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Difference Between a Boat and a Yacht That You Want to Know

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

difference between a boat and a yacht

When people see a gleaming white boat on the water that exudes a certain prestige, such a luxurious-looking boat is immediately thought of as a yacht. But what exactly is the difference between a boat and a yacht and how do you differentiate between them?

We’ll take a closer look at yachts and make a comparison between them and boats. Let’s also examine the characteristics of boats, so we can have an easier time identifying them.

Let’s get started.

Comparison: Yacht vs Boat


  • Yachts have no set limit, while a large boat exceeding a certain size is called a ship
  • The superyacht, mega yacht, and Giga yacht are larger yacht types

2. Facility

  • A yacht is usually a recreational boat that focuses on comfort amenities
  • Boats usually do not focus as heavily on comfort amenities

3. Purpose

  • Boats have a wide variety of purposes
  • Yachts are mainly for recreational purposes and entertaining guests

What Is a Boat

The boat is a watercraft that traverses the surface of the water. There are many types of boats, and they have a very wide range of sizes, lengths, and designs. Boats also cover a very wide range of uses and purposes.

Fishing boats, police boats, trading boats—there are many uses for boats. There are also many other boats that are specialized for other activities such as racing.

Characteristics of Boats


1. Size

Boats can be under 16 ft and reach up to 64 feet. However, there are much bigger boats that are well over the usual limits for boat length and weight; these boats include tugboats and certain freighters.

Whether a big boat is called a ship depends on its purpose.

Larger boats are called ships, but it’s usually their weight and purpose that defines this classification. In some countries, purpose alone distinguishes ships from boats. Usually, a boat for transporting goods and passengers through oceans is considered a ship.

2. Propulsion

There are many types of propulsion used for the different types of boats. They fall into one of three categories: human-powered, wind-powered, or engine-powered. Human-powered boats are those that need people to row using oars or paddles.

The sailboat is a wind-powered boat that relies on sails to move and is highly dependent on the wind. Sailboats in the past that relied on trade winds to ferry goods between countries are good examples.

Engine-powered boats refer to boats with motors, regardless of the type of motor used. A wide variety of engines have been used for boats such as the steam engine and the modern engine. Small engines can power smaller vessels with ease.

3. Operation time

Another distinguishing point of boats is their operation time or how long they can sail out in the open sea. To be more accurate, it’s their operation limit.

With their smaller size and limited living space, boats cannot sail for long periods and have to dock regularly. On the other hand, a ship can sail for extended periods.

4. Crew

Standard boats do not require a lot of people to operate and are typically operated by as few as one person. However, it’s not just that boats don’t need a full crew to operate, they just don’t have enough space.

What is a Yacht

The definition of a yacht is tricky and what size boat is considered a yacht is difficult to answer definitively. Taking a look at boat vs yacht does make it easier to understand what yachts are.

While yachts are boats, many are able to distinguish boats and yachts due to the latter’s extravagant appearance, but there is more to yachts than being just a pretty floating object. A yacht needs to have style and substance: it needs to have a purpose; it needs to have a high level of performance; and it needs to look good.

The word yacht comes from the Dutch word “jacht” meaning hunt. As far as naming is concerned, whether a vessel’s a yacht is really up to the manufacturer.

Is a yacht a ship? No, a ship is used for commercial purposes, not recreational activities, unlike yachts.

Generally, yachts need to have a few characteristics.

Characteristics of a Yacht


1. Size

While there are no standard yacht sizes in feet, there needs to be enough space on a yacht for comfort amenities. Living space is considered a necessity due to the fact that the concept of yachts came about when a hunting boat was used by the Dutch navy to entertain important guests. In general, a yacht is 33 ft or longer in length.

A few other factors that also come into play are crew space, recreational amenities, and cargo space. Currently, the biggest recreational yacht is the Azzam, which is 590ft long. Yachts are also expected to have a high level of performance, which means they must have enough space for powerful engines and operation systems.

Big yachts often fall in three categories: Super yachts, mega yachts, and giga yachts. Super yachts are over 100 feet long. Mega Yachts are usually longer than 2oo feet, while Giga yachts are much bigger and reach lengths of over 300 feet.

2. Propulsion

Historically, yachts have been known to be sailing yachts. There was a time when people were doubtful of motorized boats being considered yachts. This is due to the first yachts being wind-powered and the design staying close to the original for around three centuries.

Motor yachts are more common these days, though yacht engines are never outboard motors. It makes sense, since it’s easy to imagine an outboard motor ruining the prestige of a yacht by over-protruding on one side.

3. Luxury

Yachts are known for luxury. There is nothing more extravagant than making yourself feel at home in the middle of nature, and that’s exactly what a yacht affords. With its living quarters, seating area, dining space, and various other amenities, a yacht is like having your own hotel on the water.

Aside from having that level of comfort, being able to accommodate a number of guests on the yacht as well makes this a show of wealth like no other. High-tech yacht electronics make yachts easily capable of providing comfort at the level of a private cruise service.

4. Performance

Aside from the luxury that yachts afford, they’re also known for their high level of performance. Bigger yachts can run at speeds of around 35 knots or 40 miles per hour. Smaller yachts can also run fast, depending on the vessel’s weight and the amount of living space.

The world’s fastest yacht is a 41.5-meter long motor yacht that can go as fast as 70 knots. Many custom-built yachts reach speeds of over 40 knots in calm waters.


Now that you’ve seen the key characteristics of yachts, you won’t need to wonder about the difference between a boat and a yacht. While a yacht definition is still hard to make, you’ll no longer have a hard time identifying them.

If you know anyone else wondering what makes a boat a yacht, please share this article with them as well. Also, if you have any thoughts or comments about yachts, feel free to leave them below.

Remember to boat safely.

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