When Does a Boat Become a Yacht or Superyacht? (Sizes)

when does a boat become a yacht

Yachting is the epitome of watertop luxury. Designed as one of the most sophisticated and comfortable vessels out there, the yacht seems come fully equipped with all the amenities you could ever hope for on a boat - and much more. In fact, some yachts can have tennis courts, helipads, and even full sized swimming pools, which means these boats can get crazy big.

Today, the yacht comes in a range of sizes, which is why some of them have been given the designation 'superyacht'. But when does a boat become a yacht, and when is it a superyacht? Here's what you need to know about this boat and its sizes.

What Size is Called a Yacht?

super yacht

Just for the sake of information, we're going to go ahead and define what a yacht is first. The term yacht actually has its origins in the Dutch word jaght - a word that means 'hunter'. They used to call it such because these vessels were originally used to chase and catch pirate boats at the time. So the sporty marine vessel had to be quick to move.

But in the 1660's, the Dutch yacht was used to transport royalty, which changed people's perception of the boat from a sporty pirate-catching vessel to a means for important people to travel.

These days though, the definition of what a yacht is versus a boat can be pretty blurry. In fact, there is no standard definition on what can be called a yacht. So a yacht is any boat that has a cabin and facilities that can accommodate overnight use.

In terms of sizes, the yacht comes in a wide range. Size categories include:

Craft or Cruiser

This is a term used to describe any basic vessel less than 12 meters or 39 feet long, with a cabin and overnight amenities. The smallest are typically 35-foot personal yachts, and the look like a sailboat.


The term yacht refers to a vessel between 13 meters and 24 meters in length (78 feet.)


The superyacht is defined as a vessel 24 meters to 85 meters in length (278 feet.)


The superyacht and megayacht terms are often used interchangeably because they mean the same thing. Sources argue that the superyacht is the British term to describe a boat or ship 24 meters to 85 meters in length, while the other is the American term for a yacht of the same length.

For reference, the biggest yacht in the world measures 222 meters or 728 feet long. This places it in the category of giga yacht. Regardless of size, the yacht is what an owner would describe as a leisure marine vessel.

Boat vs Motor Yacht - What's the Difference?

Again, there is no standard definition of what a yacht is. So some people tend to think that you can call any old boat a yacht. But there are some characteristics that are more typically associated with yachts and that set them apart from other boat types.


Generally speaking, the word yacht is used to describe a floating vessel bigger than any other recreational or luxury boat. They typically have more extensive length overall. But it pays to know that there isn't a specific line that would argue specific boat sizes as yachts or not's. On average however, boat models tend to measure 30 feet and below while yachts typically start at about 35 feet.

Viable Conditions

Most boat designs are intended for calm inland waterways where they can navigate and operate without putting the crew at risk of danger. Bigger boats, usually up to 30 feet in size, should be able to operate in slightly rougher open waters for a short period of time.

But yachts with their supreme technology, comfort features, and varied power mechanisms can sail easily in deeper ocean waters with strong wind and waves. That's why yachts are the watercraft of choice for owners who want to enjoy long excursions across great distances.


It's standard for a yacht to have a cabin where passengers can sleep. They also have bathrooms since they're designed for long voyages. Depending on the size of the yacht, they can also come with a wide range of other pleasure features on board, including but not limited to dining halls, full sized kitchens, gyms, pools, tennis courts, and theaters to name a few. Superyachts and mega yachts can even have helipads so passengers can visit remote islands.

Essentially, the yacht is designed to provide passengers a hotel experience, but on water. The unique environment means that those who ride the massive ships can enjoy a combination of the great outdoors and lavish comfort on board. Commercial yachts of significant size can pack any variety of facilities, including various courts for different sporting events like tennis, basketball, and even golf.

Propulsion - Motor Yachts and Sails

The yacht could be propelled by either sails and wind or by an inboard or outboard motor, which is common with many other boat types. On any other boat, an engine should be able to produce sufficient power and speed on the waves, cutting through choppy water without a hitch.

However motor yacht engines tend to be superior in terms of power. These supersized engines produce supreme propulsion, generating as much as 800hp for some of the biggest motor yachts in the biz. They're also designed so that they don't wear out quite as quickly, so yachts can travel for longer periods of time. In fact, yachts that ditch the sails for motors because of their size are no longer considered boats, but ships.

Navigational Technology

Boat buyers have the option to add high tech navigational instruments to their boat, but it's sort of a requirement if you're buying a yacht. Since yachting can involve long, even trans oceanic voyages, it's important that they're equipped with the latest technology for navigating the waters.

These instruments work to provide precise positioning information which is especially important when traveling long stretches of open ocean or sea. Other than that, these high tech devices also make sure that the yacht has sufficient information on the water and weather conditions at sea, as well as any traffic or boat obstructions in their way so it could sail without a hitch.

Aesthetics and Comfort

Luxury isn't a quality that's originally exclusive to the yacht since there are tons of other boat designs out there that boast luxurious, sophisticated aesthetics and interiors. But the yacht definitely pushes the envelope, with even the most basic yacht touting premier facilities on deck.

These leisure boats use the finest materials for their seats, with some even touting genuine leather upholstery for the added comfort. With the style of a lavish mansion, yachts are floating hotels giving its passengers the ultimate luxury boating experience that combines both modern sophistication and comfort.


Yachts are expensive, no doubt. While you might be able to get your hands on a top-of-the-line boat with a couple hundred thousand dollars, yachts cost several hundred millions if you're looking into premier yacht territory.

In fact, some of the most expensive yachts cost way over a billion dollars, making them available only to the super rich. Nonetheless, those who want the yacht experience have the option to rent them out from their owners. It's still not going to be cheap though.

What are Superyachts, Megayachts, and Gigayachts?


Now that we know what boat can be called a yacht, it's time to get into categories. The size of a yacht tells you which specific category it falls into. Again, there are no hard lines that separate categories. So it's sometimes a matter of opinion, but boat experts do agree on some of the size boundaries for different kinds of yachts.

The superyacht, also called a megayacht (depending on where you're from) is any yacht that measures 24 meters to 85 meters. Some yacht owner sources say that superyachts are yachts that measure 40 meters or more. It's not common to see yachts this size being propelled by sails since their weight could require unrealistically strong wind to push them forward.

A yacht exceeding 85 meters is what you would call a gigayacht, with most of them measuring between 300 feet to 400 feet in length. They have the most extensive length overall compared to any other kind of yacht. They can cost anywhere from $200 million to upwards of a billion bucks, making them some of the most expensive recreational luxury vessels around.

To be called a superyacht, megayacht, or gigayacht, the vessel must have sophisticated aesthetic and leisure qualities that surpass the comfort and appearance of other boats. They should also have staterooms or cabins for passengers to rest after a long day of fun and adventure. Propulsion is done by way of powerful motors in place of sails, officially designating them as ships, not boats.

Remember though that once a yacht reaches 22 meters (the measure of a 72-foot boat), it's required that you get a crew to operate (for more on this see our guide: what size yacht requires a crew and captain). That's because there's a lot that goes on when you're managing a large vessel. Without a captain and other professionals on deck, owners might struggle to safely operate the large vessel.

Yacht charters can have a crew that includes just around six people. But then again, yachts in the superyacht territory might have as many as 20 members on deck. A gigayacht can have as many as 92 crewmates on deck to cater to the needs of all the passengers and to make sure that the boat runs as smoothly as possible. This includes stewards and stewardesses that work directly with guests, and engineers who take the background roll of seeing that all the ship's machinery is in good working condition.

Types of Yachts

There are various types of yachts on the market that cater to different yachting preferences. Choosing the right one depends on what kind of activities you're hoping to enjoy while you're out on the waves. Here are some of the most common types of yachts:

Sport Fishing Yachts

Typically used in coastal waters, sportfishing sailing yachts usually come with livewells, rod holders, and spacious forward decks like other fishing boats that let you move around as you attempt to lure in your target. They can also be used for racing.

Luxury Yachts

For the record, the word 'luxury' can precede any type of yacht boat. For instance, there are sportfishing and luxury sportfishing yachts. The term simply aims to designate a yacht as designed with finishes and features that give it more class than other yacht models, so they can be more of a pleasure to use. Some boat owners soup up a fancy yacht and use it for racing.


The weekender is a small type of boat that's easy to maneuver, capable of accommodating a small crew, and perfect for weekend sailing excursions. They're fitted with sails or a small motor. These vessels are not powerful or anything like that, but it does make the ideal little boat for a quick overnight trip with a close friend or two.

Expedition or Explorer Yacht

These vessels are designed so that they can accommodate large numbers of passengers over long distances. The massive ship can enable people to travel to remote areas of the world and exotic islands that might not be reached by commercial flights. Owners are usually corporations in the cruise business, so you won't find one that's for private or personal use.

Boating in the Lap of Luxury

When does a boat become a yacht? A superyacht? Megayacht? Or a gigayacht? Well, it's all about the size. Yachting offers the most luxurious floating experience you might ever have on the open water, which is what makes them so enticing for people looking for a new way to enjoy the water. Complete with all the facilities of a five star hotel, these boats redefine what it means to rest and relax on the waves.

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