Outboard motor life expectancy 2024

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boat with an outboard motor

Outboard motors maintain their popularity in the recreational boating world thanks to their efficiency, adaptability and convenience. Gas outboard engines hold the largest share of the global market and are more popular than diesel or electric motors thanks to their affordability and easily accessible fuel source. However, future trends indicate a move toward more sustainable electric motors. Understandably, recreational boaters want to ensure they invest in a reliable, high-performing motor.

Key insights

The typical outboard motor can run for 1,500 hours before it needs rebuilding.

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For the third year in a row, unit sales exceeded 300,000 in 2022, for a total of 305,900 units sold. Total sales for outboard motors also broke records that year, hitting $3.6 billion.

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The U.S. outboard motor market is expected to grow from $4.28 billion in 2023 to $7.34 billion in 2033.

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Depending on the type, outboard motor prices can range from under $100 to nearly $100,000.

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Outboard motor statistics

Outboard motors are self-contained propulsion systems for powering boats, pontoons and other vessels. They sit on the outside of the vessel, unlike inboard motors.

  • An outboard motor can range in price from $100 to almost $100,000.
  • Baby boomers purchased 40% of outboard motors from April 2023 to March 2024, while millennials purchased 19%. However, Gen Z spent more on average but purchased only 2% of the units.
  • Gas outboard motors hold the largest market share, with 82% in 2023, followed by electric and diesel with a 9% share each.

How long should outboard motors last?

The typical outboard motor can run for 1,500 hours before it needs to be rebuilt. In many cases, hours matter more than miles for a boat and boat engine. Hours indicate how long the motor has run, including time spent idling.

If you spend every day on your boat driving at cruising speed, you would not even use up a full year of driving time in 10 years. As may be expected, outboard motors last longer if you maintain a service schedule. You can expect many years of use if you have cared for the motor. After a certain number of operating hours, most maintenance technicians recommend specific services for outboard motors.

For example, if your outboard motor has between 500 and 1,000 hours logged, it could still perform well for five to seven years.

What affects life expectancy?

High fuel quality can determine how long your outboard motor will last. Fuel contaminated with water can compromise the inner parts of the engine, leading to corrosion in the cylinders and pistons. Low-quality fuel will cause carbon to build up in the engine. Eventually, carbon buildups in the engine lead to clogs. And clogs in an outboard motor require costly repairs.

A regular maintenance schedule will keep an outboard motor working well throughout its entire life span. Typically, the manufacturer recommends a service schedule. Following this service schedule, including changing spark plugs, oil filters and oil, can lead to a healthier, longer-lasting engine. An outboard motor will also run better if these tasks are completed on a firm schedule. Different manufacturers will recommend slightly different service schedules.

The occasional boat user will probably have fewer issues with their outboard motor. The less wear and tear you put on your engine, the better it will run over a long period. Someone who takes their boat out every weekend and attends many events will notice more of an impact on their motor than a boater hitting the water once a month. With the proper service schedule, boat owners can continue getting significant life out of their motor. However, it will most likely need to be rebuilt or replaced the more it is used.

The make and model of the engine play into life expectancy, too. Some brands use higher-quality parts, which can make the engine less likely to break down.


What is the average life of an outboard motor?

The average life span of an outboard motor is 1,500 hours. With proper maintenance, an outboard motor can offer reliable performance for years at a time.

What is the average cost of an outboard motor?

Depending on the type of outboard motor, prices can range from under $100 to nearly $100,000. Factors like make, model and horsepower can drive the price up or down. The main factor is the size and power required for the specific boat. A heavier boat requires a more powerful, stronger engine. Conversely, hull capacity limits the weight and size of the motor. A smaller boat may not have the capacity to carry a large amount of weight. Someone buying an outboard motor for a boat should always double-check the manufacturer’s guidelines.

What impacts the life expectancy of an outboard motor?

Four main factors impact outboard motor life expectancy: fuel quality, maintenance, frequency of use and make/model. The better you care for your engine, the more years of high performance you can expect out of it.


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