A luxury marina in Dubai, with docks lining the city streets in a canal.

Are Marinas More Expensive Than Campgrounds?

While boats spend most of their time in the water and RVs spend their time on land, they have more in common than you might think.

We’ve recently seen an increase in adventurers embracing both lifestyles. So are marinas more expensive than campgrounds? Let’s look at the nitty-gritty and see which is the best deal.  

A luxury marina in Dubai, with docks lining the city streets in a canal.

What Are Marinas?

A marina is a place to store a boat or water vessel used for leisure and recreation. Marinas often have facilities for supplies and repairs for boaters.

Many confuse the term harbor and marina, but marinas are for personal watercraft like sailboats and yachts. A boat owner can rent a dock slip to store their boat between uses.

This makes it easy to take out when they want to use it and provides added security while it sits in storage.

The Truth About Living on a Boat vs. Full-Time RV Life ⛵️

Can You Live in a Boat in a Marina?

Some marinas have “liveaboard” slips available. These slips have everything you might need to live in a boat in a marina. Most will require boaters looking to rent a liveaboard to fill out an application, which will likely require a background check. However, not all areas or marinas allow you to live in your boat.

Liveaboard slips will often come with a premium price tag. In addition to the slip rental, you must also consider the costs of your boat, insurance premium increases, and the cost of electricity. Even if you can afford it financially, it might not be the best decision. 

Three friend laying on the deck of a boat in a marina, soaking up the sunshine.

Is It Hard to Live on a Boat?

Living on a boat isn’t easy, despite how it may appear on social media. Even the largest of houseboats don’t have a lot of space, which means someone will almost always be in your way if you’re living with more than one person.

You’ll also have to kiss goodbye to many of your possessions because minimalism is the name of the game when living on a boat.

Many other factors can make life on a boat difficult. You have to consider how the weather will affect your watercraft. Additionally, you’ll need to get used to the constant rocking and movement.

A storm or windy conditions can drastically increase the sway you experience. Living on a boat can be torturous if you get motion sick easily.

However, while boat life has some downsides, it isn’t the worst place to live. Moving your home into the open waters can be a great way to escape the chaos of this world and fulfill a sense of adventure. This type of lifestyle is a dream for many people.

Can You Live on a Boat for Free?

Living on a boat for free is possible but not easy. You and your rig will need to be entirely self-sufficient. This means creating power, filtering water, and harvesting your own food. You’ll need to find free places to dock when you need to stock up on supplies and gear, which can be difficult.

Living for free on a boat will usually require a ton of money upfront. To be self-sufficient, you’ll need to invest in solar panels, lithium batteries, and other essential gear. All of these cost a pretty penny.

A set of three solar panels on the deck of a sailboat.

Even when you are entirely self-sufficient, you’ll have additional fees to consider. Two fees that typically never go away for boat owners are maintenance and insurance. Although, boat insurance may not be necessary if you own it outright.

Most states don’t require boat owners to maintain insurance on their rigs. So if you want to live on a boat for free, you’ll need to consider becoming a resident in one of these states.

Are Marinas More Expensive Than Campgrounds?

Marinas and campgrounds are very similar. Marinas are to boats what campgrounds are to RVs. However, you must factor in several things when considering the costs associated with marinas and campgrounds. Let’s compare.

Boat vs RV: Which Costs More? – Fuel, Maintenance, Marina/Campground & Insurance Compared

Dock Slip Versus Campsite

While campgrounds and marinas are very similar, their costs are quite different. Renting a dock slip and a campsite are relatively even across the board if staying for an extended time.

Monthly fees for RV parks and marinas compare. However, if paying on a nightly basis, marinas cost much more.

While campsites typically have a flat fee, the nightly rate for a marina depends on your boat’s length. Most people choosing to live on their ship will often pick a one over 30 feet long.

You’ll see fees anywhere from $1 to $4 per foot for the night. Depending on the size of your boat, this could cost you $50 to $250 for a single night.


The park typically includes your electrical usage when you book a campsite for a short-term stay. This means you won’t have to worry about getting a massive bill from running your AC too much at the end of your stay.

However, almost all marinas will charge you an extra fee if you need power. Daily and weekly stays will often have a flat fee that ranges from $5 to $10 per day and $50 to $100 per week.

But, when booking long-term stays, it’s relatively standard across the board that campgrounds and marinas will charge a flat fee or have a meter. 

Long-Term Stays

Campsites and marinas have similar costs for long-term stays. However, you’ll need to consider any amenities or services available during your time.

Campgrounds that allow long-term stays often have many amenities available. Some marinas will have resort-style amenities, but not all.

Marinas often vary quite a bit, but those designed to serve as resorts will have premium features and come with a premium price tag.

A couple stands shoulder to shoulder on a dock looking out across a marina filled with all different types of sailboats

Dumping Tanks

RVs and boats use waste tanks to handle their sewage. At some point, your tanks will get full, and you’ll need to empty them.

Marinas and campsites often allow users to dump their tanks during their stay at no charge. However, each sets its own rules and fees. 

If a marina used public funding to create its pump-out station, you’d likely have a minimal fee of $5 to help pay back the cost.

If you know you’ll need to dump your tanks, inquire about this when making a reservation. This helps avoid any surprise fees during your stay.

Marinas Will Likely Always Cost More

A marina will almost always cost you more unless you plan to stay put. The costs will often even out the longer you stay. It’s a running joke among owners that everything is more expensive for owning a boat.

Some even joke that B-O-A-T stands for “Bring Out Another Thousand” because everything costs more. So make sure you have your finances in order before you hit the open seas.

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