Renting A Houseboat: What You Need, Best Places, & More

If you have ever wished to spend the night on a houseboat or perhaps ever searched online for the most fascinating water experiences, then you may have come across the name houseboats. Well, if you haven’t, let me give you a quick explanation of what they are all about and why they are increasingly becoming so popular especially among adventurers.

As the name suggests, a houseboat is basically a boat that is perfectly designed and built as a house to ensure exceptional pleasure and luxury as you cruise or float on water. Most people actually prefer the houseboat experience over camping or RVing as a means of enjoying leisure time as not only do you get to spend time outdoors but you also get to enjoy the water activities. 

Houseboats are very common at  tourist destinations where there are streams, rivers or lakes. Some adventure enthusiasts may even build a customized houseboat for living or just for a weekend get-away. 

Basically, there are two types of houseboats; cruising ones which are meant for excursion and non-cruising which have limited mobility and are mostly anchored or docked at a designated spot. You can rent either type of houseboat but most people prefer to rent a houseboat that can move. 

Of course there are many other questions that go along with renting a houseboat such as:

Where exactly can you find a houseboat?

Can you rent a houseboat? 

How much does renting a houseboat cost?

 How long can you rent a houseboat? 

What are houseboat vacations like? 

And of course many many more. 

If these are some of the questions popping up in your mind right now, well relax and sit back! Throughout this article, we are going to take a deep dive learning about houseboats and make sure that you have all the information you need to get started.. Before we begin to address each of these questions, and even more, it is very important to note that houseboats come in many different sizes and styles; from cozy ones just for two to multi-tiered ones that can host a party of twenty or more, from a lavish houseboat featuring utmost elegance and comfort, to a simple one that fits a small budget perfectly. There are plenty of houseboats to choose from that will perfectly suit your size, budget, and other needs. 

What Are Houseboats Vacations Like?

Like most unforgettable dream vacations in our beautiful world, a typical houseboat guarantees comfortable sleeping, luxurious living space, ample space for cooking, gas grills, hot tubs, fireplaces and even water slides! Depending on the size, design, and budget of the boat they could have all of these, just a couple, or be completely basic. 

 In any case, a houseboat is often just like any ordinary home featuring many amenities to make your trip on the water quite enjoyable.Whether you are taking a cruise around the lake or up or down a river, a houseboat is sure to be a fun way to see the scenery as well as enjoy the fishing and other water activities. 

What Do You Need To Rent A Houseboat?

If it is your first time renting a houseboat, then it will be a great idea to come up with a plan detailing your destination, your budget and the kind of houseboat you want to rent. With this in place, it is time now to search for a houseboat that suits your needs as well as your budget. 

You can easily do this by searching online, although if you read to the end of this article, I will give you some additional tips that will help you out on your search. In many states in the USA, the first thing you will need is a valid boater education certificate (also known as a boating license). This basically just proves that you have taken the required course to drive a boat. 

Each state has different requirements on who needs to take a boaters safety course so be sure and check the laws where you are planning on renting the boat at. A boater’s safety course can be taken online and will only cost $30-$40 so even if you aren’t required by law to take one it still isn’t a bad idea to spend a little money to learn before hitting the water. 

Boat rental companies will often provide you with a temporary boater certificate after a quick lesson on boat safety procedure and after you have successfully completed a short quiz on the same so even if you don’t do it ahead of time taking the course before heading out will still work for you. 

Surprisingly, even if you have never driven a boat before, you will still be eligible to rent a houseboat! You will have to take some lessons on navigational procedures, maneuverability, how to tie off and dock as well as learning other things. Each marina or boat rental company will have different rules and procedures in place so be sure and contact them about what is required before you leave with their boat. 

In most cases, you won’t have to worry about the fuel as it will be fully covered by the rental company so you can often just load your items on board and head out on the water. Be sure and find out what the range is for your boat as you certainly don’t want to run out of fuel in the middle of the lake! 

If you still find yourself getting stuck on the procedure of renting a houseboat, I will give you a simple a few tips or steps that you should take to ensure you have exactly what you are looking for.

  • Like I mentioned earlier, the first step should always be to determine whether you need cruising boat or a docked houseboat. If you are renting in an area that has a lot of things to do on land then a stationary houseboat might work better for you. If the lake or river is in the middle of nowhere than you will want a houseboat that moves so you can see the sights that way.
  • In order to increase your chances of finding a quality houseboat, consider approaching a company that specializes in houseboats. This will as well ensure you receive proper safety guidelines ,quality training, a reliable maintenance report and thorough orientation before you cruise.
  • Make sure to check the houseboat out before your planned trip if at all possible. You don’t want to arrive for your week long vacation only to discover the pictures online were taken 20 years ago! If your trip is going to be longer be sure and find out who is responsible for refueling during the trip if needed.
  • In some cases, you may require a craft to reach the houseboat but most of the time it will be right on the dock where you can walk right on board. If the boat is anchored away from the dock the rental company will take you back and forth to the houseboat. Some companies will even take the boat off the dock for you and put it back on when you are done.

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The Best And Most Popular Houseboat Destinations

To begin with, there are lots and lots of amazing houseboat destinations in USA so if I don’t cover your favorite destination, it doesn’t mean that it is not astonishing as well. I am only going to mention a few places of the hundreds or thousands that you could visit. 

  • Lake Lanier in Georgia

This is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations for houseboat offering breathtaking scenery as well as full service dock for houseboats. Here, you are sure to have a wide variety of houseboats to choose from ranging from small ones to large ones that can accommodate an entire family or a group if needed. The price to hire a houseboat normally ranges from $1,400 to $3,500 depending on how long you are renting the boat for and the type of houseboat you need.

  • Lake Shasta, California

With a history of over 20 years in houseboat rentals, Lake Shasta may actually be the most popular houseboat destination in the US. With more than 365 miles of shoreline, you are sure to find countless number of houseboat rentals on any given day. You can find boats both for excursions as well as docked ones for beach activities. Speaking of activities at this beautiful lake, there is an endless supply of them: windsurfing, jet-skiing, wake-boarding, kayaking, tubing, swimming and lots of other fun and sporting activities. Amazingly, you can also rent jet skis along with the houseboat if you are into speed. The price to rent a houseboat here depends on the type of boat you need and the duration but most will charge around $450 per day.

  • Lake Ouachita in Arkansas

This is one of the lakes that will connect you to nature, fresh air and a cool breeze. The clear water lake is situated right in the middle of forested mountains offering breathtaking scenery that will definitely make the trip extremely worthwhile. This amazing destination is popular for scuba diving, fishing and swimming. If you are lucky you might even see some jellyfish. (yes, there are freshwater jellyfish) If you are looking to get away for just a few days, or need a houseboat to spend the entire weekend, then this is the place you will want to be. Many houseboat rental companies will even deliver groceries and medicine to your boat. If you decide you don’t want to drive the boat yourself, you can even hire a captain to drive the boat while you relax. To rent a houseboat here that will comfortably accommodate ten people, you will just pay $4200 for four days.

  • Crane Lake, Minnesota

Crane Lake features some of the most absolutely spectacular scenery you will have ever seen. A cruise on a houseboat through Voyageurs National Park is undoubtedly a breathtaking experience that will leave you wanting to see more. On this wonderland trip, you can catch a great view of the wildlife while enjoying the cool breeze of the lake. If you are looking for a romantic get away or just thinking of taking a cruise with your friends, then this is the place to be. The price to rent a houseboat starts from $300 per day depending on the size and model of the boat you need. The experience is certainly worth every single penny you spend.

  • Lake Allatoona, Georgia

Lake Allatoona is a perfect destination for houseboats especially if you are looking for a quiet and cool place away from the crowd. However, if you are planning a vacation here, it will be a great idea to book a houseboat far in advance since this lake normally offers rental through a third party. Most houseboats here are amazingly large and the prices are extremely low. (considering the sizes) Prices range from $400-$500 per day.

  • Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake Powell is an amazing place that you cannot afford to miss if you are into houseboats. Here you are likely to find a 75-foot houseboat commonly known as Odyssey houseboat which will cost you merely $6000-$7000 to stay in depending on the duration and time of the year. If you own a houseboat, you can moor here with confidence as there are maintenance services at the dock as well as pontoon services and many other things. 

  • Lake Hartwell, South Carolina

You can rent a massive 88 foot, houseboat for only $300 a night at Lake Hartwell, perfect for a group get away or team building. This massive houseboat is equipped with luxurious amenities including two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a fully functional kitchen, air conditioning, and many other such amenities. On top of that, the view from the lake is extremely beautiful with the savanna-land offering spectacular views. Lake Hartwell is very popular recreation lake so you are sure to find variety of houseboats to choose from of the 88 footer doesn’t meet your needs. 

  • Lake Mead

Lake Mead lies on the Colorado river and offers excellent atmosphere for houseboating. There are six different sizes of houseboats for rent, from 50-footers (which will accommodate 6-8 people) to 75-footers (which easily accommodates 14 people). The prices differ based on the size of the boat but with just $3000, you can easily get a cruise boat that will give you tons of fun as well as a good value for the money you spend. 

  • Lake Havasu, Arizona

Lake Havasu is one of the most exceptional destinations for a houseboat cruise. There are five houseboats for rent each with a different price to rent depending on the size that you need.. A quick review of the prices is as follows:

An 85-foot Odyssey which can accommodate 25 people when moored (sleeps 12), will cost around $6500 for three nights, four days

75-foot Executive houseboat will cost around $6000 to rent for four days, three nights

A 72-foot “fun seeker” houseboat is around $5000 for the same duration and can sleep up to 12 people

67-foot VIP houseboat, which also sleeps 12 but can accommodate 18 when moored, will cost you around $4500 for three nights and four days

A 60-foot deluxe houseboat, which sleeps 10 and hosts 15 when moored, costs around $4000 for four days and three nights.

  • Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake

If you live in Kentucky or are searching for the most beautiful scenery for a houseboat cruise, you should consider these two beautiful lakes. They both offer excellent cool ambiance perfect for a houseboat excursion. You can spend sun-filled days on a houseboat along these lakes while fishing or just enjoying the amazing views. You can be sure to find a variety of houseboats here ranging from small to large ones and from the most basic to quite modern. It really just depends on your budget and what you personally like. 

  • Tennessee Rivers and Lakes

If you are looking for a very relaxing cruise along the river banks, then the Tennessee river is the place to be. The river stretches more than 600 miles offering an unforgettable experience that will make you want to come back for more. Norris Lake on the other hand, will ensure that you fully enjoy the more than 800 miles of shoreline and the cool breeze from the lake. A cruise on this beautiful lake is undoubtedly worth every single penny considering it is one of the most beautiful lakes in North America.

  • Lake Roosevelt, Washington

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In the heart of Washington is the ever beautiful, shimmering and crystal clear blue water Lake Roosevelt, which is one of the largest man-made Lakes in the United States. The perfect sandy beaches, thick forest, abundant wildlife and cool breeze offer an excellent atmosphere for a houseboat cruise. The over 650 miles of coastline, features some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine and you won’t want to  miss trying to spot wild turkey, mule deer, bald eagles or whitetail deer while they are in their natural habitat. The experience is without a doubt unforgettable with most visitors continuously expressing their satisfaction with their houseboat accommodations. Some other amazing activities you can expect at Lake Roosevelt include: fishing, swimming, diving and soaking in a hot tub among others.

  • Mississippi River Houseboat rentals

This list certainly wouldn’t be complete if we failed to mention the Mississippi river when it comes to house-boating. It is the second longest river in the USA and stretches for more than 2350 miles. The Mississippi River offers some of the most amazing houseboating experiences ever. With some of the best fishing anywhere and gorgeous bluffs and wildlife the scenery is absolutely out of this world. House boaters cruising the Mississippi can enjoy a wide variety of fun activities including fishing, swimming, picnicking, water skiing, and many more. 

  • Florida houseboat rentals

Florida is home to numerous small rivers which guarantees an exceptional experience of lush vegetation and natural beauty. Houseboating in Florida is not just any ordinary cruise along the river, it is more like a “once in a lifetime” experience. From the beauty of wildlife to amazing subtropical trees and flowers, from the sparkling wells to the stunning springs; the beauty is absolutely dazzling. If you choose to rent a houseboat for the entire day or for a couple of days, then you can enjoy some fun activities including snorkeling, fishing and swimming. Without a doubt, if you are a houseboat lover and haven’t visited Florida, then you need to make some plans and prepare a budget to cruise this beautiful local. Just like in most places, the cost of a houseboat depends on the size of the boat and the duration you are going to rent for, but it is very affordable in most areas and the excursion is certainly worth the money.

Are There Long-Term Houseboat Rentals?

When it comes to houseboat rentals, long-term may mean a different thing to different people. If you are talking a few weeks or even a month then many of the regular houseboat rentals locations will allow you to rent them for that long. 

If you are looking for multiple months or even years for a rental you will often have to go a less traditional route. Most of the houseboat rentals companies will not want to rent for months or years because of the higher likelihood that the renter won’t take proper care of the boat. 

Your best bet when trying to rent long term is to contact regular houseboat owners. They can sometimes be found via VRBO or AirBnb but you can also just go to your local marina and start asking around. Since boating is often a close knit community asking around can often help you find someone who is willing to rent long term. 

If you are planning on renting for more than a few months than it will start to make more sense to just purchase a houseboat outright than to rent it. If you pay $5,000 a month to rent a houseboat it will only be a few months before you could buy a used houseboat for the money that you are spending. 

Houseboat Rental Tips 

If you are very interested in renting a houseboat for a couple of days, then the first step that is very important is to identify the perfect rental company at your preferred cruise destination. You will want to be sure and do thorough research about the company, their safety records, the prices, policies and other important details before making a decision on where to rent from. 

The next step after you have set your budget and identified your company, is to contact the company and book a houseboat in advance. Be sure to let them know exactly what you need in regards to how long you need the boat and how many people will be on board as well as the number of days you are wanting to rent the boat for. 

Alternatively, you can make a booking online through many marina’s websites at most of the above mentioned locations. Reserving a houseboat in advance is very important because it will allow the rental company to have plenty of time to prepare your preferred houseboat and make sure it has all the necessary things on board. They will also ensure you have enough fuel to sustain the houseboat for the entire length of your cruise.

Before you are allowed to take your houseboat on your trip, the rental company will take you through some safety procedures and give you a detailed orientation of the houseboat you selected. Always make sure you know where the safety equipment is located and make sure it is on board before leaving. Some companies might offer you a captain at an additional charge but for most trips this isn’t necessary. 

Are There Monthly Houseboat Rentals?

There are many places that will allow you to rent a houseboat for months at a time but you will have to do some digging. Renting a houseboat for a month at a time is far more difficult than renting a house as many owners are concerned about getting they houseboat back since you could take it virtually anywhere. 

Considering that most lakes and rivers are basically public places for recreation, you may not find it suitable to live in a houseboat as it might be quite noisy and not as private as you would expect. 

When looking to rent a houseboat for months at a time it’s often best to post at your local marinas or ask the marina’s manager if they know of anyone who might be interested in renting out their boat. Often people will end up using their boats far less than they expected and might be willing to rent it out for a few months when they aren’t able to use it. 

Vacation Rentals By Owners (VRBO) Houseboats

If you are not familiar with VRBO, it is simply a website that allows you to rent a vacation house (or a houseboat in this case), that the owner is not personally using at the moment. The VRBO website makes it easier to search a houseboat that is quite affordable within the place that you are planning for a vacation. 

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So, how does it work? To get started, you need to follow five important steps:

  1. The first step is to use the quick search interface. This step basically involves keying in your desired vacation destination, when you want to arrive, when you want to leave and the number of people who will accompany you. When you click the search button , the VRBO will give you the available houses for rent that fits your criteria. 
  2. You will need to go to the house type section and select a houseboat as the type of rental you want. That will narrow the results down to only the houseboats.
  3. VRBO allows you to narrow down your search to match your prices and exact houseboat features you desire as well as price ranges.
  4. Before you book, get the lowdown. The VRBO website displays details of the owner and a short biography of the houseboat you wish to rent. It is always a great idea to email or call the owner in advance and ask any questions that aren’t mentioned in the listing, such as: who is responsible for fuel, of the boat is operational, what toys are included, what everyday necessities are on board, etc.
  5. VRBO offers you excellent insurance that will help give you peace of mind. It will ensure that you are covered in case you cancel your booking, if you accidentally damage the houseboat you rented, if the owner decides to cancel your booking on the last minute and also if the houseboat misrepresents the information that was displayed on the VRBO website
  6. VRBO allows you to pay with confidence as it assures your money is safe. After you have completed the whole booking process, you can easily pay on VRBO either by eCheck, credit card or PayPal. Whichever way you choose, VRBO ensures that the money lands in good hands.

VRBO is undoubtedly one of the greatest and safest ways to rent a houseboat from the comfort of your home. It has a wide variety of boats at every location and makes it easier to connect with the owner(s) before you begin your trip.

Be sure and read all the reviews that previous renters have left and always ask about something rather than assuming. 

I once rented a vacation house on the beach through VRBO that talked about how amazing the private beach was etc. when we arrived we found out that the beach was approximately 200 steps down from where the house was at on the bluff! 

Of course that wasn’t mentioned on the listing but if we would have asked we could have saved ourselves from renting a house that required a hike down or up to get to the water.

AIRbnb Houseboat Rental

Just like VRBO, AIRbnb is another great site  that allows you to connect with the owner of the houseboat before you take your trip. The process is pretty much the same with VRBO and guarantees a safe transaction when you are making the booking. AIRbnb has a very wide range of houseboats and you are sure to find the most suitable one that perfectly matches your budget and preference.

Before we wrap up this interesting topic, I want to quickly highlight some of the houseboat plans you are likely to find on these two websites.

  1. The first one is vacation houseboat rentals. As the name suggests, these are houseboats meant just for vacations. The owner normally decides to rent out the houseboat for a specific duration of time either for cruising, fishing, parting or just relaxing. Basically, it is more like an ordinary vacation hotel.
  2. Weekend houseboat rentals. These kind of houseboats are very popular especially among couple and students who wish to host a party or go for an excursion. It is very easy to book for a houseboat for the weekend on both sites where you will just need to specify your arrival and departure time.
  3. Yearly houseboat rentals. Although it is not very common, some houseboat owners on VRBO and AIRbnb will definitely allow you to rent the houseboat yearly. You will have to come to an agreement on maintenance costs as well as how close of contact you will have to keep with the owner. There will probably be rules on how far away you can go as well to help ensure that the houseboat isn’t stolen.
  4. Year round houseboat rentals. This plan is suitable for nature lovers who wish to spend most of their life on a houseboat. It is not very difficult to find an exact houseboat for that on VRBO and AIRbnb where some owners are willing to rent out their boats all year round. You will have to make sure that the cost to rent a houseboat isn’t too extravagant or it might make more sense to just buy one rather than renting.

Helpful Tips For Long-term Houseboat Rentals

If you are planning to rent a houseboat long-term, pay attention as I am going to share with you some great tips to help you get the most out of your rental. 

  • Never worry too much about comfort while looking for a suitable houseboat. After all, if you wanted to live in the lap of luxury you could have just stayed home. One of the best parts about using a houseboat is the adventure so don’t expect to have all the comforts of home (although some houseboats might be quite luxurious).
  • If you are planning for a long cruise and are going to be “off the grid” for a while, always make sure to carry enough groceries, medicine, water, ready-made food, and anything else you may deem necessary for your trip.
  • Make sure to check all of the mechanics on the boat before you head out on any long trip. The last thing you need is to be halfway to nowhere before you discover a serious issue.
  • Last but not least, carry a camera and take as many photos as you can. Renting a houseboat is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people and you will certainly see many new things while on the water.Taking a bunch of pictures is a great way to make sure to remember the trip for the rest of your life.

Houseboats are without a doubt a game changer when it comes to quality and unforgettable vacations. Being able to sleep on the water for days, weeks, or months at a time is often much better than staying in a hotel. 

Houseboats are increasingly becoming more popular as the quality time that they allow you to have with your family and friends is virtually unmatched. Many houseboat owners believe they are worth every penny you spend. If you haven’t tried a vacation on a houseboat, well you better start planning now! 

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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