It’s a Four-Stroke World
If you’re in the market for a new small engine, you have plenty of choices, but two-stroke technology isn’t in the mix anymore.
Service and Warranty
In terms of warranty, Honda wins with its five-year program. Mercury offers a three-year basic warranty with an additional three-year limited corrosion warranty. The other engine makers offer three-year warranties, and Torqeedo offers a two-year warranty.
My advice, when asked if the length of the warranty is a concern? “Forget about it.” With the exception of Honda’s, the protections are quite similar, and frankly, the engines are all really good products with great records for reliability.
The more important questions to ask are “Where is the nearest dealer or service center?” and “Where can I get parts?” For cruising sailors, this is the stuff that really matters. It also matters a lot whether you’re planning to do your own maintenance and repairs or need to pay a mechanic to keep you going. Service and parts accessibility vary considerably among the brands of engines discussed here, and they also vary geographically. Consider where you’re going to be operating, then check out a given brand’s popularity in that region. Again, all of these engines are good, quality products, but even so, they all need maintenance, and all of the gasoline engines are vulnerable to fuel-system contamination, which is all too real, especially when cruising. In fact, that alone makes a strong case for going electric—no dirty gasoline to worry about, and no midnight carburetor overhauls, either!
Brand by Brand
OK, now that we have the big-picture considerations out of the way, let’s take a closer look at each of the brands in our roundup and see what stands out.
Honda’s BF 9.9 HP is more expensive than most of the other engines in our grouping, but don’t forget that the company does offer one of the best warranties. There’s more to it than that, though. This engine also comes with a four-bladed propeller that I can tell you offers some excellent pulling power! Electric starting is standard at the price shown in “Small Outboards at a Glance.” This motor is also the heaviest of our selection, but on a tender that you’re going to hang from davits, that won’t matter. This engine does have an available power-tilt feature and does come standard with overheat and low-oil-pressure alarms. The electric-start version also has a relatively high-output 12-amp alternator for keeping your battery up to charge. This engine is a great choice for the pocket cruiser and is available in three shaft lengths.
Mercury offers three versions of its 9.9-horsepower outboard: the Standard, the ProKicker, and the 9.9 BigFoot. The ProKicker and BigFoot versions are only available in a 20-inch shaft length, so that’s a limiting factor. These two engines also have gear ratios that differ from those on the Standard, which should give them a bit more thrust for dealing with heavy loads. Unfortunately, none of the versions offers more than a 6-amp charging system. All three are actually made by Tohatsu, but they have some nice Mercury-specific nuances. Basic service and parts are widely available.
The outboards from Nissan and Tohatsu are really the same engines, with different paint and decals. Both brands are available in three shaft lengths, so they can be matched to various boat transoms quite accurately. They’re both limited to 6-amp alternator output. Because they compete heavily in the marketplace, these engines can often be had at deep discounts. Parts are widely available globally. These are good, general-purpose workhorses with greatly improved corrosion resistance over earlier models available from either brand.
Suzuki builds really nice engines. The manufacturer is a five-time recipient of the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Customer Satisfaction Index award. Although their dealer network has grown over the last few years, check to make sure that service and parts are available in your area—and where you intend to cruise. This has been an issue for some folks in the past.
When it comes to Torqeedo, what can we say? This is a whole new concept: quiet, no fumes, lightweight, environmentally friendly. Really high-tech features on this motor include a GPS-based monitoring system to keep you constantly up-to-date with how many more miles you can go on the built-in battery’s charge. The motor can be easily converted to remote control for pocket cruisers. The company also offers a really cool small version for powering kayaks and similar craft, and I think these might be the answer to a small dinghy that you want to electrify.
Yamaha 9.9-horse engines are available in 15- and 20-inch shaft lengths and can be purchased with a 6-amp alternator. In addition to the model we selected for this roundup, the company is introducing new 4- and 6-horsepower four-stroke engines this year. Yamaha engines are renowned for their reliability and worldwide service availability. We put these in the workhorse category: no frills, no gimmicks, just a good, reliable series of engines.
Ed Sherman, a frequent CW contributor, is an education specialist at the American Boat & Yacht Council. Go to www.cruisingworld.com to read his how-to blog, Ed’s Boat Tips.