Boat vs. Yacht

There are multiple types of watercraft roaming through waters, just as there are many different types of vehicles on dry land. Most people recognize these watercraft like boats, while the larger ones are referred to as ships. These vessels are classified according to their size, purpose, propulsion, crew requirements, and other factors, from the smallest dinghy to the largest ships that cruise the seven seas.

Among these “boats,” you may have come across “yachts,” which are among the most fabled and flamboyant vessels. This article aims to dig deep into facts and differences and cover the basics of what makes a boat a yacht.

Definitions: An Overview 

Definitions of terms like yacht, boat, and ship aren't always clear enough to determine which is called what. Often people take an unofficial approach to recognize a boat as a yacht or a ship. If we look at it technically, all yachts are boats, but not all boats fall under the yacht category. 

Let’s take a look at how we can differentiate them.


Boats are usually more practical than luxurious, while they can get quite large according to their purposes. They can be either a fishing boat, a rowboat, or a dinghy. 

Although it may appear that describing a boat is more straightforward than defining a yacht, it may be excessively complex because ship captains frequently refer to their vessels as “boats” regardless of size, function, or fit-and-finish. Essentially, the term “boat” has become a slang word for any floating vessel that is more complex than a raft. 

Nevertheless, a boat can be defined as a relatively small, non-luxurious vessel with lower-end amenities. They are powered by small engines or manual labor, such as rowing, and they can be used for recreational purposes or jobs such as fishing or water police. 


The word “yacht” brings up a particular image of a relatively large, expensive, spacious, vessel with a multitude of luxurious amenities. Yachts are specifically manufactured with recreational activities and comfort in mind. The name “yacht” comes from the Dutch word for "hunter," as these types of vessels were initially employed by the Dutch in the 16th century to chase buccaneers. Soon enough, other Europeans started to replicate this unique concept. Today they have evolved into many types, including sailing yachts, motor yachts, gulet yachts, cabin cruisers, luxury yachts, sports yachts, and catamaran yachts. 

Boat Sizes vs. Yacht Sizes

  • A vessel anywhere from roughly 15-35 feet in length can be categorized as a boat.
  • Yachts can range from 35 to 200+ feet in length. 

One of the primary factors used in the boating community to differentiate a boat from a yacht is its size. It is evident that yachts are larger than boats since they accommodate more luxurious amenities than a boat. Boats usually weigh under 50 tons and stay within the limit of 15-35 feet in length. Therefore, they can be powered by a small engine or by rowing, and they are not ideal for traveling long distances. 

For a boat to be qualified as a yacht, the standard rule is it should be 35 feet or longer. Yachts can get pretty massive in this day and age. Hence, the word “superyacht” refers to vessels longer than 78 feet, while “megayacht” describes ships longer than 260 feet. Due to their enormous sizes, very few yachts can achieve high speeds, and require much larger engines. However, they can travel extended distances into the ocean, since they are sturdier and better equipped than smaller boats.


  • Boats can depend on sails and wind, human power (rowing), or small inboard or outboard motors.
  • Yachts boast highly sophisticated inboard power plants to produce more power.
  • With the aid of high horsepower engines, yachts can often attain speeds well over 20 mph.

Due to their small size and lighter weight, small boats can be nimble vessels with small engines to get them around. These motors require less fuel and can be easily repaired in the event an issue occurs. Vessels like rowboats and sailboats, due to their means of propulsion, typically can not attain high speeds.

Yachts utilize much larger engines with complicated technology to help them achieve relatively high speeds - and the reliability to travel great distances. A typical cruising yacht may have two turbines and can reach from 14 mph to 20 mph. Some larger yachts come equipped with four motors that can generate over 1,000 horsepower, capable of much higher speeds. 

How Are They Used?

  • Boats are used for commercial fishing, law enforcement vehicles, or simple recreational purposes. 
  • Boats cannot travel long distances into rough waters and don’t need a big crew to operate like yachts.
  • Yachts are meticulously crafted for recreation, relaxation, comfort, and luxury.
  • Yachts can handle rough waters, travel longer distances, and usually need a crew to operate. 

If you take a small rowing boat like a dinghy into the open sea, chances are you will tip over and end up in the water. While larger boats are often used in the open sea for commercial fishing, they cannot last lengthy periods in open water due to lack of equipment. They are sailed by a captain and don’t require a sizable crew to operate. 

Typically, a yacht has a comfortable interior, bathrooms, a kitchen, a seating area, and the console to control the vessel. While it is possible for one person to operate, yachts often carry a crew who can help with equipment, navigation, electronics, and maintenance. They are competent to navigate rough waters and deal with more turbulent seas. Yachts are ideal for lengthy ocean trips due to their size, high-tech navigation equipment, weather protection, and several other characteristics.


Boats and yachts each carry their own pros and cons. While boats are ideal for small jobs like fishing or calm water recreational activities, yachts are best suited for luxury recreational cruises. 

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