Here are some popular small boats with inboard motors.
Boats with inboard motors are typically bigger boats but there are some cool options out there for small models as well.
Let’s get started!
Small Fishing Boats with Inboard Motors
Offshore fishing boats are meant for rough waters and are often powered inboard/outboard, outboard, or inboard engines.
This is because they can be both fuel-efficient (you can run out of fuel in the middle of rough waters) but powerful at the same time.
1) Albemarle 32 Express
The 32 Express is one of the best inboard fishing boats out there. It is strong with a:
- Accessible Gel coated Bilge Areas
- Bonded and Mechanically Fastened Hull, Deck, and Liner
- Fiberglass Encapsulated Stringer System
- Heavy Duty Vinyl Rub Rail with Stainless Steel Insert
- Molded, Hand-Laid Solid Fiberglass Construction with Premium Gelcoat Finish and Vinylester Resin
When you’re not fishing, you can relax in the main cabin which has:
- Access to Bilge
- Carpeting Throughout
- Sofa, Converts to Double Berth
- Storage Compartment and Large Drawers below Berth
- Recessed Indirect LED Lighting
- Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning/ Heat System
- Salon Table
- Coast Guard Safety Kit
- Custom Cherry Cabinetry with Satin Finish
- Diagonal Double Berth
- Chrome Finished Positive Catch Push Button Latches on All Cabinetry
- Hanging Locker
- Built-in Upholstered Seating
2) The Supra Comp TS6M
The Supra Comp TS6 was made from 1986-1992. While that might seem like it’s a bit dated, it definitely stands the test of time.
Not only is it a great versatile inboard boat that works well as a runaround as well as a fishing boat, they normally come with a few extra amenities because they have been improved upon by their previous owners.
The TS6M is a great 19-foot fiberglass boat They come with the standard sound system, ski towers, and vinyl upholstery. Often, you will see them for sale with the upholstery updated as well as new paint-jobs. If not, the money you save on buying a used boat can go toward a custom paint job.
Just make sure you consult with a marine specialist when buying a used boat.
Rib Boats with Inboard Motors
Ridged inflatable boats (or Rib boats) are great for fun day trips in freshwater.
Some of the best options for RIB boats are from AB Inflatable.
3) Zodiac MilPro
The Zodiac Milpro line of Rigid Inflatable Boats (or RIB boats) is one of the only RIB boats that offer a single or a double inboard diesel (with water jet) engine. They also offer a sterndrive or surface drive. They are used mostly by the coast guard as well as other professionals who work on the water.
Because they are so well-regarded as tough and hearty, they are often seen as indestructible.
Their tubes are foam filled and D shaped in order to fit their hulls, which are made of aluminum, carbon-reinforced plastic, or glass-reinforced plastic. Their inflatable collars are made of heavy-duty CSM/neoprene, polyurethane-coated fabrics which can withstand so much.
The foam they use is from Zodiac’s own Durarib system.
Aluminum Boats with Inboard Motors
Aluminum boats are great for tooling around, fishing, or just spending some time out on the lake or river.
4) Weldcraft Renegade
If you’re looking for a great aluminum boat with an inboard motor, try the Weldcraft Renegade on for size. This also has an inboard jet, so you can get to your favorite fishing spot quickly.
The Renegade is powered by either a catalyzed 5.7L MEFI-5 with an American Turbine SD-309 inboard pump or a 200HP Optimax Sportjet.
Both of those options will allow for some great fishing, crabbing, cruising, or for some water skiing. It comes in two different models: the Renegade 18 and the Renegade 20.
They both offer a heavy-duty fold down top with:
- Curtains along the side and a backdrop,
- two folding seats on adjustable pedestals,
- bow storage,
- marine-grade plywood floors,
- carpeted sidewalls,
- side storage trays,
- side rod racks,
- and an in-line muffler system.
5) Northwest Boats’ 208 Northstar
The 23’3″ Northwest Boats’ 208 Northstar is also a great option. This one also comes with an inboard jet. It is built to be used and has family-friendly dimensions and maximum versatility. You can take it in white waters or of a leisurely day trip with your family.
With the driver and passenger captain’s seats, side curtains, EX-Arch step-through door, and storage bench seating, it is built for comfort and can go wherever you want to go.
The 208 Northstar also has stainless steel cup holders, rod racks on the gunwale, subfloor storage, bow storage access panel, and vinyl marine-grade plywood floors.
There are a ton of optional features as well, like:
- Hydraulic steering upgrade,
- bow fish box,
- AM/FM CD-Radio,
- wash down pumps for the driver and passenger seats,
- removable transom ski pols and sport seating,
- as well as a bow mount trolling motor wiring Hang, rig and run.
Center Console Boats with Inboard Motors
Boats with center consoles are usually used as workboats. The steering consoles are mounted in the center of the boat. These engines are powerful and can get to places quickly.
6) Dusky 233
This classic center console inboard has been around for a while and you can find them on a few used boat sites. Of course, you can find both inboard and outboard options on boat trader sites. It has an easy-going engine made for the tinkerer.
If you’re the type that likes working on your own boat, the Dusky engine 350 parts are easily found in most part stores (even West Marine). With all the weight riding forward, the ride is smooth and soft. It’s also spacious and has plenty of room off the transom.
The 23′ Dusky 233 inboard has a hull made of fiberglass and is made for skiing and fishing. It comes with:
- The standard rod holders,
- live well,
- bow rail,
- beverage holders,
- bench seats,
- and anchor locker.
They are also available with GPS and plotters, VHF, and compass.
What are the best inboard gasoline engines?
If you have a bit of money to burn and you’re looking to upgrade the inboard engine on your boat, here are some of the best boating engines on the market today.
- The Mercury Mercruiser 3.0 TKS:
This is great at powering small pontoons, runabouts, and small commercial fishing boats. It’s good for everything because it is both reliable, has excellent fuel economy, and has a great reputation for being a terrific performer. It has a patented turnkey start (TKS) and has 135 hp.
- The Crusader 6.0:
The Crusader is a direct fuel injection inboard motor. Powered by gasoline, it has 375 hp, which is a hefty engine for a mid to small boat.
- The Ilmore MV8 5.7L:
The MV8 is a durable, efficient, and reliable recreational inboard engine. The 324.9 hp engine has been certified for tournament use (for and by the American Water Ski Association).
6 types of marine engines
When it comes to picking out boats and engines, there are an array of choices for boaters to choose from. The principle is the same as any other internal combustion engine (like the one found in your truck or car).
Except that, instead of setting wheels in motion, a boat motor turns the propeller, via the drive shaft.
There are six different types of motors including:
Otherwise known as an inboard motor, these are engines enclosed in your boat. The rudder, props, and driveshaft are all located under your boat. These are powered by diesel or gasoline and are available in single or twin engines.
The most common type are 4- or 6- cylinder engines. Another option is to have a marine V-drive engine, which is located closer to the stern. Inboard engines are the types of engines we will be focusing on, so I’ll delve deeper into this a little later.
This is a motor located on the outside of the boat. It is the most common type among freshwater boats: whether fishing or pleasure craft. They are self-contained and are mounted to the transom (or the rear wall) of the boat.
The mounted unit will contain an engine, steering control, and a propeller. Some even have cables which help pivot the entire motor, to help with steering.
The 2- and 3- cylinder versions are the most common outboard motor but there are some beefy V-6 and V-8 options out there.
Sterndrives (AKA Inboard/Outboard).
Like the outboard motor, these are located outside the boat but is mounted inboard, in front of the transom. Some people say this is the best of both worlds.
It can be pivoted to move up out of the water (like other outboard motors) but it gives the boater more control (like inboard motors). They are also commonly bigger than outboard motors with the most common sizes being 4-cylinder and V-6 engines.
These are used by boats that have to perform a lot: speedboats, boats used for racing, etc. They’re also used in large boats due to the fact that the propellers are replaced with jet drives to push the boat through the water. The water is drawn in through a jet under the hull, then flows through impellers, which are hooked up to a nozzle. The nozzle is what steers the boat.
Jet drives accelerate quickly but aren’t the best option when it comes to fuel efficiency, so watch out for that.
A pod drive uses a propeller under the engine, which helps pull the boat through the water, instead of being pushed through the water (like with the other engine types). They normally come in pairs, in order to help with maneuvering through the water. This is extremely helpful when it comes to docking the boat or squeezing it through some tight spaces.
How do inboard marine engines work?
An inboard engine is somewhat similar to a car engine. It creates power in the same way and drives the boat the same way a motor powers a car. After all, they are both combustible engines which have cylinders which use fuel. Sparks ignite the fuel (mixed with air) creating an explosion, pushing the pistons into place.
These pistons are connected to crankshafts (otherwise called drive shafts). As the pistons are pushed down, the drive shaft spins, which moves the vehicle.
As far as boats are concerned, the propellers, are connected to the drive shaft. So when the drive shaft spins, so do the propellers.
One main difference between a car engine and an inboard engine is how the inboard engine cools itself.
While cars use radiators, inboard engines use the surrounding water. The water is pumped into the inboard, cools the engine, then is pushed back out with the engine exhaust. This is why you’ll see water coming from the back of a boat with an inboard engine.
Now while they work somewhat similarly, they are not interchangeable. Don’t let anyone convince you to use a car engine for an inboard motor. For one, the inboard motor works a lot harder than a car engine. For example, getting a four-ton boat to power through the water at a decent speed is the same as towing a 24-foot trailer up six percent grade incline for ten miles, using a V-6 engine.
In addition, car engines don’t heat up as much as marine engines do, because they don’t have to work as hard.
How to take care of an inboard marine engine
There are a few ways to take care of your inboard engine:
- Flush your engine regularly
- Prepare for the spring
- Winterize your engine
How do you flush an inboard engine correctly?
Flushing your inboard engine can be a fairly simple process.
There are two main reasons why you would want to flush a marine engine. Both of those reasons are due to avoid future issues with your boat:
- In order to reduce the corrosion from the saltwater.
- As a part of the winterization process, in order to keep the engine block from freezing and cracking.
Running your boat in saltwater means that you’re basically running your boat through a sea of corrosive liquid. However, flushing your inboard engine regularly can keep your important engine parts free of rust and deterioration.
Luckily, most new engines let you hook up a hose into the intake, which means that you can just flush your engine right there. It’s as easy as watering a flower garden.
- Cover the air intake to prevent debris from getting in while you flush it
- Hook up a hose to the water intake, let the water start flowing, then let the engine idle. You’ll know it’s clean when the water running through it, comes out clean.
- Make sure you check the prop shaft (it should turn without any stiffness), stuffing box (no leakage, wear, or tear), water pump impeller (check for rust, cracking, or dry spots), and engine hoses (replace them if they look like they’re starting to crack).
- Open the engine compartment to check for scents. If it’s starting to smell, look around. If you smell fuel, look for a leak in the fuel line, fuel filter, or the tank fitting.
These easy steps ensure that your engine will run smoothly and will prevent bigger problems down the road. It might seem as though you can push these tasks for later. However, waiting too long can lead to engine room flooding, rust, overheating issues, or misalignment.
How do you prepare your inboard engine for spring?
You’ll need to prepare your boat when you take it out for its first excursion during the spring or summer. If you didn’t do this when winterizing your boat, make sure to:
- Change the engine oil
- Replace the oil filters
- Purchase a spare filter to keep with you on the boat
Make sure there isn’t any creamy oil in the lower unit of your engine. Creamy oil means water. Then, hook up your battery and your engine should be good to go.
How do you winterize an inboard motor?
When boat season is over, you’re going to need to winterize your inboard motor. You can do this by checking the antifreeze. You can do this in for steps:
- Gas it up!
Make sure the tank is full of gas. This decreases the chance that, in the winter, air will get into the tank.
Add a bit of stabilizer in with the fuel. Your owner’s manual should suggest the proper amount. Stabilizer ensures that there isn’t buildup in your fuel tank when it sits for a long period of time. Not just the tank, but also your fuel lines, injectors, and carbonators.
Warm the engine by running it in the water or by running it with an adapter.
- Add some antifreeze.
In addition to adding antifreeze, make sure you also spray some fogging oil into the engine. Antifreeze prevents any water and condensation in your engine from freezing. Fogging oil protects the internal surfaces of your engine from corrosion. It also lubricates the cylinder walls and can prevent it from scuffing the next time you start the engine in the spring or summer.
- Change the oil and the oil filter
Yes, you can leave this for the spring. However, since your engine is already warm, why not drain and change the oil now? If the transmission and engine are contaminated with dirt, you don’t want it doing any harm in the winter.
- Do a final check.
While you’re at it, feel free to do a routine check for each of these systems and parts:
- Exhaust system: look for corrosion
- Hoses and clamps: look for damage
- Seal off any cracks to avoid build-up
- Remove the battery and keep it on a trickle charger
- Keep bug repellant on board
- Acquire a good winter boat cover
- Stay vigilant and make sure it is insured for theft and damage
There are plenty of engine options to choose from: between inboard to outboard to surface drives. Inboard motors are great for waterskiing, wakeboarding, and other leisure and sports activities because of its amazing wake control.
They can also tow well and clear transom for tow ropes.
Take proper care of your engine.
No matter which inboard engine you decide to purchase, make sure you are taking proper care of it. Taking good care of an inboard motor will prevent any bigger issues down the road.
Flush the engine as often as you can. While you’re waiting for the water to run clear through the engine, check any hoses, connectors, pumps, stuffing box, and make sure to look for the smell of fuel in the engine compartment.
You should also winterize your engine properly and make sure the oil and filters are changed before you start it back up in the spring. You can change them in the spring before you start it up for the season, but it will be much easier to do that maintenance when you’re winterizing your boat.
Needing a change?
The idea of changing out an old inboard engine for a new one, know that there are a lot more things to consider than just the price tag of the new engine. There are a few things you should do if you do find that this option is the best for you:
- Make a list of the yards and mechanics around you who have done similar repowering jobs.
- Look at yelp reviews and ask around to see if customers are happy with their service.
- Consider changes you’ll have to make if the horsepower will increase or if the motor itself will be lighter. For example, if you’re swapping from an old diesel engine to a newer, lighter model. If you’ll be making changes like this, contact the boat manufacturer to see if you’ll need to make any structural alterations.
- Consider the changes necessary if you convert from gas to diesel.
- Also, consider the size of the engine. Will there be room for access?
- Will the electrical gauges work with the new engine?
Lastly, don’t let anyone tell you that you can swap an inboard motor with an automotive crate engine because (while they are similar in theory), there are enough differences to cause problems.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.