Are Sailboats Cheaper Than Powerboats?

Are Sailboats Cheaper Than Powerboats? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

April 28, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Most sailboats cost less than powerboats that are roughly the same size
  • Powerboats rely on so much fuel and motor usage, often referred to as motor vessel
  • Fuel and maintenance costs are deciding factors that contribute to price of powerboats
  • Sailboats tend to offer a better boating experience but have less space
  • Sailboats are a better investment long term and are considered the best ocean boat

Sailboats and powerboats have various price points based on their intended use. But are sailboats cheaper than powerboats?

Small sailboats are generally more cost-effective around $10,000 to purchase and run when compared to powerboats of equal size. Powerboats on average cost around $80,000 and sailboats do not have large engines that are typically costly. This also results in savings on maintenance and fuel expenses.

Upon closer analysis, both types of boats will have differences in price based on condition, intended use, and model. In general, sailboats are the cheaper option out of the two.


Table of contents

Why Are Sailboats Cheaper than Powerboats?

Sailboats are cheaper than powerboats because they serve different purposes. Sailboats are meant exclusively for sailing and powerboats are designed to handle speed.

Small sailboats start around $10,000 and increase based on size and brand. Powerboats prices could be more or less than $80,000 depending on the same factors. The cost will increase if you put the same high-powered motors on a sailboat.

Motor Prices

You typically pay more for a powerboat due to the motor and the engine powering it. Some power boats even have motors that are more expensive than the vessel. Sailboats usually have smaller and cheaper motors that do not affect the cost much.

A sailboat engine equipped with a low powered outboard motor costs approximately $1,500 due to its reliance on wind as the primary power source. Powerboats require power to move from the engine so prices can range between $12,000 to $40,000 depending on how many you need.

Number of Moving Parts

Sailing only requires a floating object and a means to harness wind power. Powerboats are a more complex option compared to operating a sailboat since power comes from the engine to the motor.

Proper Training

Numerous sailboats are for sale for various reasons. Two reasons they are sold at attractive prices in the market is that current owners lack sufficient sailing knowledge or do not have the time for it.

Powerboats are easier to operate and sailing is more of a hobby. Even though you might need to pay for sailing lessons, these will still be cheaper than purchasing and owning a powerboat.

Life of a Sailboat

A sailboat can endure for centuries when adequately taken care of and effective even with outdated technology. Motorboats rely on new technology and a flawless engine to operate efficiently.

Maintenance and Fuel Costs

A powerboats’ fuel consumption is far more than a sailboat with very little fuel and a small fuel tank. Sailboats rely on the wind and powerboats need to have fuel each time before a trip.

Maintenance costs are also higher on a powerboat if you need to replace a motor or two. Most sailboats typically need routine sail maintenance or other inexpensive parts.


Properly storing your sailboat or powerboat could prove to be expensive. Depending on the size of your boat will help determine if you can tow it or need to get a marina slip.

Insurance Costs

Sailboats were found to be considerably safer than powerboats in the 2020 Recreational Boating Safety report from the United States Coast Guard. The report states that less than 1% of fatal accidents were attributed to sailboats and powerboats accounted for over 50%. Sailboats will have fewer insurance premiums than powerboats due to the dangers that powerboats have.

Which Boat Should You Buy?

Powerboats and sailboats are not created equally, have a different hull shape, and both have other uses. A larger sailboat or sailing yachts can still be less expensive to own than a powerboat. You will need to do more research if you want to spend your money on a boat.

Physical Experience

​​Sailing enthusiasts relish the opportunity to interact with the boat, respond to weather conditions, and develop practical skills. A sailboat may be the perfect fit if you prefer hands-on activities and crave more time at the helm. This will also count as a gym membership since you will need to be active while sailing.

More Training with Sailboats

For a hassle-free water experience, acquaint yourself with boat operations, weather, and technicalities to ensure safe and efficient sailing. Powerboats require less expertise when compared to a sailboat and offer a convenient option to reach your destination. Powerboats cost more due to convenience.

Handling of the Boat

Sailboats are meant to have a steady pace on the water like you would in light air sailing. Powerboats can easily stop and start but also reach fast speeds due to the boat engine. A powerboat’s speed is a huge selling point and mainly why they cost so much.

How to Find Affordable Sailboats and Powerboats

The price difference between sailboats and powerboats becomes a lot closer if you are able to obtain powerboats through an alternative method. You could also argue that these methods also make sailboats more attractive in price point.

Social Media Marketplaces

Numerous online marketplace sites allow sellers to list their boats for free. This makes an excellent starting point for those searching for inexpensive or cost-free boats. Keep in mind that you will likely need to buy parts for whichever boat you choose if the boat is a low price.

Listing Sites and Ads

Exploring websites and magazines with dedicated sections for free or low-priced boats can be rewarding. You may come across unexpected deals that are once in a blue moon.


Several boaters have discovered affordable vessels at auctions. These are typically boats that have been:

  • Repossessed
  • Written off
  • Salvaged
  • Seized

Various auto auction firms now offer boats for sale with dedicated marine auctions. You can likely find pre-sale inventories accessible online before attending the event.

Lost and Found at a Marina

Some amazing treasures remain undiscovered on the web. That is why you should contact harbormasters and boatyards for information on available abandoned boats at low or no cost. You would be surprised at how often boats are for sale at a good price at a boatyard.

Unattended Vessels

Different locations have varying salvage laws for abandoned boats. In Florida, it is illegal to take an abandoned boat without a title.

Report any abandoned vessels to local authorities and do not take any equipment onboard the boat to stay on the safe side. It is important to know the salvage laws in your area before taking on an abandoned boat.

Optimal Timing to Search for Cheap Boats

Great deals on boats can happen at any time throughout the year. But there are a few times of the year when cheap boats are likely to make an appearance.

After Peak Season

Wait until the end of the boating season when owners want to avoid winter marina fees for the best deals on boats. You will face less competition with lower search volume for boat sales during the off-season. You could also begin searching for boats in the spring before competition heats up with warmer weather.

Damage from Storms

Exploring beyond your local area can help uncover great bargains on boats damaged by storms. This could be boats impacted by hurricanes or other damaging weather incidents. Some boat owners might even want to sell their boats ahead of time in order to prevent loss from a storm.

Sales After a Divorce

Boats often do not survive divorce or separation. While this is a bad situation for the current owner of the boat, it could be a great opportunity for you. Divorce filings peak near March and August based on research.

Are Sailboats Cheaper 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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