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What Type Of Boat Is Best To Live On? (Personalized Guide)

Having a unique lifestyle such as living on a boat can open you up to many great experiences. However, making sure you find the right boat that fits your needs is essential in making the experiences enjoyable. For example, not everyone can live happily without having a laundry machine onboard.

The best types of boats to live on are:

  • Sailboats. Best for people who enjoy a challenge.
  • Trawlers. Best for people who need space and experience cold winters.
  • Houseboats. Best for people who don’t want/need to travel much on their boat.
  • Yachts. Great all-around choice if you have the money.
  • Sport Fishing Boats. Best for fishermen or people who want an affordable large boat.
  • Catamarans. Best for people who want to travel the world.
  • Canal Boats. Best for people living in canals.
  • Cabin Cruisers. Best for solo boaters or couples who want to travel a lot.
  • Pilothouse Boat. Best for cold weather boating.
  • Tug Boats. Best for people who want an affordable boat that has lots of space.

(click on them to learn more)

There are many factors that go into what’s the perfect liveaboard boat for you such as boat size, price, where you’re boating, where you’re docking, and if you have a partner or pet. This can all get quite overwhelming, but that’s okay. Below I’ve created a guide that’s sole purpose is to help guide you to your perfect liveaboard boat.

But before I talk about that, if you’re on the fence about living aboard and you don’t know if it is quite right for you, click this link. Read that real quick, then come back here.

To start off, let’s ask some questions to see what boat’s best for you. After reading all the questions, there’s a personality quiz to take that will give a personalized answer to what liveaboard boat is best for you. If you want to skip down to that quiz, click here. However, I recommend to read what I have to say first.

What size boat can you comfortably live on?

Before I start talking about all the different boat types, I want to talk about some basic questions such as this one. Everyone is different, so the size boat you can handle may be different than someone else. Also, if you have a partner or pet, you may need a larger boat than someone who doesn’t.

According to lifeofsailing.com, the ideal liveaboard boat size is 35-45 feet long for most people. However, the absolute bare minimum I would recommend is 30 feet. Anything smaller will probably make you feel cramped, and it will be hard to store all your stuff properly.

Larger boats are usually more comfortable, but they also are more expensive, harder to captain, slower, and can’t be brought everywhere. Also, many insurance companies may require you to get a captain’s license or have a captain on board for a period of time.

These license courses take 30+ hours to complete and cost over $600. Although that probably won’t be a big deal if you can afford a boat that big.

Best liveaboard boats for people who want a small boat

If you like or don’t mind a smaller boat to live on you should look into these boat types:

  • Sailboats
  • Cabin Cruisers
  • Sport Fishing Boats

Small boats are best for people who want to take their boats on adventures in small bodies of water. Also, smaller boats allow you to go faster, and they are usually much cheaper.

Best liveaboard boats for people who want a large boat

If you think you need a larger boat, look at these boat types:

  • Yacht
  • Houseboat
  • Catamaran

Large boats are great for families or couples who get claustrophobic easily. These boats better resemble a home on the water as you won’t have to creatively pack your belongings to maximize the space on board. They also allow you to travel in rougher waters.

How much money can you spend on a boat to live on?

Everybody’s budget is different, and if you don’t exactly know it, that’s okay. I wrote an article that includes a helpful calculator that helps tell you exactly what your budget is. Check it out by clicking here. Once you know your budget, it’s important to know how much living aboard will cost.

There’s more to the cost than just the boat itself. Many liveaboards actually spend more money on marina slips than their boat. So to figure this out, I did a study with 7 different liveaboards and myself to find that answer. Here are the results:

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.

I also created a calculator that you can fill out that gives a personalized answer depending on the size of the boat you want, the kind of boat, the kind of marina, etc. You can check it out by clicking here.

This calculator doesn’t include the cost of your boat or loan payments, just the marina rent, electricity, fuel, maintenance, and insurance. However, most boat loan payments are $500-$1,000 a month.

So, now that you understand how much money you can spend on a liveaboard boat, let’s talk about what boat types are the best.

Best liveaboard boats for people with a high budget ($3,000 or more a month)

If you’re willing to spend the money, many more options will be available to you. Generally, the best boat types for people with a high budget include:

  • Yachts
  • Trawlers
  • Catamarans

Depending on how fancy you want to live, these boats can get outrageously expensive. Unitedyacht.com calculated that pre-owned yachts cost $640,000 on average. However, yachts can cost anywhere from $300,000 to over $15 million.

Best liveaboard boats for people with a low budget ($2,000 or less a month)

Not everyone can afford a big yacht, but they still want to live aboard. In this case, you may want to look at older boats or these types of boats:

  • Sailboats
  • Cabin Cruisers
  • Tug Boats
  • Canal Boats
  • Houseboats

If you want a large boat and don’t have a lot of money, you may need to get something pretty old. For example, I found a 65′ trawler for only $125,000. However, the boat was made in 1972 ?. But ehh, it works, and it actually looks pretty good. Check it out:

However, you may need to learn some mechanical skills because I’m sure a boat like this will run into some issues. And those issues will be expensive unless you can fix them yourself.

Where are you planning on living on your boat?

There are plenty of great locations to live aboard all across the world. I know most of you probably want to live aboard in the US, so that’s what I’m going to primarily talk about. However, bluewaterdivetravel.com lists some other great locations such as the Cayman Islands, Belize, Socorro Islands (Mexico), and Cocos Island (Costa Rica).

The beauty of living aboard is that you can travel worldwide, not only just in the United States or wherever you may live. Although, in the US, the most popular liveaboard spots are:

  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Key West, Florida
  • Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
  • Long Island, New York
  • Seattle, Washington

If you are curious about where you want to go, check out this article I wrote. It talks about the marina prices of many different places in the USA and Canada.

The reason why knowing where you plan on living is important in correlation to the type of boat you should get mostly has to do with weather. Some boats are better for warm weather year-round, and others are built to handle cold winters.

So, let’s talk about that:

Best liveaboard boats for cold winters

Cold winters require a well-insulated boat and, most importantly, a heater. This generally comes down to specific boat brands or models and not just boat types, but here are the best boat types for cold winters:

  • Pilothouse Boats
  • Tug Boats
  • Trawlers

Rarely are boats as well insulated as homes, but these types of boats usually fair well in the cold.

Best liveaboard boats for year-round warm weather

When it comes to warm weather, no boats will have any problems. However, it’s nice to have big open outdoor areas and that is what these boat types have:

  • Yachts
  • Cabin Cruisers
  • Sailboats

Some additional things to look for that would be nice for warm weather boats are flybridges, wide decks, and an outdoor grill or kitchen.

Another thing to factor in about location is if you’re on the ocean, a lake, a river, or a canal. Each of these is different, and certain boats fair better in certain bodies of water. For example, canal boats are narrow, making them able to fit in canals. However, they’re very unstable in large bodies of water.

Best liveaboard boats for the ocean

The ocean has the largest waves when compared to the other locations, so having a capable boat is important. These boat types include:

  • Catamarans
  • Yachts
  • Trawlers
  • Tug Boats

Best liveaboard boats for large lakes

Large lakes such as Lake Michigan don’t have as big of waves as the ocean, but they can still get pretty big. So all the ocean type boats are also great in large lakes, but these types are too:

  • Cabin cruisers
  • Sport Fishing Boats
  • Sailboats
  • Pilothouse Boats

Best liveaboard boats for rivers

Rivers are calm and barely experience any rough waters. They also are pretty narrow, and many large boats can’t properly fit in them. So, the best boats to live in on rivers are:

  • Cabin Cruisers
  • Sport Fishing Boats
  • Pilothouse Boats
  • Houseboats

Best liveaboard boats for canals

Lastly, canals are very narrow, so really only one type of liveaboard boat can fit in them. That boat type is:

  • Canal Boats

Personality quiz to find the best liveaboard boat for you

So, now that you understand the different factors that determine what liveaboard boat is best for you, it’s time to take the quiz. This will determine what liveaboard boat I believe fits you best. You can disagree; this quiz is not perfect, it’s just meant to help guide you to the best liveaboard boat type.

Hopefully I was able to guide you to your best boat type through this quiz. However, this test isn’t perfect, so continue reading if you are still unsure. I’ve labeled all the pros and cons of each boat type.

Pros and cons of each liveaboard boat type

If you still don’t know what liveaboard type is best for you, this topic should help.

Sailboats

Sailboating requires skill and dedication to do properly, which means it’s very rewarding. Sailboats are also affordable and require little maintenance because you won’t use the motor very often.

Pros
  • Little engine maintenance
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cheap
  • Quiet
Cons
  • Requires a lot of time and skill to sail
  • Relies heavily on wind
  • Cant be brought in shallow water

Trawlers

Photo Credit: @mvfreedomseattle

Trawlers have plenty of space and are best for people who experience cold winters. They may not be able to travel very fast, but they get very good gas mileage.

Pros
  • Provide lots of space
  • Great gas mileage for size
  • Great for cold weather
  • You can find old ones for good deals
Cons
  • Are very slow
  • Usually expensive
  • Not many available on the market

Houseboats

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

Houseboats are best for people who don’t want to travel on their boat but want a unique place to live. They’re usually pretty affordable and also have lots of space.

Pros
  • Provide lots of space
  • Great for cold weather
  • Don’t require much motor maintenance (if any)
Cons
  • Cant travel with them
  • Can’t take them out of the water

Yachts

Yachts are large, spacious, luxurious, and just all-around amazing vessels. They are great for families or couples who have the cash. One downside to yachts, is they are difficult to captain.

Pros
  • Great in rough water
  • Can handle cold weather
  • Lots of space
  • Luxurious
Cons
  • Hard to captain
  • May have to get a captain’s license or hire a captain
  • Expensive
  • So big that you cant take them everywhere

Sport Fishing Boats

Sport fishing boats come in many different sizes, however, they are generally pretty big and spacious. You can also find used sport fishing boats for a reasonable price.

Pros
  • Can have lots of space
  • Usually more affordable than yachts
  • Can use them to fish
  • Good in cold weather
  • Usually pretty fast for their size
Cons
  • Usually not super luxurious
  • Hard to captain

Catamarans

Catamarans can be sailboats or motorboats. They are great for people who love to travel far because their dual hulls help stabilize them in rough seas.

Pros
  • Very stable in rough waters
  • Luxurious
  • Lots of space
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Hard to anchor
  • Hard to captain

Canal Boats

Canal boats are good for people who just plan to live in their canal slip and not travel much. Unfortunately, they don’t fair well in open seas.

Pros
  • Fit in canals well
  • Provide enough room
Cons
  • Can’t be brought in rough water

Cabin Cruisers

Cabin cruisers aren’t as big as yachts, but they still have plenty of room for one. If you plan on living with a partner, it should be fine unless you need a lot of space.

Pros
  • Enough room
  • Very fast
  • Can be brought to shallow areas
Cons
  • Aren’t the best in rough water
  • Expensive

Pilot House Boats

Photo Credit: Uberprutser

Pilothouse boats and trawlers are very similar. Pilothouse essentially just means the pilot area is inside a house-like cabin. They are great for people who experience cold weather.

Pros
  • Great for cold weather
  • Can handle rough water
  • Provides lots of space for size
  • Fairly inexpensive
Cons
  • Generally are slow
  • Not many available on the market
  • Kind of ugly

Tug Boats

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

Tug boats are also similar to trawlers and pilothouse boats. They are slow, good in rough water, and are great in cold weather. Most tug boats you find on the market are used or repurposed.

Pros
  • Great for cold weather
  • They’re cool
  • Provide lots of space for size
  • Great in rough water
Cons
  • Are very slow
  • Usually are old and repurposed
  • Lots of maintenance (usually bought as project boats)
  • Not many on the market

Where can you buy a boat to live on?

Even if you find the right type of liveaboard boat for you, that’s only half the process. You now need to find a specific boat for sale that you want. You can find liveaboard boats through dealers or online marketplaces. Here are the top places to look:

  • Boat dealers
  • Boatyards
  • Marinas/Clubs
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • Boattrader.com
  • Yachtworld.com
  • Boats.com
  • Magazines

Hopefully you will find the right boat for you through one of these sources.

How to know if living on a boat is even right for you?

I’ve written most of this article assuming that living on a boat is the right thing for you. However, not everyone who decides to make the switch to living on a boat enjoys it. For many people, it’s just not their thing.

Not everyone can deal with not having a yard, living in a marina, or the constant maintenance liveaboard boats require. Cruisersforum.com did a poll and found out that liveaboard boaters spend 10 hours per week doing maintenance on average.

Can you handle that? If you don’t know if living on a boat is right for you or not, check out this article I wrote. It talks about all the things (the good and the bad) you need to know before deciding to live aboard.

Sam

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