LAST UPDATED: March 10, 2021
The Best Outboard Motors (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Make a splash with one of these outboard motors.
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PUBLISHED ON March 10, 2021
So you’re ready to take to the open water but don’t know what outboard motor is the best. There are many types of engine configurations and fuel types to choose from, so it can be an overwhelming process. But buying an outboard motor doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. As long as you consider 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 chosen the best outboard motors for various categories.
This engine truly does it all. It’s light and compact enough to be used on small boats but has enough power to make it suitable for bigger boats.
- Powerful 4-stroke engine
- Durable and reliable
- Reverse gear
- One of the more expensive engines on the market
When it comes to bang for your buck, there’s no getting past this engine. It’s more powerful than most electric motors but competes on price.
- Unbeatable value for money
- More power than more expensive rivals
- It’s a 2-stroke, so it requires more maintenance and can be noisy
- Not very powerful
This 42-inch shaft motor pumps out 80 lb of thrust. It features an indestructible composite shaft, which flexes on impact instead of breaking.
- Quick-cam depth adjuster
- Digital maximizer increases its run time by up to five times
- Quiet motor
- Some products have been delivered damaged
- Motor isn’t as long-lasting as some other models
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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. And, 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.
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. 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.
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 - $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
Part of what makes this motor so versatile is its 6.5 horsepower output and reverse gear. This is all the power you need for a small craft and comes from a 123cc four-stroke gasoline engine with a manual pull start. The motor has been fitted with a muffler, so although it’s powerful, it’s still quiet. Its power also won’t be a problem at the gas pumps as it’s very fuel-efficient. It’s controlled by an omnidirectional rotary joystick. It has a copper core brushless motor, which helps to ensure a long service life. Lugging this motor around shouldn’t be a problem thanks to a newly redesigned carrying handle and holding grip.
This motor does everything very well, and the only problem is it’s somewhat pricier than other options on the market.
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.
This 169 cc Hangkai 2-stroke short shaft outboard motor pumps out 12 horsepower when running at its maximum RPMs of 4,500-5,500. It’ll run at these high speeds all day thanks to its water cooling system, which provides improved performance and reliability. Thanks to its 24-liter fuel tank, this engine is for those who plan on spending entire days on the lake. Since it’s a 2-stroke motor, you’ll need to mix the gasoline with 2-stroke engine oil. Docking with this engine couldn’t be easier thanks to its reverse gear.
It features a CDI starting system and a manual pull-start, along with a manual tilt system. The motor is made from a high-strength aluminum alloy, which is exceptionally durable and protects against rust and corrosion.
The Sea Dog 4-stroke 4 hp 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 stops the scales at just 10.88 kg, 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.
Those of you operating smaller boats can’t go wrong with the Sea Dog 2-stroke 2.5 hp 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 dB, 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.
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.
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.
- 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 to splash out and need a do-it-all motor, don’t look past the Hangkai 6.5 Hp 4-Stroke Outboard Engine, which gets our best overall pick. But, if you want to get by and not spend too much, the Hangkai 3.5 Hp 2-Stroke Outboard Motor is ideal.