The Houseboat Buyer’s Guide – Pros, Cons & FAQs

A houseboat can be a great purchase for those that love a peaceful, aquatic lifestyle. Whether you’re looking to buy a houseboat for summer vacations, weekend getaways, or want to make it your permanent residence, there are many things to consider before you take the plunge.

Pros of owning a houseboat

A houseboat can be a really great investment if you choose to make it your permanent residence. Depending on your lifestyle, there are potentially many advantages to living on a houseboat.


For those that enjoy nature and water activities, it doesn’t get much better than living on a houseboat. Imagine waking up surrounded by water to a beautiful sunrise across the horizon. Diving, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and an array of other water activities are easily accessible while living on a houseboat.


You do not need to pay property tax on a houseboat like you would for a traditional home on land. However, you do have to pay sales tax when you purchase it, just like you would for a car.

Tip: There is the potential for houseboat tax breaks.


If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint, living on a houseboat can be a sustainable lifestyle choice. Having limited space and being connected with nature will make you more aware of your environment and consumption. You’ll use less water, less electricity, and produce a lot less waste.


There is no yard or outdoor area that needs to be maintained. If you’d like to move, you just start the engine and go. No need to pack or unpack, you’re free to go wherever you please!

Cons of owning a houseboat

While living on a houseboat can seem pretty magical, it is a big purchase. There are some aspects to consider, that may or may not suit your lifestyle needs.

Living space

If you’re used to living in a traditional home on land, a houseboat may be a significantly smaller living space. The average houseboat is around 500 sq. feet, which is much smaller than the average home. You most likely will need to get rid of a lot of your belongings.

For some, downsizing may be liberating, but for others, it may be harder to let go of things. Renting a storage space on land could allow you to keep some of your belongings, but of course at a cost. A houseboat also is typically more modest in terms of amenities compared to a traditional home on land.

If you’re docked in a marina, the close proximity to neighboring boats and lack of privacy could be hindering to some.


Bodies of water can be a haven for mosquitos and other bugs, especially depending on the area you’re located. For some, this may not be as much of an issue. For others, you may need to buy your bug spray in bulk.


Depending on where you choose to dock your boat, hurricanes or storms could be a potential threat if you are docking in a sound or area that may experience these conditions.

Even a normal rainstorm can cause quite a disturbance to your peaceful life on the water. If you live in an area that has a hurricane season, it’s important to have a hurricane plan in place for emergencies. Your insurance company may require this.

Living logistics

If you’re going to make a houseboat your primary residence, the lack of amenities could take some getting used to. Laundry is something to take into consideration because you may not have a clothing washer and dryer on board. In this case you’ll have to send out your laundry or go to a laundromat.

Many marinas do offer laundromat services. Depending on where you choose to dock, accessible wifi may be an issue, although many marinas do offer wifi. If you work remotely and need wifi, this is something you should look into before choosing a marina.

Receiving post mail may be something you once took for granted. Most likely you’ll have to set up a PO box as you won’t have a permanent mailing address on the water. I

f you have pets, living on a houseboat may not offer them the best quality of life. Although, being docked in a slip at the marina does allow them some access to run on land. You will also have to regularly have your sewage pumped depending on how often you use your bathroom on board.

Common FAQs related to owning a houseboat

What are the costs of living on a houseboat?

Obviously, the houseboat itself is the biggest initial cost. The price of a houseboat can vary greatly depending on whether it’s new or used and many other factors such as age, size, condition, amenities, and so on.

Here are a few common houseboat living costs:

  • Slip or dock rental fees are probably the biggest monthly expense if you want to be docked in a marina. This can range from $200-$1000 a month depending on the marina you choose. There are also plenty of public waters where you can anchor your boat for free but you will not have easy access to land and other facilities.
  • Utilities such as water, electricity, and sewage pumping are other monthly expenses to take into consideration.
  • Winter storage prices can vary depending on your location and size of the boat. If you live in a colder location and will only be using your houseboat seasonally, storage of your boat for the winter is something to factor in. If you live in a location you can live on your houseboat year round, lucky you!
  • Insurance Boat insurance companies will also be able to insure a houseboat as well. It can vary depending on the size of your houseboat, the age of the boat, whether you’re operating in fresh or saltwater, etc. Your current policyholder for your home or car should be able to provide more information here.Talk to people within the boating community to get an idea of their coverage and knowledgeable advice. It’s also a good idea to shop around.Tip: It’s also possible to receive insurance discounts for good driving records, boating safety courses, and if you currently insure your home or car with the same company. Ask your insurance agent how you can save.
  • Maintenance – Naturally things will break or need regular maintenance, such as exterior cleaning. The overall cost of boat maintenance will still typically be lower than that of a traditional home on land. If you decide to buy a used boat, more maintenance may be required.
  • Other expenses – If you couldn’t manage to completely downsize and decide to keep a storage space for some of your belongings, that will be an added monthly expense. Some people also like to keep a car on land, so you’ll most likely need to pay for a parking space.

Where can you purchase a houseboat?

Depending on your budget, your options are to buy new, used, or have a houseboat custom made. You can purchase directly from the manufacturers or you can buy from dealers and private sellers. If you decide to buy used, it’s always best to have your boat inspected before purchasing.

There are many websites that you can filter by location, budget, manufacturer, or whatever suits your needs. Here are some of the top sites to get you started.

What are the top houseboat manufacturers?

It may seem overwhelming when looking for a houseboat. Here are some top manufacturers to look out for to find the boat that best suits your lifestyle and budget.

  • Bluewater Yachts
  • Bravada Yachts
  • Catamaran Cruisers
  • Destination Yachts
  • Gibson Boats
  • Patio Cruisers
  • Trifecta Houseboats

Do you need a license to drive a houseboat?

To drive a houseboat, you need a valid driver’s license. Some states may require a boating license or safety certification. Check your state’s requirements to see what is needed. If you’ve never driven a boat before, it could be beneficial to take a safety course to make you feel confident on the water. Tip: A safety certification could even get you an insurance discount.

Bottom Line

Before buying a houseboat, there are many things to take into consideration before making a decision. It’s a big purchase and important to do your research and be well-informed.

It may be beneficial to rent a houseboat first to see if the lifestyle suits you. Good luck!

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