Round 4: Ownership Issues
In terms of maintenance, there are fewer moving parts in the jet propulsion setup. Once the drive shaft leaves the engine, it directly spins the impeller. A sterndrive has additional gears housed within a lower unit that involve more moving parts and result in more vulnerability to damage.
It’s hard to predict what may happen to any given engine, but we can look at scheduled maintenance costs. For sterndrives, MerCruiser recommends an initial service after a 20-hour break-in period, including an inspection along with an oil and filter change (about $120). An annual — or 100-hour — service includes the oil and filter changes plus changing the gear lube, replacing the fuel filter and cleaning the flame arrester and crankcase ventilation hoses. Typical dealer price runs about $500 to $600.
Sea-Doo suggests an initial 10-hour inspection, including an oil and filter change, for about $110, and then 100-hour (or seasonal) oil and filter changes, lubrication of key components, coolant flush and, on supercharged models, a supercharger rebuild. The basic service is about $200; a supercharger rebuild can add $500 to the total. On sterndrive engines, the biggest potential repair is likely the water pump impeller, for around $150.
Winterization on a sterndrive includes draining the raw-water portion of the cooling system and filling with antifreeze, fogging the engine, stabilizing the fuel and changing drive-gear lubricant. Service runs in the neighborhood of $300. Winterization on a jet involves fuel additives, blowing-out of the water lines, engine fogging and battery maintenance and typically costs about $200. It’s important to note that many dealers suggest doing more on both engine types used in salt water, and dealer prices can vary.
It’s not a good idea to keep either engine type docked in salt water long term without a lift. In these conditions the jet will suffer most, with corrosion and aquatic growth wreaking havoc on the jet pump’s tight impeller clearance tolerances. It’s also notable that parts and service facilities for sterndrives are more numerous.