Are Mercury Outboard Motors Any Good? (Explained)

Mercury Marine makes both outboard motors and sterndrive and inboard engines.

They compete with Yamaha as the top two manufacturers of marine engines in the world.

While they are undeniably popular, it is fair to ask: are Mercury outboards any good?

Here’s How Good Mercury Outboard Motors Are:

Mercury Marine outboards are one of the top-selling brands in the world for 80 years. They are known for their quality, efficiency, and power. They have constantly innovated, meeting and exceeding environmental regulations. When considering an outboard motor, shopping starts with Mercury.

A Brief History Of Mercury Outboards

Mercury Marine had its start by accident.

In January of 1939, Carl Kiekhaefer purchased a bankrupt company called the Cedarburg Manufacturing Company, which made Thor outboards in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Kiekhaefer’s original intention for the acquired company was to make magnetic separators for the dairy industry.

Among the assets were 300 defective outboards. These were repaired, redesigned, and sold to Montgomery Ward, which quickly sold out of them. These rebuilt motors withstood the elements better than other outboards, and more were ordered.

Kiekhaefer established the brand Mercury, named after the Roman god, and introduced his five models at the New York Boat Show in 1940. At that show, the company took orders for over 16,000 engines, and the brand was established.

In 1961, Kiekhafer chose the Brunswick Corporation and sold the company to them. While the company still experienced tremendous success, there was tension with the new ownership, and Keikhaefer resigned in 1969 to found another company, Kiekhaefer Aeromarine.

Today, Mercury is larger than ever, and in addition to its marine outboard and sterndrive engines, it includes trolling motors, electronics, propellers, and inflatable boats.

Through it all, down to the present day, the Mercury outboard is their flagship product and where they have constantly led the industry in innovation.

2-Stroke And 4-Stroke Motors:

Most marine outboard companies make both 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, though environmental regulations have reduced the number of 2-stroke motors available.

Yamaha 2-strokes are generally not available in the USA, for example.

2-stroke outboards are higher performance engines, but they are higher maintenance and much louder. The oil is generally in an external tank and injected into the cylinder, so its level must be maintained.

4-stroke engines are more reliable, fuel-efficient, and quieter but heavier and slower in general.

Constant development, in particular by Mercury Marine, has narrowed the performance and maintenance differences on the two different styles, but the general perception remains mostly accurate.

How Durable Are Mercury Outboard Motors?

Mercury Marine has built a solid reputation in the world over its 8 decades for reliability and durability in their outboards and other engines.

Their low maintenance and ease of repair are as legendary as their performance.

Beyond the quality is the nature of the materials and paint to prevent saltwater from corroding engine parts. The company uses a lot of stainless steel and alloys with less copper to cut down on corrosion. Their paint process starts with an Iridite sealer, followed by Electro Deposition primer, before getting a thick, hard powder coating.

Online forums are one of the best sources of (sometimes contentious) feedback from owners. Mercury typically shines in reviews and comments, though some bash them as well.

A typical example of a satisfied owner from 2017 concerning Mercury outboards:

“My cousin has a 1998 merc that has never been rebuilt, and he runs that thing twice a week every week. Thousands (sic) of hours on it. He keeps up on the maintenance, and the gas never sits…..”

[Source: The Hull Truth]

The above quote highlights the durability of a Mercury outboard and the user-friendly maintenance of the engine. Some owners and commenters feel that a few models have occasional problems.

For example, The OptiMax line of 2-strokes with fuel injection may develop problems with the injectors and the compressor. Ethanol has been known to corrode their fuel lines, though that is hardly confined to the Mercury brand.

Another quote from an owner of two different Mercuries shows good and bad:

“Had a 25 HP two-stroke Mercury. Never a problem in over 30 years. Had a 175 EFI Mercury. From the get-go, it was a pain in the (butt)… It was like that the day I got it in 1997 until I sold it in about 2005.”

[Source: The Hull Truth]

It is worth noting concerning the above quote that 1997 was around the year that the EFI technology was first introduced; the technology has improved in the years since.

The fact is that Mercury outboards are among the most durable on the market.

How Long Do Mercury Outboard Engines Typically Last?

Getting an average lifespan on any particular outboard brand is tricky because of the differences in how their owners maintain them.

One owner is meticulous in up-keeping their motor, while their neighbor is a bit lackadaisical in maintenance. That being said, Mercury Marine has been around long enough to establish a pattern over their existence.

Most Mercury outboards will last for a very long time in comparison to their competition. It is not unreasonable to expect 2,000 or even 3,000 hours from your Mercury outboard if it is maintained properly.

Most manufacturers recommend a rebuild after around 1,500 hours. This serves to extend the motor’s life as long as possible.

But, in fact, forums are filled with testimonials from owners who have had their Mercuries for 20+ years.

Has Mercury made Any Recalls?

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s online database, there have been 44 recalls involving Mercury Marine products since 1981.

Of these, 23 seem to have affected their outboards, either Mercury or their subsidiary Mariner brand. The rest involved their sterndrive Mercruisers or other aspects such as their joysticks for steering.

Among the more significant recalls were:

  • In 1981, a problem with the steering handle affected 4500 25 horsepower units.
  • In 1998, a faulty flame arrestor affected 5975 units.
  • In 2003, a recall on 1998 3.0 liter outboards over steering arm bolt holes affected 6830 motors.
  • In 2008, there was a major recall on Verado L4 and L6 models over a flaw in the power steering fuse; this affected 36,476 units and was not closed until 2020.
  • In 2020, there was a recall of 25 and 30 horsepower models from 2006 over flaws in the upper mounting bolts; this affected 22,167 units.
  • In 2020, there was a recall involving various V6 and V8 models involving gas lines; this affected 10,217 units from various years and is still classified as being open.

What Are the Most Popular Mercury Outboards?

Mercury Marine has produced several iconic and revolutionary models over the years.

The first was the Mercury Lightning in 1947. At 10 horsepower, it introduced affordable power and quality in a lightweight package.

In 1956 the company introduced the Mercury Mark 75, an outboard motor with 60 horsepower. At the time of its introduction, it was the most powerful and fuel-efficient engine of its day.

In 1976, the 1750 “Black Max” is introduced to the marine industry. It is the first V6 outboard manufactured, rated for 175 horsepower, and set a new fuel efficiency standard.

In 1996 the company introduced the 2-stroke OptiMax DFI (direct fuel injection), which reduced hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions despite its high horsepower.

The Mercury 4-stroke 115 horsepower engine from the 2000s typically gets glowing reviews online from owners.

Today, Mercury makes outboards from 2.5  to an astounding 600 horsepower. The variety of their outboards spans 2-stroke or 4-stroke, jet engines, and even models that run on propane.

The most popular models are their 4-stroke outboards in the 30-60 horsepower range. Of these, the 60 EFI (Efficient Fuel Injection) is considered their flagship model, generating over 70 horsepower.

The Mercury Verado 400R is another popular model, rated at 80 horsepower. The Verados are top-of-the-line super-charged Mercury models, and this six-cylinder powerhead engine has a reputation as simply one of the best outboards you can buy.

The 6 horsepower Mercury 4-stroke is one of the most popular smaller outboards in the world. It is light enough to be carried but powerful enough to get two people on a 10-foot boat onto a plane.

It is a single-cylinder model that can also troll comfortably for hours. This model is made in Japan and has been around for decades.

Where Are Outboard Mercury Engines Manufactured?

Many Mercury outboards are still made in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, near the plant they were made in since 1926, and where their world headquarters is still located.

But they also have manufacturing plants all over the world. Besides, Fond du Lac has plants in Juarez, Mexico; Komagane, Japan; Petit-Rechaine, Belgium;   St. Cloud, Florida, USA; and Suzhou, China.

How Is the Warranty On Mercury Outboards?

Mercury Marine has warranties that vary by the product they are covering.

The warranty length on most of their outboards is 3 years and includes defects in materials and workmanship. It does not cover routine maintenance, normal wear, and tear, or repairs performed by a non-approved Mercury technician.

There is an opportunity to extend the warranty for another 5 years beyond the initial 3, for a total of 8 years of coverage. The additional extended warranty may be purchased at any time before the initial 3 years expires.

There are two levels to the extended warranty. The Gold level covers mechanical failures, while the Platinum level covers both mechanical and electrical failures.

Which Brands Produce Engines Similar to Mercury?

Mercury’s top competition is Yamaha; the two companies constantly vie for the number one brand globally, in terms of units sold and total dollars.

The outboards they offer are similar in terms of power and features.

Honda and Suzuki are competitors in terms of what they can offer in terms of value. They do not have a reputation for innovation that Mercury has acquired over the years, but they offer some similar outboards to the market.

Tohatsu is a company that also offers some low-end competition to the lesser-powered Mercury outboards.

Final Thoughts

Mercury Marine has continued to grow throughout its 80+ years of existence, even during downtimes in the marine industry.

Given their track record and continuous disposition toward innovation, it seems inevitable that they will remain as one of the top outboard manufacturers for decades to come.

While not every mariner will agree that they are their favorite outboard manufacturer, there is no doubt that they are a preeminent company.

Their products are consistently high quality.


Mercury Marine – Home

Mercury Marine – Wikipedia

The Hull Truth – Mercury Reliability

The Hull Truth – Mercury Problems?

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