Outboard Motor Buying Guide 2021

Outboard Motor

Whether you’re dropping a line, cruising around a lake, or introducing the family to the thrill of water skiing, there is nothing better than spending the day on the water. 

But when it comes to buying an outboard motor, there is a bewildering array of options, not to mention more manufacturers in the market than ever before. So if you’re in the market for some new boating equipment but don’t know which way to steer, this comprehensive outboard motor buying guide should help.

What size outboard motor do I need?

Modern outboard motors are efficient and reliable, but their performance still depends on their size and capacity. When you are looking at new outboard prices, you’ll soon discover that some of the more powerful models can be expensive, but are often quieter, faster and more fuel-efficient.

However, it’s also vital to factor in the type of craft you own and how you use it. If you just want to cruise your favourite fishing spots in a modest tinny, then you probably won’t need a super-fast outboard with drive-by-wire control technology. 

Here are some of the best outboard engines available, sorted by horsepower.

2 to 3.5hp

The most environmentally-friendly option these days for both small and large outboards is a 4-stroke outboard, which suits canoes, dinghy, inflatables, or small sailboard owners. A light and portable 1-cylinder model may suffice, but most only have forward gears and are limited to speeds of around 16kph.

4 to 6hp

A bigger outboard that can reach speeds of up to 30kph will suit those who own a larger canoe, dinghy, or inflatable boat sized around 10 feet, and weighing 100kg plus. The outboards in this range are typically one cylinder, but are sturdier and include reverse gears. However, if your craft is up to 20 feet, having more than one person onboard will affect the outboard’s performance, so you might want to consider upsizing.

8 to 20hp

Outboards in this range are still relatively small, but they have two cylinders that allow faster speeds. They are a popular choice for those with slightly larger fibreglass or aluminium boats, or sailboats 14 feet or longer. These outboards typically vibrate less, and also include electronic starters and other technologies. If you have a larger sailboat or small fishing boat, opt for an engine closer to 20hp.

20hp and beyond

When you reach the bigger-boat category that will handle sea and swells, you’ll need much more power. 75 to 90hp engines are popular for these types of craft, although if you need to increase speed for activities like water skiing, you’ll need a four or even six-cylinder outboard motor. Those with larger sport boats or craft that will take you on long journeys or fishing adventures way out at sea, should consider an outboard of at least 400hp.

What brands should I consider? 

Outboard motors evolve rapidly. This has been the case with every major manufacturer in the last few years, including Yamaha, Suzuki, Mercury, Honda and Evinrude. Changes generally progress on two fronts: efficiency and horsepower. But there’s also fuel economy and range to be considered.

Yamaha

Japan’s largest outboard manufacturer first began developing four-stroke outboard motors in the early 80s. These were introduced to complement Yamaha’s renowned traditional two-stroke outboard range, but their reduced-emissions four-stroke models are now much more popular. They range from a 2.5hp portable version up to the legendary 425XTO — a 5.6-litre V8 with 425hp, launched in late 2018. 

Its versatile F90 was launched in 2017 to fill a gap in its four-stroke mid-range, which is a lightweight, 1.8-litre outboard ideal for powering trailer boats ranging in size from 4.2 to 5.2 metres.

 In terms of Yamaha outboard prices, you’ll pay around $1,200 for a 2.5hp model, $4,600 for a 25hp outboard, $6,300 for a 30hp outboard, and from $44,300 for a top-of-the-range 425hp model.

Suzuki

Suzuki Marine is another Japanese brand that has grown substantially over the last ten years, since being re-introduced to Australia in 2003. Their four-stroke engines range from smaller 2.5hp outboards, to their 350hp DF350A model, introduced in late 2017. 

Their suite of 4.4-litre V6 four-stroke outboards were the first on the market equipped with contra-rotating propellers, providing better low-speed manoeuvrability in single-engine installations, as well as improved directional stability. Recently, Suzuki also upped its warranty to provide three years of dealer warranty and three years of factory-backed support, if the engine is maintained by an authorised Suzuki service centre. 

In terms of Suzuki outboard prices, their 2.5hp portable outboards start at around $1,125. Midrange outboards can cost from $8,600 for the 40hp outboard and $15,500 for the 100hp outboard versions, and from $44,150 for their high-performance 350hp outboard model.

Mercury

Mercury is one of the more diverse outboard engine suppliers in the market, offering the choice of commercial-grade, consumer-grade, jet propulsion models, and more. Their flagship Mercury Racing engine range is ideal if you’re after speed, and it offers something no other brand does—dedicated 9.9hp to 15hp ‘Pro Kicker’ models that provide a back-up power plant for boats that want to venture wide offshore.

Mercury’s portable engine range is split into performance tiers, starting from the single-cylinder 2.5hp model up to the 30hp outboard. The FourStroke Command Thrust (9.9hp to 115hp) range is aimed at commercial operators with a lower gear ratio that sits lower in the water, and the SeaPro range (15hp to 150hp) is optimised to rack up the hours running at low revs. 

Mercury’s Pro XS range runs from 115hp to 300hp and is aimed at fishers who take their sport (and their maximum speeds) seriously. And the top of the list? Mercury Racing’s flagship 4.6-litre supercharged V8-powered 450R.

However, most recreational boaters will choose from the basic FourStroke range, which starts with a 2.5hp single-cylinder tiller steer through to three-cylinder, four-cylinder, V6 and V8 models.

In terms of Mercury outboard prices, you’ll generally pay from $1,550 for the 3.5hp outboard, from $4,000 for the 15hp outboard, $14,100 for the 100hp outboard, and over $33,000 for the 300hp outboard.

Honda

The Honda four-stroke outboard engine range starts with a 2.3hp single-cylinder four-stroke portable outboard, with the 3.6-litre V6 BF250 at the top of the range.

The recent big news for this brand’s outboards was the arrival of Honda Marine’s range of revamped V6 engines. This range—which includes the flagship BF200 and BF250 V6 versions—features easier maintenance, more rigging options, and drive-by-wire controls. They feature a more precise fuel injection system (known as Programmed Fuel Injection), which is a boosted low-speed torque system that makes a more potent air/fuel mix at low revs to help with manoeuvres such as holeshots. The updated V6s are also better at controlling corrosion, and maintenance time is significantly reduced with better service points access.

In terms of Honda outboard prices, the 2.3hp outboard starts at $1,230, the 10hp outboard is around $3,800, the 100hp outboard from $13,350, the 200hp outboard from $23,550, and you’ll pay from $28,550 for the 250hp outboard.

Evinrude

Evinrude’s portable outboard engine range runs across single or two-cylinder models ranging from 3.5hp to 15hp, and their tiller steer-friendly Inline range runs across seven models ranging in performance from 25hp to 90hp. Their V4 engines run across two models, (115hp and 130hp), and these vertically-arranged engines run a narrow 60-degree bank to make them more compact.

For trailer boaters, their G2 range includes engines from 115hp up to a 250hp. Three new G2s were introduced to the range in 2019—a 115hp, 140hp and a 150hp model. All three use Evinrude’s fly-by-wire trim and throttle for the first time in this lower-performance power category. The company also produces shallow-water-friendly Jet engines in 60hp to 115hp models.

In terms of Evinrude outboard prices, you’ll generally pay from $1,350 for the 3.5hp outboard, from $8,500 for the 60hp outboard, from $28,300 for the 250hp outboard, and from $34,400 for the 300hp outboard.

Please note: All prices listed are for single outboards only, based on hp capacity, and are for the basic outboard versions for each brand. Please contact us for a final fitted quote.

References

  1. 2020, 2020 outboard engine guide: What new motor do I need for my boat, Boat  Sales
  2. 2016, Guide to Choosing An Outboard Motor, Terrace Boating
  3. 2020, Yamaha Outboards, Sunshine Coast Yamaha
  4. 2020, Explore Suzuki’s Range, Bayside Suzuki Marine
  5. 2020, Outboard Motors, Laguna Boating Centre
  6. 2019, Choosing the right outboard motor for your needs, Edge Marine
  7. 2020, New Honda outboard prices, Seaport Marine
  8. 2020, Mercury Outboards, Good Times Marine
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