Most people don’t realize that many soft inflatable boats (SIBs) can be equipped with an electric or outboard motor. But why would anybody want a motorized inflatable boat when you have oars?
There are loads of practical and recreational reasons:
- Gliding on the water in a boat with a motor feels great!
- Getting from A to B is quicker than using oars.
- Traveling longer distances.
- Dinghies used as tenders for larger boats may need to be seaworthy.
- Fishing boats need a motor, since they are packed and heavy.
- And most importantly, sometimes you would rather relax than row.
Here are the contents of this article:
- Inflatable rafts that can be motorized
- Inflatable dinghies that I recommend
- Electric trolling motor recommendations
- Gasoline outboard motors
These are the inflatable rafts and dinghies you’ll learn about in this post. It starts out with rafts and is followed by dinghies.
|Boat||Description||Capacity & size||Details|
Sea Eagle SE9
This is a high quality raft from a trusted company. Unfortunately it commands a premium price as well.
132" x 56" 15"
Intex Excursion 5
This inflatable raft is a comfortable, versatile SIB for a weekend getaway on the lake. It has plenty of room for families looking for a relaxing time, as well as hobby fisherman.
144″ x 66" x 17"
Intex Mariner 4
This rugged raft comes with a roll-up floor and inflatable keel to improve maneuverability. It is more than a simple raft, but not quite at dinghy level.
129″ x 69″ x 19″
Sevylor Fish Hunter 360
The Fish Hunter is a capable inflatable raft. It is aimed at fisherman, but families will love the size as well.
137" x 67" x16"
|5.||Airhead Angler Bay|
A lightweight and portable inflatable raft that can be fitted with a motor mount. The material is a bit on the thin side though on the smaller models though.
140″ x 66.5″ x 17"
The cheapest inflatable raft that can be fitted with a trolling motor. Costing less than $100, you shouldn't expect much.
138" x 57" x 19"
Sea Eagle 12'6" SR
The 126 Sport Runabout is a great choice if you are looking for a beautiful motorized dinghy of the highest quality.
150" x 65" x 18"
Newport Vessels makes good quality, rugged inflatable dinghies that can be used as a tender, for fishing, or just for fun. The price-value of these dinghies is great.
127" x 63" x 18"
|3.||Inflatable Sport Boats|
This company makes great dinghies, but they cost more than Newport Vessels.
118" x 60" x 16"
An inexpensive dinghy that might just fit the bill.
110" x 60" x 16.5"
Now let’s have a look at the inflatable rafts I can recommend for using with a motor.
Inflatable rafts with motor mount capabilities
Inflatable rafts are mostly recreational watercraft you would use on lakes. They are popular since they are affordable ($40 – $200) and easy to set up.
Some inflatable rafts can be equipped with a motor, by installing a motor mount kit.
With inflatable raft motor mounts, you are looking for 2 things:
- Ease of assembly and disassembly
Here are the inflatable rafts I would recommend for motorized use.
Sea Eagle SE9 with motor mount
This inflatable boat is in a class of its own really. It’s large, can carry a whopping 1200 pounds, and its reinforced inflatable floor is so stable that you can even stand up in the boat.
It also has a 3-year warranty!
No other inflatable raft can tout these things.
The SE9 is equipped with a motor mount, so you can easily hook up a trolling motor.
I tried the SE9 and wrote a detailed review on it here.
All this comes at a higher price tag though, but Sea Eagle has sales pretty often.
Intex Excursion 5
Intex makes several inflatable rafts that can be equipped with an outboard motor. The mounting system is the same for all Intex boats.
First up is the Excursion 5, which is a very popular choice for budget-minded inflatable boaters.
The Excursion line of Intex inflatable boats is sought after, probably because it is affordable and versatile.
I liked it as well, so much that I wrote a detailed review of the Excursion.
The Intex motor mount is made of strong synthetic material, I haven’t heard of any breaking. It can hold up to a 3 HP outboard motor.
They are very easy to install and disassemble. Intex boats have 2 loops on the rear top and 2 on the rear side. You just slide the aluminum mount tubes into them and lock in place.
The Intex motor mount kit is sold separately of the boats, but it is pretty cheap, here it is on Amazon.
Intex Mariner 4
The Mariner line of Intex boats uses the same motor mounting system.
I have a Mariner 4, it is a great little boat. It is at the top end of the inflatable raft category.
Here is a detailed review I wrote on my Mariner.
Sevylor Fish Hunter 360 with attachable motor
Sevylor also makes a fishing inflatable raft, which can be equipped with a trolling motor, the Fish Hunter 360.
I tried it a while back, here is my review on the Fish Hunter 360.
The advantage of this boat is that it is very wide, so you can fit a lot of equipment or people into it. It is a 6 person boat officially.
This boat does not need a separate motor mount kit if you use Sevylor’s 12v electric trolling motor, as it can be attached right onto the boat. This would be a very nice feature. In theory… The downside though is that the Sevylor motor generates only 18 lbs of thrust, which is very weak.
You can get a proper motor mount for it on Amazon though, and attach any trolling motor you like.
Airhead Angler Bay with motor mount
Airhead makes an inflatable fishing raft called Angler Bay, which can also be mounted with a motor of up to 3 HP. This boat comes in 3, 4 and 6 person versions.
The Airhead boat and motor mount kit is a bit more expensive than Intex’s similar offering.
An issue I’ve seen on the Airhead transom/motor mount is wood cracking. They say the wood is marine grade hardwood, so it should hold up well. But I think plastic would have been a much better choice.
I have a detailed review of the Angler Bay here.
Intex Seahawk 4
The Seahawk is probably the cheapest inflatable raft that can be mounted with a motor.
As all Intex boats, it uses the same motor mount I already showed you.
You can read about my experience with this inexpensive raft here.
NEW: I just wrote an article on which trolling motors I recommend for Intex rafts specifically, have a look if you are considering an Intex raft + motor combo.
Inflatable dinghies with motors
Inflatable dinghies and sports boats were designed for motorized use since they have a transom. The transom is the rigid piece on the back of the boat connecting the 2 side tubes.
Notice the extra trapezoid in the middle of the transom? That is called an in-pad (or transom pad, or motor pad). It serves the dual purpose of protecting the transom and reducing motor vibration. Most quality dinghies will have a transom pad, but in case yours does not, make sure you install an after-market one. They cost $10 – $40 on Amazon.
The most popular, and more importantly, the most reliable inflatable dinghies you would use motorized are:
Sea Eagle 12.6 Sport Runabout
The 12’6″ Sport Runabout is a high-quality inflatable dinghy, which touts a 3-year warranty and several unique features. Sea Eagle is known for making great boats.
It is one of the best dinghies you can buy in 2020. It is ultra rugged like all Sea Eagle boats, looks great, and has a great keel system that performs better than the traditional V-shape keel on other inflatable dinghies.
The trade-off is that this boat commands a premium price, but in all honesty, you can tell it’s better than my 2nd choice.
I have a detailed review of my experience with the 126 SR here.
Newport Vessels Dinghies
Newport Vessels makes high-quality inflatable dinghies, all of which can be fitted with an outboard motor. They have several models with various sizes and floor types.
I bought an 8 foot Dana model and had it for 8 years. I loved it. It was super durable, didn’t have any problems with the valves or setting it up.
The material of all Newport Vessels boats is very strong, supposedly because they build these using triple-layered PVC like whitewater kayaks.
They can plane easily and are very maneuverable thanks to the inflatable keel. You can get them with a 4 piece aluminum floorboard which takes some getting used to, but not an issue after the 3rd-4th time you put it together. They also have it with an air floor though.
They can be fitted with any outboard motor, they recommend up to 10 HP models. But I use a 15 HP motor. “More power” 🙂
Here is an in-depth review I wrote on Newport Vessels boats.
Inflatable Sport Boats
The generic brand name “Inflatable Sport Boats” doesn’t do this brand justice in my opinion.
They manufacture very high-quality inflatable dinghies, perhaps best in class. This shows on the price sticker though.
As with the Newport Vessels boats, these can be fitted with an outboard motor of up to 15 HP.
I’ve heard good things about this boat, here is what Amazon customers are saying. The reason I would still prefer a Newport Vessels dinghy is the price.
Budget inflatable dinghies
You’ll find inflatable dinghies for $400 – $600 as well. I’m not sure I would buy those, since cheap inflatables are manufactured using, well, cheaper materials and methods.
Regardless, I’ve heard good things about the HydroForce (around $500 on Amazon last I checked).
Inflatable boat motor recommendations
I wrote a detailed article on trolling motors and battery pairings which you might want to read.
If you’re short on time, here is a summary.
There are 2 types of motors you can put on an inflatable boat:
- electric trolling motor
- gasoline powered outboard motor
Most inflatable rafts are rated for an electric trolling motor, or a max 3 HP outboard motor (gasoline motor).
Putting anything stronger and heavier on these rafts will strain the PVC material that the tubes are made out of, as well as the glue of the motor mount.
We’ll talk about petrol powered outboard motors later, let’s have a look at electric trolling motors now.
Other than the Sevylor Fish Hunter (which has its own brand of trolling motor), you can basically place any electric trolling motor on these rafts, such as the one I have and can recommend:
Newport Vessels electric trolling motor
I have had the 55 lb thrust Newport Vessels NV-Series trolling motor on my Intex Mariner for about 3 years now, and it’s been smooth sailing. No problems at all, which is reflected by all the positive reviews on Amazon.
I reach speeds of around 4-5 MPH with it, which is ok for an inflatable boat with an electric motor.
Besides its reliability, I love how quiet it is, and that it is very easy to lift out of the water.
It has a 2 year warranty, so I was a bit nervous entering the 3rd year, but no problems still.
All Newport Vessels trolling motors are saltwater friendly.
The NV series motors can be bought with thrust ranging from 36 – 82 lbs. I do NOT recommend you get the 82 lbs version with an inflatable boat, because that requires two 12V marine batteries to run. All other batteries are good to go with a single 12 V deep cycle battery.
Here is an informative article I wrote on what you need to know about electric trolling motors.
Battery for trolling motors
If you get an electric trolling motor, you’ll also need a battery and preferably a battery power center as well.
For these, I recommend:
- Mighty Max 12V 55 Ah battery (because it has served me well)
- MinnKota power center (because it has integrated circuit breakers and a 12-volt plug)
Outboard motor recommendations
You could place any electric trolling motor onto an inflatable dinghy… but why would you?
The dinghies listed above are seaworthy, they can reach speeds of 20-25 MPH using petrol driven outboard motors.
What kind of outboard motor is best for inflatable dinghies?
The sky is the limit, but a more powerful engine will cost 3x that of what you paid for the boat.
- Firstly, you have the ~3 HP motors. The advantage of these is that they are lightweight and usually quieter.
- Based on my experience, a ~6 HP motor is plenty to propel the smaller dinghies.
- You’ll need a stronger ~10 HP motor for the larger dinghies that will be carrying many people or supplies.
Naturally, the more powerful the motor, the more it will cost.
The holy grail of outboard motors for SIBSs are:
- The 9.9 HP group of motors, led by the Tohatsu 9.8. Other brands in this group are the Mercury 9.9, Yamaha 9.9, Suzuki DT9.9, Honda 9.9.
- The 15 HP group of motors, made by Mercury, Yamaha, Tohatsu, Suzuki.
Regardless of which brand of you get, make sure to follow the maintenance procedures outlined in the instruction manual. Not caring for an outboard motor properly will cause it to jam up very quickly.
If you are interested in learning more about petrol motors, check out this article I just wrote.