Catamarans and monohull boats are two very different vessels. Each craft offers distinct advantages and disadvantages that you’ll want to consider before choosing between the two.
In this post, we’ll go over some of the important things to consider when choosing between catamarans and monohull boats.
Cost & Availability
Both catamarans and monohull boats come in small recreational versions, larger motorboat versions and larger sailing models. In all cases, the catamarans will cost more and will be harder to find.
The reason catamarans are harder to find is that they’re mostly made overseas.
Also, there aren’t as many catamaran manufacturers so sailors have less options when buying them.
On top of this, catamarans have only recently become popular in the United States and other areas of the developed world. This means the used market for boats simply doesn’t have as many catamarans on it. You might find that you have fewer options when making a used catamaran purchase which could bring costs up to a premium.
Two Times The Fun with Catamarans
Another reason that catamarans are more expensive than monohulls is the fact that catamaran buyers have to purchase two hulls, two engines, and two of all of the components that help make an engine work.
Traditional sailboats and large powerboats with one motor don’t have this cost issue.
On top of this, a catamaran is much wider than a monohull and thus you have more space to build and to equip.
On the other hand, once you’ve purchased the boat, you do get to enjoy the benefits of having two of everything. We’ll talk about the advantages of this further down in this post.
Maintenance Cost Makes A Difference
The maintenance on a catamaran is also more expensive than the maintenance on a monohull boat. This goes back to the fact that there is twice as much of everything to maintain.
Catamaran owners will need to do preventative maintenance on two different engines and they’ll have two hulls and a large deck area to clean and maintain as well. If they’re getting the bottom of the boat treated, they’ll have to do this twice, (once for each hull).
Even the interior components can usually be found twice.
Each cabin will usually have a head in it so you’ll have at least two toilets and sinks to maintain which obviously has its plusses and minuses.
One positive aspect of this is that catamaran owners do have the option of deferring some of their maintenance. For example, if one head is no longer functioning properly, you always have the second one that you can use.
It also adds a bit of safety as well.
This is because while the catamaran does have two engines to maintain, the owner does have power even if one of the engines happens to go down.
Some catamaran owners also like to point out that maintenance may not have to be done as frequently. This is because the engines don’t have to work quite as hard and other items like additional bathrooms and sinks might only be used half as much.
How Much Space Do You Need?
A catamaran has more space than a monohull. This is because the boat is wider and it has a much larger deck area. It also has twice as many hulls so you have more overall space between the two of them.
The additional space is great for people looking to throw parties on their boats.
Most boat owners would agree that the catamaran is usually the party boat of choice at the docks.
Even if you aren’t into throwing parties, the extra space can still be nice for relaxing on the deck or getting a suntan. The wide open space also makes it easy to use the boat as a fishing platform.
Additionally, you have more space for stuff like surfboards, rafts, and other items that can easily clutter up the deck of a monohull. Even fishing can be easier from a catamaran as the deck provides plenty of space between different anglers.
Catamaran owners even have additional space for carrying freshwater and adding generators and solar panels.
Interior space is also more plentiful on a catamaran and luxury catamarans have an easier time of fitting large items like washers and dryers inside of them. You can have these on larger monohulls as well but it will be harder to make them fit than it is in a catamaran.
On the other hand, all of the additional space means the catamaran owner has more space to maintain and to clean. Also, all of the additional items that can be brought onto the boat will make it heavier. A heavier boat will use more fuel and it will travel more slowly.
Living Quarters Vary Between The Two
The living quarters on a catamaran are much different than they are on a monohull. Most people would agree that the berths in a monohull are much more spacious than in a catamaran.
A monohull offers people with the opportunity to have a large bed with space on either side to walk around it. This is great for couples who want to be able to get out of bed without waking up their partner.
Catamarans, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to offer large above-deck salon areas. The kitchens, the dining areas, and the living areas can all be above-deck while the two hulls can be used to provide heads and berths.
Some boat owners say that living in a monohull is akin to living in a basement apartment. Other boat owners prefer the monohull because it brings them closer to the water and gives them the feeling of being at sea.
Privacy Can Be prioritized On Catamarans
A catamaran offers up many different living areas that people can take advantage of. For example, each hull will typically have its own bathroom and bedroom.
This gives each sleeping area complete privacy from the other.
Also, the living quarters are usually up on the deck so early risers can wake up and move to these quarters without waking up the others.
The same holds true for night owls. A night owl can stay up late without bothering the people who want to retire to their beds earlier.
With two hulls, large catamaran owners can hire a crew and give them their own hull to live in so that there is separation between the cruisers and the crew. This is a wonderful advantage for honeymooners looking to have their own space.
The downside to all of this, of course, is that sometimes a family may not want the additional privacy. For example, a family with small children might not want their children in a different hull than they are.
Additionally, the extra privacy can make it hard for people on the boat to communicate with each other. This could become a big problem in the event of an emergency.
For this reason, it is often recommended that each hull have a radio in it so that the occupants can quickly communicate with each other. Remember, even in inland areas, cell phone reception may not be very good inside the boat hulls.
Recreation In a Monohull Vs a Catamaran
Most sailors agree that sailing a monohull boat is much more exhilarating than sailing a catamaran. Traditional sail boats heel and sailors get instant feedback while they’re sailing. For the most part, catamarans stay stable and you don’t get the fun of feeling the movement of the wind and the water.
When it comes to monohull powerboats, you have the advantage of being able to pull water skiers, kneeboarders, and tubers with ease. A power catamaran usually doesn’t have the maneuverability to pull off these kinds of recreational opportunities.
Catamarans excel in more leisurely recreational activities. A catamaran makes a great party deck as well as a great cruising deck. Catamaran owners can comfortably walk around a catamaran without having to worry that the boat might knock them over the next time it decides to heel. This gives boaters the opportunity to comfortably sit and talk with one another.
A catamaran can also be used as a beaching vessel. This makes it a great platform for people looking to go swimming or fishing around sand bars and other shallow areas of water. It also makes it a great boat for sailors looking to sail a larger boat on a river or lake that is known for having shallow areas.
Swimming and Diving
Swimming and diving off of a catamaran are usually much easier than doing the same from a monohull. The wide stance of the two hulls offers boat designers the option to put in staircases at the back of both hulls.
In between these staircases, some boats will have an additional diving platform. This makes catamarans great for swimmers, snorkelers, and divers.
On the other hand, monohull boats can easily travel far out to sea. This gives boaters the option of diving in areas that catamarans can’t access quite as easily.
Boat Draft In Shallow Waters
For the uninitiated, the draft of a boat refers to how far the boat’s hull sits within the water.
A monohull typically sits deep within the water while a catamaran sits much higher on the water. This is why we stated that a catamaran is good for shallow waters.
The advantage of having a boat that can go into shallow waters isn’t restricted to just recreational activities like swimming and fishing. A boat that can go into shallow water is safer to operate in areas where a boat with a deeper draft might become damaged.
Additionally, a shallow draft gives the boat more stability on calm waters. This helps to make a catamaran more comfortable to relax or sleep on while at anchor or at the dock.
The deeper draft of a monohull boat has its advantages as well. A deeper draft provides more stability in rough waters and allows a boat to go deeper into the sea.
For this reason, many coastal cruisers will prefer catamarans while many ocean voyagers will prefer monohull boats. In fact, some areas of the Carribean and the Florida Keys can be off limits to boats with deep drafts as it simply isn’t safe for the boat to navigate these waters.
This isn’t to say that you can’t navigate these waters in a monohull boat, but you will have to be cautious depending on how deep your monohull’s boat draft is. You simply wouldn’t have this issue in a catamaran.
Stability On The Sea
A catamaran offers a lot more stability in shallow waters, in calm waters, at the dock, and at anchorage. This makes the boat great for cruising and for relaxing at the port.
A monohull offers a lot more stability in rough waters.
This makes this boat great for heading out to sea and for navigating vast distances.
Safety Issues To Consider
Both catamarans and monohulls can be built to safely navigate the waters they were made for. This will be determined more by the boat’s category designation rather than the type of boat.
However, each boat deals with unsafe situations in different ways. For instance, a monohull boat is likely to right itself in the event that it is capsized.
This means that even in rough seas, you’re unlikely to find yourself permanently capsized.
The downside to this is that should you become completely capsized in a monohull boat, you are much more likely to sink. In fact, if there is a hull breach on a monohull boat, your boat could sink.
Catamarans are said to be unsinkable. This isn’t completely true but it is very unlikely that a catamaran will sink. Even if a hull is breached, you still have a second hull to keep the catamaran afloat.
However, a catamaran can’t right itself. If you capsize your catamaran, it will stay capsized.
One other safety concern to consider is that a monohull sailboat will heel while a catamaran will not. This increases the chances that someone could fall off the boat or onto the deck in a monohull boat.
Catamarans Are Faster Than Monohull Boats
A catamaran is faster than the average monohull boat.
This is because they face less water resistance and their narrow hulls don’t have to deal with their own bow waves like a monohull does.
Of course, catamarans aren’t always faster.
Monohull boats tend to deal to travel downwind and in choppy seas better than catamarans. This gives them a speed advantage during ocean voyages.
We have a separate post with complete average speeds per type of catemaran. It’s a must read if you are at all concerned about speed!
Fuel Consumption Considerations
Catamarans have two engines to fuel which can drive up fuel costs.
However, a catamaran sits above the water so it usually takes less energy to move a catamaran so you’ll end up using less fuel in a catamaran than you would in a monohull.
On top of this, catamarans can drop down to using just one engine in low wind areas. This further decreases the amount of fuel that a catamaran consumes.
These rules only apply to calm waters.
A monohull navigates waters with high waves and strong winds much more efficiently than a catamaran. In this case, you’ll use less fuel in a monohull than you would in a catamaran.
Sailing Differences To Notice
Sailing a monohull boat can be exhilarating. These boats can glide through choppy waters and you get to feel the motion of the boat each time you heel.
This type of sailing also provides instant feedback as you’ll know what you need to do with the sails as you’ll feel what is going on through the motion of the boat.
Sailors all over the world have been using monohull sailboats for years and you’ll find plenty of outlets for recreational sailing with a monohull sailboat.
Sailing catamarans do not heel like a monohull sailboat.
These boats, therefore, do not provide the sailor with instant feedback. Also, if you incorrectly sail a catamaran, you do risk capsizing the boat more easily.
Training Can Be Quite Hard
Sailing a catamaran and sailing a monohull boat are two different experiences. People looking to sail either should probably get professional training.
Obtaining this training will always be easier with a monohull boat.
This is because monohulls are more popular so you’ll have more instructors available to you.
Do You (Or Your Friends) Get Seasick?
People who are prone to getting seasick easily might want to consider a catamaran. A catamaran provides much more stability in calm waters and you get a lot less movement.
On the other hand, people who are not prone to getting seasick might prefer a monohull in choppy waters.
This is because a monohull will deal with deep and choppy waters with high waves much better than a catamaran will.
As a result, a catamarans movement can seem extreme under these types of conditions. People who have never gotten seasick before can end up sick under these conditions.
Docking Is (Usually) Easier With A Monohull Boat
Docking a catamaran can be a difficult endeavor.
This is because catamarans are often too wide to be docked within the central areas of a dock.
Because of this, they need to be docked at the end of the dock. This leaves them with fewer spots to dock. It also makes docking more expensive.
Catamaran owners traveling through areas that are unlikely to have a lot of catamarans in them may find it difficult to find a dock at all. This is true in areas of the northern Atlantic where monohulls are much more popular than catamarans.
Storage Issues To Consider
Even storing a catamaran can be more difficult. This is because storage facilities often do not have the equipment to get a catamaran out of the water.
The wide width of these boats requires special lifts and not all boat marinas will have them.
Storage facilities that do get the catamaran out of the water will often end up charging more money for it. They’ll charge additional fees for taking the catamaran out of the water and they’ll charge additional fees for the actual storage of the boat as well.
Redundancy And Backup Equipment
We touched upon this earlier but it is worth repeating that catamarans have a lot of redundancy built into them. This can be a big advantage when it comes to safety.
For example, if one rudder becomes inoperable, the boat can still be steered with the other one. If one engine becomes inoperable, the boat can still be driven with the other one.
In extreme cases, a hull could become damaged and you could still stay afloat because the other hull will keep the boat safely above water. These safety advantages can save lives and keep people from becoming stranded out at sea.
The only real downside is the maintenance issue that we mentioned earlier. All of these redundant components will need to be maintained. As a result, maintenance costs are often twice as expensive in a catamaran.
Cooking Is Easier On Catamarans
Cooking on a catamaran is usually easier than it is on a monohull. The main reason for this is that a catamaran doesn’t heel like a monohull so you don’t have to worry as much about things falling over.
This not only makes cooking easier, but it makes cooking safer as well.
Additionally, catamaran kitchens tend to have more space in them to move around. Also, they are often up on the deck so you don’t have to climb in and out of the hull with your dinner in hand.
Monohulls and catamarans can both hold dinghies. The larger the boat, the larger the dinghy can be.
However, catamarans have a wide area at the rear of the boat that is perfect for holding dinghies.
This makes getting in and out of the dinghy easier. Also, people can often have larger dinghies on their catamarans because the rear of the boat is so accommodating.
Power Generation Is Easy On A Catamaran
A catamaran has a lot of space for solar panels and wind turbines. Rigid panels can be placed in areas that won’t be walked on like overtop of the bimini and flexible panels can be placed in areas where the panels might end up getting stepped on.
The width of a catamaran even gives them more opportunities to put hydro generators into the water.
This means catamarans can generate more power than the average monohull boat can generate.
On the other hand, a monohull usually has less powered items to worry about. Monohulls simply need less power to operate at full capacity so you may not need all of the additional space for generating power.
Ventilation Issues To Think About
Some people feel that monohull boats don’t offer enough ventilation. This is especially true in warmer areas of the world.
Catamarans also lack ventilation within their hulls but fortunately for them, much of the living space is located up on deck. This gives catamarans an edge when it comes to cruising in warm weather.
On the other hand, monohull owners aren’t as exposed to the cold winds that you might find up on deck in harsher climates.
This lack of airflow may actually be of benefit in this instance.
Some people find monohulls to be better looking than catamarans and vice versa.
This all comes down to personal preference so you’ll have to decide for yourself which type of boat has the advantage in this case.
Some people think catamarans are the most elegant thing in the world while others prefer monohull boats as they look more classic.
Resale Value Is An Important Factor
If you read our extensive guide to boat depreciation per boat type, you know that no matter what boat you buy, it will always go down in value. This is just a sad fact of boat ownership that people need to consider before buying a boat.
Many factors go into how much you’ll be able to get for your boat when you resell it. These factors are the condition of the boat, the age of the boat, and the economy in general. For example, people are less likely to want to buy boats during a recession. This is especially true when it comes to smaller boats.
However, one additional factor that catamaran owners need to consider when thinking about resale value is the value of the dollar.
People from the United States don’t have many American catamarans to choose from and will usually need to buy these overseas.
This means that a catamaran will be less expensive to buy when the dollar is strong compared to the Euro and more expensive to buy when the dollar is weaker in comparison. This will affect the used market as well because higher values on new catamarans can help to bring up the value on the used market as well.
With a monohull boat, you may not have to consider situations like this as there are makers of monohull boats all over the world.
Don’t Let The Length Trick You!
One thought to keep in mind when comparing monohull boats and catamarans is that their different shapes account for different space advantages.
For example, a 40-foot long catamaran will have much more cubic space than a 40-foot long monohull.
Because of this, when comparing boats you should look at the cubic space rather than the length. In this case, you may be comparing a 48-foot long monohull with a 40-foot long catamaran.
When you compare the two types of boats in this manner, the price differences aren’t quite as large and the comparison is fairer.
This is an important distinction to make because the length of the boats can trick you!
Consider Trying Both (Before Buying)
Boats can be an expensive purchase so it makes sense to try them out before you decide to make your purchase.
Rent each type of boat and use it on the types of waters that you intend to cruise on the most.
Try the boat out in different weather conditions as well and don’t be afraid to do multiple rentals before you make your final choice. The time and money invested into making sure you get the boat you really want will be more than worth it in the end.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.