Outboard motors are mounted over the rear of the boat, with their propellers dangling in the water to propel the boat forward. These are available from two to 350 horsepower (hp), and can be added onto all types of boats, from kayaks to house boats.
Top 7 Best Rated Outboard Motors
Yamaha Outboards has been selling outboard motors for over 30 years. In addition to outboard motors, they sell propellers, gauges, controls and accessories online and in dealers across the U.S.
|Read 5 Reviews|
Since they first introduced the four-stroke outboard engine to the U.S. market over 40 years ago, Honda Marine has been an industry innovator. Find outboard motors for boats of all sizes online and at national dealers.
|Read 11 Reviews|
Volvo Penta started in Sweden in 1868 as a cast-iron hardware manufacturer. The company is now a supplier of marine engines, which range from pleasure boat engines to industrial and commercial engines.
|Read 7 Reviews|
Founded in 1939, Mercury Marine sells boat engines, propellers, parts, accessories and inflatable boats. Their outboard motors come with a three year limited warranty, and financing is available for qualifying consumers.
|Read 61 Reviews|
Evinrude is a brand of Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc. specializing in outboard motors. Consumers can view performance reports for all of Evinrude’s outboard motors on the company’s website.
|Read 8 Reviews|
The German company Torqeedo manufactures and sells electric engines for boats of all sizes, from kayaks and canoes to ferries. The company is committed to sustainability, and their engines do not pollute the environment.
|Read Expert Review|
Suzuki Marine has been creating outboard motors for over 50 years. Find your perfect V-6, In-line 4, Mid-Range or Portable outboard motor on their website or at one of their many dealers nationwide.
|Read Expert Review|
What features matter most?
Traditional outboard motors are not very kind to the environment, but fortunately, newer motors are more environmentally friendly, with fewer gas emissions and improved fuel efficiency.
- Two-stroke motors: If you have an older motor, chances are it’s a two-stroke motor. This type of motor delivers a huge variety of pollutants into the water, thanks to the oil and fuel combination that’s required to run them.
- Four-stroke motors: Four-stroke motors were developed as a cleaner alternative to two-stroke motors. These engines do not release oil directly into the water, and they can be up to 90 percent cleaner than two-stroke motors.
- Electric versus gas: Gas motors are increasingly becoming more fuel efficient, but newer electric motors are even more environmentally friendly than their contemporary gas counterparts. An electric motor may be more expensive upfront, but it doesn’t need fuel to operate, and it doesn’t pollute water with emissions or run-off.
New outboard motors all come with warranties, but their terms can vary from brand to brand. Warranty terms can also vary depending on your purpose for buying the motor.
- Commercial warranty: Generally, commercial warranties on outboard motors are shorter than recreational warranties. The industry standard seems to be around one-year limited warranty on motors purchased for commercial, rental or governmental use.
- Recreational warranty: Consumers buying a motor for recreational boating will find a small variation in coverage. Generally, warranties on outboard motors for recreational use range from 2-5 years limited. Make sure you understand everything that is covered by your warranty.
- Transferrable warranty: If you think you may end up selling your boat and/or motor before your warranty has expired, make sure the warranty is transferrable to the next owner.
Service and maintenance
Every outboard motor will need to be serviced somewhat regularly, so it’s important to buy from a brand that can provide service when you need it, where you are.
- DIY maintenance kits: Some outboard motors have DIY maintenance kits available, which can simplify the process of servicing and maintaining your motor. These are a great option for boat owners who understand the ins and outs of the motor and are confident in their abilities to maintain their motors on their own.
- Routine service: It’s a good idea to have your outboard motor tuned up at the beginning of every season to make sure things are working properly. You can usually have this scheduled through a local boat mechanic or through your outboard motor’s company.
- Regular maintenance: Some simple but important routine maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your outboard motor in good shape. Flushing your engine after every outing (whether in fresh or salt water) is key and only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure to disconnect the fuel line after the engine is flushed, and never use fuel that has been sitting around for months on end.
Horsepower and speed go hand in hand, but not every boat needs a motor with high horsepower. Outboard motors generally range from 2.5 to 350 horsepower. When buying a motor, think about all the additional stuff you will have with you when you’re on the water, such as coolers, extra people and equipment, and err on the side of a higher horsepower.
- Manual boats: Boats like kayaks and canoes don’t even need an engine, and adding an outboard motor with a low horsepower (two to four) can give them just the boost they need without taking the control away from the steerer. These types of boats do not tend to have a lot of people or extra equipment, so they will still move with a low horsepower motor.
- Small fishing boats: Small fishing boats also don’t need to go very fast, but they may be bogged down with coolers and equipment. A good range for these boats is a motor with 10-18 horsepower.
- Small to medium fishing boats: Small to medium fishing boats will want a motor with 20-35 horsepower, as this will allow them to go five to 30 miles per hour.
- Large pontoons and deck boats: These larger boats will want a motor with 90 to 140 horsepower.
- Bass, offshore and cabin boats: These large boats are what motors in the 150 to 300 horsepower range are meant for. Motors with this horsepower will push bass fishing boats up to 60 miles per hour.
Some outboard motors come with additional features that can make your boating experience simpler and/or more enjoyable.
- GPS: An outboard motor with built-in GPS technology can be useful, particularly for new boat owners and anyone boating in unfamiliar waters.
- Smart help: Some outboard motors include a convenient QR code on their maintenance label that can easily be scanned by a smartphone to direct users to a website, maintenance videos and/or customer service. This is a useful safety feature.
- Easy starting: Many newer motors feature one-hand starting, which makes it a breeze for even novices to get on the water.
You’ll likely need to buy some additional tools and accessories to complement your new outboard motor. These are generally available from the same company that manufactures your outboard motor and can be purchased online or at dealers.
- Charging kits: Any electric motor will need a charging kit to make sure the battery of the motor is charged and ready to set sail whenever you are.
- Propellers: You may need to order a replacement propeller for your outboard motor. Make sure you know which one you need, and buy this from the same manufacturer as your motor.
- Flush kit: A good flush kit will help you flush your motor and keep it in good shape by performing routine regular maintenance.
- Engine cover: Buy an engine cover that specifically fits your engine to keep it safe from the elements when it’s not in use.
What are different types of outboard motors?
Two-stroke engines were the norm up until a few years ago, so if you have an older boat, your engine is likely two-strokes. These engines require a mixture of oil and fuel to run and emits pollutants, which means they are terrible for the environment.
Four-stroke engines are becoming more commonplace, and most new motors are four-stroke. These gas engines run quieter, burn cleaner and have more fuel efficiency than two-stroke engines.
Electric engines operate using a battery rather than fuel, so they don’t emit pollutants into the water. Make sure to get a charger kit so you don’t risk having a dead battery when you’re ready to rev up your motor and go for a spin.
Who's it for?
Companies that run boats commercially, including ferries and water taxis, may need an outboard motor. They should expect their warranty time to be shorter than it would be for recreational users, since the motors are being used more frequently.
Recreational boat owners of all types may want an outboard motor. Talk to a specialist to make sure you are buying a motor with the right capacity and horsepower for your needs.
Used boat owners
Used boat owners may want to revamp their boats by purchasing a new outboard motor. Used boats are more likely to have motors that don’t work and/or that are harmful to the environment, and buying a new motor costs less than buying a brand new boat.
Kayaks and canoes
Kayaks and canoes can have a small outboard motor attached that won’t restrict performance but instead act as a safety device if the rower’s arms become too tired and/or they need to paddle against the current.
Mercury Marine has been powering boats for over 75 years. Founded in 1939, the company now has locations around the world. Mercury’s focus has always been innovation, great engineering and speed.
- Best for Mercury Marine is best for recreational boat owners, kayaks and canoes.
Evinrude, a brand of the company BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc.), was officially launched in 2003. The company’s history dates back to 1937, when Joseph-Armand Bombardier had his snowmobile patented. Evinrude specializes in outboard motors.
- Best for Evinrude is best for recreational boat owners who want a customized outboard motor.
Torqeedo was founded in 2005 and was a pioneer in the electromobility industry. They operate in over 50 countries on five continents and have set many standards for other electric engine companies to follow since their founding. Torqeedo’s motors range from one to 80 horsepower.
- Best for Torqeedo is best for commercial and recreational boat owners seeking a motor that uses clean energy.
Suzuki Marine created their first outboard motor in 1965, and they sell both two- and four-stroke motors. Find complete product brochures on Suzuki Marine’s website.
- Best for Suzuki Marine is best for recreational boat owners.
Yamaha Outboards has been operating in the US market for over 30 years. Their outboards are known for their reliability and innovation, and consumers can find them online or at dealers nationwide.
- Best for Yamaha Outboards motors are best for recreational boat owners.
Honda introduced the four-stroke outboard engine to the U.S. over 40 years ago. They are innovators in the industry, including innovative technology that improves fuel efficiency and reduces emissions.
- Best for Honda Marine’s outboard motors are best for recreational and commercial boat owners, particularly those interested in an environmentally friendly engine.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.