How Are Houseboats Used? | LakeWizard

Houseboats are multi-use vessels with plenty of functionality, and you can do more than just sleep and eat aboard one.

Houseboats are used as full-time residences and temporary shelters for between two and ten people. Houseboats can be used for vacationing, exploring inland waterways, and as floating party platforms. Houseboats can also be used to make rental income.

In this article, we’ll show you all of the primary uses for houseboats and how houseboats are used differently than sailboats and powerboats. Additionally, we’ll go over what houseboats can’t be used for and a few ways that people use houseboats to supplement their income.

We sourced the information used in this article from the online houseboat community. We also researched houseboat companies and analyzed how customers use their boats.

Table of contents


Are Houseboats Versatile?

Houseboats are fairly versatile, but they aren’t the most capable vessels in the world. A houseboat is essentially a floating platform for people to live and entertain on. They are designed to offer the most space and amenities possible—not to weather true ocean conditions.

What Can’t Houseboats Do?

Houseboats can do a lot, but they’re limited by their design. Houseboat hulls are long and flat, and their superstructures are tall and boxy. This is perfect for creating lots of living space on a relatively small platform—but absolutely terrible for waves and foul weather.

As a result, houseboats are confined to inland waterways such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. But in this environment, houseboats thrive. Calm waters allow these large and cumbersome vessels to move around with ease and carry an enormous amount of weight.

Can Houseboats Move?

Yes, the majority of houseboats can move under their own power. These are known in the community as ‘cruising houseboats’ because they have engines, steering, and navigation equipment.

Houseboats use outboard or inboard motors and usually cruise at between 4 and 8 knots. Although houseboats are slow, they usually come equipped with large fuel tanks that hold between 50 and 250 gallons of fuel. This gives them a long range of travel and can run a generator for days at a time.

Types of Houseboats

There are two primary types of houseboats: stationary and cruising houseboats. Stationary houseboats don’t have an engine. Usually, these vessels are just houses built on a floating platform, and they rarely leave their original location. Stationary houseboats are used primarily for full-time or part-time living—not recreation.

Cruising houseboats are much more versatile vessels, and they’re used for everything from vacationing to transportation. Usually, cruising houseboats are used as floating homes for families and partygoers, who rent them out and cruise around lakes and rivers.

Luxury Houseboats

Luxury houseboats are highly impressive floating palaces that are designed for lakes and rivers. These are rented but more commonly owned or used for upscale vacationing.

Luxury houseboats are usually just yachts for shallow water, and they feature all kinds of borderline-ridiculous amenities. These boats are rare in comparison to regular cruising houseboats, but their yacht-like style is so distinct that you’ll

The majority of houseboats, though luxurious in their own right, don’t qualify as luxury houseboats.

True luxury houseboats often have three or more decks, huge saloons and lounge areas, and sophisticated entertainment systems. They have bars, hot tubs, movie theaters, steam rooms, and pretty much everything else you can think of.

What are Houseboats Used For?

Houseboats are used for lots of things, especially the large and luxurious vessels built in the last 15 to 20 years. Houseboats can be used for parties, vacations, exploration, meetings, and even full-time living.

People run businesses with houseboats, and others use them as storage sites. Here are some of the primary uses for houseboats.

Houseboat Party Platforms

Houseboats are popular party platforms on popular lakes and rives, like Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. Houseboats offer numerous advantages over standard open pontoon boats, which are often used for the same purpose.

Houseboats offer shelter from the hot summer sun, and many come with air conditioning and appliances. This gives people the opportunity to stay on the water for many days at a time and even spend an entire week with friends and family.

Additionally, houseboats have multiple decks and areas to accommodate between four and ten people comfortably. They can tie up to each other or other boats, which is a fun and entertaining way to celebrate with friends.

Houseboat Vacations

Houseboats are also used for family vacations. These vessels can sleep, feed, and accommodate an entire family comfortably, and they provide a fun and comfortable vacation in almost any inland location. Houseboats offer privacy and first-class scenery, along with all the accommodations you need to be comfortable.

Houseboat vacations are available in many locations. They’re cost-effective and usually less expensive than jetting off to some island resort. Usually, houseboat vacation rentals are available in local areas, which removes the burden of travel entirely. They’re also a fun escape from cold winter weather.

Houseboats Used For Full-Time Living

Houseboats are a common and comfortable way to live aboard a boat. These vessels are the only kind of affordable liveaboard option where you can have all the amenities you enjoy in a traditional house or apartment.

Houseboats often come equipped with washing machines, dryers, full-size kitchens, and even bathtubs—which are unheard of on typical cruising sailboats and powerboats. Additionally, houseboats can use efficient renewable energy systems like solar panels to reduce or eliminate utility bills.

Living on a houseboat is economical and often cheaper than living in a house or apartment in the same area. People live on houseboats of all shapes and sizes and all levels of luxury—from simple plywood vessels with a wood stove to luxury aluminum houseboats with a jacuzzi and central air conditioning.

Houseboats as Condo Alternatives

Many people purchase a houseboat as an alternative to a vacation house or condo. This is popular, as the initial purchase price is less expensive, and houseboats aren’t ever bound by the infamous contract rules of timeshares.

Houseboats can be transported between locations and sailed under their own power, which makes them a versatile vacation platform. The one downside is maintenance and docking fees, which owners have to perform and pay regularly. Still, costs usually don’t reach the same levels that houses and condos do.

Houseboats Used for Exploring

Many people rent and purchase houseboats of various types for exploring scenic lakes and rivers. In Florida, you can rent a houseboat with a glass bottom to explore local marine life.

In many other locations, like Lake Shasta, California, you can rent a houseboat to explore the pristine mountain scenery away from the bustle and noise of nearby vacation house communities.

Some people use their houseboats to explore up and down famous rivers like the Mississippi and natural waterways like the Florida Everglades. And others simply use their houseboats to get away from it all and find a nice quiet corner of the lake to anchor out in.

Houseboats as Floating Docks

Houseboats are often used as floating platforms, which serve as a home base for other boats. Owners of jet skis, speedboats, and other small vessels pitch in to rent a houseboat for the weekend, which they use as a floating dock for their smaller boats and a place to sleep at night.

You’ll often see a few houseboats in the mix at big boat tie-ups, as they’re the perfect place to refresh and recharge after a day out on the water. With six or eight people pitching in, it’s highly affordable to rent a houseboat for a weekend out on the water.

Can Houseboats Be Used To Make Money?

Absolutely, houseboats can be used in many ways to generate income. In fact, most houseboats are used in this way to some capacity. Houseboat rental services are popular in many parts of the country and are still a top contributor to houseboat sales.

Here’s how it works. If you’re an individual, you can purchase a houseboat and list it on Airbnb or other rental services and only rent it out during the times that you’re not using it. Some people cover the entire cost of the vessel this way, and others purchase it solely for rental use.

Other people start rental companies, which purchase one or more houseboats to rent out on a daily or weekly basis. These companies purchase or partner with a marina and share the profits to cover docking fees.

Other people run houseboat dealerships and repair yards, which service vessels in areas where houseboats are common. As you can see, there’s more than one way people go about generating income from houseboat ownership.


Brian Samson

Brian Samson

I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.

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