Living In A Boat Or RV? What Is Better?

Which do you like better? The boat or RV? Do you miss RVing? How long do you think you’ll sail for? Do you think you’ll ever go back to a normal home? The questions are never-ending. Now that we’ve switched to sailing, we get these questions ALL THE TIME. As a refresher, we RVed for…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: April 16, 2024

Family on boat

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Which do you like better? The boat or RV?Living In A Boat Or RV?

Do you miss RVing?

How long do you think you’ll sail for? Do you think you’ll ever go back to a normal home?

The questions are never-ending.

Now that we’ve switched to sailing, we get these questions ALL THE TIME.

As a refresher, we RVed for around four years, and we have been living on our sailboat for almost two years now.

We really love both lifestyles and everything that they allow us to do.

There are a lot of similarities between living in a boat or RV, such as:

  • You can bring your home with you as you travel.
  • Marinas are kind of like campgrounds.
  • Anchorages are similar to boondocking.
  • They have a lot of the same systems, such as a battery bank, solar, dump, water tank, and so on.
  • Smaller space than a “normal” home.

But, there are also a ton of things that are completely different between the two.

We’ve lived in a few different RVs, and the transition from one to another was easy because they are pretty similar overall.

But, there’s a lot more work when moving from an RV to sailboat.

And, going from sailboat to RV would be a learning process as well. Anything is when you’re new!

Before we moved to our sailboat, Wes, my husband, had a little bit of sailing experience, but I had nearly none except for a 10-day sailing charter I went on. We had spent a long time thinking about living in a boat or RV, and since we had already done the RV, it was time to try sailing.

I’m so glad we’ve had the chance to do both!

Living in a boat or RV is a huge adjustment from living in a normal home, and I think that’s why I get so many questions about both. Some people think we’re crazy for trying either boat or RV, but I couldn’t be happier!

Because I get so many questions about which I like best, boat or RV, I decided it would be fun to talk about the differences and similarities of living in both.

Side note: Make sure you’re following me on Instagram!

Boat or RV? Here’s what I think about living in both!



Do you miss RVing?

Yes, we miss RVing. We enjoyed RVing a TON, and I know that we will do it again one day. This may sound crazy, but when it comes to living in a boat or RV,  RVing was very easy for us. Living on a sailboat and learning to sail was definitely a harder thing, haha.

We miss how easy RVing was, that is for sure. We definitely fell into a routine with RVing, which made it even simpler. 

We loved that RVing brought us to so many beautiful places, allowed us to park our home right next to amazing hiking and biking trails, gave us the ability to travel very comfortably, that we could bring our dogs everywhere with us, and more. 

People often asked me, “What’s the hardest part about RVing?” and “What do you hate about RVing?” Those were always hard questions to answer, because honestly, there was nothing bad about it. RVing was a wonderful experience, and I know that we’ll do it again one day.

So, we didn’t stop RVing because we stopped loving it.

We still love it!

I recommend reading 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life.


RVing or sailboat – Is it cheaper to live on a boat or RV?

The cost of an RV or boat can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. If you are up for a real project, you can occasionally find a free boat or RV. That would save you some money, but it would take a lot of time. And still, I think fixing up a boat would take more money than fixing up an RV.

Overall, the maintenance costs of each I would say is the biggest difference between a boat or RV.

Yes, things do break on an RV. But, I feel like things breaking is much more common on a boat, especially a sailboat. A sailboat has so many things that go into it, and so many more things to maintain (the saltwater is especially tough on your boat!).

So, I would say that sailboats take much more money to maintain when compared to an RV.

And whenever I think about the costs of a boat or RV, I think about how many people say BOAT stands for Bust Out Another Thousand. That is so true, haha!

I recommend reading How Much Does It Cost To RV?


is it cheaper to live on a boat or rv

Where you can stay.

There are free spots to park your RV (boondocking), and free spots to put your boat (anchorages). There are also places you can pay to use, such as campgrounds for RVs and marinas for boats.

Free spots can be great for a boat or RV. I’ve talked to many boaters and many seem to think that RVers are missing out on this option, but that is not true. There are many, many free places to park your RV, and we have parked in some amazingly beautiful places. We have also anchored our boat in beautiful places too.

RV parks can usually be found for around $25 to $100 a night. Although, we have seen RV resorts that cost anywhere from around $100 to $300 a night. In the boating world, marinas can be much more expensive, but there are also some places that are extremely inexpensive (where you’re wondering why the heck it’s so cheap). You may see anywhere from around $40 a day to $300+ a night to dock your boat in a marina.

For RVs, you tend to pay for the whole RV spot (a flat fee), whereas on a boat, you are charged per foot (along with a possible liveaboard fee).

But, I have noticed that longer-term rates tend to be much more affordable at marinas, whereas many campgrounds don’t offer long-term rates that are noticeably cheaper than daily rates.

Related: How To Camp For Free, Even In Beautiful and Desirable Places


The places you can take a boat or RV.

With a sailboat, you can sail it to many places all around the world. You can visit the smallest islands and bring your home with you.

But, you can bring your RV to many places as well. There are plenty of people who even ship their RVs all around the world, because it allows you to explore more inland places in a new country.

However, it’s unlikely that you would ship your RV to any of the Pacific or Caribbean islands, for example, so a boat would be better suited for that.

Recommended reading: The Digital Nomad Lifestyle – A Day In The Life


sailboat or van

Traveling speed of boats and RVs.

You can cover a lot more ground by RV than by boat. A sailboat may only travel around 5-10 miles per hour, and an RV can travel just as fast as a car.

We could easily drive 500 miles in a day and still feel great, and our last RV drove like a dream. In the boat, though, sailing 75 miles in a day sail makes for a long day. 500 miles on a boat may take weeks if you only did day sails.

It is often a joke in the boating world that it may take you months or years to get to a place that only takes a day or two (or sometimes less than a week) by car or plane.


The space on a boat or RV.

RVs can only be so big because they have to fit on a road. So, you often see RVs between around 20 to 45 feet. 

But, boats can be ginormous. We know of couples who live on 60 foot catamarans, and then we know others who live on monohulls that are smaller than 30 feet long.

Overall, though, the living space is usually bigger on a boat, as boats tend to be wider, longer, have more headspace, and have actual rooms.

This means we can host guests much more comfortably. But because of the layout, the boat has less storage space than the RV. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s just the way it is.

I have heard this from plenty of others who have done both RVing and sailing as well.


sailboat or rv
This picture is from a pontoon we rented near Vegas a few years ago.

Bringing a pet along a boat or RV.

Having a pet in an RV is usually much easier than on a cruising boat. This is for many reasons:

  • It can be more difficult to find places to let your dog use the bathroom on a boat. Whereas, in an RV, you can just open the door and there’s usually land nearby to walk them.
  • Boats move ALL THE TIME, but an RV is only in motion when it is being driven. This can cause some animals to become nervous.
  • If you travel via sailboat, it is much more common to have to “import” your pet to new countries.

Many people get RVs simply so that they can bring their cats and dogs along. I have never heard of anyone getting rid of their pet in order to RV.

However, I have met plenty of people who have re-homed their pet in order to move onto a sailboat.

Having pets aboard a boat is not the easiest thing in the world, and it makes traveling by sailboat much more exhausting.

But, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. We have met some really amazing boat dogs – dogs that absolutely love the water and prefer it.

For us, our dogs do fine by both boat or RV. We spent a lot of time transitioning them to the sailboat, as that was the number one tip we were given by other boaters. Due to that, it has gone very smoothly and they have no problem with the boat.

Our smaller dog prefers to be on the boat (car rides weren’t too enjoyable for him) and actually despises going outside (I’m not even joking!). Our bigger dog loves all of the new walks and smells that she gets on walks from the boat. She also enjoys all of the pets/attention she gets because she’s usually the biggest dog around.


The adventure of living on a boat or RV.

Both the RV life and boat life are quite adventurous.

But, they allow you to do different things.

RVing is more about land adventures, such as biking, hiking, rock climbing, national parks, and more.

Yes, you can do all of this on a boat, but it’s a little more difficult because you can’t just park your boat right next to a trailhead (like you can with an RV or car). 

RVing/van life is also great because you can drive straight to the best hikes, bikes, climbs, and sleep right there. While it’s possible on a boat, it’s not nearly as easy to access all of the wonderful land adventures that the world has to offer.

Boat life is great, though, because you’re on the water. Boating is also more eco-friendly since you can make your own water, you tend to have more solar power, and you can use the wind. Plus, sailing is a ton of fun. Boats can also bring you to amazing islands and allow you to access more water-based activities. Sailing is very rewarding because it pushes you to learn really fun and new skills.

Another great part of sailing is that it is very common to start supplying your own food. While I don’t know many people who regularly did this in their RVs, it is quite common to try to catch fish for food when you’re out on the water.

When you are sailing, you get to see so much amazing sea life from your boat, even when you’re in the marina. Right from the helm seat while sailing, I’ve seen sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, sting rays (we even sailed through a “fever” which means that there were over 1,000 rays and we were surrounded by them!), sea turtles, star fish, and more.


RV or boat living

Mail is a little different between the two.

Around the time we moved onto the boat, we switched our residency from South Dakota to Florida.

We chose South Dakota while we were RVing, as it’s a state friendly to full-time RVers (fun fact: it’s one of the top three states that full-time RVers tend to choose). Now that we are on a boat, though, Florida makes more sense.

We belong to a mail forwarding company called St. Brendan’s Isle. All of our mail gets sent there, and they forward our mail to wherever we are staying.

This was super easy in the RV, as you have a pretty good idea of when you’ll be somewhere.

But, on the boat, getting mail is a little more difficult as you’re often sailing to new islands and countries, and your travel window is heavily dictated by the weather.


The learning curve.

I remember when I used to think that RVing was difficult. The first few months of living in an RV full-time were definitely a learning process. But, it’s a cake walk compared to learning how to live on a boat.

When we first moved onto our sailboat, I shed a lot of tears, was stressed out, and occasionally wondered if I made a huge mistake.

But, I also pushed myself, learned a ton, and was rewarded with each new accomplishment. I’ve even received compliments on my docking, line handling, and sailing skills from other sailors, and that is so nice because it helps improve my confidence with this never ending learning process. I know that I am not perfect, but I know that I am trying my hardest!

We had so many people tell us that they were excited for our new journey, but we also had just as many people tell us that we were going to die and/or not make it.

So many people told us that the first year of sailing and living on a boat would be the toughest, and we’ve personally met many people who quit just a few months into the sailing life due to that.

While I am still no expert, I am very proud of what I’ve learned – not just about sailing, but pushing my own limits as well.

The first couple of months living on a boat were the hardest, but it has been pretty incredible ever since.

There have been amazing sails, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, great snorkeling, fun dinghy rides, so much incredible sea life, fun visits from family and friends, and more.

It’s crazy to think back to the start of this past year and realize how much I’ve grown and learned.

That’s not to say that RVing is super easy either though – it requires work too. 

Good things don’t ever come easy, and this is very true with an RV or boat.


What is the best and worst thing about living on a boat?

Best – being able to travel, sail, see ocean life, and explore. Our boat is fairly self sufficient, and that is an amazing thing. We have solar panels, we can make our own water, and we have sails to move the boat. Sure, we do use our engines, but we really haven’t used too much fuel.

Worst – the amount of planning, breakdowns, and bad weather. While our Lagoon 42 has been solid, other items have broken or failed us, such as our solar panels, watermaker, we had a prop fall off as we were docking, and more.

And, that’s just completely normal for #boatlife, haha. They say traveling on a boat is simply fixing a boat in exotic locations – ain’t that the truth!


So, which do we like better, boat or RV?

Okay, so after reading all of the above, you are probably wondering which one I enjoy the most.

Well, you’re not going to get the answer that you’re looking for.

For us, we really love both, and they each have their positives.

I can see us doing both for a very long time.

We have met many RVers who used to sail, and many sailors who used to RV. The type of people are actually quite similar, whether they want to admit that or not (there’s definitely a rivalry that goes on amongst sailors and RVers, which I’ve learned over the past few years, haha).

Which one do you think you’d like more? Boat or RV?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. if yes my personal opinion which one is better between an RV or boat, I would personally say go along with the boat and here’s why. If something goes wrong in your RV, the good news is, you’re on dry land and can easily make a phone call or plead for instant assistance. On the other hand with sailing, your virtually out in the middle of nowhere on water and difficult for help to reach you. I don’t know if this all makes sense but it’s just something that came to mind.

  2. I also like both equally! Although if I didn’t have Tom, there’s no way I would do the sailboat alone seeing all the maitenence and difficulty that goes into it. And danger! However, I would feel comfortable living in an RV or van on my own and going out the explore. I just love how with the boat I can really interact with nature and not rely on fuel. There’s something super rewarding about sailing somewhere and surviving that doesn’t come along with van or RV living. It’s seriously so fun and amazing to get the opportunity to do both!

    1. I agree! A boat would be too much just for me (although I have met a few awesome singlehandlers, it just seems like way too much work for just me), but I could definitely do an RV/van alone.

  3. Oh man!

    I was wondering when you were going to make a post like this!

    I would personally choose the RV. However, I haven’t done either for an extended period of time.

    Have a great one!

  4. Timo

    Have seen rvs that are boats
    And boats that are TVs (many moons ago in Florida)

  5. My wife and I are in the process of downsizing and living fulltime in an RV with our golden retriever. We just listed the house on the market and put money down on an RV.

    We’re scared and excited at the same time. I just came across your site and I’m excited to dig into it even more. It’s been very helpful so far.

    Not sure that I could do the boat thing though.

    Thank you for sharing your insight. I hope that my blog will someday generate as much interest as yours.

  6. My uncle and his family just got back from Yellowstone and they traveled with their RV. When they were all done unpacking they showed us pictures from their trip and one thing I noticed is they did a lot of stop-overs. Well, if I were to pick from the two, I would choose the RV because there’s a wide assortment of choices to make when driving by land. Though, in a state of emergency, it’s simpler to troubleshoot by land.

  7. Rakesh Kumar

    would feel comfortable living in an RV or van on my own and going out the explore. I just love how with the boat I can really interact with nature and not rely on fuel.

  8. Dale Garringer

    I’ve done both. Sailing is the most challenging, especially with weather. My current Lady, however, doesn’t like either. She likes her ‘sticks and bricks’ and her ‘soaps’. Sooo?

  9. JC Webber III

    We have been full-time RVers for 13+ years and have loved it. But I yearn for the boat life. Unfortunately, we’ve waited too long to make the transition. We are just entering our 70s and my ‘deck hand’ is not as nimble as she used to be. I thing it’s too late for us. But we will continue to enjoy our RV lifestyle for a while more. 8^)

    1. JC Webber III

      ‘think’ it’s too late, not ‘thing’ it’s too late. Wish there were a ‘edit’ button. 8^(