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What Size Outboard Motor for What Size Boat

Updated on July 1, 2013

Choosing the right outboard motor for small boats

When it comes to choosing an outboard motor for your boat, there are several factors to consider. For starters, the size of your boat and what you intend to use it for are the most important. You should also take into consideration your level of experience. If you are a novice when it comes to boating, selected an outboard motor with less power may be a better choice. The following provides a breakdown of different types of small outboard motors. Aside from standard features, you will also have the option to choose between makes and models, like Evenrude, Johnson, Mercury or Yamaha outboard motors.


2 to 3.5 horsepower outboard motors

An outboard motor with 2 to 3.5 horsepower and a typical weight of under 40 pounds is perfect for small, portable boats, like canoes, dinghies, 8 to 10 foot jon boats and other light watercrafts. This motor is available with 20-inch shafts, making it ideal for small sailboats or pontoons as well. An outboard motor of this size is 1-cylinder, features a 4-stroke configuration, can spin 360 degrees and is limited to forward-only or forward-neutral gears. They have built-in fuel tanks, are easy to transport given their lightweight design and will be able to propel most watercrafts at a speed of 5 to 10 miles per hour.


4, 5 or 6 horsepower outboard motors

The next size up are 4, 5 or 6 horsepower outboard motors which will weigh anywhere from 40 to 60 pounds. At this size, the outboard motor is perfect for the same style of watercraft as the smaller engine, just a little bit larger. So again, this outboard motor will power inflatable boats that are up to 11 feet long, large canoes, dinghies that are 8 to 11 feet long and other watercraft ranging in size from 50 to 250 pounds. At this size, outboard motor models with 15 inch and 20 inch shafts are available. These engines are also just 1-cylinder, however there are some 2-cylinder models. They feature forward, neutral and reverse gears and may have a built-in or separate fuel tank. This type of motor will be able to power a watercraft 10 to 18 miles per hour. Having multiple people or large loads on the watercraft may reduce the speed.

8 to 9.9 horsepower outboard motors

The third choice when it comes to an outboard motor is one with 8 to 9.9 horsepower, which will weigh anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds. This size of engine is used for boats that are 10 to 14 feet long and weigh anywhere from 75 to 300 pounds. They come in various shaft sizes, including 15 inch, 20 inch and 25 inch. There are different models, some with 2-stroke configurations and other with 4-stroke configurations. There are also models with varying cylinders; some just have 1, however many are 2-cylinders. Fuel tanks are separate from the motor. This engine will be able to power a watercraft anywhere from 15 to 22 miles per hour.

5 to 20 horsepower outboard motors

And finally, there are 15 to 20 horsepower outboard motors that weight 80 to 120 pounds. These are used for 10 to 14 foot fishing boats, 12 to 16 foot jon boats and other larger watercrafts. There are models with 15 inch and 20 inch shafts and 2- or 4-stroke configurations. Engines this size have 2 cylinders and can power watercrafts 15 to 30 miles per hour. Fuel tanks are separate from the motor.

The outboard motors mentioned here are considered small. As stated previously, the size of motor you need depends on your boat’s size, your experience level and what you will be using it for. Choosing the wrong motor size can make it very difficult to properly drive your boat or may lead to accidents.


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