Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Mandeville, LA
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In my experience, it varies quite wildly. However, most sailboat engines, particularly quality diesels, can have extremely long service lives if they are properly and meticulously maintained. The better question is whether or not any service records exist.
Also, ask how the owner used the motor. If he just ran it in the slip to charge the batteries occasionally, it might be a red flag. If he ran it under load, ask what he uses as his cruising RPM - it should be about 80% of the max RPM.
When I was shopping for a boat, the sellers and brokers rarely knew the hours - either because they did not want to share, the hour meter was broken, or the motor did not have an hour meter.
When inspecting the motor, look for signs of corrosion, particularly near the water pump, heat exchanger, and oil pan. Also look for oil leaks, poor wiring, and old hoses. All should be indicators of a less than perfectly maintained motor.
Also, if you get the point where you can run the motor - look for smoke. Smoke that persists after startup can be indicative of a number of problems. Another thing to look for is power output. If a motor cannot generate it's rated RPM, then there is an issue. It might be as simple as an improperly sized prop, but more likely indicates something more seriously wrong with the motor.
If the motor runs well, doesn't smoke, produces its rates RPM and operates at a proper temperature, then it is probably OK.
I don't mean to suggest that engine hours aren't important - they are. However, in a purchase scenario the factors listed above significantly outweigh the usage.
If you're asking for a personal reason - to see if your a high mileage driver for instance - don't worry about it. Keep track of the hours for maintenance and use the heck out of it.
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