Sailing Cruiser: Monohull vs. Catamaran

monohull and catamaran anchoring in the Dalmatian Sea in Croatia next to each other

Whether you plan to buy a sailboat to sail around the world, become a full-time liveaboard, or just occasionally go on nice sailing trips with the family, you will be confronted at some point with the question of whether it should be a monohull or a catamaran. With this article, we want to help you decide and provide a detailed comparison. Of course, this comparison is not valid for real racing boats, because there are quite different aspects of importance, but we are talking mainly about cruising sailboats. In the following will look at aspects of performance, comfort/livability, safety, costs and more. Be curious, because it will be an exciting comparison, which will certainly surprise some people’s expectations in certain aspects. Let’s start with the performance!



In general, catamarans are faster than monohulls due to their design, because they do not need a keel, so they are lighter, and they have a shallower draft, thus less water resistance. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to generalize with regard to speed, because it depends very much on the specific boat and especially with production boats the speed differences are rather small. In addition, the wind conditions are also decisive, because under certain conditions a monohull can be quite faster than a catamaran. This brings us directly to the next aspect, which is upwind sailing.

Upwind Sailing

In most conditions catamarans are faster, as mentioned above, but as soon as you sail upwind, i.e., close hauling, the monohull is far superior to the catamaran due to its deep keel. While there are some catamarans that compensate for this disadvantage with daggerboards, very few production cruising catamarans have them. Often a longer course closer to beam reach must be chosen compared to the monohull, although there is then the potential to offset the longer distance with higher speed.


An unbeatable advantage of a catamaran is that they can be turned on the spot with the help of their twin engines, making harbor maneuvers child’s play and precise.

In the following video you will get a good impression of how to dock with a catamaran.

While monohulls are clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to mooring, they benefit from their deep keel when it comes to actual sailing, which allows for faster response to the helm.

In addition, tacking is also much easier for monohulls, mainly because they maintain their speed longer than catamarans.


In general, catamarans have the edge here, as they typically have a much shallower draft than their monohull competitors. Some monohulls have lifting keels, but these also have their disadvantages and are not very common. The shallower draft makes it possible for catamarans to reach areas that a monohull sailor can only reach by dinghy. Reaching shallower water can be especially advantageous when anchoring, as you may be able to reach secluded bays or find better protection from strong swells.

However, the actual navigation through shallow water is easier with a monohull, and if you do run aground, it is actually easier to get a monohull free than a catamaran. Of course, it is best to avoid such tricky situations.



In terms of space, a catamaran is far superior to a monohull, that should be no secret. Cabins with standing height are almost a matter of course in catamarans and in your berth is actually so much space that you can make your bed.

Also on deck is more space on catamarans and the often-existing huge net in the bow you will not find on any monohull. This extra deck space on a catamaran also provides more room to install solar panels, which provides more self-sufficient power without a generator. The cockpit of monohulls is also much smaller, which is usually even intended to reduce the risk of flying through the cockpit in heavy seas. But the huge cockpit of a catamaran really shines, as we all know that most people spend a lot of time there.

In addition, a catamaran with its two clearly separated hulls provides much more opportunities for privacy, which is convenient for guests on board or when sailing with your children.

Another aspect of space is that of storage. Here, too, the catamaran excels, because it has more storage space than a monohull and the storage space is often more usable because it is easier to access. The monohull also has a lot of storage space, but it is typically located deep inside the hull or behind some panels, which makes it harder to access and reduces its actual usefulness. This also complicates organization on a monohull, which is already a challenge on any boat.

With more storage space, however, you will be tempted to overload your boat more likely and especially catamarans respond to overloading or even incorrect weight distribution quickly with a significantly reduced sailing performance.

In addition, most catamarans have a davit that can be used to stow the dinghy quickly and safely. Of course, such davits are also found on monohulls, but much less often and less well integrated into the overall boat design.

two catamarans with dinghies attached to their davits
In this photo you can see the typical mounting of the dinghy on a davit, which is well integrated into the design of catamarans.


A huge advantage of a catamaran is that, unlike the monohull, it hardly heels and generally moves less in the swell. Especially for people who get seasick quickly, this is a decisive advantage. Some sailors would even miss the heeling of a monohull because it surely is sometimes fun, but in the long run most people feel more comfortable on a catamaran. Living on board, from doing repair work to daily cooking, is simply more comfortable under non-heeling conditions. Especially elderly people or also pets appreciate the stability that a catamaran offers.

However, it must be said that a monohull has advantages in very rough sea conditions, as it then goes through the water with greater stability than a catamaran, which has less course stability in such extreme weather conditions. But always ask yourself how often you actually sail in such conditions, because usually you can avoid such situations with some meteorological preparation. In confused seas, that you as a sailor certainly encounter occasionally, the monohull is more predictable than a catamaran, which tends to make rather uncomfortable movements under such conditions.

Moreover, the better lateral stability of a catamaran, together with the large space described above, also makes it easier to exercise on the boat. All athletes among you will know how good it feels to have the opportunity to work out a bit on a multi-week passage.

Height Above Waterline

Catamarans are generally higher above the waterline than monohulls, which brings many different advantages.

For one thing, you have a much better all-around view from an elevated helm than from the deep cockpit of a monohull. Also, the galley, saloon and cabins usually offer much more light and a better view than in a monohull, where much living space is below the waterline.

Many people don’t realize that the ocean can be quite noisy, and if you’ve ever slept in a monohull at or below the waterline, you know that. While some find the noise relaxing, most would prefer quiet. The fact that on a catamaran the cabins are usually above the waterline makes for a quieter sleep.

In addition, a catamaran’s height above the waterline makes ventilation much better, as there are more opportunities for air exchange. Especially for sailors in tropical areas and without air conditioning, this is a huge advantage. In general, the additional fresh air in a catamaran provides more well-being and a better quality of life on board.


While almost all catamarans are easily accessible from the water as well as from the dock, this is a bit more complicated with many monohulls, as there is usually less space and bathing platforms are far from being standard. While almost all catamarans are easily accessible from the water as well as from the dock, this is a bit more complicated with many monohulls, as there is usually less space and bathing platforms are far from being standard. Especially when loading and unloading heavy and bulky items, you will be grateful for the better accessibility of the catamaran.

Another aspect of accessibility is that certain maintenance and servicing work is easier on a catamaran than on a monohull. Cleaning the hull is easier due to the lower draft and inside the boat, work on the engines is often more comfortable to do, because they are usually easier to access than on a monohull (exceptions prove the rule). However, a catamaran requires much more work than a monohull, which will be discussed further below under the aspect of costs.



When it comes to safety, for a long time many people, especially blue water sailors, were convinced that a monohull is superior to a catamaran, because a monohull can’t capsize, and a catamaran can. Principally this is true, because of its keel a monohull can only flip over under extreme conditions and even if this were to happen, the boat would capsize and then right itself. After such a capsize, the boat will most likely no longer be able to sail, but it will float upright on the water.

A catamaran, on the other hand, can no longer right itself in the event of capsizing and will then float with the mast pointing downwards in the water. The crew can still escape through escape hatches in the hull. While the catamaran definitely loses out in the event of capsizing, it must be emphasized that today’s cruising catamarans can hardly be flipped over. From a purely statistical point of view, this danger is actually negligible, and also if you ask around among sailors, you will notice that hardly anyone has ever heard of such an incident. If catamarans do capsize, they are usually racing boats and not cruisers. Nevertheless, it is a danger that exists and that might be greater on an emotional and psychological level than it actually is.

Capsizing a cruising catamaran is so rare that we couldn’t even find a suitable picture.

Danger of Sinking

Having already discovered that a catamaran is inferior to a monohull in terms of capsizing, the tide turns when we look at the risk of sinking. Probably one of the most feared hazards of any sailor is colliding with an object like a half-submerged container or a sleeping whale. In such a severe collision, the hull may be damaged to such an extent that a lot of water quickly flows into the boat, which can lead to the complete sinking of the boat in a very short time. At least this is the case with many monohulls.

Catamarans, on the other hand, cannot sink at all due to their enormous buoyancy. They have two hulls and even if one of them fills up due to a water breakthrough, the other one remains undamaged. The lack of a keel also means that there is no danger of losing it in a collision, which is definitely a serious risk with monohulls, as such a loss would lead to immediate flooding and subsequent sinking.

Risk for Man Overboard

On a monohull, you’ll probably want to clip in earlier than on a catamaran in the same sea conditions, as the risk of a wave crashing into the cockpit is definitely greater on a monohull. Additional unsafety on deck is also provided by heavy heeling. In short, the risk of falling overboard from a monohull is usually higher than from a catamaran.

Even if a man overboard (MOB) should occur, it is easier to perform a MOB procedure with a catamaran than with a monohull. This is due to the superiority of the catamaran in terms of maneuverability, the absence of heeling and more possibilities to get the person overboard back on board.

Comfort Means Safety

We have already explained in detail why catamarans are much more comfortable than monohulls. This comfort implies also more safety. We all know that when we are under discomfort, such as severe fatigue, we are more likely to make mistakes than when we are in good shape. Especially when sailing, any mistakes can quickly become a safety concern and therefore any aspect that makes us feel more comfortable on board is an aspect that improves safety.

Of course, this is only true up to a limited extent, because above a certain level of comfort, any additional gain in comfort is more of a gain in luxury than actually improving one’s own well-being. And there is no question that there are many monohulls on which it is possible to live exceptionally well, and the comfort gain of a catamaran would be negligible in terms of safety.

On an Amel 60, a monohull, comfort and luxury certainly do not come short…


Due to the design itself, many important systems and components are duplicated on a catamaran, so there is a certain redundancy. This redundancy, of course, improves safety because there is always a backup available. No matter if an engine fails, a rudder is lost, or in the worst case a hull has a leak, an undamaged version of the part is always at hand.

Especially on long trips far away from good technical repair facilities, you should always be prepared for the worst and be able to cope independently with a defect. A catamaran offers a good starting point with its redundancy, but with good know-how and proper equipment you can always sail a monohull and be prepared for almost anything.


Initial Costs

In general, you get more bang for your buck with a monohull than with a catamaran. Above a certain purchase price, the difference may be smaller for new boats, but especially in the second-hand market, monohulls usually offer significantly better value for money.

The high price level of catamarans is due to the more expensive development and production and the combination of high demand and low supply. Especially on the second-hand market you can see that up to now there are only relatively few catamarans available, because compared to monohulls cruisers from serial production have not been marketed that long. Monohulls, on the other hand, have been on the market for many decades and many older boats are still interesting for buyers today. However, we expect the supply of catamarans to increase steadily in the future, especially when the many charter companies start to renew their catamaran fleets.

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that you will pay about 50% more for a used catamaran than for a used monohull and for a new catamaran you will have to accept about 25% additional costs compared to a new monohull. We underline, it is only a broad guideline, a precise comparison is only possible when looking at the actual boats.

blue catamaran is heading out to the sea while hoisting the genoa
Catamarans like this one come with a big price tag.

In addition, the financial barrier to purchase is much lower for monohulls than for catamarans. While $50,000 will buy you an impressively well-equipped blue water cruiser (used, of course), you’re unlikely to find just one single listing on the catamaran market. Just have a look on the common marketplaces and you will find out that you must pay much more for a catamaran than for a monohull.

However, the higher purchase price of a catamaran is compensated by the stable value retention, because due to the high demand and the low supply, you can sell your catamaran at a relatively high price and find a buyer quickly.

At the end of the day, you must ask yourself how much you can and want to spend. Because if your budget is not enough for a catamaran, although you would actually prefer one to the monohull, it is still better to set sail with a monohull today, than in 10 years, when you would have saved enough money for the extra price of the catamaran. You can’t know what will happen in the future and at the end of the day it’s the time on the water that matters, not the boat you’re sailing. Live in the present and not in the future!

Ongoing Costs

When purchasing a boat, we always advise you to look realistically at the future maintenance costs, because many inexperienced buyers underestimate them far too often. It is even more important to realize that a catamaran is associated with considerable additional costs in maintenance than a monohull.

While the inherent redundancy in catamarans has been very positively evaluated in terms of safety, it is one of the main cost drivers here. After all, maintenance costs also double up easily, because two engines require twice the effort in maintenance, two hulls have more surface area than one and require more coating, and so on.

In addition, the rigging of a catamaran is exposed to higher loads than that of a monohull, since the absence of heeling, does not reduce the loads in strong wind gusts as heeling would also reduce the sail area at the same time. This means that the rigging of a catamaran usually needs to be overhauled much sooner than that of a monohull.

Also, marina berths are usually double the berthing fee since the wide catamaran takes up twice the space. Even if you can negotiate a good deal, you still pay at least 1.5 times more than with a monohull.

In addition to the higher berthing fees, the number of haul-out options for a catamaran is also more limited and operators are aware of the lower supply and adjust cranage accordingly.

Other Aspects

Aesthetics and Tradition

We admit, this point is very subjective, but most people agree with us when we say that monohulls usually look more aesthetic than catamarans. The sleek hull of a monohull simply convinces with its maritime elegance and many associate a certain tradition with monohulls that catamarans do not have. Catamarans often remind more of floating vacation homes than real boats, exaggerated.

Less Material Choices

While monohulls can be made from a wide variety of materials with all their advantages and disadvantages (see this article for a detailed comparison of the different hull materials), most mass-produced cruising catamarans are made from GRP (glass fiber reinforced plastic). This material is perfectly suitable for most purposes, but especially in high latitude sailing and very remote areas, a metal hull, preferably aluminum, is superior to GRP because of its strength. Nevertheless, there are some shipyards that also manufacture catamarans from aluminum, which makes the price shoot up even more.

Here you can see the impressive Garcia Explocat 52 that is made of aluminum.

Ground Transportation

Most of you will probably want to move their boat on the water rather than on land, but in some cases a land transport is preferable and in such a scenario, of course, the catamaran is clearly at a disadvantage due to its enormous width. A monohull, on the other hand, can be transported quite comfortably on public roads with an appropriate transporter.

To Wrap It Up

Now that we have looked at aspects such as performance, comfort/livability, safety, costs and others in detail, we would like to summarize our assessment.

In terms of performance, it is a close race between the monohull and the catamaran, as it depends heavily on the actual boat model and the sailing conditions. But in the end, we see the catamaran slightly ahead here.

The comfort/livability point leaves little room for doubt, because here the catamaran is clearly superior.

Safety, on the other hand, is not so easy to assess, especially since the catamaran can capsize and the monohull cannot. On the other hand, the monohull can sink, and the catamaran cannot. Apart from these two statistically very unlikely scenarios, the catamaran is otherwise superior, and we personally would rather sit on a capsized catamaran than in a sinking monohull, so the safety point also goes to the catamaran.

In terms of cost, however, the monohull clearly wins the point, which should be quite obvious. However, if you are considering a new purchase, keep in mind that the price advantage of a monohull is significantly lower, and the better value retention of the catamaran can also outweigh some of the additional costs.

We do not want to give a summarizing evaluation of the other aspects we covered, as these are very subjective and individual.

In the following table you will find a summary of our assessment.

Other AspectsNo RatingNo Rating

A Final Advice

After this detailed discussion of catamarans and monohulls, it should now be clear to you that there is no definite answer to the question of which is better. At the end of the day, you must ask yourself under what circumstances you want to sail. In what areas do you plan to sail? Do you plan to live on the boat full time or only for shorter periods of time? Will you spend a lot of time in marinas or more in anchoring bays? How do you want to travel? Is comfort your priority or do you rather enjoy the actual sailing? How much budget do you have on hand?

As you can see, there are many different aspects that determine whether a catamaran or a monohull makes more sense for you. Especially the last question, the budget, is important, because as you can see from our comparison, we see the catamaran superior to the monohull in all aspects, if you can bear the extra costs. If you can’t, then just buy a monohull and enjoy your time on the water, because that’s what it’s all about!

Did you like this article? Then feel free to share it, because we always look forward to new input and a lively discussion in the comments! Do you disagree with us on some points, or can you confirm certain aspects from your own experience? Write us in the comments, we are curious!

Happy sailing!

Leave the first comment

Stay on topic

Search for

Filter by Topics