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Houseboats are a big purchase, and it's easy to wonder if it’s worth the cost. There are many factors to consider, and it helps to make comparisons to other boats.
Houseboats are worth it for people looking to live comfortably on the water or secure an affordable alternative to a waterfront vacation home. They're also more affordable and comfortable than powerboats and sailboats.
In this article, we'll weigh the pros and cons of houseboat ownership. We'll also compare owning a houseboat to owning a powerboat or sailboat in terms of cost, comfort, and capability.
We sourced the information used in this article from a careful analysis of the costs and benefits of owning a houseboat. We also examined the new and used boat market to compare purchase and ownership costs.
Benefits of Houseboat Ownership
There are numerous benefits to owning a houseboat, regardless of what you intend to use it for. Houseboats can be a great way to spend vacation time or just to get away from a busy life.
Additionally, houseboats don't require the same kind of maintenance that a sailboat or powerboat does, so ownership is often less expensive and less labor-intensive. This is especially the case with new houseboats, as they use improved materials and incorporate more user-friendly designs.
Additionally, houseboats are a relatively affordable way to live full or part-time. This is because they provide the same amenities that an average home does at a fraction of the price. Also, storing a houseboat or docking it at a marina is often less expensive than rent in the area, so they make an excellent vacation home.
And who could forget one of the biggest benefits of all—they're fun! Houseboats allow you to live in comfort and traverse the beautiful landscapes of American lakes, rivers, estuaries, and canals.
Where else can you experience different water-based views from your living room couch or sun deck? Houseboats are fun for families, groups of friends, and individuals looking for a different and more exciting way to live.
Drawbacks of Houseboat Ownership
Despite the numerous benefits, there are a few potential drawbacks of houseboat ownership to consider before making the purchase. Houseboats depreciate significantly, which is a source of headaches for people who sell their boat soon after purchasing it.
And although houseboats don't usually require as much maintenance as a cruising sailboat or powerboat, they still require occasional expensive repairs and maintenance. This can be an issue for people who aren't financially prepared for some of the recurring costs of houseboat ownership, such as registration and repairs.
Finally, houseboats can be difficult to store and transport. They aren't seaworthy like sailboats and powerboats and thus cannot be transported across oceans or large waterways without assistance. They're typically too large to tow as well, so they tend to remain in the area where they were launched.
Are Houseboats Worth Investing In?
Houseboats can be a good investment, but only if you plan diligently and start with a good strategy. Houseboats are depreciating assets, so it's difficult to flip them for a profit down the line. This issue is less pronounced with older vessels, as they suffered their big depreciation hit years ago.
A houseboat can be an extremely good investment if you intend to rent it out or use it for income generation. Many rental houseboats are owner-operated and turn a generous profit, especially in populated areas during summer recreational periods.
Other than that, houseboats usually aren't worth investing in. There's nothing wrong with purchasing one to start a business, but they're hardly ever a good item to purchase and hold for future profit.
Houseboat vs. Vacation Home
Houseboats are a worthwhile alternative to vacation homes, especially in areas with pleasant inland waterways. You don't even have to move it if you don't want to—and there's a great chance that it'll be cheaper than purchasing a land-based property in the same area.
The main drawback of purchasing a houseboat over a vacation house is space. You'll be limited to the spaces inside and on top of the vessel, whereas a house has a yard and lots more interior room.
But when compared to a condo or an apartment, houseboats win on a lot of fronts. You can enjoy more privacy in a houseboat, and you can move it if the neighborhood ever gets boring or unpleasant. Popular houseboat ownership spots include Lake Havasu, AZ, and Miami, Fl.
Are Houseboats Worth Living Aboard?
Houseboats offer some of the best liveaboard conditions possible. They're more comfortable and well-constructed than RVs and motorhomes, and they have significantly more room than sailboats and RVs.
Houseboats can usually accommodate home appliances such as washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and full-service kitchens. Sailboats and powerboats make use of limited interior space, and thus the areas inside are oddly shaped, and most appliances won't fit.
Additionally, a brand new houseboat is often less expensive than a late-model sailboat or powerboat with similar amenities. Given their size and comfort, any sailboat with similar amenities would fall into the 'yacht' category in most cases.
Are New Houseboats Worth the Money?
Given the depreciation rates of houseboats, it's easy to dismiss new models as a frivolous use of money. After all, there are used late-model houseboats available for tens of thousands of dollars less. So why buy a new one? Actually, there are a few strong reasons to consider buying new.
For one, the used houseboat market isn't as large as you might expect. There aren't that many well-equipped used boats on the market, as most people who purchase houseboats keep them for quite some time.
Additionally, depreciation has recently decreased due to rising demand, making used houseboat prices competitive with new models.
If you intend to live on your houseboat long-term, it's often worth the price to have a custom floor plan designed to fit your needs. Houseboats may be spacious when compared to sailboats and powerboats, but they're still compact spaces with tight accommodations.
Houseboat vs. Powerboat
Why choose a houseboat over a powerboat? For one, houseboats are significantly more comfortable for their size. Why pay extra for a massive powerboat when you can have a compact houseboat with the same amount of room?
Additionally, the electrical and mechanical systems aboard houseboats tend to be less complex, as many of them use consumer-grade home systems which are easy to maintain and repair. It's less important to clean the bottom of a houseboat than a powerboat as well.
Houseboats have a very shallow draft, which means their hulls don't lie very deep in the water. This allows massive houseboats to sail around shallow lakes and rivers that are totally unstable for equally-sized powerboats.
The one drawback of houseboats is their inability to traverse rough water safely. You can't take most houseboats into the ocean, as big waves would quickly swamp these flat-bottomed floating bricks. If long-distance cruising is your goal, you'd be better off with a sailboat or a powerboat.