The Advantages and Disadvantages Of Living On A Narrowboat
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Mon Jan 5, 2015 at 9:29am

It has to be said that everyone has different views on this topic, and a lot of the advantages and disadvantages of living on a narrowboat will differ from person to person. What one person finds a problem another may embrace.

So let’s look at what life on the waterways is like and the advantages and disadvantages.


Things To Consider If You Are Buying A Narrowboat To Live On.

If you are going to buy a narrowboat to live on; the bigger the boat the better is probably advisable. It’s a well-known fact that storage and space is very limited on a narrow boat so having as much space as possible is going to help overcome these issues. If you are living on the boat as a family remember that everyone is entitled to some privacy, so again a larger boat will help to give you more space.

Another factor is the type of boat you have and the facilities you have on board. If you are a family of four living on a 30 foot boat, space, privacy and storage is probably going to be an issue. However if you have a larger boat or maybe even a wide beamed boat, these problems will not be such an issue.

Having all the mod cons on board will make day to day living very comfortable. In todays modern narrowboats you can often expect to find washing machines, fridges, showers, toilets and microwaves. Basically all the household goods a traditional home has. The disadvantage of using these appliances on a boat rather than in a traditional home is that you have to think about the electricity you are using.  

Think about where you will moor your boat.  If you want to live aboard full time, finding a residential mooring in the area you want to live isn’t always an easy task. However if you intend to cruise long term this will not be a problem. You can apply for a cruising licence and as long as you change your location every 14 days as detailed by The Canal and River Trusts rules, you won't need a mooring. I guess the down side to continuous cruising is; if you need to be in the same location for work or for school commitments.

Another subject that is often discussed amongst the boating community is the “loo topic”. No matter what type of system you have on board you will need to manually remove the waste from the boat by either carrying the cassette to a sanitation station or using a pump out station. The other thing to bear in mind is, which system you would prefer to have and maintain. This of course is not something you have to do in a traditional home and therefore doesn’t need any consideration.

One of the main advantages to start with is the freedom that boating offers, this is one of the big attractions that draws people to boating. People who live aboard tend to say they are escaping the rat race and starting a journey to a more tranquil and a better way of life. The pace of life is slow and therefore less stressful which can make for a happier lifestyle.

This leads on to mention that boating allows you to see many locations across the canal network. Depending on boat size you can pretty much cover the whole network (longer boats will find that certain areas are not passable as the locks are too small to take the boats length) however there are plenty of routes available to explore.

The lifestyle is to be embraced; it’s a quiet and simple way of living. Without the demands of day to day challenges faced by most, a stress free existence. As mentioned space is limited which leads to a simplistic way of living - you soon learn to live with only the material things you really need rather than keeping up with the Jone's and buying for the sake of it.

Although there are maintenance costs such as blacking the hull, engine services, general maintenance, moorings fees and licence fees etc. living on a narrowboat can be cheaper than living on the land. The yearly costs of living on a boat of course depends on each individuals circumstances.

Mooring costs in London can be on the expense side and very hard to find, but having said that, it may still be cheaper to moor a boat in London than to buy a house there!

Boating and cruising demands a certain amount of fitness. The locks aren’t going to open themselves, the coal isn’t going to walk on board and tying up the boat isn’t going to be done by itself. So doing normal daily chores aboard you will be keeping fit and active which could help to keep you in good health.

Embracing and enjoying the outdoors and nature is another bonus of living on a boat. For those who enjoy outdoor pursuits living on a boat enables you to fish, run and cycle as if it was in your garden! And all that fresh air is bound to build up a healthy appetite!

So let’s see if the advantages outway the disadvantages mentioned in this article:


  1. All the mod cons on board
  2. Freedom
  3. Slower pace of life
  4. Exploring the canal network
  5. Minimalistic life style
  6. Could save you money
  7. Being close to nature
  8. Being part of a close knit community
  9. Helps keep you fit
  10. Can visit many different locations


  1. Space is limited
  2. Privacy can be a problem
  3. Having to think about electricity usage
  4. Emptying the loo
  5. Filling the water tank
  6. Finding moorings

So there you have it more advantages than disadvantages, so what are you waiting for your dream boat is only a click away!