No doubt this is the single most agonizing decision to be made on this endeavor. So many issues to consider: Cost, reliability, size, fuel economy, availability, and accessories just to name a few. I have sat down many times to think about my options. Automotive, aviation grade, rebuilt vs. zero time vs. 500 hour engine. It all boiled down to one thing, reliability.
In all of my flying, one thing stays with me and can be classified as pure paranoia, and that's engine failure. Since all of my flying has been in rented Cessna's with 5000+ hours on them, the single item that has plagued me to no end is the potential for engine failure during flight, particularly on night flights. I had an engine sputter and cough once, for only about 5 seconds on a night flight from Alabama and I almost had a heart attack. With reliability in mind, an aviation Lycoming was the clear choice.
Next was size. Most RV pilots will tell you the 0360 and the 0320 180hp and 160hp respectively have very little difference in them other than climb rate, and the price is nearly the same. Top speed and cruise are affected by only a few knots. Resale value is important and most buyers will be looking for the largest engine. So the 0360 was chosen.
Next was cost vs. time on the engine. You can get a used engine in this size and type with 700 hours on it for around 15K. For 20k (engine only) you can have a brandy new one from Van's. Van's has an OEM agreement with Lycoming that allows them to sell Zero time, factory new engines and a low cost, several thousands under what is available elsewhere. When I fall back on the reliability factor, new it is. So on July 7 2000, I ordered a new 0360 from vans with all the accessories. Lead time here is 4-6 months so you must plan ahead. The engine will be required for cowling fitting. There is one draw back to consider when ordering a new engine. While taking those first flights on the plane, another factor has to be put into the mix and that is Engine break-in.