5 Liveaboard Boats Under 200K

Sure, it’s easy to find a great big motor yacht to live aboard – if you have unlimited funds in the bank. But what if you want to live aboard a reasonably-sized, more affordable boat and your budget stops at $200K? Well, that’s exactly the question we set out to answer here. Below are five top of our favorite picks for your live-aboard enjoyment.

1. The Cutwater C-28

Cutwater Boats is building some great “pocket yacht” style cabin cruiser boats that fit the bill for our criteria here, and thus top our list. The Cutwater C-28 model is one of the smallest boats around that we’d still call sufficient for living aboard. Even brand new the MSRP is under $200,000, and models a few years old range from $150,000 and up, depending on condition and equipping. Although you won’t have a ton of elbow room living aboard this boat it does have all the basic necessities and this is the only liveaboard on our list that, thanks to an 8’6” beam and an 8,000-pound dry weight, is easily trailerable. In fact, you’ll be just as comfortable pulling in at a campground as you will be in a wet slip.

Cutwater C-28 Liveaboard Pocket Yacht. Photo: Cutwater Boats - Manitowoc Marina

Cutwater C-28 Liveaboard Pocket Yacht. Photo: Cutwater Boats – Manitowoc Marina.

The galley is minimal but serviceable, with a two-burner propane stove and oven, a sink, and a refrigerator, plus a breakfast bar with a microwave and coffeemaker which can be optioned-out for a bench and stowage. The dinette to starboard hides a berth underneath, so you can even invite another coupe aboard for a weekend cruise if you’d like. The main sleeping quarters are forward in the V-berth, and the fully-enclosed head includes a shower that can be sectioned off with a curtain.

The Cutwater 28 has a surprising amount of outdoor space available in the cockpit, thanks in no small part to the fold-out gunwale seating. Those who enjoy outdoor activities will also appreciate the hard-top rack, which is perfect for strapping down kayaks or other water-toys.

See Cutwater 28 boats for sale on Boat Trader today.

2. Hatteras 53 Motoryacht

Hatteras is an iconic American boat brand known for constructing some of the most serious offshore sportfishing yachts on the market – but they also build some great liveaboards worth exploring. Although a brand new Hatteras 53 Motoryacht hasn’t been built for many years, it still remains a quintessential liveaboard vessel. Used models dating from the 70s through the 80s can be found on the market nationwide all over the Boat Trader website. Pricing for these boats can range quite a bit and those that have recently been refitted may go beyond our $200,000 cap, but many can also be found well under that ceiling.

The 53 Motoryacht is an aft-cabin flybridge design commonly powered by twin 350- to 435-horsepower Detroit Diesel 8V diesel inboards. As is common for this vintage motoryacht, cruise is relatively slow by today’s standards at 12 to 16 knots. Most models feature three stateroom, three head, galley-down layouts, although you will run across some older models with two heads and some with four staterooms. In all cases there’s enough interior space for the boat to provide a house-like feel, and many are equipped with features like a tender on davits, stabilizers, and/or multiple gensets to enable long-distance cruising.

Like other Hatteras yachts the 53 is also known for having excellent craftsmanship, especially when it comes to the interior joinery work. Thanks to its immense popularity through the years, many people consider the Hatteras 53 Motoryacht to be something of an icon to liveaboard boat aficionados and it’s undoubtedly one of the most popular boats used for living aboard in its class.

See Hatteras 53 Motoryacht boats for sale on Boat Trader today.

3. Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349

Those in search of a sailboat for living aboard will find the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 of interest, as this boat can be bought new in the neighborhood of $200K or used in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. The model is available in several arrangements, including two- or three-cabin layouts with a single head, and deep draft, shoal, and lifting keel versions. In all cases the saloon features center-facing settees to either side of a folding-leaf table, which the mast compression pole passes through. The galley sits amidships and to starboard and has a gimbaled two burner stove/oven, a sink, and an in-counter top-loading refrigerator.

Those who plan to roam far and wide while living aboard will want to know that for a relatively small sailboat, the Sun Odyssey 349 has some serious cruising capabilities. Water tankage is 54 gallons and fuel capacity is 34 gallons, which will keep the single Yanmar 21CV chugging along at 3000 rpm for days in a row. Jeanneau also made room in the cabin for a small nav station with a desk and electronics.

See Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 boats for sale on Boat Trader today.

4. Mainship 390 Trawler

Although Mainship went out of business during the Great Recession, its 390 Trawler is still widely available on the used market and it remains a popular option for people who want to live aboard. Prices range from $100,000 to $200,000 for boats in the early 2000s vintage although in a few cases they may be found for even less.

These boats are generally single-screw inboards powered by either Yanmar or Caterpillar diesel engines in the 300-horsepower range, and offer a planning cruise up into the low teens. However, Mainship did also build it with twin Yanmar or Volvo diesels of 200- to 230-horsepower which cruised a few knots faster and earned it the moniker “slow-fast” in the trawler world. The speed of twin-engine rigs comes at a cost, however, if you’re interested in long-distance cruising and you aren’t in a big hurry. The single-engine models (which were equipped with a bow thruster for easier maneuvering) have a displacement speed of about seven knots at which they sip fuel at a mere 0.4 gallons per hour, and have a range of over 4,600 miles. The twin engine rig, meanwhile, burns over two gph at the same speed, drastically reducing slow-speed cruising range.

One highlight of the Mainship 390 that makes it a favorite for tall boaters is the 6’6” headroom, which carries throughout. The layout incorporates two staterooms (a master with island berth forward and a small pair of single berths in the guest’s stateroom), and one head down below. The galley is to port forward of the saloon and there’s a lower station to starboard for all-weather operation. Most owners, however, will primarily run the boat from the flybridge. The forward section of the bridge is generally protected by a convertible clear-canvass enclosure, while the back “porch” is commonly left open. Many liveaboards who opt for the Mainship 390 Trawler also like the fact that unlike aft cabin models this design features an open cockpit, allowing some space for a little fishing, enjoying the sea breeze, or just being in the great outdoors.

See Mainship 390 Trawler boats for sale on Boat Trader today.

5. Stardust Cruisers

If you’re looking to liveaboard on a lake or river, a houseboat might be a good call. And in that case, a Stardust Cruisers (by Trifeca Houseboats) would be a great pick. It’s true that you’ll have to look at models dating back to the 90s and early 2000s to find one under $200,000, but it’s also true that you’ll be looking at much larger abodes than any of these other options. In fact, several models up into the 80-foot range are on the market within this budgetary cap. And don’t forget that most of these will have spent their life in freshwater environments, where the corrosion and mechanical issues often encountered with older boats are fewer and farther between.

Whichever of these models you choose, you’ll enjoy more living space and luxury than you would from one of those “tiny” homes. Actually, a lot more. Most floorplans include a complete galley with full-sized appliances, a family room, multiple staterooms, and multiple full-sized heads with stand-up showers. Many also have extensive flybridge upper decks with a helm and social areas large enough for holding a square-dance. While most of these boats are landlocked and aren’t designed for saltwater cruising in any case, they do provide a house-like environment with copious living spaces that can’t be matched by other options.

See Stardust Cruisers boats for sale on Boat Trader today.

Written by: Lenny Rudow

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.


Affordable Live Aboard Boats
Affordable Live-Aboard Boats
Category: Boating
A guide to live-aboard boating and expanding options while Contracting Space.