I have seen many questions on the internet and have heard many in person asking what is a fair price for outboard motor repair. Shops can charge either by the job, commonly called flat rate, or by the hour. There are advantages to the consumer in either system but under different situations.
Lets first look at flat rate charges. The way this system works is that the marine shop records the amount of labor on each job they do, and charge the average amount to the customer. I have found no accurate national flat rate manual. The automotive industry has a good one, but the marine industry is not able to get an accurate flat rate manual. Part of the problem is that different parts of the country have different conditions that affect the time involved to do a specific repair. On the coasts, salt water corrosion is a big factor and the time to do any lower unit work on a motor used in salt water is often double or triple the time for a fresh water engine.
“Should I try to repair my own outboard motor?” is a question boat owners many times ask themselves. Two major reasons to consider doing your own work are to save money or perceived poor quality work from your local dealer. Both of these are valid reasons. The cost of repairing outboard motors is very high. It is true that the quality of mechanics at the average dealership is not what it should be; it is so poor, in fact, that Mercury and Johnson/Evinrude are each increasing the training requirements for their certified technicians. Some people live in areas where there are no marine service centers.
Being in the marine service business for over 34 years, if I've heard this once, I've heard it a hundred times, "I bought a service manual and I still can't fix my boat motor!" Many retail customers are under the misconception that if they just buy a $39.95 manual, they will be able to repair their own boat motor. Think about it. If all it took was a book, why would anyone pay $75-$150 or more per hour for a certified mechanic to repair your boat motor? At least once a week, I get a phone call from a boat owner who has tried to do his own repair work and is now looking for someone to finish the job. If he had some specific information before he started the job, he would have a much better chance of successfully completing the repairs.