MerCruiser Versus Volvo Penta Engines – Which Is Better?

If you are looking at a new-stern drive for your boat, chances are it will end up being either a MerCruiser or a Volvo Penta engine. These manufacturers are the cream of the crop when it comes to engines and drive for most runabouts, small to mid-sized cruisers and speedboats. If you are unsure which manufacturer to choose for your own vessel, you have come to the right place for an inclusive comparison of MerCruiser and Volvo.

MerCruiser Engines

It should first be noted that MerCruiser has a larger and more comprehensive engine lineup (the smallest featuring 3.0 litres and 135 horsepower, the largest featuring 8.2 litres and either 380 or 430 horsepower with a range of other sizes in between). But does a larger range make MerCruiser the better choice?

  • Fuel economy for these engines is comparable with Volvo across the whole line – neither brand holds much advantage and you are likely to receive similar results no matter your choice.
  • Reliability and consumer satisfaction is another area where MerCruiser is on a par with its competitor – a study conducted by an American association has found that they often run in a dead heat.
  • The availability and cost of repairs and parts is where MerCruiser gets its edge – there are dealers and mechanics virtually everywhere you find boats, making such tasks quite affordable.
  • MerCruiser has a confusing warranty program – some models only get 1 year coverage, others get 3, some vary depending on the boat builder, and some only apply if the engine is part of a package.
  • There is no reputation for smooth shifting at MerCruiser; this is one of the most common complaints of stern drive owners and it is likely that this manufacturer experiences similar issues.

Volvo Penta Engines

It should first be noted that Volvo Penta basically invented the production of stern-drive with their Aquamatic back in 1959. Today, their smallest engine features 4.3 litres and either 200 or 225 horsepower, whilst their largest features 6.0 litres and a choice of 225, 270, 300, 320 and 380 horsepower.

  • Fuel economy for these engines is comparable with MerCruiser across the whole line – neither brand holds much advantage and you are likely to receive similar results no matter your choice.
  • Reliability and consumer satisfaction is another area where Volvo is on a par with is competitor – a study conducted by an American association has found that they often run in a dead heat.
  • Unfortunately, the availability and cost of repairs and parts is where Volvo falls down a little – depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find a dealer or mechanic, making such tasks quite expensive.
  • Volvo has a straightforward warranty program that offers coverage for 2 years or 600 hours (whichever occurs first). They also offer the option to extend your warranty for an extra cost.
  • The reputation for shifting the smoothest is well-deserved; this is one of the most common complaints of stern drive owners, so to have this reputation is a big advantage.

At the end of the day, choosing between a MerCruiser and a Volvo Penta engine is entirely based on personal opinion. Whilst there are certainly advantages and disadvantages associated with both manufacturers, these are much of a muchness. Often, personal opinion and experience is the main drive behind the purchase of a MerCruiser or a Volvo model, as well as what is available in your local area and how far the dealer is willing to push.