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 14, 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.
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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
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.