Can You Put a Motor on a Canoe? | Enhance Your Canoeing Experience in 2023

Canoeing is the best way to enjoy the beauty of nature while paddling through calm waters. However, many canoe enthusiasts wonder if it’s possible to add a motor to their canoe to make their adventures on the water more exciting or add another dimension to their paddling.

A common question we get asked is Can You Put a Motor on a Canoe? The answer is yes, you can put a motor on a canoe. However, there are some important factors to consider before doing so. First and foremost, it’s essential to ensure that the canoe can handle the weight of the motor and the added speed that comes with it. If you don’t have a transom on your canoe then you need to have a special canoe motor mount. Finally, you may need to obtain proper permits or licenses to operate a motorized canoe in certain bodies of water.

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What Types of Motors Can Be Attached to a Canoe?

Electric trolling motors

Electric trolling motors are popular choices for canoeists because they are lightweight, quiet, and environmentally friendly. These motors are typically powered by a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery and provide adequate propulsion for fishing or leisurely cruising on calm water. Electric trolling motors are ideal for canoes and are most often the best choice for most applications.

Gas-powered outboard motors

Gas-powered outboard motors are more powerful than electric trolling motors, making them suitable for larger bodies of water or if you need to travel longer distances. These engines can be 2-stroke or 4-stroke, but 4-stroke engines are generally quieter, more fuel-efficient, and environmentally friendly. It’s important to note here that you can’t just glom on ANY big ole outboard motor to your canoe. It needs to be small and light weight.

Propane-powered outboard motors

Propane-powered motors are an alternative to gas-powered engines, offering many of the same benefits, such as increased power and range. They are generally cleaner burning, producing fewer emissions, and can be more convenient to refuel, as propane tanks are often easier to find than gasoline in remote areas.

When choosing a motor for your canoe, consider factors such as weight, power, noise level, ease of use, budget and your personal water based goals Most importantly, make sure your canoe is rated to handle the weight and power of the motor you choose.

Adding a motor to a canoe can make it easier to travel longer distances, fish ALL DAY LONG or navigate against the current, but it’s important to keep safety in mind. Always wear a life jacket and follow all boating regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

If you don’t already have a transom on your canoe you will also need a suitable motor mount, which can be purchased or custom-built to fit your canoe if you’re handy. Remember that using a motor on a canoe may require registration or permits, depending on local laws and regulations. Some lakes for instance are “no motor boat” lakes…so the addition of a motor may not be allowed on your favorite lake.

How Do You Make A DIY Canoe Motor Mount?

It’s kind of hard to describe how to DIY and mount a trolling motor to your canoe so you might want to watch this video about the process of mounting a trolling motor. Some canoe’s have a built in transom that makes adding a trolling motor really easy. If you don’t have a transom on your canoe you can DIY a trolling motor mount for just about any canoe. This requires power tools and a DIY spirit. If you don’t feel like that’s your jam you can purchase special canoe motor mount pretty inexpensively.

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Can I Mount a Motor on a Canoe?

Sure! You can mount a motor on a canoe yourself, but there are a few things you need to take into consideration before you do.

  • Make sure the weight of the motor is evenly distributed on the canoe so that it doesn’t tip.
  • Be mindful of how you attach the motor to the canoe. Make sure it is secure and won’t come loose while you’re paddling.
  • When mounting be mindful of the canoe materials. It can be easy to crack or crush the canoe via the pressure or weight of a motor mount and the motor.
  • Consider where you will be mounting the motor. It should be in a spot that won’t interfere with your paddling or cause the canoe to become unbalanced.
  • If you are unsure about DIYing your canoe mount you may want to purchase an inexpensive motor mount.

Can You Put an Outboard Motor on a Canoe?

It is possible to put an outboard on a canoe, but generally speaking, it is not recommended to just glom on any ole’ outboard motor. Canoes are usually not designed to accommodate the shear weight of an outboard motor and doing so can cause instability and other problems. The additional weight of an outboard motor can make a canoe difficult to paddle. Before you think about using an outboard motor keep the following in mind:

Canoe construction and design

Ensure that your canoe is structurally sound and can handle the additional weight and forces generated by an outboard motor. Some canoes are better suited for motorization than others, and it’s essential to know the weight capacity and design limitations of your canoe.

Motor size and weight

Choose an appropriate motor for your canoe, considering factors such as the motor’s size, weight, and power output. A small, lightweight outboard motor is usually recommended for canoes, as larger or heavier motors may cause instability or strain on the canoe’s structure.

Motor mount

You’ll need a sturdy motor mount to attach the outboard motor to your canoe. There are commercially available motor mounts designed specifically for canoes, or you can build a custom mount if you have the necessary skills and materials. The mount should be installed at the stern (rear) of the canoe, where it will provide the best stability and control.

Balance and stability

Attaching an outboard motor to a canoe will affect its balance and stability. Be prepared to adjust your gear and seating position to counterbalance the motor’s weight and maintain stability. You may also need to install additional stabilizers or outriggers to improve stability, especially if your canoe is narrow or tippy.

Local laws and regulations

Some jurisdictions have rules and regulations regarding motorized canoes, such as registration, permits, or horsepower limitations. Be sure to check with your local authorities to ensure you comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

If you do decide to put an outboard on your canoe, be sure to take extra care when attaching it and be prepared for a slower, heavier vessel.

How Do You Fit an Electric Motor to a Canoe?

Mounting and connecting an electric trolling motor to a canoe involves several steps. Here’s a general guide to help you through the process:

Select an Electric Motor

Select an electric trolling motor that is suitable for your canoe in terms of size, power, and weight. Make sure the motor shaft is long enough to submerge the propeller adequately while mounted on your canoe.

We recommend the Newport Vessels NV-Series 55lb Thrust Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/ LED Battery Indicator & 30″ Shaft as it is durable and specifically designed for saltwater use.

Select A Motor Mount

You’ll need a motor mount to attach the trolling motor to your canoe. Motor mounts can be purchased commercially or built as a DIY project if you’re the handy type. Many motor mounts clamp onto the gunwales (side edges) of the canoe and are adjustable to fit various canoe widths.

Mount the Trolling Motor

Attach the trolling motor to the motor mount according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, this involves tightening screw clamps or screws to secure the motor to the mount. The motor is typically mounted on the stern (rear) of the canoe for better control and stability.

Install the Marine Battery

Place a deep-cycle marine battery in a secure, dry location in the canoe, preferably near the motor to minimize the length of the electrical connections. Using a battery box can help protect the battery and make it easier to secure in the canoe. Be mindful of weight distribution and balance when positioning the battery.

Install the Marine Battery

Connect the motor to the battery: Using the appropriate battery cables, connect the trolling motor to the battery. Make sure to connect the positive (+) terminal of the motor to the positive terminal of the battery and the negative (-) terminal of the motor to the negative terminal of the battery. It is recommended to use inline fuses or circuit breakers to protect the motor and battery from electrical issues.

Test the Motor

With the motor connected to the battery and the propeller submerged in water, turn on the trolling motor and test it at various speeds to ensure it is functioning correctly and providing adequate thrust.

Adjust for Balance

Ensure that the weight of the motor, battery, and other gear is evenly distributed throughout the canoe to maintain stability. Adjust your seating position and gear as necessary to balance the overall canoe.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety precautions when installing and operating an electric trolling motor on your canoe.

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How Big of a Motor Can You Put on a Canoe?

The size of the motor you can put on a canoe depends on several factors, including the canoe’s size, design, weight capacity, and stability. As a general rule, smaller, lightweight motors are recommended for canoes to maintain stability and prevent overloading the canoe’s structure.

For most canoes, an electric trolling motor in the range of 30 to 55 pounds of thrust (equivalent to approximately 0.5 to 1.5 horsepower) is suitable. Electric trolling motors are popular for canoes because they are lightweight, quiet, and easy to handle.

If you are considering a gas-powered outboard motor, it’s crucial to choose one that is appropriate for your canoe. Typically, a small outboard motor between 2 to 5 horsepower is sufficient for most canoes. However, it is essential to consult your canoe’s manufacturer guidelines and weight capacity limits to determine the maximum motor size your canoe can safely accommodate.

Remember that adding a motor to a canoe can affect its balance and stability. When installing a motor, be mindful of weight distribution and consider making adjustments to your gear and seating position to maintain stability.

Before installing a motor on your canoe, check local laws and regulations, as some jurisdictions may have horsepower limitations or registration requirements for motorized canoes. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety precautions when installing and operating a motor on your canoe.

There are many different sizes and types of motors available on the market today. It is important to read reviews and compare products before making your final purchase. With so many options available, you are sure to find the perfect motor for your needs!

Read Also: Expert Answer About How Long Can a Life Jacket Keep You Afloat?

Final Thoughts

Canoes are traditionally easy going, relaxing and peaceful modes of enjoyment on the water BUT attaching can take your canoe to another level! Rivers, streams and swifter bodies of waters are now within reach!

There are some potential drawbacks that you should be aware of before you decide to put a motor on your canoe. The added weight of the motor and/or battery/fuel may make the canoe much heavier and more difficult to paddle and maneuver when the motor isn’t in use.


Lisa lives on Clear Lake in Northern CA where she enjoys stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and zipping around with her husband Brian on his alumaweld fishing boat. Clear Lake is the largest fresh water lake in CA and hosts world class bass fishing tournaments throughout the season. It's a water lovers paradise, which inspires everyday!

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