What’s my old outboard motor worth?

This is the number one question we are asked. Here’s the short answer: Probably less than you thought (although there are exceptions).

Now the long answer. We’re not trying to be cruel here, just honest. Grandpa’s old fishin’ partner might bring you warm fuzzy memories, but the guy who’s thinking of buying it from you might have leads on several motors just like yours from which to choose. Old outboards were “too useful to just throw away” and small enough that they got stashed in all kinds of places. Thus, folks keep finding them and putting them on the market. The ready supply keeps prices reasonable.

When someone presses an old outboard into regular use, sooner or later something’s going to need fixing. These days, most repair shops won’t even look at anything over 20 years old. They probably already have a few old motors stashed in the back, motors that were left by their owners when it turned out that it would take hundreds of dollars in parts to get them running again. These abandoned motors hit the market, too. People who understand this difficulty in getting old motors fixed shy away from purchasing such relics for regular use, especially if prices try to be on par with merchandise that’s more recent.

So, then, who’s buying the old outboards? Among others, collectors. Collectors will restore old motors, often to running condition, even fashioning some replacement parts by hand. They’ll touch up the paint and apply new decals to restore them to showroom condition. It’s a process that no sane person would undertake just to have a motor that runs, when modern motors are readily available for that use. It’s a labor of love. The painstaking work can take months, which would be quite expensive in today’s world of “time is money.” Nobody is getting rich restoring old motors.

So again the question, what’s it worth? We now direct you to the price guide in Peter Hunn’s The Old Outboard Book. When you look through the guide, you might be pleasantly surprised at how certain models (maybe like yours) have held their value. Some rare models go for seemingly next to nothing because nobody’s interested in them. Some more plentiful models nevertheless get the better prices because they generate more interest. These are in fact the prices at which folks are able to regularly obtain these motors, as the price guide was assembled by experts.

When people hope to get more than these prices, they may hold on to their hope for a very long time indeed. Few individuals can say that they really need any particular motor at any particular time. It’s not at all uncommon for good merchandise to sell at prices well below those in the price guide. The guide will nevertheless give you piece of mind that you haven’t been ripped off.

It may cross your mind that “at that price, I might as well keep it.” This is quite reasonable, but consider the following: if it’s just sitting in storage, it’s not doing anyone any good. Better it be where it can be appreciated. If you just want a motor for regular use, you may be better off with something newer and more easily serviceable. A cost/benefit analysis would point this out right away.

If you decide to undertake the refurbishing yourself, that’s great! There’s a club for folks that like to do just that, you’ve found it, and you won’t be sorry you joined! If, on the other hand, it’s not your cup of tea, you won’t be sorry if you pass the motor along to a collector. The collector will give that old motor a good home and put some cash in your pocket for the privilege. That motor will run forever under a collector’s care, you can bet on it. Whether or not you are that collector yourself, a return to glory is the best tribute you can give that motor.

So, other than the Guide, what’s the best way to find out the worth of your old outboard? If you’re holding on to the motor, join the Antique Outboard Motor Club and get to know other folks who have your same outboard. Members of AOMCI have a pretty good idea of what sells for how much, and they can point you in the direction of an expert in whatever motors spark your interest. If you’re selling the motor, then just put it up for sale and the market will tell you its worth. Free classified ads can be placed via this website.

How do I get more information about my old outboard?

If you’re looking for what year the motor was made, by what company, and maybe some more history about the motor, the most current single published source for this information is Peter Hunn’s The Old Outboard Book.

Another good source of information is in the owners, parts, and repair manuals. Such publications are available from sources on the internet which are linked to the AOMCI homepage. We will return to the subject of manuals later in this FAQ.

You can also go to Ask A Member on this website, which is open to non-members, but if you’re truly intrigued by that old kicker, why keep your interest to yourself? Join the Antique Outboard Motor Club and get to know other folks who have your same outboard. Members of AOMCI can point you in the direction of experts who can tell you more about your motor, and you’ll probably have something to tell them about it yourself.

Where can I get parts for my old outboard?

It depends on which motor, and which part. In the case of Mercury and Johnson/Evinrude, many designs or parts originated in the 1950s were carried through into the 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s! Original replacement parts for these designs are often in ready supply through your local dealer. That’s where your search should always start, regardless of your motor’s make and model. They might know somebody who knows somebody…

Do you have a West Bend or an Elgin? You may not know that most Elgin motors were made by West Bend. The tooling for West Bend’s outboard line was sold to Chrysler. Chrysler’s marine division ended up in the hands of the original makers of Force Outboards, U.S. Marine, which was subsequently bought by Brunswick Corp., parent company of Mercury Marine. Thus the modern day Force by Mercury Marine has its roots in West Bend and Chrysler technology. It shouldn’t be too surprising to find out that many West Bend, Elgin, and Chrysler parts can be obtained at some Mercury dealers. Later in the 1960s, Chrysler also supplied motors for Montgomery Wards, Western Auto/Wizard, and Eaton’s.

Many old outboard brands were produced by OMC’s onetime 3rd division, Gale. Gale built motors for Montgomery Wards, BF Goodrich, Goodyear, Eaton’s – the list goes on. These motors bore both cosmetic and mechanical resemblance to their Johnson/Evinrude contemporaries. If it resembles an old Johnson/Evinrude, it’s probably a Gale, and your local OMC dealer might have some parts for it.

Aftermarket replacement parts by manufacturers such as Sierra are also available from marine supply houses. These parts generally include but are not limited to “consumables” like water pump impellers, breaker points, and carburetor overhaul kits. The Sierra outboard parts line is also carried by NAPA auto parts stores.

In searching for parts, it can help a great deal if you have a parts manual for your motor, from which you can obtain the official manufacturer’s part number. It’s a tall order to expect a parts retailer to reliably convert a description like “that thing that connects the underside of the flywheel to the throttle on a 1947 Evinrude” into a number that they can look up in their inventory or on the dealer parts network. When you place your order for parts, you should give as much of the following as possible:

  • Motor make
  • Model number
  • Serial number
  • Part number
  • Part description

The dealer can check their records to see if your information is self-consistent before you spend your money. Even within a given model year, the same part may have two or more part numbers, depending on the motor’s serial number. For example, if you were to order a flywheel key for a “1959 Mercury 15”, you’d stand a 50% chance of getting the wrong part, unless you provided the essential information listed above.

Beyond that, you’re kind of on your own. Or are you? If you’re serious about fixing and enjoying your old outboard, you should seriously consider joining the Antique Outboard Motor Club. Members of AOMCI routinely help each other find parts, and some members acquire and sell parts as a hobby.

However, AOMCI has never been, nor does it try to be a parts supermarket for the rest of the world. AOMCI is a not-for-profit club dedicated to the restoration and preservation of old outboard motors. The club provides the connection that helps folks stay in touch with each other, and it schedules events at which they can convene to buy, sell, and swap merchandise. Join the club, make a few friends, exchange some information, and good things will come your way.

How do I repair my old outboard?

If you want to do the job right, nothing can substitute for the service manual. By your having the manual, questions can be answered before you even think to ask them. But of course, the manual doesn’t always tell the whole story. Service manuals are often geared to a level above the average do-it-yourself mechanic, and familiarity with outboards in general will help in interpreting details of the manual.

Major outboard models are covered in repair manuals from Ken Cook Co., Clymers, Seloc, Intertec, and others, generally available from your local outboard dealer or online. The dealer can also sell you or tell you where to get a genuine repair manual from the manufacturer. Such a manual might be slightly more expensive, but it will generally be more complete than the “one size fits all” aftermarket manual, since it is geared towards the dealer’s service department and not the do-it-yourselfer. Mercury sells one manual that covers all its motors 1965 and older, and other manuals for newer models. OMC has outsourced printing of all publications covering motors 1979 and older to Ken Cook Co.

Since the repair manuals are often general in nature, we also recommend that you get a parts manual for your exact model, so that you can know for sure if you’ve got everything there. The AOMCI web pages contain links to online sources for Mercury and OMC manuals, with others being added as they become available.

As we said before, the manual doesn’t always tell you everything. Some of the tricks of the trade are not written in any official repair manual. Join the Antique Outboard Motor Club, and you will see that some of these tricks are documented in AOMCI’s magazine The Antique Outboarder  and in the Club forums accessed via this website.

Other tricks are strictly word of mouth till someone takes the time to write them down. Chances are good that several folks have performed the same repair you’re investigating, and they’ll have some words of wisdom to impart. But the key here is that you have to ask around, not just post your question to a faceless bulletin board, but interact with the people who have done it before. When you join AOMCI, that’s just what you’ll be able to do.