With internet now widely accessible worldwide it has become common to find and order used outboards from specialist shops with just a few clicks of a mouse. Such purchases prove to be safe and money/time saving and the outboards are professionally maintained/tested before being sold and come with different kinds of warranty.
If you don't want to risk buying a used outboard from a private seller, I would recommend visiting such well established specialists as hardcoremarine.com (for US), casse-marine.com (for France and Mediterranean), outboards-direct.co.uk or avondale-marine.com (worldwide).
If, however, you cannot find an outboard you need from a specialist and are planning to buy one from a private seller, you need to be extra careful and inspect it inside and out before purchasing. If you are unsure, seek advise from an engineer, as buying privately offers no guarantees and could result in unexpected expenditures rectifying technical faults.
The quality of used outboard engines varies greatly. When viewing second-hand motors being sold by private sellers, it’s best to either get the help of someone who knows more about them than you, or do your homework and read up on what to look out for.
Wherever you consider buying an outboard, be sure to see it running – preferably on the back of a boat so you can test it thoroughly.
NEVER run a water cooled outboard motor out of water or with no water circulating to cool it. Doing so destroys the impeller immediately. A motor run dry will quickly overheat and seize up. Even if it is not run long enough to seize up and stop in a cloud of smoke, damage to the cooling system will affect it when it is next used, causing substantial damage and possible danger to users. Check that cooling water is coming out of the motor in a steady stream. If not, don’t buy it.
If the used outboard engine starts quickly, runs smoothly once warmed up and performs well it is worth considering.
A four stroke outboard (not a two stroke) will have a dip stick to show the oil level. This can be used to check the condition of the oil. If there is evidence of water or milky discolouration there will be problems requiring attention from an engineer.
If you have any doubts about any of the used outboard engines that you see, get the motor checked by a professional before purchase.