them to find what the true cost would be to increase your horsepower. If we can give just one reader the ammunition to make an informed decision about purchasing an outboard, we've done our job.

Initial Consistency

After the number crunching, the thing that stood out like a sore thumb was the consistency visible as you go from 40 to 250 horsepower. The numbers read like a grade-school addition book: $6,000 to $7,000 to $8,000 all the way to 135 horsepower, where a $2,000 difference results between this point and the next lowest of 115hp. And after this variation it's right back to the predictable curve: 14, 15, and then a relatively huge gap between 175 and 200hp: over $3,000. The graph then finishes off with the more-or-less $1,000 per horsepower point.

However, using our natural math skills, we dug even further and discovered more variation than we originally saw.

Digging Deeper

After determining the true horsepower difference between each level (i.e. 40 to 50hp) and then comparing that to the price differences at each point, we discovered some hidden and potentially useful information.

For starters, you're paying more for the 10hp jump from 50 to 60hp than any other potential upgrade: $168 per single unit of horsepower. Other large jumps include 175 to 200hp ($131), 40 to 50hp ($128) and 115 to 135hp ($99). The biggest steal using this formula? Choose a 250hp outboard instead of the 225hp and you're paying only $36 per additional unit of power.

Going from 75 to 90hp seems like a smart move, as well. You're only paying $623 more in total, and the price per unit is $41, on the lower end of the scale.

What this shows is that manufacturers are definitely interested in creating tidy price jumps to match up with the standardized horsepower ratios in the industry. That way, they can point the customer to the next step up on the chart and say, "It's only around $1,000 more," while we can see some upgrades are definitely a better deal than others.


From here, it's a process of deciding how much additional horsepower will do for you. Is going from 40 to 50hp on your fishing `toon really worth shelling out $128 per unit of power? Is squeezing out more power by going from a 115hp to 135hp outboard worth almost $100 per unit? Maybe in your case it is, and maybe it isn't. The important thing is being informed enough to make an educated decision, rather than using guesswork and the information the dealer provides you.

What really sticks out most of all in the deal is to go from 225 to 250hp. If you're already spending an average of $21,000 on an outboard, it's most likely a smart move to shell out the additional $36 per unit of power for a total of $900 more to make that leap.

If the extra power is the difference between being able to pull a skier behind your `toon, go for it. However, if it will merely give you a bit more top speed power when you rarely use what you currently have, it's probably a better idea to stay put.

Consult the chart and enjoy the feeling of knowing what you're talking about when discussing power options with a dealer.

We're including the raw numbers here in hopes some of our more mathematically inclined readers will be able to glean even more information from this article. Send your ideas and insights to brandon@pdbmagazine.com and we'll put the best ones on our Facebook page. Heaven knows none of us were math majors in college.

The Cost of Horsepower

We took the retail pricing for outboards from Evinrude, Honda, Mercury, Suzuki and Yamaha and then averaged those prices to find what the true cost would be to increase your horsepower.

40hp - $6,671.60 90hp - $10,263.00 175hp - $15,968.00
50hp - $7,958.00 115hp - $11,565.20 200hp - $19,258.80
60hp - $8,572.20 135hp - $13,552.50 225hp - $20,913.60
75hp - $9,640.50 150hp - $14,813.60 250hp - $21,814.50

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