Over the last few years, renting an apartment in major US cities has become more expensive than ever. According to Nerdwallet, the average rent in the US in September 2023 is $2,047 – a 3.2% increase compared to last year. And with rent prices going up, it is quite natural to question the alternatives.
What would be the cost of living in a boat vs an apartment? Is living on a boat full-time cheaper than renting?
Let’s dive deeper into how much it costs to live on a boat vs in an apartment in major US cities.
Is It Cheaper To Live in an Apartment or a Boat?
Living on a boat compared to renting is cheaper. The difference in prices can be as low as $300 per month in some areas, but for others can go as high as $2000 per month.
Costs of Living on a Boat
For every person doing it on $500 a month, someone can’t make it happen for less than $5,000 a month. Like with houses, our living standards and local cost of living play a huge factor.
On average, we can say that a family of 4 can do with $2000 to $5000 per month, whereas a couple can go from $500 to $2000 monthly. The average cost of living on a boat would include various marina fees, maintenance, provisions, insurance, and fuel.
Purchasing the Boat Suitable for Full-Time Living
I will not factor this into the cost of living, but keep the purchasing price on top of your mind, as this would be the major cost, just like purchasing a real estate property.
Choosing a boat for full-time living is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of various factors, including the type of boat, whether to buy new or old, and your personal needs and preferences, including your budget.
Type of Boat
The list of boat types is endless, but I recommend looking further into four main types of boats that you can potentially live in full-time.
Sailboats are great and very popular among those who want to travel and explore. They are generally more fuel-efficient but require more skill to operate. They are very suitable to travel long distances, often more affordable than motor yachts.
Sailboats have smaller living spaces and require sailing knowledge. Perfect for those who are looking for adventures!
Motor Yachts offer more space and amenities, typically more comfortable for living aboard. They have more living space and are easier to operate than sailboats for beginners. You must consider the yachts’ higher fuel costs, which are generally more expensive to purchase and maintain. They are perfect for the adventurous types who have more budget.
Houseboats are designed for living with larger living spaces and amenities but are not always suitable for open waters. They have maximum living space, built for comfort.
Houseboats might have limited travel capability and may not handle rough waters well. They are built to stay rather than sail. You can further read about the main advantages and disadvantages of living on a houseboat full-time.
Catamarans is the last type I am recommending you to look at. They offer stability and space and are popular for both sailing and motor options. They are stable, spacious, and good for travel. On the other hand, catamarans can be expensive and require skill to operate.
New vs. Old
New boats offer the latest in technology and amenities, ensuring a comfortable and secure living experience, and often come with warranties for added peace of mind. However, they are more expensive up front, depreciate quickly, and may have undiscovered issues.
In contrast, used boats are more affordable with slower depreciation and have a wealth of reviews to guide buyers, but may entail higher maintenance costs and outdated features.
Your choice between a new or used boat for full-time living should align with your budget, maintenance willingness, and personal preferences. Conducting a comprehensive inspection, particularly for older boats, is crucial to confirm their condition and uncover potential issues.
I would not recommend going after boats older than 10 years, as significant components will need to be replaced.
Your Personal Needs
When deciding on a boat for full-time living, evaluating your personal needs and priorities is crucial.
- Start by establishing a realistic budget encompassing the initial purchase and ongoing maintenance costs.
- The size of the boat is also a key consideration; larger boats provide more living space but tend to be pricier and can be more challenging to maneuver.
- Think about the amenities vital for your comfort and the lifestyle you wish to lead on the boat.
- Your travel aspirations also play a significant role; if you intend to change locations frequently, you’ll need a boat designed for easy and reliable travel.
- Assess your maintenance skills, as handling repairs yourself can save money, whereas lacking this skill might necessitate budgeting for professional services.
- Consider the community aspect, as certain types of boats or locations offer more vibrant and supportive live-aboard communities than others.
When living on a boat full-time, choosing where to dock or anchor your boat is a crucial decision that impacts both your budget and lifestyle. Here’s a breakdown of costs and considerations for anchorage, marina slips, and mooring:
Anchorage: Free to Low Cost
Opting for anchorage as a means of docking presents a cost-effective choice, often ranging from free to a minimal fee, particularly in high-demand locations.
However, this affordability comes with certain trade-offs. Amenities such as electricity, water, and waste disposal services are typically scarce, requiring individuals to be self-sufficient.
The safety and security of boats at anchor can also be a concern, as they may be more prone to theft or damage, depending on the anchorage’s location and conditions.
Additionally, reaching the shore may necessitate using a dinghy, which could prove challenging, especially during adverse weather conditions.
Regular maintenance of anchoring equipment and a keen eye on weather changes are essential to ensure a safe and secure living environment.
Marina Slip: High Costs
Securing a marina slip for your boat generally ranks as the priciest yet most convenient option. The cost for a slip can vary substantially, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars monthly, influenced by the marina’s location and its services.
Additional charges for utilities like electricity and water might apply. Marinas excel in providing an array of amenities, including consistent access to power, water, and waste disposal, and often come with extra facilities such as showers and laundry. They tend to be safer and more secure than anchoring out in the open, with a community vibe as you find yourself amidst fellow liveaboards.
The convenience of a marina slip cannot be overstated, as it facilitates ease of access to and from your boat and ensures that shops, restaurants, and other onshore amenities are just a short distance away.
Mooring: Moderate Costs
Opting for a mooring field strikes a balance in terms of costs between anchoring and renting a marina slip. While it’s more affordable than a marina, it’s slightly pricier than anchoring. The costs can vary significantly, and there may be extra charges for amenities such as dinghy docks and waste pump-out services.
Mooring balls provide a semi-permanent, stable, and secure docking option as they are anchored to the seabed. However, the range of amenities available is usually more limited than a marina. You will likely need a dinghy for shore access, similar to anchoring. Additionally, it’s important to regularly check and maintain the mooring lines and equipment to ensure your boat remains securely moored.
Utility Costs on a Boat
Internet costs vary widely depending on the provider and type of internet service (cellular data plans, marina Wi-Fi, satellite internet, etc.). Internet accessibility can be unreliable, especially at sea or in remote areas. Investing in a good antenna or a booster can enhance connectivity.
Cable and Phone
Similar to standard residential rates, but may require specific marine or satellite services. Cable TV might not be feasible, but streaming services can be an alternative if internet access is stable. A cell phone plan with good coverage is essential.
If staying in a marina, electricity may be included in the slip fee or charged separately. You might rely on solar panels, wind generators, or a generator on anchor or mooring. Energy efficiency is key on a boat. LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, and careful power management help reduce costs.
Water is often available in a marina and might be included in the slip fee. Otherwise, you might need to fill up at public docks or use a watermaker. Water conservation is crucial on a boat. Using water-saving fixtures and being mindful of consumption helps manage this resource.
Disposal is usually free, but you may need to transport your garbage to a disposal site. Minimizing waste and recycling when possible is environmentally friendly and more practical on a boat.
Pump-out services at marinas or public docks are typically low-cost or free. Regular pump-outs are essential for sanitation and compliance with regulations. Some areas may offer mobile pump-out services.
Boat maintenance is a significant aspect of liveaboard life, with many owners estimating spending around 10% of their boat’s purchase price on annual upkeep. This percentage can vary based on the age and type of the vessel, with older boats typically inching closer to that ten-percent mark.
A prime example of a substantial maintenance task is bottom maintenance. Liveaboard boats require a special paint on their underside to prevent marine growth, and this paint must be reapplied periodically, sometimes annually.
The process of bottom maintenance can be both costly and time-consuming. Hauling out the boat for this task can incur hundreds of dollars in travel lift and yard fees. Additionally, purchasing the necessary paint and equipment may cost several hundred dollars more.
Applying the paint is a labor-intensive job, potentially taking up to two days to complete. While it is a manageable DIY project, akin to painting a house, it is nonetheless a messy and demanding task. For those who prefer to outsource this job, hiring professionals can cost $80-100 per hour in labor, resulting in a total cost that could reach or exceed $2,000.
Boat maintenance is a recurring and sometimes costly part of living on a boat. While some tasks can be done independently to save money, others might require professional assistance. The key takeaway is that actively participating in the maintenance of your boat can significantly reduce living costs, keeping them below that ten-percent threshold.
In the United States, boat owners are typically required to pay sales and use tax to their state on their vessel. While the sales tax is generally paid at the time of purchase, a use tax may be applied if the boat is brought into and kept in a different state for an extended period, often exceeding 90 days.
Additionally, some local municipalities may impose a personal property tax on boats, treating them similarly to homes for tax purposes. This tax is more prevalent in areas with a high concentration of liveaboards and is usually assessed at the county level. Boat owners should verify whether their county enforces this tax to avoid any unexpected financial obligations.
Insuring your boat, much like a car, offers options ranging from liability coverage to full-hull value insurance. Opting for at least liability coverage, which is relatively affordable at a few hundred dollars annually, is crucial for responsible boating.
Investing in towing coverage, available in the US for around $150 per year is also wise. Without this membership, towing expenses can escalate beyond $1,000 per instance.
Obtaining hull coverage becomes more challenging with older vessels, and the cost typically hovers around one percent of the boat’s hull value each year. However, this can vary based on location.
Securing insurance for a newly acquired vessel may depend on your previous boating experience. Novice boaters might need to spend time with a training captain before an insurance company agrees to provide coverage.
Costs of Living in an Apartment in 5 Major US Cities
New York City, New York
Apartment Rent: For a single-bedroom apartment in the city center, you might pay anywhere from $3,000 to $4,500 per month. In less expensive areas, rent could range from $2,000 to $3,000.
Utilities: Basic utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) for an 85 m² apartment might cost between $200 and $300 per month.
San Francisco, California
Apartment Rent: A single-bedroom apartment in the city center could cost between $3,000 and $4,000 per month. Rent might range from $2,500 to $3,500 in more affordable areas.
Utilities: Basic utilities could cost between $200 and $250 per month.
Apartment Rent: In the city center, a single-bedroom apartment might range from $1,800 to $2,500 per month, while in less expensive areas, it could be between $1,200 and $1,800.
Utilities: Expect to pay between $150 and $250 per month for basic utilities.
Apartment Rent: A single-bedroom apartment in the city center might cost between $1,800 and $2,500 per month, while in more affordable areas, rent could range from $1,200 to $1,800.
Utilities: Basic utilities might range from $100 to $200 per month.
Apartment Rent: In the city center, you might pay between $1,500 and $2,500 for a single-bedroom apartment. In less expensive areas, between $1,200 and $1,800.
Utilities: Basic utilities could cost between $100 and $150 per month.
Where Is It Cheaper To Live on a Boat?
You can save between $300 – $2000 monthly if you choose to live on a boat compared to an apartment in the same area. The range is huge as this will depend on the time of the year, location, boat size, and high or low season.
Apartment Rent: $2,000 – $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center.
Annual Marina Slip Fee: $30 – $40/ft per month, depending on slip Location and vessel Size–average $1,320 per month
Utilities: Apartment utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) cost between $100 and $150 per month. Marina utilities may include water and electricity, often billed separately or metered.
San Diego, California:
Apartment Rent: $2,300 – $3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center.
Marina Slip Fee: $28 to $60 per foot based on boat length overall (LOA) or slip LOA (whichever is longer)—average $2,002 per month.
Utilities: Apartment utilities cost between $100 and $150 per month. Marina utilities may be additional.
Apartment Rent: $2,000 – $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center.
Marina Slip Fee: $25 – $40 per foot per month–average $1,350 per month.
Utilities: Apartment utilities cost between $200 and $250 per month. Marina utilities are typically extra.
Apartment Rent: $3,000 – $3,800 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center.
Marina Slip Fee: $50 – $85 per foot per month–average $2,868 per month.
Utilities: Apartment utilities cost between $200 and $200 per month. Marina utilities may be billed separately.
San Francisco, California:
Apartment Rent: $3,000 – $4,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center.
Marina Slip Fee: $30 – $60 per foot per month–average $2,700 per month.
Utilities: Apartment utilities cost between $200 and $250 per month. Marina utilities can vary significantly.
Should You Live on a Boat?
Living on a boat can be more cost-effective than renting an apartment in major US cities, offering savings of hundreds to thousands of dollars each month. However, weighing the pros and cons and considering all associated costs, including boat maintenance, marina fees, and the initial boat purchase is crucial.
Choosing a lifestyle on the water requires careful planning and consideration of your personal needs and preferences. It can offer a unique and rewarding living experience, with the chance to be part of a close-knit community, enjoy scenic views, and be free to explore.
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