Minn Kota vs. MotorGuidePublished June 2, 2011 by Andrew Youderian
Minn Kota or MotorGuide? It’s a question that has spawned passionate discussions among anglers and is reminiscent of other age-old brand wars such as the Ford vs. Chevy and PC vs. Mac debates.
Everyone’s personal experience will undoubtedly contribute to their opinion, but if you stepped back to look at the two brands objectively, could you determine a clear winner?
We are going to tackle this issue head-on to try to determine if one company really is the best. In our quest to crown a trolling motor king we will examine four key metrics: motor quality, value, features and support.
Quality is immensely important. If your trolling motor dies in the middle of a fishing tournament, it really doesn’t matter how good of a deal it was, or how many bells and whistles it has. A trolling motor, first and foremost, needs to hold up to the use and abuse of today’s fishing.
The good news is that while there are minor difference in quality between various models, both companies produce well-built, quality trolling motors that you can feel comfortable purchasing. This is not to say that both companies don’t product lemons; like most large-scale manufacturing operations, there will be the occasional motor that doesn’t run and will result in horror stories being told and spread by it’s owner.
For the most part, however, you can count on a motor from either Minn Kota or MotorGuide to be a quality product that was manufactured here in the United States.
Motor Quality Winner:
Value is another important consideration when picking a trolling motor. Anyone can spend $2,000 and get an outstanding motor, but those of use with finite resources (and other fishing items on the ‘to-buy’ list), we like to get the most for our money.
When looking at which brand provides the most bang-for-the-buck, MotorGuide has a slight edge over Minn Kota.
When you look at the most important motor rating – thrust – MotorGuide is consistently more affordable than Minn Kota motors with similar specs. For small variable speed transom mount motors, MotorGuide’s VariMax line is generally about $50 less than a comparable Minn Kota Traxxis with the same specs.
When comparing upper-end wireless models, MotorGuide’s Wireless Series is $50 to $75 cheaper than a comparable PowerDrive motor with Minn Kota CoPilot and offers a more desirable wireless foot pedal and more power.
The same can be said for the top-of-the-line motor offerings from both companies. MotorGuide’s heavy-duty Tour Series motors are about $100 less than Minn Kota’s comparable Fortrex motors.
While MotorGuide does generally offer more value for the dollar, there are a few caveats to note. For entry-level bow mount motors, Minn Kota’s Edge series is a more compelling choice than the MotorGuide Freshwater line. Also, the warranty lengths are something that need to be considered. All Minn Kota motors have a two-year warranty, while MotorGuide warranties range from one year (for lower-end motors) to three years (for the upper-end models). Minn Kota has the advantage on entry level unit warranties while MotorGuide offers more protection for its expensive motors.
At the end of the day, if you want to get the most thrust for your money, MotorGuide will be your best best and usually offers a little more value for the dollar.
The days of simple trolling motors are long gone with current models sporting features ranging from built-in transducers to GPS controlled motors! When it comes to features and advanced technology, Minn Kota has a huge upper-hand over MotorGuide.
The most notable advantage held by Minn Kota is in the area of AutoPilot. AutoPilot functionality uses a built-in motor compass to maintain a straight heading, which allows anglers to maintain a constant course without constant monitoring or steering. Minn Kota offers both standard, basic AutoPilot as previously described as well as GPS powered Minn Kota i Pilot.
i-Pilot was introduced only recently, but has become a very popular and talked about feature on Minn Kota motors. Making use of GPS technology, i-Pilot offers a host of features allowing for automated GPS boat control, route re-tracing, wireless control and electronic anchoring.
MotorGuide, on the other hand, has no AutoPilot equipped motors in their entire line – it’s not even an option. So if AutoPilot or GPS technology is something you want, Minn Kota is the only game in town.
Other Motor Features
Even excluding AutoPilot technology, the Minn Kota line has many more features and add-ons than comparable MotorGuide motors. One hand stow, shock-absorbing Bow Guard and hydraulic life assist are all features unique to Minn Kota and without a counterpart on similar MotorGuide motors.
All Minn Kota motors also feature a strong, composite shaft which is guaranteed for life – something that is only found on only a few MotorGuide motors, and without the lifetime guarantee. Minn Kota is also the only company to offer Engine Mount motors.
One feature area MotorGuide has an advantage is in prop selection and replacement. If you’ve ever had to purchase a Minn Kota prop, you know it can be a confusing process. With multiple prop mounts and 5 different nut kits, it is necessary to refer to complicated charts to find the correct prop for your motor. And despite offering 8 different props, their are variations on 2-3 different plastic models.
MotorGuide, on the other hands, had the brilliant idea to standardize their lower shafts to 3.5″ so that almost all of their props fit on all their motors – no guessing or chart deciphering required. They also offer a larger prop selection making it easier to pick a prop for your specific trolling motor needs.
Unfortunately, MotorGuide’s trolling motor prop selection and convenient replacement is no match for the array of features found on Minn Kota motors. If you enjoy the convenience and comforts a well-equipped trolling motor provides, you’ll definitely be looking for a Minn Kota.
After-the-sale support is an important factor to consider when comparing the two brands. Like all items that are used on a frequent basis, especially outdoors and in water, there’s a good chance a motor will need some type of service during the course of its life. Knowing you have a service center close by can provide peace-of-mind, get you back on the water faster and prevent you from having to drive hours for repair work.
Both Minn Kota and MotorGuide have authorized service centers across the country where you can take a motor for warranty service. In order to determine which company had the most extensive service network, we broke the country into three regions – North, South West & South East – and randomly selected a number of cities in each region. Using each companies’ website, we then did a search to see how many service locations were available in the region.
Here’s what we found:
North – While MotorGuide has a very small edge, the number of available service centers between the two companies are very similar in the Northern United States. If you live in this region, there isn’t enough of a difference to sway you toward one company or the other.
Southwest & South – In the Southwest U.S., MotorGuide had approximately 2.5 times as many service locations as Minn Kota. The results were very similar in the South, with nearly 3 times as many MotorGuide service centers as Minn Kota.
The results were really surprising. Minn Kota is a larger company than MotorGuide, and we assumed the Minn Kota service network would represent this. It appears MotorGuide has done a fantastic job of establishing a service network for its customers, especially in the South and Southwest. If you’re in one of these regions, you’ll definitely want to keep this in mind.
A Company’s phone support is another important aspect of their customer support. While this is harder to quantify and measure, our experience with numerous customers as well as the manufacturers causes us to award the edge to Minn Kota.
Minn Kota’s phone support is outstanding. In the event a motor has a broken or missing piece, Minn Kota will almost always ship the piece directly to the customer at no charge. Additionally, their phone techs really know the product line and are always very helpful in resolving problems. Minn Kota is well known for resolving problems quickly, professionally and often at no cost to the customer.
We haven’t had as much experience with MotorGuide phone support, and as such, can’t offer a strong opinion on the quality they offer. However, we recently contacted MotorGuide on behalf of a customer because their new motor had arrived with a small broken piece. We asked if it would be possible to ship a replacement directly to the customer, and while they were polite, they were unwilling or unable to do so. Not terrible service by any means, but definitely not the level of outstanding service we’ve experienced with a damaged or defective Minn Kota trolling motor.
So which Company offers better support? With MotorGuide’s more extensive service network and Minn Kota’s famous phone support, I don’t think it’s possible to come to a conclusive decision.
To summarize, here are the results of our four categories:
With two draws and one win apiece for Minn Kota and MotorGuide, it appears we’re no closer to crowning a trolling motor king than when we started! That is because, ultimately, selecting a motor is really a personal exercise in deciding what is important to you and what you need. Both companies offer lines with very unique strengths, and it’s impossible to settle on an overall champion.
In the end, leaving the issue unsettled is probably a good thing. Like all famous brand wars, the debate itself is something we enjoy. We love being able to argue passionately with friends about why our motor is superior to theirs – it is often as much about good-natured taunting as it is about the product itself. If nothing else, you know have a little more ammunition for your next trolling motor debate which, if you’re honest with yourself, you know you secretly love.
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