How Much Do We Need to Spend to Get a Good Quality Liveaboard?
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Mon Oct 27, 2014 at 12:00pm

We are asked this question at least once a day at the marina -

"How much do we need to spend to get a good quality liveaboard?"

Buyers are keen to know what sort of finances they need to have in place to buy 'a quality narrowboat' with the intention of living aboard full time.  

We could simply say “How long is a piece of string?” but that wouldn’t be very helpful!

Depending on certain aspects like the style, manufacturer and condition of the boat, this will reflect how much money the narrowboat will cost to purchase and how much money you will need to invest to make the boat how you want it.


Financing Your Dream Boat!

There are various ways of looking at this; so we are going to show you three pricing examples which will give you an indication of what you can get for your money.

Every boat and persons situation is different, the examples shown are purely general guidelines and do not reflect every boat currently on the market.

Three pricing examples:

1. From Scratch:- A very basic second hand shell which needs work; sometimes known as a project boat can cost;

Prices in the region of

  • 35 foot £15,000
  • 57 foot £26,000
  • 70 foot £35,000

Or alternatively you can buy a new shell known as a sailaway (35 foot) for around £14,000 which will need fitting out.

There are a number of different skills needed to fit out a shell, the key ones are; woodwork, plumbing, electrics, painting and gas fitting. Consider if you have the skills to carry out these jobs and also the time to complete the project. 

You will need to add the costs of any labour you need doing, as well as the cost of the fittings to the total project cost.

For a 35ft boat you should allow around 60 working days (that is roughly 30 weekends)  spending around 8hrs per day working on the boat. Additional time will be needed for research and shopping!

For a 60 – 70ft boat you probably need to double this time.

2. Mid Range:- A tidy second hand boat that doesn't require any major work can cost:

  • 35 foot £25,000
  • £57 foot £40,000
  • 70 foot £55,000

3. Top Range:- At the top end of the market you can pay anywhere up to £150,000 for a bespoke new narrowboat, depending on fit out and size.

What’s important to know.

When buying a boat to liveaboard there are some key points to consider - length, style, layout, fittings and the number of people on board.

When it comes to choosing the length of your live aboard, ideally the boat should be as long as possible. Space is very limited on a narrowboat, so buying a longer boat is going to provide you with the extra  space you will appreciate when living on your boat full time.  For living aboard you may prioritise space and storage and choose a longer or wider boat.

If you are going to cruise, check the canals you intend to use. There are length restrictions at certain locks. Many locks will take 70 foot boats, however some are shorter and are unable to take boats over 60 foot.

It has to be said that the longer the boat the more expensive it can be, costs such as mooring, licenses, insurance etc will also be more expensive. The added space will pay for itself by providing you with comfortable living!


All three narrowboat styles; traditional, semi-traditional and cruisers are suitable to liveaboard.  What style attracts one person will be different to someone else. The only way to really know what boat is right for you is to hop on board all the different styles and get a feel for the different sterns.

Interior layout

If you are having a boat built for you, then you will need to work with the builder to design you the perfect interior layout. By looking around other boats this will give you a feel of the type of layout you would prefer, and your builder can customise your requirements.

Alternatively, if you are buying a second hand narrowboat you will come across various layouts as you view them and you will soon know when you have found the one that suits you!


The quality of the build and what is included in the sale will also have an impact on the overall price, items like fridges, washing machines and stoves will add to the value.

Who’s coming On-board?

You should consider how many people will be living on board when it comes to buying a liveaboard.

Privacy for all of those on board is important. Everyone should be able to have a space to call their own. If you have children on board; is there room for all their toys and an area that can be used to do their homework in peace?