Hunter and Beneteau are two of the most prominent sailboat manufacturers globally, each with long and storied histories.
If you are looking into purchasing a sailboat, you will have seen their brands everywhere.
Both make boats designed for serious bluewater sailing, though Beneteau has many models designed for offshore sailing.
So in deciding between these two manufacturers, what should you look for?
Here’s what to consider between Hunter and Beneteau:
Beneteau and Hunter are the most well-known manufacturers of sailboats globally, and both brands are designed and manufactured to the highest industry standards. Current Hunter boats are aimed at casual sailors, while Beneteau is aimed at hybrid racing/cruising.
Beneteau & Hunter Industry History:
Beneteau began in the 1880s building sailing trawlers. In the mid-1960s, they began manufacturing fiberglass sailboats as recreational boating began expanding worldwide.
Their racer/cruisers proved popular in the 1970s and 1980s, and their offshore distance cruisers, the Oceanis line, took off in the 1990s. Today, Beneteau is the largest manufacturer of sailboats in the world.
Hunter Marine started up in 1972 with their first fiberglass 25-foot sloop, and by the late 1970s, they were a mainstay in American boating brands. They had periodic dips in quality over the decades, resulting in their varied reputation, and by 2012 filed for bankruptcy.
David E. Marlow purchased them, and the company is now known as Marlow-Hunter. They are one of the largest manufacturers of sailboats in the US.
Most Beneteaus are still made in France, though they do have a facility in Marion, South Carolina, and plants in Brazil and southern Europe. Hunters are still being made in the same facility they started in, in Alachua, Florida, though they now also have a European facility.
Today, both manufacturers are generally considered to be mid-tier brands.
Are Hunter or Beneteau sailboats more popular?
Worldwide, there is no doubt that Beneteau is a more popular brand.
They have over 80 dealers in North America and over 400 on five continents around the world. Their name has global recognition and a consistently favorable reputation.
In the United States, Hunter initially had a strong reputation among sailors. Still, manufacturing problems in the late 1980s and some relatively unpopular designs in the 2000s caused some damage to their reputation, topped off by their bankruptcy.
They have recovered and are building better boats now, and their popularity in the US is high once again.
Looking over sailing forums, Beneteau usually gets the nod over Hunter.
While both brands have loyalists and detractors, Beneteau’s are more widely acknowledged for having superior sailing characteristics and construction standards. Hunters are known for their ease of handling, though, particularly for short-handed sailing with the mainsheet leading to a large arch above the cockpit.
A word of caution, though: there are many Hunter versus Beneteau debates on virtually every sailing forum, more than almost any other brands. It is best to take most of what is said with a grain of salt and focus on the specifics, like the construction quality or nature of the problems encountered, should you investigate what is being said.
It is probably fair to say that Beneteau is more popular worldwide and with serious cruisers; Hunter has a strong reputation in the US and among more casual sailors.
How Do they Compare Regarding Price?
It is tricky to compare boats from different manufacturers, even when they have the same length, as they may be aimed at a different clientele and have different expectations.
For instance, both Make a 27-foot model. The Hunter 27 is an entry-level boat that is not built for performance, while the Beneteau First 27 is a racer/cruiser and a strong choice for an experienced sailor looking to buy in that price range.
The First 27 retailed for just over $80,000 in 2020, and the Hunter 27 was over $10,000 less, but the sailing characteristics are completely different between the two models, making comparisons difficult.
Also, like most sailboat manufacturers, they are reluctant to set a definite retail price on their boats and do not advertise a price on their websites. This is due to local markets being different the world over and also giving dealers some room to haggle to make a bit of profit.
That being said, Beneteau’s are usually a little more expensive than Hunter-Marlow boats. Hunter has often designed and built to a price point, while Beneteau has usually designed for purpose and function.
When should you Choose a Brand?
This is a subject of staunch debate, but there is no doubt that some models from the Hunter brand are designed more for entry-level and very casual cruising.
Beneteau also makes a few models for entry-level sailors, but they still are geared for better performance rather than ease of handling.
If you are a beginning sailor, you will want to look at some Hunter models like the 27 or the 31. If cruising or even racing/cruising, you might opt to look at the Hunter 36, which has a performance package including a square-top mainsail.
A racer/cruiser would also want to check out the Beneteau First series, with a long tradition behind it. For more of a racing angle, the First SE are higher-performance boats.
An offshore cruiser would probably lean toward the Beneteau Oceanis line, a standard on the high seas since 1986, but there are some Hunter models to consider here, as well, such as the luxury cruising Hunter-Marlow 47.
What is the Resale Value on Each Brand?
Sailboats, like all boats, will depreciate, but they tend to hold their value fairly well in comparison to powerboats.
It isn’t easy to get accurate recent resale values for boats, as fewer sailboats are being made than powerboats, and a dealer may have new boats for sale that are actually three or more years old.
Looking at NADA guides for most sailboat brands in the last five or six years, including Hunter and Beneteau, show a value nearly identical to what they originally sold for, generally only a few thousand dollars less.
When you consider older boats, though, the value starts to become clear:
- A Beneteau 311 new in 2000 retailed for $66,900. It has an average resale value of $45,000, or a depreciation rate of 33% over 20 years.
- A 2000 Hunter 310 retailed for $70,000 and now has an average resale value of $48 150, or a similar depreciation rate of 32%.
- Not all Hunters are as favorable, however. The 2005 Hunter 27 retailed for $51,989 and has a current resale value of $31,350 or a depreciation value of 40% in 15 years.
If you are looking at a used Hunter or Beneteau, it is a good idea to get an idea of any manufacturer’s problems in that time period. This information can be hard to come by, but forums are a good place to start.
Are Hunter Sailboats Better for Liveaboard?
Hunter refocused their lines to be more comfortable starting in the early 2000s, making more living space down below and wider cockpits above.
Beneteau has always tried to balance comfort with performance. This eventually resulted in their Oceanis line, designed and made for distance cruising in relative comfort.
If you are going to live aboard your sailboat, one of the most important questions to consider in deciding between these two brands is whether you will spend a lot of time sailing, how far, and in what conditions.
If you plan to stay mostly at the dock and go sailing on lighter-air days, the Hunter is probably the better choice.
For distance or offshore cruising, the Beneteau Oceanis is probably what you will end up preferring.
Are Hunter or Beneteau Sailboats Faster?
There was a time when Beneteau boats had the nickname “Beneslow,” as they were known in the 1970s and 1980s for slow hulls compared to other companies.
Their “First” line of racers gradually improved over time, but their focus on heavy-seas cruising over performance did not help this reputation.
Hunter was never known for their fast boats. This was exacerbated in the early 2000s when their production models began sporting much smaller foretriangles, usually fractional rigs with wide spreaders in a B&R rig that forced any large genoa to be sheeted toerail, which greatly inhibits windward performance.
Aimed at older sailors, these models were not particularly popular due to their lesser speed.
Today, though, boat design has standardized a bit. While there are clear differences in the hulls of the two manufacturers, current models are very similar in performance if comparing similar-sized boats.
The design of the sails has a lot to do with the speed of the boat. Many of the models from both brands use a furling mainsail, reducing the area by 15-20%. With a smaller headsail, this makes for prolonged speeds in light air. It is much easier to handle, but you give up a lot of performance.
It is fair to say that between similar-sized boats that a Hunter would be faster up until the late 1990s. Since then, they are about the same, particularly current models.
Are Hunter or Beneteau Sailboats more Beginner-Friendly?
Both Hunter and Beneteau make entry-level boats geared to the beginner and in a similar price range.
If you are buying new, most dealers will take you on a test sail to experience how the boat handles. If buying used, most owners will do that, as well.
It is best to take this opportunity if you can, as there is no better indicator of how you will like a boat than actually sailing in it.
Hunters are a little more beginner-friendly in that they generally have smaller headsails (due to the smaller foretriangle). Still, their B&R rig is more difficult to tune, given the number of wires it employs and its swept-back angle.
They are easier to handle for single-handed sailing.
The Hunter-Beneteau debates rage on.
While they are both currently producing good, solidly-built boats, they have a differing focus and design philosophy.
A beginning sailor will find the Beneteau easier to handle with a more comfortable layout.
The more experienced sailor will probably gravitate toward the Beneteau with its better all-around performance.