A-Z of motor boats: your ultimate guide

Dive into the world of motor boats – understanding how they handle, the various types, and how they differ from sailing boats.

Motor boats don't often take centre stage in our magazine, but we're about to change that. This in-depth feature explores the different kinds of motorboats, their manufacturers, how they differ from sailboats, and weighs their pros and cons. We'll help you figure out if a motorboat is the right fit for you, when to best venture out on one, and we'll delve into the requirements and conditions for a skipper's licence. In essence, we're bringing you the complete motorboat rundown. All hail the engine!

Differences to a sailboat

The age-old debate of powerboat versus sailboat is a classic theme in many a nautical conversation. We're not here to pick a side between those who favour sails and those who prefer motors. Instead, our aim is to present you with a balanced view, packing all the necessary facts, insights, and knowledge into one comprehensive discussion.

Draft and bridges

A motorboat's draft is significantly shallower, thanks to the absence of a keel. Furthermore, the lack of a mast means there's no need to worry about the boat's height when it comes to passing under bridges. So from a depth and overhead clearance perspective, you're in safe waters with a motorboat.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you've never sailed under the renowned Pasman-Ugljan bridge, which has spelled disaster for numerous sailing boats, a motorboat provides the perfect chance!

Space and comfort

Broadly speaking, aside from mega yachts or specialist vessels, motorboats provide more space both below and on deck compared to similarly sized sailboats. They also typically feature multiple deck levels. So you can bask in the sunshine on one deck, and find shelter in the shade on another. Furthermore, on a motorboat, you don't have to fret about a precarious jib or the risk of tripping over winches or ropes. The deck tends to be more open and free from sailing gear, allowing for easier movement and relaxation.


If you have crew members who do not tolerate the heeling of a sailboat well, this concern is completely eliminated with motor boats. Unless you're faced with sizeable waves, the boat is likely to maintain stability and you won't need to worry about any significant tilting. This makes a motorboat a more comfortable choice for those sensitive to the motion of the sea.

heel of a sailing ship

You wouldn't find such a load on a motorboat


A leisure sailboat simply can't match the speed of a powerboat. While most sailboats average around 7 knots, motorboats can easily reach 15 to 20 knots. If you enjoy the thrill of speed and the feeling of wind in your hair, a powerboat is the perfect choice for you.

Consumption and costs

On the flip side, with the increased speed comes higher fuel costs. While on a sailboat, you might only need to refuel at the end of your trip or 2-3 times a week at most, resulting in a manageable fuel bill. However, if you're sailing for extended periods each day on a motorboat, you'll find yourself refuelling frequently, at a higher cost, and spending a significant amount of time waiting to fill up the diesel tank.

Level of effort and work

Starting a motorboat is straightforward; turn it on and off you go, cruising wherever you fancy. There's no need to fuss over ropes, the jib, sails, lazy bags, lazy jacks, or the whereabouts of the crank. Unlike on a sailboat where there's always something to keep you occupied, a motorboat offers pure relaxation and peace of mind. If you're seeking a laid-back cruising experience, a powerboat is the way to go.

Sailing direction

As long as there are no big waves and the Bora is not blowing against you, you can sail your motorboat comfortably pretty much anywhere you want. This isn't the case with sailboats, where you might have to cruise or alter your destination if the wind is blowing directly against you. While sailboat enthusiasts often say, "the journey is the destination," powerboat users are more about reaching their destination promptly and without fuss.

A sailing ship and a motor boat at sea off the Swedish coast sailing against each other

What is the difference between a motor boat and a sailboat?

Despite their differences, powerboats and sailboats do share some commonalities, with maintenance being the prime one. Regardless of the type of boat you own, upkeep is crucial. This includes taking care of the sails or engine and ensuring regular servicing. Moreover, marina fees apply uniformly to both. The harbour masters charge based on the length of the boat, irrespective of whether it's a sailboat or a powerboat. The only exception might be a catamaran, which typically incurs a higher fee due to its dual-hulled design, making it wider and potentially occupying the space of two conventional berths.

Disadvantages of motor boats

While motor boats offer numerous advantages, it's important to consider their potential drawbacks as well. Let's take off the rose-tinted glasses and delve into some of the downsides associated with powerboats.

Fuel dependency and non-environmental operation

Unlike a sailboat that can harness the wind as a natural and free power source, a motorboat is completely reliant on diesel fuel. Running out of fuel in the middle of your journey can leave you stranded. Furthermore, this dependence on fossil fuels also means that operating a motorboat has a greater environmental impact compared to sailing.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Speaking of ecology, check out our guide — Green sailing: 11 tips for eco-friendly yachting

Less stability in wind

Motorboats lack a significant keel, resulting in reduced stability when faced with waves and strong winds. Consequently, it is advisable to opt for motorboat rentals during the summer season, when occurrences of powerful winds and waves are comparatively infrequent.

Calm and the smell of the sea

The sound of the engine never leaves you during your voyage which can get on people's nerves. Likewise, the typical smell of burning diesel can start to bother you after a while.

Who is a motor boat best suited for?

A motor boat is well-suited for individuals seeking relaxation, tranquillity, and minimal effort. With the simple act of starting the engine, you can swiftly set sail without any additional concerns. Plus, a motor boat is highly recommended for those who desire to explore a wide range of places, including beaches and other scenic locations. It is particularly advantageous for covering long distances between islands and the mainland within the typical timeframe of a one or two-week vacation. Motor yachts are also a favourable choice for yachters who enjoy fishing, as they provide a comfortable and convenient means of transportation for navigating to different areas and indulging in fishing activities.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Find out what else you can do while sailing in our article — Top 12 fun activities to do on a sailing holiday.


Fishing is an great addition to a boating holiday.

For nature lovers seeking harmony and a closer connection to the natural environment, a sailboat is more preferable than a motorboat. Sailboats provide a serene atmosphere and allow for a deeper appreciation of nature. Additionally, if the aim is to foster teamwork and engage in shared experiences, a sailboat offers more opportunities as it involves handling ropes and sails.  But if you want to relax with a bunch of friends, there's nothing better than a powerboat.

Motor boat season

Unlike sailing boats that typically operate in Europe from April to November, motor boats have a more limited season. The majority of motor cruising occurs between June and September, with peak activity in June and July. Other times of the year, motor yachts are less commonly seen at sea. This is because before and after this season, conditions tend to be windier and the sea becomes cooler, which is more appealing to racers on sailing yachts rather than those seeking a tranquillity on a motorboat, particularly in destinations like Croatia.

YACHTING.COM TIP: What winds and weather will you encounter in the Mediterranean over summer? Check out our guide — The 7 most common winds you'll find in the Mediterranean

Motor boat licence

The licence needed to operate a motor boat depends on two criteria — the engine power and the area where you will be boating (whether sea or inland waters). If you want to cruise on a motor boat with an engine power of less than 4kW, then you don't need a licence. This applies to houseboats or small boats, for example. You can sail a boat with a 4kW to 20kW engine on inland waters with a VMP licence, but for the sea you'll need an international skipper's licence just as for a sailing boat and in some countries (such as Croatia), a radio licence. With engine power above 20kW, for inland sailing and on the sea, you will need a certificate of engine experience for inland sailing in addition to the VMP.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Still hesitating about getting your skipper's licence? Take a look at our 5 reasons to take a skipper's course. Then check out our sailing courses and you'll soon be sailing the seas!

How to choose a motor boat?


Motor boats have a slightly different interior layout than sailboats. The smaller ones often have only one or two cabins and it is automatically assumed that the other couple sleeps in the saloon, often in the bow. Check before you make your final booking that you will have plenty of privacy. Small motor boats are designed for a couple or small family rather than several people who don't know each other.

Route planning

When choosing a boat, take note of how much the boat consumes. You may find that the fuel will cost you the same amount of money as the charter itself in a week's sailing. Plan your itinerary in advance so you know what to expect.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Want to enjoy your cruise to the fullest and without a care in the world? Try hiring a professional skipper or hostess for your yacht. They'll take care of running the boat, cleaning and cooking, leaving you to relax and spend time with your loved ones. Just ask our sales team.

Highly renowned motor boat brands in the charter industry

Here we have picked out the most popular types of motor boats from our search portal.

Probably the most infamous brand of motorboats is Merry Fisher. The Merry Fisher 795 models are among the best sellers and the Merry Fisher 895 is a common sight cruising the coastline of Croatia. Another sought-after model is the Antares 9 OB, which is generously equipped for a comfortable boating holiday, but if you're after something bigger, the Antares 11 Fly is a great choice. The Greenline 33 or its larger sibling, the Greenline 39, are also fantastic options.

Antares boat

The popular Antares 9 OB model.

Other types of motor boats

Every motor boat is unique, and there can be a wide range of vessels categorized under the name "motor boat." Let's explore some intriguing and lesser-known motor boats that have distinctive features and stand out from the norm.

Small motorboat

Charter services also offer the option to rent small motor boats, which are perfect for day trips to secluded beaches, nearby islands, or bays that are inaccessible by foot. These boats are typically compact and may not have cabins, making them suitable for short excursions. They are particularly recommended for families who have rented an apartment by the sea and wish to explore the surrounding areas by water. In many cases, these small motor boats are equipped with relatively low-powered engines, and in several countries, you may not even require a skipper's license to operate them. We recommend, for example, the Zodiac Madline 2 or the slightly larger Four Winns H210.

small boat

You can also rent a smaller boat.


Few people can buy a superyacht. And although many more people can rent one, it is still quite expensive. A superyacht or megayacht is considered to be a boat longer than 80 feet but you'll have to hire a professional skipper as only a handful of skippers have a licence for a boat of this length. For example, we offer the superyacht Azimut Grande 27 or MY Custom Line 52 m. These can cost up to 100,000 euros to hire for a week, but the price often includes a crew to look after the boat (including the professional skipper).

Superyacht Azimut Grande 27

Superyacht Azimut Grande 27


The main difference from the motor boats we rent at sea is that houseboats sail on freshwater streams and are designed for exploring rivers, canals, lakes, ponds, and dams. Although houseboats generally have less powerful engines, this feature often allows them to be rented without a license in most destinations. It's important to note that these houseboats are far from mundane, offering a unique and enjoyable holiday experience on calm waters. Check out these breathtaking destinations you can explore on a houseboat.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Never been on a houseboat?  Take a look at our our guide — First time on a houseboat: 25 things you need to know!

Houseboat Nicols Estivale Sixto Prestige

This is what one of the most popular houseboats, the Nicols Estivale Sixto Prestige, looks like.

Power catamaran

Recently, motor catamarans or power catamarans have become more and more popular. They combine the advantages of a catamaran (two hulls, stability, space, nets to lie on,...) while offering the speed, carefree and comfort of a motor boat. Never driven a catamaran? Check out our article — First time on a catamaran: what you need to know

motor catamaran

Body of a two-hulled power catamaran.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Wondering what are all the types of boat you can charter? You will be surprised how many there are. Check out the article — Boats for rent: what types of boats do charter companies offer?

How to operate a motor boat?

If you have sailing experience, driving a powerboat will seem like something very simple. You don't have to worry about ropes, sails, vignettes, masts or a flying jib. You simply start the boat and cruise wherever you want. Then it's the same as mooring with a sailboat.

One important aspect to be aware of when operating a motor boat is the engine trim. Engine trim refers to the adjustment of the angle between the propeller and the bottom of the boat. Ideally, the propeller should be positioned vertically downward. As a motor boat gains speed, the bow of the boat may lift, causing the propeller to partially submerge. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the captain to intervene and adjust the engine trim to ensure that the propeller is aligned vertically and not at any angle other than 90 degrees to the water surface. This adjustment is crucial to prevent the boat from jumping or unnecessarily impacting the water with the bow. By maintaining the correct trim, the boat can navigate efficiently and provide a comfortable sailing experience for all on board.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Do you know how to operate the outboard motor on a dinghy? Read our article — Dinghy and outboard motor: what you need to know.

Where to sail with a motor boat?

We've selected 3 regions where you can enjoy a fantastic time with a motorboat and take advantage of its superior speed.

Vineyards and islands off Hvar

Start your journey from Split and make your way to the enchanting island of Solta or the sun-soaked Brac. For a glimpse of Croatia's renowned beaches, don't miss out on visiting Zlatni Rat. Proceed to the captivating island of Hvar, where we suggest exploring either the lively town of Hvar itself, the more serene town of Stari Grad, or the authentically charming Vrboska. Indulge in an overnight stay at a tranquil cove on the island of Ščedro, where you can delight in snorkeling alongside majestic clams. Depending on your available time and preferences, continue your voyage to the island of Vis and discover the picturesque village of Komiza, where you can experience the novelty of standing on a buoy or by the pier. During the day, take a trip to the island of Bisevo, home to the famed Blue Spila (blue cave).

Ionian Sea (and turtles!)

Rent a boat on the Greek island of Corfu. Upon taking over the boat on Saturday, take a leisurely stroll to the charming capital, Kerkyra, where you'll be enchanted by its delightful streets and atmosphere. Next, set sail south towards the island of Paxos, renowned for its breathtaking bays. During the day, make sure to indulge in a refreshing swim in Lefkada, a destination in the western part that boasts stunning beaches reminiscent of the Caribbean. Consider spending the night in the lively bay of Vasiliki, known for its vibrant nightlife and one of Greece's most famous kebab joints. The following day, continue your journey to Kefalonia and then proceed onwards to Zakynthos, famously known as the "island of turtles." If possible, sail as far south as you can towards Zakynthos, maximizing your exploration of this captivating destination.

Italian temperament

Experience the enchanting Bay of Naples, beginning in Baiae and venturing to Ischia, where you can navigate its waters at your leisure. Along the way, explore the quaint islet of Procida. Consider Ponza as an alternative to the bustling island of Capri. If time permits, visit the renowned Positano. Carry on to the breathtaking town of Amalfi, with its cliffside houses. Above all, indulge in la dolce vita.

Whether it's a motorboat or a sailboat, I'll find you the perfect choice. Give me a call.

FAQ Motor boats