Bowriders: Outboard vs. Sterndrive

Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 11:00AM

If you’re in the market for a bowrider boat, chances are you’ve noticed more and more are available with outboard engines in place of sterndrive engines. That’s because in the past, sterndrives have always been the preference for bowriders. However, brand new boats are coming with outboard power, even when it comes to high-performance boats. According to a survey by Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), 82 percent of the respondents expect outboard sales to be up this year, and half of those expect sales to increase by more than 10 percent in 2018.


What is the reason behind the industry shift to outboards? How do you know if an outboard engine is right for you? What features should you consider as you shop for a new bowrider boat?


Monterey Boats has compiled a list of some of the critical factors to consider, including performance, fuel efficiency, space, aesthetics, tilt, cost, maintenance and noise level. While outboard engines outperform sterndrive engines in some areas and vice versa, the decision ultimately comes down to your specific boating wants and needs.

Outboard vs. Sterndrive on Bowriders



When it comes to the performance of outboards vs. sterndrives engines, the power-to-weight ratio must be taken into account. Outboards weren’t always able to compete in the performance category, but the amount of horsepower available for them today is a game changer. For example, while both a 200-horsepower sterndrive and a 200-horsepower outboard have the same horsepower, one weighs significantly more than the other. This weight difference depends on each specific model, but overall, an outboard is hundreds of pounds lighter. And when it comes to performance, lighter is better.



Those hundreds of pounds saved on an outboard translate to fuel efficiency and savings. So, if gallons per hour are important to you, consider a modern four-stroke outboard, as they are often the most fuel efficient. Additionally, while RPMs at a cruising speed tend to be higher with an outboard engine, they still beat sterndrives in fuel efficiency.



Unfortunately, you’re going to have to sacrifice space when choosing an outboard or a sterndrive for your bowrider. A sterndrive underneath the boat allows for a full swim platform on the back, uninterrupted by an outboard. This is something important to consider, especially if you’re going to be using your boat primarily for hosting family and friends and want to have that easy access to the water. Alternatively, you’ll lose space on the back with an outboard motor, but will gain cockpit space for storage or seating usage.



While style and aesthetics go hand-in-hand, your personal preference is the ultimate decision-maker. Sterndrive engines are often the aesthetic choice because they’re entirely out of view. However, some boat owners prefer the look of an outboard engine on the back of a bowrider. It’s all about personal preference.



When it comes to tilt, there’s only one option — outboard. That’s because given their location underneath the boat and out of sight, sterndrive engines cannot tilt. In contrast, you can shift the whole engine, prop and drive entirely out of the water with an outboard engine.


Outboard enables you to navigate through shallower waters. When you’re not using it, you dramatically decrease exposure to marine growth and corrosion by tilting your outboard motor up. 



Outboards and sterndrives offer completely different designs, which means their upfront price tags are also different. Pricing between the two used to be more competitive, but now outboards are almost always less up-front. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated that all sterndrives needed to use catalytic converters, causing the price of sterndrives to increase, while the outboard motor was able to maintain its cost.



Besides up-front costs, it’s also important to consider the price of maintenance for each type of engine. Neither engine requires more routine maintenance than the other. However, because  sterndrive engines aren’t as easy to access, they are usually more expensive to service (difficult access means more expensive labor costs when routine maintenance or repairs are needed).


Alternatively, outboard engines are outside the boat, making them easier to reach for repairs and giving you the ability to conduct most maintenance in or out of the water.



Not so long ago, sterndrive engines used to have an edge on outboards because of their location underneath the bowrider, whereas the outboard is open to exposure in the back of the boat. However, the newer four-stroke outboards have significantly improved in noise level. While sound and noise are always something to consider (especially when hosting family and friends), we’re pretty confident you’ll find that modern-day outboards and sterndrives are pretty even in this category.


Monterey Boats: Outboard and Sterndrive on Bowriders

At Monterey Boats, we understand that it’s important to be able to customize your new boat with an outboard or sterndrive engine based on your needs. That’s why we offer our customers a choice between the motors. In addition to flexibility in engines, Monterey Boats offer a variety of other customizable features, especially when it comes to our bowriders.


We offer five different bowrider models, each comes with standard features and additional options to personalize your boating adventure. Monterey Boats models range from 20 to 38 feet in length, with max beams ranging from eight feet six inches to eleven feed. Each model comes with plenty of storage for your watersport accessories, food and drinks, and our adjustable seating makes it easy to rearrange seats and backrests to accommodate any crew.


Four of our bowriders are also available in Super Sport and Surf models, with a forward-facing sterndrive engine. This is yet another custom engine option that’s of particular interest to watersports enthusiasts.


When you’re in the market for a new boat, there is a lot to be considered. Why not begin building your custom boat on our website? You can choose anything, from the specific type of outboard or sterndrive engine to the exterior color. Once completed, a quote will be provided based on the model you’ve built. If you aren’t sure exactly what you need or have more specific questions regarding outboard and sterndrive engines, feel free to contact us directly — we’d love to help you find the boat that best suits you and your lifestyle!

  • Bowriders: Outboard vs. Sterndrive
  • Bowriders: Outboard vs. Sterndrive
  • Bowriders: Outboard vs. Sterndrive
  • Bowriders: Outboard vs. Sterndrive
  • Bowriders: Outboard vs. Sterndrive

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