Difference Between a Yacht and a Sailboat
By Marc Gordon - October 2, 2022

Many people, including boaters, use the terms “sailboat” and “yacht” interchangeably, despite those things being quite distinct. This article will discuss the many differences and similarities between sailboats and yachts.

Table Summary

They are averagely largerA smaller watercraft
May or may not have sailsAlways have sails
Usually powered by motorsDo not typically rely on motors for propulsion
The owner may have to learn controls and technologyThe owner has to learn to read weather signs
Relatively expensiveCheaper


A yacht is a large sailing or power vessel used for recreational purposes such as cruising or racing. The term was first used by the Dutch, who originally used it to describe a tiny, fast sailing vessel employed by the Dutch navy to chase down and capture pirates. Because there is no official definition, the word also broadly refers to vessels with a cabin with facilities that allow for overnight use.

What comprises a sailing boat and ship differ depending on geography and nautical culture. A sailboat, sometimes a sailing boat, is a smaller watercraft powered partially or fully by sails. Dinghys, sloops, schooners, and catboats are all examples of sailboat types.

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A sailboat is usually significantly smaller than a yacht. There are exceptions, and really large sailboats do exist, but a yacht will properly be larger, spanning anywhere from 30 feet to 100s feet. Yachts may be powered purely by the wind (through the sails), one/more inboard or outboard motors, or a combination of both, depending on the model. Sails will always be present on sailboats, however, as the principal means of propulsion. The presence or absence of a sail makes more difference: sailboats consume less or no fuel than the motor boat. Yachts, however, are easy to steer on open water, especially during storms or when there’s little wind. Finally, Yachts are way more expensive to acquire or maintain than sailboats are.