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Trolling Motors: 12V Vs. 24V Vs. 36V

You don’t have to look into trolling motors for very long before you start to see notes on voltage. In fact trolling motors come in three different voltage options: 12 volts, 24 volts, and 36 volts.

It’s important to understand the differences between trolling motors of different voltages. That way, you can choose the best option for you.

Trolling Motors: 12V Vs. 24V Vs. 36V
Air up an inflatable boat using a foot pump and an electric pump video

A Quick Note on Setup

While trolling motors come with different voltage needs, their batteries only come in one size: 12 volts. That means you’ll need two batteries for a 24-volt trolling motor and three for a 36-volt option.

MotorGuide 940200060 X3 Freshwater Bow Mount Trolling Motor — Cable Steer, Foot-Control —...
MINN-KOTA #1363640 Minn Kota Riptide SF 80 Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor - 24v-80lb.-52"
MINN-KOTA 1368695 / Minn Kota Fortrex 112/FC/BG/US2 Freshwater Trolling Motor - 36V-112lbs-45"
MotorGuide 940200060 X3 Freshwater Bow Mount Trolling Motor — Cable Steer, Foot-Control —...
MINN-KOTA #1363640 Minn Kota Riptide SF 80 Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor - 24v-80lb.-52"
MINN-KOTA 1368695 / Minn Kota Fortrex 112/FC/BG/US2 Freshwater Trolling Motor - 36V-112lbs-45"
MotorGuide 940200060 X3 Freshwater Bow Mount Trolling Motor — Cable Steer, Foot-Control —...
MotorGuide 940200060 X3 Freshwater Bow Mount Trolling Motor — Cable Steer, Foot-Control —...
MINN-KOTA #1363640 Minn Kota Riptide SF 80 Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor - 24v-80lb.-52"
MINN-KOTA #1363640 Minn Kota Riptide SF 80 Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor - 24v-80lb.-52"
MINN-KOTA 1368695 / Minn Kota Fortrex 112/FC/BG/US2 Freshwater Trolling Motor - 36V-112lbs-45"
MINN-KOTA 1368695 / Minn Kota Fortrex 112/FC/BG/US2 Freshwater Trolling Motor - 36V-112lbs-45"

You’ll also need to know how to set up your batteries properly. This means wiring them in series. Connect the negative terminal of one battery to the positive terminal of the next.

Do this until all the batteries are connected. Then connect the negative terminal of the first battery and the positive terminal of the last battery to whatever it is you’re trying to power. In this case, that would be the trolling motor.

Voltage and Thrust

408W 40LBS Thrust Transom Mount Outboard Trolling Motor
Click the image for more info

Thrust refers to the power that a trolling motor has. It is measured in pounds. Higher thrust numbers mean that a trolling motor can move a larger boat and/or do a better job of keeping your boat where you want it.

Larger boats need more thrust, and higher voltage trolling motors have more thrust. 12-volt trolling motors don’t usually offer more than 55 pounds of thrust, while 24-volt options usually offer 70-80 pounds of thrust.

36-volt trolling motors can offer around 100 pounds of thrust. You will need at least 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds that you plan to move across the water.

Voltage

ThrustRuntimeAffordabilityUse

12 volts

Up to 55 lbs.Less runtimeMost affordable

Small boats in easy conditions

24 volts

70-80 lbs.Moderate runtimeMore affordable

Small boats in difficult conditions or medium-sized boats in easy conditions

36 volts100+ lbs.More runtimeMost expensive

Medium boats in difficult conditions or larger boats

Voltage and Runtime

AQUOS Black Haswing 12V 55LBS Electric Trolling Motor
Click the image for more info

Runtime on boats can get complicated because different power settings draw more or less amperage.

In general, 12-volt trolling motors draw more amperage than 24-volt or 36-volt options. This means that the larger motors will run for longer amounts of time than the 12-volt version will.

However, the exact length of time that your battery will last also depends on how fast you want to go. If you use higher settings on your 24-volt or 36-volt motors, they will draw more amperage and the batteries will last longer.

Note that many manufacturers only list maximum amperage draws in their product specifications. This can make it even harder to know how long your trolling motor will last based on its battery.

In general, you can divide the maximum number of amperage hours that your battery is rated for by how many amps it draws per hour to get an approximate runtime. If the battery is rated for 100 amperage hours and draws 5 amps per hour, it will run for about 20 hours.

You’ll find that higher voltage motors are usually more efficient and so will last longer.

Voltage and Affordability

Trolling motors get more expensive the more voltage they require, though they still cost less than outboard motors. This is because the trolling motor itself is smaller and less complicated. They are also generally designed for smaller boats and vessels.

24-volt motors are more expensive than 12-volt versions. 36-volt trolling motors are the most expensive of all since they offer the most thrust and are made for larger boats.

It’s also important to consider the cost of batteries for your trolling motor. You’ll want to make sure to invest in high-quality marine batteries that won’t be damaged by water and that are rechargeable.

12V 55Ah Power Boat Pontoon Electric Trolling Motor Deep Cycle Battery - Mighty Max Battery brand...
  • ML55-12 SLA is a 12V 55AH Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) rechargeable maintenance free battery
  • Dimensions: 9.02 inches x 5.43 inches x 9.13 inches. Listing is for the Battery and Screws only. No wire harness or mounting accessories included

If you want a 24-volt system, you’ll need to multiply the cost of the batteries by two. If you want a 36-volt system, you’ll need to multiply it by three. This can add up quickly and may mean that your trolling system costs more than you had expected it to.

Voltage and Use

Newport Vessels Trolling Motor Smart Battery Box Power Center
Click the image for more info

If you are debating between a higher voltage trolling motor and a lower voltage one, consider the conditions you’ll be fishing in.

You will need a higher voltage trolling motor if you are fishing under the following conditions:

  • High, or even significant and steady, winds
  • You are in a fast river or a strong current
  • You have a large or exceptionally heavy boat

On the other hand, if you are in low winds, on slow rivers, or have a lighter boat, lower voltages might be better because you won’t have to buy as many batteries.

Note that some anglers claim that more voltage is almost always better. That way, you have the power you need if winds come up or something changes while you are out on the water.

What Voltage is This Trolling Motor?

Homevibes Electric Trolling Motor
Click the image for more info

The voltage for your trolling motor should be listed on the trolling motor’s cover. It may be on a sticker on the cover, or you may need to remove the cover to check for plastic lettering inside it.

If the cover is broken, has been replaced with a different one, or is so old that you cannot read the writing, there are a few other ways to tell what voltage your motor is.

If the motor is connected to batteries, check the setup. If there is only one battery or the batteries are wired in parallel (positive terminals connected to positive terminals and negative to negative), then you have a 12-volt system.

Newport Vessels Trolling Motor Smart Battery
Click the image for more info

If the batteries are connected in series, as outlined in the setup section above, then you have either a 24-volt or a 36-volt system. Two batteries indicate 24 volts and three indicate 36.

If the motor is not connected to batteries, you may need to do some deeper digging. See if you can find a manufacturer or model number anywhere on the motor, then look it up online to find out its voltage.

At the end of the day, you may need to take your trolling motor to an expert if you cannot find out the voltage any other way.

Conclusion

No single trolling motor will meet every angler’s needs. That’s why you need to understand the various factors that come into play when you talk about voltage.

Once you have that understanding, you should be able to choose the best trolling motor for your needs. Buy it today, get it mounted, and make the most of every hour you get to spend out on the water!


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