Cigarette Boats vs Cigar Boats: What’s the Difference?

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on October 26, 2021. In Boats

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Every so often you come across the names cigar boat and cigarette boat. If you’ve seen them before, it’s hard not to be impressed. These are very cool looking speed boats that perform incredibly well. They’re built for speed and can absolutely tear up the water in a race. They’ll leave a normal power boat in the dust. But what is the difference between the two?

What is a Cigar Boat?

The name cigar boat has nothing to do with literal cigars. You may see people asking online if they had something to do with smuggling cigars or other such things. But no, that is not the case. The only time the cigar you smoke and a cigar boat cross paths is if the captain is maybe a smoker.

Ironically, these were smuggling vessels at one point. But they weren’t smuggling Cuban cigars. They used to be called rum runners.

Instead, the name of the cigar boat comes from the look of the boat. Cigar boats were first called cigarette boats. Cigar boat became a kind of nickname because, obviously, the two objects are similar in nature.

Also called a go-fast boat, a cigar boat is extremely long and thin. It resembles a cigar or cigarette in that way and that’s where the name comes from. The size and shape allow it to be extremely fast, like a bullet in the water.

What is a Cigarette Boat?

If a cigar boat is a modern day rum runner, then what is a cigarette boat? It’s the exact same thing. Weird, right? Cigarette boat is actually a kind of rum runner. It’s a brand name rather than a different kind of vessel. A man named Don Aronow built the first Cigarette boat in the 1960s. He toured the world with it showing it off. It was far more impressive than regular speed boats. It caught on, people loved it and soon he was building them for others. He started the Cigarette Racing Team in the 1970s.

With his Cigarette boat, Aronow won numerous races. His boats have taken over 350 racing titles and world championships. But the boat itself is not any different than a cigar boat or a rum runner. Think of a cigarette boat like Kleenex and a cigar boat like facial tissue. Same thing, just one is a name brand.

How Fast is a Cigarette Boat?

If you have a need for speed, then a cigarette boat may be the boat for you. Take a look at some of these numbers. The Cigarette Racing Team’s 50 AMG GTS is incredibly fast. Powered by a 2200 HP AMG electric engine, this boat hits 135 miles per hour. These powerful engines are a sight to behold.

Of course, that’s a fully electric racing model of the boat. Most of us are never going to get behind the wheel of that one. But you can buy a cigarette boat that can get you to high speeds of around 90 miles per hour and 100 miles per hour.

What Does a Cigarette Boat Cost?

The cost of a cigarette boat is harder to answer than you might think. It depends heavily on if you mean a cigar boat, as in a generic go fast boat, or a real cigarette boat. Cigarette boats made by the company itself aren’t really made in great numbers for the public. You won’t see these at your local marina very often. The focus is definitely on racing. In 2018 they collaborated with Mercedes to make the Mercedes-AMG GmbH at a cost of $2 million.

If you have your heart set on a genuine Cigarette boat, get ready to pay for it. You can buy used boats all over the country. On the low end you’re looking at around $150,000. They get up to about $750,000 or so.

Brand new boats may cost around $1 million. It’s not unheard of for some models to reach well over $3 million. Obviously these boats aren’t for everyone. They are bespoke and are custom designed for the buyers, essentially.

But what about another brand? Mainship, Nor-Tech, Outerlimits and others make rum runners and go fast boats. The cost is dependent on whether or not you’re looking for brand new or used, of course. You can still expect to pay at the very least in the low six figures for boats made in the last 20 years.

The Cigarette Racing Team

Cigarette boats have V-shaped, planing hull. That means that they ride on top of the water. They are equipped with high horsepower engines. The boat itself is fiberglass. They are able to push them at incredible speeds, some over 100 miles per hour. They can tear up calm waters and slice through even higher waves. Speed and agility is the name of the game here.

A cigarette boat racing team consists of 3 members. One person is in charge of steering. Another mans the boat’s throttle. The third member serves as navigator. Working together these three can be fast and furious on the sea. But it takes incredible skill and coordination to do it well. Just imagine a navigator messing up and missing an obstacle. The racer on the throttle could accelerate as the pilot steers right into it.

The History of Cigarette Boats

The company and the history of the boats is wrapped up in intrigue and danger. The very image of the rum runner was one of latter day piracy. These boats were used to smuggle alcohol from boats offshore back to the mainland. The reason was that they were almost impossible to catch. Even if the Coast Guard saw one of these boats, they were helpless to do anything. A cigarette would leave older Coast Guard vessels in their wake.

It’s not hard to imagine what happened next. If a cigar boat could smuggle alcohol past the United States Coast Guard, what else could it smuggle? These boats became favored by drug smugglers because of their speed and low profile.

Ironically, Aronow, the man who created Cigarette boats, helped stop their illegal usage. Or, more accurately, curb it. In the 1980s, Aronow sold Cigarette Boats and formed the USA Racing Team. he also helped design new boats for the United States Customs Service. These catamarans were called Blue Thunders. They were designed for speed. They enabled customs agents to combat the high-speed smugglers of the day.

The Death of Don Aronow

In 1987, Don Aronow was shot in his car after a business meeting. His murderers, Bobby Young and Ben Kramer, were associates of his. Kramer was a drug smuggler and had bought USA racing from Aronow. He ended up selling it back after Customs froze him out. The business dispute turned deadly. It would be nearly a decade before the murder was solved. Kramer was already in prison for life on other charges when he confessed to the crime.

Even though Aronow sold the company well before his death, the legacy has lived on. Cigarette boats, cigar boats, or go fast boats are still huge in racing. They cut a striking image in the water. The long and narrow construction of the Cigarette boat improves its aerodynamics. This means that it is able to move through the air faster. This was because of the clean lines and lack of obstructions. Normally those create friction and slow a boat down. This is one reason that the bow is enclosed. If there were an opening in the bow, air would not flow smoothly over the hull.

The Bottom Line

If you have an interest in boat racing, you need to learn more about Cigarette and their amazing history. And even if it’s just a passing interest, remember that all of these names are often used these days. A cigar boat is a go fast boat is a rum runner. And Cigarette was the brand created in the late 1960s that made them popular.

About Chris

Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.



  • kenny pichardo on December 17, 2021

    Cigarette was founded in 1969 not the 70’s the location was NE 188 street in what is now Aventura Florida (North Miami) The street nick name was thunderboat row then home to Pantera, Magnum Marine, Donzi, PowerPlay and Arnow power boats. Just thought you should have more information anout the rich history of Cigarettes boats


    • Chris Riley on December 18, 2021

      From what I understand he unveiled his boat in 1969 but officially started Cigarette Racing Team in 1970. Their official website indicates the same.


  • Fred Kombo on March 4, 2022

    As an avid watercraft enthusiast,Cigarette boats just blow my imagination.

    Inspite of their collosal prices,I shall feel accomplished when I turn the throttles from my rivate jetty for a spin around the calm creeks of my Kenya coast paradise.


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