Is your lease coming to an end for your apartment? If you’re tired of living like a land-lubber, why not give living on a boat a try?
With real estate prices going through the roof in America and landlords squeezing every can they can out of tenants, Living on a boat offers you a way to beat inflation and soaring housing costs.
Life on the water is way different from living on land. Whether you’re living in a sea marina or on a lake, living on a boat is a change of lifestyle that suits certain people, while others may find it a nightmare.
Before you decide to forget about renewing that lease or walk out on your roommates for a boat, there are a few things you need to consider.
So, what’s it like to live on a boat, and is it the right move for you?
Factors to Consider Before Living on a Boat
Living on the water sounds appealing, right? The gentle rocking of the water, the sounds of the ocean or lake, the local wildlife, and the sunrises or sunsets are spectacular. Living on a boat is a laid-back lifestyle, and everyone around you in your marina community will have a relaxed demeanor.
Before you start finding a boat to live on, you might want to think about the other side of the coin before committing yourself.
- Is living on a boat a temporary thing, or do you plan on making it a lifestyle choice?
- Are you fine with friends and family asking you why you choose this lifestyle?
- Is the local climate-friendly to living on a boat year-round?
- Are you handy with tools and making basic repairs?
- Do you have problem-solving skills?
- Can you handle living with limited storage?
- Can you do your household cleaning yourself?
- Do you have kids and a partner? How will they handle living on a boat?
- Do you have a backup plan if it doesn’t work out?
Living on a boat isn’t glitz and glamor. You’ll have to think about the inconveniences like hauling your laundry to the laundromat and taking frequent trips to the grocery store due to limited storage space. There’s also the pump-out station to consider and security concerns.
The biggest issue with living on a boat is your family or relationship status. It’s fine for single people to start living on a boat as they have few responsibilities. However, if you have a family with three kids, how will that impact their life?
Sure, you could always go with a large houseboat if you have a family, but they’re harder to find and more expensive than a single-person liveaboard. Living on a serviced yacht might sound appealing, but that’s for the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and most people can’t afford it.
Typically, living on a boat suits single people or couples best. It offers a free lifestyle that’s relaxing and laid back. However, the choice of boat accommodations, the marina where you slip the boat, and the surrounding community all hugely impact the experience of life on the water.
Why Are More People Choosing to Live in Boats and Campers?
With the American Economy experiencing red-hot inflation, the housing market sees prices continue to rise for purchasing and renting homes. Average rents are soaring in big cities like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, with no sight of the market stabilizing anytime soon.
So, many people are starting to look into alternative accommodations. We’ve seen a huge rise in people living on the road in campers and RVs as an affordable alternative to living in an apartment. Living on a boat in a marina also offers you a similar experience.
While the road and the water are entirely different, the lifestyle requirements of RVs and boat living have plenty of similarities. Both RVs and boats offer limited ablutions, limited storage space, internet connectivity, living space, bedding, and other factors.
Like yachts and superyachts, there are plenty of large luxury mobile homes for cruising across the United States. However, these facilities are typically for rich people. The average person will afford limited RV accommodations, and it’s the same with a boat.
Costs Involved with Living on a Boat
The reality is that living on a boat is much more affordable than renting an apartment. If you’re a single or a couple, then you’ll probably find it a bit of an adventure and a nice change to your lifestyle.
For example, living on a sailboat in a marina in Vancouver, British Columbia, only costs around $550 per month. That rent includes full amenities, including power, internet, parking, pump-outs, showers, and a workshop. You’ll pay more than double that for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver.
You can save even more on your rental if you choose to live at anchor or in a mooring ball. San Diego charges you around $150 for a mooring ball, and anchoring doesn’t cost anything. Sure, you’ll need to own a boat for these strategies, but you can finance one and make your money back in monthly savings after about two years.
Finding a second-hand boat for sale is relatively easy in many big coastal cities, and you’ll have plenty of selection.
Boat Insurance for Liveaboards
If you want to live on a boat, it’s a good idea to have insurance. It’s not always necessary, but some marinas may require you to insure your boat if you want to dock in the slip permanently.
Liveaboard insurance is more expensive than traditional recreational boat insurance policies. However, it’s much cheaper than insuring your home. In most cases, a single person will pay around $800 per year for insurance on a 35-foot sailboat.
If you want to travel by boat, you can get international liveaboard insurance for around $1,800 per month, depending on your insurer.
Most boatyards require you to have boat insurance before they even think about hauling your boat from the water. If you’re living aboard a boat, you’ll have to pull it from the water every 12 to 18-months for general repairs and maintenance inspections.
Liveaboard Marina and Mooring Fees
When you choose to live in a marina, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for your amenities. These fees cover your use of the facilities in the marina. Depending on the location, you can expect to pay anywhere from $550 to $1,000 per month.
Utilities and Amenities
You’ll have separate billing for your energy use in the marina. However, you’ll find it’s significantly cheaper than living in an apartment. The heating and cooling costs are much more affordable, and you’ll only have to worry about powering half the stuff you would living in a house.
Some boats come with solar panels and deep cell battery packs, offering you renewable energy for your boat, eliminating your electricity bill. You’re also going to end up using a lot less water.
Most boats hold around 66-gallons of freshwater, and you’ll need to fill that every two weeks. In contrast, most American households use around 80 to 100-gallons of freshwater a day.
One of the biggest drawbacks to living on a boat is the repairs you need to make to the vessel throughout the year. Unlike a house, you can’t put off repairing a leak, or you could end up at the bottom of the marina.
Your boat will require annual or seasonal inspections to ensure it’s in good condition. Removing the boat from the water and taking it to the yard for repairs can get expensive. However, the need for advanced repairs at the boatyard is rare, and you’ll find you only need to pull it from the water once a year or so.
The rest of the time, you’re going to have to do most of the minor repairs to the boat yourself. So, you’re going to need some time each week for basic inspections and repairs to your vessel. It helps if you have some basic handyman skills, and you’ll also need a toolbox with some basic tooling available for repairs.
Unfortunately, marine repair products cost three to four times more than housing supplies due to waterproofing needs. Typically, you can expect to pay anything from $1,000 to $6,000 in annual maintenance costs.
Doing the minor repairs yourself can save you money if you’re handy. However, hiring a handyperson to come and fix every small problem will end up costing you some money.
Liveaboard boats come in a wide variety of models. You can pick up boats in poor condition in need of repairs for a few hundred dollars.
Or you could spend tens of millions of dollars on a superyacht. Many banks and specialized lenders will offer you financing plans for boats, and many dealers have in-house financing available for your purchase.
Safety and Security
Living on the water is peaceful and serene. However, it’s also a security risk, and you need to understand the security risks around the marina and your local area.
Your boat needs a CO2 and smoke alarm, a propane sniffer, and well-maintained fire extinguishers. Ask yourself the following questions before committing to marina life.
Is it safe to walk from the slip to the parking lot at night?
Will your car be safe in the parking area at night?
Who can you call if there is a problem with your boat while you’re on vacation?
Liveaboard Essentials – Comfort, Stowage, and Connectivity
Moving from a 1,000-square foot apartment to a 40-foot sailboat is a challenging adjustment for many people. Some people see it as a welcome change, like the snug living space and cozy quarters. However, some people can feel trapped or confined in small spaces.
The smaller the space onboard, the less storage available to stow gear and necessities. You’ll also need to ensure that you have internet access from the boat, and you’ll have to think about the washroom and parking facilities available at the marina or close by.
Ventilation and Dry Living Spaces
When you’re assessing a boat, check for mold and adequate ventilation. One of the disadvantages of living on the water can be elevated humidity, leading to mold growth inside the boat. Mold is a health issue and can damage your respiratory system.
Living on a Boat Isn’t for Everyone
The reality is that living on a boat might sound like a romantic lifestyle to you and a nightmare to someone else. Before you decide to give everything up for a life on the water, consider trying it for a few months first.
If you’re living with a partner or kids, then you’ll also need to consider the effect of the move on their lifestyle. What if your kids hate it?
There are several challenges to the liveaboard lifestyle. Confined spaces, motion, and leaks are just a few of the things that can get under people’s skin when living on a boat.
Finding a Marina is Tricky
If you’re ready to commit to living on a boat, you have two options. You can look for people advertising boats for rental in slips. Or you can buy a boat yourself and find a marina with a suitable slip.
However, the problem is that it can be challenging to find a marina in many parts of the country. Some big cities have licensing requirements for liveaboards; licensed marinas can have long waiting lists. It’s a good idea to hold off on buying the boat until you’re sure you’re going to keep it.
Some of the best cities for boat living in the United States include the following.
- Corpus Christi, TX
- The Chesapeake Bay Area
- Portland, OR
- San Diego, CA
- Tampa Bay, FL
- Seattle, WA
- Sausalito, CA
- Vancouver, BC
- Alameda, CA
Marinas or Mooring Balls? Choosing Your Location Affects Your Lifestyle
Living in a marina is a very different liveaboard experience to living on a mooring buoy or at anchor. While living on a mooring buoy or at anchor drops your living costs considerably (in many cases, it’s free), you don’t have access to any of the facilities and amenities you get with living in a marina.
That means no power access, internet access, no water or laundromat, pump-out service, or security. Essentially, you’re living off-grid, and you need to have an entirely self-sustaining lifestyle to make it work.
Another important difference between marina life and mooring or anchoring is that you can walk off the dock in the marina. Unless you have experience living out on the water, it’s better to go with the marina life, even if you have to pay a bit more each month.
Pros of Living on a Boat
Low Living Expenses
Life on the water is way more affordable than living in an apartment in the city or a single-family home in the suburbs. With real estate prices and rentals going through the roof, living in a marina or at anchor or on a mooring buoy offers you significant savings on your monthly housing costs.
The Water Lifestyle
Living on the water is a welcome lifestyle change for many people. You get a cozy, comfortable, and relaxing lifestyle, with all the people in the local community having the same vibe. With less financial stress in your life, you can afford to unwind and enjoy your living situation.
Living on the water has some breathtaking scenery. From watching the sunrise or set over the water to the local wildlife and the smell of the saltwater in the air, it’s a different life experience.
Living on a boat gives you more freedom. You can always pick up anchor and sail to another marina or a change of pace. Nothing is holding you back, and if you own the boat, then you don’t have to worry about the shackles of a mortgage holding you back from experiencing another location.
Cons of Living on a Cheap Boat
Living on a boat has some limitations, and most of them come with water and power. Electricity is a valuable resource. It’s a good idea to invest in a solar setup if you have the budget available. However, solar configurations also require maintenance, and you’ll have to change out the batteries and make system repairs from time to time.
Marina Slip Fees
Living out on the water is only free if you live at anchor or select mooring buoys. Each marina has different pricing for liveaboard residents. The fees for the marina depend on the level of amenities and services they offer you on-site. Choosing the right marina is like finding the right neighborhood for an apartment.
Living on a boat comes with severe space limitations. If you’re a person with a lot of stuff, you’re going to find it hard to live on a boat. However, if you enjoy the minimalist lifestyle, you probably won’t have issues.
Living on the water is fun, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Find a boat dealer and spend a day looking through different boat options for your liveaboard lifestyle.