What's the difference between a yacht rental and a boat rental?

In this article you will learn the main differences between a yacht rental and a boat rental in San Diego. 

The main difference between a yacht rental in San Diego vs. a boat rental in San Diego is the capacity the Coast Guard allows for the vessel and the size of the vessel. 

Yacht Rental and Boat Rental Capacities

There’s a bit of confusion on the water lately….Do I rent a yacht or do I rent a boat? In this article, we will go over some major differences (there are a lot) and why you should choose one or the other.

Probably the most important question that a yacht rental company will ask you is: How many people do you have? From an outside perspective it might seem like a rudimentary question, but for example, the difference between 12 guests and 13 guests makes a HUGE difference – here’s why: 

Coast guard regulations shape the way yacht and boat rentals are operated. Each boat and yacht business has to have a coast guard inspected boat/yacht in order to commercially rent the vessel. That being said, there are some standards that the Coast Guard implements that limit passenger counts for these companies. The typical inspection will allow the yacht/boat to carry the following amount of guests. (these numbers are guestimates and not the same for every business or every boat/yacht. 

  • Pontoon Boats: 10-12 guests
  • Yachts manufactured outside of the United States but operated in the US: 12 Passengers
  • Yachts built in the United States: *based on yacht size, but typically 12-48
  • Large yachts 65’ and above: usually 48-105 passengers
  • Yachts over 200ft: 500-1000 passengers


Some prefer to be out in the open air, and some prefer the ability to feel like they are inside a mansion on the water. In this section, I will discuss some options that you consider when renting a yacht or renting a boat. 

Covered vs indoors. Boats will typically have cover known as a ‘bimini’ to keep the guests out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Depending on the yacht, you’ll find that some have indoor areas as luxurious as mansions and some yachts like catamarans are sort of ‘half indoor, half outdoor. Make sure you take 3D tours or watch videos to be sure exactly what your yacht will have. 


Some of you are hardcore sailors, some of you may love the sweet smell of gas and diesel, but there’s one thing for sure – be aware of how your boat/yacht is powered. The 3 types of boats you will find are Sailboats, Motorboats, and Catamarans. 

Sailboats are powered by….You guessed it, wind! They are great for those that love to glide through the water in pure silence with zero vibrations of a motor. Although sailboats can be more work putting up the sail, tacking, jibing, and zig-zagging to your destination, it can be a very cathartic experience. Be careful with your drink though, Sailboats can become tilted extremely far and not only spill our drink, but even cause some chaos in the interior of the vessel.

Motor Boats/Yachts are inboard/outboard engine-powered vessels that do not require wind. These vessels are able to start up and go anywhere at any time! You’ll notice that the larger the boat/yacht gets, the more likely it is that the motor is inboard (not visible). Smaller vessels, 12’-30ft’ may have outboard motors on them. 

Catamarans are able to have the best of both worlds – the ability to sail and motor! A catamaran has two hulls as opposed to one (a mono-hull a.k.a a sailboat) Typically catamarans  Not only do catamarans have the best of both worlds, but they are the most stable type of yacht rental you can buy. When using the wind as power, the catamaran does not ‘tilt’ as a sailboat does. Never spill your drink if you don’t have to!

3 types of yacht rental and boat rental

Food and Drink

When you rent a boat, it seldom comes with food and drinks. On the plus side, you’re typically able to bring your own food and drink when you rent a boat and drive it yourself. Yacht rentals and charters will normally have catering options, drink options, and even bartenders that are included with your yacht rental. Remember, if you have food platters and drink platters, be careful about going out on a sailboat! Be prepared for the possibility of leaning to one side of the boat! 

Owner Operated vs. Affiliate Rentals

We’ve all heard of Groupon, so we will use Groupon as an example of an “affiliate-operated” business. Groupon doesn’t own any businesses that it advertises (duh) so when you purchase an “oil change” you can’t expect Groupon to be extremely knowledgeable about oil changes! When you rent a boat or a yacht in San Diego, we highly recommend you rent from a business that actually owns the yacht! You will notice businesses with websites that advertise 10s or even hundreds of boats. These companies seek yacht owners, strike rental deals with them, and take a portion of the money that you pay to rent the yacht. 

Bottom line: Whether you are renting a boat or a yacht in San Diego, make sure that it’s insured, has an active business license with a physical location, and they are experienced with each boat and yacht personally.

To learn even more about renting a yacht in San Diego, please visit our articles page!