There’s a bewildering choice of charter yachts available – one of the larger operators alone advertises 48 different models in its 550-strong fleet, while another offers 36 different designs in Greece alone. The confusion is compounded because not all charter companies give exact model names on their brochures or websites, while others have commissioned their own boats based on existing designs, but with important differences, and with model names that reflect the charter company’s own branding, rather than the manufacturer’s model names.

So, if you’re looking for a superlative vessel for a holiday afloat how can you identify it? The boats listed here are all designs that offer a compelling reason to choose them. Some are new models, but there are also older boats in the list that can provide an excellent holiday experience without breaking the bank.


Elan Impression 45: top charter yachts

One of the author's favourites, the Impression 45.

Elan 434/ Impression 45

This is one of my favourite models – granted there are slightly more spacious charter yachts of the same size, but few that will sail as well. There’s also a good view out from the big windows in the semi-deck saloon style interior. Given this Solvenian boat builder’s proximity to Croatia there’s a good number available for charter there, although as the boats are built in smaller numbers than models from the bigger brands, they are harder to find elsewhere.

Launched in 2005, the boat’s designer, Rob Humphreys, owned one of the original models and so was well-placed when the time came to create a mark 2 model a few years later, giving the new boat many detailed ergonomic improvements. The boat is still in production but is now badged as the Impression 45. Most charter models have the four cabin layout, although there is also a smaller number of the three cabin version, which features a large en suite master stateroom, in charter fleets as well.


Bavaria Cruiser 51: top charter yachts

Bavaria's Cruiser 51.

Bavaria Cruiser 51

The maximum size of boat on offer in most bareboat fleets is around 50-55ft, which gives scope for four large en-suite cabins, as well as potential for a separate skipper’s cabin. Bavaria’s Cruiser 51 (see Bavaria Cruiser 51 video: first impressions) was launched in 2014 to great acclaim – which means all the boats are still among the newest of those in charter fleets.


Beneteau Cyclades 43: top charter yachts

The Cyclades 43 is part of a range specifically designed for charter use.

Beneteau Cyclades 43

This range was developed specifically with the charter market in mind, providing a low-cost yacht that offers a huge amount of space both on deck and below. It’s deal for those who need to pack lots of people onto a yacht – the space really comes into its own here. This is now an older model, so if well maintained can provide a great holiday without paying top dollar prices. The boat is available in three and four cabin versions, which were respectively designated as the Cyclades 43.3 and 43.4.


Sun Odyssey 32i: top charter yachts

The Sun Odyssey 32i.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 32i

While there are many attractions to booking a larger yacht for a charter, my own preference tends to be for smaller vessels that are easy to handle and fun to sail. This is particularly true in busy parts of the Mediterranean, where a smaller boat can be squeezed into a tight slot in a crowded harbour that would be unavailable to a bigger yacht.

If there are too many in your group for a yacht of this size it’s much more fun to charter two boats. In addition to more people being able to actively sail – which means fewer non-engaged passengers – there’s always a sense of fun and rivalry when two boats cruise together. In any case, there’s much more personal space on a 35ft boat with four people on board than on a 48 footer with eight people.

The Sun Odyssey 32i is fun to sail and easy to handle, while offering fantastic accommodation for a couple and adequate space for four people. Granted there’s less space inside than larger boats, but if your time is spent sailing, swimming in white sand fringed bays and chilling out in bars and restaurants with an exquisite view of the sea, then the space inside the boat is not of paramount importance.


Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 449: top charter yachts

The Sun Odyssey 449 is another great charter boat from Jeanneau.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 449

Jeanneau has long been a major player in supplying yachts of this size to the bareboat market. Almost 20 years ago the Sun Odyssey 45.2 was a popular boat that combined a spacious four-cabin layout with quick performance. The French builder’s latest boat of this size adds an impressive cockpit with a full width drop down bathing platform, along with a more refined interior, including large bathrooms, each with a separate shower stall.

For similar boats, see 30 footers with amazing accommodation.


Leopard 40: top charter yachts

Cats like the Leopard 40 are often popular due to their extra space and stability.

Leopard 40

Charter specification catamarans are arguably less fun to sail than a monohull, but offer a fantastic level living platform and have the advantage of more separation between the sleeping cabins, which helps to confer a greater level of privacy. Robertson and Caine’s Leopard 40 – the new version, not the model built from 2005-2009 – is a clear statement that you’ve booked one of the latest and most stylish boats available thanks to the plumb bows and angular styling. Daytime living is predominately on a single-level, with the saloon/galley area opening directly onto the cockpit and great all-round views.

It’s an ideal boat if you’re chartering in the Caribbean, where you’re more likely to spend most nights at anchor or on a swinging mooring. However, I might be reluctant to book a catamaran in a busy part of the Mediterranean, where most moorings are stern to the dock, as the wide beam of a catamaran means it can be more challenging to find a suitable space in popular harbours.


Lagoon 560: top charter yachts

The huge Lagoon 560 will mean you've got more space than anyone else on charter.

Lagoon 560

If you’re going to book a catamaran (see 6 of the best comfy catamarans)., then why not one with more space than any other in the anchorage? The Lagoon 560 offers superyacht scale accommodation along with acres of deck space, including distinct areas in which different groups can socialise or chill out. You’ll almost certainly need to take a skipper with you if you charter a boat of this size, but there’s plenty of space for the captain and even room for a cook/hostess if you want your every need catered for in hotel-like luxury.

If you're keen on chartering, see our Yacht charter holiday guide and our feature Ten great charter destinations.