Ultimate Guide to Boat Engines

The boat engine is arguably one of the best inventions in human history because, without it, we may still be rowing or paddling our boats, which would take so much effort and energy to do. Boat engines made it much more convenient for us to go from one place to another through boats, as all the boat owners need to do to power up the boat engine, and it will automatically keep the boat running while you are steering for its movements.

While boat engines are fairly common nowadays, there are still a lot of boating newbies that are still clueless as to what boat engines do. Without learning about the intricacies of boat engines, beginners may find it hard to use them or even take care of them through maintenance. If you are one of those that are new to boating, we are here to give you a guide on boat engines, specifically the different types of engines and which one you should get for a specific kind of boat. So, let’s get started with this ultimate guide by describing each type of boat engine.

Types of Boat Engines

Of course, there are many types of boat engines that can cater to many different types of boats, as boats or ships don’t have the same shape and size. Here are the different types of boat engines.

Outboard Engines

An outboard engine is the type of boat engine that is mounted on the boat’s transom, which is located to the backside of the boat. In addition, the engine is located at the top of the hull, which means that the outboard engine is top-mounted, so most of its parts are actually on the surface instead of in the water.

What’s great about outboard engines is that it is a self-contained unit, meaning that the engine, the propeller, and the gearbox are all located within the shell of the engine. Because the gearbox and the propeller are found within the outboard engine, you would have to control the movements of the boat by steering the controls of the engine itself. So, controlling the boat is not performed at the front but at the back.

Maintenance on outboard engines is relatively easier to do when you compare it to other types of boat engines since the parts of the machine are just on the top of the boat. Because most of the parts are not submerged in water, you wouldn’t have to deal with excessive rust, which can usually occur due to overexposure to water. In addition to being easy to maintain, outboard engines are also cheaper to buy and install on your boat. Make sure that your boat has great transom access so that you can install an outboard engine on it.

Inboard Engines

The inboard engine, as its name already suggests, is the opposite of the outboard engine, as it is installed inside the boat’s hull instead of at the top of the transom. This type of engine is usually found in one of two positions, with one being at the bottom back of the boat (V-drive) while the other is located in the bottom center of the hull (straight shaft).

Unlike the outboard engine that has all of its parts contained within its shell, the inboard engine’s propeller and controls are actually separate on the engine, although the distance of the propeller from the engine would depend if it is installed in a V-drive or straight shaft format. Because the inboard engine is located at the bottom of the hull, there is no way for a person to control it in there, so the controls are just wired or connected to another location in the boat. The positive thing about this type of control is that you can mount the steering wheel at the front of the boat. This arrangement is usually utilized in bigger boats or ships, as using an outboard engine on them is nearly impossible because the boater won’t be able to see where he or she is going if the controls are the back.

Compared to outboard engines, the maintenance for inboard engines can be quite costly, as you would need to get or hire a professional to clean or maintain it because it is located in a part of the boat that is difficult to reach. There will be a chance that the professional may disassemble your boat just to reach the inboard engine, which will make your boat much more expensive to maintain. However, inboard engines are known to be much more durable than outboard engines, so you don’t have to worry about their longevity or when you may want to buy and install a new engine.

Sterndrive Engines

The Sterndrive engine, also known as inboard/outboard (I/O) engine, is the type that combines the best features of outboard and inboard boat engines, such as the gearcase of an outboard that makes it easier to maintain and the engine of the inboard that is more durable and reliable. The propeller of a sterndrive engine is completely submerged in water, while its gearbox is located just at the transom of the boat, so you can have easier access to the gearbox but not the propeller.

The advantage of the sterndrive engine over other types of engines is that you will have better control of your boat because the engine is not fully submerged in water. In addition, maintenance is also easier in sterndrive engines compared to inboard engines, but sterndrive engines are prone to overheating since most of their parts are exposed. If you have a rather small boat and you want to have better control of it, you may want to install a sterndrive engine instead of an outboard engine. 

Pod Drive Engines

Although it is not as well-known as the other types of engines, the pod drive engine is actually much more efficient than some of the types included in this guide. Instead of having one big engine, the boat that has pod drive engines installed on it would have multiple small engines that allow more precise and efficient control on the boat. This type of engine is mainly popular with yachts or other medium-sized boats or ships that are harder to control with inboard or outboard engines.

Because the pod drives are relatively small, they are also fuel-efficient, so they don’t consume a lot of fuel compared to other types of engines. In addition, the most modern pod drive engines would even have a GPS system that allows you to track the movement of the boat or where it is located. Unfortunately, the downside to pod drive is that they can be quite expensive, but having it installed on your boat is worth it since they are fuel-efficient and are easy to maintain, as long as you hire a professional that is knowledgeable in the maintenance of pod drive engines.

Jet Drive Engines

Jet drive engines are typically used for watersports boats like speedboats, ski boats, and wake boats, but they are now found in some hi-tech boats for boaters that want more speed in their boating experience. Jet drive engines work the same way as inboard engines, as the engine is submerged in water and is located at the bottom of the hull. However, the advantage of the jet drive engine is that its parts allow it to move and operate much faster than inboard engines.

Because of how fast jet drive engines operate, it can be quite noisy when it is running. But, if you are able to tolerate the noise that it produces in exchange for extra speed, then you can opt to go with a jet drive engine. Furthermore, jet drive engines can also consume a lot of fuel because their parts move so quickly, so be prepared to really spend a lot on fuel to keep the jet drive engine running.

Finding Suitable Engine for Your Boat

Since there are different types of boats that you can find on the market, there are many kinds of engines that you would need to look for to find the perfect boat for you. However, these various types of engines can also come in different sizes, so you would also need to find the correct size for your boat.

The size of a boat engine is usually determined by its horsepower. The higher the horsepower, the better it can run on bigger boats or ships. In order to be sure that you are buying the correct engine size, take a measurement of your boat and see how long, how wide, and how thick it is. In addition, you should also check the weight of the boat since this will determine how an engine will be able to carry that weight. Once you have taken accurate measurements, consult your local expert in boating shops, and he or she will be able to recommend you with suitable engines for your boat.

Aside from the size of the engine, you would also need to be knowledgeable in the brand or model of the boat engine that you are going to buy. There are many engine manufacturers out there, but some of the most popular include Caterpillar, Honda Marine, Man Engines, Suzuki Marine, Westerbeke, Yamaha Motors, and Evinrude E-TEC. 

Doing some research on the best models and the correct horsepower for your boat is recommended, and this could be done by reading or watching reviews online or by following and becoming a member of forums dedicated to boating. By knowing the opinions of expert boaters in particular models of boat engines, you will be able to shorten your list of engines that you want to buy.