The Difference Between a Boat and a Yacht: Let’s Get to the Bottom of it

If you are not familiar with the world of boating, then you may find yourself wondering, “What is the difference between a Boat and a Yacht?”

By definition, a boat is “a vessel for transport by water”.  So, in fact, any size vessel can be called a boat. However, a boat is better defined as a “small watercraft propelled by paddles, oars, sail, or motor”.

A Yacht, however, refers to a larger vessel, used primarily for luxury and comfort. These vessels tend to be larger and boast a number of facilities that make them ‘fancier’ than a boat.

To better compare the difference between a Yacht and a boat, let’s take a look at 4 differences between the two.

Different types of boats and yachts and sailing yachts docked in a marina.
Rivergate Marina, Brisbane, Australia

The Size of a Yacht vs Boat

This is the easiest way to identify the difference between the two.

There will be some debate on this topic, but a boat is generally any vessel under 30-40ft / 9-12m. Therefore, any vessel over 40ft / 12m can be considered a yacht.

Whether it is a sailing yacht or a motor yacht, the identification is still the same.


Another difference between a boat and a yacht is that a boat is generally used for recreational activities such as fishing, water sports, and transporting people.

So, a boat can be anything from a small dinghy to a jet ski, or even a small tender used for fishing. They are usually designed with a specific purpose in mind.

The design of a boat is usually simplistic and done in a way that best fulfills the activity.

A Yacht, on the other hand, is designed for cruising, luxury, and comfort.

A Yacht is designed to be a version of a floating hotel. The main purpose is to cruise comfortably between locations with all the facilities to live onboard in comfort and style.

A large super yacht docked in a marina with a bridge in the background
A 80ft Power Catamaran docked in Brisbane

The Different Features of a Boat and a Yacht

A boat is usually not big enough to live on. However, some smaller tenders up to the 30ft / 9m range can have a small cabin inside which might contain a small toilet and bed.

Boats are generally small and nimble.

When it comes to a Yacht, you have the luxuries and comfort of a hotel on water.

On board a Yacht, you may find cabins (bedrooms), a galley (kitchen), saloons (lounges), and outdoor areas for entertainment. As the size goes up, the facilities get bigger and better.


A boat can either be motorized or non-motorized. A non-motorized boat requires manpower and may move using paddles, oars, or sails.

The motors of a boat tend to be small, but in relation to the size and weight of the vessel, some are able to move fast.

A yacht, however, has larger engines designed for increased power and longer distances. Yachts are designed to have the ability to cover long passages and even cross oceans.

Final Thoughts

There are no hard and fast rules on a boat vs yacht, but these simple distinctions might help you next time you’re unsure of what to call a vessel.

If you are interested in discovering more about boats, check out my post on Motor Yacht vs Sailboat: 7 fundamental differences.

A small trawling boat docked in a marina
A 30ft fishing trawler

Frequently Asked Questions

At What Point does a Boat become a Yacht?

There is no exact number to answer this question. However, around 30-40ft / 9-12m is the point at which a boat becomes a yacht.

What makes a Yacht not a Boat?

This question can create confusion, as a boat by definition is a vessel for transport by water. So, a Yacht is a boat. A yacht is just a specific category of boat that is larger than 30-40ft / 9-12m.

Can a Boat be a Yacht?

A boat can be a yacht. However, not all boats can be yachts. In order to be classified as a yacht, the boat would need to be over 30-40ft / 9-12m.

Is a 40ft Boat a Yacht?

Yes, boats over the 30-40ft / 9-12m range are classified as yachts.

Hi, my name is Lisa, a Chief Stewardess in the yachting industry with 10 years of experience, as well as 8 years of hospitality experience prior to that. Being in the yachting industry has been a whirlwind of adventure, growth, challenges and some of the best experiences of my life, and I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences with all of you.