Part Newsletter. Part Blog. All Bayliner.

Outboard vs. Sterndrive: No need for a power struggle…read on.

The two primary power choices for today’s runabout and deck boat often have people new to boating asking the simple question: “Which is best?” The answer is not that simple or black and white, but we hope that this simple breakdown of the issue takes the struggle out of the decision.

We will break the issue down by basic considerations like how you use your boat, horsepower-to-weight, fuel efficiency, noise level and aesthetics. Then, you’ll see where the pros and cons of each lie and make an informed decision. The good news is, most of our models are offered in both configurations.

The Basics
Architecture:
In most cases, boats vary little from the aft seat forward in models available with either option. Typically, sterndrive powered models include a full sun pad and the option of an extended swim platform, where outboard powered models usually feature twin swim platforms, flanking the outboard. An outboard also gives the boater better transom access for activities like fishing, where the sterndrive with sun pad would not, so it really boils down to how you use your boat.

Winterization/Extended Season:
Because they use a marinized automotive engine block, sterndrives are more sensitive to cold and require a much more extensive winterization process because of the way the engine holds oil. In contrast, the oil in an outboard drains out of the block every time you turn the engine off, making it much easier to winterize and allows boaters to start boating earlier in the season and boat later in the season.

Horsepower-to-Weight Ratio
For the amount of horsepower that can now be packed into an outboard, they are pound-for-pound the winner in this category. To give you an idea of weight, our typical model with standard power weighs approx. 600 pounds less with an outboard than their standard sterndrive. Horsepower varies but the difference in weight compensates for this in most cases. To this point, top speeds for our like models with standard outboard and standard sterndrive will be very close even with the added hp the sterndrive puts out.

Fuel Efficiency
Modern outboards—particularly the four stroke designs—will be most fuel efficient. Also a 150 hp outboard can typically match or exceed the performance of sterndrive engines making more than 200 hp, and get in the neighborhood of 25 percent better gallons per hour consumption at cruise speeds—though cruise rpms will be higher for outboards than sterndrives.

Noise Level
Earlier outboards (2-strokes) were noisy. But current, four-stroke outboards, however, are much quieter. In fact, it is often hard to hear one running at idle. At cruise, however, both are pretty even so this is not as much a factor as in the past.

Aesthetics
There’s no question a lot of people really like the clean lines of a sterndrive design with a big sun pad over the engine and a full-width swim platform. An outboard motor interrupts that clean profile, breaks up the platform into a pair of small ones, and often requires a motor well that intrudes on aft lounging space aft. However, to others an outboard is a thing of beauty, allows a more accessible, fishable transom and is their look of choice. This is, quite simply, a personal choice.

To Summarize
Both have pros and cons and ultimately depend on your boating activity, sense of style, tradition and personal taste. We encourage you to work through this decision with your Bayliner dealer to make sure your decision is sound and lets you make the most of your time on the water.