Are Nissan Outboard Motors Any Good? (Explained)

Nissan outboard motors were a brand that was produced from 1984 to 2014.

The decline in the Japanese pleasure boating market brought about the brand’s closure.

There are still many thousands of Nissan outboards on the water and on the market, but are they any good?

Here’s how Good Nissan Outboard Motors are:

Nissan outboard motors ran cleaner than most of their American competitors throughout the 1990s. With quality backed by the number of years on the warranty, they required so little maintenance. The decline of the pleasure boating market worldwide caused Nissan to drop their outboards.

A Brief History of Nissan Outboards

In 1984, Nissan Marine set up their North American base of operations in Memphis, Tennessee.

From the very start, Nissan outboard motors were made by Tohatsu, a company that traced its lineage back to 1922 and the Takata Motor Research Company. These outboards were identical to the models that Tohatsu manufactured, but with Nissan decals and paint.

The Marine Division of Nissan experienced exponential growth over its first half-decade of existence. In 1991, it was separated from Nissan Industrial Equipment into its own independent company. At this time, the new company moved its headquarters to Dallas, Texas.

The efficiency and reliability of the design were helpful for the brand’s popularity. In addition, while the majority of their outboards were 4-stroke, they were already environmentally conscious and met the Environmental Protection Agency’s new standards when these were implemented in the 1990s.

While other outboard manufacturers struggled with redesigning their engines, Nissans were already compliant so they did not have the costs associated with re-engineering. While other brands saw profits decline, Nissan Marine continued to thrive at this time.

In 1999, most Nissans went to a 4-stroke operation, improving their reliability further. These included all of the lower horsepower models. Most of the Nissan motors sold to the Japanese market were manufactured by Honda, rather than Tohatsu.

Sales were steady until the middle of the 2010s. By this time, the Japanese market for pleasure boats had been declining, and that was the core of Nissan marine’s business.

In 2014, Nissan Marine discontinued their outboard motors, and all of their products worldwide. Tohatsu continues to make outboards under their own brand name, as well as under other brand names.

Tohatsu still services older Nissan outboards, as they were identical to their own brand, just with different decals.

How Durable Are Nissan Outboard Motors?

Ever since their introduction into the American market, Nissan outboard motors were known for their durability and reliability.

Particularly in comparison to American brands like Johnson/Force and Mercury, Nissan outboards developed a reputation for being low maintenance.

It was in the 1980s that Japanese outboards first began to enter the American market in significant numbers. Most of these developed a reputation for reliability very quickly. Nissan outboards were competing against Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda, in addition to the popular western brands like Mercury and Evinrude.

While other outboards might be simpler in design, the Nissan/Tohatsu designs were efficient, and they were cleaner in their operation. This was further improved when they added motors with 4-stroke operation in 1999.

They continued making both 2- and 4-stroke motors right up until the brand was discontinued, but most later models featured 4-stroke operation.

Beyond the low maintenance required to keep a Nissan outboard motor running, they became known for their longevity. They routinely exceeded the 1500-hour average for an outboard motor’s lifespan.

What do the Reviews Say?

The lower horsepower Nissan outboards developed a reputation for easy operation.

For example, one owner commented in 2003:

“No experience with the bigger HP motors, but if my experience with a 2.5 and 8hp is indicative of all their motors, they are the most reliable I’ve ever used. They always start on the FIRST pull.”

[Source; The Hull Truth]

The larger Nissan outboards were also spoken of highly by their owners. It is easy to find glowing testimonials of their reliability and durability.

One owner commenting in 2011 had this to say concerning his 90 horsepower Nissan outboard:

“Had a 2000 model on a 15 shallow sport & loved it, possibly the best engine I have ever owned, never thought twice about it failing me, had great torque with the right prop.”

[Source: 2 Cool Fishing forum]  

This last comment highlights one change that some owners ended up doing on their Nissan outboards: changing the propeller. This is not due to inherent defects in the prop design, but some owners required a different prop for their kind of boating or the particular boat model that they had.

The one complaint that is common with several owners that did end up needing repair work (for whatever reason) was the wait on replacement parts. Many dealers in America did not keep a full line of parts in stock.

When they had to get parts in from Japan, it could be as little as 6 weeks, but some owners reported waiting 6 months or longer. Since most Nissan outboard owners never needed parts for repairs, this was a minor consideration for most of them.

The bottom line here is that Nissan outboards of every size were among the most durable outboards on the market.

How Long Do Nissan Outboard Engines Typically Last?

The longevity of a Nissan outboard became one of their central features, beyond their low maintenance.

On average, an outboard motor is expected to last for about 1500 hours of operation. This assumes regular maintenance, and for some models a rebuild around 1000 hours.

Assuming a yearly average of 200 hours of use for any given outboard, this translates to 7 or 8 years of expected life for an outboard.

It is easy to find online testimonials to the longevity of Nissan outboard engines. Here is a typical example, from 2007, from an owner who had bought two Nissan outboards, one large horsepower and one smaller as a “kicker”:

“My last boat had a 50HP Nissan oil injected main motor and an 8HP kicker. Both were purchased new with the boat in 1999. The main lasted 2800 hours before it quit…The little motor was still kicking when I sold the boat this year… I would say I got way reliable service out of both of those Nissans…”

[Source: The Hull Truth]

So it can be seen that this owner got the expected 7 years of life, but nearly twice the expected hours of operation from his 50 horsepower Nissan.

The exact average life expectancy of a Nissan outboard motor is a little difficult to ascertain with surety, as most owners that comment on forums have treated their outboards differently and have different expectations based on their own boat use.

However, most Nissan outboard owners say that they get over 2000 hours from their engines, and some substantially more.

It is important to note here that outboards have more longevity when they are actually used. A three-year-old outboard with 500 hours will run better than a three-year-old outboard with 50 hours.

Problems that can arise from an engine sitting are corrosion, fuel or oil turning bad and damaging the components, and electrical components deteriorating.

So it is important to use your outboard!

Has Nissan Made Any Recalls?

According to the United States Coast Guard’s database on recalls, there has only been a single recall in the company’s history.

This recall was over a fuel tank leak with the company’s 5 horsepower outboard from the 1991 model year. It involved 829 outboards.

The case was opened in June of 1992 and the last defective one was repaired in 1993.

Tohatsu has had two recalls in the United States in their history, but neither involved their Nissan models.

What Are the Most Popular Nissan Outboards?

Over the 30 years that they were made, there were a number of models of Nissan outboards that proved to be popular.

The 90 horsepower model sold very well all through the company’s existence. On forums, there are as many comments regarding the 90 hp as almost any other model. While a 2-stroke engine, they were clean and environmentally conscious in their design.

Even after the design change of 1999 when most 90 hp models went to a low-pressure direct injection, gaining efficiency and losing a little power, it remained a best-seller for the company.

The 40 horsepower motors were very popular. After 1999, this was the lowest horsepower model to be 2-stroke; all lower-powered models were 4-stroke. The 40 hp was on the lighter side for its size, and many boaters opted for it for this reason.

The 8 horsepower models were one of the company’s bestsellers and one of the most common models seen on the water. It is still talked about on forums more than just about any other model.

The 9.9 horsepower model, while not quite as popular as the 8 horsepower, had strong sales and continues to see a high volume of commentary online.

And while the 2.5 horsepower was the smallest in the line, it was popular right up until the day the brand was discontinued. This was not just because of its favorable price tag, but also due to its very lightweight and so it was easy to move around, in addition to its reliability.

Where Are Outboard Nissan Engines Manufactured?

Up until 2005, all Tohatsu – and therefore, Nissan – outboard motors were made in the Tohatsu manufacturing plant in Okaya City in Nagano, Japan.

In 1988, Tohatsu partnered with the Brunswick Corporation to form the Tohatsu marine Company, still based in Okaya City.

Tohatsu became independent again when the Brunswick Corporation went bankrupt and fell apart in 2001.

In January of 2005, Tohatsu opened a massive 370,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Komagane, which is also in Nagano. Here, the company can make 200,000 outboards per year.

All Nissan outboard motors were made in these plants until the brand was discontinued.

How Is the Warranty On Nissan Outboards?

With the last Nissan-branded outboard produced in 2014, they are all now out of their warranty period.

From 1984 until 2001, all Nissan-branded outboards had an industry-standard 2-year warranty. This was usually reduced to one year if the outboard was used commercially.

In 2002, all Nissan and Tohatsu outboards added an extra year to their basic warranty, extending it to 3 years. This was due to their reliability, as they generally required little maintenance, so this was turned into a strong selling point.

In 2009, again because of their inherent reliability and durability, the warranty was extended to 5 years. This was unprecedented and was very popular.

While Nissan outboards had been discontinued by this time, in 2017 Tohatsu extended their warranty for outboards used in the pleasure capacity once again. They now offer a 7-year warranty with new outboards.

Which Brands Produce Engines Similar to Nissan?

The company that produced the engines that were most similar to Nissan outboards was, obviously, Tohatsu.

During the thirty years that they produced Nissan outboards, many thought that the company was competing against themselves. Yet Nissan had greater market penetration and was a more widely recognized brand, so it was ultimately profitable to sell their engines under the Nissan label.

The other brands that Nissan competed with for sales included Yamaha, Mercury, Evinrude, and Suzuki. All of these companies made outboards in the same horsepower as Nissan.

By most reports, Nissan was holding its share of the market right up until the parent company decided to close out the brand.

Final Thoughts

In their time of existence, Nissan was one of the most popular outboard brands globally, reaching every company that had any significant body of water.

While there is no official record of how many Nissan outboards were sold, some dealers online have speculated that over 1 million units were made. Notably, the brand was forced to fold by a downturn in the pleasure boat market worldwide, rather than any fault in the design or manufacturing process.

Even today, Nissan outboards have a strong following in the marine world, both online and on the water. They are a common sight across the world.

If you are looking at buying a used outboard, you can be assured that Nissan will be a quality choice and secure in the knowledge that parts are still being made today.

Sources:

Nissan Marine – home

Tohatsu Announces Discontinuation of Nissan Outboards – Boating Industry News 

Nissan Outboards – any experiences? – thehulltruth.com

90 hp Nissan motor? – 2coolfishing.com

Tohatsu/Nissan Outboard reliability – thehulltruth.com

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