The modern outboard engine is a complex thing - not just in terms of technology but also in terms of the variety of approaches adopted. You can now buy anything from a Direct-Injection two-stroke to a four-stroke or electric outboard, with outputs from two to 557hp and weights from a few kilos to half a metric tonne. In short, no matter what kind of boat you own, chances are that there will be an outboard engine on the market of a size, weight, output and style to match your craft, your lifestyle and your wallet. Our guide Buying the right outboard engine: our top 10 tips is definitely worth a read, but here's my personal top 10.
(1) Torqeedo Travel 1003S
While refinement levels are at an all-time high, small, single-cylinder outboard engines continue to produce more noise and vibration than is comfortable over long periods - so if your output requirements are modest, you would be wise to look at the electric options. The Travel 1003S from Torqeedo is less than half the weight of the equivalent 3hp internal combustion unit - and not only does it pack down to the size of a small bag but it runs in virtual silence and costs virtually nothing to run. The purchase price is of course higher than that of a gas-guzzler, but as a portable engine for a small boat, this is a great solution.
(2) Tohatsu MFS20
This twin-cylinder 351cc four-stroke outboard engine from the famously tough Tohatsu stable is an efficient, lightweight, endlessly durable little unit with a very compelling price.
Available in various shaft lengths and with tiller or remote operation, you can apparently achieve a fuel flow of just 6.2 litres per hour at wide-open-throttle, plus sufficient refinement at low to middle revs to justify a model with ‘Camouflage’ graphics for inland fishermen.
Features like start-in-gear protection and a rev limiter are also very welcome.
Price: from £2,287.
(3) Evinrude ETEC 30 outboard engine
It is true that savings in purchase price and weight don’t really kick in with Direct Injection two-stroke outboard engines until the higher power bands - and yet the ETEC 30 still has lots to recommend it, with maintenance-free operation for three years (or 300 hours) and plenty of crisp throttle response for small, sporting powerboats.
The manufacturer also quotes 80 per cent lower CO emissions at idle than the equivalent four-stroke, which is particularly ideal on a small leisure boat. And if your budget won’t stretch to the ETEC 30, the 25 (the smallest unit in the Evinrude line-up) uses the same block and saves you around £750.
Price: from £3,999.
(4) Mariner F40 EFI outboard engine
Rather impressively, this Mariner F40 three-cylinder four-stroke outboard engine costs just £700 more than the smaller F30.
True, the bigger 747cc block makes it 28kg heavier than its little sister, but there are plenty of reasons why the beefier Mariner remains a good choice. Not only does it enjoy almost twice the fuel capacity of the F30, but it bears a striking resemblance to the pricier Yamaha F40 and it costs a full £125 less than the equivalent Mercury model. That’s good enough for us.
Price: from £5,003.
(5) Tohatsu TLDI 90 outboard engine
We make no apologies for including a second Tohatsu in our list, because at 143kg and less than £8,000, this Direct Injection two-stroke is a very good example of what the company does best. The TLDI90 is relatively simple, impressively lightweight and comes with the same five-year warranty you might expect of the industry’s most exalted manufacturers.
Its reputation for durability is first rate and while you could save a little money on the smaller Tohatsu 70hp (which uses the same 1,267cc four-cylinder block), whichever one you choose, this tough little motor is a sound choice.
(6) Evinrude ETEC HO 115
The ETEC HO 115 is the smallest of the company’s five ‘High Output’ models and it brings with it all the helming aggression you would expect of a traditional two-stroke.
In addition to lots of quick-witted acceleration, it offers a weight of just 177kg (a full 50kg less than some comparable four-strokes), plus sensible modern emissions and the promise of three years before the first service.
You might argue that a DI two-stroke should offer a much greater price advantage over its eminently more complex four-stroke competitor, but the HO 115 remains a fine modern exponent of the classic two-stroke strengths.
Price: from £11,799.
(7) Suzuki DF140 outboard engine
The DF140A sits at the pinnacle of Suzuki’s new trio of midrange outboard engines.
Designed with class-leading power-to-weight ratio in mind, it is built around a 2,044cc four-cylinder block with a 16-valve DOHC powerhead. It features an O2 Sensor Feedback System and a Knock Sensor, plus Suzuki Lean Burn Control and newly designed cowling.
You also get a system to detect water in your fuel and an optional Troll Mode for low-speed control. It’s a very well featured midrange option.
Price: from £13,800.
(8) Suzuki's new DF250 outboard engine
Suzuki’s flagship outboard engine, the DF300AP, has received great acclaim, not least in the form of the 2012 NMMA Innovation Award. The newest addition to Suzuki’s V6 line-up, the (marginally) smaller DF250AP offers many of the same advantages.
You get Lean Burn Control to help improve efficiency, plus ‘Suzuki Selective Rotation’, which enables the engine to operate in either regular or counter-rotation mode. Of course, there is plenty of power and torque on hand from the four-litre block with its 24-valve Double Overhead Cam and its Variable Valve Timing, but in its market context, it also happens to make good financial sense.
At less than £20,000, it is only £700 more than the DF200 and a full £4,200 less than the big DF300. Impressive.
Price: from £19,500.
(9) Yamaha F300 outboard engine
The F300 outboard engine might appear less glamorous than the engineering tour-de-force that is Yamaha’s 5.3-litre V8 F350, but it remains a more complete power option for most outboard buyers.
Not only is this 4.2-litre V6 more than 100kg lighter in weight, but it also costs a massive £8,000 less to buy - and if you need a multiple rig, that will make an even bigger difference to your transom weight and bank balance.
Expect big grunt, modern refinement and lots of jealous friends.
Price: from £21,779.
(10) Seven Marine 557
This 6.2-litre supercharged V8 from Seven Marine might be almost 60 per cent more powerful than any other outboard in the world but it makes much more sense than you might think.
Despite weighing nearly half a tonne, it enjoys a power to weight ratio well in excess of one horsepower per kilo, which means if you want a multiple outboard rig, the epic 557 might actually prove to be your lightest and most efficient option. How’s that for a tempter?
For more help with outboards, see Buying the right outboard engine: our top 10 tips. For maintenance tips see Outboard engine troubleshooting: cooling system problems and Solve your outboard motor problems: starting, fuel, shear pins.