Do All Houseboats Have Motors?

If you’ve ever wondered if houseboats have motors then this article is for you. In this article we will not only cover if they have motors but also why some houseboat owners choose to have engines or not have them on their boat. 

Do all houseboats have motors? Most houseboats have motors as they are designed for recreational use, however not ALL houseboats have motors. Some houseboats are designed to be lived in at a dock and have no engines on board. 

Even if every single houseboat ever manufactured had an engine on board when they were built they will still be some individuals who have built houseboats and never put a motor on board. 

Why Do Some Boats Not Have Motors? 

Some boats don’t have motors because they are permanently docked or moored and only used as a house or storage. If the boat never moves then there isn’t a reason to spend the money on motors. 

Not having motors on board will also reduce the weight quite a bit which will allow you to have more people and more things on board. 

If motors aren’t used they will slowly start to degrade as well so having motors on board will require additional upkeep. Even if you rarely use the motors it will require you to empty and refill fuel tanks by either using the fuel before it “goes bad” either or you will have to manually drain the tanks after every use. 

Having motors is a hassle if you never plan on moving your boat so that is why some people choose not to have them on board. 

Why Do Most Houseboats Have Motors? 

If you are building a houseboat to make sure you only have to follow the boat building laws and not the building codes of your city/county your boat will have to be movable. 

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Some areas will enforce this more than others but if you are building your first houseboat it’s a good idea to make sure to follow the boat building rules so you don’t have to follow the much stricter building codes. 

Another reason that most houseboats have motors is because they were built that way by manufacturers. Most of the houseboats that are on the water were manufactured by a company and those companies wanted the houseboat to appeal to as many people as possible. 

Since houseboats are used for living on board as well as for recreation, having motors allows both of those groups to buy their models. If they only built boats without motors then all of the recreational buyers wouldn’t buy any of their boats. 

Why Liveaboards Still Want Engines? 

Even if you are living on board a houseboat (a liveaboard) you will most likely still want to have engines, but why? Liveaboards often want a change or scenery or to be able to go where it is a little warmer or cooler when the seasons change. 

If your boat is stationary and doesn’t have engines then you get one view the entire time you are on board. If you have motors you can look at a new view every time you wake up! 

One of the best things about living on a houseboat is that you can view some amazing scenery while you are traveling. You can also enjoy the wildlife at different times of the year where as being stationary means you are stuck in one location with one view until you sell the boat. 

You Can Avoid Bad Weather

Whether you are living on board or are just taking a trip with family and friends you will probably encounter some bad weather at one time or another. This is especially true if your houseboat is in the south where hurricanes and other strong storms are active. 

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If your houseboat has motors you can move your boat in advance of an oncoming storm rather than just leaving it and hoping that it is okay. Now some storms you can’t plan for such as tornados or fast moving thunderstorms but being able to move your boat away from hurricanes is a huge plus if you are near the coast. 

Another type of weather that you can avoid is cold weather! If your houseboat is on a river or lake that interconnects with other bodies of water it is certainly possible to spend your winters in the south and your summers in the north. 

If you are able to do this you can not only avoid the uncomfortable temperatures but you will also be able to avoid the extra wear and tear that the more harsh weather conditions have. Extreme cold and extreme heat can both damage your boat and cause it to wear out prematurely so avoiding those extremes is a good idea if possible. 

One way that many people do this is by boating the “Great Loop”. Using the Missisissippi and other rivers you can boat from the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi, go along the gulf, come up the eastern seaboard and then go back into the Great Lakes to complete the loop. 

Now obviously houseboats aren’t seaworthy but if you are able to travel in calm conditions or stay in the rivers or other waterways you might be able to complete the loop with a houseboat. 

Even if you don’t do the entire loop, spending the winter in Louisiana and the summers in Michigan, New York, and other scenic locations allows you to miss the bad weather while also enjoying the best scenery that each state has to offer. 

You Can Visit New Cities & Towns

Being able to move around is what makes a houseboat far better than a normal house. You could never afford to have a bunch of houses so you could see the best views but with a houseboat you can see the most amazing views just by moving up or down river. 

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Not only do you get to enjoy the scenery at each place along the way but you also get to enjoy the little towns along the way. Along the Mississippi River there are tons of little towns that time seems to have forgotten and you can visit every single one of them. 

You don’t have to pick your favorite and stay there either. You can visit the best little ice cream shop in one town on Monday and Tuesday eat the best hamburger around in an entirely different city. 

Having the freedom to leisurely enjoy each city along your journey is an amazing opportunity that few people get to enjoy. 


If your houseboat is confined to a small lake then some of the above might not apply to you but I hope I have helped clarify about why most houseboats do have engines on board. 

Not ALL houseboats have engines but most of them do. Most houseboats have engines because they are used recreationally so people want to move them around and not be stuck in one spot for years. 

If you wanted to be stationary you could just buy a house! 

Even if you live on board a houseboat most people still 

prefer to have motors so that they can move locations as the weather changes and also visit all the cute little towns along the way. 

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.

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