How Much Does it Really Cost to Live on a Sailboat?

How Much Does it Really Cost to Live on a Sailboat

How much does it really cost to live on a sailboat?

This has been a common question among people who want to try and live on a reliable boat. Many are clueless while some come to a good starting point of spending $1,000 per month while living onboard while some people spend even more. The amount of money spent on sailing costs actually varies since different locations call for different expenses. One thing is for sure – you do not have to be a millionaire to be able to start your water adventure.

A cruising budget is entirely different from what you have as your budget on land. For instance, if your monthly average cost is at $1,000 on land, it can be higher while you are living on a sailboat. This is because you will have to buy more provisions and take them aboard unlike when you live on land where you can easily go grocery shopping when needed.

Another thing to consider, among so many factors, is the cost of maintenance. Most boats come with a warranty. However, a used, cheap boat may not have one. That is why you have to compute your cruising budget and include the annual maintenance cost for your boat.

The average cost of purchasing great boats

The average cost of purchasing great boats

You may have been told that most sailboats can be very expensive to own, if not impossible. However, this is a widespread misconception. Nowadays, there are already a lot of options widely available in the market that would best fit your needs without hurting your pocket. You can choose an expensive boat or even used ones depending on your budget.

On the other hand, take note that owning a sailboat does cost money in great amounts. However, it is quite cheaper than what most people think. For instance, if you opt to buy a used boat, of course, the price will be lower compared to owning a brand-new small boat. That is why it is always important to plan and check your budget before heading to a store to purchase one.

So what’s the average price for owning a brand new or a used sailboat? Several factors should be considered including the size, the model and the type as this will play a big role in the boat’s price. A good example to compare is a brand new Islander 36′ which can cost you more than $100,000 while getting a used one costs about $40,000. Maintenance for this type of boat runs from $2,000 to 3,000 while other maintenance fees for some boats differ.

Reading comprehensive guides such as this one will help you decide according to your spending habits. So if you are looking to buy a boat in the near future, continue reading this article as we have more information for you.

Paying for the initial boat cost

Paying for the initial boat cost

The initial purchase cost is the most obvious first step that you have to make. The condition of the boat, as well as its model, will play a big factor that will determine how much you need to spend. In most cases, a used sail costs less compared to a brand new one. Buying a new one to start your new life living on a boat can be an interesting venture.

But keep in mind that a new boat purchase can be likened to buying a brand-new car. You will need to pay expensive premiums but the vehicle will depreciate over time, whether you like it or not. That is why there are many aspects to consider before giving a brand new boat a go especially when it comes to costs. Above all, you have to consider the type of boat that will be most useful to what you want to do, which is living aboard it.

When you’ve decided that you’re going for a used boat, the basic rule of thumb is to choose from ones that are aged from 2 to 10 years old. This will be a great way to save you the total cost from your initial purchase. Check the condition of the boat including the drivetrain, the engine, and the hull, and see if the true cost of the boat is reasonable enough.

If you don’t have enough cash to pay for the total cost outright, there are several financing institutions that will help you pay for it. Take note that you will still have to pay the downpayment which will initially cut costs. This is another factor that you may want to consider as a part of the cost to live onboard a boat.

Generally, new boats come with warranty but used ones do not have this feature especially when you just purchased it from another person. Meanwhile, you can always ask to lower the cost of the boat if it does not come with insurance or a warranty. Don’t forget to ask for maintenance receipts and the previous average cost of repairs and parts.

Operating Expenses of your boat while living aboard

Operating Expenses of your boat while living aboard

From food to fuel to repairs, of course, you will need to spend even when you are already living in your boat in the middle of the ocean. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the East Coast, the south, or even in the Pacific. There will always be operating expenses every time you ride that nice boat of yours. Aside from paying your fuel costs, you will also need to buy other things needed to keep your boat sailing. If your boat makes use of electricity, then you will have to pay electric bills that can differ per location unless you have solar panels installed. 

So how much do you really need? This may be difficult to determine because it will depend on where you are. Of course, if you are sailing in prime locations, then operating costs are presumably higher. If you are sailing to a new country, then that would also mean different operating expenses. Nevertheless, it is always advised to get a budget plan ready before sailing. This will help you know what to spend and will cut costs of unnecessary spending.

How much do I need for the boat’s maintenance cost?

How much do I need for the boat's maintenance cost

Among the many factors that people are always worried about boats is the cost of maintenance. The average cost for sailboat maintenance is $1006. For the parts and tools, it usually costs around $687. As you sail, you will do a lot of fixing broken parts and maintaining them. In order to do this, you will need to have the tools like hardware tools, spare parts, and cleaning aids and agents. There will be times when you don’t mostly need too many tools, especially when you already have the basic ones. By the end of the month, you will spend about 40% of your annual budget.

After being able to sail for a couple of months, you will realize how expensive it is to hire people to maintain your boat. By then, you will be your very own handyman. This will help cut down the monthly cost that goes to maintenance alone. Over time, you will continue to learn how to do minor repairs on your boat that will also save your living costs. Working on your own boat can save a considerable amount of money.

Getting Boat and Health Insurance

Getting Boat and Health Insurance

If you are to spend money while living aboard your boat, make sure that you get yourself insured. Also, don’t forget to check if your new boat is covered with insurance. Usually, the initial cost of buying a new boat comes with insurance. This will save you cash whenever you encounter boat damage during winter storms or while sailing.

On the other hand, another additional cost is your own health insurance. Health coverage for people who live on board a boat is called cruisers insurance. Although many sailors living on boats are generally healthy, this shouldn’t get you all complacent because you may never know what can happen while out on the sea. Getting insurance is very helpful especially when you are planning to sail long voyages. Winter months can be extremely hard and can even make you sick. So to avoid other costs for a checkup, it is best to get cruiser insurance.

As for boat coverage, it is valued at $233 on average. However, newbie cruisers will have limited insurance options in the first year. Nevertheless, the cost will drop from 2.8% of the boat value to 1.3% by the second year. Your cruising grounds will also be limited from July to November. That is why it is always advised to search for helpful content and information regarding insurance, where you are cruising, and when it is safe to cruise, which is when there are no hurricanes or other sorts of calamities to avoid possible dangers.

Spending for miscellaneous expenses

Spending for miscellaneous expenses

The miscellaneous expenses are the minor transactions related to the boat. These minor transactions include buying boat needs in small quantities, the USCG (US coast guard) documentation, memberships, sales tax, and more. 

The Boat US Membership is like paying itself more than once. Being a member has benefits like getting dockage and fuel discounts, lowered marina fees, and towing can even come free. However, this is only good for boats that have no more than one engine. For the right price, being a member involves minimal considerations. You can check out with your local municipality for further information so you will have some idea what to prepare for before finally deciding to move and live in your boat.

The difference between Marinas and Anchoring

The difference between Marinas and Anchoring

If you’re looking into how much it costs to live in a boat, you know that it is more budget-friendly to anchor than to dock in a marina. Although anchoring is preferred, docking does have a set of parameters that dictates your comfort and safety. It also involves thorough planning. 

Docking involves good skills that you can learn over sailing lessons. If you have a decent sailboat in terms of size, then you won’t have any problem docking. Although as mentioned, anchoring will save you more costs. Presumably, you already have been learning curve maneuvering so that should make it easier for you to dock regardless of space. Getting used to this lifestyle isn’t always a bed rose. In fact, marinas do make living in a boat easier. It’s just becoming comfortable in anchoring that gives people more confidence.

Eventually, you’ll feel more at ease with the boating systems, the weather, and doing repairs. You’ll also improve your ability to conserve water and energy. You will also get used to the harsh temperatures and the measures you have to observe to keep your temperature regulated. Sooner or later, you have already spent less time and money at the marinas. However, some yacht clubs offer discounts for members who want to dock at the marinas and can even reserve spaces even when there is referring traffic.

If you dream of this sailing lifestyle, don’t expect that it will be easy to adapt to it immediately. But through experience, your difficulties and stresses will lessen.

Does food cost more when living on a boat?

Does food cost more when living on a boat

Food prices will always vary depending on where you are. However, for most cruisers, provisions are always a major expense. This is probably because you have to stock more food when sailing compared to having just to buy what you need when you live on land.

As you anticipate your life on the water, you will want to learn how to cook, bake, or simply make most of everything. You’d even feel proud of the dish you eat after you finish cooking in your little boat’s kitchen. This will help you trim down the cost of expenses and be more conscious of your budget.

Sometimes, you will get to thinking if you really need to eat when most of the time you’re sailing. Well, the answer is probably yes. This might be because that open sea feeling will leave you hungry. That is why you must ration your fruits and vegetables, making sure that you keep those with longer shelf life. This will ensure you have enough food while sailing as you cannot find any groceries in the middle of the ocean.

Try starting out with some vegetable salad and cilantro hummus bowls homemade style. As those vegetables start to run out, you’re gonna start cooking some hot dishes like stir-fries and curries. As your storage runs out, you’re going to proceed with eating foods with longer shelf life like rice, bean dishes, pineapple and jalapeño pizzas, and stuff like bean tacos paired with pickled onions and cabbage. There is one skill you’ll mostly learn and develop when you are living on a boat and that is to eat sustainably.

Aside from the usual everyday food, you’d want to spend a day or two drinking alcohol while aboard your boat. A wise choice to buy your beer stock is heading to a local grocery store after docking. Beer prices are cheaper than buying it from the marina. There will always be a liquor store in the area so you won’t find it difficult to look for one. You can also get meat provisions and other stock that would last until your next dock.

Popular sailboat examples and their prices

Popular sailboat examples and their prices

There are a lot of great vessels out there with good prices. They can neither be too expensive nor cheap but you will surely be able to afford them. Some people think that if it’s expensive, it will also look good. However, some expensive boats do not have really good designs while those sold cheaper can even be better. Looking around before deciding to purchase one will help you determine the best boat suited for your sailing needs. If you rush buying what you see first, chances are you will end up losing more cash rather than saving up some money for buying the right one.

It is also a good idea to bring someone who knows about boats when you are planning to purchase one. This will ensure you have a person you can trust to give you good advice. Here are some boat examples that you would want to consider sailing and living on.

The medium-priced Island Packet 26′

This type will cost you $24,860 initially. This includes the registration of the vessel, taxes, sailing club, and even trailer. However, recurring costs are at $5,650 annually. So that’s roughly $471 monthly. This covers the insurance, fuel, sailing clubs, winterize, and more taxes. The Island Packet is classified as a medium-priced vessel that does not come with too much hassle. Its maintenance isn’t complex so more people are opting for this model.

Catalina 22′ for those on an extremely low budget

How cheap would you go? Would you go sailing just for the sake of sailing or would you never change sails? Are you thinking of paying for maintenance alone to keep the vessel from sinking? In this scenario, people who don’t mind speed won’t also change their sails. If you are trying to save costs from joining a sailing club, then not joining one would actually cut down costs. Also if you want to save cash from marinas, then you can simply make use of boondocking. Those who live in a cheap state can save more in terms of registration and taxes.

The Catalina 22 is actually among the few cheap boats that cost $2,250 for a used one. Since this is a small boat, maintenance isn’t that heavy. The essential repairs will not leave a hole in your wallet and being a handyman will also allow you to save extras from hiring a repairman. If you aren’t bothered by not winterizing, then you can simply sail your vessel to somewhere warm.

Traveling the world with a 35′ Ocean Cruiser

If you are dreaming of traveling the world and crossing oceans, then an Ocean Cruiser is a good and comfortable ride for you. The ideal size is anything 35′ or higher if you are sailing with another person. This is because anything under that size can get uncomfortable when waves become higher. The one-time cost for this boat is $35,000 which includes registration and taxes. Meanwhile, you will need around $450 monthly for recurring costs including insurance, mooring, fuel, and maintenance among others. This would sum up to $5,425 a year.

Getting a powerful 40′ Yacht

If you are among those flashy cruisers who would go for a famous yacht, then owning a grand one wouldn’t be a problem. A luxury yacht comes with a lot of features and living onboard will truly be an exciting experience for you.

Having a stylish and fancy yacht would also mean joining expensive sailing clubs. However, don’t forget that as you own an expensive vessel, you will need experts to maintain and run repairs on it whenever applicable. Sails are typically changed every 5 years especially when speed is important to the vessel owner. If you want a prime mooring location, premium payments are also required. An estimated cost of $166,400 will be needed for your initial spending. Meanwhile, recurring costs are at $1,263 per month that would sum up to $15,150 annually.

How much do I actually need in total?

How much do I actually need in total

So now, you are wondering how much would be the total cost to get things started and for you to finally live onboard that boat. Aside from fuel costs, repairs, insurance, food, docking fees, and sailing club membership, here are other factors that you can think about.

Consider the length of your boat as this will also determine the cost of mooring and insurance. The bigger your boat is, the more money you need to paint the hull and basically about maintaining it. New boats will also cost more than used ones that are 3 to 4 times lower.

Remember that you can actually sail a boat alone, which would also keep the expenses down rather than sailing with an entire crew. If you want to make money while you live aboard your boat, you can host parties or even organize sailing trips for people who want to go dolphin watching or whale spotting. This will allow you to earn money that can be used to fix and maintain your boat.

Also, you can opt to use solar panels to save electricity costs, buy fuel from gas stations rather than the sea ports, and do your own upgrades when possible. This will also cut down the expenses that you can channel to buying food provisions instead.

Frequently Asked Questions about how much does it cost to live in a sailboat

Frequently Asked Questions about how much does it cost to live in a sailboat

Is it cheaper to live on a sailboat?

An adventurous sailboat lifestyle can be one of the living alternatives some people choose especially if they are looking for benefits that no apartment can provide: free rent, amazing view, adventures out at sea, to name a few. Living on a boat can save you money on rent. This is why people opt to leave their comfortable, pricey apartments and move to their boat. Experienced boat dwellers have sworn that after buying their boat and living on it for two years, they were able to get their money back in terms of their savings as when they were renting. Depending on the state you are in, some offer to rent on a mooring ball and free anchoring.

Boat living has an ongoing cost associated with this lifestyle choice. Take for example the liveaboard insurance that can be expensive as compared to recreational boat insurance. There is a major dollar difference when you cruise in local waters as compared to cruising internationally.  Liveaboard moorage will also be paid every month and can vary from recreational moorage. In terms of utilities, you will be paying a fraction of the price for your water and electricity as compared to living in a house. Just like living on land, there are maintenance costs associated with boat living. 

Maintenance costs should be included in your monthly expenses if there are unexpected incidents where you need to fix your boat. If you are a handyman who is capable of doing all the fixing and maintenance, this skill can save you money. 

Take note that marine products can cost 3 to 4 times higher than household supplies. Also, include the expenses of your monthly boat mortgage if you finance your boat and your annual boat property tax depending on your location.  Knowing what you are heading into, with all the financial expectations taken into consideration will help you make that choice. Finally, when you do choose between living on a sailboat, do your homework and check if your areas’ requirements for liveaboard licensing to make your move legal.

Is living on a sailboat worth it?

Living on a sailboat is like a fulfilled lifelong dream for some people. It can change the way they live. You should be game enough to adapt to the challenges aboard a sailboat: lack of space, sometimes even privacy, being in constant motion with the waves, and some other liveaboard lifestyles. When you commit to the idea of boat living, you need ample preparation of your necessities and at the same time, you and your partner need to talk about the deal-breakers.

Before you move, you need to prepare the boat and equip it with the essentials. The storage is small. You need to downsize almost all your things and just bring aboard the necessities. It means de-cluttering the mementos, clothing, kitchen gadgets, tools, and other stuff you deemed important. Plan out your connectivity needs like the TV dish and WiFi so you will not be cut off from the rest of the world.

One of the advantages of living on a sailboat is the ability to move your boat and live anywhere you want. You do this by simply untying your line and sailing on to your new location. You will have a superior waterfront property view for a fraction of the cost. A boat in the marina will have a fraction of monthly fees together with your electricity and other liveaboard fees. Boat dwellers often have a wonderful liveaboard community which helps them look out for each other.

Your social life will be active since most evenings, liveaboards do meet for a drink and chat on the dock or aboard their boat. Meeting new friends every week is possible since there are a lot of fascinating people you will encounter and exchange stories with. The latest boat fix will probably be the conversation starter alongside adventure stories and some jokes. This can foster friendship and discover things you have in common. 

This is quite rare in the present society. With little space to stow your packages, you learn to live a life-loving the water and not buying things. Thoughts of keeping up with the Joneses will fly away since material possession is not on your radar anymore. Stocking on groceries and fresh produce will be the top priority anytime you set foot on land.

You will only keep what you need and all storage will be crammed with useful stuff only. Living on a sailboat also has its perks. You will be more than the captain of your domain; you will also be the plumber, refrigerator expert, and diesel mechanic since the Home Depot feels like in another world. Stockpiling on these materials will greatly help if you happen to encounter mishaps while in the middle of the ocean. You have to develop these skills since help is not just a phone call but so many miles away.  

Can I save money living on a sailboat?

You need to have thorough information and an understanding of the cost of living on a sailboat to be able to navigate the idea of living on it.  A frugal person may be able to live off at $500 per month on their boat anchored on a marina.  But it can be a different spending lifestyle for the multi-million dollar boat owners who eat out and shop daily. Your land-based spending lifestyle can be different from each person so much so with calculating the cost of retiring on a sailboat. It can be difficult to calculate but not impossible.

Before the move, most people continue to live a similar lifestyle as before. Monthly living expenses on a sailboat can mean $500 to 10,000+ per month. This amount can cover most of the variables in spending from one person to another. The maintenance cost of the boat usually runs 10% of the boats’ value annually. This can vary accordingly depending on the type of repair or replacement needed. Needless to say, having emergency money is a good way to balance your budget in case something comes up. Doing estimates and future spending after retiring on your sailboat can help you manage your finances successfully.

People who have managed to stay afloat living on their sailboat say that retiring on a sailboat makes them better people who can budget their expenses and manage their time wisely. They incur less living expenses while on the water than on land. They live aboard and do their repairs which saves them money. While they are anchored, they rarely eat out and just live an enjoyable liveaboard lifestyle. Anyone with the dream to live on a sailboat can manage as long as they are flexible enough for the challenges that come their way.

Determining your monthly budget is the first step when you plan to retire on a sailboat. If you intend to live life like you used to, then your budget will reflect that. You need to downsize and just include important personal needs to manage your finances. Marina cost should also be considered since you will be paying this monthly if you choose to keep your sailboat at a marina full time. If you have a car on standby, you also need to pay for its parking spot. 

If you live on an anchor, that will be free, with all the solitude you need but will expose you and your boat to the elements and anchoring will usually not work for socially inclined boaters. If you do choose to live anchor full time, you still need to go to the marina for needed supplies. Your food supplies and fuel cost should also be considered in your monthly budget.  

Are sailboat maintenance costs expensive?

Sailboats come with a unique set of upkeep and maintenance costs. It can be done on a monthly and yearly basis and can dent your budget depending on the type and condition of your boat. Having a new boat can help avoid the costly maintenance of a used one.  Generally speaking, annual boat maintenance can be around 10% of the boat’s value. So if you have a $30000 sailboat, you need to budget $3000 for its yearly maintenance. 

You also need to have emergency money should an unexpected situation arise and fixing is a must.  Your operating expenses should also be taken into consideration since you need fuel to run your boat. Fuel additives can also be an additional operating cost since you need them to remove ethanol if you have a carbureted engine.

Depending on the age, condition, and the build quality of your sailboat, your maintenance will revolve around these areas. If you have a good hand in doing all the work, it can save you lots of money. DIY boat repairs, when done right, can last as long as professional fixing. You only need to pay for the parts and when hauling them out. It can also cost some money to lift a boat depending on the place and the season you are in. Some areas only charge $20 to haul out an average size boat while you fix it.

All Aboard!

Whether you choose used boats or brand new popular sailboats, owning a boat is now achievable. You can even have a boat with a personalized sound system to make your sailing adventure more fun and enjoyable. Since you’ll be living onboard, having great music will make it less boring for you while you enjoy basking under sunshine and taking comfort in the sound of the open seas.

Keep in mind that you do not need to be a millionaire to fulfill a sailing dream. You don’t even need to spend millions to get yourself a boat and start your journey after you’ve moved aboard. You can always search for an interesting article, including this one, to help you understand how it is to live on a boat. As long as you choose a boat within your budget plan, sailing will be a truly enjoyable adventure for you!

Go for something you can afford rather than just going for something to show off. Big-ticket items often offer discounts and can give you great savings once you make that boat purchase. You can always ask a boat shop assistant for various options or even send an e-mail to inquire about pricing.

Keep safe, enjoy the winds, and all aboard.

Editors’ Comments

Sailing is a thrilling and adventurous activity that offers a unique experience on the open seas. Many people wonder, “Is sailing expensive?” Well, the cost of renting a sailboat for a day can vary depending on various factors. So, one might ponder, “How much does it cost to rent a sailboat for a day?” It depends!

For those dreaming of a more luxurious lifestyle, living on a sailboat or an yacht might be the ultimate goal. But before you jump into the world of yacht or a sailboat ownership, it’s worth considering whether you can simply rent a sailboat. Now, you may wonder, “Can you rent a sailboat?” The answer is yes, you can absolutely rent a sailboat and embark on a memorable sailing adventure.

Now, let’s delve into the specifics of renting a sailboat. “How much to rent a sailboat?”. The cost to rent a sailboat can vary depending on the location, size, and type of boat. From small day sailors to larger cruising vessels, the rental prices can range significantly.

Factors such as the duration of rental and additional amenities provided may also impact the overall cost. Therefore, if you’re wondering, “How much does it cost to rent a sailboat?” it’s best to inquire with local rental companies to get accurate pricing information.

So, whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time enthusiast, renting a sailboat can provide a thrilling experience on the water. The cost to rent a sailboat may vary, but with careful planning and research, you can find a suitable option that fits your budget and sailing aspirations. So, set sail and embark on a memorable adventure, exploring the wonders of the sea aboard a rented sailboat.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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