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10 Things You Need To Know Before Buying a Narrowboat

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Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 11:00am

Don't Buy Till You Have Read This!

Read our top ten tips on things you should know before you buy a narrowboat.


1 It’s a great way of life, but it’s not for everyone!

Just like marmite, you will either love it or hate it!  Not everyone takes to boating whether it’s just the occasional weekend, long holidays or living aboard full time. So our best advice before we go any further is try before you buy.  Hiring a narrowboat will give you a very good idea of what life is like on the canal and if it is for you.

2 Know its purpose

Think about what you will use the narrowboat for and how many people will be on board at any time.  Knowing whether it will be used for living aboard or weekend use only will help when it comes to choosing the size of narrowboat that is going to be right for you and your family.

3 There is a boat for everyone’s budget

The great thing about boating is there is a boat to suit every budget.  So everyone who expresses an interest in owning a narrowboat can have the opportunity of owning a one.

4 Know your sterns and lengths

Knowing a little more about narrowboats in general is going to help you greatly when it comes to buying your own. A great way to start learning about narrowboats is to read our useful info section and our buyers guide. Generally narrowboats are all the same width, but come in variety of length and stern type.

5 Research the running costs

Money matters are also important when owning a floating home. Ask other boaters what the average costs of running a narrowboat is for weekend use or living aboard full time.  Many boaters are more than happy to share their experience and knowledge, so don’t be afraid to ask. Of course depending on each person’s circumstance the costs will can vary. Some expenses you will need to consider are – moorings, licence, insurance, maintenance, fuel costs, blacking and other day to day stuff.

6 Residential Moorings can be hard to find

Residential moorings can be hard to find, so it is always advisable to look into this before buying a narrowboat.

7 You will need certain paper work

Just like owning a car or house you need the relevant paper work, which for a narrowboat will include; insurance, boat safety certificate and ownership papers. Make sure you have all these in place when you buy.

8 Don’t buy till you have a survey

Would you buy a house without a survey? I’m guessing unless you are a builder or in the industry the answer is going to be No!  So buying a second hand narrowboat without a survey isn’t the smartest move unless you know what you are doing. The whole idea of the survey is to protect the buyer so you know exactly what you are buying. Top tip!

9 Use a Brokerage Company

Okay, so we are bound to include this one, but think about the advantages. Using a good brokerage company has so many benefits. So let’s just name a few – lots of experience, a variety of boats all in one location, a broker will negotiate on your behalf saving you any stress, and so much more.

10 Cruising is fun!

The final thing we can tell you before you buy a narrow boat is that it is so much fun! Cruising the beautiful UK canal networks will give you some fantastic holidays or a totally different way of life if you choose to liveaboard full time.

Experienced Boaters Did We Forget Anything?


Terry | Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 11:48am
I would like to have a better idea of what size is practical for one person live aboard. I will have a small dog, but every now and again up to 4 visitors probably for a weekend. I am planning to see the whole network so it would need to be below the magic 58 feet. But would also like to keep running costs to a minimum. Your thoughts please.
Whilotn Marina | Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 12:07pm
Hi Terry, that really depends on the person, however if you want to keep costs such as moorings and heating to a miniumum a 45-50ft narrowboat would probably be fine for one person and a dog.
Rich Moore | Tue Nov 8, 2016 at 11:18am
Hi after my divorce & CSA I am now stuck paying sky high rents !! Thus I now realise it would be better for me to live on a boat which I can own. One problem, I do have not a clue regarding who to contact to seek advice regarding how to and what type of boat to live on by myself along with the costs etc involved ? Thus any tips etc would be greatly appreciated. My salary is £23 K a year. I live and work in Derbyshire.RegardsRich MooreMob: 07738890021
Whilton Marina | Wed Nov 9, 2016 at 3:18pm
Hello Rich,Our website is a good place to start looking for a narrowboat to live aboard. Read our blog section and watch our youtube videos for good guides on using a narrowboat. Also download our buyers guide. If working you need to consider where to moor the boat and costs involved too. Basically visit marinas in your area that sell narrowboats and ask lots of questions.
Steve Grimwood | Mon May 8, 2017 at 1:23pm
Hello all,I am seriously considering living on a narrowboat as an option for the future. I suppose i should really pop to a club or something to ask all the questions i have.Nearly 40 and single with no dependants, despite having a relatively good job, the housing market and buying is not really feasible unless i move north or to undesirable areas. just seems like a good option with nice potential.i really like the look of a wide beam! dutch barges too but let's see what the wallet or bank manager says hahaSteve
Whilton Marina | Mon May 15, 2017 at 1:37pm
Hello Steve, we look forward to being able to help you buy a narrowboat. If you have any questions do pop and see us at our marina, or email us. we would be more than happy to answer any of your questions about living on a narrowboat.
Neil | Sun Aug 13, 2017 at 7:06pm
Hi, seriously thinking about getting a narrowboat but would like to know costs. Rough figures would be helpful and where do we find moorings for living in them?
Whilton Marina | Mon Aug 21, 2017 at 3:18pm
Hello NeilBest place to start researching about the costs of owning any buying a narrowboat is our buyers info page. Also download our guide to getting afloat from the side widget on the buyers info page. Read the Inland Waterways Association website, and the Canal and River Trust website who have details of residential moorings online. We are always happy to answer any queries you may have about buying a narrowboat in person, feel free to come and visit us.
David Thornber | Sat Dec 9, 2017 at 3:28am
Hi, I am thinking about the possibility of owning a narrowboat for holidays and renting it out at other times. I live overseas. Are there agencies that will look after the rental side? Is there any issue with my living abroad? I have a Brit/EU passport.
Whilton Marina | Wed Dec 13, 2017 at 4:30pm
Hi David, Thank you for your comment, we are unaware of any agencies that offer that service.
Hayley | Mon Feb 26, 2018 at 10:14am
Hi I am looking to buy a boat as a permanay base not intending to travel just moor up somewhere any ideas on where to start please
Whilton Marina | Mon Feb 26, 2018 at 10:54am
Hello Hayley, you have come to the right place to buy a narrowboat. Read our website and watch our YouTube videos to help you learn about narrowboating. As regards moorings, do your research in the area you want to moor as sometimes moorings can be difficult to find.
hanley | Sat Jul 28, 2018 at 12:24pm
looking to buy second hand n/b 50'
Whilton Marina | Mon Aug 6, 2018 at 4:20pm
Hello Hanley, you have come to the right place, we can help you find a second hand 50ft narrowboat. We will register you for email updates of 50ft narrowboats

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