Buy a new motor for old boat, or buy used boat and motor to replace.

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New member
Feb 12, 2024
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Millersburg Ohio
New guy here.
Have a decision to make. I either need to replace my outboard (currently a 40HP Mercury not working) on a 1996 Targa17. Would probably go with a new outboard a Tohatsu 60Hp, and would hopefully have many years of trouble free fishing. I like the boat, nothing wrong with it but do get wet sometimes when it is rough due to it being a tiller boat.
The other option is to sell the boat and spend the money from the boat sale, and what I would spend on a new motor on a used boat in the 8k range. My problem is, I am afraid with a outboard in the 2000-2010 range that I could soon be in the same situation and needing to spend on a motor replacement or repair. Any words of wisdom?
It's sounds as if you and I are similar: We'd rather be fishing than working on boats and outboards.

Assumption: You are confident that your current boat is in good shape and there are no hidden or emerging issues.

If it was me, and if the boat was in good condition and met my needs, I'd opt for the motor.

Your current boat is a known quantity. You could search for months for just the right used boat in your price range and still end up with a maintenance nightmare. You could have issues with a new motor, too, but you'd have a warranty and a dealer to rely on.

Another consideration: Upgrading motor now would allow you to get some more years out of your boat. If you decide to change hulls in the future, you could transition the new motor over to that new hull.

I personally like tiller-steer. It frees up a lot of space in the boat.
I'm with @Ray Clark on a new motor. If Im happy with the boat and it meets my needs, I would lean heavily towards a new motor. There is a lot to be said for confidence in the motor and knowing all maintenance has been routinely done. A new motor gives you that. You are going from a 40 to a 60, which will be a big difference in how the boat runs, so you are getting more than just replacing the current 40.
What is wrong with your motor ?? They typically run for decades without major overhaul. I understand your wanting to get away from tillers, I made that move many years, with not one regret. I have bad shoulders so that was a major factor. Finding nice, well maintained used boats are difficult to find !! I know I spent over 3 months of hard searching and a 200 mile drive when I found mine. Tough call for advise, pros and cons for any way you go.
What is wrong with your motor ?? They typically run for decades without major overhaul. I understand your wanting to get away from tillers, I made that move many years, with not one regret. I have bad shoulders so that was a major factor. Finding nice, well maintained used boats are difficult to find !! I know I spent over 3 months of hard searching and a 200 mile drive when I found mine. Tough call for advise, pros and cons for any way you go.
The motor lost a lot of power quickly so I shut it down. It did start back up but sounds like a monkey with a ball peen hammer inside the head so I shut it down. It has also slipped out of reverse since I bought it, and adjustment doesn't help. So there is that issue also. If I repower I have a friend that will look at the old motor this summer and see if its worth repairing.
I am leaning toward re-powering, simply because the risk factor is lower.
Definitely the devil you know vs the one you don't sort of situation.

I'm thinking that the cost to replace the whole boat and the price of a new outboard are not that far apart. Your boat is not worth much without a running outboard. Say you could get $2000 for it, and a replacement costs $8000, that's $6000 out of pocket. $6000 will get you really close to that Tohatsu, and the resulting package is worth more than a used combo.
I would opt for a new engine. With a twist, look your current boat over. If you’re considering a steering wheel, see what’s involved in converting it to a console.
Having had both tiller and console, pros and cons for each.
On a previous boat, I “regressed”. Went from a four stroke 50hp to a two stroke 25hp. Hole shot stayed the same, lost 10mph top end. Had to move batteries around, with weight reduction on the stern.
1966 boat, 2022 outboard here. I'm not a boat nut (I'm a woodworking nut) but I think there are concepts applicable to all such things. There isn't right or wrong, but rather fit your personality and approach to the hobby. In woodworking, many people get caught up in the fun of having cool woodworking tools and spend more time with tools than actual woodworking. Others know all they need is decent steel and they can get back to making chips. My boat is about fishing and it's all I need so I went with the new motor to take that issue off my list of concerns. If you're a gear guy and buy and sell a lot and that's your thing, go with the double upgrade because it's in your blood and regardless of what you do now you'll end up wanting to change/upgrade in a few years. If you're just looking for functionality, you're happy with what you have, you won't be seeking an upgrade sometime in the next few years, and you want to get your boat reliably on the water, buy the new motor.
I guess I'm the oddball. If I saw a boat that I really liked better, that runs great for $5-8k I would absolutely do that. Motors run for decades, typically. Not much of a worry, for a 2010, but insist on a test ride and watch and listen carefully.

I got away from tillers years ago and I love not being twisted around in the back of a boat. Much better comfort, visibility and control.

Whether you like your current boat or not, you need to do a simple compression test on your motor. Takes 5 mins. Auto parts stores loan testers free, or you can buy one for $25 or so.

Pull the spark plugs, plug the tester in each hole and crank it for 4 seconds or so. The cylinders should be over 100 PSI and all within 10% of each other. Not sure of your exact motor type, so can't give you a good number to look for. My older 40 Merc 2-stroke ran at 125 PSI, but some 4-strokes run 150 PSI+. So just make sure they are close in PSI. Also, make sure your engine is turning over at normal starter speed, or it can throw off the test.

Since you were having lower unit issues, that may be the problem. Unbolt the lower and start it up for a few seconds. If that terrible sound is gone, buy a used lower, slap it on and then decide.

I've gotten a couple of "bad" motors in on trade that turned out to be a bad lower. I currently have a 2008 Mercury 25 fuel injected motor that was locked up, trashed, supposedly. I pulled the lower, and it's perfect. New lower costs about $250 on Ebay, when I get around to it.

I would do that before deciding UNLESS you want to justify getting a new boat or motor, in which case, just do what you want, and test it after the fact.
Old motors and old boats rock! I suspect once you go through an old motor it may well be more reliable than a brand new one. They just have many more parts that like all parts are destined to fail. If you want a carefree motor it's all in how you take care of it. Mainly make sure there is NO untreated gas in the system if the boat is going to sit for more than a few weeks.

IMO and maybe I'm the Lone Ranger here, but I think new motors on old boats look crappy. Makes your boat look older and shabbier.....UNLESS you restore the old boat maybe. Depends on the era though. A 2024 motor on a 60s boat will never look right.
After looking at all the replies, if the boat suits his needs it can be easily converted to a side console and a new motor should make him trouble free for years. If he doesn't like his boat....then another story.
Thanks for all the advise and opinions, I have decided to go the new motor route. (Tohatsu 60Hp for 6400.00.) I like the boat, its far from perfect but works well. I have been watching used boats for a while now and boats I would like, with decent prices are few and far between even looking in a large area. I don't want keep throwing money at a boat, so I thought this would be the safer option.
Thanks again, and have a blessed boating year!
New motor all the way! Targa 17 is a nice boat. The 60 Tohatsu is a nice motor.

Consider this before you purchase....
The Targa 17s were sold as Tiller, SC, and WT. I've not seen any Targa 17s with tiller out here in the west, but have seen the other two.

You could easily convert yours to a SC. If that is something you would consider doing, then you would purchase the 60hp as steering model instead of tiller. Save you a few bucks and hassles down the road if you purchased a tiller now and later wanted to convert to steering. Just a consideration.
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If you ordered a tiller motor, it may be too late, but perhaps Tohatsu are easy to convert? Some, you only need to pull the tiller off and hook up controls.

Either way, CONGRATS! Having a brand new motor is awesome.