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How To Choose The Best Outboard Motor For Inflatable Boats? 4 Top Picks For You

If you search online, you’ll find a few buying guides for outboard motors.

However, none of these are made for inflatable boats.

And that’s a BIG problem.

It’s a problem because unlike RIBs and hard boats, inflatable boats have their own set of needs.

Follow these guides, and you could end up with a terrible outboard motor for your inflatable.

That’s why I’m here to change that.

Today, I’m giving you the ultimate guide to buying outboard motors for inflatable boats.

We’ll consider everything you should look for in an outboard motor – all with inflatable boats in mind.

Plus, I’ll also throw in a list of the best outboard motors for inflatable boats you can buy online.

This way, you’ll never waste money on a bad outboard motor ever again.

Let’s get started!

Outboard Motors for Inflatable Boats – What to Look For

Shopping for an outboard motor is always confusing for first-timers.

Especially if you need one for an inflatable boat.

If you’re at a loss, don’t worry.

Here are the 5 most important questions to ask before buying an outboard motor for your inflatable boat (and their answers!).

1. How Heavy Should Outboard Motors Be For Inflatable Boats?

As you may have guessed, weight is a HUGE issue.

Unlike hard boats, inflatables have very low weight capacities.

In fact, only heavy-duty zodiac-style inflatables can carry an outboard motor (unless it’s a very small one).

So how heavy should your outboard motor be?

Inflatable boats can ONLY carry portable outboard motors. These weigh 30lbs for low-powered motors, all the way up to 110lbs for high-powered ones.

an overloading inflatable boat sinking
Expert Tip: Make sure you balance out your boat! If you have a heavy motor, put your cargo or passengers on the front of your boat. This will make your ride steady and fast.

 That said, always check your boat’s specific weight limits. It might not be strong enough to handle even a portable motor.

2. How Much Horsepower Do Inflatable Boats Need?

You may have read elsewhere that you need one horsepower for every 25-40 lbs.

This does NOT apply to inflatable boats.

If you follow this, you’d end up with a huge and heavy motor that your boat can’t handle.

Remember, inflatables are a LOT lighter than hard boats. It takes far less power for a motor to push them around.

Instead, for inflatable boats, it’s more like one horsepower for every 200 lbs.

This is a very rough estimate. But it should give you an idea of how much horsepower you need.

A 2 HP engine should propel your 400 lbs load without any problems.

an inflatable boat with outboard motor
1 horsepower = 200 lbs.

Of course, if you want to go faster, you could get a bigger motor.

Just make sure you stay under your boat’s limits!

Strong inflatable boats can carry a 20 HP motor. But generally, anything over 5 HP is already considered overkill for inflatables.

You should also consider where you’re going to use your motor.

If you’re off to rough seas, extra horsepower will come in handy.

But if you’re having a chill day at a calm lake, you don’t need a lot of power. Maybe get a trolling motor instead?

3. 2-Stroke vs 4-Stroke Engine: Which is Better for Inflatable Boats?

If there’s one thing people argue about when it comes to outboard motors, it’s this:

2-stroke or 4-stroke engine?

I know what you’re thinking…

“What the heck are those?!?”

I won’t get into the mechanics. But the main differences between these two are found in their benefits.

2-stroke engines are:

  • Cheaper
  • Lighter
  • Easier to repair
  • Faster to pick up speed

While 4-strokes are:

  • Less noisy
  • Gas-odor free
  • More fuel-efficient
  • More environmentally friendly

2-stroke vs 4-stroke outboard motor

Which should you get?

Well, it all depends on which set of benefits you want.

That said, 2-stroke engines are considered to be better for inflatables. This is because they are cheaper and lighter – two features that are ideal for inflatable boats.

However, if you prefer a quiet, odor-free, and fuel-efficient motor, go for a 4-stroke.

Yes, they’re more expensive and heavier. But as long as you can afford them – and they stay under your boat’s weight limits – there’s nothing wrong with them.

4. Should I Get an Air-Cooled or Water-Cooled Outboard Motor?

As you browse through your options, you’ll notice that some motors are air-cooled, while others are water-cooled.

Outboard motors need these cooling systems to prevent overheating.

But what’s the better option?

Air-cooled motors are better suited for inflatable boats. They’re lighter (super important for inflatables), simpler, and don’t clog up if you’re running in muddy water.

They’re also easier to maintain since you don’t have to flush them out once in a while.

The only problem with air-cooled motors is noise.

They are far louder than their water-cooled counterparts.

So if you prefer a quiet and peaceful trip – and don’t mind the extra weight – water-cooled motors will work best for you.

Water-cooled motor
Water-cooled motors make way less noise.

5. How Much do Outboard Motors for Inflatable Boats Cost?

Good outboard motors for inflatable boats start at around $200.

Those are for lower-powered but high-quality motors.

If you want more horsepower, you’ll have to spend more.

Of course, there are other factors to consider – such as quality and features.

But as a rule of thumb, the more powerful the motor, the more expensive it will be.

Outboard motor boat on the river
The stronger the pricey-er!

How expensive you ask?

It depends.

However, you shouldn’t have to spend more than $1,000 unless you get an extremely high-end motor.

Top Picks For You

SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
Editor's Pick
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
Editor's Pick
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System

The 4 Best Outboard Motors for Inflatable Boats

With those five questions answered, you should land on a great outboard motor every time.

Still don’t know which one to buy?

I’ve got your back.

Here are 4 of the best outboard motors for inflatable boats you can buy right now!

Sea Dog Water Sports Outboard Motor

Power:2.5 HP
Type:2-stroke
Cooling:Air
Weight:21 lbs

Want a powerful yet affordable motor for your inflatable boat?

If so, you should check out Sea Dog Water Sports’ outboard motor.

At first glance, 2.5 horsepower might not seem like a lot.

But hey, we’re talking about inflatable boats here. Unless you have a really heavy one, that’ll be more than enough.

As a 2-stroke and air-cooled motor, this motor is extremely lightweight.

At only 21 lbs, it’s lighter than most trolling motor + battery systems!

And despite being an air-cooled motor, it is surprisingly quiet.

Yes, it makes more noise than water-cooled motors. But it isn’t as loud as you might expect.

For gears, the Sea Dog outboard motor has forward and neutral.

This might sound standard to you. But a LOT of motors don’t have a neutral option. You can only leave them idling.

Finally, this motor has a beast of a propeller.

If you are running on grassy waters, this prop will eat those weeds. Getting caught up in vegetation is the last thing you have to worry about.

You get all of these features at a remarkably affordable price as well.

What’s there not to love about Sea Dog’s outboard motor?

Well, it doesn’t have the best build-quality around. You’ll find some parts are cheaply made.

However, if all you need is a reliable outboard motor for your inflatable, this is easily one of your best options.

What we like:

  • Affordable
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Neutral option
  • Weed-eating propeller

What we don’t like:

  • Not the best build quality

Coleman Powersports Outboard Motor

Power:2.6 HP
Type:4-stroke
Cooling:Water
Weight:37 lbs

Speaking of quality, few brands are as well-known for their quality as Coleman.

When it comes to their outboard motors, they do not disappoint.

The build of their 2.6 HP outboard motor is top quality.

You’ll see a big difference when you compare it with Sea Dog’s motor side-by-side.

Things like its twist-grip throttle, vibration reduction, and adjustable steering friction put it a step ahead.

And that’s not all.

It might have similar horsepower, but Coleman added a lot of great features to their motor.

For one, Powersports 2.6 is a 4-stroke motor.

This makes it quiet, odor-free, environmentally friendly (it’s even EPA approved), and fuel-efficient.

You won’t only have an all-around more pleasant experience without the noise and smell, but you also can save a lot on gas.

It’s also a water-cooled system.

Yes, this means it’s heavier and needs more maintenance. But this is a superior cooling system, and it cuts the noise down even more!

Some motors require you to yank and yank before they start. But not this Coleman.

With its TCI ignition, getting it up and running is super easy.

Once you’re on the move, you can enjoy the 360-degree steering of this motor. With it, you can go in any direction you want.

And if you want to stay still, you can put your motor on neutral as well.

Of course, all of this comes at a pretty big price.

The Coleman Powersports Outboard Motor is not cheap.

At all.

But for what you’ll get, it’s easy to see why it’s worth it.

What we like:

  • Super high-quality build
  • Quiet, odor-free, and environmentally friendly
  • Saves fuel
  • Easy to start
  • 360-degree steering
  • Neutral option

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive

Anbull Outboard Motor

Power:3.6 HP
Type:2-stroke
Cooling:Air
Weight:25 lbs

Moving up in power, we have the Anbull 3.6 HP Outboard Motor.

It may be high-powered, but it is surprisingly lightweight.

At only 25 lbs, you can install this on just about any inflatable boat – even the ones that aren’t zodiac-styled.

This makes it extremely portable.

If you want the most convenient trip, Anbull’s outboard motor will be perfect for you. It’s super easy to carry around and store in your car.

And once you’re in the water, you can go in any direction you want.

No, this motor does not have neutral mode, but it does have 360-degree steering. You can go straight, to the side, or even reverse with this.

You won’t have to worry about weeds either.

With its aluminum alloy propeller, the Anbull can slice through most underwater vegetation. It’s strong and sharp and won’t get caught up.

Best of all, this motor is ridiculously affordable.

It’s a great introduction to outboard motors for inflatable boats.

And if this scares you – if you’re afraid you’ll end up with a bad egg – Anbull gives you a one-year warranty for the motor and parts.

There’s no reason not to get one….right?

Not quite.

At its price point, you really can’t expect the most well-built motor.

It’s inferior to the Coleman by a long shot, and you may have a hard time starting it as well. You’ll also have to suck up the noise while it’s running.

But if you need a reliable but cheap motor, save some money and go for Anbull!

What we like:

  • Super affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Extremely portable
  • 360-degree steering
  • Aluminum alloy propeller
  • One-year warranty

What we don’t like:

  • Not the best quality
  • May be difficult to start
  • Noisy

Hangkai Heavy Duty Outboard Motor

Power:6 HP
Type:2-stroke
Cooling:Water
Weight:55 lbs

Want even more power?

Hangkai’s heavy-duty outboard motor will give it to you.

As the name suggests, this motor truly is heavy-duty.

At 6 horsepower, it may even be overkill for light inflatables.

But for strong dinghies, this will provide that extra kick you need to get planing.

Despite its high power, this motor isn’t too heavy.

Yes, it weighs a lot more than your other options. But 55lbs shouldn’t be a problem for hard-floored dinghies.

Once it’s installed, you can enjoy its 3 engine modes: forward, neutral, and reverse.

That’s right, you can go backward without turning your tiller around.

But if you want to, you can!

The Hangkai heavy-duty outboard motor can be turned any way you want thanks to its 360-degree steering.

You also won’t have to worry about bringing a lot of back-up fuel.

With its large 2.5L tank, it can store a lot more gas than the other outboards here.

Finally, this motor is water-cooled.

This ensures you will never overheat – and it also cuts down on the noise.

As you can guess, a motor this powerful is not going to be cheap.

When you look at its price, you’ll find that its way more expensive than your other options.

But if you need extra power, why not?

What we like:

  • Heavy-duty motor
  • Can plane inflatable boats
  • Forward, neutral, and reverse options
  • 360-degree steering
  • Large built-in tank
  • Water-cooled

What we don’t like:

  • Very expensive
  • May be too heavy
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
Editor's Pick
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
SEA DOG WATER SPORTS Outboard Motor 2.5 HP 2 Stroke Inflatable Fishing Boat Engine
Editor's Pick
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Coleman Powersports 2.6 hp Outboard Motor with Short Shaft, Black
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System
Anbull 2 Stroke Boat Motor, 3.6 HP Boat Engine, Outboard Motor with Air Cooling System

Conclusion

No, choosing the perfect outboard motor is not easy.

Especially when it comes to inflatable boats.

But with these helpful tips, you’ll never end up with the wrong outboard motor again.

So keep these in mind as you shop.

Or choose one of the top 4 outboard motors for inflatable boats!

Have a question about outboard motors? Let me know in the comments below!


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