6 Big Disadvantages Of Living On A Houseboat

Some people love to try unique things and be a little different than the rest of the people around them. They make their dreams come true in so many ways. One of the ways out of all of them is living in a houseboat. 

Sounds interesting and fun right? 

It is exciting and a new thing to try that many people nowadays dream about. Although living on board a houseboat sounds like a lot of fun before you decide whether it is good idea for you, it is important to know all the advantages and disadvantages of living on one. Be sure and take your time learning about all of the pros and cons as well as just because it is amazing for one person or family doesn’t mean it will be right for yours. 

That is where this article comes in. We specifically wanted to cover some of the disadvantages that you will have to deal with when you live on a houseboat. Many people or even websites make it out to be the perfect situation for everyone but that quite simply isn’t true. 

Although houseboats are generally set in peaceful and natural locations that are beautiful that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy one today. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets, food, scenery, peace, and freedom to move are some of the main attractions of living in a houseboat but don’t just look at the attractions when making your decision. Be sure and look at the disadvantages as well. 

What exactly is a houseboat?

Before we dive into the disadvantages of living on board a houseboat first we need to clarify what I mean when I say a houseboat as there are many different types of houseboats all over the world and the term is even used for houses that are built over the water but don’t move as well. 

When I say houseboat what I mean in simple terms is an actual boat that can be moved around that is also large enough and is designed for long trips or living on board. The houseboats that we most commonly refer to across this entire website is one that can be moved around using its motor/motors thereby giving you the freedom to pick and choose where you want to spend each night. 

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Houseboats in the USA are normally flat bottomed boats with a single or two story “house” built on and in it. Houseboats will traditionally have all of the comforts of home including bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. Of course they also come with plenty of deck space for you to lay out and enjoy the sun or to go fishing from. 

Some disadvantages of living in a houseboat

Despite all the advantages and beauty of living in a houseboat, there are actually quite a few disadvantages that you should consider before deciding on living on board a houseboat. Here are some of the major and most common disadvantages listed briefly:

You will not have a mailbox

When you have a normal house, you have a mailbox so that you can receive letters and packages from people or from your online shopping. When you live on a houseboat you normally don’t have an address so you will have to get a PO Box or a box at a similar place to get all of your mail and packages at. 

This can be especially tricky if you move around a lot on your houseboat since you might not be in the same place very often.

You will not have a residence and neighbors

Now to some people this might be a huge advantage but to many people it is a disadvantage. Of course if you dock your boat in a marina regularly then you will have some neighbors on the boats next door that you might see from time to time and you could even become friends with other full time “liveaboards” but if you don’t have a slip at a marina and normally just beach or anchor your boat every evening then you will likely miss the companionship. 

Not having a social life can be a difficult thing to take. Most people cannot live without friends or neighbors that they can share their experiences and have fun with. Living on a houseboat could mean that you will be isolating yourself from everyone else which would be a disadvantage for many people.

Mosquitoes and bugs

Living by the water means inviting the bugs and mosquitoes for a free meal. They will likely constantly disturb and annoy you when you are trying to eat dinner or simply enjoy the view.  

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This is more of a disadvantage in some areas than others and some people are more bothered by bugs than others as well but it is certainly something that you should keep in mind.

Living in limited spaces

One of the biggest disadvantages to living on a houseboat is that it is not very big. It has limited space inside it and gives you limited space to live your life and even store your stuff. After a certain age and time, people tend to get bored and tired of living in those limited and small spaces. 

This will further lead to another disadvantage that is the storage space. You will not have much space to store the items that you don’t use very often so you will often have to leave them behind or rent a storage unit (an additional cost). 

Since most houseboats are around 500 sq. feet in size that means you are going to have to seriously downsize and get rid of a lot of “stuff” to live on one. Most people in the USA live in houses that are 1500-2500 sq feet so to go down to a 500 sq foot houseboat is quite limiting and quite small.

Parking space

If you have a vehicle for yourself or for your family, you will obviously not have a parking space on your houseboat. That means you will either have to park your vehicle for weeks or months on end at the marina (if they allow it) or sell your car and walk or Uber everywhere when you are on land. 

We often take for granted how easy it is to simply hop in our car and head to the grocery store but if you are on a houseboat it is a much more difficult process. If you travel around a lot and just go to the store once a month then this might just be a minor inconvenience but since there isn’t much room on board your houseboat for refrigerated or frozen things you might find yourself going to the store quite often. 

Not having a place where your car can be parked or having your car parked at a marina that you are a long way from can be a pretty big disadvantage.

Small bathroom

Like virtually every other room in your houseboat your bathroom is going to be quite small as well. In most every houseboat not only will the bathroom be tiny and make showering or getting ready difficult but you will also likely only have one bathroom! 

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This can lead to a lot of disputes with your friends or family that you are on board with and can get on your nerves quite fast! 

In my current home my wife and I have two separate sinks in our master bath and sometimes I still get annoyed by all of her “stuff” that is all over the place in between our two sinks. Now take that and multiply it by every single person that you will be living with on board the houseboat and you can easily see how a small bathroom can turn into a big disadvantage really quickly! 


These are just some of the disadvantages of living in a houseboat. I didn’t even mention the winter storage (if you are where it’s cold), the cost of living on one (discussed here), the weather, and many other things as well. 

All of these things above all need to be considered if you are planning on buying a houseboat. 

Houseboats can be amazing to live on but remember that all houseboats come along with these disadvantages. Some people might decide to not buy a houseboat at all and instead rent a houseboat for a few days for some special occasions like weddings, honeymoons, birthdays, etc. These are all great options as renting a houseboat for a few days or weeks is far cheaper than owning it for a year. 

If you are still on the fence about whether owning one is for you then I would recommend that you try and do a long term rental of one for a month or more. Actually spend some time living on a houseboat for a few weeks or months and keep a journal about what you did and didn’t like about the experience. 

Once you have finished your test run then go back home sit back down and decide if all of the advantages of houseboat living outweighs the disadvantages. 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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