WHERE TO LOOK/GO:
The first choice in one's mind is usually Craigslist. It's convenient in that it provides what you're looking for nearby, but can also have some damaging downfalls. Buying from a complete stranger can be cheaper, but there is a major risk that they are not going to be completely truthful about the motors condition. Selling their item is in their best interest and they're going to do that. Craigslist isn't always a bad option, but stay cautious. Another option is scrolling through social media platforms. Facebook marketplace has grown to be just like, if not larger, than Craigslist. Again, be mindful of sellers doing what they can to get rid of their items and receiving your hard-earned money.
Please note that we'd suggest steering clear of states near the ocean. The price may be nearly halved, but you do not want a motor that was ran in salt water. The corrosion from salt water generally cuts a motor's lifespan to several years rather than the 30+ years you can get from a fresh water motor.
You could always wait on a friend, friend of a friend, or neighbor, etc. looking to repower their boat and buying their old one. If you are going to purchase an outboard from a seller rather than a marina, we suggest buying from someone you trust. You'd be able to access how well they've maintained the motor and any major/minor problems they may have had.
Lastly, we suggest you go to a marina that specializes in used outboard sales such as Van's Sport Center. Here at Vans, we can ensure this is your best option. Buying from a used outboard dealer means you know that you are getting a good used motor from a reputable business. You can look into their reviews from happy/unhappy customers as well. Marinas will go through and service the used motors top to bottom to make sure they're in great shape and ready to run. They repair anything that needs to be fixed and get them in running condition. Van's also offers a warranty for the first season of use. That way if anything were to happen to the motor mechanically, it would become a top priority and fixed as soon as possible. Used dealers also have a huge inventories of motors giving you plenty of options in horsepower sizes, brands, shaft lengths, and model types to ensure you've got exactly what you need. On top of that, Van's and other marinas can install outboard motors whether you bought if from there or not. Going through a marina that sells motors every day, and knows the ins and outs can definitely make the whole process a little more convenient and worry-free.
HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?
Where's the cut-off point? At what year should you start to question? This answer is a bit tricky. You want to steer clear of any outboard that you cannot buy parts for anymore. But this also doesn't mean that you cannot trust a 20-30 year old motor. Our general rule, with some exceptions, is that we do not b uy anything to sell in our inventory that is older than a 1990 outboard. This keeps our inventory somewhat up to date and keeps customers satisfied knowing their outboard can be fixed if anything should happen further down the road.
Horsepower size depends on what the max horsepower is for your vessel. Every boat these days has a coast guard tag that will tell you the max horsepower, total weight, and person capacity. Here at Van's, we would recommend getting as close to the max horsepower without going below 2/3 of that max horsepower. This horsepower range will give you the best performance for the boat. If you were to go any lower than that recommended minimum point, you will quickly see that you are under-powered. Although, If you just need a boat to cruise around in and get riders from point A to point B, any lower horsepower should do.
SHORT, LONG, OR EXTRA LONG SHAFT?
Knowing whether you need a 15" short shaft, a 20" long shaft, or a 25" extra long shaft outboard is something to seriously consider. These different length motors are built specifically for certain transom heights on boats. All boats have a transom height based on the style of boat they are and their hull size. To determine what your boat needs, you are going to measure from the top center of the transom (where the motor hangs) to the very bottom center of the stern (back of the boat). This should give you a measurement somewhere around 15, 20, and 25 inches. Lets say your transom measures 19" high, that means you are going to need a 20" long shaft motor. I would double check with your dealer if you are not sure. Buying a motor too long or too short will result in bad performance and, ultimately, a waste of money.
This may not be a question of what brand is better, but what brand motor and controls are currently on your boat. The most economical route will be sticking with the brand motor you already have so that you can reuse your existing controls. Just by keeping your existing controls, you could save hundreds in rigging accessories and labor. For example, say you do switch to a totally new brand. All of the controls are going to have to be replaced no matter what. We typically sell a used control box for around $250.00 and if you need cables and guages, a few hundred more. Tiller models don't matter as much because the only thing you would have to possibly reuse from your old motor is a gas tank. If that's the case, you can always change out the tank end fitting on the hose to accommodate the new motor.
TWO OR FOUR STROKE?
There are advantages and disadvantages for both two and four stroke outboards. Four strokes usually have an age range from the mid 1990's to present. These motors are quieter, don't need a gas/oil premix, better on fuel, heavier than a two stroke, and cost more. They are ideal for pontoons or boats that you do not want to yell over the motor to speak. Two strokes have an age range from the 60' and 70's to present. They are more common to see for sale since they have been around longer than the four stroke technology. These motors are a little louder, need a gas/oil mixture, lighter in weight, and they are cheaper than a comparable four stroke. Fisherman and hunters really like these two stroke motors for their light weight and performance.
WHATS THE CONDITION?
Lastly, how do you know if it is a good working motor or not? You could have the seller run it on the hose or in the water, but that won't neccessarly tell you if something is wrong with it or not. A motor can run with low compression and that's definitely not something you would want to find after purchase. We would suggest testing the spark and compression before you dish out any money. This test is easy enough that the seller should let you check it. If you don't have access to the proper tools, you can politely ask the seller if a marina can check it. If it doesn't pass the inspection for those two things, I would continue on with your search. Most marinas, like Van's, will not even consider buying a used motor unless it clears the spark and compression check first. Another quick easy task is to check the gear lube. If you unscrew the lube drain on the lower unit and iit starts coming out looking milky, the lower unit is bad and needs to be repaired.
Buying a used outboard is not as easy as going out and slapping a motor on the back of your boat, as tempting as that may be. Unless its a tiller model. Then you kind of do just slap it on the back of your boat, but that's because you don't have a control box, harness, or cables to worry about. Even then, if you take what we recommend into consideration and know what motor you need, you should have no problem. If you have any questions about buying a used outboard, feel free to give us a call, shoot us an email, or stop into Vans Sports Center. We will be happy to assist!