When it comes to small outboards in the 2.5 to 25 horsepower range, you have a lot of options to choose from. How will you know which outboard is the best for you? Luckily, there are a few key items to look for.
WEIGHT – this is a biggie, because most of the small boats that will be used with an outboard of this size are very weight-sensitive. Two-strokes do still weigh less than four-strokes in this class of engine, but there aren’t many out there. Compare the numbers closely when you shop – in a 9.9, for example, the spread can be as much as 20 pounds – or about 20-percent of the engine’s overall weight.
ACCESSORIES – Don’t forget to consider the cost of accessories. Some small outboards come with a prop, fuel tank, fuel line, and everything you need to fuel up and go. Others, however, list a low MSRP but charge extra for these must-have items.
ELECTRICITY IN - Some outboard manufacturers offer electric start on engines as small as eight horsepower. It may seem silly to get it on an engine in this class, but there are some very real advantages to electric start, even on these little guys. If your kids will ever use the boat, they’ll have a much easier time of it. If your engine is having trouble getting started, you have a much better change of getting it up and running with the quick cranks of an electric start (which won’t wear out nearly as fast as your arm). And if you get injured, pull-starting can be a real chore.
ELECTRICITY OUT – Even if you don’t have electric start, you may still need to have an alternator. If your boat has a fishfinder, lights, and a bilge pump – but no alternator – you’ll need to remove the battery and charge it on a regular basis.
TILLER VS. CONTROLS – Neither form of steering is really “better” than the other; this is more a matter of personal preference than anything else. But you should still bear in mind that having steering and controls makes the system more complex, introducing more opportunity for mechanical failure. It also adds significant cost. For these reasons alone, tiller steer options hold an edge for many boaters.