The Boeing 737 MAX 8 Vs The 737-800 – What Is The Difference?

With all the discussions about the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and whether or not it is safe to fly, you’d be forgiven for wondering what exactly the difference is between the newer 737 MAX and the older (and seemingly more reliable) 737-800.

But you might be surprised to learn that the 737 MAX series is actually the fourth generation of the Boeing 737 plane (with the 737-800 being the third). As such, it has the latest technologies, exemplary fuel efficiency and more advanced construction than its predecessors. But does this make it any better?

the MAX 9
The Boeing MAX 9. Photo: Boeing

What are the main differences?

First, let’s look at the third generation 737 aircraft side by side.

ModelPassengers (2-Class)Range
737-6001083,235 nmi (5,991 km)
737-7001283,010 nmi (5,570 km)
737-8001602,935 nmi (5,436 km)
737-900ER1772,950 nmi (5,460 km)

As we can see, the range of the plane goes down the bigger it is (until you get to the last extended range model, the 737-900ER).

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Now let us compare it to the 737 MAX series (the fourth generation of Boeing 737).

ModelPassengersRange
737 MAX 71533,850 nmi / 7,130 km
737 MAX 81783,550 nmi / 6,570 km
737 MAX 91933,550 nmi / 6,570 km
737 MAX 102043,300 nmi / 6,110 km

Whilst the same patterns exist as above, it is clear that the base range and carrying capacity of these aircraft are far superior to previous models. What is rather interesting is the difference between the 737 MAX 8 and the MAX 9, with the 9 having more passengers at no cost to the range.

Note, there is also a 737 MAX 200, a high capacity version of the 8 that has been secured by Ryanair.

Ryanair B737 Max
A mockup of the B737-8-200 Interior. Photo: Ryanair

If we were to compare the 737 MAX 8 directly to the 737-800 on numbers alone, then you can see that with a longer range and ability to carry 18 more full fare paying customers, it’s a clear winner.

The cost of the 737 MAX vs the 737-800

According to Boeing, here are the list prices for each aircraft:

Old Series:
700: $89.1
800: $106.1
900ER: $112.6

New Series:
MAX 7: $99.7 million
MAX 8: $121.6M
MAX 9: $128.9M
MAX 10: $134.9M as of 2019

As we can see, the -8 does cost a little bit more than the 800, in fact only the MAX 7 comes close to the affordability of the older model. All these new gizmos don’t come cheap, and Boeing knows that in order to get their customers to upgrade their fleet (like Southwest who have a massive 280 order on the books), they need to provide a significant upgrade over the aircraft currently in use.

So which is more popular for airlines?

Looking at actual orders, side by side we have

737-800: 4,991 orders
737 MAX 8: 2,639 orders

The 737-800 has been on sale since 1993 (when it was first announced) giving an average order of 192 aircraft a year over 26 years. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 has fewer total orders but has only been around for eight years since 2011. This makes an higher average, at 330 orders per year.

As such, whilst the 737 MAX 8 is more expensive than the order 737-800, it is easily far superior. Apart from the two tragic incidents that we’re hearing so much about right now.

MAX-7 Paint Hangar Rollout for Employee Rollout Ceremony
Boeing 737 MAX will undergo several design changes due to recent fatal crashes. Source: Boeing

Barring any unfortunate outcomes to the MAX program due to current events, Boeing intends to replace the 737 series with a fifth generation in 2030, based on the technology used in the 787 and 777X.

What do you think? Which plane is better? Let us know in the comments. 

43 comments
  1. I always enjoy reading articles on Simple Flying…they’re always so upbeat 🙂
    In this particular case, I note that you’ve concentrated on performance differences between the two planes, and have been basically silent on structural/mechanical differences, so I wanted to pitch-in the following (no pun intended).
    Many analyses of the 737 MAX label it as a “highly compromised design”. Ground clearance on the 737 is much lower than with the A320, so the only way to fit a larger engine under the wing was to move the engine forward and upward of its nominal position. This, in turn, led to a shift in the plane’s center-of-gravity / center-of-pitch, with a tendency to pitch up — a tendency which is particularly unwelcome during climb-out. The 737 MAX’s controversial MCAS software is thus necessitated by a non-optimal aeronautical design to start off with.
    For unrelated reasons (to avoid tail strike with a longer airframe), Boeing have introduced a taller undercarriage on the MAX 10 (still in development), so as to raise it somewhat higher off the ground. If something like this had been done from day one with the other MAXs — thus creating more room under the wing for the larger engine — then the presently problematic MCAS software may not have been necessary at all.

  2. I have a better way of preventing Fatality,even wen the plan crashed. I feel we can come up with the system that we can put on the seats that can be actuated by the passenger,and when actuated the all 3seats goes down and open as a parachutes.later after of open s we need also to design in such a way that after few meters as the velocity increases the parachutes opens.so the…seats will keep going as a set until all the seats goes and open .more on this…..I have something to contribute.

  3. am a mechamical technician specialized in hydrolics what you have done is enough we just need to work on few things.let us think of masseurs on how to avoid fatality when the airbus develop fort and its about to clash? there is indeed something that can be done. yes we have the answers and to gether we can.

  4. To add to what was said about the height, I am very leery of the extended landing gear setup that they came up with for the height gain. Having a double hinged extension just seems problematic from the start. But that’s how they had to design it to keep the same footprint under the current air-frame on the MAX 10. I am concerned the new engine location causing the need for MCAS is a design flaw. Also if you remember the NG series had the issue and that’s why we have the flat bottom on the induction cowls. To gain a few inches of ground clearance. Time will tell if its the MCAS or if some other bad sensors are causing the cyclic air speed issues on the MAX 8.

    1. John, we’re on the same page as regards the complicated hinged mechanism used to create an “artifical” extension of the landing gear when extended, while still allowing the gear to fit in the current bay when retracted. I suspect that that mechanism is going to be prone to malfunction. Here’s a neat summary video of the new design:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi7Av6URi70

  5. I just booked a flight to Vegas on a Boeing 737 – it’s not listed as a max 8 – anyone know if it’s grounded? or safe?

    1. If its flying right now, its safe 🙂 the 737 MAX 8 is also a safe aircraft, but just had two incidences out of thousands of flights.

      1. An “incident ” is nicking your finger chopping vegetables this design fault has cost over 300 people’s lives

      2. Someone calculated that this plane is statistically far more dangerous than other aircraft (which are, of course, very, very safe).

  6. Good evening,
    I have one question about the 737. There is an also b737 called NG (New Generation). This 737NG as its name suggests is built around a flight desk of computers screens essentially…Is it similar to the b737MAX 8 and the others serial b737MAX. Thank you for your answers.

    1. 1st Gen: 737-100/200
      2nd Gen: 737-300/400/500
      3rd Gen: 737NG – 600/700/800/900
      4th Gen: 737 MAX 8,9,10

      The 737 NG comprises the 737-600, −700, −800, and −900 variants

  7. So what I’m reading between the lines of Nigel’s post is that the aircraft is either statically or dynamically unstable – not a great way to design an aircraft!

  8. i think if everybody jumps out the crashing plane 3 second b4 it hits the ground the way bugs bunny does it then everybody lives fine

  9. the 737-800 looks more fly-worthy than the new max-8. maybe it burns more fuel, but it looks more unified and safer.

  10. The Max 8 is getting orders because the remaing B757-200 in world airline fleets are getting worn out with no modern direct replacement. The 737 is way over stretched and Airbus have had no need to compromise by making the cockpit controls legacy training compatible.

  11. Could someone answer my naïve questions?
    Are engineering schools still teaching that good engineering is to keep it simple?
    What we see here appears that a solution to a problem creates another problem: Putting a larger engine forward (because of undercarriage clearance) changes the “operational characteristics”, so MCAS is installed to correct the problem. Now MCAS may be the problem itself, i.e., dipping the nose too much and resulted in TWO crashes!
    So why put in a bigger engine in the first place? Is the extra power allowing airlines to squeeze more passengers into the same airframe?
    I think Boeing’s engineers should go back to their drawing board.
    Congress should also thoroughly investigate FAA’s decision not to ground this aircraft right after the Ethiopia crash. Using their argument (and other “experts” on TV), we should not have grounded all air traffic on 9/11: only four planes down (or hitting buildings) out of thousands of planes still flying safely in the sky!

    1. The engineering schools are doing their work just fine. It’s the marketing pressure that’s the problem. A larger engine has a larger bypass ratio, which gives better fuel economy and less noise. Airbus had it, so Boeing had to have it in order to keep up. But Airbus could do it without significant engineering compromises, whereas Boeing couldn’t. It’s likely that Boeing engineers pointed this out to their marketing counterparts, but that doesn’t mean that they were heeded. Now the issue has come back to haunt them, it would seem.

    2. 1) I think Boeing’s engineers should not go back to their drawing board, they should go back to school.
      2) FAA should stop representing aircraft companies, and for a change look after the safety of people.

    3. The reason that Boeing put a large engine on a airplane that could not nativity handle it because of low ground clearance is due to Airbus. Airbus released a new re-engined edition of their 320 family that directly competes with the 737.
      Boeing’s initial intention was to completely end the 737 family and recreate a entirely new aircraft but when they saw how quickly airbus was re-developing their new 320 they decided to change their plane entirely. They feared if airbus beat them to market they would loose several long time Boeing customers with aging 737s.
      The solution: put new engines on the 737 and make the MAX. This would allow them to not have to retrain pilots which takes a long time and is costly to airlines.
      The problem with the solution: the old 737 did not have MACS and the FAA ruled that pilots did not have to retrain for the 737 MAX so pilots had no idea what MACS did. Therefore the blame lies wit the FAA

    1. SERIOUSLY, Laura Zhang?! You are going to blame this on capitalism?!!! I can understand if you want to blame greed, corruption or hubris but those are all failures of the human condition and not an economic system. This is a tragedy. There are scores of people operating in capitalist economies that devote their whole lives to making things better and safer. I am sensitive to the fact that you are hurt and angered by this tragedy. Many of us are… but throwing out a statement like this just seems like a way to turn this into a political issue.

  12. Yea they said The Hindenburg was state of the art and safe also.
    They said even God himself could not sink the Titanic.
    Here in Houston we had a Boeing 767 come crashing nose down just before that last
    Boeing 737 Max 8.
    I Think Boeing has a big problem going on.

  13. What does it take to undergo a “type certification” versus a new design certification? I’m guessing a type certification is far easier, faster and less costly. With the movement of the engine and thus the plans center of gravity, If wondering if the FAA certification rules need to be amended.

  14. I have just come back home on a flight Bologna /Sharm Egypt. On the way to Sharm I flew on a Boeing 737- 800. Beautiful plane wit lots of space but the noise of the engines was terrible. On the return flight I flew on an Airbus 320, no noise but very uncomfortable, all spaces in all directions were cramped and I was very tired when I got home.
    Which do I prefer ? I prefer the Boeing 737 – 800 and put plugs in my ears.

  15. To have the airplane the tedency to nose up after fitting the larger engines, the center of gravity should have been moved backwards. Now if the new engines were positionsed a little forward and upward, as it is mentionned, how that could have been possible? Or maybe the engines have been moved outwards as well, because of their greater diameter, so overall their center of gravity was moved backwards because of the swept of the wing?

  16. How could you say this “As such, whilst the 737 MAX 8 is more expensive than the order 737-800, it is easily far superior.”

    When its so obvious that Boeing made the 787 Max unflyable by design and use software to correct it and make it flyable ?

  17. Well, it seems that the problem of the aft CG was a result of lenghening the aircraft, and that inspite of moving the engines a little forward on the wing.

  18. The CG was changed with the new engines and lengthening the fuselage. But that’s not what causes the pitch-up. The shape of the engines produces lift. Putting them further forward causes the pitch-up.

  19. While the two 737 Max incidents are tragic, the reality is that people have short memories and will eventually forget about the incidents, assuming Boeing has a near “bullet-proof” fix. The A320 was plagued with problems in the early days, including one crash during an airshow with the press and airline executives along for the ride and thousands of spectators on the ground. Airbus tried to beat Boeing with its fly-by-wire technology, but many argued it was nearly impossible to make such a complex system without bugs. Today, people think the A320 is the superior and safer alternative. Until recently, I am nervous when I fly on Airbus planes because I have good memory and still remember those Airbus incidents.

  20. The internet never worked on the Max 8 on any of my Southwest flights. I dreaded boarding those planes. Several times flight attendants said the WiFi interferes with the captains radio.
    That plane has some issues

    1. @Jim : Pilot radio communications takes placed over the following frequency range: 118.000 MHz to 135.975 MHz
      The WIFI range of frequencies are in the 900 MHz 2.4 GHz, 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5 GHz, 5.9 GHz and 60 GHz bands.
      There is no overlap.

  21. And they don’t care about passenger comfort. Being crammed in with more people, more uncomfortable for all, plus tinier bathrooms, etc, is a pathetic way of prioritizing the profit over the safety and comfort of the consumer. Just because someone will buy it doesn’t mean you should build it.

  22. Just stop killing people with your boeings one life lost is worth more than those damn things of yours so just discard all of them

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