How to Buy Used Outboard Engines Off eBay

Used outboard engines listed on eBay are as good as the photographs and description that the seller chooses to share with you. The first step in choosing used boat motors on an auction is due diligence. In other words, research your engine, ask questions and make the effort to go and see the motor.

When you research your engine, compare like for like on eBay in other words, same model, year, horse power and compare prices. It is only through this type of comparison that you will see whether the model being advertised is being auctioned at the right price. This will guide you during the end of the auction when people are bidding last minute.

Try to take the description of used outboard engines, at face value. Ask for the number of the seller and speak to them about the outboard. It’s much harder to give a verbal lie than a written one. Ask if there is anything wrong with the outboard. Listen carefully to the answer as some might try to distract you by babbling on about something and nothing so just ask the question again until you feel satisfied with the answer. Other questions to ask could include:

  • When was the water filter last changed?
  • How has the used outboard been used (ie. on seawater/freshwater)?
  • What maintenance program have you followed e.g was it flushed each time after being used in seawater?
  • How old is the outboard?
  • What is the serial number (always find this out before bidding – if they can’t tell you, it could be either stolen or older than they’re claiming)?

Once you have the serial number check the age of the outboard by writing in a search engine “Mercury 500 50hp serial number xxxxxxx”. Do note that if the used outboard is ex-military, it won’t have a serial number. If this is the case, it most definitely will have the recess on the powerhead that the plate for the serial number would have normally been pressed onto. This recess should have the original paint in and must match the powerhead exactly with no scratches or evidence of being tampered with. If there is evidence of tampering, it probably has been stolen. Needless to say, this is something you would notice by looking first hand.

Actually seeing the motor in person will tell you a lot if you know what to look out for. You will need to see the outboard running to make sure that the cooling system is working as it should. To see if this is working correctly, you should be able to see a pee-like stream of water coming from the engine. If you don’t see this, there will be a problem unless the motor is air cooled.

Ask to see a bottle of the 2-stroke oil that has been used in the outboard. It must be TCW3 approved oil so if it has been used with a anything different, then avoid it.

Lift up the cowl and check the quality of the oil from the dip stick. If it is murky then the chances are water has got in there which indicates other problems.

If the propellor is significantly damaged, this can also be a sign that internal damage has been caused especially if there has been a big enough impact to cause the damage in the first place.

Buying used outboard engines off eBay is a decision that should not be taken lightly. There is far too much that can be wrong with the motor and unless you get someone who is 100% honest with you, it is up to you to spot the faults. It’s worth remembering that your life can depend on the outboard. There is no service station or hard shoulder when the engine breaks down as a large vessel is bearing down on you.

Buy wisely, ask questions and better still, take someone with you who has good knowledge of outboards.