How Much Does it Cost to Design a Yacht, Engineering Rates, & Pricing for Companies?

yacht design company

This post tells you more about how much it costs to design a yacht, engineering rates, and company pricing. Designing a yacht is complicated; even an experienced naval architect may need six months to more than a year to produce a complete ready-to-build yacht design. A yacht should be an attractive, comfortable, efficient, safe, and effective means of water transportation. While the aesthetic aspect is critical, the exterior design process is simple compared to the marine engineering and mechanical design services required for the internal systems. The outer shell appearance will also affect the propulsion, electronics, stability, structural rigidity, plumbing, and hydrodynamics. 

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How Much Does it Cost to Design a Yacht?


The cost for a yacht “design only” work ranges from $3,000 to $30,000, depending on the plan’s details. Generally, the design cost of a yacht should not exceed 15% – 20% of the overall build. However, some small boats with sophisticated onboard equipment and luxury features require the assistance of a more experienced engineering design expert than their larger counterparts. The money you spend on the design may account for a significant percentage of the overall cost.

Fee structures

A naval architect may use one of the standard pricing structures below.

* Fixed commission

The fixed commission is a set percentage of the cost of the completed yacht. One issue with a fixed pricing structure is the owner’s lack of project specifications. A naval architect needs a comprehensive, well-defined description of a yacht concept and an elaborate design contract to consider fixed commission an option. The precise contract specifications restrict the client’s ability to demand design revisions. As far as marine and yacht design services are concerned, a slight interior layout or mechanism change can alter the entire design approach.

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Every modification to the original concept must come with a formal “change order” and a separate fee for renegotiation. As a result, the fixed percentage fee structure can be complex. The total cost of a completed yacht remains unknown until the project concludes. Factors such as the contractor’s experience, builders’ qualifications, and labor can significantly affect the price. A fixed commission is often an overly expensive pricing structure for the owner.

Naval architecture design companies have to cover contingencies during the construction process, which means there has to be a generous margin in the initial estimate. Although the percentage is a predetermined number, the commission is impossible to determine during the design phase.

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* Hourly rate

For design-only work, an hourly rate pricing structure is preferable. An experienced naval architect knows how much time it will take to create a design based on the rough sketches or concepts provided by the client. The more detailed the design requested the more accurate the estimation will be. Most yacht designers (naval architects or marine engineers) charge an hourly rate for their services. According to the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average pay rate is as follows:

Hourly rate$27.19$36.83$44.89$57.02$73.02
Annual wage$56,550$76,600$93,370$118,610$151,880

Note: BLS estimates as of May 2021 (latest available data)

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* A combination of fixed commission and hourly rate

A naval architect may offer a flexible pricing structure using a combination of a fixed commission and an hourly rate. The design phase has to be divided into two stages for the method. An hourly rate fee is used during the first or preliminary design work, in which the client can request changes as necessary. The client and architect determine the yacht specifications, including the layout, dimensions, materials, stability, weights, hydrostatics, and performance. Regardless of numerous modifications, the architect is paid by the hour. A combined approach allows the client customizations while fairly compensating the architect.

For example, the architect’s rate is $80 per hour for a 37-foot-long yacht design. The architect can finish the job in 140 hours for a total design cost of $11,200 without client alterations. With alterations, the job increases to 280 hours for a total cost of $22,400. A fixed commission applies as soon as the preliminary design is completed. Using the information accumulated during the first phase, the client may want to switch to a fixed fee structure. A percentage-based fee is necessary when the client is ready to begin the construction process or uses the same architect to oversee the progress.

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Third-party consultant fee

A naval architect may need to hire third-party consultants to help with the project. The consulting fees range from $50 to $80 per hour, depending on the job’s complexity.

Basic Yacht Design Plan

A basic yacht design by a naval architect should include the outboard profile, deck layout, general arrangement of equipment, and at least one mode of construction. All the drawings for those plans are made for the client. In some cases, 3d product modeling services are required where the architect provides a 3D model of the hull shape (solid or surface) as a digital file. The outline includes details to quote labor and materials for the yacht’s specifications, i.e., stability and hydrostatics. A complete yacht design set contains construction drawings for all parts of the boat and information on building the structure. Electrical and plumbing schematics are provided as suggested by consultants specializing in the fields. 

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Comprehensive yacht design plan

A complete package pays for itself during the construction phase. A comprehensive yacht design plan provides all construction details, including the engine specification and shafting installation procedure. Hardware pieces, weight estimate, and structural stability calculation required for the build are specified. Mylar patterns are also for the deck, hull, keel, rudder, and bulkheads. A contractor needs as much detail as possible to ensure the yacht floats, performs as intended, and operates safely. The basic package offers little detail for construction, and the builders will have difficulty developing the configuration. Clarifying details will cost the client money during the project and in the long run. 

Set a budget and stick to it

Naval architects and marine engineering design experts can design yachts given client budgets to compensate for the work and cover overhead expenses. With unlimited financial resources, the client can have the most luxurious ship in the world. Prices can be exceedingly high, especially if the client wants personalized yacht designs. Clients determine a budget and consider the cost of the design and the construction itself. Once a budget has been established, consult a naval architect to understand what is technically and financially plausible.

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You will start with the initial consultation fee and finish with the delivery of the final design documents. However, some clients want to hurry the process and push to start building the yacht when the design is partially completed. As a result, the architect and the builders must play catch-up in the subsequent development. 

Cost of materials

The expense during the design phase goes to engineering design services, mainly to determine what should be installed and how the construction should be done. There is no cost for any material, such as paper/printing. A single drawing is roughly $1,500 to $3,000, and a complete design requires more than just several drawings. If the client also wants a design for full-size patterns of Mylar, there will be an additional fee for the materials. The cost of paper and printing is tiny compared to the design work, but Mylar and plotter ink cartridges are not cheap. The architect will bill the client for the items.

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Custom yacht design by size 

There aren’t many small custom boats for a reason. A small or large boat may require the same design fee since the construction cost increases with size. The design cost for a small ship is disproportionately high, and a large vessel can absorb the architect’s fee quite easily. During the design process, the time and engineering details cost around the same for 28-feet and 38-feet yachts.

A naval architect exerts the same effort to complete either length, and the extra length does not translate to a higher difficulty level. Sometimes, it is more challenging to design a small custom boat due to space constraints. Assuming a custom (personalized) build is not a factor, a client can use an already-made design from a builder for a small fee. The naval architect who created the design retains intellectual property ownership unless the client purchases it.

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The typical yacht design process

The design process of a yacht goes through six stages:

  1. Design Concept
  2. Preliminary Design
  3. Construction Quotes
  4. Final Design

For a “design-only” work, the process excludes the last two stages: Construction and Delivery.

Design concept

The very first idea of a concept lies in the client’s mind. A client knows a few general specifications about the yacht, whether the overall dimension, power or engine, shape, and materials. Sometimes the client only knows what they want to do once the boat is ready, for example cruising the world or living in the expanses of the seas. Quick research into the boat market, both new and used, should give a glimpse of the average price. The client will finally call a mechanical CAD drafting and design professional or naval architect to consult about the design and inform the professional about the realistic budget range.

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Based on the description provided, the naval architect returns to the client to offer sketches and an estimate for the design work. Once the client approves a specific design, the subsequent discussion revolves around the pricing structure. An hourly rate is recommended at this point, considering the possibility of design revisions. The client and the architect sign the contract as the employer and the employee. 

Preliminary design

The main objective of the preliminary design phase is to determine if the concept is technically viable. A naval architect does all the calculations to ensure everything works as intended. Minor alterations in the specifications are not uncommon. Equipment specifications and construction methods come next. A 3D modeling design company helps determine the design’s stability and hydrostatics. The preliminary design data should also include power requirements and speed estimates. Another calculation limits the engine size and propeller, given the available space.

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With equipment and engine installed, the naval architect considers the boat’s weight to pinpoint the center of gravity and how they affect buoyancy. Although the naval architect uses a three-dimensional model, the preliminary design documents are likely comprised of two-dimensional sketches annotated with construction specifications. The supporting documents include power calculation, speed prediction, stability curve, and the expected weight capacity. There is no interior layout except photos of existing boats for design ideas.

At this stage, the client has not discussed it with a builder. An incomplete design document doesn’t include every structural detail necessary to build a yacht. It may not have an electrical schematic, plumbing lines configuration, a definitive list of equipment, or the desired finish level. The best time to talk with a builder is when the final design documents are ready.


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Final design

Following approval for the preliminary design, the naval architect begins the bulk of the work. A final design includes all the details builders need to construct the yacht. The outer shell of the boat is drawn as a three-dimensional surface model. It is a technical drawing to help define the mathematical values of the yacht’s exterior and some interior features. Cut edges of the deck and hull are visible in an exploded model view. Based on the same drawing, the naval architect creates two-dimensional construction plans.

Most builders love to work on a design containing as much information as possible. Some appreciate a minimum number of drawings and begin the construction using only major structural plans. They can decide the level of detail on the finished yacht. A client may ask an architect to include 2D electrical drafting services and plumbing configurations, but the professional must hire consultants. If the schematics are not in the final design drawings, the builders will produce them. The architect usually configures the primary electrical wiring and panels for a large yacht project. 

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If the yacht measures at least 60 feet long and is made of aluminum or steel, the only viable way to complete the final design is with CAD software. The internal structure of the yacht is drawn in 3D to expose the metal pieces required for the construction. Annotation is mandatory because the plates come in varying dimensions, numbered and referenced for the cutting process.

A client may require a 3D architectural rendering expert to provide a 3D rendering showcasing the finished boat as a digital mockup. The naval architect has to hire another professional 3D render artist to do the job. A quality rendering may cost from $3,000 to $10,000 per image.

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Additional design services

A client hires a naval architect or marine engineer to complete the design phase. The naval or marine architect may need assistance from electrical or structural engineers, but the third-party consultants are not directly communicating with the client. The naval architect can help the client seek bids from contractors and subsequently oversee the construction. Another agreement is in order if these services are not specified in the original design contract. Additional services come at an additional cost.

How Cad Crowd can help

Whether you work for a naval architecture firm, own a maritime logistics company, or are an individual looking to create a mega yacht for family travels, our team can work with you to ensure you get the naval design help you need. Visit our website to see the complete list of services we offer. Contact us today for a free quote.