How Much Does a Narrow Boat Cost?

How Much Does a Narrow Boat Cost?

For years, living on a boat has provided a great alternative to traditional housing. However, you have to get the right boat for you to have a good time on the water. While there are many different types of boats to choose from, narrowboats are particularly great for their ease of maintenance. With this boat, you will not only have the opportunity to live on the water but also enjoy exploring your area’s waterways and live in any city along the way. It provides an unlimited option for anyone willing to have an exciting life away from traditional living. Plus, you will get to live your dream.

While it is easy to romanticize how great it is to live on a boat, it can be challenging to find the right narrowboat. And when you find a suitable canal boat, you have to part with some cash to have it. You might have to carry out some repairs to design the boat to your liking in some cases. If you are considering living on a narrowboat or buying it, you have to be familiar with the market prices and the overall cost of living on the boat.

What is a Narrow Boat?

A narrowboat or a canal boat has a width ranging from 6ft 10 inches to 7ft, while a barge is twice this size, mostly 14.5 ft. There is a range of water vessels known as wide beam canal boats in between these two sizes.

Narrowboats are mostly seen from the towpath and are commonly used as living boats. Ideally, narrowboats are 70 ft long, while the United Kingdom’s longest lock is 71 ft 6 inches. When you are looking for a narrowboat for leisure, you need to find a boat measuring between 30 to 40 feet. And if you are looking for a canal boat to live in, a 50 ft longboat will serve your purpose well.

What do You Need to Buy a Narrow Boat?

Life on the water is nothing compared to life on land. Therefore, before you buy a boat, you have to ensure you have enough funds, either as a consistent income or enough savings, to buy the canal boat and sustain your life on the water.

Tips for Buying a Narrow Boat

Buying a narrowboat to live in is not an exact science. There is no one correct way of doing it. However, you have to ensure all your needs are catered for at the time of purchase. To do this, you have to determine what you would like to have in a narrowboat before you set out on a mission to find one. While at it, you have to factor in the licensing and mooring cost.

It would be best if you determined whether you will live on the boat or not, and the space you need in a narrowboat to support your life on the water. It would be best if you also determined whether you are willing to get a narrowboat that will need restoration or touch-ups before taking it to water, or you want a well-performing boat that will go straight into the water without any repair. Here are some of the things you need to look at when finding a narrowboat to buy.

Overall Maintenance

First, you need to inspect the boat to ensure it has been appropriately maintained. Inspect the boat maintenance history record. It would be best if you also examined its on-board equipment and varnishing for signs of damage. While at it, inspect the cooking, heating and cooling appliances within the boat to ensure they are working at optimum efficiency. You also need to examine if there are fore, central and aft rope (view on Amazon) for easy mooring. You should also check if the boat has a windlass and mooring pins. All these components ensure your time on the water is as easy as possible.

Hull Condition

Inspect your boat’s hull condition and ensure the hull satisfies the 10/6/4mm steel thickness or plating specification. Typically, the plating on the boat’s hull base needs to be 4mm on the roof, and 10mm, 6mm at the sides. You should also check the frequency with which the boat was blacked and focus mainly on the last time the boat was blacked. A narrowboat should be blacked after every two years to protect its hull against rust.

Gear Box and Engine

It would be best if you examined the condition of your boat’s gearbox and engine. Is the boat leaking from its stern gear? If there are leaks from this area, you need to adjust and repackage it. Newer boats have water-cooled engines while older boats have air-cooled engines that are noisier.


In most cases, narrowboats have three leisure batteries and one starter battery. Therefore, you need to search for a battery management system in the boat at the time of purchase. This system makes a greater efficiency as it controls the flow of current into your boat’s batteries. You also need to examine if the boat has an inverter that converts 12-volt battery power to 240 volts. Without an inverter, you will not be able to power electrical equipment within the boat unless you use the marina’s power source.

Professional Inspection

Finally, you need to get a qualified marine surveyor to examine the narrowboat and advise you of any faults within the boat’s hull as well as its internal systems.

Types of Narrow Boats

The type of boat you want determines the amount you pay for the boat. There are three basic styles of canal boats with each differentiated by their stern.

Traditional Stern

Traditional stern is the smallest stern available in the market. Typically, the traditional stern gives a two to the three-foot deck area that allows for lots of interior living space. Older models of narrowboats with this type of stern have a Boatman’s Cabin. With this type of stern, the boat’s engine is housed inside the boat.

Cruiser stern

These are more modern. They are designed to create a more sociable space. The cruiser stern provides 5 to 7 feet of deck. This makes cruiser stern popular among liveaboards and leisure boaters. These boats give you lots of outside space to sit and have fun outside, especially in good weather. In this type of boat, the engine is situated on the boat’s exterior and can be accessed through a hatch.

Semi-Traditional Stern

These boats are a combination of cruiser stern and traditional stern boats, providing enough space and seating in the boat’s outer extension. At the same time, the person driving the boat has sufficient space similar to the traditional stern. Therefore, the boat has little cabin space. Its engine is situated in the boat’s exterior and can be accessed through a hatch.

Second Hand or New

The age of a narrowboat is also essential when budgeting for a boat. Ideally, a second-hand narrowboat costs less than a new boat.

New Boat

New canal boats come fully fitted with all the right features to suit your needs. New narrow boats customized to your liking will set you back an excess of £1000/linear foot. It takes more time to create an excellent narrowboat fitting than it does a standard narrowboat. However, it would be best if you visited many boat builders to find the right boat builder who will build your desired boat at a budget you can afford.

In some cases, buying a fully fitted canal boat can be very expensive. In such cases, you can find a sailaway canal boat within your budget range. A sailaway narrowboat can be built to your specification and be just as good as a canal boat. Whatever you choose to buy, you have to consider these qualities before you buy the boat.

  • Look at the boat producer’s previous work. It would be best if you also talked to the boat manufacturer’s previous customers to get an idea of what to expect.
  • Conduct online research to learn about the process involved with buying a new narrowboat
  • Learn about all the hidden charges that may not be covered in the purchase price
  • Ask about the amount of time it will take before the boat manufacturer delivers and have realistic expectations.
  • More importantly, you have to ensure that you award the boat construction job to a qualified builder because you will invest a lot of money towards the boat construction project.

Second Hand Narrow Boat

Buying a second-hand narrowboat might be the easiest and cost-effective method of buying a narrowboat. However, while a second-hand narrowboat allows you to own a boat at a lower price, you have to be careful when purchasing. You have to prepare yourself with enough information on how to identify the right type of narrowboat. Going to the market prepared saves you from making an emotional decision when purchasing a boat.

Once you identify a suitable boat, you have to book it for a pre-purchase canal boat survey. This will come at a cost, which you should be prepared to incur to get the right boat. This survey will reveal all the hidden faults within the boat that you would ordinarily overlook. You can also use the results of this survey to negotiate for better prices when buying the boat. You will also have peace of mind knowing that you are buying a boat that is in good condition. In case the survey reveals issues with the boat, you will what to do and how to do it to restore the boat to its best shape.

Additional Cost

Apart from the purchase price, there are more costs you will have to incur. They include:

  • License – you will need a license from Canal & River Trust. The cost of your boat’s annual license will vary based on the length and use of your boat.
  • Insurance – for you to be licensed, you have to be insured. You have to get insurance from a regulated insurance company that provides third-party liabilities cover of up to two million pounds.
  • Boat Safety Scheme Examination – this happens every four years. This examination could cost more than £120.

There are also other costs that you will incur when using your boat. These costs include mooring, utilities, breakdown cover, and maintenance costs.

List of Popular Narrow Boat Builders

  • Elton Moss BoatBuilders
  • Aqualine Marine
  • Aintree Boats
  • Viking Boats
  • Collingwood Boat Builders

The cost of buying a narrowboat starts at £30,000 to £100,000 and more, depending on your requirements. It is, however, important to define your needs before going to the market in search of a narrowboat. If you have a small budget, you should consider getting a second-hand narrowboat and customize it to your liking.