How Much Does it Cost to Live Aboard a Boat?

It seems like I begin every blog the same way.   It depends.  How much do you want to pay? What kind of boat would you like to live aboard? What luxuries do you need?  What location would you like as your berth?

And what expenses would you like to save?

I can’t answer these questions for you, and I have posted a podcast video on “Costs” as well as a Cost Spreadsheet for your convenience.  But we can take a few moments and address some of these issues.

Many people choose a live aboard lifestyle with cost in mind.  In some cases, the boat becomes a floating apartment and the largest boat possible is retained for this service – and the boating expenses become only marginally less than land-based living, and the non-boat expenses actually remain or even increase. When I was a new liveaboard, I fell squarely into this model, living in a small space (my 33’ Hunter), but chose to live in a well run marina in the shadow of the Boston skyline.

There can be legitimate savings.  Boat ownership +  insurance tends to cost less than a mortgage (or rent).  Utilities (electricity, fuel, water, cable, cell phone, internet) are still paid, but oftentimes cheaper – and alternatives such as greater efficiency (solar panels), and technology (Internet/Hulu for TV, Netflix for movies, etc.) is a very economical yet viable alternative to the exhorbitant costs of cable. Highspeed internet is still a challenge, but some marinas offer wireless, cell phone service can include data plans, etc., and some option should  fit your needs.

Another key saving is that a liveaboard cannot possess many material possessions aboard.  Sell ‘em, share ‘em or store ‘em – but you can’t keep them on board.   Two of these options include positive cash flow or savings, and one option incurs a (often significant) monthly cost.

There will be costs such as boat maintenance, and there may be added costs such as parking.  We’ve talked about boat maintenance costs separately, but the bigger the boat, or the more complex the boat, or the greater age of the boat, means greater expense – both in terms of berthing as well as in maintenance.

So the queston of cost is a byproduct of all of this stuff – and hodgepodge of preferences, needs and expenses. The determination of savings requires a broad comparison against your current lifestyle.  Be sure to refer to the video and spreadsheet – they are both free (and do not add to your liveaboard expenses) – but it is certainly possible to save money, and many people do.  But it is also possible to spend more than you would have (including in the cost of drinks).

Lastly, manage risks.  Homes and apartments don’t sink.  There is no risk there – and insurance can run from a couple  of hundred dollars on a renters or personal possession policy to a couple of thosuand bucks for a reasonably nice home.  Boats however, do sink – and crash (including into other boats) – and bump around – and you can end up with substantial expenses.  So be sure to properly insure or  you might end  up severly understimating your costs (perhaps  by tens of thousands of dollars).

From my perspective, I want you to be prepared.  Know what you are in for – and avoid surprises.

So did I answer your question?  Of course not.  But with a little thought, research into your desired location and planning, you can.

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