Cost of Living Onboard A Sailboat (Monthly Breakdown)
So how much does it cost to live on a sailboat? Maybe you have a dream of ditching the house and moving onboard a sailing boat.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll break down the monthly expenses for those wishing to move onboard and live a full time sailboat living lifestyle
Before we start, please remember that this is an average and your specific costs can vary dramatically. With that being said, this is a good estimate of the costs to give you a base to work from.
In a rush and don’t want to read everything?
The average total cost of living on a sailboat is $1,990 per month. Keep in mind this price can vary depending on your experience and other variable costs.
Cost of Living On A Sailboat Breakdown
The costs associated with living onboard can be broken down into the following categories:
- Pre Boat Buying Expenses ( Boating Card, VHF Course, Boating Gear)
- Boat Maintenance
- Boat Insurance
Boat Maintenance Costs
Depending on the quality of the sailboat you own or buy, this price can vary quite a lot. Older and poorer quality boats will obviously need more attention.
If you are good at fixing things yourself, you can save a lot here but if things break onboard (which they most definitely will at some point), you’ll need to buy parts and hire professionals.
On average, costs of parts and maintenance are about $240 per month. Some months you may not spend anything and then other months (especially in the winter), you might get a bigger cost if something breaks or stops working, like frozen plumbing pipes etc.
You can check out our winterizing your boat motor for winter months which will help stop cracks and frozen and broken pipes.
You can reduce maintenance costs by ensuring you take care of common items onboard.
Cleaning costs can add up over time, so it’s best to keep things clean both onboard and around the hull. You can read our boat hull cleaning guide for tips on ensuring there isn’t a built up of dirt around the hull.
It’s crucial you keep this clean because it can affect other areas of your boat if left dirty and add to your boat maintenance costs if neglected.
You can also check out our general cleaning a dirty boat guide for useful tips.
Another cost included in ongoing maintenance of a sailboat include pump out fees.
Let’s face it, no one enjoys pumping out a boat but it has to be done. Most marinas have pump out stations to use so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Boat Insurance Costs
Depending on your experience, this can be quite expensive. And absolutely no one enjoys paying for insurance.
While it might not be a legal requirement to get insured (depending on state), having insurance can be a saviour in those annoying times when you need it and it’s especially useful if you liveaboard full time.
The costs here can also vary massively depending on factors like:
- Type of Sailboat
- Size of boat
- Captains experience operating vessel
- Value of boat
- Previous claims
- Location where boat is mainly kept
Similar to other types of insurance, the factors affecting price are the same.
On average, a new sailboat owner will spend $300+ per month on boat insurance for a sailboat.
It’s always smart to shop around for quotes on boat insurance and prices can vary a lot.
You can also get insurance packages with boat towing included (incase you get stuck) which is an all too common problem for people living onboard and travelling.
The longer and more experienced you’re on your sailboat, the cheaper the price gets.
Fuel costs will vary depending on how often you are using the sailboat. On average, this will cost $120 per month.
Your fuel costs are divided into:
If you plan on using the boat motor, your diesel costs will rise but if you use the sails, you should be fine.
Your diesel consumption will depend on the condition of the boat, the size, how powerful the engine is and obviously how often you use the engine.
You’ll also need gas/propane for cooking and heating in the cooler climate.
These prices will be more expensive in the winter months when using more fuel for heating.
When you’re starting out living onboard a sailboat, you’ll probably begin spending most of your time in your local marina.
Depending on where you are in the world, this cost can also vary massively. A big influence on the prices of marinas is the size of your boat.
The average cost to stay at the marina is $400 per month. This price will be the most different from one person to the next as some marinas charge vastly different rates.
You will typically be charged on a per foot basis (the size of your vessel).
Also, if you prefer to anchor somewhere outside the marina when you get more experienced living onboard, this price will obviously go down a lot.
Starting out, you should contact your local marina and see what they charge and if you get lucky, you might get a discounted rate, either way, there is no harm in trying!
The average cost for groceries is about $400 per month. You can get all you need in your local supermarket for this price.
If you enjoy fish dishes, well you’re in luck as you’re surrounded by the freshest fish so grabbing a fishing rod might be a fun thing to do if you enjoy it.
Plus it’ll save you a few extra bucks if you’re on a budget!
Next up on the costs is the internet. Typically, you'll be using your cell phone provider internet when onboard.
This can vary from $40 - $100 per month.
If you spend most of your time in the marinas, you can usually connect with the marinas wifi for a fee.
You can check out our top marine wifi extenders if you plan on anchoring offshore but still want to connect to a nearby marina’s internet connection.
Boating Gear Costs
When you decide to live onboard, you’ll need to prepare for all types of weather conditions.
Whether you need foul weather gear for the harsh climates or sunglasses, hats and other clothing to protect from the sun in the warmer sunny climates, you’ll definitely need some extra gear for living the sailboat lifestyle.
A lot of these costs will be one off but we estimate it works out at $60 per month.
You’ll need sailing jackets for keeping you warm and protected from the salty sea water and you can check out our top sailing sunglasses for some great pairs for the summer.
If you have a toddler, you can check out our sailing with toddlers guide for tips on that.
You’ll also need to ensure you have proper baby boat gear so your child is protected while out sailing too.
You’ll need to factor in the costs of fire safety, think fire extinguishers and other safety stuff that you should definitely not skim on price.
Finally, for boating gear costs, you’ll need to ensure you have the right life jackets on the market.
This is one of your most important items as it literally can keep you and your passengers alive.
Generally, these are one off costs but sailing clothing can be replaced every couple of months.
We need to factor in entertainment costs too! This cost is not exclusive to living onboard but it is a cost to be counted.
If you enjoy partying, drinking or playing sailing games, it all comes at a cost.
You might have a Netflix subscription too and enjoy dining out occasionally.
We estimate the monthly cost of this to be $200 on average for everything.
As a side note, you can read our sailing movie recommendations for some entertainment inspiration.
Just keep in mind, some of those movies might steer you away from wanting to live onboard a sailboat.
Buying a Sailboat Costs
If you haven’t yet bought a boat, then you’ll obviously need to find the perfect sailboat to purchase at an affordable price within your budget.
These costs will be one-offs when starting out but they can add up quite quickly if you’re not careful.
Costs for sailboats can vary massively from $20,000 on the low end to well over $100k for a top of the range sailboat.
If you haven’t bought a boat yet, you can read our boat buying tips before getting started.
We also have a pre owned boat buying checklist you can read for help too.
Here’s some costs you might not think of when buying a sailing vessel:
- Towing the boat to the water (if the boat isn’t already in the water) approx. $700
- Renting a crane (to launch the boat) This will depend on the size of the sailboat. ($1,000)
- Marine survey (approx. $1,000)
- Raise the mast (approx. $100)
- Mechanical Inspection ($150)
These are some of the common costs of making a sailboat sea worthy that you should consider especially when buying pre owned.
You should try to negotiate with the current owner to organize all of the above and include it in the price. You could save money doing it this way.
If you don't know what sailboat is great for living on, you can check out our top sailboats to live on guide for some ideas on the best available vessels for making the switch to full time onboard living.
Pre Boat Buying Expenses
Before you ever buy a boat, there are some small costs you’ll also need to consider.
You’ll need a boater education card (like a license). This will cost $50 - $100 depending on where you take the course and get it.
You’ll also need to do a VHF course (similar to above) and this will usually cost about $50.
Boat Miscellaneous Costs
Miscellaneous items for boats include items like boating decor, bed sheets, boat decor, cooking utensils and other general boating items.
If you want to save on something like a fridge, you can check out our top boating coolers article for cheap alternatives to a refrigerator (don’t worry though, most sailboats come with refrigerators onboard)
This works out at $50 per month on average for miscellaneous items.
So there you have it. As we mentioned, these costs can vary massively based on your individual circumstances, the size of the boat, your experience as a sailor etc.
This is a good estimation to get you started though. Most people can only dream of moving onboard full time but when you break down the expenses in a step by step way, that dream may become a reality!
If you’re completely new to all of this, your costs will be higher starting out while you learn to ropes and settle into your routine and better and more efficient ways of doing things.
If setting up a new life on a sailboat sounds a little daunting, you can also read our costs of living on a houseboat guide. The average cost to live on a houseboat is a little cheaper and might make a great transition into full time onboard living.
You can also check a more general guide on the costs of owning a boat for a basic idea of the expenses involved.