Without a doubt, Minn Kota and Motorguide dominate the trolling motor market.
Yes, Rhodan and Newport Vessels are viable competitors, and Lowrance’s Ghost and Garmin’s Force offer enviable tech and amazing performance. But there’s no questioning the hold that Minn Kota and Motorguide have on the trolling motor market, and the vast majority of anglers are running one of the two.
Both Minn Kota and Motorguide offer fresh- and saltwater trolling motors in a variety of shaft lengths and thrust outputs.
As you can guess, people want to know which is better: MK or MG?
We’re going to pit these two manufacturers head-to-head, and since we’re not sponsored by either company, we’ll offer a fair, no-holds-barred battle.
Keep reading to find out who wins!
Table of Contents (clickable)
Minn Kota vs. Motorguide
The powerful Motorguide Xi5 can handle the roughest seas you want to fish.
Performance and Features
Neither of these two companies has a monopoly on performance.
Each offers motors in a variety of thrust ratings, shaft lengths, and bow- or transom mounts, though true apples to apples comparisons can be tough because of individual specs and features.
That said, the “Big Ms” have staked out slightly different territory, with Minn Kota focusing more on cutting edge tech and Motorguide preferring to keep things simple.
That doesn’t make one better than the other, but Minn Kota generally offers more impressive high-end tech.
Minn Kota offers trolling motors at various levels of tech, from the Ultrex, Riptide Terrova, and Riptide Ulterra on the high end, to the stripped-down Maxxum and Riptide Maxxum on the low end.
Unless you’re new to the water, you’ll know that one of the major selling points of Minn Kota is its tech. Features like i-Pilot that allow you to control your trolling motor from your Humminbird fish finder, Spot-Lock and Jog that enable you to hold your position effortlessly, and Autopilot that makes following a preset heading a no-hands (or feet) affair have placed Minn Kota at the head of the pack.
They even offer smartphone connectivity through i-Pilot Link that allow you to use your mobile to control your trolling motor!
Minn Kota’s remote reflects their commitment to high tech.
The Ultrex, Riptide Terrova, and Riptide Ulterra are very hard to beat for the high-tech wizardry they offer, and there’s simply no question that these features can be game changing.
And on models like the Riptide Ulterra that are equipped with auto stow and deploy, there’s no more struggling to lift or deploy a heavy motor. For lots of anglers, that’s nothing short of a miracle.
In the salt, Motorguide’s high-end trolling motor is the Xi5. Offering an excellent electronic anchor called “pinpoint GPS,” it outperformed the older Terrova models when trying to hold a bat’s position in current and/or wind. The Xi5 was quieter than the Terrovas of old, too.
That gap has been closed by newer version of the Terrova, and updates to the software of Minn Kota’s high-end motors have brought spot lock precision up to par with the Xi5.
Motorguide’s trolling motors are always compatible with Lowrance’s awesome line-up of fish finders, and control through your fish finder is enabled on the Xi5.
But - and this is a big but - Motorguide stuck to a clunky remote system. And while the Xi5 has navigation features that sync with your fish finder, they lag behind what Minn Kota offers in terms of ease of use and a simple, intuitive user interface.
Motorguide’s remote is pretty basic tech.
In freshwater, Motorguide’s flagship is the Tour Pro. It features the same tech as the Xi5, adding universal fish finder compatibility so that you're not locked into Lowrance.
On their own merits, these Motorguides are pretty good trolling motors, but when compared directly to the Minn Kotas, they’re just not as teched-up.
The Verdict: Minn Kota offers higher tech than Motorguide, including options like auto stow and deploy.
While both companies offer great products, there are known issues with some of the Minn Kota line-up.
You’e probably heard of the K.I.S.S. maxim, “Keep it simple, stupid.”
Great complexity creates more opportunity for failure, and that’s certainly true for Minn Kota’s flagship Riptide Ulterra and Ultrex.
When these units are functioning flawlessly, they leave Motorguide’s Xi5 well behind, but reliability is a known issue with both of these motors.
Pretty much anything that can fail has, from the auto stow, to the trim motor, to the spot lock and remote control features. Bad motherboards and cheap components seem to be the culprit for these problems, and while some users report lawless performance, that’s pretty rare.
This has driven many Minn Kota fans to the Riptide Terrova, Terrova, and Fortrex models, as reliability with these motors is excellent.
The good news is that Minn Kota’s customer service is the best in the business, hands down. So if you do have a problem, they’re going to work hard to make it right.
To be scrupulously fair, Motorguide’s Tour Pro and Xi5 have problems, as well, but not at the same rate as the high-end Minn Kotas.
That’s just a reality of technical complexity and Murphy’s law: with more that can go wrong, more will go wrong. And overall, Motorguide’s flagship models are a bit more reliable than Minn Kota’s because they offer less cutting-edge tech.
At the low end, Motorguide’s trusted X3, R3, and R5 are solid workhorses that offer reliable day-in, day-out performance. They may be relatively simple, but they rarely fail.
The Verdict: Motorguide offers better reliability on the high-end than Minn Kota, probably because the Xi5 and Tour Pro don’t offer options like auto stow and deploy, as well as advanced networking options.
Minn Kota’s Riptide Terrova, Terrova, Fortrex, and C2 are very reliable, however, as are Motoguide’s less tech-heavy trolling motors like the X3, R3, and R5.
As you’d imagine, these fierce rivals try to keep pricing neck and neck.
They largely succeed, with comparable tech being offered at a very similar price point.
Overall, Minn Kota’s motors are slightly more expensive, but that probably shouldn’t be the deciding factor if you’re choosing between the two.
The Verdict: Minn Kota and Motorguide are pretty close in price for similar tech.
Overview: There’s No Clear Winner
Minn Kota and Motorguide offer great trolling motors, but they’ve really staked out different parts of the market.
Minn Kota has doubled down on tech, offering more high-end features than Motorguide provides at any price. On the other hand, Motorguide builds motors that skip the bells and whistles, offering more options for simple, reliable power than Minn Kota.
Reliability is an issue for both companies when we review cutting-edge tech, but Motorguide probably has the edge here. But both offer reliable, affordable lower-tech options that run like a charm.
Finally, the price difference between roughly comparable Minn Kota and Motorguide models isn’t enough to justify that being your sole concern if you’re choosing between the two.
Instead, whether you already own Humminbird or Lowrance electronics is a much bigger deal, as most of the Minn Kota’s lock you into the ‘bird, and only a few Motorguides don’t demand a Lowrance.
If our analysis explains anything, it’s why Minn Kota and Motorguide both have their fans and their detractors.
Anglers who’ve purchased an Ulterra or Xi5, only to find that it is nothing but an expensive problem, may swear off Minn Kota or Motorguide, switching sides and stepping down in tech to a very reliable mid-range option. But almost everyone who has one of the reliable Minn Kotas or Motorguides love it, and even the Ulterra and Xi5 are extremely popular with legions of anglers.
If you can’t live without the latest tech, Minn Kota is the way to go - especially if you already own a Humminbird fish finder. If not, and you’re fishing in freshwater, look for a model that offers universal sonar like the Terrova or Ultrex.
But if you want simple reliability, an inexpensive Motorguide model like the X3 is very hard to beat.