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Trolling Motors vs Outboard Motors: 7 Key Differences

Trolling Motors vs Outboard Motors: 7 Key Differences

Every new boater has to make one big decision…

Trolling motor or outboard motor?

Yes, they’re both great for propelling your boat… but there are BIG differences between these two.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on one, only to realize you made the WRONG choice.

So what are the differences?

How can you tell which one is better suited for you?

Let’s find out…

The 7 Key Differences Between Trolling and Outboard Motors

If you ask, “Which is better?” You’re asking the wrong question.

Neither of these is better than the other.

We have two types of motors built for two different things:

Trolling motors are better suited for shorter trips close to the shore. Outboard motors, on the other hand, are better for long, distant trips.


Because of the 7 key differences between these two.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these. This way, you will have a clear picture of which is better for you.

1. Speed

When it comes to speed, outboard motors easily take the cake.

The average outboard motor is always going to be faster than the average trolling motor.

See those speed boats ripping through the waves? They’re using outboard motors.

man riding boat with outboard motor at high speed

Outboard motors can propel you to your destination in no time. Their gas-run engines can spin the propellers with incredible power.

How powerful can they get?

Up to 627 horsepower! That’s the world’s most powerful outboard motor. Compare that to trolling motors – you’ll struggle to find anything over 3 horsepower.

Now, for small or inflatable boats, you don’t need too much power. But it’s always nice to go fast… isn’t it?

2. Convenience

When it comes to convenience, there isn’t a clear winner.

For one, trolling motor batteries need to be charged after every use. Meanwhile, outboard motors only need gas to get going.

If you don’t charge your batteries, they will go bad fast.

But speaking of maintenance…

Outboard motors need regular maintenance – engine flushing, oil replacement, water pump checks, etc.

Trolling motors do need some maintenance too – but nowhere as much as outboard motors. If you don’t take care of your outboard motor well, it can easily overheat.


Batteries are much easier to bring along than a container of gas.

Gas can spill all over the place if you’re not careful, which is the last thing you want. It’s not only difficult to clean, but it also smells terrible.

3. Control

Want to steer into hard-to-reach areas?

A trolling motor will do the trick.

Trolling motors are easier to maneuver than outboard motors. They can make sharp turns, allowing you to access out-of-reach places.

Outboard motors are great for open water. But if you’re in tight spaces, it’ll be hard to get around without bumping.

4. Environment

If you are environmentally-friendly minded, you’ll go straight for an electric trolling motor.

Electric trolling motors don’t pollute seas in any way. They’re also a lot quieter than outboard motors.

With no noise, you can get to great areas without scaring any fish away. Outboard motors use an engine, meaning there will always be noise (again, think of speed boats).

You also don’t have to worry about the awful smell of gas with trolling motors. Sure, this isn’t a big problem. But trust me, fishing is more pleasant without gas odor.

5. Weight

Weight is a big concern with inflatable boats. After all, you can only load so much into your dinghy.

Side-by-side, trolling motors weigh slightly less than outboard motors. But that isn’t the whole picture…

Trolling motors need heavy batteries to run, while outboard motors need gas. Both add weight to your boat.

Batteries weigh more than gas. One trolling motor battery is heavier than a full tank of gas (usually).

High perfomance AGM battery for trolling motor

For long trips, this becomes even more significant. It’s much lighter to bring a container of gas than 2-3 batteries.

I wouldn’t say this is a huge factor, but it’s something to consider when choosing.

6. Durability

Durability depends on the manufacturer of your motor.

Good brands will always last longer than cheap ones.

That said…

A strong outboard motor can take quite a beating. You won’t find a trolling motor with more than 5 horsepower, so don’t expect them to survive rough water.

For military, rescue, and police teams, trolling motors are just too slow and weak for their jobs.

However, this does not mean that trolling motors get destroyed right away. If you stay in calmer waters, nothing will go wrong.

7. Price

Price doesn’t affect performance, but it’s always good to know which is more expensive.

Generally, outboard motors cost more. Your average trolling motor is a lot cheaper than your average outboard motor. Of course, there are some exceptions.

With this, you really start to get the picture.

People who want a simple, chill day at the lake will prefer the more affordable trolling motor. While professionals who need power won’t be fazed by the higher price of an outboard motor.

The Bottom Line

So… which is better?

Again,  in the end, there really isn’t a clear winner.

They both have their advantages and disadvantages.

But by now, you should see why outboard motors are preferred for long trips, and why trolling motors are for shorter trips.

Trolling motors are more convenient, cheaper, easier to control, and more pleasant (no stinky gas). But outboard motors are faster, stronger, and longer-lasting.

Outboard Trolling Motors

Want the best of both worlds?

Why not install a trolling motor to your outboard motor?

Nowadays, top brands have trolling motors built to mount on outboard motors.

One of these is Minn Kota, who created the Riptide EM 55 Trolling Motor:

With one of these, you won’t have to choose between one or the other… you can have BOTH on the same boat!

Minn Kota MK55EM Engine Mount Fresh Water Trolling Motor

You can get to faraway places fast, then switch to quiet trolling mode.

Of course, your maintenance work will be doubled – you have to take care of two motors instead of one.

But for the best fishing experience, outboard trolling motors won’t let you down.


So will it be a trolling motor?

An outboard motor?

An outboard trolling motor?

Whatever you choose, one thing is for sure:

With this guide, you’ll have a blast on the water.

Have a question about trolling motors or outboard motors? Leave a comment below!

Also check out: The Top 7 Trolling Motors