Inboard VS Outboard Motors | Which is Best For You.

If you’re thinking about buying a boat, you’ll have to decide what engine to get. Most boats don’t include engines, so you must plan for that extra cost. It provides you the way to opt for the perfect engine for your activities and requirements.

Inboard Motors are efficient for longer distances and water sports, while Outboard Motors are nimble and versatile. Maintenance is more straightforward for Outboard Motors due to their external setup. And further, Inboard Motors are pricey ($8,000-$30,000), while Outboard Motors vary ($1,000-$100,000).

In this article, we’ll explain the difference between Inboard VS Outboard Motors. Additionally, we’ll talk about their advantages and disadvantages and give you an idea of how much they usually cost.

What Is An Inboard Motor?

An inboard motor, also called an inboard engine or sterndrive, is a boat’s engine fixed inside its hull. It’s linked to a driveshaft that turns the propeller and guides the boat’s movement.

You can identify an inboard motor by the specific rudder utilized for steering. It’s preferred by fishermen for its balance and by water skiers for less wave turbulence. Even larger boats use inboard motors but need bigger versions that don’t fit at the back.

Inboard Engine Motor

 Inboard Motor Engine 

How Inboard Motors Work?

Inboard motors work like car engines. They mostly have a four-stroke design that helps them produce power. Like in a car, an inboard motor has a drive shaft. It’s a rod that carries power from the engine.

Unlike cars, the drive shaft in a boat’s inboard motor doesn’t make the tires turn. Instead, it makes a propeller spin around at the back of the boat. When the propeller spins, it pushes the water backward. This push makes the boat move forward in the water.

To steer the boat, there’s a special rudder system. It’s like a fin that puts forward the water. As you rotate the steering wheel, the rudder shifts and supports the boat in making left or right turns. The way steering works sets inboards and outboards apart. Outboard motors often turn with the whole motor, but inboards use the rudder to guide the boat.

Think about you’re driving a car, and instead of turning the steering wheel, you’re moving a fin in the water to change direction. That’s how an inboard boat steers. In simple words, an inboard motor makes a propeller spin with the power of its engine. This propeller push helps the boat move, and steering is done using a rudder underwater to turn the boat.

Inboard Engine


Pros & Cons of Inboard Motors

  • Quieter performance
  • Longer operational life
  • Exceptional fuel efficiency
  • Enhanced strength and power
  • Lower maintenance needs
  • Better weight distribution
  • Ideal for larger boats
  • Interior space reduction
  • Repairs being notably complex
  • Maintenance needing more work
  • Higher initial cost

What Is An Outboard Motor?

An outboard motor is a separate engine that attaches to the back of a boat. It’s popular for fishing, recreation, and small commercial boats. The engine is easy to access and control with a handle, and its propeller can be lifted out of the water. This thing makes storage and maintenance simple.

Swapping or upgrading the motor is straightforward, and outboard engines are known for being reliable. They’re often used in smaller boats and can be steered by hand or through a steering system in bigger boats. It’s just like a car’s steering wheel.

Outboard Motot Diagram

 Outboard Motor Engine 

How Outboard Motors Work?

An outboard motor can work with a four-stroke or a simpler two-stroke engine. The main part of the engine is the crankshaft, which turns the drive shaft. This drive shaft goes from the engine’s big case down to the lower part of the outboard. That’s where you find the propeller, which pushes the boat forward.

The drive shaft makes a gearbox turn connected to the propeller. When the gearbox spins, it makes the propeller rotate and create forward movement. The neat thing is that the whole outboard can be controlled. Smaller boats use handles, while larger boats use a steering system. It lets the outboard steer itself by moving the propeller’s direction.

Look at the lower part of the outboard, and you’ll see a skeg. It’s like a small fin or rudder at the bottom. It helps the outboard turn smoothly. Also, a handle or tiller is on top of the lower part. It lets you steer the outboard by moving the entire unit as needed.

So, an outboard motor can have a four-stroke or two-stroke engine. The crankshaft turns the drive shaft, which makes the propeller spin and moves the boat. With the whole outboard under control, you can steer by adjusting the propeller’s direction using a handle or a steering system. The lower part has a fin-like skeg to help it turn well.

Pros & Cons of Outboard Motors

  • Additional interior room
  • Increased potential top speed
  • Efficient storage
  • Simplified maintenance
  • Complete portability
  • Easy winterizing process
  • Lower cost
  • Limited power for larger boats
  • Higher fuel consumption
  • Takes up more space
  • Complex repairs

A Mindful Short Comparison Between Outboard VS Inboard Motors

Inboard Motors Outboard Motors
Suitable for cruising and water sports Ideal for fishing and smaller recreational activities
Often found in larger boats due to their power Common in smaller boats for flexibility and maneuverability
Suitable for regular boaters seeking power and stability Great for occasional boaters who value easy handling
Better for milder climates, sensitive to cold Suited for various climates and quick winterization
Offers good torque and efficiency, better for longer distances High power-to-weight ratio for nimble maneuvering, better for speed
Can have higher torque for big boats, might use more fuel Offers varying power, with the possibility of multiple engines for more strength
Considerations for potentially higher maintenance costs Potential for lower maintenance costs, with easy accessibility for upkeep
Engine inside for enhanced aesthetics and rear space Engine outside, potential space impact and aesthetic considerations
Might have steeper learning curve, especially for beginners Easier to operate, navigate, and dock, great for beginners
Generally pricey, ranging from $8,000 to over $30,000 Costs widely from $1,000 for low power to $100,000 for high performance

Comparable Factors Between Inboard Motors & Outboard Motors

Boat Size

Inboard Motors: Inboard motors are frequently found in bigger boats because of their strong power capabilities. These motors provide the thrust to propel larger vessels through the water effectively.

Outboard Motors: Outboard motors are popular for smaller boats thanks to their flexibility and easy maneuvering. The compact and lightweight design of outboard motors makes them well-suited for smaller vessels.

Boat Frequency

Inboard Motors: Inboard motors are a good choice for those who frequently engage in boating activities. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the water, inboard motors are a solid option.

Outboard Motors: For boaters who enjoy occasional trips on the water, outboard motors offer an excellent choice. Their easy handling and straightforward operation make them a preferred option for those who may not have extensive boating experience.


Inboard Motors: Inboard motors provide strong torque and efficiency, making them well-suited for longer journeys on the water. Their ability to deliver consistent power is beneficial for cruising and covering extended distances comfortably.

Outboard Motors: Outboard motors offer a high power-to-weight ratio, which makes them great for agile maneuvering and quick changes in direction. This nimble performance is particularly advantageous for activities that require speed and responsive handling.


Inboard Motors: Inboard motors can deliver higher torque, making them suitable for larger boats. However, they might use more fuel due to their robust power output.

Outboard Motors: Outboard motors provide more power and the flexibility to use multiple engines for increased strength. This versatility allows you to fit your boat’s performance to your needs.

Maintenance Cost

Inboard Motors: Maintaining inboard motors might involve higher costs due to their internal placement and complexity. Accessing and servicing these engines may require more effort and expertise, leading to increased maintenance expenses.

Outboard Motors: Outboard motors can offer the potential for lower maintenance costs compared to inboard motors. Their external placement and design often make routine maintenance and inspections more accessible and less expensive.

Engine Position

Inboard Motors: Inboard motors are positioned inside the boat, enhancing its overall aesthetics by keeping the engine hidden from view. This arrangement allows for a sleeker and more streamlined appearance for a visually pleasing design.

Outboard Motors: Outboard motors are situated outside the boat, which can impact its aesthetics by having a visible engine. This external placement might affect the overall visual appeal of the boat’s design.

Ease of Use

Inboard Motors: Inboard motors could present a steeper learning curve, especially for beginners new to boating. Operating and maneuvering a boat with an inboard motor might require more practice and familiarity with the controls.

Outboard Motors: Outboard motors offer a user-friendly experience, making them easier to operate, navigate, and dock. This simplicity is particularly advantageous for beginners just getting acquainted with boating.


Inboard Motors: Inboard motors tend to have higher price points, with costs ranging from around $8,000 to over $30,000. The initial investment for an inboard motor can be significant. It makes it essential for buyers to assess their budgets and priorities.

Outdoor Motors: Outboard motors come with various costs, reflecting the diverse options available. Prices can start at $1,000 for lower-powered models, while high-performance outboard motors can reach up to $100,000.

Final Words: Which Is Better: Inboard or Outboard Motor?

In comparing Inboard VS Outboard Motors, the choice ultimately hinges on your preferences and needs. Inboard Motors offer robust power and efficiency. On the other hand, Outboard Motors excel in flexibility, ease of use, and varied power options. Your decision depends on the described factors and considerations. Analyzing these aspects will help determine whether Inboard Motors or Outboard Motors will suit your boating style and requirements.


Are inboard engines safer?

Inboard engines are generally considered safer due to their internal placement within the boat’s hull. They offer better protection and reduced risk of propeller accidents.

What is the difference between an inboard and an outboard engine?

An inboard engine is inside the boat, safer and sleeker. An outboard motor is outside, simpler to maintain and versatile for various water activities.

Which is more fuel efficient, inboard or outboard?

Inboard engines tend to be more fuel-efficient due to their design and placement. They offer better mileage for longer distances compared to outboard motors.

What are the disadvantages of an inboard motor?

Disadvantages of an inboard motor include higher maintenance complexity, limited access for repairs, and potentially reduced interior space. Consider these factors when choosing an engine for your boat.


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