Choosing an outboard motor is an essential consideration for every boat owner. It will depend on many factors: the size of the boat and the size of the engine, the required power, maneuverability, economy, and maintenance costs. To select the best motor for your boat, you need to consider the main functions and features of outboard motors – then the outboard motor will perfectly suit your type of boat, and you will enjoy boating! Let’s find out what you should pay attention to.
General steps to help you choose the right outboard:
- Consider the boat’s weight to select the appropriate motor size.
- Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the max horsepower and weight capacity.
- Consider the boat’s purpose – is it fishing, cruising, or water sports?
- Choose between 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines.
- Determine the motor shaft length.
- Check the motor’s features – electric start, power trim, and tilt, along with fuel efficiency and noise level.
- Select the propeller that matches the motor’s horsepower and the boat’s intended use.
Fuel and Electric Outboard Motors
There are two main types of outboards: those that run on gasoline and those that run on electricity. What’s right for you will depend on various factors, including your desired use of your boat and any pertinent laws and regulations in your area.
For example, some waterways prohibit gasoline-powered boats while allowing their electric counterparts to traverse freely. That can make a big difference when you’re planning a trip downriver. Suppose you are fishing regularly or plan to keep your boat on a lake rather than cruising along open waters. In that case, electric outboards may be better suited for your needs than gas-run engines.
Electric motors produce less noise, so you won’t scare off fish during long cruises through quiet waters. Electric motors also weigh less than their fuel-based counterparts, making them easier to manage. However, most people find that gas engines tend to perform better under stress than their smaller counterparts.
If you intend to travel long distances on open water at high speeds or want something that has enough power for heavy loads (such as multiple passengers) – it’s best to get a motor with a strong gasoline engine.
Two Strokes or Four-Stroke Engines
Outboard motors come in two different types: two-stroke and four-stroke. Two-stroke motors use heavier fuels while putting out the same horsepower. Four-stroke motors put out more power, making them suitable for larger boats. Older model Two-Stroke engines are notoriously high fuel consumption due to gasoline spraying down the exhaust system. This happens because the gas mix valve on the intake valve side opens simultaneously with the exhaust valve opening. As a result, some part of the gas flows through the combustion chamber without burning. Some newer outboards feature better fuel injection systems like Direct Fuel Injection, making them a lot more fuel-efficient.
The four-cylinder engine may move on different sides, either vertically or at varying distances. Its streamlined construction allows for a lighter design that can be used for maintenance. Under the same engine speed, it would make one 2-stroke less potent than one 4-stroke. Although 2-stroke engines are about 50 to 90 percent lighter, their noise is still significant. Most high-performance outboard motors can produce just 2-4 HP. However, it is available on engines with 250 horsepower.
Two Outboard Motors or One
Some boat owners are puzzled: Are two outboard motors better than one? In most cases, the decision to use two engines is made for the peace of mind of the boat owner, to solve the problem of a sudden breakdown of one of the motors in open water. However, the motors must be completely autonomous (independent power sources and control panels) for this to work. As for the additional power from the two counter-rotating propellers, the emphasis is only increased if the power of the two motors exceeds the ability available for one.
Thoroughly Research Your Outboard Engine Choice
Every engine is unique, and choosing the one that’s right for you and your needs will save you a lot of headaches down the road. When selecting a motor for your boat, it is vital to consider its power – as different engines are created for various purposes.
Smaller motors (5 to 10 horsepower) are sufficient for dinghies, inflatables, and other small craft. At the same time, larger models (50+ hp) are ideal in bigger boats or those with more power-hungry features like water skis or wave runners.
As a general rule of thumb, match your motor’s power output with what your boat can handle, so you don’t overload it. Talk to friends who own similar vessels as yours or knowledgeable staff at your local marina about what kinds of boat engines would be best suited for your boat. Once you have some parameters in mind, start shopping around online.
Consider Price and Features Together
An important point when choosing an outboard motor is the ratio of price and quality. Not all engines are the same; some cost half the price and perform the same. When buying an outboard motor, owners often pay for features they don’t want rather than the actual power of the engine. It is worth researching to save money and choose the most suitable motor in terms of objective parameters. Outboard motors can start at $110 and go up to $90,000 depending on power, make, model, and other factors.
The Right Outboard Motor
Make sure that your engine provides enough power to move your boat. If you have a large vessel, make sure you get a powerful engine. If you have a small boat that requires maneuverability, think about getting lighter and easier to handle.
How much does it weigh? The weight of your motor is critical for two reasons: first, it needs to be light enough for you to manage when attaching it and removing it from your boat. Second, some states and provinces require that boats with motors weighing over a certain amount register their boat with the state so they can tax them accordingly. The same is with motors with more than a certain HPs.
How much power do you need? The amount of power you need is driven by several factors.
What type of water are you boating on? Lakes or flat coastal waterways will not require as much horsepower as rivers or oceans with choppy waves and currents.
How large is your boat? If it’s small, you won’t need as much power; if it’s large, you’ll want more power to push through those choppy waters.
Only look for motors that match your boat’s size and performance to give yourself optimal stability and safety.
Paying attention to propellers, several of their main characteristics should be distinguished: material, number of blades, and condition. Four propeller blades will provide faster planning time, higher average speed, and better control at low rates than three blades. Stainless steel is much stronger than aluminum but much more expensive. And, of course, a damaged propeller can disable the entire engine.
Is it Right for Your Kind of Boating?
The first thing you need to do is determine whether a particular motor is suitable for your kind of boating. Are you going fishing, wakeboarding, or sailing? The type of boating you want to get into will help narrow down which outboard motor would best suit your needs.
Suppose you’re looking for a maneuverable motor and easy to start and stop. In that case, electric outboards are probably your best bet. This motor works best in still water and doesn’t require much maintenance. The downside is that electric motors don’t offer as much power or speed.
If you are going fishing or skiing, a gas outboard may be your best choice because it will provide more power at lower RPMs than other outboards. Gas-powered motors don’t require starting with a battery, making them easier to use if your boat does not have an onboard battery charger.
What’s your budget? Is there a particular model that is within your price range?
Funding is often one of the most significant factors in determining which type of motor is right for you. For example, how much will maintenance and upkeep cost over time? Will repairs be covered under warranty? These are all things that should factor into which type of motor makes sense for you, based on your budget and long-term needs. Some high-end engines can start at around $1,000. In contrast, others can reach as high as $5,000, depending on each model’s standard features and capabilities.
Additional Bells and Whistles
In addition to the basic features, modern outboard motors offer several improvements that make them more accessible and comfortable. For example, electric start – to quickly regain control of the boat, especially when drifting due to strong winds. Power tilt makes controlling small boats in shallow water easier and eliminates manually tiling the engine. And, of course, power traction – helps fight solid currents and winds, increasing dash power by 60% when moving backward and by 15% when moving forward.
What Maintenance is Required?
It’s important to know what type of maintenance is required for your outboard motor to make sure it’s appropriately serviced. Check with your dealer and read your owner’s manual, which will list specific information about the motor. For example, does your engine need new spark plugs every 50 hours or 100 hours? Is a complete tune-up necessary every six months or just an oil change? Make sure you don’t let these questions go unaddressed. Ignoring your engine could lead to expensive repairs down the road.
And when you have work done on your engine, make sure a reputable mechanic does it.
If you decide to carry out maintenance yourself, be careful because a lack of experience and qualifications can lead to engine damage and injury to the boat owner. And yet, here are a few tips to make your engine last longer:
- When the engine is not in use, keep the fuel tank open to prevent condensation
- Use fuel stabilizer every time
- Monitor the condition of the support, fittings, and hoses
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I choose the right size outboard motor?
The basic rule is weight alone and says you should have between 40 and 25 pounds of mass for every horsepower. For example, a 5000-pound boat could have an engine with between 125 and 200 horsepower.
How do I choose an outboard?
You should take into consideration the most Need-To-Know things about your future outboard, such as:
- How much horsepower do you need?
- Calculate your Boat horsepower (A Boat horsepower is a unit of power equal to 550 foot-pounds per second that are used to measure the power of an engine.)
- Find out how much power do you need. Your research should be based on several factors such as Fuel efficiency; manufacturer limits; Boat horsepower to rate ratio; Boat use; Number of passengers travelling with you;
- Consider Policies, dangers of overpowering your boat, state regulations.
- Two-strokes or Four-stroke engines.
- Fuel Economy.
- Maintenance costs.
What shaft length outboard do I need?
Take your measurement from the top of your transom to the bottom of your keel. If it's between 15" and 17" long, you'll need a "short" shaft outboard. If it's between 20" and 22" long, you'll need our "long" shaft outboard.