Sailboat vs. Motorsailer | How They Compare & How They Differ?

Sailing as a hobby is a fun, relaxing, and often invigorating experience. People from all backgrounds can enjoy setting sail and taking in the fresh humid air. If you’re just getting acquainted with the sailing world—or even if you’ve been around boats for years—there are tons of things to learn. There are many different types of sailboats, and there are various uses for each type. Many people consider sailboats vs. motorsailers and how they compare and differ. When making a purchase, you want to make sure you’re getting the best boat for your needs.

What are the differences between traditional sailboats and motorsailers? There are big differences in cruising when it comes to sailboats vs. motorsailers, but the main difference is that sailboats are powered by the force of the wind, while motorsailers use an engine to sail.

Read on to learn how sailboats and motorsailers compare, as well as some things they have in common.

Sailboats vs. Motorsailers: What’s the Difference and How Do You Choose?

People have been sailing on the water for centuries. Since their beginning, boats have been used for many different reasons, from trade to protection to sport! Depending on your personal preferences, you may choose either a pure sailboat or a motorsailer.

While a motorsailer is a type of sailboat, it still has many aspects that set it apart from the pure sailboat, specifically what makes the boat move forward in the water. Choosing which boat is best for you should be based on your preferences and skills when it comes to sailing. (And remember, you don’t have to get tied down to just one boat. Many sellers provide the option of renting boats for those who want to test the waters first. No pun intended.)

Sailboats Motorsailers
The Main Difference Sailboats are powered and propelled by the force of the wind against the sails Motorsailers are a hybrid and can be powered equally by the wind in its sails, as well as an internal engine
Cost You can buy a well-kept used sailboat is between $15,000- $40,000 and a new boat you have buy for $80,000 to $150,000 depending on the type of the sailboat. You must also account for regular maintenance, insurance, docking fees, and more The average cost of a new motorsailer is around $500K. In addition to insurance and maintenance, you must also regularly purchase diesel fuel, which can make these boats pretty expensive to maintain.
Functionality Sailboats can be very technical to get going; you must learn the parts of the boat and how to set up your sails and mast in the ideal positions according to weather and wind patterns Still need technical knowledge to sail the boat, but you also have the option to propel the boat with just the motor if you want
Uses Cruising, racing on a variety of bodies of water Cruising on many different bodies of water; they’re also great for living aboard
Passengers Great for sailing alone or with a few passengers Depending on the size, you can invite a lot more people for the cruise; many motorsailers come with cabins to live in
Important Things to Note Because these boats use solely wind power to move, you must wait for ideal wind and weather conditions before setting sail Motorsailers can come with the smell of exhaust and a bit more noise than traditional sailboats

When you’re deciding to purchase either a traditional sailboat or a motorsailer, you must consider what your goals are with sailing and cruising. Asking yourself the following questions before you start shopping is a great way to narrow down your search:

  • Are you a beginner in sailing?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you plan on traveling long distances?
  • Do you want to have passengers with you, or do you prefer to sail alone?
  • Do you plan on living aboard the boat?
  • What type of body of water do you plan on sailing?
  • What do you plan on using your boat for?

Each boat comes with its own benefits and disadvantages. It’s up to you, the sea voyager, to do your research, learn about each type, talk to professionals, and decide which is best for you.

Fortunately for you, we put together this complete guide to learning about and purchasing these vessels. Continue reading to learn about some facts and features of each to get started on your journey.

Sailboats: How They Work and If They’re Right for You

When you close your eyes and think of sailboats, what do you see? You may think of peaceful, quiet afternoons on a breezy bay, cruising in the wind. However, over the years, these boats have advanced to become capable of so much more than their humble roots. Sailboats can race, go long distances—whatever you can dream of!

But what exactly are sailboats? Sailboats are small, personal vehicles that are propelled by sails smaller than sailing ships. They use the force of the wind to sail forward.

There are many different types of sailboats that range from small sailing dinghies to large, luxurious yachts over 200 feet long. The classification all depends on their size and purpose.

How Do Sailboats Work?

Sailboats don’t have to be complicated. They have a few common parts that each have their purpose when it comes to propelling the vessel. To put it simply, sailboats are powered and propelled by the wind.

Each common sailboat has the following components:

  • The Hull is the shell of the boat that contains its internal components. It has a symmetrical shape that balances the boat and reduces the backward pull from its movement in the water.
  • The Tiller is a piece that can be compared to a car’s steering wheel.
  • If the tiller is the steering wheel, the Rudder is the boat’s “tire.”
  • The Mainsail is the larger sail that takes in the bulk of the wind to propel the boat forward.
  • The Mast is a long vertical pole.
  • The Boom is a long pole that’s parallel to the deck. This can be rotated 360 degrees horizontally to give the mainsail as much wind as possible.
  • The Jib is a smaller, triangular sail that adds power to the mainsail.
  • The Keel is a slim plank that extends from the bottom of the hull. It provides balancing underwater that keeps the boat from tipping.

When the boom is pivoted perpendicular to the wind, the mainsail will puff outward. It’s pretty well-known about sailing that you want the wind at your back in order to give your boat the most force to move forward.

These types of boats mainly rely on ballast for stability, which can be 30-50% of the boat’s weight.

Exploring the Types of Sailboats

Your options are endless when it comes to the traditional sailboat. There are many different types of sailboats, which are all categorized by their components:

  • Hull type: catamaran, monohull, trimaran
  • Keel type: fin, wing, bilge, daggerboard, or centerboard
  • Mast and sail configuration: sloop, fractional rig sloop, yawl, schooner, ketch, yawl, cutter, cat

Want to move fast? The speed a boat can reach will depend on its build and its size. Racing boats tend to be sleek, light, and slim. Large, bulky ships tend to cruise more slowly due to drag and friction.

Who Are Sailboats Good for?

Sailboats have a long history; in the past, they were used as early as Ancient Egyptian times. The Egyptians used sails to travel upstream against the Nile River’s current. They were also used to create international trade routes.

Today, people use them for many things, but most often for recreation. Cruising and racing are some of the most popular hobbies of sailboat owners. Small dinghies tend to be better for racing. There are even professional sailboat racing teams!

You can cruise a sailboat in a variety of bodies of water like lakes, rivers, canals, coastal waters, and, of course, oceans. Many people choose sailboats for quick daytime sailing or weekend getaways. Sail solo, or bring a crew of your friends aboard for a great time!

Pros and Cons of Using a Traditional Sailboat

As with anything using a traditional sailboat comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few you should consider:


  • Over the years, advanced technology has allowed manufacturers to make sailboats more sturdy, but remain light at the same time. This allows them to move swiftly with little wind but remain durable cruise after cruise.
  • Sailboats are a great option for people who want to learn the process of manual sailing.


  • Because sailboats rely on environmental factors, you often have to wait for ideal weather and wind conditions before hitting the water. You need a calm patch of waves and ideal wind to have a good cruise.
  • Next, sailboats don’t roll very much; they reach an angle of heel and pretty much remain there. The heel will depend on how much wind you get and how much sail you have. And the sail will depend on how hard you want to push the boat to get to your destination. This process will require some packing up, often more than what is required for cruising with a motorsailer.

When considering the cost of a sailboat, understand that it goes beyond simply the purchase price. You must also account for costs like insurance, dock fees, regular maintenance, upgrades, and more. Speak with a professional sailboat salesperson as you’re making your decision. Try to get the best recommendations for your budget and your needs.

Motorsailers: How They Work and If They’re Right for You

Motorsailers are a type of sailing vessel that is powered with an inboard engine in addition to its sails. Owners of this boat have the option to use the power of the engine or wind to the sails to move the boat.

These hybrid boats are great at aiding with propulsion backup and roll reduction. The added bonus is that you get to enjoy the fun of sailing, while also having the option to kick back and let the engine do its work if you want.

How Do Motorsailers Work?

The first version of the motorsailer came about after the invention of the steam engine. Back then, navies were wary about these new engines and instead relied on a large sailing rig as a backup for propelling their fighting ships. Unfortunately, many of these first powersailers were faulty and did not work well. Since then, we’ve made many advancements to the design and capabilities of the motorsailers we see on the water today.

Motorsailers can be equally powered by both the internal engine and the sails. These boats often have a large fixed propeller to aid in movement along the water.

Don’t confuse these boats with a powerboat. While they have a large engine like a powerboat, the motorsailer can still work well with wind alone. Many engines in boats are used as a backup, but the motorsailer’s engine was built to propel the boat forward with similar displacement speeds as traditional trawlers.

A cool feature of the motorsailer is its enclosed cockpit, also known as a doghouse. Some models may also come with a higher freeboard than pure sailboats. The inboard drive unit protrudes through the keel, which is sometimes more shallow than a vessel built purely for sailing.

Although many models of motorsailers are spacious and known for their luxury, much of the boat’s space is dedicated to fuel storage.

Exploring the Types of Motorsailers

The types of motorsailers vary. Many are built with luxury accommodations and are great options for living aboard. The size of motorsailers ranges from 35 feet or longer, up to 245 feet, often with two to three cabins. Motorsailers are a great option if you want to cruise overnight and sail in the day time.

Motorsailers come in a variety of types, which all depend on the ratio of sail propulsion to power. (These range from 30 percent sail/ 70 percent power up to 70 percent sail/ 30 percent power.)

Who Are Motorsailers Good for?

Motorsailers are great for long cruises because they are more comfortable, coming with a lot more space than traditional sailboats. They can be customized inside to be as welcoming as your home on land.

You can comfortably take them offshore in between ports or other anchorages fairly quickly. It all depends on the boat’s fuel tanks and its rate of consumption.

Once you get to know how to use motorsailers, you can get great sailing synergy. This can produce a net gain in speed over what would be possible by just using one method of propulsion. Three knots of fuel can get you seven to 10 knots of boat speed.

These types of boats are great for people who are trying to decide between a pure sailboat and a powerboat. If you can’t make that final decision, these boats are an ideal combination for indecisive boat-goers.

Pros and Cons of Using a Motorsailer


  • The motorsailer is often more convenient for a lot of people than pure sailboats. It allows you to have those lazy days when you don’t feel like setting up your sails.
  • These vessels can sit in flat water with minimal rolling. This minimizes the amount of packing up and strapping down for your decorations and personal kit. You just need to make sure you have ideal bilge keels or gyro-driven stabilizers.
  • Motorsailers can tackle a wide range of weather and sea conditions without damage or discomfort. They’re able to keep up a decent speed even if there is little to no wind. They’re also pretty nimble with the sail alone under a decent breeze.
  • This boat may be bulkier and heavier, which allows for more space for accommodations inside the boat.


  • One disadvantage of the motorsailer is the heeling angle. The wide stern and heavy displacement isn’t ideal for sailing. However, many owners of these boats still can cruise this way in a decent manner. The big keel can tend to slow you down a bit, but many sailors can cruise at a decent speed.
  • There is often a smaller rig on these boats, which may affect the sailing speed. Motorsailers come with more weight because of the engine and their larger gas and water tanks.
  • Many sailors say that because the boat is built half for sailing and half for powering, it’s only half as good at each use. While there may be some truth to this statement, many owners of motorsailers get along just fine and enjoy their powering and sailing.

There are many benefits to purchase (or even rent) a sailboat or motorsailer. Consider the facts and features for each of these boats when you’re choosing which boat to purchase or rent. And remember: there is no right or wrong answer to sailing. It’s all about your preferences, your style, your budget, and your needs.

It’s Time to Get Sailing!

Now that you understand some of the different types of sailboats and how they compare to motorsailers, it’s time to get out on the water. Choose the vessel that works for you, then enjoy your journey.

And if you’re new to sailing, check out more articles like this one on this blog to continue learning. You have countless options when it comes to your sailing experience. Determine what your interests are, learn about them, and join a community of sailors to keep growing your knowledge around this great hobby.


I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

Recent Posts