The thing about boating is that you don't take it up as a hobby unless you're 100% committed. Once you take that leap, you'll find that boating will quickly become the core of your being. For some people, it even becomes a way of life. And so we have live aboard boats.
Living on a boat might seem like a crazy idea. But liveaboard boat designs have made that lake-top lifestyle a convenient reality. So if you're ready to take your family to the water, here's a list of the best liveaboard boats money can buy.
The double hull catamaran makes living aboard a watercraft easy and effortless. Designed with two hulls, these boats tout two-bedroom style floorplans that provide enough room for most families.
And while conditions can get a little crowded under the deck, catamarans offer lots of deck space. Complete with a galley for all of your cooking needs, catamarans are often some of the best selling live aboard boats you'll find on the market today.
Best Picks in the Liveaboard Catamarans Category:
- Manta 42
- Nautitech 44
2. Triple Hull Catamarans
The trimaran is essentially a catamaran with three hulls, as its name so obviously suggests. Unlike the double hull catamaran, triple hull catamarans might not use the hull as actual living spaces. Although there are some models that try to make that stretch.
Nevertheless, the three hull designs come with much wider beam spans, allowing more space on the deck and aft. They're also impressively stable even in relatively choppy conditions. So you can enjoy a peaceful night's sleep even as the waves toss and tumble just outside.
Best Picks in the Liveaboard Trimarans Category:
- NEEL 47
- Dragonfly 1200
Although they might seem a little unstable, sailboats make the best liveaboard boats for usually tethered, moored conditions. The sailboat is great if you plan to live close to the dock and if you only need the boat part of its function when you need to get around to a neighboring marina or shore.
Lots of sailboats also come with an engine and motor so you can still cruise around even when the weather doesn't seem to want to cooperate. Sailboats also have a highly customizable layout, letting you replicate actual home interior designs to make your stay a little more comfortable.
Best Picks in the Liveaboard Sailboats Category:
- Catalina 25 Sailboat
- Aloha 28 Sailboat
When considering the best boats to live on, the yacht is often the first type of watercraft that comes to mind. Considered the ultimate luxury pleasure craft, the yacht offers a full range of features and amenities to guarantee comfortable living on its wide beam.
Sure, motor yacht and aft cabin designs are worth a ton of money and maintenance is going to cost just as much. But if you want plush, hotel-style living, then a yacht cruiser would be the way to go. The yacht can come equipped with media rooms, buffet facilities, and even built-in pools that can make any land lubber reconsider their choices.
Best Picks in the Liveaboard Yachts Category:
- Prestige M48 Yacht
- Maritimo M75 Sailboats
See some more of the best liveabord yachts in our guide.
Typically used as fishing boats, trawlers might tout a slow forward cruising speed, but they're exceptionally effective at long distance travel. So if you were hoping to mix some adventure with your brand new water-top lifestyle, then a trawler's cruising speed might be help you achieve just that.
These massive vessel comes with loads of deck room that you can customize to match your unique preferences. Complete with a galley, staterooms, lots of storage, and even shower and headroom, the spacious trawler cruiser makes an ideal choice for families with lots of members who plan to live on the high seas full time.
Best Picks in the Liveaboard Trawlers Category:
- Krogen 44AE
- Krogen 70
6. House Boats
As you might glean from the name, a house boat is essentially a house on water. They're not exactly designed to move so they don't have any sort of motor or even a cockpit. These boats sit on the water and remain moored for the duration of its usable lifespan. A houseboat will also often have a living space that closely replicates the interior layout of a typical house with a master stateroom, a complete headroom, and a kitchen.
You might think that living aboard a houseboat kind of defeats the purpose of lake-top lifestyle because the structure can't move you around. But because houseboats are often cheaper than conventional homes, they make a good choice for families who prefer living a stone's toss away from the fun and excitement on the lake.
Best Picks in the Houseboats Category:
- Stardust Cruisers Houseboat
- Gibson Cabin Yacht 5000
7. Sports Fishing Boats
Sports fishing boats can look like yachts, and may even have amenities that resemble that of the luxury boat. They're equipped with loads of deck space, an enclosed cabin, and comfortable interiors that make living on the water a dream.
Unlike trawlers that take their sweet time, sports fishing boats can travel much faster than other boats on this list. They're also fully equipped with all of the features you would need as an angler, so you could say that living aboard a sports fishing boat can have you sustaining yourself quite well.
Best Picks in the Liveaboard Sports Fishing Boats Category:
- Mikelson 75 SF
- Boston Whaler 280 Outrage
What to Look for When Buying the Best Liveaboard Boat
Moving from a conventional home to a liveaboard boat is a big change. So before you make any rash decisions, you have to consider all of the intricacies. Here's all of the nitty gritty you'll have to think about before you take the leap.
Type of Boat
Obviously, every different boat option listed here delivers a different experience. Think about your specific preferences. What would you want to be able to do while staying on a boat? Or what kind of activities were you hoping to enjoy on the water? These questions should lead you to the right boat model.
If you were hoping to travel, then a trawler, yacht, or sport fishing boat would be best for you. These liveaboards were designed either for speed or distance performance. For boaters who only want to get cruising within a relatively limited area or marina, the sailboat or catamaran makes a solid choice. If you have no plans of moving around at all, the stationary houseboat makes the perfect pick.
A live aboard can feel pretty crowded. So it really pays to consider your family's space requirements. If you've lived in a conventional home up until this point, you might find yourself feeling a little claustrophobic with the kind of space available on a liveaboard boat, especially smaller models like the catamaran or sailboat.
While lots of families get by with a converted deck that changes depending on the time of day (like converting from a dining area in the morning to a bed or berth at night), some members of your family might prefer having their own stateroom all together. The cabin also plays a crucial role in providing a shared space for the whole family.
Some liveaboard boats feature spacious master stateroom and secondary stateroom areas that give every member of the group their own private space. Others use areas like the cockpit which they convert into staterooms at night by using temporary modifications.
Another thing worth considering is storage space. A minimalist lifestyle often becomes the default way of life for people aboard a watercraft. But it's not necessarily by choice so much as is it because of circumstance.
Without a lot of room aboard for personal effects and other paraphernalia, a liveaboard might have you tossing out a bunch of things before making the move. Most often, it pays to have temporary or convertible furniture that you can move around depending on your needs.
Most owners use a dinette that they can fold away when it isn't meal time. Other models have a master stateroom with a berth and cabinets built into the area. And of course, dual-purpose benches that open into storage space is a must-have.
Amenities and Features
You'd be surprised just how much like a house some boats can look on the inside. Depending on the size and design of your boat, you could have a complete kitchen instead of just a galley and dinette, a bathroom, and even a media lounge on board. Yachts are particularly popular for their extensive features and amenities that can even include tennis courts, gym facilities, and a full-sized pool.
Even if you manage to buy a sailboat or catamaran on the cheap side however, there's hope for your hotel-style lake-top experience yet. Most boat owners customize their boats after market, allowing them to execute changes and designs that specifically match their own needs.
For a lot of boat owners, having a shower and toilet or head system on deck is a non-negotiable feature. But others get by with marina shower facilities that they can use by docking their vessel especially if their sailboat doesn't allow it.
If you're going to live aboard a watercraft full time, you have to consider maintenance. Remember that most boats get put into storage during the off seasons, so they're not always on water. This gives owners the opportunity to clean up and perform maintenance on a regular, routine basis.
Living aboard a boat however may significantly limit the opportunities for maintenance. That's because fixing an issue especially those concerning the motor, engine, or parts under the hull, would mean having to surrender your home for a few weeks or months.
Other boats cost a fortune to maintain. Yachts with leather upholstery and polished exteriors will need constant cleaning with specific products and formulations to maintain appearances. Unless you're willing to spend on those cleaning products and on people to do the job for you, the whole liveaboard lifestyle might feel a little expensive.
The Best Places to Liveaboard a Boat
Generally speaking, you're going to want to find a place that legally permits boat owners to live on their boat. Remember that marinas and docks have their own rules in place, and not all of them will gladly let you tether indefinitely. The same goes for lakes and other bodies of water.
Before you start sleeping on your boat moving forward, here are some of the best liveaboard locations you might want to consider calling home:
The Atlantic Ocean covers the entire west coast, providing you a range of options from Maine to Virginia to Florida. If you're hoping for a more relaxed environment, heading closer to the north for most of the year can help you experience a much less hectic atmosphere.
Of course, that's until winter settles in. When the cold months roll in, it would be best to cruise on down south to Florida where sunny skies and warm weather prevail most of the year.
If you're more of a west coast kind of person, then the Pacific Ocean might be a better address. This location provides easy access to the excitement of California. Cruising through the Pacific also provides more opportunities for water sports and exciting water-top activities throughout the year.
Bordering Oregon, Washington, and California, the Pacific Ocean is home to loads of marinas and boating hot spots for avid boat owners who want a little more adventure during their day to day.
Gulf of Mexico
If you were hoping for a more retirement-like feel, then the Gulf of Mexico would be the place to be. This area boasts beautiful crystal clear turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and gorgeous sunny weather all year round. A mirror image of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico offers all of the tourist-magnetizing beauty minus the travel requirements.
Local Rivers, Lakes, and Bays
Throughout the country, you'll find rivers, lakes, and bays that make viable spots for living aboard your boat. Remember though that rules and laws change from place to place, so if you were hoping to head down to your local lake and call it home, you might want to check with the authorities first.
Other considerations include accessibility. How easy can you move in and out of the body of water? Access to marinas, shops, and even repair centers can make your liveaboard lifestyle just that much easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good sized boat to live on?
Generally, a boat that's at least 30 feet should provide all of the necessary amenities and features for a family of two to three. You could probably squeeze in a fourth member if you don't mind sharing spaces. If you want more extensive features, you might have to consider getting a boat that's at least 50 feet.
Is it cheaper to live on a boat than a house?
In terms of utilities, you can expect to pay just a fraction of what you would while living in a conventional home. A great liveaboard can also come with solar panels that let you save on the cost of powering electronics on your vessel.
However just because it's cheaper, doesn't mean it's cheap. Sleeping and essentially living in a liveaboard boat means spending on maintenance. You'd be surprised just how expensive it can be to maintain liveaboards. Cleaning interior furnishings requires unique cleaning products. There's also the issue of moisture and humidity which can spell serious trouble for your boat.
How much does a liveaboard boat cost?
You'll spend between $10,000 to $30,000 for a suitable liveaboard boat. But prices can fluctuate widely. Depending on how you want your living space to be, you can find yourself spending upwards of $100,000 for a luxury boat.
Spacious stateroom units, a fully functional galley and dining room, and head systems and bathrooms can cost a lot to construct and customize. Not to mention the expense of interior design, which can exponentially increase the cost of your boat.
Boat Sweet Boat
The best liveaboard boats provide all of the trappings you would expect from a hotel. But if your budget is limited, you can find a suitable water-top dwelling at just around $10,000.
Sure, moving your family into a boat might seem like a big and crazy change. But with the right planning and execution, you might find that life on liveaboards beats conventional housing in more ways than one.