Motor Yacht VS Sailboat, the legendary topic of conversation in the yachting world, if ever there was one! Approached with seriousness or with humour, it continues to spark debate and always will. Sailors and motor yacht aficionados have no lack of arguments to win supporters.

Don’t expect us to take sides! There are no sides, just 2 options and 1 question: which one is best FOR YOU? 

That is exactly what this publication is about. 

In the light of 23 years of expertise in yachting, WI teams have elaborated an inventory of the main specific characteristics and differences between Motor Yacht and Sailboat to help you decide which option best meets your expectations.

What are the main differences between a motor yacht and a sailboat?

One might be tempted to explain the difference with just saying that the motor yachts are larger and more luxurious and sailing yachts much better adapted to world cruising explorations. Not so wrong but not so right either. Times have changed! Sailing yachts have become larger and more luxurious while motor yachts have been adapted to the specific requirements of exploration.

The essential differences also lie in other factors. Follow the guide.

Sailboat vs Motor yacht, or Sailing vs performances: two different ways of enjoying the sea

How do you picture yourself on your boat? Active or relaxing? There is nothing wrong with either style of holidays; there is one for everyone’s taste..

If you want to play a part in your cruise, participate in a collaborative effort, then a sailing yacht is a clear choice. As many yachting experts agree, motor yachts are pleasant to stay in and enjoy the destination while sailboats are more about enjoying the journey. 

In conclusion, sailing or performances : just two different ways of enjoying the sea.

Speed of a motor yacht vs feeling of a sailboat: is there truly a better option?

If what is important for you is to reach the next marina quickly and cover a lot of destinations, no doubt, the motor yacht is for you.

Though, let’s not underestimate sailboats. They can go as fast as the wind or even faster under the right conditions.

But, what about if the air is still or the wind blowing in the wrong direction ? That is the matter (see this article about sailing upwind for details), even though the engine on a sailing boat will get you there ! But sailing is unique in the sense that it provides a real communion with nature, just the noise of the wind and waves.

Undoubtedly, it is more exciting than powerboating. Exciting because you try to figure out how to use the wind to reach your destination without mentioning the strength to operate the mainsail which makes the experience even more rewarding. One can experience the power of nature and the challenge is to harness this (green) energy!

In a word, motor yachts are usually faster, but sailboats can be too and they definitely bring a different feel.

Motor yacht vs sailboat: the noise factor

Close your eyes. You are on a sailboat. You can only hear the sound of the wind and the water splashing on the hull.

Close your eyes (again). You are on a motorboat, and you can hear the constant engine sound in the back. No doubt, the soundtrack is one of the main differences between motor yachts and sailboats. Now whether that is good or bad depends on if it matters to you…or not !

The Smell of a motor yacht vs the fragrance of a sailboat

Subtle or strong, most motor yachts have a fuel odour. No matter what you do, you always get diesel smell from the fuel tank and these odours always find their way inside the yacht! 

As for sailboats the question is: what is the smell of the wind? The pragmatists would say that the wind had no smell whereas the romantics will evoke the ocean scents and its rich iodine perfume.

Which fragrance is right for you ? That is up to you.

Read also : Buying a Yacht : The Frequently Asked Question

The differences of space on board between a motor yacht and a sailboat: functionality vs liveability

Motoryachts space and liveability

Motorboats are typically more comfortable for living and sleeping than sailboats. Not only more of the boat is above water but when it comes to space, they also tend to be more open.

Their boxy profile design  provides a larger amount of interior space. Their decks are not cluttered with sails or masts. Consequently, they are much more comfortable to move around and just perfect for on-board entertaining.

Cherry on the cake, the flybridge. This “extra floor” gives even more space and comfort. Last but not least, motorboats have more options to take shelter from the sun.

Sailboats space and liveability

As far as sailing boats are concerned, they are narrower and sleeker because of the hydrodynamics. As the wind is harnessed in the sails (aerodynamics), the hull shape must work in the water. And a sailboat needs both to travel through water easily and speedily.

In a word, space is sacrificed for the sake of efficiency.

Having said that, if you are looking  for adventure, authenticity and willing to enjoy the romance of the journey, a sailboat is probably still what you need. You will experience the power of nature and be in tune with the elements and the boat itself.

As we have just seen, there are two kinds of people: motorboat people and sailing yacht people. Up until very recently, sailboats were seen as for those willing to sacrifice comfort for an experience out on the seas.

However, technology has now come to a point where new sailing yachts can be as comfortable and luxurious as motorboats. And the bigger the sailboat, the truer this becomes!

Motor yacht or Sailboat for ocean crossing? The debate of wind vs fuel

If you want to travel long distances, the right boat could be a sailboat. The sails can take you anywhere in the world. But the other side of the coin is that you may  have to wait a long time for the right conditions. Mother Nature! If the wind is not cooperating, your trip will not go as planned. This is why sailboats are more adventurous! 

On the other hand, motorboats do not depend on anything as unpredictable as the wind, but be careful with the sea states and weather conditions if you want a  gentle pleasure cruise.

If sailboats don’t need a lot of fuel, motorboats do and not all of them have the capacity to carry so much fuel to cross an ocean. Some of them can only go as far as your fuel tank will carry you.

Again, we can see there are many points to consider when it comes to deciding on a sailboat or a motorboat. In the end, it all depends on what kind of boating experience you’re looking for. No matter what your perfect yachting vacation looks like, WI experts’ team will find you the perfect boat to make it happen, whether that be motor or sail.


Motor yacht vs sailboat in shallow waters

Sailboats have a deeper draft, requiring them to avoid shallow water and  stay further from shore. On the other hand, motorboats have shallower drafts so you can go through shallow water and get closer to the beaches when anchoring. In a word, whether the waterways are narrow, or the water is shallow, a motorboat will allow you to navigate almost any coastline.

Charter and operational costs : an advantage for wind propelled boats

It’s a fact, motorboats are more expensive to maintain.

Without the engine you just cannot move and each time you go out, you will use a lot of fuel. The engines of a motor yacht are more expensive too. Anything that needs to be repaired or replaced is going to be costly. It all adds up!

The sailboat engine is much smaller than that of a powerboat, and not used as often, so fuel and maintenance costs are way lower. Actually, the most significant expenses for sailboats are the sails and rigging. They certainly don’t last forever, but it depends on how much use and care they get. But for sure, sailboats are more cost-efficient, mainly because they use less fuel.

Read our article about the true cost of yacht ownership for more details.

Sailboat vs motor yacht : can the sailboat really lose in terms of authenticity and romanticism?

Authenticity and romanticism.

The two keywords that make sailboats incomparable and endowed with this unique touch of soul! 

Sailing is all about taking things a bit slower, appreciating the journey and just relying on the goodwill of Mother Nature and your sailing skills. Mapping your trip to the weather and tides with no dependence on fuel, just manpower: what could be more authentic and romantic?

Of course, motor yachts do have their charm, but nothing beats the one of the sailboats. Sailboats have existed since the dawn of time and might actually turn out to be the yachting of the future thanks to its eco-friendly characteristics. They are the ultimate in environmentally friendly travel: using the wind for power cannot be more eco-friendly. Of course, most sailboats do have a small engine, but they mainly use it for docking. So pretty soon owning a sailing yacht might be THE right investment in the future of our planet.

But let’s be fair. The motor yacht industry is making huge strides in environmental protection, and this is just the beginning. No doubt it will narrow the gap.  

Ease of sailing the boat: a point for motor yachts

Motorboats are much easier to operate than sailboats. In caricaturing one can say : you just start the engine, steer the boat, and control your speed. Just between us,  that explanation is not completely off the mark. One just needs to understand the rules of the water; the rest is very easy.

On the other hand, sailboats require a lot of learning and practice to master. You must understand how to work the equipment onboard, the wind power and direction, speed, tides, and other factors which will impact on your journey. In a word, sailing is a skill that requires many years of dedication to perfect.

On motor yachts or sailboats,  if you want to take it easy, WI yachting will find you a great crew.  This way, you will not have to bother with operating your boat, whether it is easy or difficult!

Motor yacht vs sailboat: how to be sure to make the right choice?

Choose a sailboat if you want an authentic sailing experience

As we have seen above, there are a multitude of factors to be considered when choosing between a motor yacht and a sailboat. To draw a quick conclusion,  one can say that a motor yacht offers the speed, the space, great comfort, and all types of entertainment onboard while the sailboat will take you on a romantic and adventurous journey, full of emotions and in connection with the sea and its elements.

To the question “how to be sure you make the right choice ?” , our reply is simple and straightforward : “Engaged a professional yacht broker”. With 23 years of experience in yachting WI teams will provide you with an objective expert view, making sure that you choose a yacht which perfectly suits your requirements for the best possible price.

Still undecided ? Go for a motor sailer or a hybrid multihull!

And, if you cannot make up your mind between these 2 options, why don’t you go for a motor sailboat or even a hybrid multihull ! Yes, the time needed was taken and now the marine hybrid propulsion is a reality. The electric sailing world is knocking at the door even though its adoption in the sector is much slower than in the automotive field. The market is still a niche, but progress is being made. The bonuses are multiple: easy to handle, attractive economic option, no emission,  footprints reduction, silence, and lack of vibration. You are in a motorboat, but you (almost) feel like you are on a sailboat! In a word,  a very promising growth sector for the future. 

Whether you decide to smoothly glide on the Ocean on a sailboat or power your way from one destination to another, WI Yachting has the perfect boat for you. For further guidance on finding the yacht to suit you, please contact WI teams.