Can you Exceed the HP Rating on a Boat? (Detailed Answer)

There’s an ongoing trend of using multiple engines on a boat. And we humans are attracted to following trends. 

Getting your boat to run faster with more horsepower or HP is indeed a fascinating idea. And as a matter of fact, the most asked question on boating forums now is – can you exceed the HP rating on the boat?

The direct answer would be “yes,” but it’s a huge risk you’d take. We say that because, technically, it can be done. But it’s not certified under Federal laws, and you’ll lose insurance. Overpowering can also seriously damage your boat’s body parts, overthrowing the weight capacity. 

Regardless, a lot of owners aren’t even aware of their boat’s maximum HP rate if you’re thinking of improving the HP rate, that’s the first thing you need to know.

Let’s get into it! 

What Is The Maximum HP For Your Boat?

Every boat is manufactured keeping a certain Horsepower or HP limit set. As a boat owner, it’s crucial to be informed of the maximum HP limit of the boat. So, where would we find the information? 

Let’s learn about it from the following ways of finding out the maximum HP limit! 

Capacity Plate

Almost all the boats built in the US after 1972 have a capacity plate certified by National Marine Manufacturers Association. The plate holds all the necessary information regarding your boat.

Manufacturing place, weight, and passenger capacity, and the maximum horsepower capacity can be easily found out from here. In general, you should be able to quickly locate the plate on the transom or near the operator’s space.

If your boat is under 20 feet lengthwise, you’ll find the capacity plate in the helm or steering area. The maximum HP rate listed on the plate is based on how much the boat’s design can handle. 

By chance, if you don’t find this plate, you can always look for it in the owner’s manual. Contacting the boat’s manufacturer should give away the answer too! 

Calculating Horsepower Limit 

There’s an interesting method to find out the horsepower limit your boat can undertake. It requires a set of simple mathematical operations depending on your boat shape and design.

What you need to do is simply find out the boat’s factor at first. The factor is just the product of multiplying the value of length and width of the boat in feet. 

That is Boat length (ft) X Transom Width (ft) = Factor

For example- if your boat has a length of 12 feet and the width of the transom is 4 feet, your factor would be 48. 

Based on your factor, the maximum HP rate can be found in Table 183.53 of the Code of Federal Regulations

From the table, you’ll find that there’s a definite HP capacity value given for small boats or boats under factor 52.

But for boats over the factor magnitude of 52.5, an additional calculation step is required, but it’s nothing complicated. 

In this case, the transom height is also counted. 

We now know how to be sure of the maximum HP capacity of our boats. But what if one wants to increase the power rating? Would that be a possibility?

Read along to find out if that’ll be a good decision or not! 

Can You Exceed The HP Rating On a Boat?

The HP rating on your boat can undoubtedly be exceeded. But just because there is a possibility to increase the engine power doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harmless.

Furthermore, overpowering can cause more damage than good. 

Even though re-powering or increasing the HP rate isn’t recommended at all, a lot of boat owners go for doing it anyway.

We believe it’s important to stay informed on how the HP rate is set. Doing so can make us realize how crucial maintaining that capacity is. 

The HP rating on your boat isn’t just set randomly. A lot of tests go under to fix the most accurate rating that’ll ensure a safe drive. 

Here are the following criteria that must be met to ascertain an HP limit on our boat:

Set By National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

Every boat is constructed in a specific way by each manufacturer. And all of them must abide by certain rules and regulations. 

Experts and Naval Architects design the boats in a way that’ll guarantee top-end performance maintain the center of gravity, and keep the boat afloat and secured according to several passengers. The hull, transform, steering each and everything if the boat is put into account. 

The maximum weight and speed capacity are stabilized after running several performance tests. Manufactures then have to re-check and abide by the rules formed by NMMA. 

If it’s all into the mark and certified by them, only then can they move forward with setting the HP capacity value.

But it does not end here; next comes the round of federal laws. 

Following the Federal Government Regulations

The Federal Government had in-detail regulations for almost every issue. The HP calculating method we mentioned earlier has been developed by them as well. 

Manufacturers won’t be able to take in any extra step which isn’t under their requirement. So being approved by the NMMA isn’t enough; the Federal Laws and rules presented by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), have to align with the end decision as well. 

And after going through all these procedures, the manufacture will be permitted to include the finalized HP on the boat’s capacity plate and manual. 

We can certainly say that the amount of effort put into selecting the maximum HP rate shows how important sticking by this value is. And you guessed it right, not abiding by it does mean big trouble.

Most commonly, people try to increase the HP rating is by adding an extra outboard engine or modifying an engine. Sometimes a supercharger is used along with the engine for added power.

The more the power is on our boat engine, the heavier it’ll be. That’s just simply how it’s designed.

So when you’re trying to overpower, you’re also going beyond the boat’s weight capacity. But you must keep in mind that your boat won’t be able to adapt well to your sudden modification. 

As mentioned above, the design of your boat is maintained depending on the weight and power ratio. 

There are ways to exceed the HP rating. A lot of boat owners adopt these methods. But nearly none of them are in the best interest of your boat or you. 

But how bad are the consequences if one does take the route for increasing the HP value?

Let’s find out! 

Is It Legal To Overpower a Boat?

Our previous discussions on how the HP rate is set will prove that it’s indeed illegal to overpower a boat. In the definition of overpowering, you’re crossing the HP boundary set by experts and officials. 

Here’s how overpowering can be considered a crime- 

Violation of Federal Laws

Federal Regulations regarding outboard motor horsepower capacity are stated in 33 CFR § 183.53- Horsepower Capacity

Overpowering directly translates to going against these rules. 

Hence, it’s counted as a criminal offense in almost all states. So before you go for exceeding HP, make sure to check out your state or local laws. 

Breaching Coast Guard Guidelines

Along with the Federal laws, Coast Guard Guidelines also require your boat to run on its specific HP rating. 

Even if your state allows overpowering in some cases, you’d most probably get a lawsuit if any accident or damage occurs following the modification. 

Except for such legal issues, are there any other bad outcomes? 

What Happens If You Exceed The HP Rating on Your Boat?

The regretful events after overpowering do not end with Federal laws and guidelines. You can end up risking the life of your loved ones and yourself, resulting from overpowering issues.

Here are the most prevalent problems you’ll face here- 

The Weight Threat

According to experts, the major issue with overpowering isn’t with increased speed. It’s with how much the weight increased with added multiple engines.

The boat’s weight capacity is fixed for a reason; passing over that limit means you’re overburdening your boat. 

Extra weight will shift its center of gravity and ruin the floating mechanism. 

Self-draining cockpits won’t work under heavyweight. Water will enter through the slumped transom, and you’ll have a messy, wet cockpit. 

Your boat is designed to turn over during accidents and stay afloat so passengers can hold onto it. With additional weight, it won’t be able to do so.

Extra Pressure and Stress on Boat Body 

The boat body, its hull, and transom are structured in a way that’ll act right with the HP limit.

Increasing this rate means, your boat would have to work a lot of times harder. This extra pressure will make the machines on your to wear out faster. There can be even visible damages that’ll require costly repairs. 

Hampering Position and Control 

An overpowered boat is tough to control, and hence accidents rates are higher with such boats. 

Your boat will stoop low towards the stern if there’s an oversized engine. This will make the boat vulnerable to being swamped. 

Insurance Issues 

If any unfortunate event occurs, insurance companies will investigate if you have engines and HP rates not certified by manufacturers. 

In that case, with an overpowered engine, your insurance won’t be covered. 


Can I enhance engine performance without overpowering? 

Absolutely! And it’s much more convenient and safe than overpowering. Using a jack shift for engines, getting a new prop, replacing an aluminum propeller with a steel one, etc. are the most common methods taken to retain top performance. 

Is there a way to calculate the weight of the boat?

There are roadside weigh stations and travel lifts where you can easily weigh your boat. Keep in mind that you must add the extra weight of the number of passengers, fuel, and gears you normally carry while weighing a boat. 

What do I do if I lose the capacity plate?

If you want to remake a capacity plate, the first step here would be to contact your manufacturer. They can guide you and help you get one issued from the Boat Commission or similar organizations. It might cost a few bucks to get a new one made. 


The consequences that come with overpowering boats prove that the bigger way is not always the better option. Boats are required to follow the utmost safety protocol. 

If you need a speedy boat, just get one that is manufactured with a higher HP rate. Adding more weight to your current boat will only bring misery. 

So next time someone asks – can you exceed the HP rating on a boat? You know what to answer!

We hope this article helped you prioritize your safety over speedy performance. Happy boating!

Related Posts:

Similar Posts