Want to live aboard a boat? Maybe you’re looking for more affordable waterfront living, or an alternative lifestyle – either way – living on a boat has many rewards. That said, choosing the right boat will make all the difference to your happiness. Before you commit, consider these five best liveaboard boats:
- Motor yachts and cabin cruisers
Motor yachts and Cabin Cruisers
Motor yachts is a broad term that encompasses large(ish) motorboats with accommodations like a bed (sleeping cabin), a head (bathroom), and a galley (kitchen). These boats can be quite large such as an Absolute 50 with a flybridge that provides extra space for outdoor recreation/entertainment, like the backyard of a house.
Models like these usually have three cabins and two heads to accommodate an entire family. Of course, big boats come with big price tags and lots of maintenance needs, so you may not save much over living in a condo.
Consider how much space you need and check out some best liveaboard boats under 40 feet. Cabin cruisers like the Cutwater 32 are great choices. This boat has one cabin as well as a galley and lounge area (living room) with large windows that bring in lots of natural light and air.
The twin outboard engines can transport your home to new surroundings in the blink of an eye. Best of all, boats under 40 feet may save you a million dollars (literally) over large motor yachts and provide many of the same amenities.
Trawlers are a great option because they are built with the liveaboard lifestyle in mind. They’re typically slower boats designed for long-distance cruising, and they come in many sizes from a large Nordhavn 60 built for tough ocean conditions to a more compact Beneteau Swift 35 that’s ideal for coastal cruising.
Most trawlers have good liveaboard layouts and will travel at speeds 8-10 knots, where they offer good fuel consumption, which is important with high diesel prices.
Pro Tip: Not all trawlers are slow – the French Swift series is designed to run at planning as well as trawling speeds, so you get the best of both.
Perhaps you’re contemplating living aboard in preparation for long-distance cruising under sail. Sailboats come in all sizes, just like motor yachts, but they’re usually narrower, and most of the living aboard happens lower down in the boat, so they’re not as airy and light.
On the plus side, because space is more premium, sailboat design is very efficient, so you can pile a lot into a sailboat and still have room for sailing necessities.
Looking for a compact sailboat? Consider the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 380 with two or three cabins in just 38 feet. For something a bit roomier, check out the new Hanse 510. This massive model can be spec’d with up to five cabins and even has a tender garage.
The great thing about sailboats is that you can travel long distances when you want to change your neighborhood entirely – and with little money spent on fuel.
Catamarans are boats with twin hulls and they can be both power and sail models. They have many advantages including more room aboard than the same-length monohulls with better cabin privacy and more system redundancy for backup options.
They’re more stable both in motion and at anchor (dock) so they produce less seasickness and are more comfortable in a rolly anchorage at night. They’re roomy platforms for kids as well as older folks but due to their beam (width), it’s harder to find a slip for them in a marina.
Sailing cat models come in various sizes and prices. Production boats like the Fountaine Pajot Isla 40 and the Excess 11 are both around 40 feet but feel much bigger than a monohull sailboat of equal length.
Many cats come in an “owners’ version” where one entire hull is dedicated to the master suite which is like a bedroom at home. Models like these start around $500,000 but upmarket, carbon fiber, semi-custom designs like the HH55 will set you back multiple millions.
Powercats are growing in popularity and offer the same amenities as their sailing counterparts, except they have bigger engines to travel at much greater speeds. Powers can be on the smaller side, like the 32-foot Aspen C100, or quite sizeable, like the Aquila 54. Cats tend to be more expensive to purchase and to own since there are two of just about everything to maintain.
If you want to live aboard but have little interest in being mobile, you may consider a houseboat. These boats usually maximize living space and are shaped more like houses than boats. Household-sized amenities, including side-by-side refrigerators, massive sofas, and large TVs can be had.
Because they don’t require much technical gear like engines, electronics, and advanced power systems, houseboats can be quite affordable and can make the best liveaboard boats under $100k.
A few companies build houseboats like Eco-Sea Cottages, but many will be one-off and home-built designs. Although these boats don’t move (much), they must still have a solid floating foundation to be safe, and only some marinas will allow them to dock there.
One more thing to consider
There are no hard rules as to what makes a great liveaboard boat! You just have to find one that suits you and your budget. Read our Living on a Boat post for more insight, and be sure to browse through Boatsetter to find the perfect liveaboard boat.
Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone — whether you own a boat or yyou’rejust renting — the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat, book a boat, or make money as a captain.
Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin.
A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide.
Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico.