Living on a Boat: Tips, Advantages and Disadvantages

Nautical Channel
17 Nov 2023
NEWS | Marine Life, Sailing

Living on a ship can be a unique and exciting experience, but it also requires careful planning and adaptation to a different lifestyle. Here are some steps and considerations for those interested in living aboard.

Is it possible to live on a boat?

Yes, it is possible for a boat to be your residence in most countries, many people choose to live aboard boats in marinas or at anchor in designated locations.

The Netherlands is the place par excellence where most people live on a boat or houseboat. Houseboats are also common in countries such as the United States, France and Ireland.

It is important to consult with local authorities and legal advisors to understand the legal and fiscal aspects related to live aboard in the country where you will be relocating. This may vary by region and local laws. It is also important to notify these authorities once you are clear that you will be living aboard.

Make sure that the boat where you want to live is registered and has all the necessary licenses and documentation to sail and, in some cases, to operate as a residence. Check and comply with local and maritime regulations related to living on a boat. This may include specific requirements for anchoring, sewage emissions and other aspects of living aboard.

Advantages of living your life on a boat

In general, living on a boat, offers a number of unique advantages that appeal to those seeking a maritime lifestyle.

  • Cheaper: One of the main advantages, which we will discuss in more depth in the next section, is the cost. Although living on a boat has its costs, a priori, it is much more economical and cheaper than conventional housing.
  • Mobility and Exploration: You have the possibility to explore different coastal places and ports. The mobility offered by a boat allows you to change location and discover new cities and landscapes.
  • Feeling of Freedom: You experience a sense of freedom and constant adventure. The ability to set sail whenever you want and explore new waters provides a sense of independence and excitement.
  • Less Stress: Many people find that living on a boat simplifies their lives. Reducing possessions and adapting to a smaller space can result in less stress and an easier life.
  • Energy Self-Sufficiency: Some ships are equipped with renewable energy systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines, allowing for greater energy self-sufficiency.
  • Coastal Environment and Climate: You enjoy a coastal environment and pleasant climates. There are numerous areas in the world with mild and sunny climates, creating an ideal environment for living aboard.

Disadvantages of living on a boat

While living on a boat can offer a unique and exciting experience, it also comes with challenges and disadvantages that are important to consider before making this decision.

  • Limited Space: Space on a boat is limited, which can make storage and organization challenging. Lack of space can affect comfort and the ability to keep personal belongings.
  • Water and Energy Issues: Managing potable water and energy can be a challenge. Depending on the ship's location and infrastructure, water and energy use may need to be rationed.
  • Variable Weather Conditions: Weather conditions can be unpredictable at sea. Storms, high winds and sudden weather changes can affect safety and comfort on board.
  • Sailing Season Limitations: In some areas, weather conditions may limit the sailing season. This may require you to seek temporary moorings during the winter months.
  • Navigation and Nautical Skills: Navigation and knowledge of nautical skills are essential to live on a boat safely. Lack of experience can generate dangerous situations. Let's not forget that we are talking about a boat, whose main function is navigation, if you don't take advantage of that and simply go to live on the boat you are not taking full advantage of its usefulness.

Although living on a boat can be a wonderful experience, it is crucial to evaluate these advantages and disadvantages to consider if you are willing to face the challenges inherent to this lifestyle before making the decision.

How much does it cost to live on a boat and is it profitable?

On an economic level, there are many things to evaluate, since there are more costs than one can perhaps imagine. Depending on various factors, it can vary significantly, so there are a few things to consider.


Mooring is something you should look into, even before buying a boat if you don't have one.

Mooring fees at marinas vary depending on the location and facilities offered. Some marinas can be more expensive than others, especially in popular tourist areas. They are paid monthly.

This price can vary even in the season of the year, we can estimate a monthly expense between 300-500€ depending on the factors recently discussed. This price normally includes water and electricity supplies, as well as the use of common facilities provided by the port.

The boat

It is very likely that, if you are planning to live on a boat, you already have your own boat, which will have the necessary documents and licenses to sail. However, if you want to buy a boat, there are also several things to consider.

The initial cost of the boat can vary greatly depending on the type, size and condition. From more economical sailboats to luxury yachts, the choice of boat will significantly impact the initial expenses.

Space, although limited, is important and you have to have a minimum to be able to live in comfort. Generally, a boat of at least 10-12 meters in length is recommended. In this case, sailboats are the best option. You can find several options either brand new or second hand (you can find many sailboats in very favorable conditions in the "resale" market). A sailboat of this size will not cost you less than 20.000-25.000€, depending on the market prices in the country where you buy it. Do not forget that depending on the area where you want to reside, you will have to pay certain associated taxes.

Just like a house or a car, boat insurance must be added to the boat and its cost will depend on the type of coverage you choose. The location of the mooring and the experience of the boater can also influence the premium.

Last but not least, the cost of fuel, which is a significant consideration when living on a boat, as many boating activities depend on the boat's engine.

Maintenance, repairs and supplies

Regular boat maintenance is essential and may include repairs, antifouling paint, engine service and other work. These expenses can add up, especially if the boat is older.

It is wise to set aside funds for unexpected repairs or emergencies. Unforeseen events can arise, and having a reserve fund is essential.

On the other hand, when it comes to supplies. We have essential supplies, such as ropes, sails, tools and safety equipment, which will also contribute to expenses. The quality and durability of these items can affect long-term costs.

Or supplies such as water and electricity, if you are moored in a marina, you may have access to electrical hookups, but some boats rely on onboard power systems such as generators or solar panels. These systems may require an initial investment.

Provisions and Food

As with life ashore, you should budget for food and provisions. Food availability and costs may vary depending on the port location.

Other than food, don't forget other household goods such as cleaning supplies. In addition to some furniture, depending on the state in which it is acquired.

Managing provisions and food on a ship requires additional planning and considerations due to space limitations and the need to store food safely in a maritime environment.

As to whether living on a boat is cost-effective, this will depend on your personal approach and preferences. Some people find that it is a more affordable way of life, while others may find that the associated expenses are higher than they anticipated. Before making the decision, it is crucial to conduct a detailed cost analysis and assess whether this option fits your budget and lifestyle.

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