Strap on that lifejacket as we answer the question of ‘how much does it cost to live on a canal boat?’
As a fan of alternative living, I’ve lived and travelled in vans and boats for many years. I’ve recently been through the entire process of buying a canal boat too, so I can give you all of the knowledge on how much it costs fresh from the front of my mind…
… and all at no extra cost!
From buying a boat to discovering how much it costs to heat your new tiny home, I’ve covered everything you need to know about embarking on a new life on the water.
Ok, I haven’t covered the cost of duck food, but I’ll leave that up to you.
So, just how much does it cost to live on a canal boat?
Let’s find out!
Featured Image: Livingthedreammcr
How Much Does a Canal Boat Cost?
I’m starting with the most important question with regards to how much does it cost to live on a canal boat, but this is also one of the answers that varies the most.
Like cars and houses, boats come in all different sizes and conditions. Unlike cars, however, old boats tend to hold their value.
I’ve seen converted coal barges from 1920 still selling for upwards of £40,000!
At the time of writing, there seems to be a big jump in price between used boats under and over 40-feet long. How much you end up spending on a canal boat will all depend on how much space you think you need on the inside.
If you’re used to vanlife but would like a more permanent space on the water, then a small 35-foot springer base narrowboat might be perfect. These tend to cost anywhere between £10,000 and £25,000
If, however, you’re thinking of downsizing from a house but still want multiple rooms, then a 50 foot canal boat with separate sleeping area might suit better. These cost upwards of £30,000 depending on condition.
Just like Chief Brody in Jaws, if you’re gonna need a bigger boat, then expect to spend more money – it’s as simple as that!
One thing is for certain – don’t skimp out on a purchase. It’s always worth ‘banging on another thousand (which coincidentally spells B.O.A.T) and getting a quality home.
How Much Is A Canal Boat Survey?
The second most important thing to consider when asking ‘how much does it cost to live on a canal boat’ is putting money aside for a survey.
Unless you put on a diving suit and dive underneath your boat to inspect the steel, it’s going to be tough to see if you’re making a good purchase or not.
That’s why a survey is so important, crucial even.
The survey process requires a surveyor to look over your prospective narrowboat to check all elements from the thickness of the hull to the interior fit.
They determine the condition of the hull and if any over-plating is required, basically giving you an accurate snapshot of what you are buying. In a way, it’s like the MOT reg-checker we use for cars, except it costs a lot more.
A survey usually costs around £500, then there’s the cost of a marina pulling your boat out and putting it in a dry dock.
All in all, I’d recommend putting aside around £800 for a survey.
Bear in mind that marinas/brokerage companies cannot hire in surveyors for you. They can advise local companies, but it’s up to you to find a surveyor independently and book them in.
How Much Is A Boat Safety Certificate?
Canal boats need something called a Boat Safety Certificate (or a BSC) every four years. This test costs around £250 and checks to make sure things like gas lines and engines aren’t leaking.
Like an MOT for a car, this is a legal requirement that boats need if they’re going to be on the water. It might seem like a lot of money, but at least you know your new home is safe for full-time living!
How Much Is A Canal River Trust License?
If you want to live on a canal boat, either on the canal (the cut as kids in the know call it) or in a Marina, then you’ll need a Canal River Trust license.
Think of the license as being the same as road tax. This license allows you to use Britain’s waterways, canals and rivers, in your floating home.
Remember I said above that bigger boats cost more money? Well, bigger boats cost more to license too.
Let’s say you’re buying a 40-foot boat. The yearly cost for a CRT license would be £813.13 for a prompt payment.
To give you an idea, the cost for a license on a 60-foot boat would be £1,040.80, a difference of £227.67.
This fee can be either be paid yearly, half-yearly, or quarterly depending on your financial circumstances.
You do end up paying more in the long run if you go down the quarterly route, so that’s something to bear in mind.
More information on how CRT licenses affect how much it costs to live on a canal boat is available by visiting the Buy Your Boat License page on the CRT website.
How Much Is Canal Boat Insurance
If you’re asking yourself ‘how much does it cost to live on a canal boat’, then you’re definitely going to need canal boat insurance.
Luckily, boat’s don’t travel very fast, which means they don’t cost the earth to insure.
Even though many people don’t even take their boats out of marinas and less people actually make a claim on, it’s still a legal requirement, just like with cars.
I’ve used a company called CraftInsure for a 60-foot narrowboat and payed a monthly cost of £12 for insurance.
To put that into perspective, it’s the same as four meal deals from the local shop!
How Much Does Canal Boat Breakdown Cover Cost?
While it’s unlikely that you’ll crash into another boat on the canal, it’s not absurd to think that you might need breakdown cover…
… especially if you’re cruising around on an old vessel.
Boaters use a service called River Canal Rescue if they need repairs on the water or towing to a repair shop.
Like roadside assistance, RCR is a membership service with a one-off monthly cost depending the amount of cover that you need.
Prices start from £65 for basic membership and go all the way up to £280 for the gold service package.
They give you a sticker to put in your window and bring tea and biscuits along if you’ve got a hungry tummy and empty cupboards.
Everything is better on the water!
How Much Are Canal Boat Mooring Fees?
I know not everyone who’s wondering how much it costs to live on a canal boat will want to live in a marina. Still, there are times that everyone visits them.
This is especially true during the winter months when solar panels aren’t as effective during shorter daylight hours.
Of course, cruising down the cut is free (apart from your CRT license of course). There are certain regulations about how long you can stay in any one spot that must be adhered to.
Still, you can usually get away with cruising back up and down the same stretch of canal if you need to be in one general area for work.
There are three different types of moorings-
- Private mooring
- CRT moorings
- Private marina
Private moorings are usually offered by people with houses beside the canal. They provide homeowners with an extra revenue source and a safe spot for you to park your boat. They often come with electricity and a water supply, though you’ll need to make your own arrangements for emptying your toilet at a nearby marina.
CRT moorings tend to be found along the towpath, often covering both sides of the canal bank. Prices vary depending on whether the moorings have an electricity and water supply and depending on where they are in the country. Prices usually start from around £1,000 for the year.
Private marinas cost the most money but provide the most services. They provide electricity and water to every mooring and have facilities on site for washing and drying. They also include toilet waste disposal sites for both porta-pottis and pump-out toilets.
The general cost of a private marina varies depending on where it is in the country and the owner of the site. A local marina to me charges £500 per quarter, where as the previous marina I lived at charged £400 per month.
In most cases, CRT moorings and private marinas charge according to the length of your boat. In other words, smaller vessels will cost less to moor per month.
That’s something to bear in mind if you still haven’t found your dream tiny home yet!
How Much Does Blacking A Canal Boat Cost?
One of the most important things we tell people when they ask us how much it costs to live on a canal boat is about blacking.
Blacking is the process of taking a boat out of the canal and protecting the steel section that sits in the water.
This process protects the hull from rust, impacts against the sides of locks or other boats, and generally keeps your boat afloat for longer.
There are two different types of blacking. Boaters can use a bitumen-based paint or go for something called a Two Pack Epoxy finish.
To give you a general idea of cost, a boatyard quoted me £900 to black a 60-foot narrowboat with bitumen paint and £2,500 for two pack epoxy.
Bitumen paint lasts around 3 years, whereas two pack epoxy can last anything between 6-8 years depending on whether you cruise or just stay in one place.
Of course, boat blacking is a lot cheaper if you do it yourself. It’s a time consuming process, but if you have the patience and just pay dry dock fees, you’ll save a heck of a lot of money!
How Much Does Gas Cost On A Canal Boat
Having spent a lot of time on canal boats, I can confirm that gas costs a lot less than it does in a house.
One 13kg gas bottle will set you back around £30 and can last anything up to 4 months (again, from personal experience).
My gas bottle powered the hot water to the shower, bathroom and kitchen, and also the oven/gas hobs.
Obviously, how much you cook using an oven/gas hob will depend on how quickly your gas depletes. I tended to only use mine in an evening when cooking up tasty treats after a day of writing.
Calor Gas bottles are like chicken’s teeth at the moment, and lots of places aren’t taking on new gas contracts.
Find an old bottle on a sale or swap site in order to make it easier for yourself if you’re starting out without a bottle.
How Much Does It Cost To Heat A Narrowboat?
The general cost for heating a narrowboat boils down to (pun intended) how you heat your home.
My old narrowboat had a wood burning stove for those quintessential tiny home feels. I burnt smokeless fuel that cost around £10 for a 25KG bag, and each bag lasted me a couple of weeks.
If you know how to keep a fire in and burning effectively, then it’s possible to leave one in overnight and keep your boat warm for the morning.
In my opinion, there’s nothing like a real fire for heating a tiny home, especially while kicking back and listening to the flames while reading a book!
Other boaters use diesel heaters, the kind that you might find in a camper van.
From experience, the diesel heater in my camper uses 0.1l of diesel an hour on the lowest setting, making it a cheap option if you have a smaller boat.
Just remember to keep some jerry cans of diesel for if you start to run out!
How Much Does Electricity Cost On A Canal Boat?
The electricity price at marina’s varies from site to site. At my previous marina, electricity cost around 21.7p per kWh.
That was quite expensive, but £35 still lasted me a month of powering everything from a fridge to a projector.
Still, if you have the money to spend on solar panels and an off-grid setup, then your electricity costs will be even less, as will the amount of time you’ll need to spend in a marina!
And that’s a wrap! Thanks for checking out this article on ‘how much does it cost to live on a canal boat!’