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Industry Insight

Motor Yacht vs Sailing Yacht: Which is Right for You?

Choosing between motor and sailing yachts involves many important factors. Our expert brokers provide a balanced and informed view to find you the yacht that perfectly fits your requirements.

The traditional consensus in the yachting world is that, while motor yachts offer a higher level of luxury with more space to relax on board to take in the wonderful destinations you visit, sailing boats are all about the romance of harnessing the wind for blissful voyages. While this is still true, the lines are beginning to blur. With sailing yachts getting bigger and more luxurious, and eco concerns starting to ask questions of power boats, the motor yacht vs sailing yacht decision can be a difficult one.

So, what are the differences to consider when deciding to buy a yacht?

Level of Luxury

Motor yachts are synonymous with speed and power and are often what first comes to mind for many when imagining a superyacht. Sleek and stylish, without the restriction of sails and rigging, they are undoubtedly the choice for more spacious and comfortable living afloat. Depending on the size, motor yachts also have the capacity to house a huge range of amenities such as beach clubs, gyms, elevators, saunas, and hammam creating the ultimate in oceangoing luxury.  

With expansive staterooms, flexible layouts, sprawling decks and spacious lounging areas, buying a motor yacht is a great option for those wanting to entertain large groups of family and friends on board, before making the most of every anchorage with space for a wide range of superyacht toys to enjoy.  

On the other hand, less space and comfort have, conventionally, been the disadvantage of sailing yachts. Their inherent need for sleek narrow hull design for sailing efficiency means a compromise between comfort and performance has always been the main challenge for sailing yacht designers. 

However, there are many sailboats which benefit from surprisingly expansive accommodation thanks to modern technology which allows them to be just as comfortable as motor yachts. Combine this with the thrill of wind-powered exploration for one of the most rewarding and captivating experiences you can find, and sailboats can offer you a sense of adventure power boats simply can’t.  

Sauna on SOARING superyacht
Gym on SOARING superyacht

Romanticism and Authenticity vs Ease of Cruising

A sailing yacht caters more to the romantic notion of traditional yachtsmanship. With the feeling of the wind in your hair, salt spray on your face and sun on your skin offering a wonderfully liberating experience where unforgettable moments with family and friends are created, sailing is unquestionably a more thrilling and involved experience than motor yachting. The slower speed offers you a chance to appreciate the journey, the charm of the vessel you are on, and the people you are travelling with.  

Working out how to best navigate the wind and tides can sometimes sound like an old-fashioned way of doing things, but the sense of satisfaction one can derive from heading towards your desired destination under full sail is an experience like no other. Not to mention the eco-friendly nature of sailing. Of course, sailboats have a small engine for manoeuvring in port or travelling in light winds, but even these are starting to become electrified for a truly sustainable adventure. However, reliance on wind power can sometimes throw up logistical challenges. Pair this with the motor yacht industry becoming more and more environmentally conscious and the sailing vs motor yacht eco-debate may change in years to come.

"On board A SULANA sailing yacht"

Motor yachts also offer a much simpler cruising experience. Easier to handle and delivering a drier time at sea, their elevated level from the water and smoother ride thanks to stabilisers mean they are often a popular choice for those new to, or less experienced in the nautical world.

Providing steady cruising capabilities and an ability to reach high speeds, luxury motor yachts are great for those who want to explore more cruising areas in shorter timescales. With wind being less of a factor, they offer greater flexibility as there is less requirement to plan ahead. So, visiting perfect white sandy beaches and stunning anchorages on a whim is a luxury only motor yachts can offer.

noise, vibrations and comfort

There is no question that the soundtrack to your time at sea is a defining factor in the sailing vs motor yacht discussion. For the most part, sailboats are reliant on the wind. From sloops and schooners to catamarans and ketches, the lack of engine noise and vibration makes for the ultimate sense of peace and privacy, with the only sound being the water lapping gently against the hull. On the other hand, while underway motor yachts have the thrum of diesel motors to contend with, while this may seem a drawback, the power from these engines affords you more time at your desired destinations with shorter journey times. Not to mention with modern engine design and impressive sound proofing technology motor yachts are becoming increasingly quiet and smooth running. 

If comfy cruising is high on your list of what you want while at sea then a motor yacht is probably for you. Providing supreme comfort while underway, many benefit from stabilisers to reduce roll, as well as vast sun pads and lounging areas to relax and watch the scenery pass-by while the yacht does all the work for you. 

Sailing yachts on the other hand require a much more hands on approach. Getting the sail trim right, heeling (when the boat tilts over slightly as the wind blows against the sails), and working out the best route dependent on the wind direction & tides, are all factors that make the journey on board a sailing yacht a far more involved experience. While many sailing boats can still offer ample space and comfort, motor yachts are simply designed for total luxury.

range: explorer yachts vs blue water cruisers

An excellent choice for those looking for a more adventurous yachting experience and unlimited world cruising, explorer yachts offer staggering volume and an extremely capable platform to motor across oceans, and visit far flung shores off the beaten track in total comfort. Typically providing more storage room for tenders and water toys, and many modern explorer yachts even featuring helipads and research facilities, they truly offer a go anywhere capability, and with no need to worry about needing enough wind to get anywhere, you can be sure you will arrive where you intend on time.

"NORTHERN SUN explorer yacht"

The main drawback when considering explorer yachts is their fuel usage. While most are designed to have extremely economical cruising, an ocean crossing can still consume thousands of litres of fuel. Not only an environmental consideration, but also a cost factor. Conversely, a well-appointed blue water sailing yacht has unlimited range with the use of its sails. While waiting for the right conditions is something not everyone is willing to do, when underway, life at sea can be just as comfortable on board a blue water cruiser as an explorer yacht.

As a result, sailing vs motor yacht here is really dependent on how you wish to experience life at sea. While explorer yachts will offer lavish cruising in total comfort, sailing across oceans using wind power only will give a sense of achievement like no other. For long distance cruising, the sailing vs motor yacht choice is crucial in ensuring your boat is capable of living up to your requirements for extended periods on board. No matter if it's sail or motor, our experienced brokers are experts at helping to find the right yacht to fit your needs. 

Shallow waters and Low Bridges

A clear advantage motor yachts have over their sailing counterparts is a shallow draught. While sailboats have a deep keel to counterbalance the power of their sails, power boats have no need for this. With a shallow underwater profile they are ideal for navigating shallow waters to access some of the most breathtaking anchorages with crystal clear water and the shadow of your yacht visible on the seabed. To get over this hurdle, some sailing yachts have a lifting keel, however, this feature is only usable when the sails aren’t in use, rendering power boats more capable in the shallows.  

Height is also a drawback for sailing. If you wish to visit cities via their meandering rivers, the chances are you will encounter bridges. Sailing yachts with their towering masts are likely to require the mast being taken down in order to pass beneath such bridges. This can be quite the undertaking, and as a result, for a city break motor yachts are by far the favourite.

Charter and Operational Costs

As previously stated, with their larger, more versatile interior and superior speed, motor yachts are without doubt more easily geared towards offering an outstanding charter experience. Capable of fitting more into a time-restricted charter, offering a wide range of activities and spacious entertaining areas, whether it’s the picturesque French Riviera or azure waters of the Caribbean, power boats really shine in the world of charter.

However, for the sailing enthusiast, chartering in the best sailing grounds around the world is a great way to fulfil your wind powered desires. While exploring the countries and drinking in the cultures of the beautiful destinations you choose to visit, sailing yachts are generally run at a lower cost. With the main expense being the sails and rigging requiring replacement every few years, and fuel usage lower, sailing yachts are much cheaper to run and maintain.

Not only expensive to run with fuel being the main contributor, motor yachts are also expensive to maintain. With the engines being the only source of power to get anywhere, they must be maintained to an exceptional standard, and anything that needs replacing or repairing will no doubt be expensive.

motorsailers and hybrid multihulls: the perfect compromise?

If you are still undecided and can’t choose between the allure of speed, power, and sheer luxury or an authentic and romantic experience afloat, why not simply have both? Instead of pitching motor yachts against sailing yachts, falling somewhere in between, a motorsailer could be the perfect combination for some. Effectively 100% sailing and 100% motor, and able to perform to uncompromising standards for either purpose, they combine the whimsical adventure of sailing, and the efficiency of mechanical propulsion, often with the bonus of roll reduction for a smoother ride, and a highly attractive option for many. Enjoy the simplicity and silence of using the sails with the peace of mind that mechanical assistance is always available if the wind is not in your favour. Many of these yachts also feature expansive outdoor space, large indoor areas and state-of-the-art amenities that could rival any motor yacht of a similar size. 

"MEIRA motorsailer"

Or, why not take a step into the future of yacht design? A great choice for those considering power boats but questioning their environmental impact, a hybrid multihull is a new design gaining popularity in the yachting world. Making use of the latest energy recovery systems and extremely efficient eclectic motors, they sit somewhere between motor and sailing yachts. With electrified propulsion systems, the versatility and speed of a power boat is afforded while, the eco-benefits and silent cruising a sailing yacht provides are also available. Combine this with the spacious decks and interiors multihulls offer, and a startlingly versatile platform is produced that, for some, can provide a perfect solution to the sailing vs motor yacht decision.   

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