How to Choose the Right Fuel for Your Boat

July 12, 2016 - 9:30 AM by Samantha Pudney


When it comes to powering a boat of any size, boat owners turn to either petrol, diesel or a hybrid option in order to power their vessels, but which one is right for yours? How can you tell that petrol is going to do more for you than diesel or vise versa? What hybrid fuel options are available to you?

Whether you use your boat for business or enjoyment, the right kind of fuel can help you get the most out of your engine, helping it last longer and perform more efficiently. Take a look at these types of boats and check out the right fuel for your boat.

Determine the type of engine on your boat

Depending on the type of boat engine you have, you may want to chose a certain fuel based on it. for example:

Inboard: These types of engines are found on the boat and out of the water. You can purchase diesel and petrol engines, but if your boat is larger than 35 feet, you will probably need a diesel engine.

Outboard: Outboard motors have traditionally used petrol only for fuel.

I/O or stern drives: These engines are usually considered to be the more fuel efficient option overall. You can purchase a diesel or a petrol engine for your boat. Again, a boat 35 feet or longer should use a diesel engine.

Decide how much you’ll use your boat year round

Not all boats are used at the same number of hours year round. Some people like to enjoy their pleasure boats in the summer, while others are out all year round on their shipping vessels.

How much you use your boat throughout the course of the year may be a big factor in determining the best types of fuel to use. It’s a well-known fact that petrol eats up roughly 35 percent more fuel at a cruising speed than diesel, but if you’re using a private boat for less than 100 hours per year (as many owners do), then petrol might still be a good option.

One of the biggest drawbacks with diesel fuel is that it causes the engine to rattle and make much more noise than petrol. This can be especially disturbing when you’re trying to have a conversation onboard with your friends and family members. This doesn’t mean you should rule out diesel fuel, but it is something you should consider.


Determine how much weight will be onboard or pulled

As mentioned, petrol will be consumed by your boat’s engine at a much faster rate, especially if the boat has to work harder to move a heavy load across a large distance, as many commercial boats are used to doing.

Another reason to choose diesel over petrol is that petrol stations are not as common for boats as diesel stations, and if you’re travelling at a long distance, then you need to be sure you are near a fuel station at all times. Commercial boats need power, and they’ll need to fill up often.

If you’re planning a long trip on any type of vessel, diesel may be your better option. However, if you know you have a petrol station nearby and you don’t take your boat very far from home, then petrol may be the better option. Again, it’s quieter to run and cheaper in the long run if you use your boat for less than 100 hours per season.

Tips for Engine Maintenance

The better shape your engine is in, the better your engine will be able to make the most out of whatever fuel you’re using. Whether you’re using petrol, diesel or a hybrid, there are certain things you can do to help your engine stay in tip-top shape.

Check out these tips:

  • Inspect the engine regularly: Dirt and grime clog engines quickly. Reduce the chance of dirt getting into the engine by keeping it clean. Before taking any trips, even short ones, inspect the engine to ensure that it’s working well. Inspect gaskets, water pumps and other pieces as needed.
  • Change oil every 100 hours of use: Regardless of whether you use an inboard, outboard or a stern drive boat, you need to change your oil, just like a car. No two models are identical, so check with the manufacturer of your engine to determine how often you should change your oil. If you’re not sure, change it every 100 hours of use to play it safe.
  • Inspect your propeller: A fishing line or sea kelp caught around a propeller can slow it down or even break it. Before you set off, always check your propeller. When you’re stopped at another dock or turning off the engine at another point, check the propeller again.

With the right fuel and proper maintenance, your boat will be reliable for many years to come. Before purchasing a boat or any type of engine, make sure you do your research. Keep notes and develop a routine checklist for yourself to ensure that you are always aware of how your boat is functioning throughout the year.