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How Much Horsepower is Right for Your Boat?

By September 17, 2021September 20th, 2021Boat

If you are looking to buy a boat or merely hoping to replace your small boat engine, you have probably asked yourself, “What size outboard engine do I need?” It is an important consideration whether you match a 10 HP boat motor with a 12 ft. aluminum fishing boat or a 200 HP motor with a boat weighing 5,000 pounds. 

Because the boat engine horsepower can affect so many aspects of boat ownership, including its legal limits, you need to know where you can find the maximum horsepower for your boat. Here are a few suggestions for determining what you’ll need, along with the factors you must consider as you match a boat motor to your watercraft:

Check the manufacturer’s capacity plate

The plate is an excellent starting point since it gives you the maximum weight for passengers and cargo and the horsepower limit for the boat. If there is no capacity plate, you can go online for a boat owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer directly to ask about their limits.

The boat’s horsepower-to-weight ratio

As you determine the amount of horsepower you need, it’s essential to consider the weight of the boat. If you only need a boat HP calculator that provides a “ballpark” estimate, you can use the following rule of thumb based on your boat’s weight. It says that for every 25 to 40 pounds of boat weight, you need one horsepower.

For example, a 3,000-pound boat should have a motor in the range of 75 to 120 horsepower. The range is relatively wide because of the various ways boats are designed and how they handle. Keep in mind that the weight of your boat includes passengers, cargo and your motor or motors. 

Are you concerned about fuel efficiency?

The amount of horsepower you select will affect your fuel efficiency. However,  a higher-horsepower engine does not necessarily result in increased fuel use. Keeping your gas engine between 3,000 and 3,500 RPMs or your diesel at three-quarters throttle will provide excellent fuel efficiency. When you run a lower horsepower engine at full throttle most of the time, it will use more fuel than a higher horsepower with less throttle. Remember this as you consider your boat engine horsepower.

How will you be using the boat?

How you use your boat will factor into the decision on horsepower. If you are using it for cruising with family and friends, matching the boat’s weight to its horsepower should be sufficient. However, if you will be pulling water skiers and tubers behind the boat and have the added weight of water sport accessories, you will need more power. Consider adding extra horsepower.

How many passengers will you typically carry?

After you have decided how you will use the boat, the next factor to consider is how many people you plan on having onboard. If you prefer to have several members of your family and friends to enhance the boat’s enjoyment, you will add several hundred pounds to the weight and increase the need for greater horsepower. If it is you and one other person, you will have a much lighter boat.

A boat’s horsepower will influence boat insurance

The three primary areas of insurance affected by horsepower include overall coverage, premium cost, and the type of policy you might need. Here are those factors in detail:

  • Overall coverage: Your insurance company might not cover a boat that exceeds the boat manufacturer’s maximum horsepower. Be sure you know your insurance company’s rules for horsepower limits if you think about upgrading the motor. If you choose an engine that exceeds the maximum and do not inform the company, you risk having a future claim rejected.
  • Premium cost: Even if you choose a motor within the company’s guidelines, your premiums will increase if the new engine has more horsepower than the old one.
  • Policy type: The type of boat insurance policy you need will also be determined by the size of the boat you choose. For example, your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover powerboats with less than 25 horsepower. Larger boats with more than 25 miles per hour horsepower will likely require a separate boat insurance policy.

When you are ready to insure your boat, talk to one of the White Cloud Insurance experts. We will help you protect your investment with coverage that matches your boat’s size and horsepower. We represent the finest and most reputable insurance companies in the country, and we will work with you to find the best coverage.

Use our convenient contact form, call us at 305-556-1488, or send us a message at