How Much Fuel Does A Houseboat Use?


How Much Fuel Does A Houseboat Use?

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If you just bought a houseboat, or are looking to buy one, you have probably wondered about its fuel usage. This can be an important stat when buying a houseboat or just renting one.

This article will help to answer the most common questions about houseboat fuel. 

How much fuel does a houseboat use? 

Most houseboats will use 2-4 gallons of fuel per hour if you are traveling at 7-10mph. That comes out to an average MPG (miles per gallon) of 2 to 3. 

Each boat is different so your fuel usage could be higher or lower depending on your 

  • RPMs
  • Weight on board
  • Boat design
  • Water conditions
  • Boat speed
  • Boat size

These and other factors can greatly impact your houseboat fuel milage. In this article we will try and cover everything that you might need to know about fuel and your houseboat. 

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As we go along in this article we will build step by step so that by the end you should know not only how much fuel you will use but also how long you can be on the water before refueling. Each houseboat will be different but we will give a couple examples of different sizes to give you a general idea for your boat. 

What are houseboat gas tanks made of?

Houseboat fuel tanks are normally made of:

  • Plastic
  • Fiberglass
  • Aluminum

Which material is best for your fuel tank is up for debate, but most manufacturers prefer using aluminum. It is often used because aluminum is lightweight as well as corrosion resistant. The downside to an aluminum tank is it isn’t corrosion proof like the other two options. If I had to replace the tank on my houseboat, I would go with one of the corrosion proof options. 

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As long as you have a newer boat (less than 10 years old) you should be fine for multiple years as most boat fuel tanks last 15-20 years. If your boat is older and hasn’t been replaced be sure and look at all of your options to get a tank that will be maintenance free or at least low maintenance. 

What size fuel tanks do houseboats have?

Each houseboat will have a different tank size depending on how big the boat and the boat manufacturers. Most houseboats will have fuel tanks somewhere between 175 and 250 gallons. Some houseboats will have 2 smaller tanks and some will have one larger one but in general they will be around that size. 

How far can a houseboat travel on a tank of fuel?

To figure out the houseboat fuel consumption we are going to have to make some assumptions about what fuel milage you are going to get, which as mentioned above can vary based on a lot of factors. We will assume that you will get 3MPG for your houseboat gas mileage which means for a fuel tank of 200 gallons you would get up to 600 miles. 

Now that is just the actual miles traveled with the boat. When you are anchored or beached you will use fuel for your generators so if they run off the same fuel tanks you must take that useage into account as well.

If you are planning on traveling 100 miles a good estimate would be that your houseboat will burn around 33 gallons of fuel. After you have taken your boat out on a couple of trips you will be able to get accurate data for your boat specifically. 

Houseboat running costs

The costs to run your houseboat is mainly dependant on how long your travel and for how many miles. If you just take your boat a few miles up river before anchoring or beaching your boat then the fuel costs will obviously be much lower than if you are traveling the entire length of the Mississippi. 

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We will go back to that 100 mile example used above. If you travel 100 miles you will burn around 30-40 gallons of fuel to travel that distance. A 100 mile trip would take 2-3 days so assuming you will use an on board generator while anchored at night that would add another 5-10 gallons of fuel (less if you use a 3000-4000 watts inverter generator, more if you have a large generator). 

The total fuel used for the 100 mile trip would be approximately 40-50 gallons. I will estimate the houseboat gas cost (or diesel cost)  at an average of $4 a gallon. That would cost you $160-$200 for a 100 mile trip for your motors and generators. 

Houseboating certainly isn’t the most cost efficient way to travel as you can go 100 miles in most cars for $10-$15 but you get to enjoy the water and the scenery along the way when on your boat. 

Gasoline vs Diesel Engines

Whether your boat is a gas or diesel can be a big factor in your boat’s fuel usage. Although diesel engines are more efficient motors overall they do come with some cons. 

Diesel motor cons

  • Diesel motors are louder than a gasoline engine. When you are cruising down river on your new houseboat you will want to be able to hear everyone talking but depending on your RPM that can be difficult with a diesel engine. 
  • Diesel motors are often more expensive up front. They can often run 2-3x more expensive than a gas motor when being purchased new. 

Diesel motor pros

  • Diesel motors are more fuel efficient than their gas counterparts. They can be anywhere from 10-20% cheaper to run than a gasoline engine
  • Diesel motors have more torque and horsepower available. There is a reason why the big semi trucks have diesel motors and not gasoline. Diesel motors on boats can move that boat far better. This is especially true if you have a larger boat. 
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In my opinion, a gasoline motor is the way to go if you have a houseboat that is under 30-35’. Anything over that and I would go with a diesel for the added power. The extra expense of a diesel  will be worth it to not have a smaller engine redlining the entire time you have it on the water. 

Houseboat fuel usage is something that is hard to pin down exactly since it can vary greatly by all the factors mentioned at the beginning of this article. 

If you haven’t bought your boat yet it is a great idea to find a boat that is more fuel efficient as the biggest expense you will have for your boat will be your fuel costs. (assuming you are actually using your boat regularly)

They are constantly coming out with new technology so often the newer your houseboat is the better the fuel economy will be. This isn’t always true but it is a factor you should weigh when purchasing your houseboat. 

 If you are buying a used boat from someone and you can’t find the fuel consumption online or from the manufacturer, ask to test the boat out for a couple of hours. This is a great option to find how much your fuel costs would be. 

Most owners won’t mind you taking it out for a bit especially if you assure them you will cover the fuel costs. Make sure the tanks are full before leaving and then refuel once you finish your trip. You can easily figure out the fuel expenses for that boat if you keep track of the hours you spent and the miles you travel on the “test drive”. 

I hope this article has been helpful in your houseboat journey. As always be sure and do your homework before making any purchase decision. A houseboat isn’t something you should purchase after looking at it once. 

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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