Fresh Water (Lake Michigan) Mercruisers or Diesels

billgriffin

New Member
Sep 5, 2023
5
Saugatuck, MI
Boat Info
Boatless. Recently moved to SW Michigan.
Engines
Prefer diesels
I am trying to narrow down my choices for a SR Express Cruiser in the 36-40’ range. Ultimately, my wife & I may enjoy exploring longer range trips from SW Michigan (Superior, Huron, Chicago, etc.).
I’m seeking opinions about which type of engines would be best.
 
Welcome!

Your question is akin to asking what's better - Ford or Chevy :)

Generally most will agree that if you get up to 40' and over you're going to be in the diesel range. Sub 40' and it's far more common to see gas engines.

I've put 6 seasons on a gas powered 40 in Lake Michigan at this point. We've run Milwaukee, Sturgeon Bay, Chicago and even hit Lake Huron (Mack Island) this year. Zero complaints about gas...though she is thirsty.
 
A few things to consider. Look around your area to determine if there are any reliable diesel mechanics. I would go with the best maintained boat, either or.
 
Diesel Pro: More economical, High torque gives better handling around the dock. Dock neighbor has the same boat as mine - he burns ~35 gph @ 17 kts. I burn 22 gph @ 20 kts. Standard maintenance is oil change/filters, Replace fuel filters, clean air filters, check belts & replace impellers on regular basis. Fuel cost usually less.

Diesel Con: More expensive to purchase (but on a used boat you will recoup when you sell). My CAT 3116 takes 6.5 gallons of oil each vs 6-7 qts in a gas boat. Parts can be expensive.

Gas Pro: Less expensive to purchase. Parts easily accessible.

Gas Con: Higher Fuel Burn, more parts to keep track of (Plugs, wires etc). Less torque at the dock for maneuvering. Fuel cost usually higher.

As mentioned, go with the best maintained boat and typically 40' is the cutoff line between gas/diesel. Most maintenance on a diesel (as mentioned above) can be performed yourself if you are handy. And there are plenty of members here that can give advice on the diesels for other things.

Personally now that I have diesels, I love them and would not want a gas boat for long distance cruising. I am hoping to take my boat on the Great Loop when I retire.
 
Diesel Pro: More economical, High torque gives better handling around the dock. Dock neighbor has the same boat as mine - he burns ~35 gph @ 17 kts. I burn 22 gph @ 20 kts. Standard maintenance is oil change/filters, Replace fuel filters, clean air filters, check belts & replace impellers on regular basis. Fuel cost usually less.

Diesel Con: More expensive to purchase (but on a used boat you will recoup when you sell). My CAT 3116 takes 6.5 gallons of oil each vs 6-7 qts in a gas boat. Parts can be expensive.

Gas Pro: Less expensive to purchase. Parts easily accessible.

Gas Con: Higher Fuel Burn, more parts to keep track of (Plugs, wires etc). Less torque at the dock for maneuvering. Fuel cost usually higher.

As mentioned, go with the best maintained boat and typically 40' is the cutoff line between gas/diesel. Most maintenance on a diesel (as mentioned above) can be performed yourself if you are handy. And there are plenty of members here that can give advice on the diesels for other things.

Personally now that I have diesels, I love them and would not want a gas boat for long distance cruising. I am hoping to take my boat on the Great Loop when I retire.
Great info! Thanks Steve
 
Welcome!

Your question is akin to asking what's better - Ford or Chevy :)

Generally most will agree that if you get up to 40' and over you're going to be in the diesel range. Sub 40' and it's far more common to see gas engines.

I've put 6 seasons on a gas powered 40 in Lake Michigan at this point. We've run Milwaukee, Sturgeon Bay, Chicago and even hit Lake Huron (Mack Island) this year. Zero complaints about gas...though she is thirsty.
Thanks Stee6043
 
Thanks Stee6043

If you have your sights set on getting up to Superior at some point, and it's just you and your wife, have you considered something more like a trawler? Sea Ray's are awesome but there are far more efficient, albeit slower, hull/power plant designs out there.

Tugs are so cool...but so slow :)

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Call your local marina and ask them if they service Diesel or gas inboard.

Get the one that they service.

Both options are perfectly fine for fresh or salt water.
 
If you have your sights set on getting up to Superior at some point, and it's just you and your wife, have you considered something more like a trawler? Sea Ray's are awesome but there are far more efficient, albeit slower, hull/power plant designs out there.

Tugs are so cool...but so slow :)

View attachment 150537
Thx Stee6043. If money and time were no object for us a trawler would be in the line-up. I’ve long admired them. BUT, I like speed. Afterall, I drive Porsches . I know fuel costs can be brutal with boating, so your remarks are well received and I’m going to use the winter months to research more.
 

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