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If you own a houseboat and don’t live on it full time you are probably wondering if you can rent out your houseboat to help cover the payments or upkeep costs and how exactly do you do that? In this article I will try and answer that question with some specific places that you can use to rent your houseboat out.
Can I rent out my houseboat
The answer is a resounding yes! You can rent out your houseboat on a variety of websites many of which make it a very simple process. We will discuss some tips for renting out your houseboat below as well as some of the best sites to list your houseboat
The first thing we will cover is:
Is it worth it to rent out your houseboat?
Obviously that can vary wildly depending on how much you charge nightly and how often your houseboat is rented. That can also vary depending on your location, if your houseboat is nice or junky, if it requires a bunch of work or is ready to go, etc. etc. etc.
There are a lot of variables that go into it so the only way to know if renting out your houseboat makes sense is to actually get it listed!
We checked out a few different rental sites and got an average rental price per night for houseboats for each.
Houseboat prices range from $90 a night to $600 a night.
Houseboat prices range from $50 a night to $800 a night
Prices range from $129 a night to $1,100 a night
Obviously the prices that you can rent your houseboat for are all over the map. The easiest way to know how much you can rent your boat for is hop on these sites, go to your area and see what is currently available.
We hopped on VRBO and checked for availability for houseboats. There is currently only one houseboat listed for rent in the entire southwest region of the country (see picture below) and it is listed for $195 a night!
So all of the giant lakes in California, Arizona, Nevada, etc. don’t have a single houseboat listed for rent in those areas!
That is a huge opportunity if your houseboat is in those locations and you are willing to rent it out for some of the time. There is only 1 houseboat listed for rent in the entire state of Texas as well.
What can help me rent out my houseboat?
If you are in an area of the country where there is more competition for houseboat rentals or just want to set yourself apart from a regular house rental, what can you do to stand out?
Standing out can be done a variety of different ways. Some will cost you some money up front while others will just require some additional labor.
To stand out from the rest of the competition and get someone to rent your houseboat, here are a few things you could do.
- Don’t require your renters to refuel
The people renting your boat will be on vacation and they will want as little hassle as possible. Build in the cost of a full tank of gas into your daily rental rates and then be sure and mention it in bold on our rental listing that it includes a full tank of gas to make their life easier.
If your tank is 150 gallons and fuel costs $3 a gallon then you can expect to spend $450 per rental on the fuel for the rental. Build that extra expense into the cost of the houseboat rental while offering the “no hassle” service.
- Have many onboard toys for your renters to use
Many renters will have many family and friends on board of varying ages so having some toys for all different ages to play with is a great way to stand out. You don’t have to offer multiple jet skis or anything like that either. In another article we wrote about the best inflatable toys for houseboats find a few of those toys that your family would like to play with and include them with the rental. Again be sure to put it on your listing and even one or two pictures of the toys that are included is a great way to stand out.
- Update your houseboat
Obviously you aren’t going to remodel your houseboat just so you can rent it out but look at your boat as if you were going to sell it. You would probably clean it up, give it a fresh coat of paint, decorate it tastefully etc. Doing those little things is a great way to stand out amongst the competition and will also help your houseboat get rented faster and more often.
- Take good pictures
If you take pictures with a polaroid camera and then scan them into your computer and they are all fuzzy or horrible angles then it will be much harder to get people to rent your boat. Take pictures like you would if you were going to sell the house.
One picture of each main room and then a little description of which room is pictured is a great way to show your renters what your houseboat looks like. Taking pictures of the sunrise or sunset or even the scenery that can be seen from your boat is a good idea but make sure that the pictures of your boat are well done and look good.
- Include helpful tips about the lake or river
Assuming your boat is on a specific lake or river, give tips for those locations on the listing and even on board the boat. Most people who are renting your houseboat won’t know the area very well so pointing out some things to do, how far it is to the nearest town, etc. is a great way to stand out on your listing.
I would even go so far as to leave tips and tricks for the boat as well as the area on board the boat. This can be as simple as printing out a few papers with instructions on them or you can even create a little book with tips in it.
I once rented a vacation house and the owner had printed off specific instructions for the surround sound and home theater room. Those were incredibly helpful in keeping us happy and it was far less hassle which is always a good thing.
- Answer some relevant questions in your listing
If a person has never been to the lake/river your boat is on they probably won’t know many of the specific rules that may apply to your area. Find that information for the renter and then give it in your listing.
For example the question a lot of people have when renting a boat is do they need a special license to drive it, can they anchor off shore or do they have to dock every night, etc. Answer each question in your listing and you will be far more likely to get the booking than other people who leave people asking questions.
- Make your listing look professional and easy to read.
If you just have one giant wall of text no one will want to read it all! Make many different paragraphs and even write bulleted lists of the closest stores, what’s included with the boat rental, recommended things to bring, etc.
Basically think about what you wished you knew the first few times you took your houseboat on the water and include that for your guests. The more information they have the easier it will be for them to choose your houseboat over a hotel or regular rental house.
Which sites can I rent my houseboat out on?
We mentioned some of the larger ones above but we will now go into depth a little more. We will describe the listing process for each site as well as give you some other information that is important for each one.
VRBO is one of the largest vacation rental sites and has over 80,000 reviews on Trustpilot. They have been open since 1995 so they are far from a fly by night operation!
VRBO doesn’t have any fees to get your property listed on its site but they do charge fees when you receive a booking. They charge 5% of the total of the booking and then a 3% processing fee for credit card or echeck payments.
Essentially VRBO will take 8% of whatever the total booking is, so if your houseboat is $200 a night and someone books it for 7 nights you would actually receive $1,288 for the weekly rental. Be sure and figure your other expenses into your profit as well. You will have cleaning costs, fuel costs (if you take my suggestion), insurance costs, etc. that will all be deducted from that $1,288 as well.
VRBO’s fees can be found here
Airbnb currently has 2 different fee structures. You can choose to have a host only fee or to have a shared host/guest fee. The host only fee ranges from 14% to 20%! The shared guest/host fee costs 13% for the guests and 3% for the host.
Ultimately ever person who books knows those fees are there and it is often better to incorporate the cost of the fees into your nightly price rather than having the customer be surprised by the fees later. Airbnb’s fee structure can be found here
Flipkey is not as well known as the first two but it is owned by Trip Advisor which I’m sure you have heard of.
Flipkey charges guests a fee of between 8% and 16%. They also charge hosts (you) a 3% fee on each booking. It is free to list your houseboat for rent on this site as well and you only pay if someone actually books it. Flipkey’s fees can be found here
I would recommend listing your houseboat on all 3 of these sites and see what happens. Just as with renting out any other property you have to be aware of some possible risks when renting your houseboat.
Possible risks of renting out your houseboat
- Your boat could get wrecked
This is obviously the worst case scenario but it is something that could happen. Always be sure to keep insurance on your boat and make sure that it will cover you in the event of a renter damaging your vessel. If your boat has a lot of sentimental value to it then listing your houseboat for rent probably isn’t a good idea.
- Your boat could get damaged.
Yes, this is similar to number one but slightly different. People simply aren’t as careful with other people’s stuff as they are with their own. You will notice many small dents, dings, scratches, etc. most likely after every rental.
Again, if these small things are going to upset you every time they happen then renting out your houseboat is not a good plan.
Always plan for things to get damaged or broken and be surprised if they aren’t. If you took my advice up above and added some inflatable toys to your boat you can expect some of them to come back with holes in them or even missing entirely. Build those small expenses into the daily cost of your boat rental.
- Your boat could get stolen
Perhaps the renters could steal it or it could get stolen by someone else because your renters aren’t careful but your boat being stolen could happen. Again, make sure that your insurance covers you in case of this happening to your boat.
- Your boat could be left a mess
People aren’t as careful with items that aren’t theirs (as mentioned above) but they also don’t keep things as clean as they would if it were their own. Be prepared to come on board after a rental to some pretty nasty situations. Most of the rental sites have deposits so it often won’t be too bad but be prepared for the worst.
- Wear and tear could be much more
With any boat you are going to have some wear and tear on the motor and other moving parts every time that you take it out. The wear and tear on your boat will increase greatly because other drivers won’t be as careful with your boat as you would be. They might not break things but it will shorten the life of your engine and other items on board.
Before embarking on your rental journey be sure and do plenty of research about horror stories of people who have rented out their boats in the past. Ask yourself how you would feel in those situations. If one of those situations would ruin your life, or your family then renting your boat out is a bad idea.
If you can read those horror stories and be ok with them happening to you because you have insurance or other things in place to prevent or reduce the problems then renting your boat out might work well.
As with everything, there is a learning curve so don’t give up just because your first rental didn’t go exactly according to plan. If you charged too cheap of a price for your first rental and you lost some money (or didn’t make much) you can always change it for the next one.
Long term, renting out your houseboat is a great way to help cover the monthly costs and even put a little money in your pocket at the end of the day.