Author Jeff Hemmel has been involved with small boats since he was a boy.

Author Jeff Hemmel has been involved with small boats since he was a boy.

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As one dealer confided to me recently, 3.0-liter models are the most traded-in runabouts by far. Part of the reason could be the large number of entry-level, 3.0L-equipped boats on the market. More likely, however, is that 3.0s just don't handle the load long term.

We all know the reason they sell in the first place. The 3.0 is relatively cheap, and as a result, boats equipped with them dangle a pretty compelling price tag off the transom. And to be fair, they do their job. A 3.0 can get most 17'-18' runabouts up and going, haul a small family, even take the kids skiing. And they can do it at a price point that allows many families to make the jump into boating. In the case of Bayliner's 3.0-equipped 175, the price tag is as low as $13,000. That alone is a pretty compelling argument for many buyers.

As a long-term investment, however, the 3.0 shows its limitations. With only 135 horsepower on tap, it struggles pulling many adult skiers and wakeboarders out of the hole, and often labors when you load the boat to its eight-passenger capacity. It also typically tops out in the low 40mph range. After one or two seasons, many boaters are left wanting more.

A better bet? If you can afford the price tag, opt for a 4.3. Hovering around the 190-220hp mark, this engine will handle the load much more effectively in this LOA range, yet still remain relatively fuel-efficient. Better yet, skiers and boarders will pop out of the water with ease, and filling your boat to its capacity won't result in a cumbersome slug the next time you firewall the throttle. If you plan on making your boat a long-term investment, consider the advantages and disadvantages carefully before playing "let's make a deal."

If not, you may be visiting your dealer again sooner than you think.

Jeff Hemmel today.

Jeff Hemmel today.

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