Is Living On A Houseboat Cheap? What Are Some Expenses?

Houseboats are a newer and exciting way to live and you will likely be one of the only people at your workplace or in your friend group that lives on one! Living on a houseboat gives you a place to call your home as well as the added benefits of traveling along the calm waters whenever you want. 

This will then allow you to explore and visit exotic locations while still living in the comfort of your own home. 

In the housing market, it is fair to say that houseboats are leaving their mark. If you are looking to purchase a house of your own considering buying a houseboat is a good idea. 

Frankly, traditional homes have the added trouble of finding new homes when you have to move for work or other reasons but with houseboats, this is definitely not an issue. Additionally, houseboats offer many more benefits that any aspiring homeowner should at least take a look at. 

One of the first questions that people often wonder about living on a houseboat is how much it costs and whether it is cheap or not. Afterall price is one of the main reasons why people look at buying or living on a houseboat in the first place. 

Houseboats are generally cheaper to purchase and also have lower monthly than other similar properties that are on land. Houseboats are especially good options in places where the rent or cost to buy has increased dramatically over the last few years. 

If this has piqued your interest and you are looking to purchase your own houseboat, you may be wondering exactly what the costs of living on a houseboat are. Within this article, we will dive a little deeper into the question of whether houseboat living is cheap or not. 

Is Living On A Houseboat Cheap?

If you are on a tight budget, then houseboats may be the answer to your problems. Generally, the cost of living in a houseboat is much lower than homes on land, and many factors play into this. You should be aware of each of them because this will help you make a good decision when you go to purchase one or compare it with a traditional home. 

The prices of houseboats vary a considerable amount. On one side and with luck, you can score a new DIY project houseboat for free. On the other side of the spectrum are the houseboats that have been transformed into luxurious penthouses. These usually go up to $500,000 or more. 

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However, if you are looking for average houseboats that sit at an affordable price, you will find many houseboats in the $20,000 – $80,000 range that you could move into immediately. Those at the $20,000 range of houseboats can usually be compared with trailer homes but on the water instead. While, at the $80,000 range, houseboats are more comparable to a nice starter home. 

Factors that affect how cheap houseboat living is

There are many different factors that affect the cost of living on a houseboat and that go into how cheap it is or isn’t to live on one. 

A few of those factors are: 


The prices of living on a houseboat can also depend on the country or state that you live in. This will affect the amount of taxes that you will pay on your houseboat when purchasing it as well as the yearly cost to register it. 

These expenses will add up quickly especially if you are in a country or state with higher taxes. 

For instance, in Minnesota, sales tax on the purchase of houseboats are waived. And what’s more, houseboat owners do not have to pay property tax either. 

As a houseboat owner you will have to pay taxes indirectly if you rent a slot in the marina since they will pass their property tax cost on you in the form of dock fees or rent but you won’t have to directly pay property taxes 


One of the major expenses that you have to bear is utilities, such as light and water as well as fuel. Depending on the size of the boat, the cost of using these utilities may vary. Generally, some houseboat owners have stated that their utility bills can come up to $80 – $100 each month while the fuel costs will vary a lot based on whether you move the houseboat or simply leave it at the dock. 

Houseboats typically receive water and electricity from their docks when they are at a marina but if you are anchored or beached instead then you will have to purchase water (or clean it using a filtration system like this one from LifeWater) and run a generator to power your boat. 

Of course a generator requires fuel so depending on your setup and how much electricity you use as well as whether you have solar or not the cost to power your boat via a generator will vary as well. 

To stave off the cold, some houseboats require heating in certain areas. Heating is usually provided by a furnace or heater, which is installed in the houseboat. At the same time, those who desire to live an eco-friendly life can install many solar panels throughout their houseboat, in addition to composting toilets that will allow them to live for much cheaper. 

These solar panels and composting toilets will also allow you to sail wherever you want, whenever you want and become virtually free to go anywhere that is calm enough for your houseboat to handle. 

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If you do select not to go with the composting toilet route, then you will have to pump out your sewage regularly. This will also incur a cost of approximately $30 each time you pump it out. However, if you want to save some extra bucks, you can also choose to pump your sewage yourself. Almost all docks offer the proper equipment like hoses to get this done. But, many houseboat owners have reported that they instead indulge in this ‘luxury’ of paying for it to be done for them. 

Membership Fees

Another expense that you may have to take into account is annual boat club membership fees. Members of these types of clubs have said that these can go up to $250 each month or more!

The simple solution is to not join one for these clubs if you are trying to live cheaply but it is something that you will want to be sure that your local marina doesn’t require you to be a part of. 


 In addition to all of the expenses mentioned above you also have to factor in maintenance. This usually goes upwards of $1000 annually and is an integral part of owning any houseboat. You can save some money on regular maintenance if you choose to tackle some of the lighter cleaning/fixing tasks yourself rather than hiring everything out. 

There are many regular tasks that must be done when winterizing a houseboat (assuming you don’t use it year around) as well as simple fixes to the motor and other systems that can be done easily with a bit of knowledge. If you plan on living on a houseboat as cheap as possible then learning these sorts of things will save you a ton of money over time.

Houseboat Insurance

The last major expense that we will mention is houseboat insurance. This is a vital part of the expenses that you have to pay as a new houseboat owner. 

If you are new to this, you have to make sure to financially cover your inexperience by paying for more insurance coverage. Likewise, better insurance coverage is essential if you are hoping to navigate the open waters more often or if you rent your houseboat out to other persons. This will make sure that you are well covered if an accident was to occur. 

Houseboat insurance costs varies widely. A lot of factors play a part in the houseboat insurance premium but if you want an estimate of how much money you may have to pay, many houseboat owners have said their average insurance will be about $500 a year. 

All in all, there are a lot of expenses when owning a houseboat. However, fortunately, it is still cheaper than owning a home on the land. In fact, one houseboat owner has detailed her annual expenses to only be around $5500. She then compared this to the cost of rent for an apartment whose rent is $500 per month and is at a much lower quality. 

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Ultimately you will have to do the math and decide what is the best choice for you and where you live but for many people in many locations living on a houseboat is much cheaper than the alternatives. 

What Are The Other Benefits Of Houseboats?

In addition to being a money saver, there are other benefits of living on a houseboat that you should be aware of.


If you are a strong advocate of protecting the environment, owning a houseboat is often the right choice. Not only do you produce less waste, but it also boasts eco-friendly features such as solar power, composting toilets, and recycling systems. 

It also gives you the chance to become one with nature. 

As you wake up in the mornings on your houseboat, you are greeted by a crisp and fresh breeze, the sounds of the waters and the scenic view of the environment. This is a great way to start any morning.

You are the captain of your own ship.

Another added benefit of owning your own houseboat is that you are the captain of your own ship. Not only is it cool, but you can also travel anywhere you want since you are completely mobile. Feel free to visit your friends and family in another city and carry your home with you or, if you want to change locations, you can do just that.

You are now part of a huge community

The houseboat community has come a long way. They have banded together and have become a refuge and a place of advice for new and experienced houseboat owners alike. If you are unsure of what to do as you embark on this new journey, you will have a new and exciting community to rely on.

In conclusion

Owning and living on a houseboat is a cheaper alternative to living on the land and is normally even cheaper than renting a small apartment! However, it does come with its own expenses that you have to pay and if you aren’t careful or hire everything out they can add up quickly. 

Despite these costs and having to learn some about maintenance or repairs to save some money, living on a houseboat offers a wide range of benefits that you simply don’t get from living anywhere else. 

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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