Pontoon propulsion has made giant leaps in the modern era. Modern motor mounts, performance tubes, and skinned bottoms with advanced steering systems, have allowed boaters to enjoy speeds on a pontoon boat undreamt of just twenty years ago. Four-stroke engines have replaced noisy, sometimes smelly old two stroke outboards.
A new engine on a new boat can be as much as 1/3 to sometimes 1/2 the price of the boat package. A 75 HP Yamaha 4 stroke retails for about $8000. A 150 HP Mercury 4 stroke for about $13,000. Competition dictates that other brands cost about the same. I obtained those prices from an internet search for retail outboard pricing. But there can be a wide gap between retail and dealer's or manufacturer's pricing.
Years ago boat dealers bought engines and installed them on new boats. A big dealer might buy 100+engines while small dealers bought as few as one of each model, to qualify their dealership. Big dealers get a better price and qualified for programs (rebates, incentives, etc.) from the engine manufacturers. Pontoon builders delivered new pontoons to the dealer without engines. Dealers had to uncrate the engines, mount them on the pontoon, and run steering and control cables, etc.
In the 1980’s Bass Tracker (Tracker Marine) started “packaging” engines with new pontoons. The engine was already mounted on the boat with controls and steering installed. Tracker was building thousands of pontoons as well as thousands of other boats that took outboard engines. No one except the engine companies knows the difference between dealer price, the 100 lot volume dealer and the 2000+ boat builder price, but it’s substantial. Boat dealers did what they always do when it's difficult to compete; they told people that Bass Tracker pontoons were junk. The cables weren’t installed as well as a dealer would do it, etc. It was difficult to fault a Mercury engine because it has always been one of the leading brands. Thirty plus years later Tracker is still with Mercury.
Tracker and Mercury
Today most new boats are sold with engines that are installed by the boat builders. A builder making 2000+ pontoons a year has tremendous leverage with an engine manufacturer. It’s a secret how low the engine prices go, but 15% on a $8000 engine is $1200. 20% on a $13,000 engine is $2600. In the past dealers and consumers had strong preferences for engines. But a problem arises if you like Evinrude but the new boat you like packages with another brand. You may be able to get your favorite engine on your new boat but unlike Best Boat Brands (Smoker, Starcraft, SunChaser and Sylvan), many pontoon manufactures have special programs with only one or two manufacturers.
Packaging was a difficulty for many boat dealers. Some had handled a brand of engine for generations. In the past most dealers only handle one brand of engine. Asking a dealer to sell another brand of engine after years of loyalty was a problem. But losing a new boat sale because a competitive engine was hundreds or a thousand dollar less, is even more painful.
Coach Pontoon partners with Honda
New boat buyers can often learn what engines the boat builder packages with from the sales brochure. The engine manufacturers actually “partner” with some boat builders and allow co-op advertising dollars if the boat builder prominently displays information on the engine in their boat sales literature.
Forest River (So Bay, Berkshire & Trifecta) partners with both Mercury and Yamaha
Manitou partners with Evinrude. There are two pages of info in their pontoon brochure.
Rebuilders face a difficult decision when they select a used pontoon for refurbishing. There are many excellent 10+ year old pontoons that can often be bought for about $4000. The rebuilder can invest a thousand dollars in a new floor and maybe even $2500 in upholstery and a new top. You’ll have a real nice rebuild for under $8,000. But if the engine needs repair or to be replaced, you’ll have to gamble on another used engine or pay close to retail for a new one. A nice rebuild boat that you have $8000 invested in might not be such a value if you have to add $6,000+ for a new engine.
On the other hand if you bought a pontoon new and the interior has deteriorated but you know the engine is good. The old boat is a good candidate for rebuilding or if you trade, the old engine might bring a premium.