A jack plate is an excellent addition to your boat. It is one of those tools that once you have it installed you will wonder how you ever got by without it.
There is of course a number of options available when buying a jack plate. From the well known Atlas jack plate, to lesser known brands, there is also the question of whether you opt for a manual or hydraulic model.
To help you we have pulled together this comprehensive buyer’s guide. We have also reviewed 5 quality jack plates to bring you our opinion on the best currently available.
For our findings at glance just head to the table below. For an in depth review of each product, keep on reading.
Best Jack Plate – Top 5
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Jack Plate Buyer’s Guide
The different styles of jack plate
Before we jump into the reviews section of this article to bring you the low down on what jack plate to buy (or not to buy as the case may be), we should briefly look at the different types of plate available, how they work and the benefits of owning one.
The Hydraulic Jack Plate
The most popular form of jack plate is the hydraulic powered one. The jack plate is a simple add on bracket that allows your outboard engine trip to easily adjust up and down.
The plate uses hydraulic pressure to move position at the command of the operator. This saves the boat owner from having to lift and adjust the outboard manually.
Manual Jack Plates
As briefly covered above, the manual Jack Plate does exactly the same as the hydraulic plate (i.e moves the outboard motor up and down), however the adjustment has to be carried out manually.
The boat owner has to go through the rather cumbersome process of loosening nuts and bolts to change the mounting position, rather than utilise hydraulics.
On the plus side, the manual option is cheaper to buy and less bulky than the hydraulic alternative.
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How to decide which is the best option for you?
In situations where excess weight is an issue, and there is very little need to constantly adjust the height, (a light weight, purpose-built race boat for instance) a manual jack plate would likely fit the bill.
If you’re using a boat for recreational purposes, be it for bass fishing, water sports etc and you find yourself needing to change the position of the outboard regularly, the hydraulic jack plate is recommended
Benefits of installing a jack plate
One of the largest benefits of installing a jack plate is that it allows you to adjust the engine height to suit your conditions.
This simple ability offers some tangible benefits:
Shallow waters are no longer such a pain
There is no need to tilt the engine in order to accommodate the shallow depth areas.
With a jack plate you can raise the engine so that cavitation (air can be drawn from the surface onto the propeller blades) can be achieved.
This also makes covering extremely shallow areas of water possible. Without a jack plate the same areas would destroy the propeller and the bottom of your engine.
The same ability also allows you to get up on plane in shallower water.
Better fuel economy
Another great benefit of installing a jack plate (and using it the right way) is the fact you can increase the fuel efficiency of your vessel.
This is achieved by having the propeller position correctly in the water.
By adjusting the jack plate you can channel thrust directly parallel to the surface of the water.
This will propel you through the water with greater efficiency, thus saving on the amount of fuel used.
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Adjusting the position of your engine and propeller in the water can reduce the amount of drag that the equipment causes.
With a hydraulic jack plate you can very simply raise the engine height if and when the conditions allow for it.
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Hydraulic jack plate reviews
Currently, there are a wide range of jack plates on the market. With that in mind, we have decided to split our review section into two.
This first section contains 3 reviews covering what we believe to be the best hydraulic jack plates you can buy.
The second section takes a look at the more affordable manual jack plate.
And based on the above rating criteria, 5 of the best jack plates have been identified and chosen for review.
1. TOP PICK: T-H Marine AHJ6VDP – ATLAS™ Hydraulic Jack Plate
If you are looking for the best, reliable, efficient and versatile jack plate, then look no further, the ATLAS from T-H Marine is exactly what you need.
This hydraulic jack plate has been engineered to suit a range of needs, from the heaviest and powerful v6 engines to big four-stroke engines.
Among the notable features of this jack plate include a rod and slot lifting design, one-piece hydraulics and a new hydraulic pump.
Let’s take a closer look…
The jack plate boasts of a 6-inch setback and 5-inch stroke length with a height adjustment of 7-inches.
It has an efficient rod and slot lifting design that guarantees a smooth free lifting action courtesy of the high-grade polymer rods that provide 6 times more abrasion than normal steel.
These rods have been crafted from a special self-lubricating material making the jack plate easy to maintain.
The ATLAS is purely hydraulic. It has been equipped with a self-contained hydraulic pump kit with no reservoir or lines for installation.
Manufactured in the U.S.A, the hydraulic actuator enhances hydraulic action, from bottom to maximum lift in only 8 seconds.
When it comes to installation and maintenance, this jack plate doesn’t disappoint courtesy of the one-piece design.
The installation procedure is also very simple. On average, you require half the time to install this unit compared to similar jack plates.
The easy two-pin pump removal and self-lubricating rods also make maintenance very easy.
(i) One-piece design
(ii) 6-inch setback
(iii) 5-inch stroke length
(iv) 7-inch height adjustment
(v) Rod and slot lifting design
(vi) High-grade self-lubricating polymer rods
(vii) Self-contained hydraulic pump
(viii) U.S.A manufactured hydraulic actuator
(ix) Maximum lift in only 8 seconds
(x) Two-pin pump removal
(xi) Comes with drilled plates
(xii) Comes with a safety cable
The T-H Marine AHJ6VDP is a great jack plate considering it is hydraulic. It offers unsurpassed performance and is very easy to install.
The self-lubricating rods make this jack plate the best because you don’t need to be opening it for greasing. Even though there are cases of bolt freezing, it is still a great jack plate as its advantages completely overshadow its disadvantages.
Considering its lift ability, this hydraulic jack plate is just the best for the job and that is why it is considered the best jack plate in the market.
The Bob’s Machine 100106010 is a reliable jack plate in Bob’s Machine popular ‘Action Series’ Jack Plates. It is the first jack plate by this manufacturer to have a pump in the jack plate body giving it a compact size which is ideal in saving space.
This jack plate has been engineered to work with engines of up to 300 hp / 625 lbs. It also boasts the revolutionary Bob’s Machine Shop Design that makes it compact in size.
To achieve the best setback, this unit has a one-piece design so you don’t need setback spacers like common jack plates. The simple design also makes operation easy even for beginners.
When it comes to performance, the Bob’s Machine Action Series has powerful motors that have been optimized to lift even the heaviest of outboards under full power.
The pump has been incorporated in the jack plate to make it compact.
However, you can also choose to convert it and have the pump in the boat. For easy and smooth running, it has automotive grease nipples and tension rods for efficiency.
Installing the Bob’s Machine 100106010 Action Series Jack Plate is quite easy. This is because of the one-piece design and most importantly, the drilled plates for double side mounting on Power-Pole bracket mounts and other popular mounts.
Maintenance is also easy and it has a lifetime warranty on the body structure.
(i) 6-inch setback
(ii) In-plate pump
(iii) Large powerful motor
(iv) Rated for 300 hp / 625 lbs. motors
(v) One-piece Bob’s Machine Shop design
(vi) Automotive grease nipples
(vii) Tension rods
(viii) Comes with already drilled plates
The Bob’s Machine Shop offering is a good jack plate for those looking for a compact jack plate. It offers impressive setback and unrivaled performance.
Even though it scores low in terms of compatibility, it is still a good jack plate as long as you ensure it fits your boat’s outboard.
In a nutshell, it can be a great purchase if you want fuel efficiency and easy navigation especially in shallow waters.
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As the name suggest, the ATLAS Micro Jacker is a compact jack plate that is ideal for small boats and those who love speed.
At only 23 lbs, it is among the lightest jack plates in the market. It is specifically designed for for shallow waters and skiffs, aluminum boats and other flat boats with 75 hp or less.
Even though it is compact in size, its performance is impressive. Featuring a 4-inch setback, it comes with a Clamp-On Motor Adapter which allows users to mount small engines with clamp-on brackets without necessarily using bolts.
It has a small footprint measuring only 14-5/8” wide and 11-1/2” high. This makes it easy to mount even on small outboards.
Just like the T-H Marine AHJ6VDP – ATLAS™, this unit has a self contained hydraulic pump and an actuator that enhances the lift to maximum lift in only 8 seconds.
Crafted in a rod and slot lift design, it also has high-tech polymer rods made from self lubricating material thus you don’t need to grease them.
This jack plate comes with 3 mounting hole options on transom side and 2 on engine side for easy mounting. It is easy to maintain courtesy of the self-lubricating material and one-piece design.
(i) 4-inch setback
(ii) Rod and slot lifting design
(iii) High-grade self-lubricating polymer rods
(iv) Self-contained hydraulic pump
(v) Hydraulic actuator
(vi) Maximum lift in only 8 seconds
(vii) 2 Mounting options
(viii) Clamp-On Motor Adapter (optional, not included)
(ix) Ideal for 75 hp engines
The ATLAS Micro Jacker Jack Plate is a great jack plate for small boats. The best thing about this jack plate is its compact size that makes it ideal for small boats.
Even though it is small, it can still pull up in 8 seconds as long as it has been mounted on the right engine. It comes in hand mostly when maneuvering in shallow waters.
Even though it is only ideal for small engines, it is still the perfect purchase for those looking for a lightweight jack plate.
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Manual jack plate reviews
For those on a stricter budget, or feel that they will only occasionally need to adjust the position of their outboard motor, the manual jack plate may well be the most suitable option.
Let’s take a close look at two highly recommended manual jack plates.
The T-H Marine 65012 is also another great jack plate from T-H Marine. This jack plate is manual and has been designed to be compatible with the standard B.I.A. bolt pattern.
Unlike most jack plates, the T-H Marine CMC has its screws centrally placed for easy alignment. It has been crafted in a solid one-piece design using high quality 6061 T6 extruded aluminum alloy.
This particular model comes with a 5.5-inch setback and a 5-inch height adjustment. It has been crafted from high-grade 6061 T6 extruded aluminum alloy that makes it strong and sturdy.
Other notable features include a one-piece design and a centrally located adjustment screw for accurate alignment.
Unlike most jack plates, this unit comes with stainless steel fasteners that guarantee a tight grip for durability and easy installation.
It can smoothly lift V6 engines with ease and has been designed to fit B.I.A. bolt patterns. This jack plate works on manual powerlift and delivers exceptional performance.
Like earlier said, installation is very easy. Maintenance is also easy bearing in mind you need to unfasten the stainless steel straps unlike others which have bolts.
(i) 5.5-inch setback
(ii) 5-inch height adjustment
(iii) High-grade 6061 T6 extruded aluminum alloy material
(iv) Manual Powerlift
(v) Stainless steel fasteners
(vi) Ideal for V6 outboards
(vii) Compatible with standard B.I.A. bolt pattern
(viii) Central adjustment screws
The T-H Marine 65012 is a great jack plate only that it is manually powered. It however offers great performance and competes favorably with other hydraulic operated jack plates.
One great feature that makes this jack plate outstanding is its accurate alignment enabled by the centrally positioned adjustment screws.
It is ideal for V6 engines and requires minimal maintenance compared to hydraulic jack plates. Generally, it is a worthy jack plate for those who want to keep things simple!
The Detwiler DTW JP1060SS is a top class jack plate that is a favorite to most boat owners because of its versatility.
It can be used by both 2 and 4-stroke engines of up to 300 hp / 585 lbs. It is also lightweight and corrosion resistant making it an all-weather jack plate ready to take on any conditions.
The Detwiler DTW JP1060SS sports a simple, strong and sturdy design. It has been built using aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminum alloy material for durability and most importantly to withstand harsh sea conditions.
The surface that may come into contact with water is anodized to military standards to make it corrosion resistance, a very unique feature with this model.
Like earlier said, this jack plate can be used in 2-stroke and also 4-stroke engines as long as they don’t exceed 300 hp/ 585 lbs.
Being a manual jack plate, it has been engineered with interlocking slide guides for smooth and efficient travel. The screws are pre-greased to further enhance smooth operation and easy installation.
Even though its operation is manual, you can trust the Detwiler DTW JP1060SS for very fast lifts from minimum to maximum for easy maneuvering as well as fuel efficiency.
This jack plate is easy to install and requires little maintenance.
(i) 6-inch setback
(ii) Aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminum alloy material
(iii) Anodized corrosion resistant surface
(iv) Stainless steel hardware
(v) Precision machining
(vi) Manual operation
(vii) Interlocking slide guides
(viii) Comes with greased screws
(ix) Fits standard B.I.A. mounting pattern
The Detwiler DTW JP1060SS is a solid jack plate that has been crafted for durability and use even in the harshest of conditions including salty waters.
When it comes to performance, it doesn’t disappoint either. It actually gives you the freedom to use it in a variety of engines as long as it doesn’t exceed the specified limit.
With a 2 years manufacturer’s warranty, this jack plate should be in your wishlist.
Wrapping it up
Jack plates are very important to boat owners. Even though they are quite expensive and are deemed unnecessary because a boat can do without them, their contribution is vital.
First, with jack plates, you will have better handling even in the worst weather and shallow waters. Jack plates also boost engine performance and greatly enhances fuel efficiency.
With this in mind, you need to get your boat a jack plate especially if you normally go to very shallow waters as it can help you pull up your motor to avoid mechanical breakdowns that can be caused by obstacles.
It will also help you improve engine performance and fuel efficiency. So, if you had never thought about purchasing a jack plate, then it’s time you include any of the above jack plates in your wishlist.