How much horsepower does my boat need? Let's talk about boat engines!
Whether you're buying a new boat or simply a new engine, you'll probably end up asking yourself one very frank question: "How much horsepower does my boat need?" The answer to that question can vary widely depending on what your vessel is being used for and how much you actually have to spend on an engine. More money means a bigger engine but you do run into diminishing returns after a certain point. While some answers might be nebulous, we will do our best to provide you with the full picture so that you can make an informed decision about which boat engine to choose and how much horsepower is required for your boat. If you're buying for someone else, you might want to check out our holiday boating gift guide!
Caring For Your Engine:
Whichever boat engine you decide on, no matter the horsepower, you will need to care for it properly to ensure that it lasts. Our boat flush kit and desalt concentrate can be used in tandem in order to remove salt deposits that might otherwise destroy your engine. You can keep your engine operational for a very long time with proper care!
What Is One Horsepower?
The scientific formula is Horsepower = Torque x RPM / 5,252. If you're like me, that kind of formula doesn't mean a whole lot when it comes to purchasing a boat engine, a more simple way to think of it is: One mechanical horsepower can lift 550 pounds (or 250 kilograms) 1 foot in 1 second. With that in mind, all you really need to calculate is the weight of your fully-loaded watercraft and how fast you'd like it to go.
If I'm putting around in my 14 foot boat that weighs roughly 1,500 pounds then how much horsepower do I need to get it moving 1 foot per second? If you said 3 then you'd be completely correct based on the simplest math... Of course, a foot per second isn't very fast at all. It comes out to roughly 0.68 miles per hour which probably isn't going to be sufficient for anyone who is looking to actually get somewhere.
Horsepower Per Pound For Boats:
When it comes to calculating horsepower, I'd suggest one horsepower for every 25-40 pounds of weight. So that 1500 pound boat from my earlier example would have 37.5 horsepower on the low end and 60 on the high end. Still not a very big engine, but leagues better than the 3 horsepower engine that our amateur calculation came up with.
There are a lot of variables that come with cruising around on the water. Wind and currents will always be pushing to have you go their way and you need the engine power to maneuver your boat quickly but how quick is too quick? There are a variety of factors that need to be considered when you're looking to pick up a boat engine with just the right horsepower.
5 Factors To Consider:
Manufacturer Limits: The biggest thing to be aware of is the recommended manufacturer limits. You definitely don't want to overpower your boat unless you're absolutely sure of what you're doing. This can quickly lead to losing the boat engine or crashing the boat. Trust the manufacturer, they usually know best.
Boat Horsepower-to-Weight Ratio: One horsepower for every 25-40 pounds of weight is usually sufficient but you'll need to compare these numbers with the other factors in this list to see if you should be holding to the higher end or the lower end.
Boat Use: Is this engine going to be your primary movement option? Sailboats don't need a massive engine generally speaking. Speedsters love a big engine but if you're just a fisherman that enjoys trolling the waters and cruising around at your leisure? Then you definitely don't need to overdo it on the engine.
Number of People Aboard: When you're calculating the weight for your horsepower-to-weight ratio, you'll need to ensure that your number is the weight of your vessel when it is fully loaded. 600 pound Uncle Filbert wants to go boating too, and he doesn't want to feel like he's holding people back, so maybe tack on an extra 10 horsepower just for him.
Fuel Efficiency: Obviously the bigger the engine, the thirstier it will be. When you're boating on a budget it might be wise to go a little slower with the smaller engine option. You'll save money on the engine itself and the gas for it in the long run.