The sky really can be the limit here and not only will you have the price of the narrowboat itself but be mindful you will have to pay to moor it somewhere and just like the car, there is a tax in the form of a boat licence, an MOT in the form of a Boat Safety Certificate and the inevitable canal boat insurance. If your boat choice is a second hand one, you may wish to have the boat taken out of the water and surveyed.

It's not just the cost of a new or used narrowboat that needs to be budgeted for
Narrowboat shows are ideal for viewing a selection of new and used narrow boats
Licence, moorings, insurance and fuel are some of the costs for owning a narrowboat that need to be considered

Budgeting… New or Used Boat?

Buying New

New narrow boats are available fully fitted to your specification and prices start at upwards of £1000/linear foot. Bespoke narrowboat fitting will generally take longer to complete than a narrow boat builders standard range but the key here is visit as many canal boat builders who can provide a craft within your budget as possible. If a new fully fitted canal boat is out of your financial budget you may consider a sailaway canal boat which can be fitted out to various levels of completion to suit your budget. Regardless of whether you are purchasing a new fully fitted canal boat or a sailaway narrowboat or widebeam, always consider the following points when engaging with a canal boat builder:

  • Check out their work & talk to their previous customers.
  • Use our web pages to familiarise yourself with the processes involved in buying a new canal boat.
  • Ask about “hidden costs” such as delivery and registration charges that may not be covered in the purchase price.
  • Boating is very emotive but you are committing a substantial amount of your money to your new boat so be comfortable with the canal boat builder and his/her ability before committing.
  • Understand their lead-times and have realistic expectations based on their skills.

Buying Used

Buying a used narrow boat could be the most cost effective way of realising your dreams. Not everyone’s finances can stretch to a new narrowboat and not everyone has the necessary skills or confidence to tackle a DIY fit-out. The best advice we can give here is to try and go into your purchase informed and with your eyes open. Most of us buy emotionally but there are many practical considerations to be mindful of when considering a used narrow boat.

After viewing and shortlisting your choice you should consider the cost of a pre-purchase canal boat survey just as we do when buying houses. An out of the water, full hull, habitation & systems survey, back in the water package will be several hundreds of pounds. However, a thousand pounds spent at this stage of your boating journey could well prove to be money well spent should the surveyor discover the base plate of the boat needs over-plating or the engine is found to need replacing!

A marine survey will not only provide peace of mind but may also give you a tool to negotiate on the purchase price with. Your canal boat surveyor will be able to provide you with a condition report on such items as pumps, batteries, heating systems, propulsion systems, paintwork, hull steel and so-on. The condition report will assist with prioritising and budgeting for items required in the future.

Budgeting… For A D.I.Y. Fit Out?

Narrow boats are also available as shells for self fitting and can have certain systems such as an engine and first-fit electrics installed for a set price. This allows you total freedom to personalise your boat.

If you decide to DIY, all the skills you need can be learnt but this will take time, trial & error & unless you are already competent with carpentry, plumbing, electrics, floor laying, soft furnishings, mechanics, coach painting etc etc this could be very, very expensive.

Befriend your local Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) surveyor as all work has to be carried out in accordance with the Boat Safety Scheme. If you try and short-cut your installations without referencing the BSS it could work out very expensive for remedial work.

Remember to cost in those trips to the local chandlery if there is not one already on your marina. Many chandleries offer an internet postal service for most items, include these costs in your budget preparation. Talk to the chandlery manager as many local businesses will offer a discount loyalty scheme which could save you money in the long term.

Budgeting… Post Purchase Considerations?


If your new purchase is not licensed you will need to apply to the Canal & River Trust for your annual licence. This will vary in cost with reference to how long your boat is and how you wish to use it.

For example a Gold Licence covers both CRT and Environment Agency navigations and for 2013 one of these licenses for a 70’ boat paid by direct debit will cost £1383. Currently, a handful of marinas in the UK are CRT licence exempt. Your boat needs to be licensed to use EA or CRT navigable waterways but if moored the fee is waived. In this example,to licence a 42’ boat to cruise rivers only for 6 months currently costs £246. Speak to the CRT Boat Licensing Team to discuss what are the best options for your lifestyle and location. When licensing your boat, the CRT will need a copy of your current BSS examination.


The issue of your licence is conditional on you having a current canal boat insurance policy in place. Marinas will also insist on insurance and in-any-case, why would you not insure such an important purchase. Your canal boat insurance company must be regulated by the UK Financial Services Authority and cover third party liabilities of at least two million pounds. As with any insurance, ring around for quotes and read the small print.

Boat Safety Scheme Examination

Every four years your boat will need a Boat Safety Scheme examination which will cost upwards of £120 plus the cost of repairing or replacing anything that is faulty.


Unless you choose to cruise continuously, you will need a home mooring. As a side note, continuous cruising attracts certain licensing conditions and the requirement that canal and river mooring time limits are respected. Unless posted otherwise, towpath mooring is restricted to 14 days continuous occupation after which you are obliged to move on. “Moving on” means different things to different people. A highly emotive subject, check with the CRT concerning your rights and obligations.

Mooring costs can vary a great deal depending on facilities offered and boat length. Not all marinas or bank-side moorings are classed as residential. Don’t assume your local marina will be sympathetic to your new floating home lifestyle, they may simply offer a storage facility. If DIY fitting, confirm this is acceptable to the marina owners. Check they accept children should you have a family, and don’t assume your dog or cat will be welcome. Best advice, do your homework first and ring round your chosen geographical location.


Domestic water is often included in mooring costs but check in any case. Electricity costs can vary from a daily standing charge, to a metered unit cost, to a pre-payment card. Check with the marina staff and local authority with regards to Council Tax liabilities if you are considering using your boat as your primary residence.

Breakdown Cover

Many owners enjoy the security of narrow boat break-down cover. This can vary from a little over £50 for the basic cover to upwards of £200 per year for full membership.

Maintenance Costs

Maintenance costs are annual and on-going. The marine environment is harsh and your investment needs looking after. Although many owners are mechanically minded you will still have the annual cost of consumables if you DIY. If you are considering a new narrow boat talk to your boat builder about what is required to maintain warranties on engines & heating systems etc.

A basic engine service may cost from £150 to £250 depending on engine type and sophistication. It is good practice to black the hull and replace sacrificial anodes every 2 to 3 years. Check your marinas’ costs for removing the boat from the water and putting it back in again. Anode replacement will cost around £150, including welding. Blacking materials will vary in cost depending on the hull size. Expect to pay £130 for 20 litres of a standard one part bituminous coating plus the cost of materials used in preparation and application should you choose to DIY. Many marinas offer price packages for slippage, anode replacement and blacking but please do check the materials they use are to your expectations and they allow sufficient time to correctly prepare the hull and allow the coatings to dry in accordance with the manufacturers specs.


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.