Outboards are becoming more popular these days. Sterndrives have experienced a steady decline in sales, however a panel of Industry leaders surveyed at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo gave weight to the idea that sterndrives will remain a viable propulsion choice for consumers.

“Our sterndrive sales the last two years have been going down each year and the outboard sales are going up,” remarked Bob Menne, President of Premier Marine. He continued on to note one of his dealers had said they used to sell sterndrives to outboards 3 to 1. However Last year, he was completely the opposite. So it is apparent there is a swing happening.

Improvements in outboards in recent years are attributed to the swing. Outboards will generally be cheaper and easier to maintain than sterndrives, and coupled with recent improvements in weight and fuel economy have swung consumers in the direction off outboards. Sales of sterndrive boats continued to decline through October, dropping about 7.5 percent from last year on a rolling 12-month basis.

Sterndrives aren’t on their way out. For top performance applications, sterndrives are, and will likely remain king of the roost. But for regular cruisers and center consoles, the outboard is gaining in influence.

“At the end of the day customers are going to choose — as long as you have both horses, you’ll be fine. But from everything we see and what technology is coming down the road, we think that [the sterndrive] is going to be a propulsion system that’s going to be around 20 years from now,” Mercury Marine president Mark Schwabero said.