A major decision in the path to becoming a cruiser is choosing the right boat. Getting the boat right sets the tone for your future happiness and the health of your cruising kitty. As you scan the boat ads on YachtWorld, you will frequently see a great boat at an attractive price. The kicker, the engine hours are high. So you pass on it and miss a great buying opportunity. In this blog post, we will explore how much it costs to repower a boat and the engine options available to you.
How long should a boat diesel engine last?
Small diesel engines fitted to sailing boats can reach 10,000 hours provided that they have had reasonable care throughout their lives. As an engine approaches the 8,000-hour mark they do start to become more expensive.
High ticket components such as high-pressure pumps may fail. Heat exchangers become more likely to develop a leak. Pumps and alternators simply get worn out. Smaller items including sensors, hoses, and wiring start to fail.
As an engine approaches the magical 10,000-hour mark the more likely it is to become uneconomical to fix. When failures occur, decisions need to be made. Do you spend $2,000 to $4,000 to get another thousand or two hours out of the engine? Or has the time come to bite the bullet and repower the boat? The answer is that it’s time to look at the cost to repower your boat.
Do you have to repower with the same engine type?
The beautiful thing about boats is that you are not bound to repower the boat with the same engine type and model as is currently installed. New boats have a maximum horsepower rating or maximum kilowatt limit (in the case of European boats). Don’t exceed this certification limit and you are free to choose whatever engine you would like. That is provided that the engine you are looking at fits in the available space.
When it comes to repowering a boat bigger isn’t always better. Not only is there the cost of a higher fuel burn. In the case of a smaller production catamaran, you simply may not have tankage to accommodate the extra burn. If you’re thinking about going up one size just because you can. Remember modern diesel engines like to be run hard. Don’t get the extra horsepower unless you need it. Chances are the engine that’s fitted to your boat may have been optimally sized.
Shouldn’t I stay with the same manufacturer to keep the cost of repowering a boat down?
Here is the good news, no! Going with what engine is installed may save you money as you already have the GRP base. But don’t stay with the same marine engine manufacturer because you can reuse the wiring looms, control panel, or exhaust hose. By the time the boat’s engine needs replacement these items will be well past their sell-by dates and should be replaced. In the overall cost of repowering a boat, these are low-cost items.
As for sticking with a manufacturer because you can reuse the GRP base. There are aftermarket engine to bearer adapters available. Companies such as Beta Marine have adapter kits for common models that their engines will be replacing. Where adapter kits do not exist, Beta can build you custom feet at a very reasonable price.
When is the cost to repower a boat justified?
Our Lagoon 380 is currently fitted with Volvo D1-30s. They’ve been great but she’s an ex-charter boat and the engines are high time. One is at 8,500 hours and the other is at around 7,000-hours. Recently we’ve had a few nasty big surprises with engine maintenance costs.
This year both engines have needed new alternators, $2,000 for the pair. Each side needed exhaust elbows replaced, $700. The starboard heat exchanger developed a leak and we were looking at a $2,500 bill in parts and labor. Luckily I was able to get the part welded. A new injector, $200. The saildrive bellow seals are due replacement (Volvo requires that this is done every 7 years). That’s another $2,000. All of this excludes shipping to French Polynesia at about $400 a shot!
Time to look at the cost to repower
So just over $5,500 this year. Both engines run great but they both leak oil from the front end. Surprisingly not much. Not even enough to necessitate me adding oil between oil changes. But the mess is incredible as the leak hits the belt and is spun everywhere.
When you factor all of this is we are spending a large percentage of the cost to repower our boat each year on engine upkeep to try drag another 1,000 or 2,000 hours of life out of them. It doesn’t make any sense to carry on as we are. With the pain of passing a kidney stone, we have realized the time to repower has come.
What Are Our Repowering Options?
Buy a low time used engine
We seriously considered this option as the price is really attractive. Marine Enterprises in the UK have quality used Volvo D1-30s for sale for around $2500 excluding shipping. Add ocean freight and you’re at around $3200 landed in most parts of the world. For a fairly low-time engine with around 3500-hours, this is a very attractive option. As an FYI they also sell other brands and models.
The negatives are, as with anything used you don’t know the engines and what gremlins may await. Marine Enterprises have a fantastic reputation with 4.7 stars on google. They inspect the engines before selling them but do not open them up and overhaul the engines unless they specifically state in the ad that they have. Chances are high that you will be fine with one of their engines but they are used so you are buying an unknown. An unsurveyed engine so to speak.
If our cruising grounds were not the remote South Pacific we would go this route. Many have including friends of ours who are very happy with their used engine.
Repower with the same Volvo D1-30s that we have right now
This is the easiest route to go. Our Volvo’s have been good. Their big negative is the parts are expensive! At times parts are hard to get and need to come from a central warehouse in Europe. The plus is they do sell their engines for about $1,000 each less than their competitors. What you save on the initial engine purchase you will defiantly make up for in parts costs.
As with Yanmar owner maintenance may void the warranty.
Repower with a big name like Yanmar
Yanmar Marine engines have a reputation for reliability. Their parts are in the affordable range. The deal-killer for us is that Yanmar requires dealer servicing to maintain the warranty. This is fine if you are in a local marina but simply does not work if you are a cruiser. For anyone purchasing a new boat, this is worth remembering as you will have the same warranty restrictions from Yanmar.
Repower with Beta Marine
Beta Marine has marinized the enormously popular and proven Kubota diesel engine. This means other than the heat exchanger and a few of the cooling system parts (the marinized section) you are free to purchase Kubota diesel parts that are available just about everywhere in the world.
Beta also offers some well thought out nice to have optional extras such as a built-in oil change pump and Balmar high output alternators.
Beta has a stand-up reputation for solid customer service. They are the only manufacturer that allows for owner maintenance in their warranty. As full-time cruisers being covered for owner maintenance is essential! A large part of forking out the cost to repower a boat is for the peace of mind of having warranty coverage.
So How Much Does It Cost to Repower a Boat?
With all of the manufacturers, it is tough to get a price without requesting a formal quote. They all work through a dealer network and in our experience irrespective of the manufacturer, quotes varied wildly from one dealer to the next.
No dealer would commit to a firm quote for the labor rate to install the engines as they had not seen the boat even though we have a wildly popular Lagoon 380 catamaran and one must assume they must have seen one.
|Installation Cost||Total Cost to Repower |
|Beta Marine||$7,305||$2,500*||$7,305 – $9,805|
In our case, the cost of two new engines is less than 7% of the value of the boat.
If you looking at the perfect boat, don’t pass it over if the only negative is high-time engines. This may be a perfect buying opportunity. Repower the boat. You will have the boat you want with the added peace of mind of zero time engines. When you think about it this may be a better deal in the long run over a lesser boat with lower time engines.
For new boat owners looking to find out what diesel maintenance skills are needed to maintain a boat in remote locations take a look at my posts Basic Mechanical Skills Cruisers Should Know and for some tips on how to get yourself out of a jam on a boat – 8 Essential Things To Carry On a Boat.
Warning – Beware of fraudulent websites selling engines
Here is a quick word of caution for anyone who is buying a new marine diesel engine. When researching repowering options you will see incredible deals. You will see websites showing prices that are approximately 50% of the quotes you will receive. If the price is too good to believe it probably is.
Beware there several online sellers who appear to be based in Malaysia and Indonesia that are fraudulent. There are consumer warnings online for these sites. What makes them stick out, apart from the unbelievable prices is the fact that there is no address or way to contact the business listed. Numerous people have been caught trying to bring down the cost to repower a boat, please be careful.