Are Sailboats Safer Than Powerboats?

Are Sailboats Safer Than Powerboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

If you’ve been looking for a safe boat for you and your family to cruise the seas, you’re probably torn between a sailboat and a powerboat.

Whether you’re an experienced sailboat captain or a weekend baller with a powerboat, choosing a safe vessel should take the top spot on your priority list. While small vessel regulations stipulate how vessels and crafts should be operated safely, it can still be challenging to choose which type of craft is safer to operate. So are sailboats safer than powerboats? Well, let’s find out.

While powerboats have become common in high-octane movies and beer commercials, sailboats are generally relaxing and offer a more rewarding experience. However, choosing the safer one between the two can be a tough choice. As such, we’ll try our best to help you make the right choice by looking at various safety factors.

So before we can point which one is safer, let’s look at some factors.


Table of contents

Statistics on Annual Boating Accidents

Boating safety should be a priority whenever you hit the waters. Whether you’re sailing on the blue waters or paddling across a river in your backyard, you should always ensure that the vessel you use is perfectly designed for safety. Before sailing off, you should be fully conversant with small vessel safety regulations. This, of course, should be a big deal if you take into account the statistics that will make you put a lot of seriousness on proper boating safety.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, an average of 4,000 boating accidents happens every year. This results in about 2,500 injuries, 600 deaths, and nearly $40 million in property damages. While approximately 75% of boating fatalities happened by drowning, most of these accidents occur because the operators are not well instructed on proper boating safety. Additionally, 80% of boating victims were not wearing life jackets.

As far as the vessel used is concerned, nearly 45% of these boating accidents happen on personal powerboats. Nearly 20% of those accidents occurred with kayaks, canoes, and sailboats. While these numbers may fall or rise with each passing year, there has been generally a decrease in boating accidents over the last two decades since the small vessel safety regulations were enforced.

The Difference between Sailboats and Powerboats

There are noticeable differences between sailboats and powerboats. While a sailboat relies on the wind to sail it along, a powerboat uses an engine to propel it through the water. Sailboats can also be equipped with engines just in case the sails are damaged. Like most vessels, sailboats and powerboats have their pros and cons. As such, the safety or either vessel largely depends on the operator and can be very risky if you don’t have the right knowledge or experience.


Although powerboats are more versatile than conventional sailboats, they’re common in various waters in the U.S. and other areas around the world. A proper powerboat may cost you around $30,000 but when it comes to safety, motorboats are responsible for almost half of the boating accidents in the U.S. This is generally because powerboats are powerful motors and have an extra speed that can be dangerous.

Nonetheless, a powerboat is an ultimate way to cruise the bay or if you want to make the short fishing trips into the wide-open water. It doesn’t limit you like a sailboat would do. All you have to do is hop in, turn the key and cruise to wherever you want. In essence, it’s more convenient than a sailboat and requires less training to navigate.

Here are some of the pros and cons of powerboats as far as safety is concerned.


  • Requires less time to operate
  • It has more speed
  • It comes with more maneuverability that can help you adjust to in-water dangers


  • The engine may break down and leave you stranded in the water
  • A powerboat can flood in choppy waters since the transom is either open or cut low
  • The loud noise of powerboats can make it difficult to hear, which can lead to dangerous situations
  • The decks and cockpits are watertight and can cause flooding
  • Powerboats are less stable, especially in high waves and lousy weather
  • Powerboats generally have holes in the liners to allow control cables and this can allow entry of water
  • Powerboats cause more danger to marine life


Many water-lovers dream of owning a sailboat. It can be a great option if you want to connect to nature water while navigating the world. It is the perfect way to live the ultimate boating experience. So if you want to explore the world by boat, the sailboat is what you should get.

In terms of safety, here are the pros and cons of sailboats.


  • The deck is bigger than powerboats
  • Enough storage space for storing safety equipment
  • Comes with more functional jack lines and safety harnesses
  • Have lower speeds thus have lower chances of accidents


  • The booms, hatches, and lines can be dangerous to the crew and passengers
  • It requires a higher level of knowledge and experience to operate
  • You may become stranded if the sail gets damaged

Factors to Consider when Choosing between a Sailboat and a Powerboat

Whether you decide to go for a sailboat or a powerboat, the most important thing to consider is the seaworthiness of the vessel that you choose. In other words, choose a vessel that’s perfectly designed for safety. You should, therefore, consider the following factors.

  • Larger boats are less likely to capsize compared to smaller boats and
  • Go for a boat that’s designed with higher stability (higher stability range)

And the Winner Is…

After thorough consideration, it may not be right to claim that a powerboat is as safe as a sailboat. While a powerboat is convenient in terms of speed, a sailboat is much safer and more reliable than a powerboat. But irrespective of the type of boat that you’re looking to own, it’s of great importance to make safety a priority.

Are Sailboats Safer Than Powerboats?
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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