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Flora
Apr 9, 2024  •  12 min

Cheap Boat Motors: How Can I Find a Reliable Outboard for Cheap

Everything boating-related seems expensive and boat motors are no exception.

A simple Google search will land you on motors ranging from hundreds of bucks to over $10,000.

So is there any way to find a cheap boat motor? Where to buy cheap boat motors?

Fortunately, there are quite a few tricks to find cheap boat motors for sale (used or brand new).

Now let’s check out the 6 secret tips to get the best motor deal for your boat!

Editor’s Note: While searching for your best budget boat motors, beware of the “cheapest boat motor” scams and stay away from insanely low-priced outboards that are too good to be true. Click to check the typical signs and avoid being fooled by scams.

Cheap Boat Motors

Before You Read: Why are boat motors expensive?

If you have searched around, you will find general boat motor prices go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why are boat engines so expensive?

You need to understand the “economies of scale”. It means specific goods (with less demand supported by specialized production) are always more expensive than general goods (with higher demand supported by mass production).

But still, you can find some affordable or cheap outboard motors with our insider tips.

Find Cheap Outboard Motors on Boat Shows

The boat show season may be the best time of year to get a good cheap boat motor.

Generally, dealers or manufacturers will offer specials on motors to attract visitors and help sell at the show. There are always nice incentives and good bargains, especially on last year’s models.

Besides that, dealers are ready to negotiate, so it’s highly possible that you can get a good cheap boat motor during the show.

There are a lot of resources and websites for you to check out the local boat show schedules, such as BoatUS and Discover Boating. If you are interested in certain brands, you can also visit their website for more information. For example, ePropulsion will list its upcoming events on its website.

If you are looking for cheap motors for sale, attending a boat show can be an efficient way to start your research and make a nice purchase.

Affordable Motor on Boat Shows

Buy Cheap Boat Motors off Craigslist & Facebook Market Place

Search Craiglist, you may find some cheap boat motor gems on sale when someone repowers or parts out the old boat.

For the cheapest boat motors, you may have to settle on those which have sat in the backyards for a few years and need someone to find ways to bring them back to life.

Also, you can always put a “wanted” type of ad on Craigslist saying you’re looking for an outboard within X dollars. Then you will just wait and see what people email you.

The Facebook Marketplace works in a similar way. You just need to keep checking. When you see a cheap outboard you like, you need to go right there and don’t forget to do a thorough test.

The engine sales forum can also be a good place to go for some used and cheap outboards. Boaters will list their used boat motors on the marketplace or parts forum when they want to upgrade or repower the boat.

Buy Affordable Outboards from Boat Yards, Marinas & Repair Shops

Another effective way to find cheap used boat motors is to stop by a couple of boat yards and small local shops. Or you can call around and ask directly.

Just tell them what you are in the market for and leave your number, so they can keep an eye out for you.

Some marinas and marine repair centers have outboards on consignment sales. They might have some trade-ins, broken engines, or motors they want to get rid of cheaply.

This is a more reliable way to find the best cheap boat motors because they tend to be more honest and they don’t want to leave a bad reputation.

Purchase from a Reliable & Affordable Outboard Motor Brand

If you’ve searched around, you might find that older outboards are still surprisingly expensive than you thought, especially those in good shape.

Then why not go for a brand new affordable boat motor? That way, you can keep your cost (relatively) low and enjoy full services and support from the manufacturer.

There are indeed some inexpensive outboard motor brands with great reviews worldwide.

As you may have already noticed, there can be great price differences in similar products across brands. Click to see the boat motor price by brand and find the brand within your budget.

Beside comparing the price, don’t forget to search around and check the customer reviews and professional test reports (easily available on YouTube) to make sure you get the best bang for the buck.

It’s also important to always buy from brands with local dealers. Some boat motors are sold cheaply online, but you may risk a long shipping time for the motor and replacement parts.

For example, ePropulsion has a global distributor and dealer network, so you can find immediate support online and offline to help solve your problems quickly and easily.

In fact, this is an easier and safer way to go if you are not familiar with boat motors or mechanical stuff.

ePropulsion Boat Motor Distributor Network

Don’t Miss Out on the Shopping Season

Just like other businesses, most boat motor manufacturers or dealers will do their own sales sometime before Christmas. And it’s a good time to find cheap boat motors.

Sometimes it’s staggering to see how much individual shops will discount to get a sale during the shopping season.

Besides that, the end of the boating season is another good timing. If you can wait till the end of the boating season, you’re very likely to get a good deal on boat motors.

Buy the Whole Setup and Sell Separately

Another trick to get a cheap boat motor is to buy the whole setup (usually with the boat trailer and an outboard) at a discount. Then you can keep the boat motor, and sell the other two.

As you can imagine, this method involves a lot of hassle and some risk. For example, it’s highly possible that you will need to spend a long time waiting for the buyer.

Trade in Your Old Boat Motor

If you are trading your old engine, sometimes you can find a dealer that deals in both the new engine you are interested in. In that case, you can get a better deal for your boat motor.

Never be afraid to ask around. Generally, the local dealers would be happy to negotiate with you and take the trade-ins. Or you can just sell the old engine first (maybe on the Craiglist) and buy a new one separately.

Is It Smart to Buy Older Used Boat Motors?

Whether a used old boat motor is worth it depends largely on your mechanical skills.

You will need to work on the older boat motors quite often in exchange for a cheaper price. For example, for a 40-year-old engine, you will probably have to do one hour of maintenance for every 4 or 5 hours on the water.

If you are not technically inclined, you will need to pay someone else to do the maintenance. Marine parts are also expensive. In that case, the cheap boat motor will eventually become a money pit.

Another issue with old used boat motors is the availability of replacement parts. For some old models, parts will be a nightmare to get and you will definitely not want this to happen.

So if you are in the pre-owned market looking for a cheap used boat motor, it’s suggested to go for big brands and get a relatively modern model that’s common, reliable and easy to work on.

Generally, big brands provide good parts support even going back 40 years. However, be aware that no manufacturer warranty is provided for used boat motors.

Anyways, be prepared to learn mechanical stuff and fix things with your cheap used boat motors.

Beware of Cheap Boat Motor Scams

Sometimes you will see some insanely cheap boat motor offers online, but it can be risky.

It’s true that you can find great ‘deals’ once in a while. However, in the world of boat motors there’s a lower limit. If the outboard price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

A good way to protect yourself from cheap boat motor scams is to always stay away from the new sellers and low feedback sellers.

The same thing can happen on Craiglist. For example, I’ve seen a 60’s 3hp outboard sell for 500$, whereas a 2002 20HP engine for 300$ in 10x better condition, which makes no sense.

So you need to know what the average price is. An easy way to get the information is to check the same engine on different resources (such as the surrounding craigslists).

Besides that, it’s important to run a thorough test before your purchase. Here are a few necessary steps for cheap gas boat motors:

  • Do a compression test. Google around to learn the reasonable compression numbers and you will want a variance of no more than 10% cylinder to cylinder.
  • Have a look at the gear oil. Make sure there are no metal shavings in the oil. Also, note that milky oil means water getting into the oil.
  • Make sure the engine can turn over easily by hand and it idles right.
  • Test start the engine for the first time on a stand and see if it can start smoothly.

For cheap electric boat motors, the testing process is much easier. Just hook it up to a battery and check whether it works fine with all the settings.

Sometimes cheap boat motors involve hidden payment that comes later.

Always pay attention to the “What’s in the box” section to learn what you pay for.

For cheap gas boat motors, the price sometimes doesn’t include extras. ie. remotes, gauges, and props.

For cheap electric boat motors, remember to check whether they include batteries on the package.

For example, you can buy a trolling motor for a couple of hundred dollars because it’s just an electric motor and speed controller, but a 100Ah lithium battery is $500-$1,000.

As for the used old cheap boat motors, don’t forget the higher maintenance cost associated.

Typically, a 20 hr maintenance service will cost about $350, so try to include this in the price.

Cheap Boat Motors on Water

FAQs About Buying Cheap Outboard Motors

If you’ve read this far, then you should have learned a lot of practical ways to find a cheap boat motor. Try them out and you are welcome to share what you got in the comment.

If you are still confused about anything concerning cheap outboard motors, read the FAQs below to find quick answers.

1. Where to buy cheap boat motors?

As mentioned above, you can find cheap boat motors in a lot of places, such as boat shows, Craigslist, Facebook Market Place, boat yards, marinas, repair shops, etc.

You can also buy affordable boat motors through some inexpensive and reliable brands, and get discounts on shopping season and the end of the boating season.

2. Why are marine engines so expensive?

Marine engines used to be outrageously expensive, especially electric ones. That’s affected by a lot of factors, such as the high cost of batteries, economies of scale, and high development costs.

The supply and demand can mostly explain this. You can see a lot more cars than boats, which makes car motors a general good and boat motors a specific good. And all specific goods are more expensive than general goods.

However, the price of marine engines is expected to decrease in the future. For example, with the development of lightweight lithium batteries, affordable small electric boat motors have become a popular option for boat owners.

3. Where can I find small cheap motors for sale?

Cheap small outboard motors are like gold on the market, since they are extremely popular with fishermen for low speed trolling or as backups and for tenders, and they can hold their value well.

If you are looking for a small cheap boat motor for sale, you can monitor online (the Craiglist or engine sales forum) or just leave your information to some local boat motor shops nearby and see what they have.

It takes time to get a good cheap boat motor, so the secret is to be patient.

4. How much is a new boat engine?

How much is a boat motor worth? A new boat engine can cost you somewhere from a few hundred dollars to a whopping hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. It depends mostly on the brand, the sizes, power, motor types, and the features you want.

Click here to find out the boat motor price by brand (and also horsepower) and tips to save on buying a new boat motor.

5. What’s the most economical boat engine?

A smaller boat engine is always more fuel efficient than a larger one. From this point of view, the smallest one that gets the job done is probably the most economical boat engine.

Also note that 4-stroke outboards are more efficient than 2-stroke.

If you can get an affordable electric boat motor, that might be the way to go. There are also fewer maintenance and service issues, making it a more economical boat engine in the long run.

6. Are outboard motors cheaper?

Yes, the outboard motors are usually cheaper upfront than inboard motors. If you want to get a cheap boat engine, the outboard motors would be a better choice.

Besides that, the outboard motor is easier to maintain, winterize, and service since you can access it easily. I’d recommend the outboard motor to anyone who wants an easy to use and affordable boat engine.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of practical ways to help you find cheap boat motors (whether online or locally), but it will take a lot of time and energy to do research and testing (for the used engines) to get a reliable one.

As many experienced boat owners say, the best time to buy a new boat motor is when you need it. The enjoyment of being on the water can never wait.

If you need any extra help in buying a good cheap boat motor or want to learn more about the outboard motor deals available now, you can get in touch with a marine specialist by clicking here.

Join the discussion!

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