The Complete Guide to Buying a Used Boat Motor

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Used Boat Motor

Boats can be a fun way to enjoy lakes, rivers, and the ocean but without a good motor, a person can be stranded. This can be a dangerous situation depending on where the boat is when the motor stops working. While new boat motors are often extremely expensive, a used motor can be a cost-effective solution when a motor is needed. Many people purchase a boat without a motor, or with a smaller motor than they want at a lower cost, then purchase a used, more powerful motor afterwards. Used boat motors can be found at marine supply shops or on auction websites, like eBay.

When buying a used boat motor, there are many things to consider. Often, used boat motors do not come with a warranty, so it is important to make sure that they are in good working order. There are a few things that need to be addressed before purchasing a used motor for a boat. A buyer has to make sure that the size of the motor is right for their boat, make sure that the motor has been well maintained, and decide if an inboard or outboard motor is needed.

Finding the Right-Sized Used Motor for a Boat

If a boat is already owned, then finding the right-sized used motor is a relatively simple process. For the most part, a buyer must decide which horsepower fits their boating needs. It is not advisable to put a powerful motor on a smaller boat, or a lower-powered motor on a large boat, even though all horsepower motors work with most hulls.

2.5 to 3.5 Horsepower Motors

These are just about the smallest motors that can be purchased. They are usually lightweight and can be seen on skiffs, zodiacs, bass boats, and other relatively small boats. These motors can handle between five to 10 miles per hour, or eight to 16 kilometres per hour when used with a larger boat, but may go faster if a lighter boat is used. These motors are an alternative to the more expensive trolling motors. These are basically meant for trolling, canoes, and portable boats.

4 to 6 Horsepower Motors

These are a bit more powerful than the lower horsepower motors. The higher the horsepower, the faster the boat moves. These motors can easily handle a large boat, such as a dingy, small bass boat, and other portable boats and canoes. They reach speeds from 10 to 18 miles per hour or 16 to 30 kilometres per hour with the right-sized small boat. If a boat is considered medium-sized, this type of motor still works, but at the low-end of the spectrum of speed. These engines are great for moving in a marina, light fishing, and other recreations.

8 to 10 Horsepower Motors

These motors have the horsepower to move most boats at 15 to 22 miles per hour or 24 to 35 kilometres per hour, depending on the size of the boat. A smaller, lighter boat moves faster with this type of motor. The motor can handle medium-sized boats that are around 4 m in length. It can also power a large boat, but there is an increase in drag so it can max out at lower speeds. These particular motors are excellent for a kicker motor, a backup for a sailboat, or a small fishing boat. It is also perfect for boats up to around 7 m in length. These motors can also be used for boats with a thinner hull.

15 to 20 Horsepower Motors

These motors can handle just about any boat, including those that are up to 9 m in length. They can travel up to speeds between 15 and 30 miles per hour or 24 to 48 kilometres per hour. It is one of the more powerful boat motors and is widely used for larger sailboats and larger fishing boats. They are one of the more powerful boat motors on the market. Although they can move quite a bit faster than other motors, they also weigh more and are more cumbersome than the lower horsepower motors.

Summary of the Different-Sized Used Boat Motors Available

With all of the choices available, it is good to have a quick reference that describes for what each motor is used. Since most motors can fit on any hull, this does not mean that they work well with it. If a boat motor is too small for a boat, it can cause the motor to wear out quickly.

HP Motor



Type of Boat


2.5 to 3.5



Small skiff or canoe

Lightweight engine

Needs a lightweight boat

5 to 10 mph or

8 to 16 km/h

4 to 6




Small sailboat

Small bass boat

10 to 18 mph or

16 to 30 km/h

8 to 10




Medium fishing boats

15 to 22 mph or

24 to 35 km/h

15 to 20



Large sailboats

Large fishing boats

15 to 30 mph or

24 to 48 km/h

There are other types and sizes of motors. These are specialty motors that are used with specialty boats. Some motors are doubled up so that two motors are powering a single boat, which adds speed and horsepower to a boat. Most of the time, the need for a used boat motor fits within one of the categories above and can be found in both inboard and outboard motors.

What to Look for When Purchasing a Used Boat Motor

There are a few things on a used motor that need to be examined before purchasing. Since it is a used motor, it needs to be functioning properly when it is purchased because many times they are not warrantied. When a used boat motor is purchased, an untested, unchecked motor may have expensive problems. Some of the things that need to be examined are the outward appearance of the engine, the inner appearance of the engine, and the prop.

To check the outward appearance of a motor, simply look for signs of wear or exhaust staining on the motor. Since the motor is exposed to water constantly, it should be fairly clean. There should be no rust on the motor.

To check the inside of the engine, a person does not have to be a mechanic. After opening the cover, check to see if there are any oil, water, exhaust, or fuel leaks in the motor. Signs of these are fairly obvious. The water looks like either a white powder, or actual water dripping from the hoses or any other part of the motor. Oil leaks look like an oil leak on a car, which is an oily black substance on the hoses, main block, or anywhere on the housing. Exhaust leaks are more difficult to judge, but they tend to show up as a black powder on the parts of the housing or the motor, itself. A fuel leak may be almost immediately obvious because it smells very strongly of petrol.

Other things that can be checked inside a motor are the actual lub oil. It should not contain any water or appear old. In other words, it should not be black in colour. Check that the transmission fluid is clean with no metal shavings or odd colours. Look for any repairs and ask the seller about any repairs. If possible, take the motor in for a compression check.

The prop, or propeller, should be in good shape without any nicks, bends, or chunks missing. Not all props have the same amount of blades, but those that it has should be in good shape. The prop housing, or where it hooks to the motor, should be free of debris or lines.

If possible, take the used boat motor out for a spin. It should start easily, not smoke, except for ordinary exhaust, and it should also run smoothly. If it is not possible to test the motor, make sure to check into the seller's reputation, and possibly, any available references.

Buying a Used Boat Motor on eBay

When purchasing a used boat motor on eBay, it is a good idea to see if there is one in your area, rather than having to ship it. This can be done by either signing into eBay and specifying your location, or inputting a location into the search terms. To search for a used boat motor on eBay, simply type in the search terms "used boat motor" and a list of used boat motors for sale is populated. Scroll through this list to see if there is a boat motor that meets your needs.

After you find a used boat motor, simply click on the listing and read the description. Make sure that all of the details, like horsepower and type of motor, are listed. On the detailed description page there is a place to ask the seller a question. Most sellers who are close to your area may allow you to pick up the motor or meet you part way if needed. Also, if you are not testing the motor, then take the time to read over the seller's return policies and feedback. The feedback and feedback rating helps you with the decision to purchase from a particular seller.


Boat motors come in a variety of styles and power. It is important to check over a boat motor carefully before deciding to purchase one. The used boat motor should have normal wear on it, but should not have any major defects unless the seller provides information about them. Make sure that if there is a problem, there is a return policy in place just in case. A used boat motor can be an inexpensive way to upgrade an existing boat or add more power to one purchased without a motor.

One of the best things that can be done to ensure that a used boat motor is the correct motor is to examine both the boat and the used motor carefully. Ask questions when there seems to be a repair or some information missing, and check the fuel, oil, exhaust, and transmission lines for leaks. Used boat motors are available at marinas and online at auction houses, such as eBay.

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