How Many People Can Be On A Houseboat?

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If you are looking to rent a houseboat or wondering how many people can safely be on board your houseboat then this article is for you. In this article I will give you the formula to figure how many people can be on board as well as give you some real examples for current houseboat models. 

How many people can be on a houseboat? The number of people who can safely be on a houseboat varies depending on the size of the boat as well as how large the hull of the boat is. A general rule of thumb tells us that a 25’ long and 8’ wide houseboat can safely hold 11-13 passengers. 

There are some formulas to help you figure out what is a safe number of people to have on board your boat. They are dependant on some boat info so having the make and model information on your boat can help you find the needed information. 

Boats Under 30 Feet Long

For houseboats under 30’ in length you can use the simple formula:

Boat length times boat width divided by 15 or 18 depending on how conservative you want to be. 

So if your boat is 25’ and 8’ wide you would multiply 25X8=200. You would then divide 200 by 15 or 18 to get the capacity of 11-13 passengers that can safely be aboard. 

The problem with this simple formula is it only works for smaller boats. As the boat size gets larger the simple formula no longer works perfectly. If you have a 43’ long boat that is 12’ wide then the simple formula says you can have 33-40 people on board which obviously isn’t an accurate number.

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For boats that are larger you have to use a much more complicated formula to figure out the maximum number of passengers that you can have on board. 

Boats Over 30 Feet Long

That formula for larger boats is: 

Maximum displacement minus boat weight divided by 7. 

That will give you the maximum weight capacity that your boat can carry. To get the number of people your boat can carry you then have to figure 

32+ weight capacity divided by 141

So let’s use the 43’ boat that is 12’ wide from above depending on the hull type it should have a maximum displacement of 56,347lbs  and a boat weight of 26,797lbs. Your maximum weight capacity would be 4,221lbs. 

You would then take 32+4221=4,253 divided by 141 =30.16 people. Rounded down a houseboat with that displacement and weight could reasonably hold 30 people on board. 

As you can see the simple formula isn’t off by too much on the low side but if you think that you can have 40 people on board but you can safely only have 30 then all it takes is a small storm or a few larger waves to cause some issues since your boat will be considerably lower in the water because of the extra people. 

For an easy approximation using the simple formula with the conservative number (18) in the formula you will arrive at a “close enough” number. For most houseboats knowing that you can have around 33 people on board is plenty of information. If knowing the exact maximum number is important to you then this long formula is what you will want to use to figure out your capacity. 

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The size information of the boat I used as an example can be found here while the formula for maximum displacement can be found here

All of those formulas as well as the other possible formulas that can be used to figure capacity can be found on the US Coast Guard site. 

For houseboats that are under 26’ in length they should have a plaque on the side that gives the maximum weight and maximum number of persons that should be on board. That plaque is just a recommendation from the manufacturer and isn’t a limit set by law. Often a manufacturer will make a very conservative recommendation to ensure that they aren’t liable in the case of a boat sinking because of excess weight. 

If you have too many people on board and the coast guard or another official confront you about it the worst thing that you could expect is a ticket with a fine attached. You won’t go to jail for overloading your houseboat but you could go to the hospital if you end up sinking because you had too many people. 

Most of the time you can safely have many additional people on board without any issues but excess weight is often a contributing factor in any houseboat that sinks. That is why it is important to know what the limits are and how close you are to those limits set forth by the manufacturer or the Coast Guard. 


The above formulas and ways to figure out the maximum number of people that you should have on board has hopefully helped you arrive at the number of people that can be on your houseboat. For many people they will just use the conservative estimate from the easy formula and use that as a general guideline. 

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It is important to remember that the more people that you have on board, the slower the boat will go and the longer it will take to slow it down. The extra weight from the additional people will certainly affect the handling of the boat as well so if you are driving with a larger number of passengers than normal you will need to be extra careful when docking, beaching, or anchoring your boat. 

It is also important to watch the weather and as well as the waves or current that affect the water to ensure that you don’t have issues with your boat getting flooded. If you are on a calm lake with not many other boats around you can have more people on board without issues than you could have if you are going down a river with barges and other large boats with large wakes. 

With each additional person that you put on board your boat will sit a little lower in the water. Be careful that you never take more people on board than what your boat can handle in rougher waters because you never know when a storm or wind will kick up. You certainly don’t want your houseboat to end up on the bottom of the lake because you “had” to invite five more friends to your party! 

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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