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photo of Living On A Boat: Guide To Choosing The Right Live Aboard

Living On A Boat: Guide To Choosing The Right Live Aboard

By Robert Bowman | Posted On Jun 24, 2024
Updated On Jun 25, 2024

The appeal of living aboard a boat has grown considerably over the last few years as the cost of owning a traditional home has increased substantially with interest rates. With everything from politics to consumer confidence creating additional pressure on everyone, setting course for the open ocean has never sounded more tempting.

One only has to look on Youtube to see the growing number of liveaboard content creators documenting the highs and lows of boat life, some of which have reached millions of views. Like anything in life, there will be pros and cons to living on board a boat, but whether or not it becomes worth the effort depends on many factors, none of which are more important than the boat you choose. Careful planning, research, a realistic budget, and the help of a professional yacht broker during the process of buying your liveaboard boat can greatly improve your chances of a successful experience.

Below are the different sections of our Liveaboard Boat Guide. Tap or click any one to move down to that section.

  1. Defining Your Dream Of Living Aboard
  2. What Types Of Boats Can You Live On?
  3. What Size Boat Do You Need To Live On?
  4. What Are The Top Liveaboard Boat Brands?
  5. Can You Anchor You Boat Overnight Anywhere You Want?
  6. What Is The Actual Cost Of Living On A Boat?
  7. How Do You Make Money While Living On A Boat?
  8. What Are The Next Steps To Living On A Boat?


(Below: Nordhavn owners MV FREEDOM discuss the pros and cons of living on board a boat full time.)




The liveaboard dream usually starts big as you envision yourself anchored at a secluded Bahamian island, catching fish off of the transom that you'll filet and eat this evening, as you stargaze at the most unpolluted sky you've ever seen. In reality, there are marina slips to reserve, weather to watch, supplies to monitor, and other unforeseen circumstances that will arise. It's important to be diligent in your research and planning in order to succeed.

Before you get in to choosing your boat and gathering supplies, sit down and think about the relative locations you want to visit while living aboard. For some, this is a 2-3 year plan where the goal is to complete The Great Loop and spend the winters down in the islands before selling the boat and returning to the real world. For others, a sailboat at a liveaboard marina in the Florida Keys sounds like the perfect retirement plan. Before you get going on the perfect liveaboard boat, figure out the following:

  1. What location do you see yourself living in?
  2. Pick a start date and location that coincides with good weather.
  3. Are you planning on living at a marina or anchoring off?
  4. Have you researched the local regulations to see if anchoring overnight is allowed?
  5. How long do you plan to stay in this area before moving on?
  6. Will you generally be cruising near the coast or do you need offshore capability?

Understanding your cruising goals, along with fuel needs, fresh water capacity, generator size, and other needed amenities, can help you back into both the right type of boat you need to be successful and the beginnings of a potential budget.

(Below: Some marinas, like Mangrove Marina in the Florida Keys, offer long-term liveaboard options.)

marina in florida keys for liveaboard boats



Traditionally there are several types of boats that liveaboard owners seem to learn towards when choosing the right vessel for their needs. Many of these types of liveaboard boats consist of the same characteristics, including being fuel efficient, but there are big differences at both ends of the spectrum. Large long-distance cruising yachts can cost millions of dollars and sustain living on board at sea for weeks at a time, while on the other end of the spectrum some sailboat owners have less than $25,000 invested. Understanding your boat budget and the ongoing costs can help dictate what type of liveaboard you need. Below are some examples of popular liveaboard boats:

Boat shows are an excellent place to step foot on board different types of boats for research. Which boats will have enough room for you? Which type of vessel is going to be easiest for you to manage? The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show is a great resource as almost every manufacturer is on display.

(Below: This Nordic Tugs 39 "PHYLLIS D" would make an excellent liveaboard for the right couple.)

nordic tugs trawler liveaboard boat



Are there people out there that live on 18-foot sailboats and sail around the country? Yes, there are. Do you really want to live like that for months at a time? The answer is probably no. If you're serious about being a liveaboard boat owner, there is likely a minimum size you will need to comfortably live during your travels. There is also likely a size that becomes too large to either dock at a marina or efficiently manage within your budget. 

Captain Jeff Palmer, President of United Yacht Sales, has been around boats all of his life, been a captain of some of the most prestigious charter yachts on the water, and helped his own clients into their perfect boat. "My opinion is that the perfect sized liveaboard boat for a couple is between 35 and 45-feet," said Jeff. "That's going to give you enough interior space and enough storage, but is still going to be easy to manage."

"But size is only one factor to consider," he continued. "You also need to make sure you have a plan for food storage, supplies, a generator that supplies enough power, fuel capacity, and a lot more to consider. This is where hiring a knowledgeable yacht broker can really help streamline the entire process for you."



Once you've determined the appropriate type and size of liveaboard boat you want for your adventure, it's time to narrow the search to a specific boat. Understanding the history, reputation, and availability of specific manufacturers and their models can help you determine the appropriate path for you, and your broker, to pursue. Research is paramount at this stage of your selection process and should include ample time spent on Youtube, inquiring with other owners on social media, and having numerous conversations with your yacht broker about your evolving needs.

Below are several examples of some of the top boat builders that design liveaboard models:

There are many opportunities for both sail and power boats on the brokerage market. You can also utilize the relationship with your yacht broker as your advisor if you decide to custom build a brand new liveaboard boat.

(Below: On the high-end luxury side, a Horizon power catamaran is hard to beat in terms of livability.)



While the dream of having the freedom to live wherever you want on the water is the origin of your desires to own a liveaboard, the reality is that most cities have some regulations on where boats can legally anchor overnight. For example, new regulations passed in Broward County, Florida limit boat owners from anchoring more than 45 days in either the North or South Lake. In other words, every county within each state may have different regulations and laws you must abide by. "As of July 2021 the State of Florida enacted a law that allows municipal governments and counties to manage anchorages," said a statement in the Waterway Guide. "These new measures also provide guidance on the definitions of derelict vessels, use of unpermitted moorings and proof of pump-out when anchored for 10 days or longer in permitted mooring fields or No-Discharge Zones."

Another good resource to determine where you can anchor is the Active Captain tool by Garmin. This is a large community of boaters who can share their experiences and advice about anchorages. The site currently claims to have map way points to nearly 14,500 anchorages.

(Below: A screenshot of the Fort Lauderdale area on Active Captain showing where to anchor. Look for the green anchors!)

screenshot of active captain mooring availability



Boaters that desire to live on board can make the cost of living less expensive than a more traditional home and life on land. By planning ahead, being strategic, and making some sacrifices, it certainly can be cheaper to live on a boat. If you're considering purchasing a liveaboard boat and want to make the leap to full-time living on the water, consider these factors when creating your budget:

  • Fuel - Needed for both moving to a new location and for any generator on board (Solar panels can help!)
  • Boat Insurance - Expect to pay between $500 - $1,000 per month, especially in Florida.
  • Marina Slip Fees - Do you plan on taking advantage of the amenities (shower, laundry) at the marina?
  • Boat Repair - Things are going to happen, it's smart to be ready with a special fund for boat repairs.
  • Lifestyle - Are you going to want to hang out at the awesome bar & grill right on the beach, next to the marina? We think so.
  • Health Insurance - Don't forget to keep this active! Those marina piling barnacles can be sharp!
  • Other - Groceries, phone bill, wifi, and more. Just like living on land, there are luxuries you may not want to give up.

Can you live on a boat for free? Probably not and still be very comfortable. There are limits on how long you can anchor overnight, as mentioned above, so constantly moving locations and under sail, would be necessary. put together a pie chart (below) on how they live on a $4,000/month budget while on board their boat.

pie chart costs of living on board your boat



Unless you are independently wealthy or have a source of income that doesn't require you to be landlocked, there may come a time during your liveaboard experience that requires you to earn an income. Living on a boat can become expensive, particularly if you desire a certain lifestyle. In a recent poll on a Reddit boating group, a user asked what everyone did for money while living on board their boat. Here were some of the responses:

  • TooCool1953: "Teaching English as a second language remotely."
  • AJRando: "I do software development, modeling, and simulation."
  • WhyRumAlwaysGone: "Marine electrician/Captain about 50/50."
  • Witch_Wild: "Vlogging and freelance coding"

If you're good at social media, content about living on a boat does very well. While actual numbers online vary, Youtube is said to pay out between $5-$15 for every 1,000 views of a video. To put this into perspective, the video on this article has 230,000 views which at an average of $10 per 1,000 views means this video earned a total of $2,300 before taxes.

(Below: Many boaters are now turning to Starlink for WiFi while on board. This is a topic of concern among liveaboard owners who need to earn an income.)

wifi on your liveaboard boat



If after considering all of the changes that must be made to switch from land life to boat life you still want to proceed, there are many things you can do simultaneously to get started.

  • Determine where you want to begin your adventure and when.
  • Start downsizing your life. There is only so much room on a 35-to-45 foot boat.
  • Start collecting spare boat parts. While being a liveaboard boater, you're going to want two of everything.
  • If you can, pay for a temporary slip so that you can methodically begin to move in before making the complete switch.
  • Order a few liveaboard books off of Amazon like, The Essential Guide To Living On A Yacht
  • Before you set off to your new location, have a survey done on your boat to spot any potential mechanical issues.

If you have yet to buy your liveaboard boat, or need assistance with selling your current boat, feel free to contact us today at (772) 463-3131 or by email at We would be more than happy to connect you with an expert, professional yacht broker that specializes in the type of boat you're purchasing or selling.



United Yacht Sales has the world's largest network of boat buyers and sellers in the industry, thanks to our team of over 250 yacht brokers in 104 different locations. Whether buying a luxury boat or selling one, we have the right expert on staff to assist you in navigating the brokerage market for your type of yacht. If you're looking at selling a boat, there is no quicker way to get activity than listing it with United. Our entire team is immediately notified every time a listing agreement is made with United Yacht Sales and many boats are sold before they ever even make it online. Our support team is among the best in the industry at marketing your yacht. 100% of our marketing budget goes towards advertising our clients' listings, a claim not many other firms can make. To get started listing your yacht, fill out our online form What's My Yacht Worth?