Living on a Boat: Beginner's Guide for Liveaboards (2023)

It’s easy to romanticize the idea of living on aboat full-time; however, it's an alternative lifestyle like that takes preparation, organization and an ability to roll with changes. When you commit to moving aboard, make checklists of necessities and talk to your partner about deal-breakers. Prepare the boat for life aboard well before you make the move.

Living on a Boat: Beginner's Guide for Liveaboards (1)Factors to Consider Before Living Aboard

Before moving onboard your boat, you should ask yourself some questions:

  • Is this just for a period of time before you go cruising or is this a lifestyle choice?
  • Are you comfortable with repeatedly defending your choice to your friends and family?
  • Are you living in a climate that is boat-friendly year-round?
  • Are you handy and a good problem solver?
  • Who will accept your Amazon deliveries and are you ready to grocery shop frequently since there won’t be room to stow much?
  • Are you ready to become your own maid?
  • Will you feel comfortable with your kids being in this new environment?
  • What’s Plan B if it doesn’t work?

After moving aboard, you may be hauling the laundry to the laundromat or groceries from the parking lot with no dock cart nearby. You’ll need to go to the pump-out station regularly as well as to the post office for your mail. Small doesn’t translate to easy so mentally run through a typical week and write down solutions to the issues.

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Essentials: Stowage, Comfort & Connectivity

When you move from a 2,000-square foot house to a 40-foot boat, all the closets are smaller, the cupboards are fewer and there’s no two-car garage. In preparation, you’ll need to de-clutter kitchen gadgets, tools, mementos and clothing. Keep winter clothes in off-boat storage and your business attire at the office if possible.

Make sure the boat is warm and dry with plenty of ventilation. Mildew and condensation will become a part of life and you’ll need a whole new set of cleaners and tools.

Plan your connectivity needs. Whether a dish for TV or high-speed internet access via the marina WiFi, you’ll need a connectivity solution so you’re not cut off from work, friends, family and entertainment.

BeneficialSkills to Have for Living Onboard

Maintenance on a boat may be worse than in a house in terms of frequency and specificity. Basic plumbing, electrical and mechanical skills will be needed because boat systems are generally less reliable than their household counterparts. The alternative is calling a contractor for every issue.

(Video) How to afford and start living on a sailboat - our beginnings as liveaboard

Living on a Boat: Beginner's Guide for Liveaboards (2)

Costof Living on a Boat

Don’t assume that you’ll save money by moving aboard. Here's some expenses you may incur by living on yourboat:

  • Boat mortgage payment
  • Slip fees
  • Boat insurance
  • Waste management
  • Gas
  • Food and water

The best way to manage expenses is by making a budget and sticking to it. Depending on the size and value of the vessel, boat insurance may be just as expensive as house insurance. Property taxes will usually be less as will electricity since you’ll not be heating/cooling/lighting as big a space. You’ll probably save money on waste management, gas and water as well.

Where costs rise dramatically is maintenance. Marine parts and labor are usually more expensive—sometimes 20% more, than typical household counterparts. If you take on the tasks yourself and you’re self-employed, every hour you spend working on your boat is an hour you don’t make money.

Learn More in our Boat Insurance Guide

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Safety & Security

You’ll need to decide whether to invite strangers inside, and if kids and pets will be safe around the docks. Install CO2 and smoke alarms and a propane sniffer, check the fire extinguishers periodically, and keep an eye on the basics like bilge and battery levels. You may also want to consider the following:

  • Will you be safe walking from the parking lot to the slip at night?
  • Will your nice car be okay outside the garage 24/7?
  • Who will call you if your boat starts to list when you’re on vacation?

There aren’t really more or fewer safety issues, just different kinds.

Daily Life & Socialization

Socializing is easier in a marina than in a neighborhood. Neighbors help neighbors in marinas but it’s a two-way street so be ready to lend a hand when needed. If you’d rather live anonymously, consider an end tie in the forgotten corner of the marina. Although there are challenges to living on a boat, if you’re prepared, you may find it a perfect fit.


I already have a boat in a slip in a marina, so can I just move aboard?

Most marinas require an application for you to move aboard permanently. In some areas, liveaboards aren’t permitted or there are long waiting lists. Liveaboard slip fees are usually higher and your insurance rates may increase if your boat becomes your primary residence.

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How do I live aboard a boat with a pet?

Dogs, cats and other pets need to acclimate to their new environments. They need exercise, private space and easy access to food and a potty. Make sure stairs and docks are safe for them and that they know how to get on the boat or dock if they fall in the water. Be careful of small spaces where they can get trapped and wires they can chew. Teach them about their new environment and be patient.

Learn more in Boating with Pets and Tips for Taking Your Dog Boating.

Read Next: Boat Owner's Guide

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How big of a boat do you need to liveaboard? ›

For a sailboat to be considered as a liveaboard, it needs to be at least 30ft. Anything smaller and the boat will be cramped for anyone other than a solo sailor. However, the larger the boat, the greater the cost of ownership. The ideal size sailboat to live on would be 35-45 feet for most people.

How do I start living on a boat? ›

Most marinas require an application for you to move aboard permanently. In some areas, liveaboards aren't permitted or there are long waiting lists. Liveaboard slip fees are usually higher and your insurance rates may increase if your boat becomes your primary residence.

Is it realistic to live on a boat? ›

You can fit multiple levels of living space in a large trawler or tugboat, which allows you to have a more "normal" living experience. It's similar to a small house or a large apartment. You can fit full living rooms and bedrooms in the boat with ease as long as you pick the right size.

What boat is best for liveaboard? ›

Which boat types make the best liveaboard vessels? Houseboats, Trawlers and Catamarans make the best liveaboards, although they each vary greatly in their design. Motor Yachts and Express Cruisers are also good options.

Do you pay taxes if you live on a boat? ›

So, do you have to pay taxes if you live on a boat? Yes, you still have to pay taxes when you reside on a liveaboard boat. However, there are ways to minimize your tax bill as well as multiple tax advantages of living on a boat.

Is it cheaper to live on a boat or in a house? ›

Note that property taxes and utilities will often cost less on a boat compared to a home. Maintenance and slip fees are what increase the cost of living on a boat the most. For example, marine parts can be expensive and the amount of labor required to install them may be extensive.

Where is the best place to live on a liveaboard? ›

7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat
  • Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
  • Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin.
  • Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
  • Long Island, New York.
  • San Diego, California.
  • Tampa Bay, Florida.
Jun 15, 2022

What size boat can you comfortably live on? ›

You will want to choose a vessel that is closer to 30 feet for basic needs, but 50 feet for larger accommodations and more space. One thing many experts say is to never opt for a boat that is too large for a single person to handle: in case of an emergency, you want one person to be able to get the ship to safety.

What are the cons of living on a boat? ›

The Disadvantages to Living on a Houseboat

There are additional fees involved with living on a houseboat. In addition to payments on the boat itself, you likely will have to pay rental fees for the slip you are using in the marina. A houseboat typically has less living space than in a traditional single-family home.

Why do marinas not allow liveaboards? ›

Many liveaboards will pump sewage overboard at night if there isn't a pumpout that can reach the boat. The grey water scum floating around the marina every morning. Also the extra electrical and water demands (costs) to the marina's.

Is sleeping on a boat hard? ›

Under normal conditions you may find it difficult to sleep due to the unsteadiness of waves, lack of ambient noise or even because of the boat creaking in the waves. Yachting Monthly suggests sleeping three hours at a time by taking shifts with someone else.

How much money do you need to live on a boat? ›

How much money do you need to live on a boat? It depends on your location, boat, and how comfortable you want to be. We spent between $600- $2,000 a month while living aboard our boat.

How much does a liveaboard cost? ›

Liveaboard sailboats in clean and operational condition cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000, but some excellent vessels cost less. Finding an affordable sailboat can greatly reduce the overall cost of living the liveaboard lifestyle.

What boat shape is the most stable? ›

Multi-hulled boats are some of the most stable on the water. They also require more room to steer and turn. Examples of common multi-hulled boats are catamarans and pontoon boats .

What benefits can I claim living on a boat? ›

Housing benefit and universal credit

If you're on a low income, you can usually get universal credit or housing benefit to help pay your: mooring fees. a continuous cruiser licence. rent if you do not own your boat.

Can the IRS take your boat? ›

The IRS also may seize your property (including your car, boat, or real estate) and sell the property to satisfy the tax debt. In addition, any future federal tax refunds or state income tax refunds that you're due may be seized and applied to your federal tax liability.

Can you claim a boat as a primary residence? ›

Declaring your main home

The IRS allows taxpayers to designate one residence only as a main home at any one time. Your main home is the one where you ordinarily live most of the year. This can be a boat or RV even if it doesn't have a permanent location.

Is living on a boat classed as homeless? ›

The council should consider you to be homeless if you live in a movable structure such as a houseboat or caravan, and there is no place where you are allowed to keep it or live in it.

What are the pros and cons of living on a boat? ›

Pros & Cons of Living on Your Boat
  • Con: Lack of space. If you're living alone on your boat, this might not be a huge concern. ...
  • Pro: Reduced living expenses. Living aboard can be an amazing lifestyle for the right folks. ...
  • Con: Purging belongings.
Dec 4, 2017

Can you just live on a boat in the ocean? ›

Theoretically, it's possible to live on a boat for free. You'll need to become self-sufficient: invest in free energy and water, find free food sources, avoid taxes; you only anchor in free locations. This is also called seasteading. In practice, it will be difficult to keep your cost of living down.

Can you live on a 40 foot yacht? ›

A 40-foot yacht can cost more or less around the same as a luxury home, it all depends on how luxurious it is, what sort of amenities it comes with, and so forth. Many people still consider it cheaper than living in a home, plus you'll be enjoying a more minimalist lifestyle which could save you some money.

What is the minimum size boat for ocean travel? ›

So what size boat do you need for an ocean crossing? If you are still wondering how small a boat you can choose for an ocean crossing, the short, straight answer is: 27 feet.

How much does a liveaboard boat cost? ›

Liveaboard sailboats in clean and operational condition cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000, but some excellent vessels cost less. Finding an affordable sailboat can greatly reduce the overall cost of living the liveaboard lifestyle.

What size yacht is best for ocean? ›

For what it's worth, most long-term ocean cruising sailors tend to find that their own sweet spot is somewhere between 11m (36ft) and 14m (46ft) long, while 9-12m (32-40ft) seems to suit many solo sailors, but the right size of boat is intensely personal and the increasing reliability and efficiency of powered sail- ...

Is 50 too old to be a yacht stewardess? ›

40+ Can Find Work On A Yacht

If you are slightly older, it may take you slightly longer to find work but it is certainly not impossible. A lady in her 40's trained with us a few months ago to become a yacht stewardess and she found work no problem.

Can you take a 20 foot boat offshore? ›

Boat Length

The most common offshore boats are usually between 30 to 40 feet, which is perfect for long trips and most weather conditions. Anything less than 30 feet will not handle weather and waves as well, but they still make for great boats if you pay attention to the weather.

Can you cross the Atlantic in a small boat? ›

The smallest boat to cross the Atlantic was 5ft 4inches, sailed by American sailor, Hugo Vihlen in 1993. Many have tried but failed to break this record. But sailor Andrew Bedwell believes he can regain this most unusual of crowns for Britain.

Can you cross the Atlantic in a 50 foot boat? ›

How big of a yacht do you need to cross the ocean? For comfort and safety, yachts crossing the ocean should be a minimum of 30ft. This size boat allows you to travel securely across the Atlantic Ocean.


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