Living On A Houseboat: The Pros and Cons

If you just recently purchased a houseboat or are in the market for one you have probably heard about people who live on their boat full time. The people who do this (often known as liveaboards) are a special breed. 

Living on board a boat certainly isn’t for everyone but if it’s something you have considered or simply want to know more about than this article is for you! In this article I will list the pros and cons that you will experience while living on your houseboat. 

Hopefully knowing some of the pros and cons will help you make a more informed decision or just help you have more information at your fingertips. 

Benefits Of Living On A Houseboat (The Pros) 

1.Saving Money

Living on board a boat will often be far cheaper than renting or owning a traditional home. There will be less expenses and the original purchase price is often far cheaper than what you could ever purchase a house for. 

Not only will you save money on the purchase but you will also save money on the monthly expenses. That is of course assuming you aren’t paying a normal dock fee for every night. 

With a traditional home you will have to pay for gas, electricity, water, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and more. 

With a houseboat you will often only have to pay for the fuel for the boat/generator, the water (assuming you don’t have a system that will pull it from the lake or river) and boat insurance, and yearly registration. You can often save multiple hundreds of dollars a month by living on board than you would renting a home. 

2. Leisure At Your Fingertips

This one could be a pro and a con to be honest. If you are retired then being able to fish from your couch is probably an amazing benefit. If you are still working, whether from home or a normal 9-5, it will be difficult to have to tear yourself away when the fish are really biting or the scenery is particularly beautiful. 

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Being able to enjoy amazing views from your windows and deck is one of the biggest pros of living on a houseboat. Having your everyday life feel like you are on vacation while also saving money? Who doesn’t want that?

That leisure does come at a cost however. You will certainly become quite spoiled with your daily views and visiting other people for the holidays will make you want to go back to your home on the water! 

All kidding aside being on vacation 365 days a year is one of the biggest attractions for people that choose the houseboat life. 

3. Less Upkeep

Now don’t get me wrong, of course things will break on your houseboat and need repaired just like with a traditional home. One of the big reasons a houseboat doesn’t require as much upkeep is that there are less things to break! 

With a house you have all sorts of integral systems that can be quite complex to repair. On a houseboat those systems are often quite simple. 

For example your septic system in a house can get tree roots that grow into it causing you to have to hire someone to dig up your yard. With the septic on a houseboat it all goes to one tank and then just has to be pumped out at a marina. 

Another thing that keeps the upkeep down on a houseboat is simply the size. With many houses running into the thousands of square feet and an average houseboat only being a few hundred it’s quite obvious that you won’t have to do as much work on a smaller property. 

Even if something needs painted or stained it’s only a small amount of square feet that needs it instead of thousands with a house!

4. Less Cleaning

Just as mentioned above with upkeep since there is a much smaller area that you will live in the cleaning that needs done will be much faster and easier too. Of course you will still have dishes, laundry, etc. to do but carpet vacuuming, window washing, and even dusting will be far easier with the smaller vessel. 

Since you are living on the water most of the items on board will probably be a lot easier to clean than traditional furniture pieces or kitchens. Nothing beats saving time on cleaning and watching the sunset or fishing instead! 

5. The Great Community 

If you’ve never been a part of a boating community you probably looked at this benefit and thought I ran out of things to write lol but this is actually a huge plus. Having a group of people that you regularly dock with means you can easily make friends no matter where you stop. 

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Whether you are there for a few days or a few months you will be sure and find many like minded people who love boating and can help you with the best things to do and places to go in each new area you visit! 

The Negatives Of Living On A Houseboat (The Cons) 

1.The Size 

Size really is everything nowadays and living aboard a houseboat means downsizing especially when compared to most modern sized homes. With many people’s homes running 2,000-3,000 sq foot and larger downsizing to a houseboat that is 5-600 sq ft can be quite a shock. 

If you are downsizing that much you will have to embrace the minimalist lifestyle. The last thing you will want to do is be mad or upset about getting rid of your stuff or to feel cramped in a houseboat. 

2. Only Live On The Water

This can certainly be a pro or a con but for the sake of argument I will put it in with the cons. Living in the water can certainly be amazing but one drawback is you almost HAVE to stay on the water or near it all of the time. 

Most people who live on a houseboat won’t have a car so every place they do will have to be close to the water or they will have to pay for a taxi or Uber. That will seriously limit the places you can visit in each town you dock at. 

Unfortunately it isn’t like an RV where you can tow your vehicle and unhook when you want to visit places away from shore. You either walk or pay for a ride. 

3. The Weather

Living on a houseboat you are susceptible to all of the whims of the weather where you are at. If you are planning on boating down the Mississippi but it is closed because of flooding, all you can do is wait. 

If there is a major storm headed to your location you will often have to leave the boat and find a safe shelter. Moving your houseboat to safety sometimes isn’t possible and even if it is possible it’s guaranteed to be quite a hassle. 

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Another thing you have to deal with or plan around is the cold. Living on a houseboat when it is below freezing is absolutely NO fun so avoiding the cold is a great plan, but what if a cold front quickly blows in? You have to figure out how to deal with it or move your boat unnecessarily anytime a cold front might pass through. 

4. Holiday season 

Around the holidays people will often have family and friends come over for parties etc. When you live on a houseboat that is difficult if not impossible as there isn’t much room for family to gather and being on the move can make it difficult for people to plan to visit you. 

Granted being in a warmer location for the holidays can certainly be nice but having a bunch of people on a 500 sq ft boat isn’t many people’s idea of a good time. 

5. Doesn’t Work Well With Families 

Unless you are retired than living on a houseboat can be difficult for anyone with a family. Not only will you not have much space for your family to spread out but you will also have to worry about your kids getting wet all the time. 

Imagine trying to get the kids ready for school while having to worry about those that are already ready playing in the water! Not only is the kids playing in the water or getting dirty an issue but if there are still one or two adults working a 9-5 job that can also cause issues as there normally isn’t much parking nearby. 

Living on board a houseboat can be great for retirees or single people but living on board with a family won’t be ideal. It can quickly wear on everyone’s nerves and once everyone starts getting annoyed with each other it can go downhill fast! 

Living on a boat has many more pros and cons than just the ones mentioned here but I hope the ones I have listed will help you with making the decision for you and the ones you love. 

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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