Bill's post is pretty succinct description of the function of a V-Drive. You don't mention what make and model V-Drive is on the boat you intend to buy. I have a Walter V-Drive, which is probably over-built for my 54 HP engine. Some V-Drives are built into the transmission
. The Walter is a separate gear
box connected to the transmission
by a jackshaft (adjustable length shaft).
My response to your specific questions, based on the Walter V-Drive
Are they more maintenance
It is another gear
box so it does require some maintenance
. That is mostly just checking the oil
periodically and changing the oil
once a year or so.
Do they need shaft aligning at more frequent intervals?
Nothing about the V-Drive would require more alignments.
Is performing a shaft alignment any more difficult than with inline transmissions?
The shaft alignment is basically the same as for an inline transmission except the alignment is between the V-Drive and shaft. The alignment of the jackshaft between the transmission and the V-drive does not have to be done to the same tolerances.
Is vibration and noise
more of an issue?
If there is a problem in the drive train the massive gears in the Walter V-Drive can produce a very loud backlash noise
at low RPMs, but then it is telling you there is a problem.
Do they have a bad reputation?
I think Walter has an excellent reputation and provides good service
from their USA plant. That won't mean so much to you in Hong Kong
Should one steer clear of sailboats boats with V-drives?
I wouldn't, but not all V-Drives are the same.