Gas-Saving Tips for Boaters

As gas prices at the pump hover around the $4.00/gallon mark, I’m glad I keep my boat on a trailer.  Out here in Massachusetts it costs $5.50/gallon to fuel up my boat at the gas dock.  Like many other boaters, I’ve been looking for ways to increase my fuel efficiency and keep more money in my wallet.  Here’s what I came up with. 

Go with as light a hull as possible. Light hulls require lower horsepower engines, and boats like Parkers, Maritime Skiffs, Carolina Skiffs, Lund Alaskans and the like aren’t very heavy.  There are two ways to save: the first comes when you buy a smaller outboard and the second comes when running it.   

Consider a four-stroke.  In addition to offering better fuel efficiency, they’re also eco-friendly.  Back in the day, four-strokes used to weigh up to hundreds of pounds more than a similarly-sized outboard.  Nowadays four strokes weigh about as much as two strokes, so if you’re thinking of repowering, check out the four-strokes.

Make sure that any engine, be it a 2-stroke, 4-stroke, I/O or inboards are tuned up.  The smoother they run, the better the efficiency.  What that means is that you should change your water filters, engine oil, and lower unit oil on a regular basis – more frequently if you’re putting lots of hours on your machine.

Smooth hulls move through the water with greater ease, and there are a number of different ways to streamline your ride.  Hulls should be thoroughly scraped and painted so they glide through the water with a minimal of drag.  Bent props, for instance, should be straightened or replaced.  Trim tabs help flatten out the ride.  And saltwater boaters do well to work with the tides and the wind.  Bucking a headwind and a strong current burns gas but might not move a boat very far. 

Reduce your weight.  Remove any extra gear that you’re not using.  Not only does it add clutter but it adds weight.  That goes for water in the bilge or in storage, too.  Water weights about 8 pounds, so make sure that you’re running as dry as you can be.

Finally, the lowest gas prices are on land.  Periodically hauling boats from a slip and filling them up at the pump is an easy way to save money.  Or if appropriate, consider refilling with a portable gas pump.  Some carry up to 25 gallons of gas (about 200 pounds); if you can bring your boat to the savings, then bring the savings to your boat.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at