9 Best Bilge Pumps: Reviewed & Compared For Different Boats

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Water regularly runs into the lower part of a boat from the deck or through a leak in the hull. A bilge pump is designed to remove all that water before it causes a problem. Read on to find the lowest-maintenance, most powerful bilge pump for preventing overflow on both kayaks and boats.

Preview

Product

Pump Type

Pumping Capacity

Check Price

Rule Industries 10 2000 Bilge Pump Rule

Rule Marine

Electric

1500 GPH (12V) - 4000 GPH (32V)

Shoreline Marine Bilge Pump 600 GPH

Shoreline Marine

Electric

600, 800, or 1100 GPH

attwood Bilge Pump 500Gph Tsunami

Attwood Tsunami Manual

Manual

500 GPH (450 @ N.V.)
1200 GPH (1100 @ N.V.)

Seattle Sports Paddler's Bilge Hand Pump for...

Seattle Sports Paddler’s 

Manual

8 gallons per minute

Rule 25S Submersible Bilge Pump, 500 Gallon...

Rule 25S-Marine

Electric

500 GPH

SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump Hose (24- Inch X 36-...

SeaSense

Manual

12 gallons per minute

attwood Corporation Bilge Pump Sahara S1100,...

Attwood 4511-7 Sahara

Electric

1100 GPH

Amarine Made 1100gph 12v Boat Marine Plumbing...

Amarine Made

Electric

1100 GPH

Seaflo 2000 GPH 12v Boat Marine Plumbing...

Seaflo 

Electric

2000 GPH


What is a Bilge Pump and How Does It Work?

On a boat, the bilge is the lowest part. It's designed to collect water, and the bilge pump is designed to remove that water. The pump relies on the pressure generated by hand or electricity to draw in water and drive it off the boat through an exit called a discharge point.

No matter how big the vessel, some sort of bilge pump, or a system of several pumps is essential to keep the boat afloat on the open sea or small freshwater lakes.


How to Choose a Quality Bilge Pump for Fishing

Pump Type

Sometimes more control over the pump is needed. Cycling, the term for how an automatic pump senses water, turns on, drains the water, shuts off, and then senses water again, can sometimes run for too long due to sensor problems or water backflow.

In that case, a pump that can be manually shut off is useful. Some portable bilge pumps are great for a smaller craft like kayaks and also helpful as bailing tools that can be handed off to another boat in distress if the need should ever arise.

Boat Type & Size

  • Daysailers and open outboard-powered skiffs
    Smaller, lighter boats usually have bilges that are narrow and require some clever installation to fit in a bilge pump. Make sure the bilge pump you choose can be installed both horizontally and vertically and doesn’t leave too much water behind when it’s done pumping.
  • Runabouts and ski boats
    These moderately-sized boats will be able to take on slightly more water without a problem, but you'll also want to have a pump strong enough to clear enough of that water in case of emergency.
  • Small cruising and racing sailboats
    While these will require a higher GPH (gallons per hour) than the preceding boat types, they still need a lightweight pump to be able to keep speed and compete against other boats.
  • Offshore racing sailboats
    These are larger racing sailboats that require more powerful bilge pumps than smaller watercraft. However, since these boats typically tack and lean, they also need sturdy bilge pumps that will work at an angle and are easy to install with tubing that will ensure the discharge point is always above the exterior water line.
  • Coastal and offshore boats
    Not only are the conditions sometimes rougher, but large coastal boats will also be further from help in the event of a leak and need to be completely prepared. For this reason, they need not only a large and strong bilge pump but also some smaller emergency pumps that will help get water off the boat in bad situations. 

Pumping Capacity & Flow Rate

The amount of water a pump can move in a specific time is called its pumping capacity, and it is most frequently expressed in gallons per hour or GPH. You don't always need the strongest pumping capacity.

Smaller boats will never have any need for it, and larger boats only will in the event of an emergency. It's always best to have a strong enough pump to prevent the boat from sinking, but don't go overboard with it.

Ease of Installation/Mounting

Bilges can be narrow, small, and dirty. It’s always best to clean the bilge several times in a season to make sure electronics, like those on a bilge pump, will work effectively. Trying to find a way to fit the bilge pump in with other engine parts and sensors can be difficult, but there’s always a way to get it done.

Material & Versatility

What the pump is made out of will determine how strong it is. In really bad weather or fighting a sizable leak, a pump with a strong exterior will be desirable to last through a beating from fast-moving water.

Materials like BAS plastic are durable and inexpensive. Plastic won’t corrode even if it might break after long, hard use. Other parts of the bilge pump, like the pump shaft or gears, should be made of a really tough material like stainless steel.

Noise Level

You won’t always find a noise rating for these machines, but some of them have one in decibels. As technology progresses, manufacturers are building more and more silent bilge pumps. While it’s clear that a quieter pump is better, bear in mind that you will want to be aware of what the pump is doing, so you should get a sensor of some kind if the pump is completely silent.

Price & Warranty

Bilge pumps come at every price point. It's important to plan for what sort of water your vessel might take on during a voyage. A portable bilge pump for a kayak has its place on a Jon boat or slightly larger craft, but it definitely shouldn’t be the only pump on board.

It doesn't necessarily require a ton of money to get the right pump for your boat. Luckily, even some of the less costly options come with warranties, and you can replace faulty parts for two or even three years after purchase.


9 Best Bilge Pumps Reviewed

1. Rule Marine

Our Top Pick

Pump Type

Electric

Voltage Required

12V, 24V, 32V

Pumping Capacity

1500  GPH (12V) - 4000 GPH (32V)

Output Valve

1 ⅛ Inch

Warranty

Limited 3-year

Rule bilge pumps are the standard when it comes to removal systems. Their float switch has become ubiquitous in both commercial and sport angling boats since it was developed, and the pump itself is just as dependable. Rule pumps install really easily, and once you have them set up, the pop-off cover makes the filter and impeller cavity easy to clean.

Rule bilge pumps work almost silently and, to a varying degree depending on the particular model, move a sizeable volume of water out of the boat. The 12v bilge pump works great for fishing boats, while larger boats or more cautious captains will want to go with the 24V or 32V models.

While it's slightly annoying that the float or panel switch is sold separately, once you have the complete package, your boat will have the most reliable and all-around best automatic bilge pump setup on the market. This pump can handle some very small debris but not very much, so it's always best to keep an eye and an ear out to make sure you catch any problems before they get worse.

It will continue to work underwater, and it fits into narrow spaces to suit smaller bilges. This pump can run without water inside it for a short time, which is ideal for preventing damage and for emptying the bilge all the way while avoiding cycling issues that can drain the boat battery.

Pros
  • Works almost silently
  •  Easy to install & maintain
  • High pumping capacity
  • Submersible
  • Runs dry for a short time
Cons
  • Float switch & remote sensor sold separately

2. Shoreline Marine

Best Automatic Bilge Pump for a Small Boat

Pump Type

Electric

Voltage Required

12V (13.6V-rated)

Pumping Capacity

600, 800, or 1100 GPH

Output Valve

¾ Inch

Warranty

-

Compact and straightforward, the Shoreline Marine bilge pump is the best automatic bilge pump for a small boat, thanks to a universal mounting base that allows it to screw into either the bottom or the side of a bilge.

If you're thinking of switching from a different brand, this universal mount will also fit into any competitor's pump base. While it doesn't have a ton of pressure behind it, the smaller-sized bilge on a comparatively smaller fishing boat is readily drained out, and it will be emptied almost all the way since this pump is submersible. If you do need a bit more power or just want to be safe, try the 1100 GPH model.

Bear in mind that there is no built-in check valve, which means that there is a small amount of water that will remain in the hose and drain back into the bilge when the pump shuts off. It shouldn’t leave more than about an inch behind. For some additional peace of mind, this pump has been rated ignition-protected, which means it won’t ignite flammable gases if any are present in the area around the pump.

At just 4.5 inches tall, this pump will fit just about anywhere you need it to be. The universal mount means you can place it anywhere in the bilge, just make sure you pair it with a float switch and take care to put it somewhere its relatively low power can still get water up to and past the discharge point.

Pros
  • Compact
  • Universal mounting base
  • Strong wiring
  • Suits standard hose sizes
  • Attached bracket
Cons
  • No check valve included
  • Lower pumping power

3. Attwood Tsunami 

Best 12V Bilge Pump

Pump Type

Manual

Voltage Required

13.6V (12V Nominal Voltage)

Pumping Capacity

500 GPH (450 @ N.V.)

 1200 GPH (1100 @ N.V.)

Output Valve

1 ⅛ Inch

Warranty

Optional PLUS Protection Plan

The small size of this bilge pump makes it pretty versatile, but you should take care during installation because it’s also lighter than competing models.

If you need to change it out, all you need to do is press the tabs and remove the motor cartridge, which can be done without disconnecting any hoses or otherwise removing the pump from its mount. The new pump motor cartridge can be placed where the old one was with the addition of a small amount of vegetable oil around the O-ring.

The Attwood Tsunami can be paired up with a float switch to do pretty much the same thing an automatic pump does, but it’s designed to work with a manual switch. While that may not suit every situation, this pump’s slightly higher GPH, compact size, and easy maintenance make it ideal for use as a secondary piece of a larger bilge pump system.

The plastic exterior casing is not super strong, but the interior construction of this pump is really solid, including a shaft seal to prevent leaks and caulked wiring to prevent corrosion and water damage. Buyers can also opt for the PLUS Product Protection Plan to supplement the manufacturer’s warranty and make sure the pump is always in good condition.

The smaller model might leave about half an inch of water behind. For more power, consider buying the higher-volume T1200 pump.

Pros
  • Ideal for a bilge system
  • Easy motor cartridge replacements
  • Lightweight & compact
  • Simple to automate
  • Corrosion-resistant
Cons
  • Designed for calm water

4. Seattle Sports Paddler’s 

Best Kayak Bilge Pump

Pump Type

Manual

Voltage Required

None

Pumping Capacity

8 gallons per minute

Output Valve

1 Inch

Warranty

None

Here’s the ideal portable bilge pump for anyone who prefers the solitude of a fishing kayak. For a smaller one-person vessel, this lightweight device is much more suitable with its compact size and quick operation.

It can move a surprising amount of water for a hand bilge pump, and a one-inch hose attaches easily so you can displace the water exactly where you want it to go. A comfortable rubber handle ensures you won't lose your grip. It floats thanks to the foam collar, and it's brightly colored, so you'll be able to find it in the event your yak should flip.

One thing to be careful of with this pump is sediment in the water. It should work just fine for topwater that comes in over a splash guard, but too many particulates can corrode the device or block it up. No need to sift through the water, but if you see lots of mud or other objects, try to bail it out by hand or go ahead and let it sink to the bottom of the craft.

All the parts can be disassembled for cleaning or even reused with another pump if you want to revamp yours. This pump is not built to move water a huge distance away; the tube will help clear water over a splash guard in a sit-in canoe, but if the discharge point is much higher, this pump might not do as well as you like.

Pros
  • Portable
  • Hand-operated
  • Surprisingly good capacity
  • Disassembles for cleaning
  • Buoyant & brightly colored
Cons
  • Not great with sediment

5. Rule 25S-Marine

Best Marine Bilge Pump for Saltwater

Pump Type

Electric

Voltage Required

12V, 24V

Pumping Capacity

500 GPH

Output Valve

¾ Inch

Warranty

3-year limited

Fully automatic without a separate switch required, this Rule bilge pump is one of the strongest saltwater pumps you can get at its size and price point. This pump checks for water every 2.5 minutes and starts pumping if it detects any and keeps pumping until the water is gone. There's no check valve, so a small amount of water may remain in the bilge once this pump is done working, although typically, it's not enough to cause repetitive cycling to wear the battery down. 

This pump has been built to pump its full capacity at 12V rather than the somewhat misleading 13.6V often used to rate pumps. This means it will pump much closer to the rated 500 gallons per hour than similar competing pumps do. It doesn't draw very many amps while it works, which means it can work for longer on the same amount of energy. The strainer that's intended to block debris from entering the pump is easily removed for cleaning or servicing.

Occasionally the screen will clog with debris and cause the pump to keep running, but if you have a three-way on/off switch and a sensor mounted to tell you when the pump is running, you can prevent it from running the battery down. Additionally, you can set this pump up with a quick electric disconnect and take it out every so often for thorough cleaning to keep it in good working order. 

Pros
  • No float switch required
  • Compact
  • Low amp operation
  • Rated at 12V (rather than 13.6V)
  • Easy to clean
Cons
  • Particular installation required
  • No check valve

6. SeaSense 

Best Hand Bilge Pump for a Jon Boat

Pump Type

Manual

Voltage Required

None

Pumping Capacity

12 gallons per minute

Output Valve

1 Inch

Warranty

None

Although it works just fine for kayaks as well, this hand bilge pump can also handle larger craft like a Jon boat or a small bilge. It’s great to keep around as a primary bilge pump on a kayak or canoe and a good emergency pump on a Jon boat. This hand pump is more robust than other portable bilge pumps, and it's a bit hardier. The body is constructed to be leak-proof and corrosion-resistant, so it should last a good while. 

Operating the device is as simple as a bicycle pump, and the narrow tip is great for getting into hard-to-reach places. An optional hose attaches so you can direct water off of your watercraft. The only thing you might need to consider about the attachable hose is that it's quite long, and you'll need to keep it more or less straight and not entirely vertical for the best results with this pump.

A filter on the end of the pump keeps large objects from impeding the flow of water and allows for easier pumping. When not in use, this pump fits easily in storage compartments or tethered to the inside of the boat with a bungee like you might do with a paddle on a kayak.

Pros
  • Easy to clean
  • Fits into narrow spaces
  • Leak-proof & corrosion-resistant
  • Stows away almost anywhere
  • Various sizes available
Cons
  • Stock hose may leak

7. Attwood 4511-7 Sahara S1100

Best Auto Bilge Pump for Large Boats

Pump Type

Electric

Voltage Required

12V

Pumping Capacity

1100 GPH

Output Valve

¾ Inch

Warranty

3-year limited

The Attwood Sahara is a really strong pump that is nonetheless compact enough to fit in with many of the other pieces of equipment in the engine room of a larger boat. While it only mounts horizontally, it also has everything you need to move water out of the bilge, including the switch. It's a fully automatic pump that moves a ton of water fast.

A three-wire setup allows for the installation of a manual on/off switch as well, enabling the user to cut power to this bilge pump to prevent it from wasting the battery's energy. It only draws 3.4 amps, helping your battery last longer.

In addition to those benefits, this pump is easy to maintain and requires little more than a quick checkup before a fishing trip, assuming everything is in order. The pump mount can stay attached to the bilge and, thanks to its portable size, the pump itself can be removed and taken indoors for deep cleaning or repair.

The caulked wire leads on the Attwood Sahara are already built with some limited water and corrosion endurance. There’s also a test knob on the back of the device that will raise the float and temporarily activate the pump so you can be sure it’s still in good working condition.

Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Powerful pump
  • Low amperage
  • Caulked wire leads
  • Test knob included
Cons
  • No swapping the pump switch
  • Only mounts horizontally

8. Amarine Made

Best Cheap Boat Bilge Pump

Pump Type

Electric

Voltage Required

12V

Pumping Capacity

1100 GPH

Output Valve

¾ Inch

Warranty

None

This incredibly inexpensive bilge pump fulfills all the requirements of a bilge pump, moves lots of water, and lasts as long as more upmarket models do. It handles dirty water pretty well if you can make sure that larger objects don't obstruct the sucking power.

Like some of the best models, if you want this one to run fully automatic, then you'll have to buy a separate float switch. There are some slight drawbacks in the comparative frailty of the plastic parts on the Amarine Made bilge pump, and it does draw out more power (3 amps), but if it's installed and operated correctly, it will still get the job done.

One reason this pump works so well on larger vessels is because it’s designed to pump water continuously if need be. This is done partly by building the motors so that they use the surrounding water to cool down and keep working for longer intervals. That’s just what you need for larger bilges. It’s also really quiet when it works, so make sure to invest in some kind of sensor to give you some indication of how often it flips on.

This pump is small enough to fit on smaller vessels and be tucked out of the way in larger bilges. It may not last as long as some of the larger models, but with a price as low as the Amarine Made pump, you might find it easier to just get a new model every few years. 

Pros
  • Powerful
  • Simple installation
  • Can pump continuously
  • Works for dirty water
  • Quiet operation
Cons
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Float pump sold separately

9. Seaflo 

Auto Bilge Pump with the Highest Capacity

Pump Type

Electric

Voltage Required

12V

Pumping Capacity

2000 GPH

Output Valve

1 ⅛ Inch

Warranty

2-year

As you can likely gather from its name, this pump is the most powerful one in our guide. It may not be as inexpensive as a budget bilge pump, but if you have just a little bit more money to invest, you can't go wrong with this one. It's ideal for a smaller boat where moving water out of the bilge can be more pressing. It can draw tons of power out of a battery but can be set up not to. The base contains a strainer and snaps right off for easy cleaning.

This pump is great for avoiding airlocks, although the tubing up to the discharge point has to be installed correctly if you really want to make sure. There are enough seals, buckles, covers, and screws inside this pump to protect it from damage, but there aren't so many parts that it's impossible to maintain. It can run dry without being ruined, but it's not meant to do so for long, and it's not really designed for continuous use.

There's no check valve on this pump, but that enables the output to be even stronger, and that will almost always prevent any excess water from draining back into the bilge. This pump is not only great at removing water from a bilge, but it's also a nice graduation toward more complicated devices for those who want to be more involved with boating.

Pros
  • Removable strainer
  • Great high-temp rating
  • Runs dry for a short time
  • Avoids airlocks
  • Really strong output
Cons
  • Not designed for continuous use

3 Types of Bilge Pump Switches

  • Integral Automatic Switches
    Switches that are built-in use sensors to detect when the water has risen above a certain point and then start pumping. They run at intervals using electronic mechanisms. These pumps kick on after water rises to a certain point, but if they are letting water back into the bilge, then they can cause cycling issues and drain the battery.
  • Separate Float Switches
    A float switch is the most common trigger for a bilge pump. They are most often built with a simple hinge and start closed. Rising water opens the hinge. When the hinge opens wide enough, the pump starts. Pair these with a separate level sensor so you can tell if the pump is running when it shouldn’t be.
  • Electronic Water-Sensing Switches
    These switches use floating devices or metal sensors to determine when the water has risen. They can be helpful in tandem with float switches to ensure that pumps aren't running constantly. If you use these, make sure the bilge is clean, so oil and other material don't stick to the sensors and cause them to misfire.

How to Properly Use a Bilge Pump

All bilge pumps should be placed as close to the bottom of the bilge as possible. Float switches can be placed on the same level if you don’t want any water in the bilge.

Placing secondary pumps at a higher level is a good way to make a backup system in case the first pump should fail. Installing a bilge pump and float switch is pretty simple once you understand the process.


Common Bilge Pump Issues & Troubleshooting

  • Flow Restrictions
    Dips and sags in your discharge line can create an airlock. Make sure your hose fits the flow rating on your pump and keep the line free of sharp curves and droopy sections.
  • Siphoning
    Pumps without enough power will stop working while some water is still in the line. That water siphons back into the bilge. A check valve can solve this problem but will restrict pump output.
  • Plugged Intakes
    There are usually screens to block large objects that can interrupt the impeller or otherwise prevent a pump from working. Make sure to clean screens, pumps, and bilges regularly.
  • Faulty Wiring/Dead Battery
    Most good pumps have three wires that allow a manual on/off switch on the panel and an operating mode. Don't cross these wires, or you may have a pump that won't shut off or one that won't turn on.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, an automatic bilge pump or manual bilge pump?

Kayaks and canoes can stick with hand-operated manual bilge pumps, but larger boats should all have both. A manual pump in case the electric ones fail can be essential to rescuing a boat from a bad leak.

What steps should I take to maintain my bilge pump?

Most pumps come out of their mounts very easily to enable them to be cleaned without having to disconnect anything. Screens and sometimes even whole motors can be removed without touching any of the rest of the housing. If you don’t have that option, carefully remove your bilge pump at least twice a season and give it a deep clean with water and a small brush. If you leave your boat dry-docked in the off-season, remove the pump and store it somewhere clean of debris.

What’s the difference between a centrifugal and diaphragm pump?

Centrifugal pumps are not self-priming, meaning the water has to be in contact with the impeller to be able to pump the water out. Diaphragms create negative pressure to draw in water using a kind of lung that inflates and deflates as it is pumped. Diaphragm pumps are often stronger but puncture and fail more easily, which explains why centrifugal pumps are more common these days.

How is a kayak bilge pump different from one that is used on a motorboat?

Kayak bilge pumps are usually entirely operated by hand and look more similar to a bicycle pump than to other motorboat bilge pumps. They are really easy to use, and most come apart to clean and clear from debris. Just like you don't need a big heavy pump on your kayak, you should opt for a more robust manual bilge pump for your secondary bilge pump on a bigger boat.

Where is the best place to buy these bilge pumps and components like a bilge pump float switch and bilge pump hose?

Even though some important add-ons are not sold in package deals with bilge pumps, all of the major brands have both pumps and components on sale on Amazon. There are also great deals there all the time, and most vendors have a nice return policy as well.


Conclusion

The best bilge pump is no-fuss and can be depended on to get water out of the boat with little fanfare. The Rule Marine pump is just that, making it both an industry star and our top pick for the best bilge pump. Set sail with the proper precautions in place with the Rule Marine on board.