Upfront engine cost is the first main factor to consider when deciding between gas and diesel engines. A diesel engine will likely add tens of thousands of dollars to the purchase price of a power boat. However, a diesel powered boat will have a longer engine life and retain more value, making it easier to sell later. Savings can also be realized long term with lower maintenance costs and marine diesel fuel costs.
Diesel engines are typically found in boats larger than 35 feet and 18,000 pounds because gasoline engines lack the torque power of a diesel engine. A boat over 35 feet with a gasoline engine may be underpowered and become a gas guzzler, costing a fortune with today’s marine fuel prices. A diesel engine on a larger boat will have a longer cruising range and perform better. Although the difference in price for marine gasoline and marine diesel fluctuates frequently, cost of diesel fuel is typically less per gallon. The range of a boat, or miles per gallon capacity, is much more important when evaluating gas vs. diesel.
Gasoline engines do have some advantages over diesel engines. For one, they are much quieter to run. Diesels tend to be very loud engines unless the boat has a really good noise reduction system. The odor from the exhaust fumes of diesel engines is also much worse than gas engines unless the boat has an underwater exhaust system. Also expect to pay up to three times more for overhauling a diesel engine vs. a gasoline engine. According to BoatSafe.com, an overhaul is less of a concern for diesel boat owners whose engines last up to 5,000 hours, compared to gas engines that typically last only 1,500 hours.
Today’s issue with the use of ethanol in gasoline has made gasoline engines much less desirable for boats. The problem is particularly troublesome for older boats with fiberglass fuel tanks made with general purpose or thophthalic resin that reacts with the ethanol solvent. The reaction creates sludge in gas tanks that can ruin engines. Boats with this problem have resulted in increased maintenance problems or replaced engines.
The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) is currently petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed increase in ethanol levels of up to 15 percent in gasoline sold in the U.S. (known as E15). NMMA is attempting to block E15 from being available in fuel used in marine engines, but is concerned with mistaken fueling issues.
All of the potential benefits and issues of purchase cost, maintenance, longevity, resale value and performance should be considered by boaters when deciding between diesel and gas engines for their next boat.
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