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Best Outboard Motors: Upgrade Your Old Boat Engine

Make a splash with one of these outboard motors.

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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON April 21, 2021

So you’re ready to take to the open waters but don’t know what outboard motor is the best for you. There are so many types of engine configurations and even fuel types to choose from that it can be an overwhelming process. But buying an outboard motor doesn’t have to be a daunting experience.

 

Once you keep in mind the type of boat you’ll be using and the journeys you’ll make, it’s not hard to choose the right engine. Whether you want a big, small, electric, or gasoline motor, there’s something on this list for everyone. We’ve done the research and selected the best outboard motors that fit various categories.

A man sailing an outboard motor boat
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of an Outboard Motor

  • Speed. Anyone who’s swapped out their oars for an outboard motor knows there’s a huge increase in speed. Of course, the speed increase depends on the size of the motor you opt for.
  • Distance. If you want to go any real distance on the water, there’s no question—you need an outboard motor. If you plan on spending the day out on the water, you can even upgrade your gas tank.
  • Save time and energy. Rowing a boat takes a lot of energy, but you can save your energy with an outboard motor. Since an outboard motor is so much faster than rowing, you’ll save tons of time getting to your destination.

Types of Outboard Motors

Gas

Gasoline-powered outboard motors are the most common type of outboard motors. They can range in power from 1.4 horsepower to more than 300 horsepower. There are many different engine configurations, as they can have one to eight cylinders and can be either 2-stroke or 4-stroke. These motors can either be hydraulically hooked up to a steering wheel or controlled by a throttle on the end of an arm. 

Electric

Electric outboard motors aren’t as common as gasoline ones. They’re generally much smaller than gasoline motors. While the power of gasoline motors is measured in horsepower, the power of electric outboard motors is measured in pounds of thrust. Electric outboard motors are usually relatively cheap and suitable for fishing boats, small yachts, and kayaks. 

Top Brands

Hangkai

Hangkai engines are made by Taizhou Gongda Motors Parts Co., Ltd. The company was founded in the '90s in the Zhejiang province. At first, the company manufactured motorcycle products, but it transitioned into marine equipment in 2000. It makes gasoline and electric outboard motors from 2 horsepower to 20 horsepower, such as this one.

Sea Dog

Sea Dog was founded in Denver, Colo., where the company’s headquarters is based. The brand makes a wide selection of 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines ranging in power from 1.4 horsepower to 30 horsepower, such as this 2.5 horsepower motor. Its engines are noted for their value and reliability.

Minn Kota

Minn Kota was founded in 1934 in Mankato, Minn., and is one of the most renowned companies in the fishing and marine industry. This company is famed for always featuring cutting-edge technology in its electric outboard motors. Aside from motors, the company also has anchors, battery chargers, and apparel. Consider the Minn Kota Traxxis Transom Mount Trolling Motor.

Outboard Motor Pricing

  • Under $200: Most of the outboard motors you’ll find in this price range will be electric and won’t provide a lot of thrust. You may discover gasoline-powered motors in this range, but they will be low power.
  • $200 to $700: There is a lot of smaller capacity 4-stroke and higher capacity 2-stroke outboard motors in this range. The majority of motors in this range only have two gears: forward and neutral.
  • $700 and up: These are the higher horsepower engines, both 2-stroke and 4-stroke. Engines in this price range usually have three gears: forward, neutral, and reverse.

Key Features

Power

This will be the main feature to take into consideration when buying an outboard motor. The power of your engine impacts more than just the top speed—an engine’s power determines how well it handles at midrange speeds and how well it can cope in rough waters. And, if you ever want to bring someone skiing, you’ll want a punchy engine.

Shaft Length

There are two main types of outboard motors: short shaft motors and long shaft motors. To know what one is right for your boat, you’ll need to measure at the exact center of the transom from top to bottom. If it’s around 15 inches, you need a short shaft outboard, but if it measures between 17 inches to about 22 inches, you’ll need a long shaft outboard.

Other Considerations

  • Gears. Some outboard motors have three gears (forward, neutral, and reverse). Other outboards have just two gears (forward and neutral) and a 360-degree shaft: you turn the propeller all the way around to move in reverse. Outboard motors with three gears are easier to maneuver but generally more expensive.

Best Outboard Motors Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Coleman Powersports 2.6 HP Outboard Motor with Short Shaft

The Coleman Powersports 2.6 HP Outboard Motor with Short Shaft is designed for small boats and inflatable boats, and it can be used as an auxiliary trolling motor. The motor weighs 37.5 pounds and is a 4-stroke OHV model with a 31-gallon internal gas tank. It meets EPA and CE standards and runs quieter than some rival brands. It comes with an easy-start TCI ignition and 360-degree steering. It's made of marine aluminum alloy for corrosion resistance, has a twist-grip throttle and a shallow-water drive, and a forward/neutral gear position. Its maximum fuel consumption is 0.53 gallons an hour. Users report that it starts at the first or second pull, it runs well, and shifts and idles smoothly. 


While it's not the fastest motor on this list, it works well after you break it in as recommended in the instructions. Also, you must use ethanol-free fuel in order for it to run properly.

Best Value
Anbull 2-Stroke Boat Motor

The Anbull 2-Stroke Boat Motor features a 3.6-horsepower engine with air cooling technology. It's designed for inflatable boats, fishing boats, sailboats, and more. This upgraded model has a stronger pulling rope to prevent breakage and features an adjustable throttle control lever and a more energy-efficient streamline propeller. The motor is reliable, corrosion-resistant, and easy to operate and maintain. It features 360-degree rotation, an aluminum alloy propeller, and a 1.2-liter built-in fuel tank. Overall, it's a great, lightweight motor for the price. Since it's air cooled, it can run in shallower water than motors with water-cooled systems. Assembly is simple, and the company has good customer service. The manufacturer also provides a one-year warranty should you experience any issues.


Unfortunately, the assembly instructions aren't the best. There have also been some complaints that the air filter can crack during the shipping process.

 

Premium Pick
Minn Kota Traxxis 70

The Minn Kota Traxxis 70 comes brimming with technology and is a competent outboard motor. This 42-inch shaft motor pumps out 80 pounds of thrust. It features an indestructible composite shaft, which flexes on impact instead of breaking. This unit comes with a quick-cam depth adjuster. This feature means you can rotate the motor 180 degrees by adjusting the tiller just 45 degrees, making the motor even more responsive to inputs and effortless to steer. The digital maximizer increases the Traxxis 70's run time by up to five times, keeping you in the water for a full day of fishing. You dial in your desired speed, and it only delivers the necessary power to keep you cruising. 


Unfortunately, many customers have reported that their motors arrived damaged, so be sure to inspect your product upon its arrival. Also, the motor isn't as long-lasting as some other models. 

Most Fuel-Efficient
Sea Dog 4-Stroke 4 Hp

This Sea Dog 4-stroke 4 horsepower outboard motor is a single-cylinder engine. This 53 cc air-cooled motor hits maximum speeds at 5,000-6,000 RPMs. There’s a 360-degree rotary handle with self-lock, so there’s no need for a reverse gear. With a CDI starting system and a manual pull cord, the motor has also been fitted with a choke to help with cold starts. This outboard motor has an advanced combustion chamber that makes it extremely fuel-efficient.


This engine tops the scales at just 10.88 kilograms, making it a great addition to smaller boats and can be used in freshwater and saltwater. While this outboard motor will take you where you need without any fuss, it probably won’t win any races along the way due to its lower speeds.

Honorable Mention
Sea Dog 2-Stroke 2.5 Hp

Those of you operating smaller boats can’t go wrong with this Sea Dog 2-stroke 2.5 horsepower outboard motor. This 52 cc engine revs up to 75,000 RPMs, which is where you’ll find maximum power. Since this is a 2-stroke, air-cooled motor, it’s lightweight and would suit inflatable boats, fishing boats, small yachts, and kayaks. Don’t let this engine’s small size fool you—it’s durable and has an anti-corrosive construction. It’s suitable for both freshwater and saltwater use.


Rated at 63 decibels, this motor is surprisingly quiet. There’s a CDI starting system that works with a manual pull-start. It comes with a 1.2-liter fuel tank. Although this is one of the lowest power engines on the list, it’s matched by an incredibly low price.

Honorable Mention
Newport Vessels Kayak Series 55

The Newport Vessels Kayak Series 55 is an outboard motor made explicitly for kayaks. This motor produces 55 pounds of thrust through a 24-inch fiberglass shaft, ensuring it’s light and durable. There are eight variable speed modes: five forward and three reverse. This, combined with a 6-inch telescopic handle, ensures the driver has total control over the motor. Its aluminum motorhead with corrosion-resistant magnesium, zinc, and stainless-steel parts ensure this motor is durable enough for saltwater use.


This electric motor comes with extra-long battery cables so that you can house the batteries anywhere on your boat. You can rest assured after your purchase, as all Newport Vessels come with a two-year warranty.

Honorable Mention
Newport Vessels NV-Series 46

The Newport Vessels NV-Series 46 produces 46 pounds of thrust with its ultra-quiet motor, making it perfect for a day’s fishing. The 30-inch fiberglass is light, strong, and adjustable for use in all water conditions. It’s also usable in saltwater thanks to its stainless steel, zinc, and magnesium hardware. There are eight power modes: five forward and three reverse. There’s a super-bright battery indicator with a five-point LED battery meter, so you always know how much charge is left.


Like all Newport Vessels products, the NV-Series 46 comes with a two-year warranty. One thing to consider is that this motor requires a 12V lead-acid deep cycle or marine battery, but these parts aren’t included in the sale.

Honorable Mention
HANGKAI 3.5-18HP 2-4 Stroke Outboard Boat Motor

The HANGKAI 3.5-18HP 2-4 Stroke Outboard Boat Motor packs a lot of power. It uses water cooling technology and has a 24-liter gas tank. The 246CC motor has a short shaft and is lightweight and easy to carry. It features tiller control, a CDI ignition, a manual start, and a circulating oil lubrication system. It's made of high-strength aluminum alloy and is durable and corrosion-resistant. It provides direct bearing supporting precision and operates smoothly and quietly. The motor also permits continuous operation using maximum throttle and is comfortable to use. 


Unfortunately, the instruction manual is not very good, and it may not be available in English. Also, there's no off switch, and some parts are flimsier compared to other brands.

Tips

  • Don’t get an engine that’s too underpowered. One of the main points of dissatisfaction from boat owners is an underpowered engine.
  • If you have a 2-stroke engine, always mix the 2-stroke with fuel to the ratio recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Measure the transom of your boat before buying an outboard motor to make sure you get the correct shaft length.

FAQs

Q: What type of outboard motor is the best for fishing?

Electric outboard motors are excellent for fishing as they’re almost silent and don’t tend to scare away the fish. But, if you need to travel in rough water or a long distance, then you might want a gasoline outboard motor for the extra power.

Q: Should I use a fuel stabilizer in my outboard motor?

It’s perfectly fine to use a fuel stabilizer in an outboard motor. Since many people use their boats seasonally, it’s especially encouraged to use a stabilizer in the offseason. 

Q: Should I get a 2-stroke or 4-stroke outboard motor?

There’s no right or wrong answer here—both types of engines have their pros and cons. While 2-stroke engines tend to be cheaper, they require you to mix 2-stroke oil with the fuel and need more maintenance.

Final Thoughts

If you want a reliable and durable motor, don’t look past the Coleman Powersports 2.6 HP Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, which gets our best overall pick. But, if you want to get by and not spend too much, the Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor is ideal.