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 1003 C
The new, more powerful Travel 1003 C from Torqeedo is less than half the weight of the equivalent 3hp internal combustion unit and comes with a lightweight 915Wh battery that offers 73 per cent more capacity than the base model. That enables it to run for 18 nautical miles at a speed of three knots, which is ideal both for inland boating and for service as an auxiliary outboard. Moreover, it packs down to the size of a small bag, it costs virtually nothing to run and it makes very little noise, which will appeal greatly to keen anglers. The purchase price is of course significantly higher than that of a gas-guzzler, but the Torqeedo’s merits are beyond doubt.
2. Honda BF6
Available as a 4, 5 or 6hp unit, this new single-cylinder, four-stroke portable outboard from Honda backs up its streamlined styling with a 127cc block and a fairly competitive weight of around 27kg. It also provides a comfortable, easy-carry handle, a range of propeller options to match your application and a robust 6A alternator to support your electronic gear. However, the real bonus for those of us bored of being vibrated to distraction every time we use a portable outboard is the refinement. While everyone seems to make low-vibration claims, the new Honda is undoubtedly the most convincing of the modern market’s internal combustion options.
Price: from £1,199
3. Tohatsu MFS20
This twin-cylinder 351cc four-stroke 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 £2,258
4. Evinrude ETEC 30
It is true that savings in purchase price and weight don’t really kick in with Direct Injection two-strokes 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 £800.
Price: from £3,824
5. Mariner F40 EFI
Rather impressively, this Mariner F40 three-cylinder four-stroke 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 £5,160
6. Tohatsu TLDI 90
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 70 (which uses the same 1,267cc four-cylinder block), these tough little motors remain a very sound choice.
Price: from £7,884
7. Evinrude ETEC HO 115
The ETEC HO 115 is the smallest of Evinrude’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 competitors, but the HO 115 remains a very compelling exponent of the classic two-stroke strengths.
Price: from £11,399
8. Suzuki DF140A
The DF140A sits at the pinnacle of Suzuki’s trio of midrange outboards. 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. At more than £1,000 and 60kg less than the new DF150, it remains a very convincing midrange option.
Price: from £12,799
9. Evinrude G2 E200 HO
If Evinrude’s Generation 2 C200 outboard looks like a good package at £18,499 (and it is) then the E200 HO looks even better. With its larger block (3,440 instead of 2743cc), its larger display (4.3 rather than 3.5-inch), its touchscreen interface and its ‘Premium’ steering package, it comes in at just £700 extra. More to the point, it does so with virtually no weight penalty at all. Of course, like most new G2s, it’s about 20 per cent more expensive than the base ETEC models and 10 per cent more expensive than comparable Japanese four-strokes. But this isn’t just a direct injection two-stroke with bags of torque and sexy aesthetics. This is an intelligent, customisable and fully integrated propulsive solution.
Price: from £18,409
10. Yamaha F300
Yamaha’s F300 might appear less glamorous than the engineering tour-de-force that is the 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 £7,000 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 £22,999
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.