Living in a houseboat is an adventurous alternative to a traditional home or condo. However, the lifestyle isn’t for everyone due to how much houseboats cost.
Both rental rates and the cost to buy a home are going up all over the country. For some land lovers, the solution to affordable living may be a houseboat. Compared to traditional houses, houseboats are far cheaper to purchase. Houseboats also offer flexibility, adventure, and a way to explore without ever leaving home.
Brand new houseboats normally cost between $150k and $500k, depending on the size and features of the boat. Custom houseboats normally cost upwards of $300k. Used houseboats can be purchased for around $50k, but buyers may be able to find a used, older model houseboat for as little as $20k.
Like traditional houses, the cost of a houseboat depends on the size, age, features, and condition of the boat, as well as the market for houseboats. In addition to the upfront cost of buying a houseboat, interested buyers must also take into consideration how much it will cost each month to maintain their houseboat. Fees associated with living in a houseboat include insurance, maintenance, docking fees, and fuel costs.
Sources include Neighbor.com, Boating Valley, Go Downsize, Kiplinger, Houseboat Magazine, Just Houseboats, and Deep Sailing.
Are Houseboats Expensive?
The cost of a houseboat can vary greatly depending on if it is new, used, or custom. A potential buyer could pay as little as $50,000 for a used houseboat or as much as $900,000 for a new, custom houseboat.
Generally, houseboats are less expensive than traditional homes. The cost to buy a houseboat is normally less than the cost to buy a home of a comparable size, especially in high cost of living areas.
When you live on a houseboat, you also save money because you do not have to pay property taxes. There is also no yard upkeep, no parking fees, and the maintenance for a modern houseboat is lower than what it would be for a comparable house. Depending on the owner’s lifestyle, switching to houseboat life can save up to $6,000 a year compared to living in a house; this has made it a popular alternative for retirees.
How Much Do New Houseboats Cost?
In 2022, the average cost of a brand new houseboat is $150,000. This average cost reflects the fact that you can buy a smaller new houseboat for only $70,000 or a large, deluxe houseboat for $500,000. Anyone in the market for a new houseboat should expect to pay at least $150,000 for their new floating home.
The cost of a new houseboat varies by the type of houseboat. For example, a trailerable houseboat like a CaraBoat or a Boat-a-Home starts at $158,000. These models are the houseboat equivalent of an RV. They have the standard features, plus extra fold out beds and the ability to be towed without a license.
A small, specialty houseboat like an eco-sea cottage can cost between $175,000 and $499,000 depending on the size and the features. These types of houseboats can go up to 14 miles an hour and are designed to last up to 75 years. They have enough room for all the comforts of home, including the space for a king-sized bed and a fireplace.
A large yacht-style houseboat will typically cost upwards of $500,000; some of the luxury yachts can cost millions of dollars. Yachts are designed around luxury, but their owners do not normally live on them full-time. Houseboats styled after yachts are a good compromise between luxury and full-time liveability.
How Much Does a New Houseboat Depreciate in Value?
There are 2 types of houseboat and they depreciate in value differently. The first type is a self-propelled houseboat. This means that the boat has a motor and can change location on its own. Self-propelled houseboats depreciate in value in much the same way that a car does: it loses more value in the first few years of use, then the rate of depreciation decreases in later years. This is why it is so much more affordable to buy a used or like-new houseboat.
The second type is a floating home; this is a stationary structure that has the shape and appearance of a traditional house, but it is designed to float. Floating homes are comparable to traditional homes in how their value changes over time. Unlike a self-propelled houseboat, this type of houseboat actually appreciates in value for the first few years of use. The value of a floating home will usually go up by 10% each year until the wear and tear catches up with the home.
How Much Do Used Houseboats Cost?
Used houseboats can be a more affordable alternative to buying a new houseboat. Much like cars, used houseboats gradually lose value over time. This means that a houseboat that sold for $150,000 new may be resold for as little as $50,000 used.
Used houseboats can make ownership more affordable, but buying an older houseboat has the trade off that it may require more repairs. If you are buying a used houseboat, you should expect to pay around $50,000 and you should also set money aside for future repairs.
One of the best ways to acquire an affordable houseboat in good condition is to buy a like-new houseboat. These houseboats are normally in excellent condition and cost far less than their brand new counterparts because of how houseboats depreciate in value in their first few years. For example, like-new houseboats normally sell for between $100,000 and $200,000. The average price of a gently used houseboat is $125,000.
What Factors Determine How Much Houseboats Cost?
Houseboats are like a hybrid of a home and a car when it comes to how much one is worth. For example, houseboats can rapidly lose value after being used for a few short years, much like a car. Houses, on the other hand, do not lose as much value based on how old they are; a house’s age is only considered a liability if the utilities are seriously out of date.
Like cars and houses, there are a few factors that determine how much a houseboat costs:
- The size of the houseboat
- What condition the boat is in
- How old the houseboat is
- What features the houseboat has
- The current market for houseboats
Some of these factors may overlap. For example, older houseboats are normally worth far less than newer houseboats, so owners can buy them for very cheap. However, if an old houseboat has historical relevance to a particular part of the country, it can be sold for as much as a new houseboat or even more.
1. Houseboat Size
Houseboats are much like houses in that the size drives the price. Houseboats are measured by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as the length and width of the boat in feet. The bigger the houseboat, the more you will have to pay for it.
When you and your family choose a houseboat, size is one of the biggest factors. It is important to have enough room for everyone to sleep, work, and play without feeling cramped. Boat owners who enjoy having visitors and hosting parties should consider a large houseboat with guest bedrooms.
For used houseboats, the condition of the boat determines how much it can be sold for. A rundown houseboat that needs extensive repairs could be purchased for as little as $10,000. The new owners would then have to put the money they saved into repairing and updating the boat. Used houseboats that have been remodeled or well cared for can cost nearly as much as a new houseboat.
3. Houseboat Age
Generally, the older the houseboat, the less it costs. Houseboats can last for 50 to 60s years without a major rebuild if they are properly maintained. Most houseboat owners consider boats built between the late 1990s and the early 2000s to be the best bang for their buck. Houseboats of this age are old enough that it is easy to get a good deal, but they were built recently enough that they are in good condition and have modern appliances.
The only caveat is that vintage houseboats are far more expensive than new houseboats. Like vintage cars, their historical status makes them desirable to collectors and museums. Most vintage houseboats are not outfitted with modern appliances, so they may not be the best houseboat for a family to live on.
4. Houseboat Features
In addition to the size, age, and condition of a houseboat, its features also play an important role in the price. All houseboats will have the standard elements: bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, a deck area, and a sitting room area.
Here are some extra features that can influence the price of a houseboat:
- In-boat washer and dryer
- Hot tub or sauna
- Granite kitchen counters
- Wine rack
- Gas grill
- A bar
- Functioning fireplace
- Full-size kitchen appliances
- Built-in TV
- Smart appliances and lighting
- Rooms large enough for king-sized beds
- Docking for jet skis
- Solar panels
- Diving board on the deck
- Outdoor slide
A handful of desirable features can take a houseboat from a price point of $400,000 to over $900,000. The key to buying a houseboat is to determine which features are worth the price and which features you can live without.
5. Boat Market Conditions
The fluctuations of the housing market as well as the availability and demand for houseboats can influence the overall cost to buy a houseboat. In places like California, houseboats are in higher demand because many renters and homeowners are considering moving to a houseboat after being priced out of the city. The popularity of land-bound tiny homes correlated with an increased demand for compact houseboats, which drove up the price.
The cost to buy a houseboat will likely continue to increase overtime as more and more people become interested in the houseboat lifestyle. In fact, between 2000 and 2013, the cost of a houseboat doubled; this trend is projected to continue.
How Much Does it Cost to Own a Houseboat?
In some ways, owning a houseboat is significantly more affordable than owning a house. In addition to the cost of buying the houseboat, there are some extra costs that new houseboat owners should be aware of.
Maintenance and Repair Costs
The cost to maintain and repair a houseboat will vary significantly depending on the age and condition of the houseboat, as well as the region. Older houseboats that were bought used will require significantly more maintenance and it will cost more to repair old and broken features. The older the houseboat, the more it will cost each month to keep it floating.
Generally, when you buy a new or like-new houseboat, you should be prepared to spend around $100 a month on maintenance. If you do not migrate south for the winter, you can expect a slightly higher monthly cost during the winter because you will have to winterize your houseboat.
Docking, Mooring, and Membership Fees
When you live off a houseboat, you will need to pay rent and utilities for where you park your floating home. Docking refers to a temporary stop, whereas mooring refers to having a houseboat at a marina year round because you are living off of it. Each marina has different fees; these costs will also vary depending on where you live.
In many marinas, docking fees are charged by the length of the boat. Typically, $10 to $17 is charged per foot of boat; this price can include utilities for the boat, such as water and electricity. A mooring or liveaboard fee can be added on top of the docking fee if you are living full-time on your houseboat. The mooring fee can range from $100 a month up to $300 a month.
Some marinas may have a mandatory membership fee that you will have to pay in order to live there. A membership fee can function like an HOA fee or it can be a single monthly payment that covers docking and mooring fees. Each marina charges different rates, so the monthly cost of mooring your boat will depend on where you are.
Fuel, Heating, and Cooking Costs
There are a few different types of fuel needed to live on a houseboat. If you have a self-propelled houseboat, you will need to fill up your tank the same way you would with a car. Most self-propelled houseboats have fuel tanks that can hold 175-250 gallons; depending on the top speed of your boat, you could make it 600 miles on a single tank.
Houseboats can take diesel or regular gas, depending on the make and model. Diesel fuel is also used in the heater to keep the inside of the boat warm. The cost of fuel will depend on how much you use the heater and how far you are traveling.
Another cost is propane. Because houseboats are not connected to a natural gas line, they run the stove and oven off of a replaceable propane tank. The average cost of propane on a houseboat each month is around $30.
In place of property taxes, houseboat owners must pay registration fees when you first register your floating home and when you renew that registration. The fee to register a houseboat varies greatly by state, but it is usually between $35 and $250. Most states use the size of the boat to determine the cost to register it.
Houseboat Insurance Cost
Much like owning a home or car, you also have to pay for insurance for your houseboat. Insurance is vital to houseboat ownership because it can save you from having to pay out-of-pocket for weather damage, vandalism, or theft. The cost of houseboat insurance is determined by factors like the size of the boat, the age, the condition it is in, where you live, and if you rent out the boat. Insurance for a houseboat can range from $150 to $500 a month depending on these factors.
About THE AUTHOR
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.Read More About Brian Samson