Are Houseboats Hard To Drive? Plus 3 Things That Affect The Difficulty

There are various things which people do to relax their minds as well as soothe their souls. A houseboat is an amazing place to have a nice time with your family as well as your friends or to simply get away from everyone and everything for a few hours or days. 

There are lots of activities which you can do and enjoy with your friends as well as your family while on board a houseboat. Of course using a houseboat is not all fun and games. Someone has to drive it and knowing how to drive it is also important (obviously). 

You can rent a houseboat with a driver or you can drive it yourself but most people go with the latter route. If that is you but you are concerned with how hard driving a houseboat can be than you are in the right place. 

So, is driving a houseboat hard? 

Driving a houseboat on the open water is relatively simple and something that anyone who has ever driven a car can do. When you are docking, beaching, or anchoring your houseboat however it takes a decent amount of experience and skill to get it just right. If you are renting a houseboat the rental place will normally give you so quick pointers that will help you out and many of them will also put the houseboat off and on the dock for you. 

One of the most difficult parts of driving a houseboat is the response time and the fact that they don’t have brakes. If you are used to breaking hard and not looking/planning ahead then you could run into issues when driving a houseboat. If you are a person who carefully looks ahead to see a possible issue and then slowly decelerates and turns to avoid it then you will find that driving a houseboat is incredibly similar to driving your car. 

Before getting on board a houseboat there are certain things which you must know. Below, we will tell you about all those things which you should know as well as give you the three main things that greatly affect the difficulty of driving a houseboat. 

How to drive a houseboat?

Houseboat driving is very similar to car driving. This is due to the fact that it has steering and a throttle. One huge difference is there are no brakes on a houseboat so you have to make sure to let off the throttle a long time before you need to come to a stop. 

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You need to begin by starting the engine. Now, different boats have different engines and to understand the working of it you will have to read the instructions correctly. Apart from this, you will have gauges that will tell you the speed, pressure, the fuel left and every other detail that is important for you to know. 

If you know the important things about the car, then you know how important the gas and brake pedals are. Your boat will have levers instead of pedals and there are no brakes. You can reverse the throttle but that will not stop you like brakes and will simply slow you down faster.  

Turning a houseboat can be slightly different than a car as there is a delay between the turning of the wheel and the boat beginning to turn. If you keep an eye out for possible issues in front of you then this delay shouldn’t be a major issue. 

Three factors that decide the difficulty of driving a houseboat

Houseboats, as we know, are similar to cars but not exactly alike. Thus, driving it may require some unusual tricks, but once you know them, it is not that difficult to drive a houseboat. So, here are some of the factors that decide the level of difficulty, when you drive your next houseboat. 


When we are discussing the various factors for deciding the difficulty of driving a houseboat, the first thing that should be there is the size of the boat. It is very obvious and those who have ever driven anything in their life will understand that the larger the boat the more difficult it is to control its speed and swing. If we take for example, a 15 person houseboat will be more difficult to drive than a 6 person houseboat. 

Looking at the difficulty of driving, here is a tip for the beginners. If you have never driven a houseboat, but want to rent one, go for the smallest one that will fit those on board and all of their gear. Just because you can rent a giant one doesn’t mean that it is the best option for you. 


We have mentioned earlier that if you have ever driven any vehicle, you will understand the basic driving process of a houseboat also. As we know that while driving a car on the road, we need to follow certain rules, the same is the case with water too. When you are driving a motorboat, you will have to follow certain rules. 

One of the biggest things that you need to do is to follow the buoys if it is there in the water. If you are doing so, half of your problem is solved and you don’t have to worry about any other things. If you are renting a boat on a specific lake they should give you more specific rules to follow when on the water. If you are visiting a new lake and you don’t get clear instructions then be sure and ask. 

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It is better to sound a little foolish asking basic questions than it is to look foolish with your houseboat at the bottom of the lake! 


The next difficult thing that comes your way when we talk about driving a houseboat is docking. This is something that comes after you have finished your ride or when you are first leaving. When you have finished using your houseboat and are ready to get back on the shore, you need to dock it. 

Taking your boat off the dock is much easier than docking it. For taking the boat off all you have to do is make sure you stay straight until you are clear of the dock and then you can be on your way. The docking  process requires some patience and a lot of practice. 

If you have rented a boat from any agency, you can ask them to assist you. Otherwise, you will have to learn it with time and errors. Obviously mistakes will happen the first few times that you dock your houseboat but the main things to keep in mind are to go slow and remember that you don’t have brakes! 

If you approach the dock slowly and then reverse the throttle as you are getting close you should be fine with only bumping the dock a bit without damaging it or the houseboat. If however you are coming in fast and try to reverse the throttle and hope it works like brakes would then you are in for a rough time! 

Why should you rent a houseboat?

Now that we have discussed the main factors that determine the difficulty of driving a houseboat, it is time to discuss why you should rent a houseboat in the first place Here are some of the reasons for which you should rent a houseboat.

1. Lots of activities to do

This point needs a comparison of a  houseboat with another type of boat. When you are hiring a small speed boat there are limited things that you can do with it because of the confined space and most people will just use them for a few hours to go as fast as possible. 

However, on a houseboat, you can do a wide variety of activities. These include fishing, swimming, metal detecting, star gazing, watching TV, and many other water-related things. When you are on board a houseboat you will rarely be lacking for things to do! 

2. Fun time for the entire family

The second thing that will encourage you a lot to rent a houseboat is the urge of spending quality time with your family or friends. Since houseboats move at a much more leisurely pace you can easily tube  behind the houseboat without worrying about being thrown off because of the high speeds. If the people in your family are older than 5 or 6 then there will be tons of things that they can do on their own or they can even explore the water or shore with you! 

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The adventures are virtually limitless and you will be sure to make many good memories. 

3. The feeling of home

One of the best parts of renting a houseboat is that you won’t feel as if you are away from home. The first thing is that you can come with your entire family. The second thing is the setting of the boat will make you feel like you are at home because you can literlaly bring everything that you need on board with you! 

You will have a kitchen, bathroom, running water, stove, and many more amenities! Try finding that on a speedboat! 

4. Very affordable

Another big reason for renting a houseboat is the cost. If you look at the rates, then it is very affordable in comparison to other vacation ideas. Depending on the lake where you are renting the boar the prices can vary but many places have a houseboat for rent for $100-$150 a night which considering how many people can stay on board is a good deal.  So, if you are looking for something very affordable, yet interesting then renting a houseboat should be on your list.


If there’s one thing that a houseboat promises, it’s calm as well as a relaxed mind. Time spent on a houseboat with friends or family is always memorable. So, you should board a houseboat whenever you get a chance. You just need to keep in mind the certain things that we have mentioned above.  

Driving a houseboat is not incredibly difficult and as long as you are proficient at driving a vehicle and are careful with the factors mentioned above you should not have any issues when driving it around. Most beginners will get a free lesson from the place where you rent a houseboat so be sure and pay attention to that and utilize the docking service if they have one and you should be fine. 

Happy Boating! 

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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