What Size Motor Do I Need for a 17-Foot Boat?

Choosing the right motor for a 17-foot boat is a critical decision that will impact your boating experience significantly. Whether you plan to use your boat for fishing, watersports, leisure cruising, or exploring serene waterways, the motor’s size plays a vital role in its performance, efficiency, and safety. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deeper into the factors you should consider when selecting the perfect motor for your 17-foot boat.

1. Understanding Boat Motor Terminology

Before delving into the specifics, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with some crucial terminology related to boat motors. This will help you better understand the various technical aspects and make more informed choices:

  1. Horsepower (HP): Horsepower is a unit of measurement for the motor’s power output. In the context of boat motors, it determines the strength of the engine. Higher horsepower generally means more speed and better performance. However, you need to find a balance between power and fuel efficiency, as a more powerful motor may consume more fuel.
  • Shaft Length: The shaft length is the distance from the mounting bracket to the propeller. Choosing the appropriate shaft length is crucial to ensure that the propeller is fully submerged, optimizing performance and efficiency. If the shaft is too short, the propeller may cavitate and lose thrust, leading to reduced performance.
  • Two-Stroke vs. Four-Stroke: Boat motors come in two main types – two-stroke and four-stroke engines. Each has its pros and cons. Two-stroke engines tend to be lighter, which can improve a boat’s speed and acceleration. However, they are generally less fuel-efficient and produce more emissions. On the other hand, four-stroke engines are heavier but offer better fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

What Size Motor Do I Need for a 17-Foot Boat?

Below is a comparison table for determining the appropriate motor size for a 17-foot boat based on common motor sizes used for boats of this length. Always consult with a marine expert or boat manufacturer for the most accurate and up-to-date recommendations.

Motor Size (Horsepower)Boat PerformanceSuitable ActivitiesFuel EfficiencyEstimated Cost (USD)
15 HPModerate speed and maneuverability, ideal for calm waters and small lakesFishing, light cruising, leisure boatingGood fuel efficiency, lower operational costs$2,000 – $4,000
25 HPImproved speed and maneuverability, better for larger lakes and inshore watersFishing, water sports, cruisingRelatively good fuel efficiency$3,000 – $5,000
40 HPHigher speed and better handling, suitable for larger bodies of waterWater sports, fishing, cruisingModerate fuel efficiency$4,000 – $7,000
60 HPIncreased power and acceleration, suitable for rougher waters and bigger loadsWater sports, fishing, cruising, day tripsModerate fuel efficiency$6,000 – $9,000
90 HPHigh performance, excellent for water sports and long-distance cruisingWater sports, fishing, cruising, tubingModerate to lower fuel efficiency$8,000 – $12,000
115 HPStrong acceleration and high top speed, suitable for larger boats and watersWater sports, fishing, cruising, tubing, longer tripsModerate to lower fuel efficiency$10,000 – $15,000

Keep in mind that the appropriate motor size may vary based on factors like boat weight, load capacity, hull design, and intended use. It’s important to consider the boat manufacturer’s recommendations and seek expert advice to ensure you choose the right motor size for your specific 17-foot boat. Additionally, motor prices can vary depending on the brand, features, and other specifications, so the estimated costs in the table are approximate and can change over time.

2. Boat Type and Weight Capacity

The type and size of your boat are crucial factors in determining the appropriate motor size. Consider the following factors:

  1. Boat Type: 17-foot boats can come in various styles, such as center console, bowrider, pontoon, or bass boat. Each type has different weight distributions and handling characteristics, which can affect the motor’s performance. For example, a bass boat designed for speed may require a more powerful motor, while a pontoon boat focused on leisure cruising may require less horsepower.
  • Weight Capacity: Understanding the boat’s weight capacity is vital for both performance and safety. The weight capacity includes the weight of passengers, gear, fuel, and any additional accessories. Exceeding the weight capacity can strain the motor, lead to poor performance, and compromise safety.

3. Determine Your Boating Needs

Your specific boating needs and preferences will also influence the ideal motor size. Different activities require different levels of power and control:

  1. Cruising and Leisure Boating: If you primarily plan to use your 17-foot boat for leisurely cruises, relaxation, and exploring calm waterways, a smaller motor with lower horsepower may suffice. A fuel-efficient four-stroke motor would be a good choice for such purposes, as it will provide a smooth and quiet ride.
  • Watersports and Speed: If you enjoy watersports like wakeboarding, water skiing, or tubing, or if you prefer faster speeds, a more powerful motor with higher horsepower will be necessary. A two-stroke engine may be preferred for its lighter weight and quicker acceleration, which is beneficial for towing activities.

4. Consider Local Regulations and Environment

Boating regulations and environmental factors can impact the maximum motor size allowed on certain water bodies:

  • Local Regulations: Some lakes, rivers, and waterways have motor size restrictions to preserve the environment, control noise levels, and enhance safety. Regulations may vary based on the region, so it’s crucial to check and comply with local rules before selecting your boat motor.
  • Emissions and Fuel Efficiency: Environmental concerns are increasingly critical when choosing a boat motor. Four-stroke engines are generally more fuel-efficient and have lower emissions compared to two-stroke engines. Choosing a four-stroke motor not only benefits the environment but also results in long-term fuel cost savings.

5. Test and Compare

Before making a final decision, testing and comparing different motor options is highly recommended:

  • Test Drive: Whenever possible, take a test drive with various motor sizes on your 17-foot boat. This will give you a real-world experience of how each motor performs and handles under different conditions. Pay attention to acceleration, speed, fuel efficiency, noise levels, and overall comfort.
  • Seek Expert Advice: Consult with boating experts, dealers, or other experienced boaters. They can provide valuable insights based on their firsthand knowledge and help you make an informed decision that aligns with your boating needs and preferences.


Selecting the right motor size for your 17-foot boat is a crucial step towards a safe, enjoyable, and efficient boating experience. Consider the type of boat, weight capacity, boating needs, local regulations, and the environmental impact when making your decision. Finding the perfect balance between power, efficiency, and environmental consciousness will lead you to the ideal motor for your 17-foot boat, ensuring countless memorable moments on the water for years to come.

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