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Classification of yachts by length. From motorboat to megayacht

Classification of yachts by length

Updated on May 31st, 2024

The difference between a motorboat, a motor yacht, a superyacht and a megayacht is only in size. We will not delve into the history of the origin of terms, for us it is not so important. In short, the name “yacht” previously denoted a class of vessels (moreover, sailing) that were used for official transportation from ship to shore or between ships.

Today we use the term “yacht” to refer to any vessel, sailing or motorized, designed exclusively for recreation and having the necessary amenities for a comfortable long stay on board. And the word “motorboat” today means the junior class of multi-purpose vessels, certainly motor ones, which can be both civil and official.

There is another definition of a yacht that is not tied to size: if it has a crew working aboard, it’s a yacht. But this definition is not precise, since a professional crew may be present on small boats, and at the same time absent on large ones.


A motorboat (or powerboat) has a stationary or outboard motor and is usually no longer than 7.6 meters (up to 25 feet). Work boats can be larger, as well as have a cabin-shelter, a simple galley and a latrine. The classification of a small fleet by size is very relative, here it is rather necessary to look at the purpose of the vessel, the level of its equipment and the degree of habitation.

Motor cruisers

Motor cruisers are vessels that are designed for recreation and travel both on inland waters and on sea routes, if their seaworthiness category allows it. A mandatory requirement for cruise boats is the presence of a minimum set of amenities: a cabin with sleeping places, a latrine, a galley, a shower.

Cruisers generally range in length from 7.6 to 13.7 meters (25-45 feet).

Motor yachts

Motor cruisers are followed by motor yachts. These are larger vessels for travel and recreation with stationary engines, allowing you to live on board for as long as you want, along with your guests, completely covering your needs for comfort and living space.

Generally speaking, motor yachts typically range in length from 13.7 meters to 24 meters (45-79 feet).

You must understand that in the official classification of yachts, when obtaining various types of licenses, we are not talking about the overall length (LOA), but about the load waterline (LWL), the length of which can differ significantly from the overall length. However, for general understanding this is not so important.


Yachts over LWL 24 meters usually already have a professional crew on board. Therefore, this class of vessels automatically belongs to the category of superyachts. Today, a crewed private large motor yacht is the norm, so the term “superyacht” tends to move farther along the length scale.


Megayacht is the informal name for the world’s largest motor and sailing yachts. The term is sometimes used as a synonym for superyacht, but it mostly refers to floating palaces over 70 meters (200 ft) in length.

If you go even further, you can even find the expression “gigayachts”, but in the yachting industry it is practically not used, and its definition is rather vague.