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Outboard Motor Buyers Guide

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Outboard Motor Buyers Guide

Dad and daughter fishing

Table of Contents

If you are in the market for a new outboard you will quickly discover there are options to consider.  Doing your homework before you head for the boat shop can save you some headaches. This article will present a few main options when purchasing your motor and help you narrow in on the best motor to meet your needs.  

 The major options when it comes to outboard motors are: Horse power,  steering, shaft length and start. 

Horse Power

Horsepower is one of the first things you should consider when shopping for an outboard motor. It is natural to think you want the highest horsepower for your budget but you must consider the size of your boat too.  Overpowering your boat can lead to less stability and potential damage the transom. Conversely, under powering your boat can create damage due to excessive demand placed on your motor. To solve this horse power IMG 2329 scaledproblem, each boat has a National Marine Manufacturers Association Certification Plate located inside the stern of the boat.  This plate gives you the maximum motor size your boat can handle and the total weight of the motor, gears and persons in the boat. Snap a picture of this plate so you have it with you when you shop.  Your sales person should be sure to get you a motor that works within these ranges.



As to steering, the option is whether or not you want a boat tiller handle or a steering wheel.  The answer will depend on how you plan to use your motor.

Tiller Handle vs Steering Wheel?
40hp wTiller Jet Mudbum FW LF 2019 18Sport 400 CC centre console with Bay Star hydraulic steeringA tiller handle will enhance the steering control on your motor.  Many boaters are accustomed to a steering wheel when it comes to maneuvering a boat but often times a tiller will get you more control.  Boat tiller handles are traditionally known for steering smaller outboards but now we are seeing them on larger horse power motors.  In fact, Mercury Marine offers their newest tiller handle on motors 115 hp and higher. 


Tiller handles have come a long way as to control and convenience. Newer models offer the ability to swap the shift handle to either side of the tiller, and to reverse the throttle grip rotation to the boater’s preference. Boaters can also adjust the handle’s vertical angle through an auto tilt lock system. The newest Mercury tiller even has Mercury Troll Control, which allows the boater to dial in precise trolling speeds by tapping a button to increase or decrease speed in 10 rpm increments. Additionally,  an Integrated Engine Warning Display is available which includes visual and audible warnings for engine oil, temperature, electrical and faults. You can also opt for a heated grip that offers three levels of heat for cold weather conditions.

Do you want a tiller handle on your outboard?
You typically see tiller handle motors on fishing boats.  The accuracy and quick response is right at your finger tips. If your intent is to cruise, tube or ski with your boat, a steering wheel is the way to go.


Shaft Length

To determine the shaft length of the motor needed, you must know the transom height. The transom of a boat is the part of the hull where the motor mounts to your boat.  This needs to be correct so the motor properly attaches to the back of your boat and enables the motor to propel the boat correctly. 

To determine the transom height, measure from the top-center section where you attach the outboard motor to the bottom-center of the hull. Now that you have the transom height, you will be in one of two categories. Short shaft=14-17″ and long shaft = 18-22″.  When shopping for your outboard, you want your boat transom height and outboard shaft length to be approximately the same.  Most current model boats require a long shaft motor.


Choosing electric start or manual start is pretty straight forward. If you want a quicker and easier start choose electric start. You can get your motor going with a quick push of a button. Electric start is convenient when you find yourself drifting towards rocks or trees and need to get away before damage is done. 

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If you have decided to buy boat motors online, you will find great deals at USBoatworks.  Our prices are the best in town and our service and knowledge can not be beat.  Here is our current line up of  Mercury motors in stock. If we don’t have what you are looking for, we can get you the exact outboard to meet your needs in about 3 days. 

Call Us: 913-342-0011

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