Liveaboard Boat Buying Guide 2024

A liveaboard boat is any vessel that you can live on comfortably full-time. If you want to live onboard your boat full-time, read more here.

Discover the allure of liveaboard boating with our comprehensive guide. Whether you’re a seasoned liveaboard enthusiast or considering this lifestyle for the first time, our article explores everything you need to know, from boat types to essential tips for a comfortable onboard experience.

Buy a Liveaboard Boat FAQ

What is a Liveaboard Boat?

While there is no formal definition of what qualifies a boat as a liveaboard, most would agree it is any yacht that the owner can live on full-time. A liveaboard can be a motor yacht, sailing yacht, monohull, multihull, catamaran, or even a houseboat, and is someone’s primary residence. You’ll generally be looking at a yacht at least 35 feet long to accommodate enough living and sleeping space, although this number can grow into the hundreds if you’re looking at a luxury superyacht.

Sailing yacht used as liveaboard boat. While there is no formal definition of what qualifies a boat as a liveaboard, most would agree it is any yacht that the owner can live on full-time. A liveaboard can be a motor yacht, sailing yacht, monohull, multihull, catamaran, or even a houseboat. You’ll generally be looking at a yacht at least 35 feet long to accommodate enough living and sleeping space, although this number can grow into the hundreds if you’re looking at a luxury superyacht.

What is the Best Liveaboard Boat?

The best liveaboard boat will depend largely on what type of lifestyle you’d like to lead while living on the water. Before a move aboard, let’s explore some of the popular liveaboard boats available and who they might be the best fit for. 

  • Luxury Yachts – Depending on the size of your luxury yacht, they can be akin to a floating luxury hotel, complete with your own full-time crew. Luxury yachts can easily cross the ocean, opening a world of cruising options. Living quarters are plush and spacious, complete with ensuite bathrooms, formal dining areas, indoor salons and (depending on the style) a lot of exterior space on your deck (or multiple decks!). 
  • Sailboats – Cruising sailboats are ideal for those who enjoy getting up close to the water and their surroundings, while playing a slightly more active role in cruising. Sailing yachts are great for those doing ocean crossings or living aboard on lakes and rivers, provided the depth is suitable for the yacht’s keel. These are popular liveaboard options and are often used as a primary residence. Be sure to opt for a sailboat with an engine to help you through those lulls in the wind. 
  • Trawlers – Trawlers are a great option for people who prefer a lot of deck space, wide hulls offering plenty of interior room, an abundance of head room below deck and shallow draft for getting into shallow bays. These are a great choice for those wishing to live an alternative lifestyle on the water.
  • Multihulls – Multihulls like catamarans offer added stability in rough seas and designated separate living spaces thanks to the two (or more) hulls on offer. Catamarans also feature extra wide deck space spread out across the multiple hulls. 
  • Houseboats – While usually on the smaller size and not able to handle open seas or gain as much speed as the other yachts on our list, they are a great choice for those looking to move aboard full-time on a river or lake. It’s the most like a home floating on the water so a great choice for those happy to set up home onboard without feeling too cramped.

How Big of a Boat Do You Need to Liveaboard?

There is no formal rule on how big a yacht needs to be for you to liveaboard. In fact, the right size will look different depending on your goals, why you want to move aboard, and who will be living onboard with you.

A single person might be able to comfortably live full-time on a small 30-foot sailing yacht. However, a family of five looking to live onboard will need a much larger yacht with additional cabins and common living spaces.

If you want to travel the world, explore hidden corners of the globe, pull your children from school and tutor them while living onboard, a luxury yacht might be the perfect option. You’ll have extra space for your yacht crew and tutor/nanny, a chef to help prepare meals, a captain to take you where you need to go and crew members to make sure the yacht’s upkeep is met so you can just focus on the next day’s adventure. A cruising sailboat will also be an excellent option for pursuing an alternative lifestyle on the open seas.

How Much Does a Liveaboard Boat Cost?

As with many of the yachts we feature, the price of boats for sale will vary widely depending on some key factors: 

  • Size 
  • Year 
  • Make and model 
  • Condition of the yacht 
  • Running Costs 

While the running costs won’t be in your upfront purchase price, it is something to consider so you are still able to run and operate your liveaboard yacht.

These are usually 10-20% of the purchase price of your yacht. On the lower side, you should expect to pay at least $20,000 to purchase your boat, while this number can grow exponentially into the millions if you’re looking at luxury yachts.

Motor yacht used as liveaboard boat.

How to Finance a Liveaboard Boat?

If you need to finance a liveaboard boat, you can follow the same steps for any other boat purchase.

  • Take some time to look at the boats for sale, so you understand the market.
  • Most people will start with a loan to purchase their liveaboard boat – these may include a traditional bank loan, credit union, marine loan specialist or online lender.
  • However, once you purchase your liveaboard, you may also choose to make your boat work for you to help pay it off. From Airbnb to charters, you could open your boat to offer an income stream if you so wanted.

Please speak with a reputable broker to guide you on loan options and whether you can rent or charter your boat out after purchase.

Why Do Some Marinas Not Allow Liveaboards?

While not all marinas have strict rules on liveaboards, the consensus is that boats that remain at dock full-time and are a primary residence may tend to accumulate clutter onboard or on the docks. There is also a higher demand for the marina’s facilities if someone is living there 24/7 and not simply coming by on the days they want to use their yacht. Some liveaboards also make adjustments to their yacht if they plan on remaining at dock full-time and not traveling at all (think converted floating houses), which may bring down the overall prestige of the marina or yacht club.

In larger superyachts, there will also be several yacht crew coming and going all day, so some marinas may prefer not to have such a constant steam of traffic. It’s always a good idea to research the marinas you plan to stop at or park at for extended periods to make sure their policies match your intended use.

How Much Does a Liveaboard Slip Cost?

While the price for a marina slip depends on location, season, and length of the boat, liveaboard slips cost significantly more due to the greater demand for facilities, and the limited amount of liveaboard slips available.

A slip in the US costs anywhere between $12/ft per year to $240/ft per year, with an average of roughly $50/ft per year.

However, in some of the most popular and high-end ports around the world, these costs will increase dramatically. It’s always best to do your research on the location you want to go to and compare marinas for the facilities, prices, and location that is best suited to your needs.

Can You Live Permanently on a Boat?

Yes, you can certainly live permanently on a boat. Some people choose to do so to save costs on rent or a mortgage, while others want to quit their jobs and spend their time exploring the world around them. It can be an amazing alternative lifestyle to pursue. Whatever your reasons for purchasing a liveaboard boat and making the transition to live permanently onboard, you’ll want to make sure of the following: 

  • Boat size – You’ll want to ensure there is enough space to house everyone comfortably onboard, including any pets, and enough storage space for extra food, fuel, and necessities. This necessary space will increase if you plan on cruising for long distances and are uncertain of provisions at your ports of call. 
  • Maintenance and Running Costs – Along with the usual maintenance costs of fuel, oil, repairs, and insurance, you’ll need to choose a marina with fees within your budget 
  • Need to Compromise – While you may think living onboard permanently could be a dream come true, you’ll also want to consider that you’ll be compromising on a few things. Less space (for your personal items, and personal space if living with others); trickier to get deliveries or send and receive mail; the need to shop more frequently since you can’t store as much onboard are just a few examples of the compromises you may have to make. 
  • Weather Concerns – When living onboard permanently, days of rain on end will feel different than if you’re living in a home. Or if you’re in a hot climate, with no air conditioning, this may get uncomfortable after no breaks in the heat.  

Before taking such a big step to moving your life onboard, you’ll want to think of all the pros and cons and be certain of your decision.

sailing yacht

Do You Have to Pay Taxes if You Live on a Yacht?

Yes, you still must pay taxes if you live on a yacht, however, these are different to your home property tax.

  1. Your first tax will obviously be the sales tax for the purchase of your yacht. This is not included in the price of boats for sale.
  2. Then there are property taxes for those who opt to live onboard full-time at a marina. You will pay the property tax for your slip at the marina, and these will be payable to the municipality where you are staying.
  3. You may also have to pay a Personal Property Tax, like RV and private plane owners pay. This is an annual tax that needs to be paid, however, not all states or countries have these.

You’ll want to do your research or speak with a yacht broker about these added costs when searching for your liveaboard yacht.

Where is the Best Place Where You Can Live on a Liveaboard?

The best place you can liveaboard your boat full-time will look different for everyone!

  • If you want sunshine year-round, you may be looking somewhere in the South Pacific or the Caribbean. These are popular destinations with cruising sailboats.
  • However, if ancient culture and countries that are within easy reach of your home port, the Mediterranean may be more your style.
  • Or if you just want to live onboard in your home city, there are plenty of places around the US and Canada that are hospitable to living on your boat year-round.

Once you make the decision to live onboard permanently, the opportunities are basically endless. If you want to move on from one location, all you must do is pull anchor and head out – the world is your oyster.

The liveaboard lifestyle may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking to make the transition to live full-time onboard your yacht, check out YATCO’s current popular liveaboard yachts for sale. We also have houseboats for sale available. For all of the latest yachting news and insights, please sign up to our newsletter.  

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