Options for Replacing Your Sterndrive
Learn more about repowering your boat with a new or used sterndrive engine.
It’s not uncommon, but it sure is a downer. You’ve detonated your MerCruiser or Volvo Penta sterndrive, and now you’re faced with the question of rebuilding or replacing. If it’s not repairable, not all is lost.
Thanks to the sterndrive’s popularity over the decades, there are thousands of replacement drives—new, aftermarket, rebuilt and used—readily available. Depending on your brand and drive model, the price tag might be less than you think.
Factory-new is a great option if cost is not a concern. You get a brand-new drive with a warranty. Mercury MerCruiser offers its Quicksilver line of replacement drive units, which are factory-built and offer a three-year warranty. A new replacement Alpha One Gen II drive retails for $5,825, while a Bravo Three retails for $9,114. These prices are for complete (upper and lower) drive assemblies, but do not include shipping or installation costs.
The Quicksilver line of Mercury drives is a complete business unit dedicated to repowering boats previously propelled by any engine and drive, not just MerCruiser. The Quicksilver drives are factory-new, not rebuilt or remanufactured. Dealers sell Quicksilver Alpha One Gen II drives for $3,264—just a bit more than half the cost of a new replacement. This is an attractive option to get back on the water with a factory-quality drive while saving substantially over the cost of a new one. Most dealers choose this route rather than to rebuild drives because the retail pricing is very competitive.
Sterndrive Engineering Inc. (SEI, sterndrive.cc) offers its own designed and manufactured replacement sterndrives and outboard gear cases. The company has earned an excellent reputation, with a three-year, no-fault warranty. Over the years, many have tested this warranty (including this writer), and it’s real: SEI will replace any of its units that fail, at no cost to the consumer. Of course, the consumer must pay to have the unit removed, boxed and shipped both ways, then reinstalled and checked—but these costs are minor relative to the cost of replacing a drive.
A SEI replacement for a MerCruiser Alpha One Gen II (complete drive unit, upper and lower combined) costs $1,595. For the Bravo One, SEI offers only the lower unit, not the upper drive. This lower unit sells for $995. SEI does not currently offer a replacement for the Bravo Three drive.
For high-performance and racing applications, the Bravo Shop (bravoshop.net) sells and provides remanufactured complete (upper and lower) Bravo drives, as well as its own Bmax high-strength drive unit for higher-horsepower and performance engines.
For Volvo Penta drives, replacement choices include a new factory drive or a rebuilt unit. Factory remanufactured drives are not available. New Volvo Penta drives come with a two-year warranty—extendable to three—if installed by a certified dealer. Boatwrench (boatwrench.com), a rebuilder, typically stocks over 70 rebuilt drives. As with MerCruiser, the replacement cost for a new Volvo drive is quite high. For Volvo’s most popular DPSM dual-prop drive, for example, the retail price is $9,800. Boatwrench’s price for a reman is $6,500. For the Volvo DPE (diesel engine) drive, Volvo’s price for a new replacement is $16,110, while a Boatwrench reman unit costs $7,500. Boatwrench prices include the exchange of your old drive; otherwise, it assesses a $1,000 core charge. Comparing warranties, Volvo Penta offers one year on drives, increasing to three years if installed as part of a full repower. Boatwrench drives come with a two-year warranty.
In Boatwrench’s case, its remanufacturing regimen for any drive is rigorous and exacting. The company completely disassembles a used drive, inspects and measures all components, then reassembles with new gears, bearings and seals. Most are assembled with a used (but inspected and checked) drive shaft and propeller shaft. The exterior of the drive gets body-worked and repainted with zinc chromate primer, sealer primer and enamel finish.
Older and Obsolete Drives
You might recall that OMC (Johnson/Evinrude) offered sterndrives for many years, as did Yamaha and others. Though it’s tough to find a dealer or technician today that will service one of these, both Mercury (through its Quicksilver line) and SEI offer conversion transom plates, assemblies and drives that will update and modernize the propulsion-system package for those with obsolete sterndrives.
Read Next: Top Three Reasons to Replace Your Sterndrive
Bottom line: No matter its make, your sterndrive can be replaced, and your enjoyment of and confidence in your boat restored.