Similar to purchasing a new build residential property, a new fully fitted narrowboat will be completely fitted out and ready for cruising. Depending upon your boat builder you maybe able to input in to the design and finish of the narrow boat.

A new fully fitted narrowboat is delivered
The ultimate in luxury living is a new build fully fitted narrowboat
Buying a new fully fitted narrow boat is one option. Other options include a used narrow boat or a sailaway

Buying A New Fully Fitted Boat… Is It The Right Choice For You?

This is where all the planning and budgeting homework really pays off. The choice of new fully fitted canal boats can be overwhelming. Possibly the best advice here is to buy the best steel-work you can afford and work from there. If you like a particular canal boat shell builders steel work, welding quality and finish, then try to find a canal boat fitter who uses those shells. Obviously many narrow boat builders also fit out so no issues there assuming you like their work and price.

Remember it’s not just about looks, it’s how the narrowboat shell handles, the quality of the bits beneath the panels that you can’t see and how you and the canal boat builder work together. A well built narrow boat shell will hold it’s value better than a mediocre narrowboat shell with the same quality interior fixtures and fittings.

Boat builders generally have two options for a new fully fitted canal boat, either from a standard range or a bespoke design.

Buying a Fully Fitted Boat From a Standard Range

The real benefit of buying a narrowboat from a standard range is usually one of cost. After all, Henry Ford brought cars to the masses by revolutionising factory production and it’s no different in our relatively small market. By creating templates and standard hulls, the narrow boat builder can cut cost without necessarily compromising quality. A canal boat builder has the ability to place bulk orders with component suppliers means some of these savings can be passed on to the customer and contracts with external tradespersons such as canal boat painters, narrow boat signwriters and narrowboat engine manufacturers means better deals can be negotiated.

That said, the principal downside will be that your boat won’t be totally unique. Of course you add personal touches and many narrow boat builders are flexible and skilled so as to be able to add some “bespoke” touches so the boats aren’t quite so off the peg. Once you’ve looked past the glittery exterior and showroom finish to the insides, check that the boat you like really fits your needs in terms of electrical capacity and overall size.

Buying a Fully Fitted Bespoke Boat

All the above applies here as well except you have far greater input into the design process. With this freedom of choice comes a price and that is one of cost. Building a custom designed narrowboat is not cheap and the only restrictions placed upon you will be compliance to the current regulations under the RCD and BSS.

We look at the design and specification process in more detail in a later chapter but suffice to say, anything is possible within reason. Be aware that even the bespoke narrow boat builders will have their own preferred styles and “standard” fittings, such as a particular bow style or a favoured supplier of electrical components. Make sure that you are happy with the full specification and recommendations of your chosen narrowboat builder.

The bottom line is that it is of vital importance that you feel you can get on with your narrow boat builder. The nature of our industry is that you are highly likely to be dealing directly with the craftsman who will build your boat. Unlike buying “off the peg” products where you may be seen by an employed salesman, there is likely to be a closer relationship to the person who actually welds the router or welder.

Communication is the key here and sometimes one persons vision is not always interpreted by another person in exactly the same way!

Finally, any new narrowboat has to comply with the Recreational Craft Directive. Expect all the certification, markings and manuals that are required under the law. Some narrowboat builders are so confident with their quality that for extra piece of mind for the customer they will offer a Boat Safety Examination even though one is not required on a new craft for 4 years.

Buying A Fully Fitted Boat… Additions & Extras!

You have researched and considered various narrowboat & widebeam builders and have excitedly decided to purchase a fully fitted new narrow boat. You may be pushing your budget to afford a fully fitted narrow boat but feel that a brand new boat will be worth it as ‘hopefully’ there will be minimal maintenance or repair costs in the first few years!

What you may not be prepared for is the multitude of extras and additions that you may be tempted with! A fully fitted narrow boat, is exactly that … fully fitted but it may not be to your ideal specification. Every canal boat builder will have their own specification of what is included in the list price of a particular boat, this needs to be read and digested very carefully as it will vary considerably. Of course most narrow boat builders will be able to complete the boat to your specification, but it will come at a price! It is surprising how quickly a ‘few extras’ can soon add to the initial list price and then make the purchase unaffordable.

You need to be realistic about what you really ‘need’ versus what you would ‘like’.  Next step would be to compare this with the narrow boat builders’ specification and extras list to see what is actually included in the narrowboat price and how much these extras could cost you. You will then be able to consider which items are essential for you to include and which ones you may need to compromise on. Clearly the important ones will be items integral to the narrow boat build which may be challenging (or impossible) to retro fit at a later stage, for example a Houdini hatch would be an extra for many canal boat builders and this can cost in the region of £850 – £1000.

Here are some examples costs of other extras (please consult the boat builders extra’s list for actual costs):

  • Pram hood – £3500
  • Cratch cover – £2500
  • Bow lockers – £350 – £400
  • Double glazed windows – £160 – £180 each. Given the number of windows on a narrow boat, this can very quickly be an additional £1000
  • Additional side doors – £500
  • Tiled flooring (often laminate effect is used) – £400 – £600 depending on area
  • White painted cabin sides – £700 depending on boat size
  • White tongue & grove on ceiling – £800 depending on boat size
  • Travel power pack – £3000
  • Diesel generator – £8500
  • Additional 230v sockets / light switch / 12v socket – although a number of these will be included in the price, this is often not sufficient for your requirements. At around £50 for any additional sockets/switches this can soon add to your cost, however it is not so easy to retro fit these and hide the cables professionally so worth getting the right specification at the build stage.

There are many upgrades also available when you purchase a new narrowboat, for example an engine upgrade may cost you in the region of £1000 – £2000. Likewise an inverter upgrade can add another £1000.

There may be some items which may come as a surprise that are not included, but are genuinely not part of a boat build, for example:

  • Sign writing the boat name on to the sides of the boat – this does not come as standard for many boat builders. Some may not even be able to offer this service given the specialist skills involved, but could cost an additional £300 – £500.
  • Gas bottles – in most cases these need to be purchased by the buyer. The initial purchase is likely to be around £60 per bottle, and then subsequent re-fills around £25. Most boats will have space to hold 2 x gas bottles, so immediately this is a £120 cost if you want to make that first cup a tea!
  • Mooring ropes – £20 – £40
  • Navigation Lights – £250
  • Fender kits – £400
  • TV aerial – £50 – £100 this cost is considerably more if you want a satellite TV system installed, likely to be nearer to £500

Although it is absolutely possible to purchase a new fully fitted canal boat or narrowboat for the list price, and some canal boat builders will offer a very high standard specification, be aware and budget for the enticing extras that will be on offer! An additional £15,000 – £20,000 can soon be spent on a few extra bits!

Buying A Fully Fitted Boat

Not what you're looking for? Try some other items within this chapter...

crick boat show 2024

(Saturday 25 to Monday 27 May 2024)


Britain's biggest inland waterways show.

Advance tickets can be ordered by phone and online until 12midday on Friday 17 May 2024. If you are planning to purchase advance tickets, we recommend that you do so well before this deadline to allow time for postal delivery.
Children 16 and under – free entry Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Trade & Preview Day – Friday 24 May 2024
Get ahead and visit The Fit Out Pontoon before everyone else on Preview Day!
Preview Day tickets are strictly limited to a maximum of 1,000 pre-booked visitors and give entry to the Show from 10am – 6pm on Friday 24 May.