Do I Need A Houseboat? 7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying One

If you are considering buying a houseboat this is probably a question your have asked yourself many times. Deciding on any purchase can be difficult but especially a large purchase that also costs a lot can be even more difficult. 

So, do you need a houseboat? What questions should you ask before buying one? Before you make the decision on if you want/need a houseboat you should ask yourself these seven questions: 

  1. How often will you use it?
  2. How much will it Cost?
  3. What Stage of Life are you in? 
  4. Are there better Alternatives?
  5. What is Your Location?
  6. How much do you know?
  7. How much Free time do you have? 

There are of course many more questions you should ask yourself before buying a houseboat but these 7 things are vitally important to think about before you ever go and take your first test drive on the water. 

If you have one or more questions that make you doubt whether you should buy a houseboat or not then you should probably slow way down on the purchase decision and do some serious research on that thought. 

1. How Often Will You Use It? 

This is the main thing that people say they think about and plan for but very rarely truly do. When most people buy something new and exciting they always think it will be amazing and they will use it all the time but in reality we often use it far less. A question you should ask yourself before buying a houseboat is how often will I use it? 

For example, I bought myself a new video game system over a year ago because I was all excited about the games that came with it and playing it with my family. Over a year later… and that system still sits in the box by the TV mocking me for wasting the money on buying it! 

The same thing is often true with houseboats. People think they will use them “all the time” or “every weekend” but life often just gets in the way. 

What I always recommend people do before purchasing a houseboat is to rent a houseboat every single time they say that they would take their boat out for a month or a year. 

So for example let’s say you think you will use your houseboat every single weekend. Then what I would do is pay to rent a houseboat every single weekend for a month. If after one month of spending every weekend on board you haven’t changed your mind about a houseboat purchase then you can go to the next question. 

Most people quickly discover that they simply don’t want to use it near as often as they originally thought. 

It’s better to spend a couple of grand in rental costs for 4 weekends than it is to pay tens or hundreds of thousands for a houseboat that you didn’t actually need! 

2. How Much Will It Cost? 

An important question to consider before buying a houseboat is how much will it cost. I’m not just talking about the purchase price here (although that is part of it) but there are tons of long term costs that you need to consider. 

If you can just barely afford the monthly payments DON’T BUY THE BOAT! There are many more expenses than just the payment. You have insurance, fuel, dock fees, storage fees, upkeep, maintenance, and many many more. 

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The costs on a houseboat can add up quickly so its vital to ask yourself if you can afford those additional expenses before you make a purchase decision. 

Many people think they can afford a houseboat because they have some disposable income but a houseboat can quickly eat up that extra income and then some! 

If you want some more in depth expense calculations I wrote an article about houseboat expenses that can be found here. 

3. What Stage Of Life Are You In? 

This is an important question to ask yourself since it will really determine the comfort you will have on board. 

If you are a young couple with small children a houseboat purchase probably isn’t the best decision. Taking a vacation anywhere with small children can be incredibly difficult but even more so when you have to worry about them going in the water all the time and the lack of space that comes with a houseboat. 

Children need a way to get out their energy otherwise you will have some cranky children and in turn you will be cranky too! Sitting and watching a fishing pole won’t work very well for kids under 10-12. Swimming is great but they will quickly get tired and then what do you do for the rest of the day? Houseboats just really aren’t a great place for toddlers or young children. 

If you are young with no children or older with no children or with teens and older children then a houseboat could be perfect for your current stage of life. Many people choose to purchase a houseboat as a way to spend time with their family as everyone gets a bit older. 

There are tons of great things to enjoy on the water including fishing, swimming, animal watching, scuba diving, water sports, and more! All of those things are geared towards people who are teens or older so if that is your age or your children’s age then you might be in a great stage of life for a houseboat purchase. 

4. Are There Better Alternatives? 

This is a harder question to discuss as it involves knowing what other alternatives there are. The truth is that for many people there are better options than buying a houseboat. 

Buying an RV or travel trailer is a better option for many people who have younger children. With an RV you can get out and go to different places along the way. You can change the location that you are at every time you go on a trip instead of being stuck in the same river or lake with a houseboat. You can even go on a cross country trip to see the sites which is incredibly difficult with a houseboat (you can go north/south on the Mississippi but going east and west is out). 

With monthly houseboat expenses running around $1,000 a month you could conceivably rent a house or cabin once a month for a weekend and go someplace new every single month as well. You also wouldn’t have to do any maintain ace or upkeep with this option. 

Another alternative is that you simply save that money and use it to make your house more fun/livable. My wife and I did this recently by adding an in ground pool to our backyard. We live in Arizona so we can use the pool for 8-9 months out of the year and we get to have tons of family time virtually every afternoon/evening. 

For many people an investment like this could be better because it can increase the value of your home while also allowing you the family time together that you would get with a houseboat. 

There are certainly many different alternatives to buying a houseboat so it’s important to consider them before making a decision. 

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5. What Is Your Location? 

This might seem like an odd question but it’s actually quite an important thing to think about before deciding if you need a houseboat. How close are you to the lake or river where your houseboat is at? 

If you are a few minutes drive away from the dock then you will be more inclined to spend time there than if you are 30-45 minutes away. You will get tired of driving every weekend and will slowly start to go less and less. 

A couple of years ago my wife and I purchased an amazing house in a great neighborhood that was about 40 minutes away from our children’s school. Every morning for almost 2 years one of us spent an hour to an hour and a half every morning driving the kids to school and coming back home. 

By the end of that time every night we would have a discussion (argument) over who was taking the kids to school that day! We moved and now currently live 5 minutes from our children’s school. 

The distance that you are away from your houseboat will definitely have an effect on how often you use it.

Another thing to consider when it comes to location is where in the country or the world are you at? If you live near a large lake system or river than a houseboat could be an amazing purchase. 

If the only lake within a hundred miles is a tiny lake with hardly any fish and horrible scenery then a houseboat probably isn’t a good idea. Since most houseboats are difficult to move your boat will probably be in the same lake or river for a long time. Make sure that the lake or river is large enough to be enjoyable! 

6. How Much Do You Know? 

Everyone has knowledge about something but I’m specifically referring to mechanical and boating knowledge here. 

Houseboats will require constant maintenance on the engine, generator, plumbing, electrical, and other systems. If you have no experience with mechanical things or aren’t willing to learn how to “tinker” with them the costs to hire professionals can quickly add up. 

Not only will the costs quickly mount but the time required for the fix will often increase too. Most small fixes can be done in under an hour whereas if you hire a professional you will have to meet them at the boat when they can, tell them what the issue is, and then have them fix it. That will quite often be far more time consuming than it would have been to fix it yourself if you knew how. 

Knowledge of mechanical things is important but it isn’t the only thing that you need to know either. You should also have some boating knowledge. 

You need to know some about the weather and how it will affect your boat. You will need to know what is the best thing to do if a freak storm comes up. You will need to know what to do if someone falls overboard who can’t swim and the best way to rescue them. You will need to know all of these and countless more. 

Boating knowledge often isn’t something that you learn from a textbook. It is things that you learn from experience. The longer you are on your boat the more of the “little” things you will learn that will help make your experience much more enjoyable. 

Unless you grew up on a boat or have spent substantial time on board one since then you just don’t know what you don’t know. You could read every single article on this site and still not know all there is to know about boating as there are thousands of “small” things that go into making a boat run smoothly and making your trips go off without a hitch. Reading information online can help you learn a variety of things but getting in the trenches and doing things in a boat will help you learn much faster. 

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7. How Much Free Time Do You Have? 

This question is one that is pivotal when deciding whether you should buy a houseboat or not. If you don’t have hardly any free time now on the weekend then you will most likely not have time when you buy a boat to use it. 

Most people work all week and then use the weekend to catch up on things like groceries, laundry, yardwork, etc. If your weekend is spent doing those things because you don’t have time throughout the week then you will have a difficult time fitting in leisure time on the boat every weekend. 

If you are the type of person that gets all of the “chores” out of the way after you get home from work in the afternoon or evening and then have all day Saturday and Sunday to spend with family or just lay around then a houseboat might work perfectly to fill that leisure time. 

What many people do is think they have free time every weekend but then after spending a few weekends on the boat they realize all the things around the house that aren’t getting done because they used to do them over the weekend. They will then have to spend a few weeks or months catching up on the backlog of work and the houseboat will end up sitting at the dock not being used. 

Make sure to figure out how much free time you really have that you could use to be on board your boat before you make the purchase. 


I hope these seven questions that you should ask yourself before buying a houseboat have been a help in deciding if you need a houseboat or not. There are certainly far more questions that you could ask and things that you should consider before making the decision to buy a houseboat. 

For most people the above questions will allow them to make a quick determination if they should dig deeper into buying a houseboat or if it isn’t for them. Of course not all of these questions will fit every situation but if one or more of them make you think that you shouldn’t buy a houseboat then you probably shouldn’t. 

It is much better to spend a lot of time planning for a purchase and never make it than it is to quickly make a purchase and regret it for a long time. 

There have been many times in my life where I have bought something on a whim or because I thought I would use it all the time. Those things now sit in my closet, my garage, or were resold on Craigslist for a fraction of what I paid for them. 

Don’t let that be you with you houseboat! Make sure that you carefully weigh the decision and try and think through every possible downside before making the purchase. The last thing that you want to do is have it sittinf at a dock costing you money and it never getting used. 

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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