People visit marine retailers for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes you just need an oil filter and a new trailer hub bearing. Other times, you’re considering a new engine that will power your days off for the next decade ...
Repowering can give you massive upgrades in performance and features at a lower cost than a new boat
Let’s say you’ve got a well-seasoned boat that you love. You know it like an old friend, and it’s carried you during countless days on the water and helped deliver memories that will last a lifetime. You feel the allure of a new boat and all the great new features included, but you’re not ready to let go of the one that’s been there for you season after season just because the engine is starting to show its age and hours.
Fortunately, there’s a solution. Repowering your boat with a new outboard gives you the same great bones, but with minor annoyances eliminated and the latest conveniences incorporated. Suddenly, you can turn your beloved battle wagon into the high-tech fishing – or towing, or cruising – machine you’ve always craved at substantial savings versus a new boat.
Repowering an outboard-powered boat has never been easier than it is today, and the benefits to be had are substantial. Practically any of the 2,100 Mercury dealers in the U.S. will be well equipped to handle the job, but there are also more than 500 locations around the country that specialize in repowers. They are called Mercury Repower Centers, and each has the specialized knowledge to help you figure out exactly what you want and need out of your project and get you back on the water much faster than you’d probably imagine.
One such Mercury Repower Center is Modern Boat Sales & Service in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Owned and operated by Jon Krieg and Johanna Gallagher, Modern Boat specializes in repowers, and they do 25 or so per year. Unlike your typical marine dealer, Modern Boat doesn’t even stock new boats. It’s found its niche with service work and repowers and is quite content to excel in its core business and leave the boat selling to others. Instead of new boats, Modern Boat stocks a wide array of Mercury outboard engines and virtually any rigging part that might be needed to facilitate a repower.
“Every Mercury Repower Center has motors in stock, as well as all of the rigging and components it takes to repower vessels,” Krieg said. “We also carry control boxes, harnesses, steering systems, tie bars – the kinds of things most dealers don’t carry.”
The reasons for considering a repower are many and varied. Sometimes a failing or tired engine will be the prompt. Or perhaps someone finds a great deal on a used boat without power. But the most common scenario that Krieg sees is someone has a still-running older boat, but they’re starting to have reliability problems and are tired of periodically spending money to keep it running right. Whatever the motivation, the upside can be game-changing.
Naturally, most people opt for more horsepower, but there’s so much more that can be gained. For instance, a repower can let you go from two-stroke or carbureted four-stroke technology to the latest Mercury FourStroke engine. With that comes greater fuel efficiency, superior reliability and much less noise and vibration. And that’s just for starters. A new engine can also let you easily change to Digital Throttle & Shift, SmartCraft® technologies, VesselView® displays that integrate with other electronics, power steering and even joystick docking for multi-engine vessels. With the right features, it can be like going from an aging, cranky muscle car to a Tesla without breaking the bank in the process.
While Modern Boat is happy to do a basic outboard swap, Krieg said that’s far from the norm.
“Almost everybody that does a repower is usually doing upgrades with electronics,” he said. “It's never really just the motors. Most of the time you're doing other things like cushions, details, fiberglass repair and they want to add some electronics or something they saw at the boat show and think, ‘I'd like to have that.’”
To start exploring the process, just reach out to the Mercury Repower Center(s) in your area and then pay a visit to any you are considering. According to Krieg, what you see is perhaps even more important than what the dealer says.
“Go to their dealership and check out their environment,” he said. “You want to find somebody that you trust and feel comfortable with. They should also have a lot of experience with your basic style of boat.”
That is, you probably don’t want to take a triple-engine center-console to a dealership that typically only sees bass boats and pontoons, and vice versa.
The Mercury Repower Center dealer will have a comprehensive list of questions for you. It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers right up front, but you should be prepared for the dealer to ask things such as:
- What is the age, make and model of your boat and engine(s)? Have there been any modifications to the hull in the past?
- Are you essentially wanting to just hang a new engine on the back and utilize as much of your existing equipment as possible, or are you looking for a full propulsion system and electronics upgrade?
- What kind of performance are you getting today? What issues are you experiencing?
- What are your goals? More speed? Better hole shot? Advanced features?
- What is your timeline?
- Do you have a budget in mind? Are you interested in Repower Financing?
- Are you considering any other upgrades, such as a T-top, audio system, upholstery, trolling motor, Power-Pole, upper station, etc.?
Once you’ve settled on a Mercury Repower Center you are comfortable with and have answered the initial questions, you and your dealer can start scoping out the project and working on the details. A good dealer will be able to give you an itemized estimate based on your goals and budget, and they will also alert you to things that might arise that can affect the price and timeline of the project, such as unforeseen wiring issues, needed fiberglass work and the like. They will also be able to tell you if your current engine has any trade-in value, or if you should consider trying to sell it yourself. Krieg said that he typically doesn’t accept trades, but he will try to help his customers find a buyer if asked.
Surprisingly, the planning stage usually takes far longer than the actual installation, said Krieg. He stressed that it’s perfectly acceptable for you to ask all the questions you want, think about the quote for as long as you need and to do your own research to ensure that the project is going to end up the way you envisioned. Not fully communicating with your dealer or not understanding the details of the project can easily lead to misunderstandings and surprises.
“The planning for a typical repower usually takes about two months,” Krieg said. “There’s a good bit of back-and-forth conversation to get everything they want in the estimate.”
Once the details are settled and the customer pulls the trigger, Krieg orders any parts that he doesn’t have. When everything is on hand, the boat arrives and the work begins. Not starting until all the pieces are in the shop means that Modern Boat can complete a garden-variety repower in about seven days. If the project entails extensive work beyond the propulsion system it can take longer, of course, but for a basic replacement of engine(s), rigging components and electronics, the boat will be back in the water in a week or so.
Finally, the boat will need to be propped. Like many Mercury Marine dealers, Modern Boat utilizes the Mercury Propeller Demo Program. Krieg said he keeps about 50 demo propellers on hand for his customers to try, so they can test as many models and pitches as they want. That way they’ll leave knowing that they’ve chosen the best possible propeller(s) for their newly repowered rig.
As you might imagine, every repower project is unique, but a Mercury Repower Center has likely seen just about every curveball your mind and your boat can throw, and these specialized dealers can custom tailor a solution that you can both be proud of.