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Choosing Between a Sterndrive and an Inboard Motor

Sterndrive and Inboard motors are two of the most common options on powerboats. Choosing between sterndrive vs inboard can be difficult when purchasing a new boat, as each have strong advantages.


Inboard motors sit in the hull of a boat and are fully enclosed except the propeller, which extends out from the bottom of the hull. One of the biggest advantages to these is safety – it would be nearly impossible for a swimmer to contact the propeller, which is why they’re often found on ski boats. They are also lower maintenance than a sterndrive, and because the power comes from the center of the boat, they offer a smoother ride.


The motor on a sterndrive vessel is located just in front of the transom and connects to a movable drive leg and propeller on the back of the transom. Because the power is in the back of the boat, the ride can be bumpier but the trade-off is speed, maneuverability, and efficiency. Increased contact with the water means the engine is more effective at propulsion, thereby faster and more efficient. The ability to move the drive leg also means the boat is easier to reverse and the prop can be lifted to limit damage in shallow water.

Both a sterndrive and an inboard motor will be reliable options but the strengths of each lend themselves to different applications. A sterndrive is perfect for smaller bodies of water or budget-conscious consumers, while an inboard is the right fit for someone who wants a low maintenance, family-friendly boat.