Marine Engines: EFI vs. Carbureted Models

The Volvo Penta 4.3-liter V6 with EFI

The Volvo Penta 4.3-liter V6 with EFI

Say you’re looking at two lightly used runabouts with Volvo Penta propulsion. One is a 2011 model with a base 4.3-liter V6 with 50 hours on it. The other is a 2012 model, also with a base 4.3-liter V6, but this one has 100 hours on it.  They’re listed for the same price. Which one do you buy?

The one with lower hours, of course, right?

Not so fast.

In 2012, Volvo Penta did away with carburetors on all its engines, so in this case, you likely would be better off going with the boat with more hours on it. Why? Fuel injection rules. The superior operating characteristics, the lack of maintenance, and the abbreviated winterization make it the better call. EFI also is safer because the sealed fuel system stands much less chance to leak or spew fuel vapors under the hatch in the engine compartment. What’s more, the 2012-and-up Volvo Pentas also feature electronic throttle control and advanced engine monitoring systems.

“For many years, a low-horsepower engine was a boater’s first experience with a sterndrive boat,” said Clint Moore, President and CEO of Volvo Penta of the Americas in the initial press release. “Times have changed. As with today’s car buyers, a new boater is more knowledgeable than ever before, with understandably high expectations. We believe those expectations are only met by higher-horsepower, more technically sophisticated engines. We build the engines that are designed to keep people in boating.”

The move away from carbureted engines was long overdue, and not long after Volvo Penta kicked carburetors to the curb, MerCruiser began offering EFI on its entry-level 3.0-liter four-cylinder stern drive engines. Hallelujah.

The reality is that marine engine companies no longer need to create their own EFI systems because fuel-injection technology is so abundant. They only need to adapt what already exists, and there is enough sales volume in the marine market to justify it.

“Our decision to exit the low-horsepower, carbureted engine market allowed our engineers to focus their energy on creating state-of-the-art propulsion packages designed to deliver great boating experiences, even at the entry level,” Moore said.

Something to think about as you pore through the listings on