September 15, 2023

House Boat Living: A Comprehensive Guide

Houseboats have been capturing the imagination of water enthusiasts for generations. These unique floating homes offer the perfect combination of comfortable living and adventurous exploration, attracting both holidaymakers and full-time residents alike. Over time, several types of houseboats have emerged, catering to various preferences and budgets. From luxurious custom designs to more affordable pre-built options, the market provides ample choice for those considering life on the water.

The history of houseboats dates back centuries. Initially used as floating dwellings for fishermen, traders, and nomadic communities around the world, these vessels have evolved into modern floating homes popular in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, and Canada. Today's houseboats showcase a wide range of sizes and amenities, from simple, affordable options to extravagant creations that rival high-end yachts. Those interested in purchasing a houseboat can find numerous options, whether they prefer a new build, a used vessel, or a fully customizable design.

Key Takeaways

  • Houseboats provide a unique combination of comfortable living and waterfront exploration.
  • The market offers various types of houseboats, catering to different preferences and budgets.
  • Modern houseboats can range from modest, affordable options to extravagant floating homes.

History of Houseboats


In 1985, the first aluminum houseboat was built in Monticello for Phoenix Houseboat Sales, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. This 14- by 52-foot houseboat was equipped with two 120hp MerCruiser engines and sold for $57,772 1. During this period, houseboats continued to gain popularity as a convenient and comfortable way to live and travel on the water. The integration of modern technology and improved building materials further enhanced the houseboat experience.


The early 2000s witnessed continued advancements in houseboat construction and amenities. Houseboats incorporated more efficient engines and sophisticated navigation systems, making them more environmentally friendly and easier to operate. Moreover, the interior space and living conditions of these houseboats improved significantly, making them even more appealing to travelers and those interested in alternative living arrangements.


Throughout these years, the houseboat industry continued to grow and evolve. Houseboat designs became more diverse and unique to cater to different tastes and needs. These innovations included the addition of solar panels for sustainable energy, expanded living spaces, and more user-friendly features such as fold-out decks. The demand for houseboats increased, leading to the establishment of numerous marinas dedicated exclusively to their mooring and maintenance.


Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the houseboat industry demonstrated resilience and adaptability. As people sought alternative vacation and living options that provided a sense of independence and privacy, houseboats became an even more attractive choice. The most recent trends in houseboat design focus on promoting an eco-conscious lifestyle, with many models incorporating advanced waste management systems and energy-efficient appliances.

Types of Houseboats

Raft Type

Raft type houseboats are among the simplest designs, often characterized by a flat platform built on buoyant materials like logs, barrels, or pontoons. These houseboats offer a stable and spacious living space, making them ideal for those who prefer minimalistic living on the water. Due to their straightforward design, raft type houseboats are generally more affordable than other types, but may lack some amenities found in more elaborate houseboat designs.

Pontoon Type

Pontoon type houseboats are popular due to their stability, affordability, and ease of customization. They consist of a flat deck supported by cylindrical pontoons, which provide buoyancy and stability. The structure built on top of the deck can vary greatly in size and style, from small cabins to multi-level homes complete with patios and additional outdoor living spaces. Pontoon type houseboats typically come with a variety of amenities like full kitchens, comfortable sleeping quarters, and onboard restrooms, making them a popular choice for both short-term and long-term living.

Catamaran Type

Catamaran type houseboats feature two parallel hulls connected by a bridging structure, which offers more stability and increased living space compared to single-hulled houseboats. This dual-hull design provides a smoother ride on the water, making catamaran houseboats well-suited for cruising and navigating through choppy conditions. In addition, the increased living space afforded by the catamaran design allows for more creative and luxurious interior layouts, making them an attractive option for those seeking a more upscale houseboat experience.

Well-Known Houseboat Brands


Sumerset is a reputable houseboat brand known for producing high-quality and luxury houseboats. Their boats are known for their durability, comfort, and spaciousness, making them an ideal choice for people who enjoy living or vacationing on the water. Sumerset houseboats come in various sizes and styles, accommodating different needs and budgets. They are widely recognized for their attention to detail and commitment to customer satisfaction.


Gibson Boats is another respected brand in the houseboat industry. With a long history of building boats, Gibson has established a strong reputation for creating comfortable and practical houseboats. They cater to a wide range of preferences, from simple and modest designs to luxurious and spacious models. Gibson houseboats are identified by their quality craftsmanship, innovative features, and the overall enjoyable experience they provide to their customers.

Stardust Cruisers

Stardust Cruisers is a premier houseboat manufacturer that focuses on producing customizable and luxurious houseboats. Known for their innovative designs and attention to detail, Stardust Cruisers offers a unique and personalized approach when creating the perfect houseboat. They work closely with their customers to ensure a seamless process and excellent overall experience. Stardust Cruisers houseboats are synonymous with quality and sophisticated design, setting them apart in the industry.

Living Aboard a Houseboat

Living aboard a houseboat can be an exciting and unique experience for those seeking an alternative to traditional housing. Houseboats can provide a serene and peaceful lifestyle that connects people with nature while offering all the comforts and amenities of a conventional home.

The affordability of living aboard a houseboat can be significantly lower than renting or owning a house on land. The initial purchase price of a houseboat is often far less than a traditional home, and the monthly expenses can also be more economical. In addition to lower costs, houseboat residents enjoy more freedom in choosing their location and the ability to move their home when desired.

One of the main appeals of living aboard a houseboat as a primary residence is the close connection to nature. Houseboats offer a unique opportunity to experience waterfront living, with direct access to water-based recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating. Residents can often be found enjoying beautiful sunrises or sunsets, as well as observing local wildlife from the comfort of their floating homes.

There are several well-designed and comfortable houseboat models suitable for full-time living, such as the Zion houseboat, Moskit Houseboat 9600, Gibson Cabin Yacht 5000, Eco-Sea Cottage, and Sunseeker Houseboat. These houseboats come with modern amenities that make life aboard comfortable and convenient.

Living aboard a houseboat also creates a sense of community among fellow boat-dwellers. Marina living encourages socialization and camaraderie. Houseboat communities often host events and gatherings, allowing residents to build strong connections with their neighbors.

While living aboard can be an enjoyable and affordable lifestyle, prospective houseboat residents should be prepared for the additional maintenance and care required when living on the water. Houseboats can be more susceptible to weather-related damage, and regular upkeep is crucial to ensure the boat remains in good condition. It's also important to keep in mind that marina fees, insurance, and potential relocation costs may add up over time.

In conclusion, living aboard a houseboat can be a fulfilling and cost-effective alternative to conventional housing. Houseboats offer a close connection to nature, modern amenities and comforts, and a unique sense of community. However, houseboat residents should be prepared for the additional responsibilities of maintaining their floating home.

Custom Houseboats

Custom houseboats offer a unique opportunity for individuals to design and create a luxurious waterborne home tailored to their preferences and lifestyle. Built to the customer's specifications, these houseboats provide an unmatched level of comfort, functionality, and style.

The process of building a custom houseboat begins with choosing the material for the barge – usually steel or aluminum. The decision depends on factors like budget, weight, and maintenance requirements. Once the base material is selected, the layout and number of bedrooms can be decided. The customer has the freedom and flexibility to choose various features, such as hot tubs, grills, rooftop slides, and outdoor bars, to further personalize their houseboat.

Companies like Trifecta Houseboats and The American Houseboat offer customizable houseboat models that cater to a wide range of budgets and design preferences. With the customer's vision in mind, these manufacturers work closely with their clients to create a truly unique and luxurious floating home.

Bringing the design to life involves skilled craftsmanship, quality materials, and the latest technology. Houseboat builders take pride in their attention to detail and commitment to customer satisfaction, ensuring that each custom houseboat is a true masterpiece on the water.

While custom houseboats can offer a range of styles and sizes, a common feature is the emphasis on open living spaces and large windows to maximize the views and connection with the surrounding environment. Eco-friendly options, such as solar panels and energy-efficient appliances, are often incorporated as well, making these houseboats not only aesthetically pleasing but environmentally responsible too.

In conclusion, custom houseboats provide an unparalleled opportunity for water lovers to design their dream floating home. With endless possibilities for personalization and expert builders to guide the process, these luxurious aquatic retreats offer a truly unique and unforgettable living experience.

Top Houseboat Locations


Seattle, located in Washington State, is a popular destination for houseboating enthusiasts. The city's lakes, such as Lake Union and Lake Washington, offer serene and picturesque environments for those who want to live on the water. Living on a houseboat in Seattle can be a unique and tranquil experience, providing easy access to the city's amenities, parks, and waterfront activities.


Another houseboat-friendly city in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon, offers a variety of residential marinas along its rivers, such as the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. These marinas typically provide the necessary infrastructure and amenities for houseboating, such as power, water, sewer, and internet connections. Portland's houseboat communities enjoy a peaceful atmosphere, while still being close to the city's vibrant culture and outdoor activities.

Lake Powell

Straddling the border of Arizona and Utah, Lake Powell is a famous houseboating destination in North America. With its striking red sandstone canyons and various hiking opportunities, Lake Powell attracts thousands of houseboaters every year. In addition, water sports such as water skiing and wakeboarding are popular activities for those visiting this picturesque lake.

Lake Cumberland

Located in Kentucky, Lake Cumberland is another prime houseboating spot in the United States. Known for its clear water and vast, unspoiled shoreline, Lake Cumberland offers a relaxing atmosphere for houseboaters seeking to escape the daily grind. Fishing, swimming, and boating are popular activities around the lake, making it a comfortable and enjoyable destination for houseboating vacations.

Houseboat Amenities

When it comes to houseboat amenities, you can expect a combination of comfort and functionality. Modern houseboats are designed to offer a pleasant and convenient living environment. Many houseboats come with state-of-the-art appliances, making life on the water just as comfortable as life on land.

One common feature that can be found aboard houseboats is a fully-equipped kitchen. This can include a refrigerator/freezer, stove, oven, and microwave, as well as small appliances such as a coffee maker and toaster. There is typically ample storage and counter space as well. Besides, a comfortable dining area is a standard offering in most houseboats to make meal times enjoyable.

On the exterior of the houseboat, spacious decks provide room for relaxation and entertainment. Some houseboats even offer luxury amenities such as hot tubs on one of the decks, making it a perfect spot for unwinding at the end of the day. Outdoor furniture, including tables and chairs, is often provided for an alfresco dining experience or simply soaking in the sun.

An essential amenity for a houseboat is a reliable navigation system. Houseboats typically come equipped with navigation lights, navigational charts, and modern electronics that aid in piloting the vessel safely through the water.

Most houseboats feature comfortable living quarters, with beds, closets, and storage spaces to make long-term living onboard more convenient. Houseboat bathrooms, or "heads," are usually smaller than what you would find in a traditional home but include a toilet, sink, and shower facilities.

Safety equipment is also an integral part of any houseboat. Standard onboard safety gear includes life jackets, fire extinguishers, and throwing devices. Houseboat owners and renters should be familiar with their emergency equipment and be prepared for any unexpected situations.

In conclusion, modern houseboats offer an extensive array of amenities that cater to the needs and desires of those who choose to embrace this unique lifestyle. With comfortable interiors, functional appliances, and luxurious touches like hot tubs, living on a houseboat can be an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

Houseboat Rentals

Houseboat rentals offer a unique vacation experience, providing the opportunity to relax and unwind while enjoying the natural beauty of various water bodies across the United States. Renting a houseboat allows for a combination of comfort, convenience, and adventure, with many destinations offering additional services and amenities to enhance your stay.

A popular choice for houseboat rentals is through, which features a variety of houseboat models moored at specific marinas throughout North America. Each marina may outfit a houseboat differently, depending on the location and available services.

Another option for finding houseboat vacation rentals can be found on Vrbo. They offer a wide range of houseboats with varying features and amenities. Some houseboats even allow for jet skis to be added to rental agreements for those seeking more adventure during their stay.

Airbnb also offers houseboat rentals in the United States, with unique and beautifully redesigned houseboats in various locations. One example is the Ziggy Stardust Surf House, a stunning houseboat in the Jamaica Bay area of Rockaway Beach, perfect for those looking for a blend of relaxation and adventure.

When renting a houseboat, it's important to consider a few factors such as location, size, amenities, and available activities nearby. Houseboats can often accommodate large groups, making them ideal for family gatherings or reunions with friends. With direct access to the water, activities like fishing, swimming, and sunbathing can be easily enjoyed throughout the stay.

In summary, houseboat rentals offer a distinctive vacation experience that combines relaxation, adventure, and the enjoyment of nature. With numerous options available, finding the perfect houseboat to create unforgettable memories is just a click away.

Houseboat Manufacturers

Thoroughbred Houseboats

Thoroughbred Houseboats is a well-regarded boat manufacturer that specializes in creating luxurious houseboats tailored to the client's specific requirements. They take pride in every detail of their boats, from propulsion systems to cabinetry, ensuring a high-quality product that meets their exacting standards. For more information about their houseboat offerings, visit Trifecta Houseboats.

Bravada Yachts

Bravada Yachts is another great manufacturer that has set itself apart by producing innovative luxury houseboats. They have teamed up with renowned ocean yacht designer David Weiss to create their Atlas Line. Drawing inspiration from the mega-yacht world, these houseboats offer a unique experience designed for the lakes. To find out more about Bravada Yachts and their product lines, visit their website.

Bentley Pontoons

Bentley Pontoons is a popular boat manufacturer known for crafting durable, stylish, and versatile pontoons that are perfect for those seeking a more budget-friendly option, without sacrificing quality. Their pontoons come in various sizes and configurations to suit different preferences and lifestyles. To learn more about Bentley Pontoons and their offerings, check out Destination Yachts.

Propulsion Systems

Outboard Systems

Outboard systems are one of the most popular choices for houseboat propulsion. These engines are mounted externally on the boat's transom and are typically powered by gasoline. Outboard systems come in a variety of sizes and power outputs, making them suitable for different houseboat configurations. Outboard-4S propulsion is a common type of outboard engine that offers improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions compared to traditional 2-stroke engines.

Inboard Systems

Inboard systems house the engine inside the boat's hull, transferring power to the boat's propeller shaft. These systems offer better weight distribution and often provide more power than outboard systems. Among the best gasoline inboard houseboat motors are the GM/Chevy Marine 350 and the Ford Marine 351 Windsor V8. Inboard systems are a good choice for larger houseboats that require more power and stability.

Inboard/Outboard Systems

Inboard/outboard systems, also known as sterndrives, combine the features of both inboard and outboard systems. They have the engine mounted inside the boat similar to an inboard system, but the drive unit with the propeller is on the outside, similar to an outboard system. Sterndrives offer some advantages in terms of maneuverability and efficiency. They are a popular choice among houseboats that require a balance between power and ease of handling.

Diesel Engines

Diesel engines are another option for houseboat propulsion systems. While they are typically heavier and more expensive than gasoline engines, diesel engines offer better fuel efficiency and longevity. This makes them an attractive choice for long-range cruising houseboats. Diesel engines can be used in both inboard and inboard/outboard propulsion systems. Additionally, diesel fuel systems are generally considered safer than gasoline systems due to the fuel's higher flash point.

Ultimately, choosing the right propulsion system for a houseboat depends on the boat's size, intended use, and the owner's preferences. Each system has its own set of advantages and considerations, such as power output, fuel efficiency, and maintenance requirements.

Boat Trading

Boat trading is a popular activity for houseboat enthusiasts looking to buy, sell, or exchange new and used vessels. One of the most reliable platforms for this purpose is Boat Trader, which not only offers a variety of houseboats for sale but also provides valuable resources such as boat values, pricing guides, and boating tips.

When it comes to trading houseboats, potential buyers can choose from different models, sizes, and features customized to their preferences. New vessels, in particular, offer the advantage of being built with the latest technology, materials, and design styles. This ensures a comfortable and efficient experience while living on water.

On Boat Trader, customers can find a wide range of houseboats available for sale, from smaller, more affordable options to luxurious, spacious vessels. The platform's user-friendly interface also allows users to filter their search based on various factors such as location, price, and the number of passengers the houseboat can accommodate.

For those interested in purchasing a new vessel, buyers should consider factors such as durability, energy efficiency, and ease of maintenance. It's also essential to determine whether they plan to use the houseboat for recreational purposes or as their primary residence before finalizing a purchase.

Being knowledgeable about the current market trends, pricing, and available options could help buyers make a more informed decision when trading houseboats. Platforms like Boat Trader play a crucial role in bridging the gap between sellers and buyers, making the process of exchanging houseboats easier and more accessible for everyone involved.

Houseboat Pricing

Houseboat prices can vary significantly based on factors such as size, brand, and features. The cost of a new houseboat typically ranges between $125,000 and $250,000. However, pre-owned houseboats can be considerably more affordable, with average prices around $50,000 in the United States.

When searching for a houseboat, it's essential to consider the various options available within different budget ranges. At the more affordable end of the spectrum, houseboats can cost as low as $6,000. On the other hand, the most luxurious and expensive houseboats can go up to $1,700,500.

It is also crucial to consider the size and power of the houseboat's engine. Smaller, lightweight models may have engines with modest horsepower as low as 40 HP, while high-end, powerful models can accommodate engines with massive 1,410 horsepower.

Keep in mind that prices for houseboats will also be influenced by the features and amenities included. Popular options for houseboats include spacious living areas, modern kitchens, and outdoor entertainment space, such as sun decks and barbecue grills. As a general rule, the more features a houseboat has, the higher the price can be expected.

Overall, finding the perfect houseboat requires a careful assessment of one's budget and preferences. With various options available in different price ranges, there's a houseboat suited for everyone's needs.

Length and Passenger Capacity

One of the key aspects to consider when purchasing or renting a houseboat is its length and passenger capacity. The length of a houseboat typically ranges from 20 feet to over 100 feet. The size of the houseboat not only affects the living space but also determines the number of passengers it can accommodate comfortably.

When determining the passenger capacity of a houseboat, it is important to consider the boat's width as well. A commonly used formula to calculate the maximum number of people a boat can carry is: (boat length (ft.) × boat width (ft.)) ÷ 15 1. For example, if a houseboat is 30 feet long and 10 feet wide, it can accommodate up to 20 passengers safely. This calculation is especially useful for houseboats under 20 feet in length, as they may not have a capacity plate. However, it is crucial to always follow the recommended capacity mentioned in the owner's manual and manufacturer's warning decals.

The length of a houseboat often influences its horsepower too. Longer houseboats generally require more powerful engines to perform optimally. For instance, a 50-foot houseboat might require a 200-horsepower engine, while a 100-foot houseboat may need an engine with 400 or more horsepower. Keep in mind that the relationship between length and horsepower is not linear, so it's essential to consult with the manufacturer's guidelines to determine the appropriate engine size.

In conclusion, the length of a houseboat plays a significant role in determining its passenger capacity and required horsepower. Always remember to adhere to the recommended guidelines and consult with the manufacturer or owner's manual for accurate information.

Country-Specific Houseboats

American Houseboats

American houseboats are popular for recreational use in the United States, particularly on lakes and rivers. One of the well-known manufacturers of houseboats in the country is Destination Yachts, which designs and builds custom houseboats tailored to the client's needs. Another prominent manufacturer is Trifecta Houseboats. They pride themselves on meticulously crafting every detail of their boats to match the owner's lifestyle and identity.

In the United States, houseboats are often found on popular houseboating lakes like Lake Powell, Lake Mead, and Lake Cumberland, which provide stunning scenic views and excellent recreational activities. Houseboating in the US offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors while experiencing the comfort and amenities of a home. Moreover, American houseboats come in various sizes and designs, from small and simple to large and luxurious, providing accommodations for varying budgets and preferences.

Netherlands Houseboats

Houseboats in the Netherlands have a rich history and are an iconic part of Dutch culture. Amsterdammers began living on houseboats as early as the 17th century to cope with housing shortages. The Netherlands, known for its extensive canal networks, provides an ideal environment for houseboat living. Houseboats in the Netherlands come in two main types: classic barges, which are converted cargo ships, and modern floating houses built on concrete platforms.

Given the limited space in Dutch cities like Amsterdam, houseboats offer occupants the chance to live in centrally located areas with unique views and a strong connection to their surroundings. Living on a houseboat in the Netherlands has its own challenges, such as strict regulations regarding maintenance and mooring locations, but it also has unique advantages like experiencing the atmosphere and charm of Dutch waterways up close. Houseboat living in the Netherlands has become increasingly popular, making these floating homes highly sought after and a significant part of the Dutch lifestyle and cultural identity.


Houseboats offer a unique and adventurous lifestyle for people who love being surrounded by water and nature. These boats provide the convenience of a small home with the mobility of a vessel, allowing inhabitants to explore different locations and live a tranquil life.

One of the main advantages of living in a houseboat is the connection to nature. Houseboat dwellers can experience the beauty and serenity of various natural landscapes, from the backwaters of Kerala to the shores of the Florida Keys, or even more urban environments like the San Francisco Bay Area.

Purchasing a houseboat can range from affordable pre-owned models to luxury custom-built designs. It is essential to carefully consider your budget and personal preferences before making an investment in this type of alternative living.

Maintenance and safety measures should not be overlooked as they are critical aspects of houseboat ownership. Ensuring that the boat is structurally sound and up-to-date on preventative maintenance will secure a long-lasting and enjoyable experience.

Overall, houseboats provide an alternative way of living for those who seek a more unconventional and nomadic lifestyle. As with any significant decision, it is essential to research the pros and cons thoroughly, as well as understand the various legal and logistical factors involved in houseboat ownership.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a new houseboat cost?

The cost of a new houseboat can vary greatly depending on its size, features, and customization options. On the lower end, smaller houseboats may start around $100,000, while larger, more luxurious models can easily exceed $1 million. It's essential to consider your budget and what features you desire when purchasing a new houseboat.

Where can I find houseboats for sale?

Houseboats can be found through various online marketplaces, boat brokers, and individual sellers. Websites like Just Houseboats and LakeHomes offer listings of available houseboats across the country. Conduct thorough research on the boat's condition, price, and location before making a purchase decision.

What are the living requirements for a houseboat?

Living on a houseboat requires some essential amenities and features to make it comfortable and functional. These may include proper insulation, running water, a kitchen, sufficient storage space, and comfortable sleeping areas. Not all houseboats come equipped with these features, so make sure to evaluate your needs before purchasing one.

How do I maintain a houseboat in saltwater?

Proper maintenance is necessary when operating a houseboat in saltwater. Regularly check the hull and other components for signs of corrosion and clean them frequently to remove salt buildup. Install sacrificial anodes to protect the metal parts from galvanic corrosion. Additionally, ensure that the boat's engine and other mechanical systems are serviced regularly to maintain optimal performance.

Are there affordable houseboats for sale?

Yes, there are affordable houseboats for sale. Prices can widely range depending on the size, age, and condition of the houseboat. Older, used houseboats can be found at a more affordable price than new ones. Be sure to conduct adequate research, ask the right questions, and assess the condition of the houseboat before making a decision.

What are the stability features of houseboats?

Stability is a crucial factor for houseboats, as it ensures safety and comfort while living on the water. Many houseboats utilize a pontoon or barge-style hull, which provides a wide, stable platform. Other modern houseboats may feature advanced stabilization systems or a catamaran-style hull for added stability. It is essential to consider the stability features and design of a houseboat when choosing one that meets your requirements.


  1. The First Boat Ever Sold | Houseboat Magazine 2
Charlie Hardcastle
Charlie is Editor-in-Chief of Sea Magazine
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