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What is a Motor Yacht?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 17, 2024
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A yacht was originally defined as “a light, fast sailing vessel used to convey important persons.” The word yacht is derived from the Dutch word Jacht, meaning "hunt” or “hunter.” Today, the word has come to cover a wider range of vessels, either run by sail, power, or both. A yacht that is not powered with sails and wind is referred to as a motor yacht.

A motor yacht usually has a comfortable feel to it. The typical model offers two staterooms separated by the entire length of the yacht, as well as a spacious living area in between. The cabins are generally akin to hotel suites.

This vessel is basically a large boat powered by either a diesel or a gasoline engine. It can range vastly in size, from as small as 27 feet (about 8.23 meters) to as large as 80 feet (about 24.38 meters). The average size, however, is about 44 feet (about 13.41 meters). Most motor yachts average gas tanks capable of holding 300 gallons (about 1,136 liters). Most can travel 0.5 to 0.75 of a mile on one gallon of fuel (about 0.21 to 0.32 km/liter).

Most boating enthusiasts agree that a motor yacht's worth is determined by the dimensions of its sundeck, flybridge, and covered aft-deck. A boat containing these features is designed for space and comfort. On a sizable yacht, the open bridge can seat eight and the sheltered aft-deck and foredeck are usually open.

The typical cruising speed for a motor yacht is within the 20 knot range with average weight conditions and sea state. Top speeds can be between 25 and 30 knots, depending on the model. Higher cruise and top end speeds are available on some models, especially those designed for racing.

The majority are most fuel efficient when traveling at speeds of 8-10 knots, which is the average speed of trolling. The higher the speed traveled, the more fuel the boat burns. For more detailed fuel ranges, one must consult the manufacturer.

When considering purchasing a motor yacht, it is generally best to purchase a smaller one first. A larger boat can cost as much as several million US dollars. There are other cost factors to consider, as well, such as slip rental fees, where the yacht will be stored, and yearly maintenance. This maintenance includes having the boat cleaned and scraped once or twice a year. The current high price of gasoline also contributes to a larger boat being more expensive.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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