How to Live on a Boat: How to Make the Most of Life on the Water

For some, boating is a hobby, a way to escape out onto the water before coming back to life on shore for everyday life. But for others, the boat is more than that; it's a home. Living on a boat is undoubtedly different from having a house on solid ground, but it's also an opportunity for adventure. But this lifestyle isn't right for everyone, and little preparation goes a long way to staying comfortably on the waves.

Want to know just what setting sail on this journey involves? That's how our guide to how to live on a boat is here to help you learn about.

Costs and Expenses

Something you can't ignore when thinking about moving is the cost of living, and that doesn't change when your next home happens to be your boat. Naturally, you'll have to account for essentials like food in your budget, just like when living on land, but some factors are different. When building your expense list, consider these costs along the way.

Boat Mortgage

First up, you'll need to continue paying for your boat if you still owe money on it. This expense will take the place of your regular house payment. For some people, the mortgage value of their ship will be lower than their home, but it can also cost roughly the same or even be more expensive to pay for their boat. Usually, this factor depends on the size of the vessel.

If you already own a boat, then you already have a bill available to let you know what this expense will be. However, for those looking at boats to purchase, you need to ensure you can afford your future costs. Using a boat payment calculator can help you stay in budget to afford arguably the essential aspect of the boat living lifestyle.

Slip Fees

While your boat mortgage will count as part of your home expenses, you also need a place for your boat to stay. Usually, the prime location for living onboard will be a marina, but you'll need to rent out a place to dock on the water. These slip fees will also become a part of your regular expenses.

How much it will cost to rent out part of a marina will depend on your location and other factors. Thoroughly researching a place to stay will help you save money, especially since these fees will add up over time.

Insurance Bills

Boating insurance is essential when it comes to keeping your boat safe from accidents other types of damage, and that necessity will increase if you start living on your ship. Since your vessel will become your home, however, you'll want to adjust your insurance policy accordingly so that you have appropriate coverage.

Just like the cost of your boat, the waters you sail on, and how much you use it will impact your insurance costs, living on board comes with its own set of risks. You'll likely see an increase in your insurance policy depending on the coverage you choose to take, but you don't want to skimp out on it, since keeping your home in top shape will become a priority.

Property Taxes

Turning a boat into your home means that property taxes can come into play. This area is another one where proper research will let you better plan out your budget, but the taxes for living on a ship tend to be less than those on owning a home on land.


Another area where you'll likely see expenses go down is in the realm of utilities. Yes, you'll still need to pay for electricity, heating cooling, gas, water, and waste management, but most boats tend to be smaller than homes. That means less area to provide energy to and regulate the temperature in, which will drop the costs down.


It's a good thing that can you can save money in some areas of living on a boat because maintenance costs are not cheap. In fact, marine maintenance and parts (like used outboard motors) can sometimes cost up to twenty percent more than their on-land counterparts. And since a slight problem on a personal watercraft can potentially put your home at risk, it's critical to stay on top of taking care of everything you can.

If you choose to go the DIY route, you can save a bit, but you need to be ready to become very handy to keep everything in shape.

Tips for Boat Life

While money is an essential factor in shifting over to full-time boat life, it's not the only thing that you need to keep in mind along the way. Here are some tips to help you make the most of life on the waves.

Make Sure You Have a Plan B

Living on a boat can be an incredible experience, but it's not a lifestyle suitable for everyone. When trying something new, it's easy to become swept up in the excitement and forget about the possibility that you may not like living on your ship fulltime, especially when winter hits. So unless you're confident that you're ready to commit, don't get rid of all your possessions just yet.

While renting out the storage space to keep spare furniture, clothes, and appliances will cost you some money, it's much cheaper than needing to repurchase everything if living on the waves doesn't work out. In general, anywhere between six months to a year will give you a good picture of what using your boat as a home looks like, and then you can decide to make it your permanent residence or not.

And if you end up not needing a plan B, don't forget to sell your items in storage!

Get Used to Less Space

Even the biggest boats tend to have less space to them than an average home. If you try to bring too much along for the ride, then you'll quickly run out of space. And a cramped boat tends not to be a comfortable one.

When you get ready to pack, make sure you par down to the essentials. How much you can bring with you will depend on the size of your boat, but even the largest of vessels still have their limits. Prepare yourself to cut down your belongings, and then cut them down again. You'll probably find yourself getting rid of things once you're on board as well.

Paying attention to your space doesn't just stop at when you move in, however. You'll have to pay attention to what you're buying and bringing into your home even more. This consideration can also involve taking more trips to purchase groceries and other perishables to conserve cabinet space. Some people even use their vehicles for extra storage space if necessary.

Pay attention to the space if you’re seeking out a vessel to live on. G3 Boats has some suitable sized ships.

And, yes, less personal space is also part of the equation. Those with rocky relationships likely won't appreciate the close quarters that living on a boat demands.

DIY Maintenance Is a Near Must

Maintenance costs are no doubt hefty when it comes to living on a boat. Whether you have one of the used boat motors or a brand new boat, small issues can quickly turn into big problems. But like we mentioned, boat maintenance specialists can be a bit hard to find, and they may not be as readily available at odd hours as plumbers and electricians who handle landbound homes.

To save on these costs, at least one person on your boat should dedicate themselves to learning the necessary maintenance tasks. The more you can do yourself, the less money you'll have to pay in the long run. Some specialized areas will still need the professionals, but it's more than possible to learn how to handle the essentials—even if the list is rather long.

One thing to keep an eye on is that DIY maintenance does take up a substantial amount of time so that it can cut into other parts of your life. Living on a boat may be relaxing at times, but it demands hard work during others!

Location Is Important

Your boat may be your home, but your marina will ultimately serve as your neighborhood. That means you should pay just as much attention to where your boat will be as the vessel you decide to stay on since your surroundings will impact how much you enjoy your time on the water.

Though it varies depending on the area, many marina communities have people who are willing to help each other out, which can help a lot with maintenance. If you're the social sort, you won't have much issue getting your interaction while living on a boat. For those that don't want that fuss, pay close attention to where in the marina you choose to rent.

Because these communities tend to be close-knit, finding privacy can be tricky, too, even within the confines of your boat.


Preparing food becomes a different animal when you live on a boat. Sure, plenty of aspects involved don't change much, but there's something that becomes much more important in marine life that you likely never gave a second thought to on land: steam.

In a standard home, steam isn't too much of an issue because air vents will let it circulate out. But most boats don't have them, so steam will stay inside the vessel, which can potentially cause mold, which is a common concern when living on a ship.

Since you can't do much to prevent steam without eliminating some foods from the menu, you can pay attention to what you cook and how you do it. When it comes to things that require boiling water, keeping a lid over the pot will help keep steam from getting too out of control.

Mold Control

Yes, mold is essential enough that it gets a category to itself. Living on the water, you're going to get much more exposure to moisture than you would while staying on land, which increases your chances of having a mold issue. Cooking is one way that can cause problems, but it's not the only thing to keep an eye out for to stay mold free.

If your boat springs a leak, it's almost asking for mold to come in. And since mold can cause issues with the air quality in your home and health, you're better off doing everything you can to nip this issue in the bud. From paying attention to steam and regularly checking for leaks, you don't want to go easy on keeping mold away from your boat.

Try Not to Leave Unsecured Items on the Counters

Wakes are going to be a part of your life on the water, but you don't want to underestimate these smaller waves. Unsecured items can and will go flying around if you don't get ahold of them on time. And if something's breakable, you'll end up with a mess on your hands.

If you can help it, make sure everything's back in its proper place before you step off the boat in case wakes or strong winds happen. This area is another place where having fewer possessions will do you right; you'll have far fewer things to worry about flying around if you encounter less than optimal conditions.

Don't Neglect Cold Weather Prep

When thinking about living on a boat, it's easy to daydream about beautiful conditions during the summer, but you can't forget about winter. If you already own a vessel, you already know the importance of winterizing, and it doesn't go away once you decide to turn your ship into a home. Depending on how cold your winters get, you'll need to:

  • Use plastic covering on the boats to protect the decks
  • Set up flexible insulating covers along the inner surfaces of the hull
  • Prepare for avoiding ice
  • Winterize or heat the engine or water lines
  • Have proper venting for heaters
  • Stay cautious when walking on docks, as they can become slippery

If you take the time to plan your strategy, you can handle your winterizing over a weekend and be ready to go for the rest of the season.

Winter is usually the trickiest time to live on a boat, so make sure you can handle the conditions before committing to the lifestyle fulltime.