When summer hits, families are wanting to go out and have fun on the lake or river to cool off and spend time together. One of my favorite things to do is for my family to rent a houseboat for a week. Since houseboats are so big, they can hold a lot of people without feeling cramped, and there is no better place to be than playing in the lake on a hot day. It is always fun for the kids and whole family to sleep out on the water.
Renting a houseboat does not have to be an expensive venture, but it is important to understand all of the costs prior to hitting the lake.
So, How Much Does it Cost to Rent One?
The average price for a 3-day trip on a houseboat is around $800 – $1200 dollars. This price can vary greatly depending on the length of the boat, and what lake you want to stay at. Houseboats will normally not be rented by the day, but more by the trip which will usually be a 3, 5, or 7-day trip minimum. There are lakes where houseboats can be rented for a whole month, which will come with a cheaper daily rate.
Factors that Will Impact the Price
- Time of Year
There is an entire section of this post on each of these factors below!
When Is The Cheapest Time To Rent A Houseboat?
If you are looking for a deal, you are going to have your best pricing for a houseboat in the colder months (if renting is possible) or early Spring. This is because the water is usually extremely cold, and no one is going to want to go for a swim. This might not be the case for people who live in places like Southern California, but if you live in the mountains like me, Lake Shasta is not a place to houseboat in December.
If you are going just to get away and fish this could be the perfect time for you, as long as the lake is not frozen over. Most lakes will pull their rental houseboats off the lake right before winter, so always call and check.
When Is Most Expensive Time To Rent A Houseboat?
If money is no problem for you, and you just want to get away, June, July, and August are going to be the most expensive time to rent a houseboat. The great part about this is that you are on the lake in the summer, and you can swim, boat, BBQ, and all the other fun stuff that you want to do in the summertime.
The major drawback is that you will be out on the lake with all the other boats that want to get away. This can cause some serious issues if there are too many people on the lake, or if all the ski boats are making big wakes on the lake.
What To Expect with the Process of Renting a Houseboat
So, I haven’t scared you off and you still really want to rent a boat, here are some things that you are going to have to fill out or provide before you can board your houseboat for the week.
Providing a Copy of Your License
You will have to provide a copy of your drivers license or state ID no matter what when renting a boat for identity purposes. That being said, some states or specific lakes may require you to have an actual boaters license for that state. Always check with the rental company prior to renting a houseboat.
Completing a Credit App
Some rental places make you fill out a credit app to know you are not a person that cannot afford to replace anything that breaks. The boats are expensive and the companies want to ensure they are renting to trustworthy folks.
Getting Insurance for the Boat
Boat insurance is a MUST. I have watched people sink boats with no insurance and its expensive. Almost all rental companies will make you buy insurance for the houseboat, but will normally have their own policy, so you do not always have to worry about using your own. Do not skimp on insurance.
Putting Up a Deposit
A deposit is very typical in almost all rental cases. This is so that if something happens and you cannot pay or you cancel, they get some of their money. A boat that is not rented means no income for the lake, and they want to make money. Be prepared pay at least $1500 or more, depending on how long you want to rent it for.
Signing a Contract
There will always be some sort of rental contract that you will have to sign stating that the boat was in good condition when you got it, and if you break something or try to cancel, your deposit is non-refundable. Always do a thorough walk around the houseboat before you sign that contract because if you miss a dent or scratch, you could be liable for it.
How Big Are Houseboats?
Houseboats are made in a variety of lengths which will normally start at 30 feet and go all the way up to 90 feet in length. A usual size houseboat for 6-10 people will be around 35-40 feet in length. The boats that are available for rent are around this size.
Most houseboats are giant pontoon boats that are two to three stories in size, and will have all the amenities of home including A/C, Refrigerators, and even bathrooms. These houseboats are like floating RV’s which is why they are gaining a lot of popularity, especially since they can be parked out in the lake, or nestled in a nice quiet cove for the night.
How Many People Can Fit On A Houseboat
Houseboats can fit a varied number of people on them depending the size. Here is a breakdown of the typical size houseboat and how many people will fit:
- 33ft – 4 people
- 36ft – 6 people
- 42ft – 8 people
- 50ft – 8 people (but private rooms)
- 60ft – 14 people (penthouse suite)
- 64ft – 10 people (only staterooms)
- 74ft – 12 people
- 84ft – 14 people
As you can see, there is a variety of lengths and people capacity for houseboats, and that is just the average. There are houseboats that only have private rooms, some will have bunkbeds and private rooms, and there are some that have one whole floor that they call a penthouse suite for only two people. Check out all the different styles when you go to rent a houseboat.
Other Costs to Consider When Renting a Houseboat
The upfront daily rental fee is not the only cost to consider when renting a houseboat. There are many other costs to consider:
- Additional amenities
Is Gas Included in the Boat Rental Price?
Typically, a houseboat will come with a full tank of gas, and after you use that, it will be up to the renters to purchase more at the dock. There will be no need for you to pull the houseboat out and take it to the gas station because most of the time there will be at least one or two pumps available at the dock. Be careful though, the price of gas a at a dock can be almost triple what gas a normal pump would cost you. I have seen gas prices at some docs reach almost 6$ which can be a lot of money trying to fill up a 35 foot houseboat, so watch how much you drive around the lake.
How Much Fuel Does A Houseboat Use?
Houseboats are big floating motorhomes, and are extremely heavy, so they use a lot of fuel to get around. On average, a houseboat will get around 6-7 miles per gallon on the water depending on how you drive. They will normally have a 30 or more gallon gas tank on them, but be careful because the fuel at the dock is extremely expensive, and in California, I have seen it well over $7-10 dollars a gallon on some lakes.
Plan your trip, and save out extra money for gas if you plan to motor around the whole lake. If you find a great spot on the lake, stay there for a few days and save some money.
Does A Houseboat Come With All The Gear?
A houseboat will usually come stocked with pots, pans, kitchen utensils, and dishes like plates, cups and silverware for at least a family of four. Bigger houseboats can come stocked for more plates and silverware, but it is always best to use plastic forks and paper plates to conserve water.
Each bedroom will come with a sheet and pillow case set, and a blanket, and sometimes even towels for the bathroom, but do not assume it will, always check. Each bathroom will come equipped with special toilet paper, and some even come with paper towels. Make sure you check and make sure to bring extra toilet paper that is made for RV’s if you have a big family, normal toilet paper will not work.
You will be responsible for providing your own food and drinks. You may want to consider bringing your own water toys or inflatables. Some boats will have them already, others won’t. The rental place will normally have these items available for rent as well.
Do Houseboats Have WiFi?
Typically, no, houseboats are not equipped with wireless internet because they are normally in an area where cellular or wireless internet is not the best, and to keep coverage around the lake would be nearly impossible. Docks however will usually have some sort of WIFI you can connect to, or if you have good cell service, you can use your personal hotspot, but be aware you might be charged if you go over your data plan limit. The rental place may have an option at an additional cost to have Wifi available on your boat.
Houseboats are a ton of fun, and are a good idea for anyone that wants to take friends and family out to the lake for a 3-7 day trip to spend on the water. The main reason I love them is that you do not have to own a boat, or even be a seasoned boat driver to feel comfortable out on the water.
Houseboats are great for people that live in areas where it can be extremely hot because anytime you want to cool off, you can go jump in the lake. Houseboats are also good for people that have fishing or ski boats because you can tie up to the houseboat when you are not at the lake, and do not have to trailer it everyday.
Are Houseboats Hard To Drive?
Houseboats are typically very easy to handle in the water, and even a first time boater can take it slow and get the hang of it. One of the biggest challenges that you will face driving is the actual size of it because it is much larger than a car. One good thing is that houseboats are NOT speed boats, so you are not going to be going 45mph in it.
If you are new to boating, take it nice and slow and you will be fine, but give yourself plenty of room to turn, and do not go into a place where you will not have room to turn around. Follow those two tips, and you will not have any anxiety about driving. If you are still worried about driving it, go out and practice early in the morning before any other boaters get on the lake and you will be fine.
How Fast Do Houseboats Go?
If you have been on a houseboat, there is one thing you know, they are not super fast. Houseboats are not meant to water ski or wakeboard behind, and typically are not meant to get you from one side of the lake to the other fast. A typical 32 foot houseboat will travel around 6-7 knots which is around 8mph.
I know that might seem slow to you, but mph on water feels a lot different than it does on the street, so keep that in mind before you dismiss a houseboat. Houseboats are meant to cruise and relax, and since they have a lot more on, and in them, motoring fast is dangerous, and could cause a lot of damage, so watch out for wakes from other boats.
Do You Need A License To Drive A Houseboat?
No, you do not need a drivers license to operate a boat in most states, but you might have to get your boater card. There is the same age limit that you will need to be at least 16 years old to get your boater to operate a boat that is 15hp or more, or if it is a sailboat that is more than 30 feet in length. You will always want to check with your local department of motor vehicles office to make sure you have the proper license for your boat.
Do You Have To Carry Boat Insurance?
In most states you are not required to have insurance on your boat like you have to for a car, but that does not mean you should not carry it. Boats can be very expensive to fix, or replace because of damage. It is always a good idea to carry at least liability insurance on your boat, and can be fairly inexpensive if you do not use your boat all year long. There are certain marinas and slips that will require you to have at least liability insurance since you are parked so close to all the other boats. Check with the marina or dock before you rent a monthly slip from them.