How Much Gas Do Boats Use? 5 Boat Types Explained

Many small, personal watercraft boats tend to use 3-8 gallons of gas per hour at cruising speeds, while faster boats like speed and motorboats can use 20-30 gallons an hour. Depending on the weight, size, and style of your boat, you will use within this very large range.

Instead of painstakingly trying to figure out your gas mileage, consider these five boats and their averages that we’ve listed below!

What Impacts the Amount of Gas a Boat Will Use?

The amount of gas that a boat uses depends on a variety of factors.

The biggest factor that affects gas mileage is the motor a boat has. Knowing your motor or engine’s power is a must when it comes to your boat.

Other factors include:

  • Length of the boat
  • Amount of weight on board
  • How fast you drive
  • Weather and water conditions

In addition, the condition of a boat also impacts how much fuel it will burn. A poorly maintained engine will burn more fuel than one that is properly maintained. A boat in overall bad maintenance, in areas such as the hull or transom, will also contribute to poor gas mileage.

The way that you drive the boat also plays a large role in how much gas is burned by the engine. Every boat and engine will have its own unique ‘sweet spot’ where it burns fuel the most efficiently. For average-sized recreational boats, this speed is often slower than 20 knots.

How smoothly you steer and control your boat also plays a factor in fuel consumption. Other factors beyond your control include the weather conditions, how rough the water is, and adverse currents.

These will no doubt decrease gas mileage as you try to motor yourself against the wind and out of a storm.

Related Article: 13 Clever Ways to Get a Good Deal on (New) Boats

How Do you Save Gas and Money?

One of the most essential factors determining how much gas your boat will use is the motor. A motor should be properly maintained at least once per season by an expert. This will help save you money in the long run in fuel costs and mechanical issues.

The overall maintenance of a boat plays a large role in fuel efficiency. In order to save the most gas while boating, you should take good care of your boat and keep it clean, well maintained, and free of excess gear or heavy items.

The hull of the boat should be kept clean and free of any debris that could cause resistance. When a hull is dragging, your boat’s engine will burn more fuel. A clean, lightweight boat burns the least amount of fuel and is the most efficient.

Another way to save on gas costs while boating is to shop for your gas before you head to the marina. The gas at marina-side service is often overpriced due to convenience. Filling up your own gas can or container at a local service station before heading to the marina can help you save money on fuel costs.

Related Article: 9 Tips to Sell Your Boat Quickly (Without Dropping the Price)

Average Gas Used by 5 Different Boat Types:

While every boat will use a different amount of gas on average, boats of the same type will generally have similar fuel consumption rates. When you have very different boats, though, it is hard to tell what the “average” is.

We’ve listed a few common boats and their gas mileage expectations here:

Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are slower and feature a multi-hull design that makes them less fuel-efficient than boats that plane on the surface of the water.  Because they have to push their pontoons through the water, the engines used on these boats must be powerful. Therefore, these boats are not very fuel-efficient and care should be taken to properly maintain them to retain optimal efficiency.

The average pontoon boat will consume around 5 gallons per hour at cruising speed. This means that a five hour trip out on the water will take 25 gallons of gas.

Related Article: Boat Fuel Types: What Fuel Type for My Boat? (Newbie Guide)

Bass Boats

Bass boats are known for their sleek design and are mostly geared toward fishing. Modern bass boats include a smooth fiberglass hull design and powerful fuel-injected outboard engines. While these factors may help with controlling and steering a boat, the gas consumption of many bass boats still leaves much to be desired.

A good bass boat tends to spend most of its time trolling or idle while fishing, but getting from place to place can still eat up your gas. However, fuel consumption on a bass boat is better than a pontoon.

An average bass boat will consume between 4 – 5 gallons per hour at cruising speed. Bass boats reach optimal fuel efficiency when running the engine between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM.

Center Console Boats

Center console boats offer very little in the way of frills or seating. However, this does not make for improved gas consumption rates.

The length of a center console boat, as well as the engine choice, play a significant factor in determining the fuel consumption rate of a center console boat. With a hull length over 20 feet, some center console boats can average as much as 5 – 6 gallons per hour!  But this will  be at a speed of over 20 knots.

A well-maintained center console boat can average as low as 3 gallons per hour, with many averaging 4 gallons per hour in good conditions. 

This is because their sleek design was made for getting from place to place quickly. You will be very happy with their gas consumption.

Related Article: How Long Do Sailboats Last?

Cabin Cruiser Boats

Cabin cruisers offer all the comforts of home out on the water, with many having room for a galley and modern comforts such as air conditioning. This makes the gas consumption of most cabin cruisers somewhat high, as the added weight to the boat requires a larger motor.

The cruising speed of a cabin cruiser has a large role in the amount of gas consumed. Not to mention the design and age of the boat.  A lighter boat with a modern outboard motor will be more efficient than an older boat with an inboard engine. 

A typical cabin cruiser can expect to get anywhere from 1 – 2 miles per gallon. This makes cabin-cruisers one of the least gas efficient boats used by most recreational boaters.

However, proper maintenance and careful cruising can help improve the boat’s gas efficiency.

Bowrider Boats

These boats are known for their ability to fit the entire family on board to have a good time. Bowrider boats feature plenty of space for seating and maneuvering around the boat. Therefore, the amount of passengers and partygoer equipment onboard plays a large factor in how much gas your bowrider boat will burn.

Bowrider boats can get expect to get an average of 3 miles per gallon of fuel.

However, this will vary wildly based on how much your boat weighs and how fast you cruise. The more people and the faster you go? The more fuel you burn.

A well-maintained bowrider with few passengers on a nice day may reach as much as 5 miles per gallon at the most efficient cruising speed.

Final Thoughts

The amount of fuel burned by a boat will vary depending on the age, condition, and maintenance level of the boat overall and its engine. A boat in overall poor condition will have poor fuel mileage.

An older boat, with an older engine, will also have poor fuel mileage when compared to more modern boats.

When looking to find the fuel mileage of your own boat, its possible to buy a fuel consumption gauge, but they can be expensive.  It is much easier to just keep good records, and divide the amount of fuel burned by the distance traveled. You may want to make several trips with your boat to find the average of your fuel consumption.  Take notes about your speed and other conditions, because these will affect your fuel efficiency.

Once you know how much fuel your boat is currently using, you can begin to adjust your cruising speed, trim, or other conditions, to improve your fuel efficiency.

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