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Some houseboats are well-designed and comfortable enough to live on full-time, and you can find them if you know what to look for.
The best houseboats to live on are the Zion houseboat, the Moskit Houseboat 9600, the Gibson Cabin Yacht 5000, the Eco-Sea Cottage, and the Sunseeker Houseboat.
In this article, we’ll cover the top five most comfortable and livable houseboats on the market. We’ll also cover the differences between a good liveaboard houseboat and a commercial houseboat, along with what standard equipment and design elements to look for.
We sourced the technical specifications listed in this article directly from the houseboat manufacturers to ensure accuracy.
What Makes a Houseboat a Good Liveaboard?
Not all houseboats are ideal for living aboard. Anyone who ever rented an old houseboat or a party boat can attest that they don’t make ideal living conditions. But what makes a houseboat an ideal home, and what aspects should you avoid?
Many rental houseboats are outfitted to sleep as many people as possible. These vessels, which some people affectionately call ‘floating barracks,’ are not ideal for long-term living. They have altered floor plans designed for quantity instead of comfort.
Additionally, the size of the vessel is more important than you may think. Larger houseboats are not necessarily more comfortable, as they are more difficult to heat and cool using the compact marine HVAC systems that often come with them.
The perfect houseboat for living aboard is one that’s designed for personal and non-commercial use. These make up the vast majority of houseboats on the market today.
A reasonable amount of luxuries is great, but too many bells and whistles make the vessel unreliable and prone to expensive breakages. For most people, a well-built and medium-sized vessel with reasonable accommodations and good quality appliances fits the bill.
Types of Liveaboard Houseboats
There are two main kinds of liveaboard houseboats. Cruisers, which are designed for navigating under their own power, and floating homes. Floating homes offer more comfort, as they’re designed for living and not for moving. As a result, they must be towed to move around.
5 Best Houseboats to Live On
We scoured the market and found ten of the best houseboats for full-time living. We considered size, typical cost (value), amenities, and overall quality. We also took the floor plan into account, along with the versatility of the design.
1. Zion Houseboat
The Zion is a houseboat designed and built by the American Houseboat company. This 14 by 47-foot houseboat is about as close to living in a land-based house as you can get. This model features home-like styling along with the best construction materials available.
The Zion is not a recreational houseboat like many of the fiberglass models you often see on the water. Instead, this boat is designed from the ground up as a floating home. Its first priority is to keep you safe and comfortable in the water.
The Zion features top-quality furnishings and trim materials, as the level of fit-and-finish is on par with a luxury home. Additionally, it’s available in numerous configurations to best suit its prospective owner.
Large, open spaces are the key to Zion’s interior. Yet, at the same time, the vessel provides ample privacy for its occupants. The standard floor plan features a large living room with hardwood floors and a vaulted ceiling.
In the center of the living room, there’s a small bedroom equipped with bunks adjacent to a staircase. Up the stairs is the master bedroom, which is spacious and comfortable.
Additional spaces lie below, including a large home-style bathroom with a bathtub, shower, and separate toilet. All in all, the Zion bridges the gap between house and boat more elegantly than any other on the market.
2. Moskit Houseboat 9600
Sometimes a traditional house isn’t what you’re looking for, but a fiberglass egg-boat isn’t either. Here’s a high-quality houseboat manufactured with the best materials—and with contemporary Scandinavian styling.
The Moskit Houseboat 9600 is a gem of Scandinavian design and function. It features a completely modern layout designed for aesthetic appeal and functionality, and it provides the perfect living environment for 21st-century house boaters.
But what makes this particular houseboat stand out besides styling? For one, the material quality is excellent—and the interior layout is airy and designed for human comfort and convenience.
Additionally, the price reflects the wonderfully simplistic design. These models can be found on the new market for less than $120,000, provided you’re willing to ship them in from Europe.
On the inside of this vessel, you’ll find an open and inviting space with light colors and plenty of light. Windows abound, as they provide light and more than enough ventilation for this small craft.
Additionally, the shape of the houseboat lacks strange twists or floor drop-offs. It’s level and square, allowing you to bring any furniture you want. And with the rear deck, you’ll have spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Privacy is also taken into consideration, as all windows can be covered by curtains (including the bedroom of course) yet they open to provide calming and efficient natural cooling.
Overall, the Moskit Houseboat 9600 is the perfect modern houseboat design that’s comfortable and well-built. The vessel includes all the electrical and plumbing you’ll need, and it will continue to look good for years.
3. Gibson Cabin Yacht 5000
Gibson is a family-owned producer of high-quality houseboats. The company, which was recently reworked after decades of ownership, now produces its fiberglass models in South Dakota. They currently have a new Gibson Cabin Yacht 5000 in their inventory, and this boat (and others) can be manufactured upon request.
So what sets a Gibson houseboat apart from similar competing models? From the outside, Gibson houseboats look much like typical houseboats from the past. But when you look closer, you’ll notice the attention to detail and unsurpassed quality.
Gibson houseboats feature a spacious but boat-like layout, as these are cruising houseboats by design. They come with an engine and piloting station in the front for easy navigation. Yet, it’s not too utilitarian, and the navigation console doesn’t get in the way.
But despite the fact that they can move under their own power, Gibson houseboats still utilize full-size household appliances, including a stove, sink, fridge, and a washer/dryer combo. The vessel has its own water and sewage tanks (as you’d expect), and there’s also a 13kW Kohler generator with a Magnum 3500 inverter for AC power.
These vessels give you the chance to enjoy the motorized houseboat lifestyle without sacrificing the comforts and necessities of a traditional house. They’re also built to last and made using much higher-quality interior furnishings than the typical RV.
The hull appears flat from the side, but it’s actually a V-bottom design. This makes the vessel easy to control and stable, plus it doesn’t knock around too badly in choppy water. Many people prefer the monohull V-bottom design to pontoons or barge-style houseboats for this reason.
This Gibson cabin yacht is a bit pricey, but not when you consider the care and material quality that went into producing it. This is a navigable vessel with real home-like qualities, which is rarely well executed in the current houseboat market.
4. Eco-Sea Cottages
Are you looking for an affordable houseboat with home-like features? Eco-Sea cottages could be exactly what you need. Eco-Sea is a long-time builder of floating homes, and they’re known for attainable quality.
These houseboats aren’t the largest available, nor the most luxurious—but they offer a high standard of living in an attractive houseboat. These vessels are designed to be moored permanently or towed, as the standard models don’t operate under their own power.
Eco-Sea cottage floor plans are spacious and attractive. Plus, there’s plenty of room for customization. The builder offers several different model options, which start off with the economical two-bedroom model.
Where else can you get a brand new 1,100 square foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house for less than $180,000? It just so happens that Eco-Sea cottages start around the $175,000 point, but you can option them up to past $300,000 if you so choose.
And given their home-like construction and appearance, you can customize an Eco-Sea cottage in almost any way you like down the road with minimal expense. And, given its design, you can use full-size home appliances inside with no issues. It’s the entry-level floating home that could last for a generation.
5. Sunseeker Houseboat
Who could forget about sunseeker? This durable houseboat model is perhaps the one commonly-used touring houseboat that’s suitable for full-time living. These tough crafts are roomy and attractive, and you can customize a used SunSeeker just about however you want.
Most Sunseeker houseboats have a long, open floor plan with lots of windows. They resemble traditional houseboats, and many models are quite long for their beam. This provides several notable advantages, chiefly additional living space.
These are navigable houseboats that have an engine and a navigation console upfront. They’re easy to drive and relatively fuel-efficient, making them a great choice for navigating lakes and rivers. Here’s an example of Sunseeker houseboats and how they’re normally used.
Inside, the floor plan of the Sunseeker houseboat varies. But usually, these vessels are long enough to have a separate kitchen, bedrooms, living room, and one or two separate private bathrooms. And given the ubiquity of the design, you can find them on the used market for very good prices.
The design is so robust that it’s still used heavily by houseboat rental agencies. And due to the sound engineering and high-quality materials behind the design, these vessels can last for decades without major repairs.
The Sunseeker houseboat is definitely worth a look if you spot one on the market. It’s a simple and well-designed houseboat that’s large enough for comfortable living and strong enough to last for years without extensive repairs.