The Cost of Living on a Boat

Living on the beach is expensive anywhere. From the cold shores in the Pacific North West, to the palm tree populated coast of So-Cal, renting an apartment is guaranteed to stretch your budget unless you’re sharing the space with room mates. And if you’re talking about owning property? Unless you have half a million for a down payment then forget it.

Rent is an unavoidable cost of living, and if you’re renting an apartment or a house you might at times begin to feel like your purpose for existence is to be a bill payer, that you’re just someone else’s paycheck. At the end of the day, even if you feel you can reasonably afford rent, you don’t own jack.

So let’s break down the cost of living on a boat shall we? There are four main costs of live-aboard life:

1. The Boat, duh

It’s typical for Marinas to only allow live-aboard status on vessels thirty five feet or larger, although if a harbor master takes a liking to you they may allow for a thirty foot boat. I’ve even heard of twenty-five footer live-aboards. It’s important to keep that in mind while boat buying, since it’d be a shame to buy the perfect boat to live in, only to learn there isn’t anywhere for you to put it. The general rule is to stick with the smallest boat you can get by with, not the largest you can afford.

To find a used sailboat in decent condition, a budget of ten to fifteen thousand will get your foot in the door. You should have a few thousand more for costs like pullout, surveying and repairs. It’s not uncommon for a used boat to require a few updates to get her up to code with the coast guard.

The good news is that once your boat is paid for, it’s yours! You may keep it for many years, sell it or include it in your will like any other personal property.

2. Slip Fee

The slip fee usually varies by the size of the boat, the larger the vessel the higher the slip fee, since a bigger boat requires a bigger slip. Expect to pay around $200 to $500 a month for your slip. Cheaper slips are usually on rivers or off the coast in smaller towns. The most expensive slips will be on popular beaches or near big cities.

3. Live-aboard Fee

While you may think you are good to go as soon as your boat is in the water with the slip fee paid, if you start living on your vessel without live-aboard status you are considered a “sneak-aboard”. There are people out there that take this route, however consider that this can get you kicked out of your slip without just 24 hours notice, your vessel impounded, and the loss of any deposit.

A live-aboard fee is relatively inexpensive, usually around $200 a month for one person and an added $50 per month for each additional person. This ensures your status to live full time in your slip and can include access to facilities like private bathrooms, showers, parking and lounge areas. Make sure to ask marinas what amenities are offered, I didn’t realized there was a gym room at my marina for a whole month after I started living there!

4. Utilities, Mail and Insurance

Say goodbye to triple digit water/electricity bills, and neighborhood association fees. I lump these all together because they’re only worth mentioning purely for the fact that the costs are so microscopic. My monthly mail box is just $15 through my marina and insurance to cover your boat in case of damage or sinking is barely over a $100 billed annually.

Plus, since I live in such a small space, it takes significantly less to heat and light it. In fact, the most I’ve ever paid for Electricity is $40 for the coldest February in forty years

So how much do I pay to live with my S.O. on a 35′ boat right on the ocean? With utilities? At the most it’s around $385 a month. Living on by the beach in paradise for under $400 a month is all about not being a human paycheck, it’s about paying off debt and saving my money for adventure. It’s about stressing less and enjoying living.

How about you all? How do you live? Would you live on a boat for the cheap rent?