Can You Live On A Houseboat In Winter?

Living on a houseboat can be amazing during the spring, summer, and fall but what about wintertime? Can you really live on board a boat during the winter? 

Yes, you can certainly live on board your houseboat during the winter but depending on where you are at it could be quite a chilly endeavour. Many people choose to take their boats further south for the winter and then go back north as the weather warms up in spring. 

In this article I will discuss some things to consider before making a decision about living on board during the winter months. 

1. Can You Move South? 

Living on board your houseboat over the winter months isn’t too bad as long as you can sail your boat south! If you normally live along the northern Mississippi then in November or early December you will want to start heading south. Temps in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois can be quite frigid and living on a houseboat in those conditions can be horrible and even possibly dangerous. 

If your boat is normally located on the water in a warmer area then wintertime might not be too much of a challenge but in many places in the USA heading south is one of the best options if you want to stay on board over the colder months. 

There are many retirees who have a summer home and a winter home in Arizona, Florida, or other more moderate climates. Maybe you could live on board a houseboat in the north during spring, summer, and fall but then have another boat that you live on for the winter. 

2. How Well Do You Deal With Colder Temperatures? 

Everyone is different in how well they deal with cold temps. I grew up in the Midwest and there were many winters where we reached 20-30 below zero actual temps! You quite literally couldn’t go outside without your face feeling like it was going to fall off! 

Related Post  What Are Houseboat Walls Made Of?

Despite the frigid temps there are some people who would work outside or even play in the snow or on the ice despite those temps. If you are the kind of person who loves the cold and loves being out in the cold then living on a houseboat during wintertime probably wouldn’t be too bad. 

On the other hand I have family who currently live in Arizona and they break out their heavy coats anytime that it is cooler than 60 for a high! They always seem to be cold even in the house with the heat set at 70 degrees! 

Every person handles the cold differently so before deciding about where you will spend the winter, consider how much you like the cold. Will you be miserable the entire time? Then it might not be a good idea for you

3. How Good Is The Heater On Board?

If you are going to spend the winter on board you will need to know how good the heater is on your houseboat. Will it keep up with temps below zero? Is it energy efficient enough where it isn’t going to cost you a fortune running it? Is it big enough to heat all of your enclosed areas and keep them warm? 

Knowing these things before you decide will help you make a much more informed decision. If your heater is going to cost you $20 a day to run because it’s old or just isn’t efficient then it probably isn’t a good plan to run it all winter long! 

If your heater works great until about 40 degrees and then just isn’t able to keep up then you should either change it out or make sure that the state where you are at doesn’t get much colder than that at night. 

If your heater is much too small for the size of your boat that is another thing you should know before deciding about an entire winter on board. Will it heat only the sleeping quarters and you won’t be able to use the kitchen for 3 months? That’s going to be an issue! 

Related Post  Can Anyone Rent A Houseboat?

It’s always far better to know the capabilities of your heater before you ever leave shore than it is to find them out when the first cold snap hits! Knowledge can save you hassle but when it comes to the cold it could even save your life! The last thing you want to do is come down with a life threatening illness because you didn’t know that your heater wouldn’t work well in the temps that you were about to experience! 

4. How Well Insulated Is Your Houseboat? 

How well your houseboat is insulated will not only affect the comfort level of your boat but it will also affect the practicality of living on board. If your boat has no insulation then it won’t keep the cold out or keep the warmth in very good at all. Not only is this an issue for keeping the people on board comfortable but it can also be an issue with the plumbing and other things on board. 

When I was growing up our church had the heat go out one winter. The heat went out on Monday and by Tuesday morning a pipe had burst flooding the entire building. If your houseboat isn’t properly insulated you can quickly find yourself with far more of a mess than just needing to find another place to live! 

When water freezes it expands, this can cause issues with your water storage tanks, your plumping, your septic tanks and more! It would be far better to winterize your boat and find a place to rent for the winter than it would be to have to replace all of those items come spring. 

If you want to live on board your houseboat year around then making sure it is well insulated is a must! 

5. Do The Waterways Freeze In Your Area?

If the waterways freeze solid in the area where your houseboat is docked or anchored then you probably won’t want to spend the winter there. Getting supplies, going ashore, and many other things become far more difficult if your boat is unable to move. That is especially true if you aren’t docked at a marina! 

Related Post  How Often Do Houseboats Sink?

If you are unable to move your houseboat because of the ice then you essentially have a small RV to live in during the entire winter. Not being able to move your boat also means you are stuck with whatever scenery or fishing there happens to be where your boat is currently at as well. 

Another issue with not being able to move your boat is that you are more susceptible to winter storms that may arise. For example, if a storm is coming that will dump multiple feet of snow and ice on your area but 100 miles south will just get rain, if you are frozen in ice you would not be able to move south and avoid that bad storm. 


Houseboats can get quite cold in winter and it is up to you to determine if it is worth it to stay on board all winter. Unfortunately no one can make that decision for you as each person will have a different tolerance for cold and the inconvenience that it brings. 

Hopefully the five things mentioned above will help you decide if staying on your houseboat all winter long is worth it or if you should make other plans for the winter months. 

Whatever you decide make sure to always stay warm and be sure and avoid any dangerous situations if at all possible. 

As always, 

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.

Recent Posts