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People don’t go “outboarding” they go “boating” or some form of boating, fishing, diving, skiing, cruising, etc. But to able to power your boat, unless of course you intend to paddle it, you need to have an engine. The most popular choice by the majority of boat manufacturers and anglers alike are outboard motors. They demand less maintenance than an inboard plus allow access to shallower water as the lower unit may be raised to decrease draft.
Outboard motor technology has advanced to the point where engines now are more reliable, weigh less and are more fuel efficient than models of the past. Just choosing an outboard engine to power your new boat is not enough. To get the most out of your investment, you need to match the outboard motor to the hull design and size. Whether your boat is mission specific or the type that can take on different roles, the combination of the right boat powered by the best outboard, for its intended purpose, will equal better performance and enhance your boating experience.
Choosing the size of the outboard (s) by simply referring to the manufacturer’s maximum allowed horsepower isn’t always the best practice. Some boats actually do better with a smaller outboard engine than the max rating, especially where a shallow draft is a concern. This is the case in many technical poling skiffs. Hull design, draft, and weight of the engine plus the payload you intend on carrying, all will affect the overall performance of your boat. Many boat manufacturers have tested their hulls with several engine options and post performance bulletins on their websites. This information may help you choose a good middle of the road setup. For some fishermen however, especially ones with a boat that is designed for a specific type of fishing, it’s best to match the motor to the hull that gives you the best combination of horsepower to weight ratio.
Bay boats typically have a single outboard so a good choice here might be to go for a larger engine and use less of it with the throttle. A smaller horsepower engine, at a higher RPM to achieve the same performance of a larger engine at a lower RPM, may actually be less fuel-efficient. For heavy offshore boats the decision of single vs. twin power comes into play. Perhaps even twins vs. trips. The ability to power over large swells with a maximum load needs torque. Multiple engines would be a wise choice. For pure speed, on the other hand, a large single outboard will have less drag since there’s only one lower unit dragging through the water. In most applications a single 300 will be faster than a pair of 150s for this reason. Twin outboards are also more expensive to purchase, maintain and will have a higher fuel consumption over a single engine setup.
There is more to choosing the best engine for your boat than horsepower. Each outboard manufacturer has different engine technology that they have developed over the years. Warranties vary, plus don’t forget to factor in the location of your servicing dealer. One brand may have representation a few miles away from your home while a competing brand may be much farther of a drive.
Fact is, all of the major outboard manufacturers are producing quality, reliable products and looking strictly at performance numbers is only part of the equation. Base your power decision on the overall advantages to bring out the best in your Best Boat.
By way of example, let’s look at four major outboard manufacturers including the breakdown of their individual product lines. Use all of this information as talking points to discuss with the dealer that represents the boat you are interested in. Couple that with the performance bulletins we mentioned earlier, and an all important demo ride, to make the most informed choice for powering your new boat.
Evinrude offers a 5/5/5 protection: 5 year warranty, 5 year corrosion protection, 5 year (500 hours) no scheduled maintenance. Available in horsepower ranging from 3.5 up to 300, the company claims their outboards achieve the cleanest emissions of all of the outboard brands available. When compared to four stroke outboards Evinrude’s E-Tec produces 20 percent more torque while enjoying 15 percent better fuel economy. This also equates to a longer range. For the adrenaline junkies the E-Tec outboard is 15 percent faster than a comparable size four stroke. A built-in integrated steering system cleans up the rigging of the motor and frees up as much as 2 feet of rear deck space. From a maintenance perspective there are no oil changes, a plus for owners keeping boats on a lift. Straight out of the box, there’s no break-in period. Winterizing is easy with auto storage, which also protects stored outboards for seasonal Florida boaters or boats that stay in the Islands. Two additional features are the I-Trim feature that automatically controls a pre-set trim angle based on your speed, in most cases better than an average boater plus the lower unit gear lube is re-circulated through a reservoir under the engine cowl allowing you to easily inspect it and carry a larger quantity of it. The new E-Tec G2 technology turned a lot of heads in the boating industry and is now available in 150 and 200 horsepower.
Suzuki’s 50 years of innovation has led to innovations like the new, lightweight DF200A. It is the perfect choice for re-powering a two-stroke powered boat. Introduced in early 2015, this outboard gives you V6 performance in an in-line four-cylinder powerhead. It’s lightweight and offers great fuel economy due to their Lean Burn Control Technology. A pair of DF200As can be mounted on 26-inch centers, which will allow them to fit on offshore boats with a narrow beam. The addition of Knock and O2 sensors helps keep the engine running smoothly using regular 87-octane gasoline. For the larger class of outboards, 250 and 300, the APX gearcase allows for counter-rotating or standard operation with simply changing a chip under the cowling. To assist the novice and seasoned captain alike, in low speed maneuvering, joystick operation is now available on engines from 150 horsepower on up to the DF300. Maintaining your Suzuki is made easier with their all-in-one accessory box, which includes everything you need for scheduled maintenance. For smaller craft, especially a technical poling skiff, a lightweight engine is important. The DF25A and DF30A are electronically fuel injected but require no battery. They start quickly with a short pull of the rope and deliver enough juice to charge your battery (if you have one) while running.
Yamaha outboards have operated in the U.S. for nearly 30 years. Their innovation has kept their product development at the forefront in the boating industry, but it’s performance and reliability that have made them the top choice with many saltwater anglers. Several manufacturers of large offshore boats that were typically powering their vessels with inboard motors, are now switching to the powerful 5.3L V8 350. It frees up room in the cockpit for built-in fish boxes, etc. and from a maintenance perspective, there’s no comparison, outboards are easier and less expensive to care for. Couple the 350’s with the Helm Master fully integrated boat control system and you have total control of your boat for docking and slow speed maneuvering. For slightly smaller offshore battlewagons, Yamaha has a lineup of 4.2L big-bore four-strokes available in 225, 250 and 300 horsepower. For midrange power that’s lightweight and compact, the in-line four strokes from 115 up to 200 horsepower are hard to beat. Weighing in comparable to a two stoke outboard, they are a good option when re-powering an older boat that was designed around two-stroke power. If speed and the hole shot punch of a two-stroke is your desire, the VMax SHO outboards are sure to put a smile on your face. The 150 VMax has already won the hearts of many bay and bass boat owners and now that same exhilarating performance is available in a 115 SHO.
Tohatsu introduced its first outboard engine 60 years ago and has been producing motors for commercial fishing, marine transport, recreation and competition ever since. Backed by a 5-year warranty, their product line offers engines from 2.5 all the way up to 250 horsepower. Four stroke tiller models from the compact 2.5 to 20 hp are lightweight and comply with US EPA ultra-low emission regulations. Midrange outboards include two tiller motors as well, 25 and 30 hp. Topped out at 90 hp, the sweet spot within this lineup is the new 50 with electronic fuel injection. The lightest weight in its class, this is a motor was made for technical poling skiffs. The new improved gear case has a low gear ratio that produces the low-end torque needed to pop a flats skiff up on plane quickly in shallow water, without leaving a prop scar on the flats. The high output, 21-amp alternator, will power all of your electronics without taxing your battery. For powering larger boats, Tohatsu offers two in-line 4-cylinder outboards, 115 and 150 horsepower. Offshore anglers can opt for V6 power in the 200, 225 and 250 horsepower range. These powerful engines have 90 amp alternators producing 60 charging amps. For additional corrosion protection they use a double sealed multi-layered paint process and the interior cooling passages are also painted.