Sailboat Vs Yacht? 14 Things To Consider (Before You Choose)

In Boating by Christopher Schopf

Making the choice between a traditional sailboat and a yacht can often be difficult and maybe even a little confusing.  This is because yachts can have sails and the term boat and yacht are often used interchangeably.

In this article, we’ll assume a yacht is a boat that is over 26 feet and length with high-end materials used in its interior. 

Here are 14 things to consider when deciding between a sailboat vs a yacht.

1) What’s The Desired Use Of The Vessel?

One of the first thoughts to keep in mind is your desired use.

  • What do you want to do with your new boat? 
  • Do you want to go racing or deep-sea fishing?
  • Or will you simply be cruising in the boat?

People looking for a boat to race with probably won’t want to get a yacht.

This is because yachts focus more on luxury than they do on speed and maneuverability.  As a result, the amenities are usually heavier.

A yacht can be laid out like a fishing vessel, but it wouldn’t make much sense to do so.  This is because you’d have to change the deck area to make it more conducive to fishing. 

In this case, it would be better to start off with a sailboat built for fishing instead.  A large trawler would be less expensive than a large yacht and you wouldn’t have to make any alterations to the boat’s deck.

2) Amenities To Consider

If you’re searching for a boat that features many amenities, you may want to consider getting a yacht over the other types of boats.

A yacht will often have features such as residential refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers.

They also feature large boat-side recreation features like hot tubs and even full-size pools to swim in.  In fact, a mega-yacht might even have a pool large enough to swim laps in.

If you’re not into swimming inside of your boat, you can still take advantage of water features on your yacht.  I’ve seen yachts with koi ponds and even waterfalls built into them.

Another amenity that many yacht owners enjoy is a built-in movie theater.  These movie theaters have large projectors, plush seating and can even feature porthole windows.

People can even get a good workout while out on their yachts in their own fitness centers.  These fitness centers can be as simple as a few cardio machines and some dumbbells or they can be state of the art centers that feature everything a commercial fitness center might have to offer.

A sailboat will rarely have any of these amenities.  This is a good thing though because it makes them lighter and easier to navigate from.

On top of this, a sailboat will have a tighter galley kitchen.  This doesn’t offer as much space for cooking but it does make it easier to cook without falling over during rough weather conditions.

3) Comfort Vs. Bunk Beds

Yachts tend to be much more comfortable than the average sailboat as well.  This is because these boats are usually made primarily with comfort in mind.

You’ll notice that living rooms have leather couches and recliners throughout and that even the beds tend to be a bit more spacious.

Even the offices inside of a yacht tend to be outfitted with the most comfortable desks and chairs.

For people who are searching for more active comfort options, a yacht will often have massage parlors, salons, and even saunas built into them.  A traditional sailboat usually won’t have options like these, but it will be more comfortable to sail in and to sleep in while out in rough seas.

This is because a sailboat will have handrails and foot rails in strategic places.

On top of this, a sailboat will have bunks that are easy to get in and out of and that also have bed rails so that sailors do not roll out of them when the weather gets rough.

4) Sailing Skills Needed

When you’re choosing between a sailboat and a yacht, you may want to consider what your level of sailing skills are.  A yacht can be purchased as a sailing yacht or a power yacht but a sailboat is always going to rely on its sails for any long-distance voyage.

Also, sailboats can be purchased in a wide variety of sizes.

A sailing yacht is usually longer than 26’.  As a result, a yacht might be harder to sail than a traditional sailboat.

In fact, it may be impossible for you to sail a yacht by yourself.  People with larger yachts will have to hire a crew to help them out each time they want to go sailing.

5) Where Do I Get The Most For The Money?

A sailboat can have a lot of luxuries and comforts built into it.  However, a sailboat doesn’t have to have these amenities built into it.  As a result, you can save a lot of money by purchasing a bare-bones sailboat.

Yachts, on the other hand, will always have expensive amenities to consider.

Because of this, you’ll pay a lot more for a yacht than you will a sailboat.

Also, sailboats can be smaller than yachts so you have more inexpensive boats to choose from when making your purchase.  Yachts on the other hand usually start out well into the six-figure range and can go up into the millions depending on the size, age, and build quality of the yacht.

A yacht may also be harder to find in your area.

This is especially true if you’re buying a sailing yacht.  The scarcity of yachts compared to the abundance of sailboats drives the prices of yachts up even more.  This means that if you’re looking to buy a yacht in a part of the country that doesn’t have very many yachts available, you may pay an even bigger premium as well.

6) Ongoing Expenses To Factor In

Yachts can often cost more to maintain than sailboats.

This is especially true if you’re buying a motor yacht.  Boat engines require a lot of maintenance and the fuel costs can be prohibitive for many people.

For example, did you know that you might only be able to travel 2 or 3 nautical miles on a gallon of diesel fuel in a yacht?  Go on a long journey out to sea and you could end up spending a fortune on fuel.  A sailboat, on the other hand, will get you to where you want to go without any fuel at all.

Even the insurance on a yacht is more expensive than it is on a sailboat.  One reason is simply because of its designation as a yacht. 

Here’s a complete guide we’ve made with insurance cost for boats. It will help you get an idea of what to expect.

Insurance companies will charge more just because of this designation.

Another reason the insurance is higher is that yachts are usually more expensive to buy than a sailboat.  Because of this, yacht owners need to cover a larger dollar sum on their yacht than a sailboat owner does.

One advantage in ongoing expenses that a motor yacht owner does not have to contend with is the expense of maintaining, storing, and replacing the sails.  A sailboat’s sails must constantly be monitored for damages and stored safely out of the sun and saltwater whenever possible.

With a motor yacht, you don’t have these issues.

7) Distances Traveled Between Ports

living on a boat RV

Even large motor yachts will still have limits to how far they can travel between ports.  This is because they simply run out of fuel at some point.

Sailboat owners don’t have this issue.

A sea-worthy sailboat can travel for as long as the crew can manage.  In this case, the only limiting factor might be the amount of food that the sailboat owner can bring along.

For this reason, people looking to circumnavigate the world often opt to buy a large sailboat rather than a motor yacht.  This also saves them on fuel costs so they won’t have any distance limits due to budget constraints.

Even yacht owners that plan to travel along island routes may still have limits as to how far they can travel.  This is because replacement parts can’t always be found worldwide.

As a result, a yacht owner might end up stuck in one place while they wait for the arrival of a skilled yacht maintenance tech or a specialty part to arrive from overseas.

8) The Ability to Trailer The Boat

As we said earlier, the minimum size for a yacht is 26’ long.  The width of a 26’ longboat is usually well over 8’ wide.  Eight-foot is the maximum width that is allowed on many U.S. roads.

Even more lenient states will only allow for a maximum width of 8.5 feet.

As a result of all of this, it is impossible to trailer a yacht.  This makes storage and travels more complicated and more expensive.  It also makes it a lot less convenient.

A person looking for a boat that they can trailer will be better off buying a small sailboat.  The mast could be taken down so that the boat can be taken through bridges and tunnels without damage to the boat.

In fact, a sailboat can technically be purchased in models that are small enough to be transported on top of a vehicle or within a truck bed.

These sailboats are highly mobile and can be fun to use recreationally.

9) Available Space On The Deck(s)

Sailboats don’t always have a lot of deck space.  This is because much of their deck space is taken up with the mast, sails, and rigging.  As a result, people looking for a boat with a large deck to hang out on would be better off buying a yacht.

A yacht is often designed with deck space in mind.  In fact, a yacht will prioritize lounging areas on the deck.

Because of this, a yacht becomes a more social boat that is great for cruising and dock parties.

The downside of this, of course, is that you’ll have a larger deck to clean up each day.  A yacht’s deck often needs to be cleaned one or two times a day just to keep the saltwater from ruining it.

10) Cruising Vs Sailing

A sailboat owner gets to experience the thrill of sailing.  They get to become one with the boat as it heels on the water and runs with the wind.  This experience is a dream come true for many sailors.

For others, this experience is miserable.  These people may be prone to seasickness, they might not like the excitement of sailing, or they simply might feel like it is too much work to be fun.

Yacht owners, on the other hand, get to cruise along the water at a comfortable pace and they don’t have to rely on the wind to take them anywhere.  A yacht owner will travel in comfort but they’ll never get to experience the exhilaration that the sailboat owner gets to experience.

If you’re an adrenaline junky, you’ll probably gravitate more towards buying a sailboat.  On the other hand, if you like to relax on the water with your friends, you may be more suited to yacht ownership.

11) Crew Quarters

The owners of large yachts will often hire crews to manage their boats for them.  Because of this, you’ll find luxury accommodations on one end of the boat with crew quarters on the other end of the boat.

In fact, you may even find that larger yachts have captain’s quarters as well.

A captain’s quarters are usually well-appointed and the captain will have his or her own head on-suite.  Crew quarters are usually smaller and you’ll often have three crew members sleeping in the same room with bunks.

Sailboats can also have crew quarters but many of them are more democratized.  What I mean by this is that instead of several luxury quarters and a few crew quarters, you’re more likely to find a sailboat with quarters that are more even in size and capacity and you’re less likely to find berths with heads built into them.

12) Desired Length

It isn’t possible to buy a tiny yacht.  The smallest yacht that you can buy that is still considered a yacht is 26’ long.

Sailboats, on the other hand, come in many different forms and many different sizes.

You can buy large sailboats that rival the size of yachts or you can buy small sailing vessels that you can put on top of your vehicle.

This versatility in size makes sailboat ownership more universal.  Most people can buy a sailboat even with a modest income.  Yachts, on the other hand, are much bigger and much more expensive.  As a result, you’ll find that only people with higher incomes or with a lot of interest in yachting will be willing to spend the money it takes to invest in a yacht.

13) Want To Join A Yacht Club?

Some yacht clubs are yacht clubs in name only.  These clubs will allow anyone with a boat to join the club.  In some instances, people can join these clubs without ever even owning a boat.

More serious yacht clubs will insist that you own a yacht.

In fact, they may even have minimum boat requirements.  For example, you may have to own a newer yacht or you may have to own a yacht of a certain size.

Here’s everything you need to know before you consider joining a yacht club. It’s a great guide we’ve made to help you understand how these clubs work.

If you’re looking to join a local yacht club, you may want to check with the club before you make your yacht purchase.  It would be unfortunate if you bought a brand new yacht only to find out that it was a foot or two shorter than it needed to be to meet the requirements of the yacht club.

Sailors have other club options.

A person looking to join a sailing club may need to buy a certain type of sailboat.  For example, a sailing club may only accept sailors with monohull sailboats.

In this case, you’d want to check with your local sailing clubs before making your purchase.

14) Renting or Buying?

Yachts and sailboats don’t need to be purchased outright.  Some people will rent their boats for specific trips.  This can be especially advantageous for people who want to take a long trip on a yacht.

The reason for this is that the rented yacht might also come with a fully-staffed crew.  This crew will have experience with the boat you’re renting so you won’t have to worry about having them trained.

People looking for a sailboat instead might also find renting to be better than buying. 

Here’s a guide we’ve made with a long list of examples on renting prices on sailboats.

For example, a person could rent a different type of sailboat each time they decide to go out for a day of sailing.  This gives them many different experiences and eliminates the storage, insurance, and maintenance costs.

In fact, even people who are looking to buy might want to start off by renting a few times first.  This will give the potential boat owner the chance to explore their options before making a long-term commitment.

Here’s another article we’ve made with more things to think about if you are considering whether to rent or buy a boat.

In Summary

Before deciding which type of boat to buy, it is a good idea to determine what needs you prioritize the most.  If you’re looking for an economical vessel to take on long-distance voyages, you may want to consider a sailboat.

Otherwise, you could go with a yacht which might make cruising more pleasant.