Dear future boater,
Cars got tyres and boats got either outboards, sterndrives, forward facing sterndrives, surface drives, shafts and jets. To make your life easier we will explain really quickly the advantages and disadvantages of each of them:
Outboards: Low maintenance and nowadays super smooth. Having a black, silver or white engine cover blocking views at your boat’s stern (for those that do not like it) is the price to pay for slightly cheaper and lower maintenance. Sometimes boat owners with outboard propulsion systems had to give up a comfortable sunbed at the stern for space reasons; but that problem is being solved thanks to some interesting boat design solutions. They are a fantastic choice if you can access your boat through the side, or your boat has a spacious bow access; otherwise, choose a propulsion system that will allow you good access to the swim platform (any other).
Sterndrives: The most common inboard engine propulsion system (similar to outboards). They are relatively cheap to maintain, reliable and have been in the market for years and years. Most bowriders and cruisers and even small yachts use this propulsion system. It allows a much better maneuverability in small spaces than shafts, jets and surface drives and they are just everywhere. Most boat buyers won’t even consider other propulsion systems than the common sterndrives.
Forward facing sterndrives: Not yet available on all boats, these are an innovative propulsion system. Have higher initial costs than common sterndrives, their maintenance cost is similar to the one on a backwards facing sterndrive and by having the propellers pointing to your boat’s bow instead than to the stern, the propeller receives no sterndrive turbulence allowing the boat to go slightly faster with a fantastic maneuverability, and a slightly better fuel economy. Disadvantage, the propeller is directly exposed to any floating object, plastic, net, etc. increasing the chances of damaging the propellers and gear.
Shafts: Low maintenance and used mostly in larger yachts and sport fishing yachts. If you are not daydreaming about any of these boats, there is no need to consider this option; otherwise you will find the shipyard will give you no choice but to take these. They need to be complemented with bow thruster and stern thruster (the last one won’t always be necessary).
Surface drives: Very uncommon in small boats, these are a fantastic performance propulsion system. They require a higher initial investment and are more expensive to maintain that common sterndrives, but allows the best performance and fuel efficiency due to a reduction in water drag force (less boat in contact with the water). This system is normally fitted on high speed boats (racing boats) and at high speeds create what is called a “rooster tail”. For the price, a very expensive “rooster tail”.
Jets: For shallow waters. It will normally reduce your boat’s draft by up to around 50cm compared to most propulsion systems, allowing you to use your boat on very shallow waters. Although they need more maintenance and are prone to seize, they transfer no vibrations to the boat and are safer for rescue activities; enough reason to be the choice by default for Police, maritime rescue boats and lifeguards ́.
If you have not yet decided which one is best for you, come and talk to us and we will be more than happy to advise you. Until then, have a fantastic day!