2-Stroke Marine Outboards vs. 4-Stroke Outboards

Do you own a boat with a 2-stroke engine? Have you thought about upgrading to a 4-stroke and you’re wondering whether it’s worth it or not? We’re not here to convince you one way or the other. But we’ll take a minute to share our own experiences in this area. As has been chronicled elsewhere, we  purchased a used boat with a 1999 Yamaha 250 EFI OX66 outboard about a year and a half ago.  Our plan was to use the boat and engine and try to get the most out of them for at least 3 or 4 years before considering an upgrade. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the 2-stroke Yamaha had nagging issues that even the most experienced mechanics couldn’t correct. We finally had no choice but to throw in the towel and look for another engine.

As luck would have it, we were referred (yes, referred!) by a friend to a repower specialist who sold used engines. We found a lightly-used 4-stroke Suzuki 250 that was priced right and in good condition, so we took the leap.Was it the right move? Yes! We haven’t had any regrets. Here’s a list of observations comparing our 4-stroke to the 2-stroke:

  •  Starting: The 4-stroke starts with much less fuss and hassle than the 2-stroke.  There’s a little issue with the Suzuki that requires us to prime the bulb when the boat’s been sitting for a while, but once the pump is primed, you’re good to go.
  • Smoking: There is none. Nada. The 2-stroke would always cloud the air with a gray smelly haze that was certainly less than pleasant.
  • Noise: The 4-stroke runs so quietly at idle speed that, for the first few weeks that we had it, we constantly had to reassure ourselves that the engine was running! No joke. The engine is so quiet at idle that the noise from the cooling water stream is louder than the engine.
  • Fuel Consumption: We don’t have any real statistics on this point. But it’s readily apparent that the amount of fuel we use has gone down. The 2-stroke was just plain thirsty. For whatever reason, our Yamaha 250 EFI also went through a lot of oil. Filling up the gas tank and refilling the oil tank was a pricey proposition. Again, while we don’t have hard data on this, our observations indicate that the 4-stroke has improved our GPH consumption by 25% or so.

If your 2-stroke is working great, there’s certainly no reason to make a change. 4-stroke technology is more complex than 2-strokes, so chances are good that you’ll spend more to have your engine maintained by a professional marine mechanic. If you’re used to servicing your 2-stroke outboard yourself, that could be a drawback.

But if it’s time to make a change, our experience says that it makes sense to look at 4-strokes. We were lucky to find a good used engine from a reputable repower shop that cost about a third of what a new 4-stroke would. That might be an option for you as well!

If you have a 4-stroke, please take 30 seconds to fill out our survey on 4-stroke maintenance. We’re gathering input and we’ll share the results here. Thanks!


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