Updated on August 28, 2020

Unless you plan on growing multiple limbs or you have a large, regular sailing crew, then it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll need an autopilot to help you stay on course while you adjust the sails or grab something from below deck. Autopilots are useful for both the day sailors that enjoy exploring their home harbors and waters and for cruisers who plan on sailing at night and for weeks on end. Whether you have a tiller-steered sailboat or a mechanically-steered boat, there’s an autopilot that will work for you and your vessel. We’ve put together a guide to help you find the best autopilot for sailboats and for the type of excursions that you enjoy. Take a look, and see you out there, sailor!

For more of our top sailing gear recommendations, check out the Best Marine GPS Chartplotters.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Autopilot For Sailboats

  1. Raymarine ST1000 Plus Tiller Pilot
  2. Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot
  3. Raymarine M81131 12 Volt Type 2 Autopilot Linear Drive
  4. Garmin GHC 20 Marine Autopilot Helm Control
  5. Raymarine Evolution Ev-200 Sail Autopilot

 

Comparison Table - Best Autopilot For Sailboats

PictureNameBest UseDisplay TypeWarrantyPriceRating
Raymarine ST1000 Plus Tiller PilotTiller-steered SailboatsBacklit LCD2 years$4.9
Simrad TP10 TillerpilotTiller-steered SailboatsN/AN/A$4.85
Raymarine M81131 12 Volt Type 2 Autopilot Linear DriveMechanically-steered SailboatsN/A2 years$$$4.8
Garmin GHC 20 Marine Autopilot Helm ControlPower & Sailboats under 40 feet in lengthGlass-Bonded, Anti-Glare Color TFT Lens2-year limited (Owner Installed); 2-year parts and onboard (Certified Installer)$$4.6
Raymarine Evolution Ev-200 Sail AutopilotMid-Size Mechanically-Steered SailboatsBacklit LCD2 years; 3 years with product registration$$$4.75
PictureNameBest UseDisplay TypeWarrantyPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - Best Sailboat Autopilot

Raymarine ST1000 Plus Tiller Pilot

Specs
  • Best Use: Tiller-steered Sailboats
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Display Type: Backlit LCD
  • Voltage: 10-16V DC
  • Thrust: 125 lbs.
  • Data Interface: SeaTalk, NMEA 0183
  • Max. Recommended Displacement: 6,000 lbs.
Features
  • Improved Waterproofing Ensures That You’ll Be Able To Use This Autopilot In Calm Seas And Stormy Weather
  • Intelligent Software Minimizes Draw On The Battery For Longer Battery Life
  • Simple Six-Button Keypad Makes It Easy To Use This Autopilot

BEST FOR: AFFORDABLE PERFORMANCE

This classic tiller autopilot is the perfect accessory for your day sailing vessel. The ST1000 can accept NMEA data with its intelligent software for accurate navigation to a waypoint. The backlit LCD display shows you your locked course and navigational data and information, even in the evening or low-light conditions. This autopilot also has an AutoTack feature, which will tack the boat for you while you adjust and handle the sheets and sails. Finally, the autopilot comes with everything you’ll need to install and use your device, including mounting socket, tiller pilot socket, gasket, cable clip, and clamp, among other items.

Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot

Specs
  • Best Use: Tiller-steered Sailboats
  • Warranty: N/A
  • Display Type: N/A
  • Voltage: 12V DC
  • Thrust: 143 lbs.
  • Data Interface: N/A
  • Max. Recommended Displacement: 10,000 lbs.
Features
  • Precision Steering In A Variety Of Weather And Water Conditions
  • Runs Very Quietly So That You Can Enjoy The Natural Sounds Of The Water
  • Waterproof Sealing Protects Against Spray And The Elements

BEST FOR: SAILBOATS UP TO 32’ IN LENGTH

If your sailboat is tiller-steered and 32 feet or less in length, than this Simrad TP10 TillerPilot is a great autopilot option for you. The combination of the advanced software in this autopilot with its simple, five-key display and controls make this device really user-friendly and effective in all types of weather conditions. This autopilot also includes battery use optimization with a low-power draw so that your battery lasts longer, even with prolonged use. Finally, this autopilot is designed with the sailor in mind. It runs extremely quietly so that you can truly get away from it all and enjoy your time on the water without whirring and interruption from the autopilot.

Raymarine M81131 12 Volt Type 2 Autopilot Linear Drive

Specs
  • Best Use: Mechanically-steered Sailboats
  • Type: Linear Drive unit
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Display Type: N/A
  • Voltage: N/A
  • Data Interface: SeaTalk, NMEA 2000
  • Max. Recommended Displacement: 33,000 lbs.
Features
  • High Performance With Minimal Electric Current Consumption
  • Quiet Operation For Optimal Sailing Experience Without Extra Machine Noises Interrupting Your Peace And Quiet
  • Two Year Warranty For Added Security

BEST FOR: SEASONAL CRUISERS

Do you spend your winters cruising south towards Florida or the Carribean? If so, the Raymarine M81131 12 Volt Type 2 Autopilot Linear Drive might be right for you and your vessel. This autopilot is designed for sailboats with existing mechanical steering systems; if your vessel is large enough to have a full motor system, then you’ll want this type of autopilot with a powerful thrust and an electromagnetic fail-safe clutch. Finally, this system works in coordination with SeaTalk and NMEA 2000 navigation data so that you can count on precision navigation from your home port to a waypoint.

Garmin GHC 20 Marine Autopilot Helm Control

Specs
  • Best Use: Power & Sailboats under 40 feet in length
  • Warranty: 2-year limited (Owner Installed); 2-year parts and onboard (Certified Installer)
  • Display Type: Glass-Bonded, Anti-Glare Color TFT Lens
  • Voltage: 9-32V DC
  • Thrust: N/A
  • Data Interface: NMEA 2K
  • Max. Recommended Displacement: Best for Power & Sailboats under 40 feet in length
Features
  • Bright Four Inch Display With Glass-Bonded, Anti-Glare Lens For Optimal Viewing
  • Daylight Readability Is Enhanced By High-Contrast Color Scheme
  • Compatible With Quatix Marine Watch And Other Garmin Products

BEST FOR: OVERNIGHT EXCURSIONS

If you’re headed out on a multi-day excursion which might require some overnight cruising, you’re going to need an autopilot with a display that you can read well in low light conditions and at nighttime. This Garmin GHC 20 Marine Autopilot Helm Control is the perfect product for that type of an adventure. 

Its four inch display with enhanced nighttime readability and glass-bonded, anti-glare lens to prevent fogging and glare in sunny conditions will help you maintain control in all types of conditions, at all times of day. It also has a 170 degree viewing angle, so whether you’re up on deck adjusting the sails or below deck grabbing an extra sheet, you’ll be able to glance over at the display and see what’s going on. This autopilot also works for both power and sailing vessels. Finally, its five-button control is easy to use, so you’ll be off on your sailing adventure before you know it.

Raymarine Evolution Ev-200 Sail Autopilot

Specs
  • Best Use: Mid-Size Mechanically-Steered Sailboats
  • Warranty: 2 years; 3 years with product registration
  • Display Type: Backlit LCD
  • Voltage: 10-16V DC
  • Thrust: 650 lbs.
  • Data Interface: SeaTalk, NMEA 2000
  • Max. Recommended Displacement: 24,000 lbs.
Features
  • Contains A High Tech Sensor And Full-Function Course Computer
  • Uses Artificial Intelligence Algorithms To Maximize Performance, Instead Of Manual Calibration
  • EV Sensor Core (GPS Unit) Can Be Mounted Above Or Below Deck

BEST FOR: SAILBOATS WITH MECHANICAL STEERING

If you’re looking for a powerful, tech-forward autopilot with cutting edge navigation technology, then the Raymarine Evolution EV-200 Sail Autopilot might be the right one for you. Designed with sophisticated AI algorithms that perceive the environment and instantly calculate and evolve steering commands, this autopilot optimizes your cruising experience without the need for manual calibration or adjustment. The result is precise steering and course keeping, regardless of the vessel speed or sea conditions. Finally, the package includes the EV sensor core, which is similar to a marine GPS unit. It can be bracket-mounted either above or below deck, depending on space and convenience.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING AUTOPILOTS FOR SAILBOATS

 

BOAT SIZE

It’s important to consider the size of your sailboat before you purchase an autopilot. Autopilots are designed with specific thrust and power draws depending on the boat that it’s optimized for. Be sure to know the length of your boat as well as the water displacement (in pounds) so that you can choose the optimal autopilot device for you.

 

STEERING TYPE

Autopilots are a complicated piece of technology designed to keep you on course when you can’t be at the helm. If your sailboat is steered with a tiller, then you’ll be looking at the tiller-steered category of autopilots. If it’s mechanically steered, then you’ll be shopping for autopilots that are compatible with that type of a system. West Marine has a great resource archive for everything you need to know about sailing. Check out this informational article on  selecting an autopilot for more information.

 

HOW YOU USE YOUR SAILBOAT

Do you like to go out for the day to explore the area around your home port or do you cruise down to the Caribbean seasonally in winter? Are you able to handle your sailboat by yourself or do you typically need a crew? These are all types of questions to ask yourself before investing in an autopilot. Consider the type of boat that you have and how you enjoy using it to choose the best sailing autopilot unit for you.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

 

TILLER

A horizontal bar fitted to the rudder of the boat and used as a lever for steering.

HULL

This term refers to the main body of the boat, including the sides, bottom, and deck, but excluding the mast, sails, rigging, and other features.

TACKING

This term refers to the way a sailboat is maneuvered. If your desired course is into the wind, the boat is turned toward the wind so that the direction from which the wind blows changes from one side to the other, thereby allowing forward progress.

HELM

The helm of the boat is the place from which the boat is steered.

SHEETS

The sheets refer to the ropes or lines that adjust the movable portions of the sails.

BOW

This term refers to the front end of the sailboat.

STERN

The stern is the back end of the sailboat.

PORT

The port side of the sailboat is the left side of the boat when facing forwards towards the bow (or front) of the vessel.

STARBOARD

The starboard side of the sailboat is the right side of the boat when facing forwards towards the bow or front of the vessel.

READ MORE

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