What's it cost to live on a sailboat instead of a house?

So, I was talking with my folks the other day, and I learned that a used 40 foot sailboat in good condition (supposedly about the max size 2 people can handle successfully, and big enough for an ocean crossing) will cost about 90k-200k.

So it costs about as much as a house.

Well, ok, so what does it end up costing to live on one compared to the house?

House : moderately expensive maintenance from time to time. Every 20 years or so, there’s a big ticket item like a new roof (10-20k), or repairing flood damage, etc.

Property taxes, you gotta mow the grass, swap out broken appliances, pay the power bill.

Sailboat : as I understand it, like a house but a huge amount of additional maintenance. Basically, the ocean is perpetually destroying the onboard systems, and you are constantly purchasing a steady stream of replacements and installing them.

Of course, you don’t pay property taxes. But you do pay marina fees if you aren’t at sea. What does this run you, typically?

Also, like houses, a sailboat is perpetually in danger of being destroyed due to bad weather. If you choose not to purchase insurance, you are essentially choosing to pay the replacement cost if you ever lose it (so you only “save” the profit margin of the insurance in the long run). What does it cost for a comprehensive policy against your boat sinking or becoming wrecked?

Let’s say the boat costs 120k, used, and is approximately 40’ long. 2 people live onboard, and it has all the modern amenities including satellite internet, solar power with a lithium-iron battery bank, showers, desalination, etc. Just like a small house except it can sail.

The folks I know who live on a boat docked in Boston don’t have it rigged for long sailing trips. They get their power and water from the marina so no need for the major investment in battery packs or solar. They wanted to live downtown and this option was much cheaper than buying a condo there.

In winter they wrap the whole thing and have a sort of airlock on deck that helps keep the heating needs under control.

Mortage fees vary greatly. In our little marina, it’s about $400 a month for a 42 foot sailboat. (The fees can exceed $1,000/month in places like Seattle or LA). If we lived on board, our electric bill would be a little higher. Haul out every three years for bottom scrape and pait, $2,200.

FYI, most people who live aboard don’t sail very much, as the way you live makes sailing a bit messy (everything falls out of its place).

Insurance isn’t that bad, but if you’re not an experienced sailor, it may be hard to get a policy.

Sailboats are small. Many people do live on them. If you’re not into sailing, a 40 foot motor boat would be much more comfortable for living.

Not “mortgage”. Moorage. Can I blame autocorrect?

A boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money. Boats continually depreciate. Homes can appreciate. We have a Garden design 32 ft LOA wooden gaff cutter, docked for years in Port Townsend. It’s been out on the hard for four years due to illness, and I figure the shed we had built on the farm to house it will be paid for in two more years just by the dockage fees. Plus I have hay storage;).

The cost to replace your house, for insurance purposes, is less than the selling price you paid. The cost of replacement is for the “improvements”, e.g. your house, barn, etc. You can’t burn down the lot. With a boat…it cal all go to the bottom.
So if you pay the same price for a house or a boat, and “self insure” it will be cheaper to replace the house.

It’s not really apples and apples.

What I meant was that some people wouldn’t bother with insurance with something that would presumably be very expensive to insure, such as a sailboat. However, even if you choose not to buy the insurance, by owning one you are still assuming the same risks that the insurance is intended to mitigate.

The fact that it can theoretically sink at any time, resulting in a 100% loss (I guess a house still sits on land that has some value, eh) just makes the insurance even more expensive.

How does this work practically? Do insurance companies give you an exam on sailing practices and you get lower rates for scoring higher? Do you have to get references from grizzled old sea captains who will go and testify of your ability to hand, reef, and steer and the fact that you’re never never sick at sea?

We’ve lived aboard 2 different sailboats (one 32’ old wooden cutter, one 37’ fiberglass blue water boat) at various times over the last 30 years, most recently, about 10 years ago. I’m digging back in my memory, but I think we paid about $500/month for the marina, and that included garbage, electric, and water. In the winter when they turned off the water to the docks, they’d come around once a week with a hose and fill our holding tanks. We also had use of the showers at the marina, and they had coin operated washers and dryers.

We were insured for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and I think we paid $600/year. The marina required that we be insured to live aboard.

As for boat maintenance - haul out had to be done annually - if we waited 3 years, the weight of the barnacles would have sunk the boat! Cleaning, painting, replacing the zincs, haul out/haul in would run between $1000-$1500 a year, depending upon how much we did and how much we paid to have done. If the boat has teak trim, that requires sanding and varnish - expensive to have done, tedious to do yourself, but necessary unless you don’t care if your boat looks like crap. And like any home, things can break.

Unlike a home, storms can be a big issue. We lived aboard in Florida, and we didn’t have to deal with any hurricanes, but when we were in a house, we still had the boat, and we had to secure it when a hurricane was expected to hit our area. I’m not sure what you’d do if you were living aboard. Winters were always unpleasant - I was never warm enough, except under an electric blanket. Much of your living space in a displacement hull boat is below the waterline, and there’s no insulation to speak of.

There’s also the question of storage and food. We had a small fridge, so I was shopping frequently. Laundry was a pain to deal with - especially when we were living aboard with a newborn. And forget sleeping in on a weekend - everyone and his brother is taking their boats out at dawn to fish, so you’ll be rocking and rolling. “No Wake” isn’t always observed.

As for insurance rates and experience - I think we had to answer a questionnaire about our sailing experience. Having a boat insured thru the same company for a couple of decades gave us a certain amount of credibility, plus my husband got his captain’s license, but it seems to me it was pretty much honor system. Taking a boating safety course helps.

And going out for a sail wasn’t that huge a deal. We had to keep things stowed because there wasn’t room for clutter. You could go away for a weekend and not have to pack!! :smiley:

Overall, it was not a bad way to live, but I prefer more creature comforts than our boats offered.

One thing I forgot to say - if you’re making boat payments, your costs overall will probably be comparable to owning a home. If you own the boat outright, it’ll probably be a lot cheaper than having a mortgage, HOA fees, utilities, and all that. When we lived aboard with the baby, we saved a ton because we didn’t have a boat payment. The other boat, however, had a $665 monthly payment on top of slip rental, insurance, and maintenance.

You think so? I’m trying to compare the two cases equally. If you can afford to buy the boat, you can maybe afford to buy the house. I suppose another factor here is real estate inflation. It looks like the largest boat that 2 people can sale costs the same as a small house in a real estate area that has cheap houses. (about 130k used in good conditions)

Yet the same family that can afford a 130k boat might be considering a ~200k house. So if the boat is cheaper, and paid for sooner, then there’s the Marina fees, the insurance, and the maintenance

Versus property tax, residual mortgage costs, HOA fees, insurance, and maintenance.

Then there’s the quality of life difference : shivering under an electric blanket, rocking back and forth with the waves and the wakes does sound noticeably worse than sleeping like a rock on level ground in a warm house.

Oh, I see what you mean. If you have to make a boat payment, you are paying more in interest than if you are making a mortgage payment on the same amount of money.

Boat prices are all over the place. Our 37’ boat cost us about $68K, but after we sold it, we bought a 36’ sailboat for about $22K. Time of year and location have a lot to do with the price of a boat, too.

Oh, and the one we bought for $68K - we sold it 7 years later for $79K. As it happened, we got a super-good deal when we bought it, and when we sold it, the buyers also got a super deal, since similar boats of the same age were going closer to $100K. So you won’t necessarily lose money. Even the $22K boat was sold after 5 or 6 years for $19K - not bad at all.

One thing about buying a boat whether you’re a novice or not - ALWAYS get a survey with the boat out of the water. A good surveyor will cost you, but as in many things, you get what you pay for. And they’ll tell you things about your boat that you might not think to look for or ask about.

Also - the larger the boat, the more your slip will cost. Many marinas charge by foot of boat length, some have a flat charge based on the size of the slip. Some have metered electric for each slip and you pay for what you use, some include electricity in the slip rent. Some will not permit you to work on your boat in the slip beyond routine cleaning. We always found it helpful to walk along the docks and talk to people there when we were considering a new marina.

I have nothing to contribute except this-

While visiting my family in Florida I came across a news item about this. The state had decided that too many people were living on boats as a way to get out of property taxes. The state passed a law that unless a vessel was able to move under its own power and meet certain other requirements, it would be taxed as a home.

I don’t know if other states have similar requirements.

… that makes it sound like they’re living on barges, rather than boats. I’d think most of the boats out there could move under their own (or the wind’s) power…

You can buy an old sailboat for pretty cheap. The motor won’t work and the sails will have rotted away but it will float and a few tubes of caulk and year will keep the rain out. After the initial investment of 8 to 12 grand it’s like the finest of trailer park living only you’re on the water your neighbors are usually rich.

One of my long-ago friends got the family sailboat as part of her divorce settlement. She lived on it for the next year or two until she left the area.

What I remember: The boat stayed moored in the marina because she couldn’t afford diesel fuel, and there was no way she was going to go out without it. She had to pare down most of her belongings because space was negligible. The entire head also served as her shower. She never cooked inside, but she did have a little grill that she used when the weather was cooperative. When it wasn’t she relied o take-out. During the winter she had the boat drydocked and rented a room near work. Her slip fee was expensive, but it was the cheapest out of all the marinas in the area.

It intrigued me how she made it work. OTOH I could see myself getting antsy at the lack of room if I had to live on one FT.

There used to be - maybe there still are - barge-like house boats around Key West that never went anywhere. I know these were a target at one time for the lack-of-property-tax reason. They weren’t at marinas - they were anchored in a relatively shallow area.

I’m guessing another issue with them was sewage disposal. Most marinas have pump-out stations. I expect at least a few of these barge-things just dumped overboard… :eek:

Well, some of the barge-type houseboats in Bahia Mar can move under their own power…