6 Popular Boats For Full-Time Living (Affordable Options)

In Boating by Shelby Sullivan

It’s a big investment to get a boat you can live in full time.

Here are some of the more affordable boats out there that we can fully recommend.

Hang with us as we guide you through some of the most popular and affordable boats for full-time living.

Don’t Get “Sticker Shock”:

If you are choosing to live aboard a boat in you will need to brace yourself for the expense.

While this article is showing you “cheap” or “inexpensive” boats to live on, you should not be comparing them to other boats.

We are not talking about small boats here, but boats you can live on, remember.

Daily use boats do not afford the luxuries that a live-aboard boat can. This makes them more expensive. When looking at live-aboard boat prices, you will want to compare it to traditional living expenses. All choices for live-aboard boats are expensive and you will most likely be looking for a used, possibly even a “project” boat.

If you are looking for a new boat, or even a luxurious used boat you will need to be prepared to spend $100,000 or more depending on the size and type of boat you want.

An Affordable TRAWLER You Can Live On

A trawler is an inexpensive option that allows for generous space. Trawlers are also durable and can take large amounts of use. 

The wider hull of a trawler allows for roomy interiors that include bigger kitchens, more spacious sleeping areas and more room. This boat is also stable and accessible. This makes getting on and off the boat much easier.

They also have less draft than boats with deep hulls like sailboats and lower clearance on top for bridges.

Some cons of a trawler include noisy engines that are slower moving. They also consume large amounts of fuel.

Trawlers also will need maintenance just like any other vessel and can often be older, so they might require more maintenance up front.

1. Albin North Sea Cutter

North Sea Cutters made by Albin are large, spacious and elegant. These boats offer multiple comforts and sleeping areas.

Depending on the year you select, you could have multiple cabins and many places that convert into sleeping areas. You can purchase a used Albin boat that costs anywhere from $20,000 to over $200,000. These prices vary depending on space, age and amenities offered.

Models older than 2000 will often range between $20,000 to $80,000 and they can get more expensive from there.

An Affordable YACHT You Can Live On

2. Beneteau Swift Trawler

These boats can be swift, fuel efficient, and stable. They offer a spacious deck as well as spacious living quarters.

They often come with more than one cabin and enough room to move around and house more than one person.

The Beneteau Swift Trawlers are more expensive than the Albin models and will likely cost you more than $100,000.

If you are looking for a brand new Beneteau, you could be looking at a base price close to or even over $500,000.

So you definitely want to get a used model if you are looking for a cheaper alternative here!

2 Affordable SAILBOATS You Can Live On

Sailboats can be a relaxing option for your live-aboard vessel. Sailboats come with an open deck and oftentimes have plush cabins situated in their hull.

Some of the appeals of a live-aboard sailboat are that you will spend less money on gas. They are also quieter than their motorboat counterparts.

If you choose to live-aboard a sailboat, you will want to make sure that you have a motor available in case you do not have a cooperating wind.

3. Island Packet 35

These boats are smaller than the trawler options and are better suited to housing smaller families.  They have one main living and sleeping quarters so there is not a lot of privacy offered. These will be ideal for a couple. 

These are very popular choices among sailing cruisers and they were designed with sailing in mind. They are very user-friendly sailboats.

The prices on an Island Packet range close to $100,000.

You will be looking for a used vessel, though, as these were not manufactured after the mid-1990s.

4. Cabo Rico 38

Cabo Rico boats were designed with luxury in mind and it is reflected in their prices.

Older models from the 1980’s and 1990’s range between $80,000 and $100,000 while newer models that were made in the early 2000s can easily reach over $300,000.

The main goal of these boats was to increase the appeal of their aesthetic.

Like the Island Packet, these boats are more ideal for smaller couples. This boat also has an abundance of clever storage spaces that will help you maximize the space that you have. 

Affordable MULTI-HULL Boats You Can Live On

Multi-hull catamarans can be either double or triple hulled.

The benefit of a multi-hulled vessel is the stability offered as well as the possibility for separate living spaces.

A catamaran offers a wide and spacious deck, however, the living spaces in the hulls are generally smaller than they would be on other vessel types.

The major disadvantage of a multi-hull option will be price. Because the construction of these boats is similar to building two separate boats, you should expect to pay more. If you want to live on a multi-hull vessel you could be looking at spending $100,000 or more.

Like a sailboat, you might consider a used catamaran.

In addition to a higher purchase price, these boats also might require two slips in a marina which can make them more expensive.

5. Lagoon 380

The Lagoon 380 is a smaller catamaran which is not the most common. The Lagoon 380 is the smallest catamaran in the Lagoon fleet.

Unlike some other inexpensive options, these are still being produced which offers you the chance to buy new, which means that you will be more likely to customize your boat.

This boat comes with a full bath and a large queen-sized berth or the chance to instead get four cabins. Stowage on this boat is impressive and it comes with many lockers and storage space.

The boat truly is impressive for its small size and will be comfortable for living in. The price of this vessel can range from $170,000 to over $200,000 depending on the year and the options available.

Other Lagoon options can be more expensive but are also great live-aboard vessels.

6. Leopard 44

If you are looking for a more luxurious catamaran, then you will want to look at the Leopard 44. 

The most inspiring part of the design of the Leopard 44 is the inclusion of two cockpits. This allows sailors to change where they steer based on the position of the sun and adds additional comfort.

This boat also provides edging on the surfaces so that you can feel where the boat ends. Attention to detail was key when crafting the Leopard 44. 

Like most catamarans, this vessel is also spacious and provides comforts and amenities that will be useful when living on board.  These include multiple berths and cabins that are well suited to housing more people.

The average price for this vessel is higher than the Lagoon 38 can range between $280,000 and $400,000.

Affordable HOUSEBOATS You Can Live On

If you plan on living aboard a boat without doing a lot of traveling, a houseboat might be ideal for you.

These allow for plenty of space, but are bulky and are not very efficient so they are generally used for living while moored and never actually venturing out on the water.

The most common form of houseboats is built onto pontoon boats. These boats can even offer full enclosures on the deck with plenty of windows and light.

Another downside to a houseboat is their price. Because these boats offer the most space and comfort they are pricey.

Houseboats can offer anything from multiple rooms to decks. They are essentially a house that floats.

Houseboats are often custom designed and are not generally offered as a part of a fleet or boating line. Prices also range wildly and could be anywhere from $30,000 used to over one million dollars.

When looking at houseboats you also have to consider location as a decision that needs to be made.

Houseboats are not designed to move so in addition to the expense of the boat, you are also often looking for a permanent place to put it, and that can be more costly than a marina or other available options.

What About The Bigger Yachts?

Even more expensive than the multi-hull vessel is the luxury yacht.

This is not an inexpensive option. These are the most expensive choice as they are essentially floating hotels.

For this reason, we have opted out of listing options for the luxury yacht, but they are an option that is available for consideration.

So How Do I Choose The Right Boat?

It is most important to choose your boat based on desired lifestyle, budget, and skill level.

If you do not want to worry about learning to sail, then you should look into the power boat options. 

You also want to make sure you pick the appropriate size.

If you plan to go down rivers often, you might not want a boat that is too wide or too tall. This can make river navigation tricky and stressful.

You also want to make sure that while you are conscious about how the size of your boat is external, you allow for enough space internally.

No matter what type of boat you choose you will be giving up some luxuries and living a more minimalist lifestyle. You need to look at what your minimum size requirements will be and start there.

Another thing that is extremely important when choosing is the condition of the boat. Because these types of boats are so expensive, you will most likely be looking at used options.

This means that you will want to get your boat fully inspected before you buy it.

Much like you would get an inspector for your home, you are able to hire marine inspectors who can see things on your vessel that you can’t.

The most important places of consideration are the hull and the engine.

Even a tiny hairline crack in the hull can expand and get worse over time. These are also the most dangerous because you are less likely to see them and get them taken care of.

A marine inspector will also be able to give you a rundown on the vessel and this might help you plan for future expenses and even to negotiate a better price.

In addition to this, when buying a used boat you want to make sure you do not buy a boat that is exactly your budget. You will want to save at least %10 of your budget for possible issues and immediate maintenance needed.

Maintenance will be an ongoing expense that you will have to plan for in order to maintain the integrity of your boat.

Is It Possible To Live On A Boat Full Time?

Living on a boat full time is completely possible if you know what you are doing.

Where to Moor Your Boat:

One of your most major considerations will be where to keep your boat. Many places require marinas to have a liveaboard license and many of the places that do have long waiting lists that could last years.

If you know you want to live aboard a boat full time you will want to start checking into places right away. It would also be wise to not close a deal on a boat until you know you have somewhere to put it.

You will also want to consider the location of where you are mooring your vessel.

If you choose to dock your boat in a marina you will be more likely to have 24/7 access to both electricity and water. This is not true if you choose to live at anchor or on a mooring bay.

This can make a big difference in the comforts afforded while you are living on your boat.

Another consideration to make is the ease of getting on and off your vessel. If you do not moor in a marina you could be relying on a dinghy to get on and off your boat and this can quickly become a hassle, especially if you are transporting things with you as well.

Live-aboard marinas often provide more comfort to you, such as cable, Wi-Fi, or even laundry.

Marina’s do come with a higher cost, so you will have to decide if this is worth it to you.

Comfort Issues To Consider

One major challenge of living on a boat is space. Even with a spacious boat, you will always be living in close quarters to your boat-mates.

Depending on the size of boat you get, you could be asking your partner to move every time you want to move to a different room or area of the boat.

This can quickly get annoying and you will want to make sure that you and your partner both understand the reality of the situation.

Even if you plan to live alone you can be looking as small and confined spaces.

One good way to know if you can handle the day to day challenges of a liveaboard lifestyle is to try it out first. There are plenty of ways to rent a boat to test the waters before you take the plunge.

Another challenge is living without the comforts that most people have every day. Most liveaboards that are affordable do not have hot showers or laundry. 

They also usually have small kitchens and bathrooms with small amounts of storage space. If you are a person who likes to have everything and minimal living is not something that sounds appealing, living on a boat is likely not for you.

To keep your space comfortable, you might want to also consider a dehumidifier to keep your humidity in check.

Important Safety Considerations

One major thing to make sure you plan for is safety. Like all boats, you will need to have the proper life preservers and flotation devices. This is a legal requirement on all water vessels.

In addition to the proper flotation devices, you will want to make sure you have all other required safety equipment.

This includes a fire extinguisher, a carbon monoxide detector in all enclosed areas, a flare, an emergency kit, and a first aid kit.

You should also have anything needed to repair unexpected maintenance issues. Depending on where you are, you will want to make sure you can deal with any issues that might arise until you can get to help.

In addition to the standard safety precautions, living on your boat comes with a few more.

If you are planning to live on your boat, and travel, you will want to make sure you are confident in your abilities and your boat itself before you get too far away from shore. It is wise to spend a few months cruising near land and shores before you attempt any long trips.

You also need to ensure you have the proper communication equipment on board.

Depending on how far from shore you get, you might not be able to communicate using traditional methods such as a cell phone.

A cell phone will be less effective the farther away from shore and any cell phone towers you get.

You should be sure to have satellite communications, a marine radio, and a Ham radio on board.

You will also want to make sure you regularly get your boat inspected and perform any routine maintenance. A boat that is fully functioning and well maintained will be the safest.

How Much Will Living On A Boat Cost Me?

Despite the large upfront cost, living on a boat can be cheaper than living in a traditional manner.

Costs that come with a live-aboard boat can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Insurance: Just like with a home, car, or daily use boat you will need to pay for insurance. The live-aboard insurance rate will be higher than just recreational boating insurance. This insurance can sometimes compare to home insurance.
  2. Moorage: Like insurance, live-aboard moorage is more expensive than traditional insurance. You will also need to go to a marina that holds a live-aboard license.
  3. Mortgage Payments: If you cannot pay for your boat out of pocket, which is likely, you might have to make loan payments on it. Depending on what you spent on your vessel this could be costly.
  4. Maintenance Costs: After your initial purchase you will still need to spend money on boat maintenance. This expense will vary based on the age of the boat, how often you perform regular maintenance, and how you use the boat itself.
  5. Utilities: Based on how you have decided to live on your boat, you might have utilities or additional costs with the marina. This will likely still be less than you would pay in a traditional living situation.
  6. Provisions and Entertainment: Just because you don’t live in a traditional manner, you will still need to buy traditional items such as food, toiletries, and entertainment. If you live completely without the comforts you are used to, your experience will not be very pleasurable.

Most importantly while looking at expenses, you need to make sure you are budgeting and stick to it.

If you are not able to afford your lifestyle, you will not have a lot of immediate options.

If you choose to travel while you sail, budgeting will be even more important. Traveling often does not allow for a traditional job and you do not want to overspend if you do not have any money coming in.

If you know this is the lifestyle you want to live, you might consider going all in. Many people sell their homes in order to live this lifestyle.

What Boat Should I Get For Full-Time Living?

Before you buy a boat to live aboard, you need to be clear about your needs.

There are a lot of options to choose from and this is not a decision to rush through. One of the first things that you need to decide when picking a boat is whether you want a motorboat or a sailboat.

A Sailboat Or A Motorboat?

Sailboats are not just appropriate for ocean living, they are also good for lake, river, or bay living. Sailboats are quieter than motorboats and are generally more economical because they use less gas.

One issue with sailboats is that they require more skill to handle and they might not be ideal for a singular person.

Like any boat, you will want to ensure that you are choosing the right size. If you plan on using your sailboat in a river, you will want to think about the required clearance when it comes to bridges.

Motorboats with ample cabin space can also be ideal for full-time living on a lake, river or bay.

These boats are often very spacious and easy to handle. Unlike sailboats, you do not have to take classes or training to be able to maneuver or handle the vessel. Motorboats that you can live aboard can range from trawlers to yachts to certain types of catamarans.

Motorboats do not rely on the wind and this can make them ideal for a boat you want to do both living and traveling on.

The issues with motorboats is that you will need to consider gas and other expenses that come with running an engine.  They are also louder than sailboats and often their engines are placed close to living quarters. This can make sleep difficult if you are moving.

Below are some inexpensive boat options that would be perfect for full-time living.

What Are The Benefits?

Even though this all might seem very expensive, there is a large list of benefits as well. 

Living on a boat can be cheaper than living in a traditional home, especially in high priced areas.

The main reason that you should live on a boat is the freedom and adventure that comes with it.

You would be able to take your home on vacation with you or just pick up and go to a new location.

You are also more likely to meet adventurous and like-minded individuals who will most likely have interesting stories to tell. 

One of the best parts about living out on the water is the views that you will see. There is nothing quite as beautiful as waking up to a sunrise over the water.