MotorGuide R3 Review
by Huston Heatherly
We have all been in the boat, literally and figuratively, and found ourselves wanting a better transom mount trolling motor. We want more versatility, better reliability, and more features to put full control at our fingertips.
In this article, we are going to take a look at a transom mount trolling motor, the MotorGuide R3, that we think fits the bill for the criteria mentioned above. We will take a look at all of the features on the R3, give a rundown on the various models of the R3 that are available, and also look at how all of this information pertains to you and the motor when on the water.
Here at Fishing Tech, we give the R3 trolling motor an A- rating. Throughout the article, we hope that this information provides a better basis for how this motor compares to other transom mounts you might be familiar with. We want to give you an unbiased review so that you can make the best decision possible to meet your boating and fishing needs.
See Review Table of Contents
In this section, we are going to briefly detail all of the features that are present on the MotorGuide R3 trolling motor. In the review section, we will take a closer look at how well these features perform on the water.
The R3 offers a nice range of thrust options for the angler to pick the one that is right for their boat and normal water. Peak thrust options range from 30 to 55lbs with a 40 and 45lb thrust motor available in between.
There are two-speed control options for the R3. The first is a set 5 forward/2 reverse control setting while the second is MotorGuide’s digital variable speed. All but the 30lb thrust model is available in both speed settings while the 30lb thrust model is only available in the 5fwd/2rev control setting.
There are two potential shafts that you will find on the R3 depending on the model you pick. The first is an aluminum shaft and the second is MotorGuide’s composite shaft that is found on other lines of trolling motors. Both provide a durable mount for the control and motor head. We discuss this option further in out model breakdown section.
A feature that we like of the R3 trolling motor is the ability to change the direction of the motor head from a forward to reverse direction if needed. This goes a long way in making this a versatile trolling motor.
All models of this trolling motor feature the same hand tiller. The rubber and serrated grips give an ergonomic feel. The handle is extendable out to six inches for those who are going to need a longer reach depending on their setup. For the set speed models, you have nice audible clicks in between speed settings.
The mounting bracket of the R3 features an aluminum alloy construction with a powder coat finish. This along with the two rigid clamps allow you to get a sturdy base for the trolling motor to the boat. It features two locking knobs, one on each locking screw that keeps the mount locked tight. This mount can also be locked into multiple positions giving you even more versatility in the mounting angle.
Depth Adjustment Collar
All of the R3 models feature a depth adjustment collar located on the shaft above the steering tension knob. You can easily adjust the depth of the motor head by loosening the knob and moving the shaft to the desired depth before tightening the knob back to proper tension.
All of the R3 models have an LED battery meter that is located on top of the motor head. While a small feature, it can be invaluable on the water as long as it is accurately estimating the amount of battery power left.
The MotorGuide R3 trolling motor has quite a few model options available, which we always like to see.
These models have a good range of peak thrust options as well as different shaft lengths for each thrust option. Interestingly, there are also options for the shaft material. The 30 and 40lb thrust models come with a heavier aluminum shaft, while the 45 and 55lb thrust models come with the lighter composite material shaft. There are also options for the type of transom mount and the prop. You will also see that some models come with an integrated battery meter while others do not.
While there are a lot of different features from model to model, there are also some similarities that are found across the entire range of the R3 line. These constant features include the forward/reverse motor direction as well as the twist and extendable hand tiller. The powder-coated aluminum and steel material of the control and motor head is also found on all models of the R3.
For a smaller transom mount trolling motor, the R3 has a decent amount of options for the angler when it comes to thrust and shaft length requirements. With a 30lb option with a 30inch shaft length, even the smallest Jon boats or personal watercraft can be outfitted with the R3. With options ranging up from there to a 55lb thrust motor with a 42inch shaft length, there is an R3 that is compatible with larger fishing vessels.
For overall durability of this trolling motor, there is much we don't like about the motor. It uses an aluminum alloy and stainless steel construction with an anodizing and powder coating finish that cuts down on the wear and tear of the motor's body and housing.
The mount on the R3 follows this same trend with an aluminum alloy construction and stainless steel hinge pins. While all of this metal provides a lot of durability, it does have some drawbacks which we will get to in the next few sections.
When discussing transom mount motors and especially smaller thrust models, a big concern is the ease and versatility of mounting. For a lot of smaller boats, this style of trolling motor is often needed to be placed in different positions other than the transom because bow mounted trolling motors are not compatible. The issue of this is the angle of the motor to the user as well as the direction of the motor head. Luckily, the R3 motor head direction can be adjusted as well as the angle of the motor making this an excellent option for someone needing a little more versatility in their mounting.
We will also include out review on the stowing and deploying capability of the R3 in this section. It is incredibly easy to stow and deploy by using a lever that sits just above the mounting bracket. Pressing the lever disengages the shaft and lets you deploy or stow the motor until it locks back into place automatically. This tilt lock release lever is also what is used to adjust the angle of the trolling motor. There is a visible latch pin that will move to each notch in the mount as you move to the different positions. Just be sure to take care as you adjust the angle or go to stow and that this latch pin has locked securely before letting go of the motor. If not, your motor is going to get jarred as is falls to the next adjustment point.
Motor Control and Function
We like the hand tiller on the R3 with its angular handle rather than a simple round handle. You might prefer the latter, but we think the R3 design gives you better leverage on adjusting the speed as well as the direction of the motor.
With the fixed speed setting models (5fwd/2rev) you feel some noticeable jump between speed settings, but it's nothing that makes the trolling motor undesirable. We like the digital variable speed that is available on the larger models of the R3. There is little to know lurching when progressing to high speeds or decelerating when you look at reviews of users, which also means that the motor is not pulling more power than it needs from your battery.
And as far as how quite the motor is, we don't think it is anything that is going to put fish down. There is some audible humming and vibration, but it's nothing concerning unless you are trying to get right on top of the fish with short casts. This video lets you hear the 55lb thrust option for yourself.
While the motor itself is relatively quiet when in use, we have run across a lot of complaints about the overall loudness that this motor makes when adjusting the motor position and during stowing/deploying. The heavy use of steel and aluminum parts of this trolling motor with metal on metal points does cause some noise while out on the water. Is it enough to spook fish? We don’t have a definitive answer on that but there are some ways you can fix this noise issue.
As far the motor goes, we don’t think it makes much more noise than any other trolling motor in its category as far as price and power go.
Pros and Cons
- Rugged design
- Versatile in its mounting options
- Good range of thrust metrics
- Good range of shaft lengths
- Easy to use depth adjustment
- Integrated battery meter
- Easy stow and deploy
- Adjustable motor head direction
- Stowing and deploying is not a quiet process
- No tilt adjustment of the hand tiller
Other Products in the Line
The closest thing to the R3 in MotorGuide’s lineup of freshwater trolling motors is the R5. The R5 is near identical to the R3 though there are motors in the R5 line that feature higher thrust options. The R5 has three model options, a 70, 80, and 105lb peak thrust model. All three of these models feature the same body design as the R3, and all have digital variable speed control. If you're down to choosing between the R3 or the R5, it's all about how much power you need.
Minn Kota has a transom mount trolling motor in the Endura Max that has a lot of the same specs as the MotorGuide R3. Like the R3, the Endura Max uses digital variable speed control and has thrust options ranging from 40 to 55lb of peak thrust.
The Endura Max uses a similar mounting bracket as the R3 but is a ten point adjustment bracket rather than a seven. The Endura Max also comes with a battery meter integrated into the control head. The Minn Kota Endura also uses a motor head that is in a fixed position while the R3 can be reversed giving it a bit more versatility.
The Bottom Line
The MotorGuide R3 transom mount offers anglers of smaller fishing vessels a great little electric trolling motor for your main source of power. It is extremely rugged and has versatile mounting properties and is easy to handle on the water when adjustments might need to be made. There are enough reviews and complaints about the noise level that it brings are rating down to an A-.
Overall, it’s a great little workhorse trolling motor that is going to get you where you need to be.