Best Houseboat Motors | LakeWizard

Cruising houseboats depend on their engines for propulsion and power generation. But which houseboat motors are the best?

The best gasoline inboard houseboat motors are the GM/Chevy Marine 350 and the Ford Marine 351 Windsor V8. The best houseboat inboard diesel engine is the Cummins X15, and the best outboard motors are the 75-150 HP Mercury and the Honda Marine 5HP.

In this article, we’ll cover five of the best inboard and outboard engines for houseboats. Additionally, we’ll discuss the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of each type of engine. We’ll also compare gasoline and diesel houseboat engines and discuss the process of upgrading your houseboat’s motor.

We sourced engine specifications directly from their respective manufacturers to ensure accuracy.

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Inboard Vs Outboard Houseboat Motors

Inboard and outboard engines have many advantages and disadvantages. Inboard engines are generally used on larger houseboats. These engines, which are usually marine versions of large car or truck engines, sit in a compartment and drive the propeller with a shaft.

Outboard engines are mounted to the stern of the vessel and are completely self-contained. This has a number of advantages, primarily when it comes time for repairs or replacement. If an outboard engine breaks, you can just bolt another one right on.

Inboard engines have more power and efficiency, so they’re used primarily for large houseboats in single or twin configurations. Typically, one engine goes to one propeller shaft—so twin-engine houseboats have two propellers. Houseboats sometimes have two outboard engines as well.

Inboard and Outboard Engine Configuration and Fuel

Inboard engines run on gasoline or diesel. Diesel is the most efficient fuel for houseboats, as diesel engines use compression ignition and burn fuel more efficiently. Gasoline engines are cheaper and easier to maintain, but they consume much more fuel per mile traveled.

One downside of Diesel engines is that they’re usually larger and heavier than gasoline engines, as they must endure much higher pressures. Additionally, they’re a lot pickier about fuel quality than the average gas engine. Weight isn’t a problem for inboard engines, but it is an issue for outboards.

As a result, the vast majority of outboard motors are gasoline-powered. This makes them affordable and lightweight, though they consume more fuel than diesel inboard engines. Additionally, gasoline is explosive (but diesel is not), which means gas-powered houseboats need extra fuel and engine compartment safety equipment.

Best Gasoline Inboard Houseboat Engines

Houseboats equipped with inboard gasoline engines have a huge variety of motors to choose from. If your houseboat needs a new motor, you can have a brand new gasoline inboard delivered and installed for a reasonable price. Here are two of the best gasoline inboard engines for houseboats.

1. Marine GM 350 Engine

Picture of the Marine GM 350 Engine

The Chevrolet small-block V8 is one of the most numerous gasoline engines ever produced. This cast iron gasoline engine has eight cylinders and has been used in some form by cars, trucks, and boats since the 1950s. The engine was so reliable and well-designed that General Motors still produces new long blocks to this day.

From the factory, a marine Chevy 350 usually has between 190 and 260 horsepower, depending on the model and level of outfitting you select. That said, the 350 has the largest performance parts market of any engine, so you can hop it up to almost obscene levels of power at a relatively affordable price.

The 350 is a long-lasting motor that doesn’t need to be modified to perform well. It’ll run forever if maintained, and you can get parts at almost any auto parts store in the country. The 350 isn’t the most efficient engine in the world, but it can be tuned to achieve relatively good fuel economy and excellent power output.

You can configure a small block Chevy engine in almost any way you like, which is an excellent advantage, especially with an older houseboat. You can run it with a carburetor and a mechanical pump or install modern fuel injection for a more efficient and reliable power plant.

Chevy marine engines have been installed in thousands of houseboats, and every part you need for installation is available online. This includes motor mounts, marine transmissions, marine spark arrestors, impellers, shafts, adaptor kits, fuel pumps, and virtually everything else. Any competent boatyard can swap in a 350 into almost any gasoline-powered inboard houseboat.

You can purchase a small block Chevy marine engine from Atlantic Marine Store and other distributors, like Goodwrench.

2. Ford 351 Windsor Marine Engine

Picture of the Ford 351 Windsor Marine Engine

The Ford 351 W is a V8 engine from the famous Windsor family, which is Ford’s practical equivalent to the Chevy 350. The other most common engine in the Windsor family is the 302, otherwise known as the original 5.0-liter Ford V8. These motors are just about as common on houseboats as the Chevy 350, and they perform just as well in most applications.

The Ford Windsor platform was used in cars, trucks, and boats for decades. It’s durable, powerful, and parts are cheap and plentiful. The Ford 351 and the Windsor platform as a whole uses many interchangeable parts, which makes upgrading easy.

Many automotive and marine engine experts consider the Ford 351 engine to be better built than the 350, as it uses stronger crankcase parts that are known to last longer, especially at sustained RPMs. This makes it an excellent marine engine, as it winds up fast and works efficiently when held at the same speed for extended periods.

The Ford 351 Windsor marine engine is used in houseboats frequently and has been since at least the 1970s. This makes it easy to swap a 351 into a houseboat with a smaller motor or to replace an existing Ford small block if it’s worn out. New and rebuilt Ford Windsor motors are available online for both performance and marine applications.

You can purchase a marine Ford 351 Windsor engine from Atlantic Marine Store and other distributors, or you can build one yourself.

Best Diesel Inboard Houseboat Engines

Diesel inboards offer a number of benefits for houseboats. If your propulsion engine is also your generator, you can idle it efficiently for hours without harming the engine. Additionally, diesel inboards are more efficient under power, and they also last longer than gasoline engines. Here is the best diesel inboard engine for houseboats.

1. Cummins X15 Diesel Engine

Picture of the Cummins X15 Diesel Engine

Cummins is on top of the diesel engine design and manufacturing world, and their robust engines have become legendary for their durability and power. The Cummins X15 is one of the company’s latest marine diesel engines. It was released in 2017 and has since become extremely popular in single and twin-engine arrangements.

In most situations, you’ll only need one of these monster engines to propel a houseboat. From the factory, the Cummins X15 produces between 450 and 605 horsepower and 1850 to 1950 lb-ft of torque. You heard that right—almost 2,000 lb-ft of torque from this engine.

The X15 was designed to maintain the high power output of previous engines while increasing fuel economy. This is the perfect solution for houseboats, which move through the water at slower speeds for sustained periods of time. And given its low rpm power output, the Cummins X15 is the perfect engine for a large boat.

The Cummins X15 has a constant-speed output of 373 kW at 50 or 60 Hz, making it a perfect power generation or auxiliary motor as well. This inline-six four-stroke diesel uses the Cummins XPI fuel system and has a governed speed of 1800 RPM. It’s also turbocharged and after-cooled for additional power and efficiency.

You can purchase a Cummins X15 standard or marine diesel engine from a dealership, and you can order one from the company’s site.

Best Outboard Engines for Houseboats

Outboard motors are the best and most affordable propulsion systems for houseboats. They’re easy to install, easy to maintain, and highly reliable. You can also lift them out of the way for beaching, which protects your propulsion and steering system from damage. Here are the best gasoline-powered outboard engines for houseboats.

1. Mercury Four Stroke 75-150HP

Picture of the Mercury Four Stroke 75-150HP

Mercury is one of the most popular and well-known producers of outboard motors for boats. Their line of four-stroke gasoline outboards is known for their durability, reliability, and long-lasting lifespan. The Mercury Four Stroke engine is available in 75 to 150 horsepower models, which is the perfect size for houseboats.

These Mercury outboards feature everything you’d expect on a modern outboard motor. They’re compatible with hydraulic steering systems like the ones found on houseboats. They feature electric start, and they come with hookups for all of the necessary gauges.

These water-cooled outboards draw water from the surrounding lake or river and run it through the engine for cooling. This system is highly reliable and much more efficient than older air-cooled outboards. Additionally, these engines are remarkably compact for their power output.

The 150 horsepower model displaces 3 liters and has a full-throttle RPM of 5,000 to 5,800. This is the perfect range for a houseboat, especially when equipped with the right kind of propeller.

One of the best features of the Mercury 150 and its sister engines is that they can be configured for twin-engine setups. Many houseboats use two or three medium-sized outboard motors linked together for steering. These engines work well in this configuration, but they can also move a houseboat in a single-engine system.

You can buy a Mercury Four Stroke outboard motor from a dealership, and you can learn more from the company’s website.

2. Honda 5HP Gas Maneuvering Outboard

Picture of the Honda 5HP Gas Maneuvering Outboard

Sometimes, a full-size outboard isn’t the tool you need to get the most out of your houseboat. Many inboard and outboard houseboats have a small engine in addition to the main propulsion.

On a houseboat, the Honda 5HP outboard can be used as a maneuvering engine. It can be used as a backup in case of propulsion failure or to help maneuver into tight spaces.

The benefits of a maneuvering engine on a large, boxy houseboat cannot be overstated. An engine like this can make a windy day manageable and make it possible to move into a dock space when weather conditions make it otherwise impossible.

The Honda 5HP gas outboard motor is one of the best small maneuvering engines on the market. Honda makes the highest-quality small engines in the world, and their outboards are known for exceptional reliability and long service life. Plus, they’re easy to use and maintain.

This five-horsepower outboard motor, which is designated BF5DHSHNA, is one of their most popular models. It is water-cooled and attached to an easily adjustable mount, which makes it easy to store or move out of the way. Additionally, it can be controlled from the handle or connected to a hydraulic steering system and remote throttle.

You can buy a Honda Marine 5HP outboard from lots of places, including Power Equipment Direct online. They’re also available on the used market for affordable prices.