While Beneteau has been in the boat-building business much longer than Bavaria Yachts, the two companies build similar boats.
They both produce a range of motor and sailing yachts, and both have acquired or bought a sailing catamaran brand – Beneteau bought Lagoon as part of the Jeanneau group in 1995, and Nautitech Catamarans became part of the Bavaria Yachtbeau Holdings in 2014.
In this article, we shall be comparing the two brands and the five differences you should know:
Beneteau Yachts can trace its history as a boat-building company back to 1884, when the company’s founder, Benjamin Beneteau, started a boatyard building wooden sailing fishing trawlers in Croix-de-Vie, France.
His grandchildren, Annette Beneteau Roux and her brother Andre Beneteau, took over the reins in the mid-1960s and introduced the first line of fiberglass fishing boats.
Unbeknown to both Annette and Andre, they had created a new market segment, which would be referred to as the recreational fishing boat. By 1972 the company had moved into modest new premises, and the first semi-industrial production line of fiberglass boats had begun.
By 1976, the company realized that the sailing population was ready for bigger and faster sailing boats with the addition of some interior comforts. The first of the First was introduced at the Paris Boat Show, becoming legendary in its class.
Today Beneteau is considered the largest producer of leisure boats in the world. The company employs more than 7,500 people across the globe, producing more than 10,000 hulls a year, and is still a family-run company.
While Beneteau can trace its boat-building heritage back to 1884, Bavaria is a relatively ‘newcomer’ to the market.
Bavaria Yachts was founded in 1978 in Gibelstadt, Germany, by Winfried Herrmann, a PVC window manufacturer who was also an avid sailor.
He recognized the potential of his factory and his workforce to produce sailing yachts and started a separate division for manufacturing boats within his window business.
By the early 1980s, the window business was in trouble. However, Josef Meltl, a successful yacht broker at the time, recognized the potential in Bavaria Yachts and came in as a 50% partner.
With this new injection of capital, Winfried Herrman could reach his dream.
“To produce industrial yachts in order to offer them at unbeatable bargain prices and to give many customers the opportunity to purchase a new yacht for themselves.”
[Quote courtesy of Bavariayachts.com]
This target of building affordable boats that many could afford helped Bavaria grow at an unprecedented rate. The company expanded from building only sailboats to including motor boats in 2001, and just like the sailboats, they were an immediate success.
By 2006, the company had expanded and employed over 600 people while producing more than 3,500 boats per year. At the height of this success, Herman and Meltl sold Bavaria Yachts to a US investment company, Bains Capital, for an undisclosed amount (rumored to be around 1.3 billion Euros!).
The timing was perfect for the two partners, but a disaster for Bains Capital – the following financial crash of 2008/9 hit the world, and the annual production of Bavaria yachts fell from 3,500 boats to less than 1,000.
Bains Capital sold the company for a huge loss.
After changing ownership several times, today, the company is owned by a small equity company that bought Bavaria in 2018. Bavaria Yachts has approximately 550 employees that work in the original Giebelstadt premises and produce more than 450 sailing yachts and motorboats per year.
While nowhere near being the biggest producer of leisure craft in the world, Bavaria is, however, the largest manufacturer in Germany.
2. Construction Methods & Materials
Bavaria and Beneteau claim to use the best materials and components, the latest techniques, and the best craftsmen to build their boats, but the similarities end there.
Beneteau is a well-oiled production line that depends on an intelligent Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system, which enables them to manage complicated, modern boat-building processes in-house.
This PLM system is combined with Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) tools to ensure the optimization of materials, components, space, and manpower to drastically increase the company’s performance and profitability.
In addition, Beneteau has its own in-house carpentry division where all the interior wooden fixtures and fittings are made. Tables and doors, couches and cupboards, companionway steps, fiddles, and other decorative pieces are manufactured, stained, and polished in this 27,000 m² cabinetmaking workshop, making it the biggest in Europe.
With its more than 130-year history, Beneteau has been a pioneer in implementing new materials and techniques and has its own Research and Development (RD) team dedicated to continuous improvements.
Meanwhile, Bavaria Yachts uses more low-tech, traditional methods for building their boats. While Bavaria is at the forefront of German pleasure boat engineering, they still lay up each hull by hand.
The original factory in Giebelstadt, near Würzburg, has just four production lines, each 125 meters long, plus a carpenter’s workshop where each yacht is constructed. There are two halls to manufacture hulls and decks housed in a large area measuring 200,000 m².
Each boat is built to order at Bavaria, and no two boats are identical. So, construction slots are allocated depending on the order, and a well-organized team works at each station along the line.
The production line has roughly 30 different stations where different tasks are performed (wiring, plumbing, internal bulkheads, furniture installation, etc.). Each boat takes about 6 – 8 weeks to produce.
While not as automated as Beneteau, the Bavaria factory production line is a well-oiled, modern production style. Short distances between each stage enable quick decisions within the team, and good organization ensures the best efficiency with high cost‐effectiveness.
This enables Bavaria to compete with Beneteau on price, which is all to the customer’s advantage.
3. Sailing Yacht Models
While Beneteau and Bavaria produce very similar style sailing yachts, the main difference is the different model options.
The following is a list of the different new models on offer by each brand today:
|Oceanis Yacht 54
|Cruiser 46 Style
|Oceanis Yacht 60
|Cruiser 51 Style
|First 14 SE
|First 18 SE
|First 24 SE
|First 27 SE
|Figaro Beneteau 3
As you can see, both companies concentrate on mid-size cruiser/racer-style sailing boats with very spacious and modern accommodations down below.
However, the difference is that Beneteau does offer entry-level dinghy-style sailboats with their First 14, First 24, and high-performance First 14 SE, First 18 SE, and First 24 SE boats that are perfect for competing in international one-design regattas.
In addition, as Beneteau is at the forefront of innovative design, they are the first to offer a production foiling one-design monohull. The Figaro Beneteau 3 combines modern technology and innovation resulting from a collaboration between Group Beneteau’s top experts and VPLP Design.
This is a major coup for Beneteau as VPLP Design is responsible for some of the world’s most innovative racing boats, including the last two winners of the Vendee Globe.
4. Motor Boat Models
While most people will associate both Beneteau and Bavaria with sailing yachts, both companies build a range of motor boats.
As Beneteau’s beginnings came from sailing fishing boats, it was only natural that they should develop a range of motorized fishing boats, which they did in the early 70s. The first of the Antares range was designed by Andre Beneteau, who had a passion for line fishing.
Bavaria, by contrast, only started manufacturing their first motorboats in 2001, but they were immediately a huge success.
Let’s take a look a the various models each company offers:
|Flyer 6 Sundeck
|Flyer 6 Spacedeck
|Flyer 7 Sundeck
|Flyer 7 Spacedeck
|Flyer 8 Sundeck
|Flyer 8 Spacedeck
|Flyer 9 Sundeck
|Flyer 9 Spacedeck
|Antares 8 Fishing
|Antares 11 Fly
|Gran Turismo 32
|Gran Turismo 36
|Gran Turismo 41
|Gran Turismo 45
|Swift Trawler 35
|Swift Trawler 41 Fly
|Swift Trawler 41 Sedan
|Swift Trawler 48
|Grand Trawler 62
As you would expect from a more established company with a long history of producing motor boats, the Beneteau offerings are more extensive in their size range and different models.
If you decide on a new Beneteau or Bavaria, you might be interested to know about the differences in their limited warranties.
Their website shows Beneteau offers a 7-year structural warranty plus 3-year parts and labor warranty on every new boat. However, you must report any defect to an official Beneteau dealer who will diagnose and validate your claim according to Beneteau’s general warranty terms.
Interestingly, we found no reference to Bavaria’s warranty on their website. However, after further research, we did find a warranty description on one of their dealership’s websites which states:
“Your new boat is covered by a manufacturer’s warranty against all manufacturing defects for 1 year plus a 5-year structural hull guarantee as set out in detail in your HANDOVER NOTES booklet. Please make sure you take the time to read this.”
As with all warranties, it is important to read the small print before finalizing any purchase.
Bavaria and Beneteau do produce very similar boats in the mid-range size, both motor and sail.
However, if you want to buy a Beneteau or a Bavaria, your choice will come down to personal preference on layout, finishing, and performance. Perhaps the difference in warranty will help you decide.
While we have listed the differences, prices are very comparable for both brands. So if you are deciding between two similar boats, make sure sure you compare each boat with the same inventory before deciding.
If you are one of those doubters of production boats, don’t forget that both brands are favored by charter companies worldwide. These companies put many hours on their boats for up to 5 years of service before being sold to the second-hand market.