Being able to bring your home to many different places is extremely exciting for many people. There are however many things that you have to consider before deciding to become a liveaboard (someone who lives on a boat). One of these is the cost. After interviewing 7 different people who live aboard, this is what I found:
On average, boaters who live aboard pay between $1,500-$3,500 per month. Sailboaters who live aboard pay around $1,000-$2,500 per month. This includes costs for a boat loan, marina slip rent, electricity, fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
Obviously, there are many factors that go into this, so use the calculator below to get a more personalized answer.
If you are getting a loan to purchase a boat, add the monthly payment to this number to get your answer. Most boat loan payments are $500-$1000 per month.
What your monthly bill will look like
Is living on a boat cheaper than living in a home or apartment?
This answer depends on many factors, but in general, it is 20-40% cheaper to live on a boat than in an apartment or home in a similar area. Once you fully pay for your boat, it’s about 2 times cheaper to live on it. If you moor in free areas, it could be even cheaper.
For example, @sailingvesselki pays $1,000 per month for boat slip rent in Seattle and around $400 for maintenance, utilities, etc. If he were to get an apartment in Seattle, rent would cost around $2,200 per month (source) plus another $200 in utilities and such.
So my Instagram friend @sailingvesselki is saving $1,000 per month in rent by living aboard. Although, it’s important to remember that he had to put up an initial investment for his boat. So he will only start to save money once that initial investment is paid off, which could take years.
One can look at a boat purchase as something similar to a down payment on a home and the marina rent like the mortgage. Although, unless you own the slip, you won’t be putting money into the equity of it. So if you believe you are going to stay at a slip for a very long time, it is a good idea to buy it (you could get a loan similar to a mortgage to do so).
How much does it cost to dock a boat at a marina and live aboard?
The cost of docking your boat at a marina depends on the location of the marina, how nice the marina is, and if you plan on living aboard or not. Many marinas either don’t allow living aboard or charge a fee to do so. After researching a couple of marinas, I found they generally charge 20-40% more to live aboard.
So taking that into consideration, we can find how much it costs to rent a slip and live aboard in a marina:
It costs around $13-$30 per foot each month to rent a slip at a marina and live aboard. Location, amenities, demand, and electricity use are some of the most common factors that will determine the price of a marina slip. The price that I found to be the most bang for the buck was $17 per foot.
If you want to get a more exact answer, check out this article.
If this seems too pricy for you, you could find places to moor your boat for free. The downside to this is you are less protected from the wind and waves, and you can’t connect to city electricity or water. Many boaters who do this invest in solar panels such as these ones on Amazon.
Another thing to consider is many marinas have multi-year waiting lists. So if you plan on living aboard, get on the list as quickly as you can.
How much does a liveaboard sailboat cost?
Sailboats are the best option for living aboard if you want to keep your costs down. Not only is fuel cheaper (because you either don’t use it or barely use it), but buying the vessel itself is also cheaper.
A new liveaboard sailboat is going to cost around $80,000 to a million. Used liveaboard sailboats sell for around $10,000-$100,000. The average monthly loan payment for a used liveaboard sailboat is $150-$700 per month. For new sailboats, it is $550-$1500 per month.
How much does a liveaboard boat cost?
Although motorboats are more expensive, they are easier to learn how to use and travel much faster. Having an engine will end up leading to many maintenance costs that you otherwise wouldn’t have with a sailboat.
A new liveaboard boat costs around $300,000 to the millions. Used liveaboard boats sell for around $30,000-$600,000. The average monthly loan payment for a used liveaboard boat is $500-$4,000. For new boats, it is $2,000-$8,000 per month.
How much does fuel cost for a liveaboard boat?
Obviously, sailboats will use very little to no gas, so this is directed towards people interested in living on a motorboat. Local fuel costs, the amount you travel, and your vessel’s gallon per hour rate are the three factors to look at. These numbers will be completely different for everyone, but here’s a good indicator of how much it will cost.
After asking 4 different liveaboard boaters, they all paid around $50-$800 per month on fuel. Boaters who mostly stayed in the marina spent around $50-$150 per month. However, boaters who explored a lot (500+ hours running time a year) spent around $300-$800 a month.
My friends over at MV Freedom on YouTube pay around $3,500 on fuel per year ($292 a month) with their boat that burns only 2.5 GPH (gallons per hour). Their old boat burned 30 GPH and cost them $10,000 per year ($833 a month) on fuel. They ran their boats for around 600 hours a year.
So if you plan on traveling a lot, I would recommend looking for boats that have very good fuel efficiency. You may not cruise as fast, but your wallet will thank you. Check out the MV Freedom video below to see real examples of the costs associated with living aboard.
How much does insurance cost for boaters living aboard?
According to ramseysolutions.com, boat insurance for large liveaboard-type vessels cost around 1-5% of the boat’s value. Most marinas will require you have boat insurance, but most states don’t require it (just Arkansas and Utah do).
Severe boating accidents are rare, but it’s always recommended to insure a liveaboard boat. This isn’t just your boat, it’s also your home. Hurricanes or other natural disasters could damage or destroy your boat and without insurance, the money’s gone.
How can you lower your insurance cost for a liveaboard boat?
- Get a less expensive boat. The cheaper the boat, the less insurance you’ll pay.
- Get a sailboat and not a motor boat. Engines are very expensive and are prone to breaking. Sailboats either don’t have an engine or have one that doesn’t get much use. This makes them much cheaper to insure.
- Become a registered captain. By becoming a registered captain with the USCG your insurance company will trust you won’t crash your boat. This leads to a smaller insurance bill. Click here to find out how to become one.
Best boat insurance companies for liveaboard boats?
There really isn’t a best insurance company out there. Any of the major companies such as Geico, Progressive, and USAA will be great places to get quotes from. Do some shopping around and find the company that is giving you the best deal (always make sure it’s a reliable company).
How much does maintnance cost for boaters living aboard?
Maintenance will either come down to a huge expense or a lot of work. I wrote an article here about not only the cost of boat maintenance but all the different things that must get done. There is a lot, especially if you’re boating in saltwater.
In that article, I found that boat maintenance generally costs around 10% of the price of your boat annually. If you do everything yourself, you could probably get that number closer to 5%. Although, many times you will have to learn the skills needed to do boat maintenance through YouTube and articles.
So not only will maintenance cost you money, but it will also cost you time. On average, you will probably spend around 10 hours a month doing boat maintenance. Most of this time will be taken up by cleaning and waxing your boat.
How much does electricity cost for boaters living aboard?
When living aboard, there are two ways most boaters get their electricity. That is either from renewable energy sources (solar, and wind) or from the marina.
If you only use renewable energy sources to power your liveaboard boat, you will pay nothing except the initial investment. This usually costs around $1,500-$3,000 one-time payment. If you connect to marina power, you will pay around $50-$200 a month on power.
Some marinas will charge a flat rate for power each month and others will charge how much you use. So it all depends on your specific situation.
In locations where you need to run the A/C or heater, you will end up using more power. If your marina charges by how much electricity you use, you may end up paying over $100.
How much taxes do you have to pay if you live aboard?
Sales tax, use tax, personal property taxes, and property taxes all affect you if you plan on living aboard. Depending on the state you’re in, how much you will be paying will vary.
The tax that will probably be the biggest expense is property tax. Most of the time, you will have to pay property tax on your marina slip. Property taxes for boats are usually only around 0.1-0.5% of their value. So pretty cheap.
If you want to find ways to deduct the value of your boat or fuel you’re using, check out this article here.
Additional costs to consider
Those were all of the main costs associated with owning a liveaboard boat, but there are others to consider. These may not cost as much, but still noteworthy.
- Amenities (boat fridges, stoves, etc. cost more to fix or restore than regular ones)
- Provisions like grocieries ($250-$500 a month)
- Eating out ($100 a month)
- Garbage ($30 a month)
- Sewage pump out ($70 a month)
How can you live on a boat for free?
Believe it or not, you can actually live on a boat for free. Not including the initial investment of purchasing the boat. In a blog from improvesailing.com, they outline the 5 main issues you have to face when trying to live aboard for free. Here they are:
- you need free energy
- you need free food and water
- you need free docking or mooring
- you need to maintain your boat for free
- you need to pay no insurance or taxes
In order to obtain these, many times an upfront cost is needed. For example, you need solar panels for free energy, fishing poles for free food, tools to maintain your boat, etc. It’s very hard to find a way around many of these upfront costs.
Here are the solutions to the problems above.
- Invest in solor panels such as these ones on Amazon or wind turbines.
- Purchase fishing poles and eat what you catch.
- Anchor at free mooring or international waters. You would also work for a marina and ask for a free slip as part of your pay.
- Purchase tools and do research in order to be able to fix your boat yourself.
- Move to state or country with no property and income tax.
How can you make money living on a boat?
If you’re traveling all around the world on your liveaboard boat, money is something that can be difficult. So here are some of the best ways to make money on a liveaboard boat from sailingbritican.com and me:
- Work for half the year and the boat for the other half
- Get a work from home job
- Start a niche blog about something you’re passionate about
- Start an e-commerce store
- Become a freelance writer, artist, etc.
- Detail other boats
There are also some money-making opportunities from owning a boat. These are:
- Charter Fishing
- Sunset Cruise
- Renting it out
Can you live permanently on a boat?
Yes, that is what living aboard is. Even during the cold Canadian winters, people still live on their boats and enjoy every second of it. Many people who live on the Great Lakes usually travel down to the southern states during the winter because of the ice.
Is living on a boat worth it?
Living on a boat is definitely not for everyone. However, if you can get over the tight spaces and daily maintenance, it is one of the most fun ways to live. When it comes down to it, life is about living so why not make the most of it.
If you want to know more about living aboard, check out the ultimate guide I wrote about it by clicking here.