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Waking up to the gentle lapping of waves as a sunrise spills over the horizon. Spending your days basking in the warm sun, the taste of salty air on your lips, and the promise of adventure in your grasp. Discovering the beauty that lies below the surface and making friends with the wildlife that lives there.
It’s pretty easy to see the appeal of living on a boat. While it can be a dream, it’s not all rainbows and dolphin flips.
The ocean is dangerous. Anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t know it well enough. Picking the best liveaboard boat is absolutely essential for both the safety and enjoyment of your time aboard.
There is no one right boat for everybody, otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many different types. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best liveaboard boats and hopefully help you find the perfect boat for you.
Table of Contents
We’ve compiled a list of the best boats to live on. Further down in this article, we’ll talk about all the considerations to make when choosing the perfect liveaboard boat for you. We will also explain where and how to buy the boat of your dreams.
Here we go – in no particular order.
Price range: $160,000-$300,000
The Swift Trawler 30 is a capable long-range cruiser. Even though it’s a small vessel, its design balances seaworthiness and comfort, which is exactly what you need when you’re a full-time cruiser. It has an autonomy of 200 miles at cruising speed, which is 14 to 15 knots. The top speed is 25 knots. It has a 370 linear transmission engine, which is quiet, reliable and cheap to maintain.
A cool feature of the Swift 30 is the stern mirror, which can open completely to create a 75-square-foot platform on which to entertain at anchor or at the dock. Inside, there is a sizable galley, a dinette which turns into a berth, two cabins and a head with a separate shower.
This is a recent model, so the price range is rather high. If you like the look of this boat, but you’re looking for a more spacious trawler, check out the Swift 44. The Swift 34 is older, so you can find it for cheaper.
Price range: $400,000-$600,000
Are you an adventurous cruiser? This Nordhavn 40 has an impressive autonomy of 2,450nm at roughly 7 knots. It’s a rugged, durable and seaworthy trawler, which will allow you to travel long distances in rough conditions. This is not a boat to push at high speed, but rather a comfortable and safe trawler to take to high latitudes.
The Nordhavn 40 features a forward master cabin with an island queen berth and a midship guest cabin with two bunks. There are also a spacious head with a shower stall, a large galley, and a cozy salon. The teak table in the salon can accommodate up to seven people and turns into an extra berth. The pilothouse is up four steps from the salon and offers 270-degree views, thanks to the wide windows. The cockpit isn’t huge, but there’s enough space to fish and sit outside.
With such a legendary brand name behind it, it’s no surprise this boat is rather expensive.
Price range: $50,000-$100,000
The Carver 4207 is one of the best-selling motor yachts in her class from the 80s. It has a 350 hp gas engine with a cruising speed of 13-14 knots and a 22-knot top speed.
The Carver 4207 has two staterooms, a decent-sized head, a dinette, a linear galley and a large cockpit with a hardtop. This boat has wider side decks than most yachts, which are very comfortable to walk on.
If you’re on a budget, this motor yacht will be a comfortable cruiser, which can travel fast. While it’s an old vessel, it features solid fiberglass hull construction from the waterline to the keel, which means moisture intrusion is unlikely. The hull will last a very long time.
Price range: $40,000-$100,000
The Cheoy Lee Offshore 38 is a bluewater sailboat with a fantastic reputation for offshore passages. It’s ketch or sloop rigged.
The ketch version features two cockpits – one midship and one at the stern. The original engine was an 15hp diesel; however many owners have now replaced it with a newer and bigger one. The long keel makes it a comfortable vessel in rough seas and when the anchorage gets rolly.
Inside, there are a medium-sized galley, two aft cabins, a small head and two settees on board. This cruiser makes the most of the space available while being very practical.
Price range: $1.5 million
LOA: 54.9 ft
This is a performance catamaran, which allows you to travel fast and complete offshore passages in days and weeks, rather than weeks and months. The sail plan also allows you to sail upwind, something that older catamarans generally can’t do. The boat’s speed varies between 8 and 20 knots, depending on the wind angle. The catamaran has two 60hp diesel engines, which can push it at 8 to 10 knots.
The interior is planned out with modern living in mind: there are a linear galley and a large island, which can be turned into a table. Next to it is the nav station, which looks like an office desk. The cockpit is huge and features large settees and a big table.
The downside of cruising in such a performance-oriented boat is that you will need to keep the vessel as light as possible in order to keep the performance good. This means taking less of your belongings with you, as well as a smaller number of appliances on board.
Price range: from $239,000
Looking for a large, comfortable house on the water? The Zion has two bedrooms, a loft, a huge kitchen, a large bathroom, and front and rear decks. Up to eight people can sleep in it.
The ceilings of this houseboat are very high and there is a huge amount of windows, so there’s always plenty of light. The 14’x14’ front deck can fit a hot tub, grill, bar, and more. If you don’t need to leave the dock, this is certainly a fantastic luxurious, yet affordable option.
Price range: from $70,000
The Catamaran Cruiser is the best budget option for those looking to buy a new houseboat. It’s simple, yet practical and it makes for a great first houseboat.
Inside, there’s one bedroom, a bathroom and a small linear kitchen with a full-sized fridge. On the 300 sq ft deck there’s plenty of room for chilling out and sunbathing. This houseboat also has an outboard engine, so you can move docks every now and then.
These are just a few of the many amazing liveaboard boats on the market – used and new. To help you with your research, we prepared a more comprehensive list below.
- Hallberg-Rassy 48 Mk II
- Amel 55
- Tayana 37
- Bowman 40
- Tartan 38
- Bénéteau Oceanis 45
- Island Packet 35
- Discovery 55
- Bavaria Cruiser 46
- C&C Landfall 38
- Alberg 30
- Catalina 545
- Contest 50CS
- Sabre 36
- Rustler 42
- Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 36i
- Pacific Seacraft 37
- Swan 44
- Passport 40
- Westsail 32
- Islander 36
- Valiant 40
- Gulfstar 50
- Hunter 356
- Island Packet 38
- Bristol 40
- Peterson 44
- Cal 40
- Lagoon 65
- Wharram Tiki 38 (self-build)
- Wharram Tiki 46 (self-build)
- Gemini 105M
- Leopard 48
- Leopard 45
- Catana 50
- Antares 44i
- Fountaine Pajot Belize 43
- Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40
- Gunboat 62
- Manta 42
- Nautitech 44
- Privilege Series 5
- Seawind 1260
- Atlantic 42
- Ocean Twins
- Sunreef 50
Trawlers and motor yachts:
- Corvette 32
- Hatteras 40 Double Cabin
- CHB Trawler 34
- Trader 44
- Aquanaut 1100
- Fleming 55
- American Tug 365
- Ranger Tugs R27
- Carver 500/504 Cockpit MY
- Silverton 402-422 Motor Yacht
- Sea Ray 550 Sedan Bridge
- Great Harbour N47
- Grand Banks 43 Heritage EU
- Kadey-Krogen 50 Open
- Grand Banks East Bay 44
- Carver 444 Cockpit MY
- Hatteras 56 Motor Yacht
- Hatteras 53 Extended Deckhouse
- Stardust Cruisers Houseboat
- Lux Series Sumerset
- Gibson Cabin Yacht 5000
- Savanti 31 Docksider
- V-Series by Destination Yachts
- Atlas V-Series
- Harbor Cottage 2-Story Houseboat
- Adonia houseboat
There are many more boats to live on out there. This is just a starting point for your research.
One of the first things you’ll need to consider is whether to buy a new or used liveaboard boat for sale. This is usually more of a financial decision than anything else, as a new boat can cost over 10x as much as a similar used model.
New boats are by and large more reliable than used boats. Unmarked by years of wear and tear, new boats have less mechanical issues and malfunctions. If you’re not particularly handy with a toolbox, this could be a priceless benefit.
Alternately, if you know your way around an engine, you might actually enjoy taking on a fixer-upper.
Used liveaboard boats are also a bit harder to shop for. When you’re buying new, you can easily select any make or model you’d like. With almost endless options, it’s likely you’ll be able to find everything on your wish list wrapped up in one ideal vessel.
On the used market, pickings are a bit slimmer. Your options are limited to what’s available, and you might find you have to compromise here and there to find a boat that meets your needs.
Boat dealerships know how to market online, and you’ll find almost every detail imaginable listed out and photographed for new boats. Since most used boats are listed independently by owners, you might struggle to find certain info about the boat, and pictures tend to be much poorer quality.
Time is also a big factor here. If you’re buying a new boat to live on, you can set your own schedule. Dealerships carry multiple models and can always factory order more.
When you’re buying a used boat, you’re at the liberty of the sellers. If the perfect boat pops up on the market, you might lose out if you don’t snatch it up. You also might end up waiting months to find the boat you end up buying.
In general, you’ll have to be a bit more flexible with your timeline, or be willing to compromise on what you want in your boat if you go the used route.
There are many types of boats you can live on, the trick is choosing the best boat to live on for your specific needs.
The first thing you’ll want to determine is what you’re using the boat for. Some people who live aboard their boats mostly keep to their marina slip and rarely travel too far from it. Others use their liveaboards as cruisers and keep mostly to the water, traveling and voyaging often to new waters.
The primary use of your vessel will largely impact the type you should look for. If you plan to embark on longer trips, you’ll either need wind power or large fuel tanks, and should look at sailboats or trawlers.
Catamarans tend to be more popular liveaboard sailboats because of their large cabin space. Traditional sailboats are built to travel, and their hulls offer much less living space than catamarans.
Sailing boats make for an incredibly efficient voyage and the gas savings will hugely cut down costs. However, making longer trips via wind power requires some hefty sailing knowledge and experience, and to travel without such would be a hazard.
Sailing is also a lot of work; hard, grueling work, sometimes in rain or cold, powerful winds. Comparing sailing to turning a key and pushing a throttle is comparing apples to oranges. Unless you truly love sailing, you should probably look into a trawler for long-distance travels.
Houseboats are, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular types of liveaboard boats.
Their living quarters are often extremely spacious and comfortable, as that’s what they’re primarily designed for, making them one of the best boats to live on. But because they are built more for living than cruising, of all the boats you can live on, they’re not the most seaworthy and are often only considered for lakes or other calm water travel.
Trawlers and motor yachts are also great liveaboard options. Both can provide a surprising amount of living space and amenities, yet are also suitable for long-distance or rough sea travel.
Most trawlers have rather disappointing top speeds, so make sure to get one that can go fast enough for your needs. If you’re planning on plenty of ocean travel, a fast boat can be essential to outrun inclement weather, storms, or sunset.
Beautiful catamaran liveaboard boat shown floating near an iceberg
This San Francisco couple chose a catamaran as their liveaboard boat
Not all boats are created equal. A 30 ft. sailboat will have just a fraction of the living space a 30 ft. houseboat has.
Before figuring out exactly what size boat you need, it can be helpful to walk through a few. Getting a feel for a few different size boats you can live on will help you better understand what you’ll need.
Before deciding how much space you need, it’s also important to consider where you’ll be spending most of your time.
Will you spend your days aboard the boat? Out on the sun deck? Inside the cabins? Will you anchor or moor and spend your days on land?
Think about what your life will actually look like once you’re living aboard.
If you’re moored near rainy Seattle and know you’ll be spending a lot of time inside your cabins, you will need to prioritize interior living space. If you’re going to be in the Caribbean and are lucky enough to never get sunburn, you might spend most or all of your time above deck, and should prioritize outdoor spaces.
Also, consider your travel companions. If you’re on your own, you can get away with a much smaller liveaboard boat than a small family with a pet or two.
Some space-saving solutions like foldaway beds or multipurpose use areas might seem like an ideal way to fit more into less, but when you’re living full-time in cramped quarters, those solutions can quickly turn into problems.
It’s also important to think about where you’ll be keeping the boat. If you plan to anchor or tie up to a mooring buoy, size isn’t super important.
Most people keep their liveaboard boats in marina slips, which are priced and assigned based on boat length. Also, some marinas are overwhelmed by certain length boats, and you might not be able to find available slips in those lengths. So if you’re hoping to moor at a particular marina, it might benefit you to check what slips they have available.
How you’ll be traveling in your boat also impacts what size you’ll need. The larger the boat, the more difficult it will be to maneuver. If you’ll be traveling through small waterways, bays, or lakes, a small profile can make for much more comfortable navigation.
Smaller boats are also more cost-effective to operate. If you’re relying on an engine for power, a few less feet of length could mean thousands of dollars in gas savings down the road.
On the other hand, smaller boats are easily tossed around by large, ocean waves. On many waters, small vessels aren’t just inconvenient, they’re dangerous. It’s important that your boat is big enough to weather whatever conditions you plan to use it in.
Learn more about the best size boat for ocean crossings.
If you’re shopping for a new liveaboard boat, the best place to start is a dealership.
There, you’ll be able to compare models and walk through the actual boats you’re considering. They’ll also often let you test drive the boat before you agree to purchase, giving you a great chance to test out all machinery and ask questions from the expert.
As I mentioned above, shopping for a used boat is a bit trickier. The Internet has plenty of sites used to buy and sell boats like boattrader.com, boats.com, and even Craigslist. You might get lucky and find the perfect boat listed online, but many boats for sale never make it to the Internet.
Marinas are a great place to look for used boats, most have bulletin boards littered with sellers’ printouts. It also can be helpful to wander the marina itself.
Not only does looking at various boats help you to figure out what size/type of boat you want, but you’ll also likely find several adorned with “For Sale” signs, and you might just stumble upon the perfect one.
Finding a boat that’s already moored at a nearby marina can also save you a lot of money on transport costs.
If the marina you want to moor at is in high demand, it might not have any open slips, and may even have a years-long waiting list for new tenants. Buying a used boat that’s already moored at that marina might be a loophole to getting the location you want.
Some marinas allow for slip transfers with boat purchases. If your marina does, it could be worth checking out what boats are for sale within the harbor.
Life on a liveaboard boat really can be a dream. If you spend the time to pick out the perfect boat for your needs, you can easily make that dream a reality.
Hopefully, this article has helped you start seeing what that reality could look like. If you still have any questions, let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help figure it out.