Choosing an outboard motor for your small boat used to be easy. It was just a matter of going to your local dealer and picking up the smallest motor.
Today, with so many boat engine options, there is much more to consider. For one, you have to choose between an electric or gasoline outboard. You also need to compare motors of different weights, build, usability and power. Your budget, too, will determine the outboard motor you can afford for your boat.
Small outboard motors are marketed as portable. These motors are user-friendly in that they can be hand-lifted and are easy to attach to and remove from the boat. They also come with a fuel tank, and built-in tiller steering handles. These motors can range from as little as 2 to 25 horsepower.
I wrote this article to recommend some of the best small outboard motors I have come across on my journey as a boat owner. I will also explain some factors determining the best outboard for your watercraft.
So, let’s get started and find out the best portable outboard motor for small boats!
What is the best outboard motor for your boat?
Factors that determine the most suitable outboard motor for your boat include:
The hull plays a big role in determining your boat’s most appropriate outboard motor. Technically, you don’t have much choice in the size of outboard motor you can buy for your boat. Your boat already has a Coast Guard placard that indicates the maximum horsepower and weights your boat can carry.
Power, Gears, Shaft Length
The dealer will rate your boat for the maximum shaft length, weight, and horsepower the watercraft can handle. Then, you can decide on your preferred outboard brand and model. Ideally, you don’t need to install an outboard with the highest horsepower, but you also don’t want an outboard with too little power that it can’t get the boat on plane.
Electric vs Gasoline
When comparing the best small outboard motors, you will choose between electric and gasoline. There is a large variety of both gasoline and electric brands.
Gasoline outboard motors have always been the traditional option. These motors can be controlled by a throttle or attached hydraulically to a steering wheel.
Gasoline motors have their own advantages but may not be the most environment-friendly.
Electric outboard motors are also increasingly popular. These motors may come in handy if you use your boat for the occasional trolling session or dock your boat each night. They are low maintenance and pretty quiet compared to their gasoline companion.
Next, let us look at some of the best small outboard motors:
Best Small Outboard Motors
The Yamaha 2.5 is a petrol engine weighing in at 17kg and with 2.5 horsepower. This outboard has a chunky, rugged build designed to withstand the elements and serve you for longer. The motor features a traditional throttle arm, gear lever, transom clamps, and fuel tap.
Additionally, it has a larger 72cc single-cylinder engine to yield more torque. The engine has a soft grip carrying handle to help with the extra weight. At 73 decibels, this motor is impressively quiet and fast for a petrol engine.
The short fuselage can speed up to 9.5 knots with just one person on board. This typically drops to 4.6 knots with two people, which is still an impressive fete. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker despite the smaller fuel tank of 0.9 liters.
The boat is quite pricey compared, but it is well worth it based on its build quality, engineering, performance, and refinement. The Yamaha 2.5 motor has a 5-year warranty. As far as petrol engines go, this is our top choice, unless weight is a primary concern.
Selva, an Italian brand, offers a full lineup of outboard engines with the standard five-year warranty and attractive pricing despite not having the brand recognition of the Japanese brands.
The Selva Guppy’s technical features look very impressive. For its small size, it comes with a powerful water-cooled 87cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine that is lightweight and easy to hand-lift.
With just one person aboard, the engine can get the boat onto the plane at a maximum speed of eight knots. The boat still manages five knots with a second person on board.
The Spirit 1.0 Plus by Chinese company eProulsion is an electric outboard for small boats. It comes with a 1.0kW motor and a long-lasting 1,276Wh battery that’s impressively lightweight.
The model is heavier at 19.3kg, but that weight is mainly a result of the removable battery. Meanwhile, the motor and shaft weigh just 10.6kg.
The throttle arm folds parallel to the shaft for easy storage when not in use. In addition to the solar charger and 12v DC charger, a travel bag is included.
Putting it together is a little bit easier and faster. A spring-loaded handle locks the battery into place, and there is only one threaded power cable to connect.
It has a slightly less powerful electric motor, so it can’t quite match petrol engines, let alone outperform, but the difference isn’t significant. Still, the Spirit 1.0 Plus is quiet and user-friendly, with a magnetic kill cord and throttle that gives you an intuitive sense of how far you have pulled it.
These electric motors have larger, slower-revolving plastic propellers, which give them excellent low-speed control and proper reversing without having to flip the motor through 180 degrees.
The Anbull 2-stroke outboard motor is an upgrade from the previous model, and it features improved technical features and greater power output.
The motor is ideal for small sailboats, fishing boats, and inflatables. It comes with a 3.6 horsepower engine, slightly bigger than the standard small boat outboard. The engine has an integrated cooling technology that prevents overheating and eventual stalling.
This new model features a more powerful rope that will not break when pulled. There’s a new more-energy-efficient propeller and throttle controller, an aluminum propeller, 360-degree rotation capabilities, and a 1.2-litre integrated fuel tank.
The Anbull boasts a 52cc engine capacity, a 1.2-litre fuel tank, and an output of 75,000 RPMs, delivering impressive power. Although this 2-stroke motor is smaller, it is durable and is built to withstand fresh and saltwater alike. It is also low maintenance and super easy to assemble and operate.
With a noise rating of 63 decibels, the Anbull 2-stroke outboard is surprisingly quiet for a petrol engine. Affordable, functional, and user-friendly, this small outboard motor offers the best of both worlds.
The Minn Kota Traxxis 70 is a 42-inch shaft outboard that delivers up to 80 pounds’ thrust. For its small size, this motor is everything you need to keep you in the water for longer. It comes with well-thought features such as an extended tiller that can be titled to adjust to any of your fishing needs.
An impressive feature is the Digital Maximizer Technology, which regulates the amount of power output the motor delivers. Instead of wasting power, the Digital Maximizer delivers the exact amount of energy needed at any given time, keeping you in the water for longer.
The Traxxis 70 comes with larger commutators, windings, and brushes, which run cooler and generate less noise, conserving the battery and extending the motor’s lifespan. The composite shaft is extremely durable, so you won’t worry about rusting, kinking or breaking.
The Honda 2.3L outboard is a 4-stroke motor powerful enough to power any small to the medium-sized boat. The motor is competent with all the modern features we have come to expect in an outboard motor from a leading Japanese brand.
This Honda outboard is lightweight but delivers more power and superior performance compared to its predecessors. It is easy to hand-lift, and assembly is equally a breeze.
This motor features a comparably larger gas tank, keeping you in the water for up to one hour at wide-open throttle. The throttle tensioner keeps the engine from overworking, decreasing the motor’s lifespan. With a centrifugal clutch, the motor can deliver maximum output.
The Honda 2.3L is the perfect choice for small sailboats and skiff owners looking for consistent performance and ease of use.
The Honda Marine BF5 has an excellent reputation for being reliable and user-friendly. It is built with durability in mind; its rugged design handles the elements well and will serve you for many years to come.
This motor comes with a 0.4-gallon integrated fuel tank, which is comparably large in Honda’s range of small outboard motors.
The BF5 is a single-cylinder motor, making it easy to operate even for the new boat owner. A decompression system built into the motor delivers adequate pressure for an easy pull-start.
The outboard’s engine is outfitted with an oil alert technology that tells you when the oil pressure is low and automatically lowers the engine rotations to 2,300 rpm.
The BF5 also features an alternative charging system that comes in handy when you want to use your electronic devices such as phones or a stereo on-board.
The Suzuki Marine DF9.9B is an electric outboard motor ideal for dinghies, sailboats, inflatable boats, and small boats. This easy-to-lift and operate outboard comes with an electronic fuel injection system that makes it easy to start, accelerate and operate at different speeds.
The Suzuki Marine outboard features a Lean Burn Control System that promotes fuel efficiency whether your boat is at idle speeds or the cruise level.
The motor has both a manual and electric start. The decompression system integrated into the engine enables easy pull-start and takes the fuss out of operating the outboard.
The top-quality 327cc engine capacity offers enough torque to power any small fishing boat. This is an excellent choice if you want to buy from a trusted brand known for high-performance outboard motors.
The Mercury Marine is a four-stroke outboard ideal for small commercial boats, reactional boating, and angling.
This motor doesn’t come with a battery but instead works using an electronic fuel injection system for fuel efficiency, top-of-the-class performance, speedy throttle response, and easy starting.
It features a tiller handle with multifunctional capabilities and ergonomic operations. The motor also has no-spill, no-drip oil drain capabilities for easy, fuss-free maintenance.
A stand-out feature is the vertical down-stop, which can be adjusted to support different boat transoms and layouts.
The Coleman Powersports 2.6 HP is designed with high performance and reliability. Coming in at 37.5 pounds, this is one of the lightest 4-stroke motors in its class.
The outboard comes with an integrated 31-gallon gas tank, which is impressively large for a motor this size. The Coleman is also impressively quiet at just 70 decibels.
It features a TCI ignition for easy start and 360-degree steering for fuss-free operations. Built with marine-grade aluminum alloy, this motor is corrosion-resistant and will withstand the elements to serve you for many years.
Other outstanding features include a forward/neutral gear position, shallow-water drive, and a twist-throttle.
Summary: 10 Best Small Outboard Motors
Your boat’s hull plays the biggest role in determining the best outboard for your watercraft. In particular, the boat’s hull will determine the motor’s maximum horsepower and weight the vessel can support.
What’s left is for you to choose a brand and model that has all the bells and whistles of a good quality motor. Be sure to invest in a motor that isn’t too underpowered or overpowered. Your local dealer can help you determine the best small outboard motor depending on your boat’s specifications.