The Pros And Cons Of Buying A Widebeam Boat
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Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 12:48pm

We have written a lot of articles advising you of the pros and cons of buying a narrowboat, however we haven’t discussed the Widebeam in any detail before. 

Whatever type of boat you are considering buying, whether it be a narrowboat or wide beam, it is always advisable to try out boating before you hand over your hard earned cash.

Boating isn’t for everyone, some people see it as a way to get cheap accommodation, but living on the water is very different to living on the land. The initial out lay of buying a boat can be cheaper than buying a house or flat, but you do have the day to day running expenses, mooring fees and maintenance costs to consider too.

Do your homework before selling your home or getting your finances in place to buy a boat.  A really good way of getting the feel of boating is to hire a boat for a long weekend or for a holiday.


The most obvious advantage of a wide beam is the additional living and storage space that this style of canal boat provides. Narrowboats are usually 6ft 10" wide, but  widebeamed boats are generally between 10ft to 12ft in width. All that extra space is a major plus, especially for anyone considering living aboard full time who is not worried about cruising every inch of the canal network, then a wide beam is a great choice.

Cruising isn’t really a problem either, well not as much of a problem that the anti widebeam brigade will have you believe.  First thing they will say is “you can’t go here, you can’t go there”, well fair enough, but there are plenty of other areas on the network that are suitable for cruising. Each waterway was built to its own size: some have slightly narrower locks than usual, others have lower bridges.  In particular,the more historic canals often have low bridges and shallow channels.

There are four main ‘cruising grounds’ for the widebeam owner: London and the South; East Anglia; the Severn waterways; and the Trent and North. See the map below for more info about where you can cruise.

The extra width of the boat lends itself to use freestanding furniture. The inside of widebeam can look like and have the feel of a small apartment, as opposed to a boat, offering the owner a trendy waterside residence at a sensible price!

Wide beams are available in a cruiser, semi trad and traditional sterns, replicating the design of narrowboat stern.

Some wide beams have hydraulic steering with a wheel at the stern as an alternative to a tiller.  With wheel steering you can unleash the wheel and the wheel will stay in position, making the boat a lot more manageable if you are cruising on your own.

More good news; your boat licence will not cost you any more money than a narrowboat of the same length.(this may change at a later date, so if reading this blog long after it was written, this info could change, so check the cost of licence fees on the Canal and River Trust website) If you are going to be moored full time on some rivers, such as the Thames, or in a marina, the amount you pay is often worked out by the area of the boat rather than by the length. So bear in mind there may be additional mooring costs to factor in.


There are some limitations when cruising some parts of the canal system due to the boats width, but as we have mentioned before there are many other sections of the network you can travel.

As with buying a bigger house the maintenance costs will be slightly higher for a larger boat, which I think is fairly obvious and would be expected by most people. For example blacking a narrowboat which is 70 foot long will cost around £1000 and a wide beam of the same length would be approximately £1500.  The increase in cost is purely down to the fact there is more surface area to cover, using more paint and of course man hours.

As with the example of running a bigger house, a larger boat will also cost a bit more money to run, so be aware heating a wide beam will make your running costs more expensive.

As we have already mentioned, the mooring costs of a widebeamed boat are usually higher than for a narrowboat.

Finding moorings for a widebeam boat

Finding suitable moorings is something the narrowboat owner can have trouble doing, this is no different really for the widebeam owner. Finding a mooring for larger vessel can be even more difficult, especially as most marinas on the inland waterways system are build to accommodate narrowboats.

However it’s not impossible and our advice whether you are buying a widebeam boat or a narrowboat is to find moorings before you buy.

You can register to receive email updates when widebeamed boats come in for sale.

Map picture above was created by Waterways World. For more info on buying a widebeam see their buyers guide by clicking the link to their website above.


Marie smith | Fri Oct 16, 2015 at 3:03am
The information helped me a lot I'm thinking of selling my house and me and my dog trying to find if a life on the water is right for us. I'm single and 50. My family has gone and looking for vocation. I will take a week's trip in a barge thinking maybe if I do it in the winter months I. Will have a better idea of what I will have to deal with. Many thanks
Paul | Mon Feb 22, 2016 at 12:27pm
Looking to buy a wide beam could do with some genuine advice ,
Whilton Marina | Mon Feb 22, 2016 at 3:48pm
We don't currently have any wide beamed boats for sale, however they do occasionally come in for sale at our marina. The best thing would be to register for email updates of boats that come in for sale, (there is an option of selecting widebeamed boats there so you can choose to just receive details of widebeams when they come in) Click this link to register:
Haggie | Tue Apr 5, 2016 at 12:14pm
As a fat chic i prefer the wide beam boat naturally to accommodate my height and weight. The only issue i have is that the showers are always to small. Nevertheless, i would definitely consider life off grid onboard a wide beam boat.
Mary | Wed Apr 20, 2016 at 1:02pm
Thank you for the information on Wide Beams. Please keep me up dated on any further information.Thank you
Tim Field | Mon Jun 13, 2016 at 6:40pm
I am thinking of buying and living on a Widebeam
MrWill Dennick | Fri Aug 5, 2016 at 12:27pm
Consider a Wide Beam of 12' x 70' - Will all locks on those designated as Broad Canals take these dimensions. How do I find out which are the narrowest and shortest locks on Broad Canals.
Whilton Marina | Tue Aug 9, 2016 at 2:47pm
Hello Mr Dennick,We have found this useful table on the different UK canals and their size restrications, you will need to copy and past this into a browser: as mentioned in the article it is correct as far as the author is aware. We also suggest that you contact the Canal and River Trust for a complete list of the broad canals and their size restrictions before navigating the canal network with a widebeam to check.
mick bavester | Wed Aug 10, 2016 at 11:33am
im thinking of buying my first boat, i would like a 4 berth cabin cruiser to sail around the waterways, could you give me any recomendations as what to buy, budget of about 10k many thanks
Whilton Marina | Wed Aug 10, 2016 at 1:43pm
Hi MickWe only sell steel narrowboats at Whilton Marina so are unable to help you with buying a cabin cruiser, but good luck with your search!
Nicholas Churchill | Sun Aug 14, 2016 at 7:13pm
Hi would like some genuine advice on finding mooring on the Thames how to go about as we are thinking of selling our house in France and have our eyes on a 75ft by 12ft wide beam
Whilton Marina | Tue Aug 16, 2016 at 2:47pm
Hello Nicholas,Contact the Environment Agency for information on moorings on the River Thames as this river comes under their jurisdiction. Or copy this into a web browser for more info:
Bill Percy | Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 8:05pm
Hi thanks for this advice. Can you give some advice on VAT for wide beam narrow boats, in particular new v second hand. I've done some homework but have seen conflicting views.
Whilton Marina | Tue Sep 20, 2016 at 12:50pm
We believe that If the narrowboat builder is registered for VAT then the boat has to have VAT added to it. The price they quote however will be inclusive of VAT. If the boat is built as a liveaboard, under certain circumstances the VAT can be reclaimed by the buyer but we understand that the rules are very complicated.If the narrowboat is being sold through a broker, you don’t pay VAT. There is some VAT involved but only for the seller and only on the brokerage fee.If the boat is purchased from an individual who isn’t VAT registered, you don’t pay VAT.Hope this helps you.
Lindy lou | Sat Nov 19, 2016 at 10:07am
Hi we are looking to buy a 10ft widebeam ...would we to get from whilton marina to trinity marina on the canal where we would be mooring? Thankeywords you in advance for your time
Whilton Marina | Wed Nov 30, 2016 at 12:59pm
Hello Lindy Lou,You would not be able to navigate the Oxford Canal with a widebeamed boat to get onto the Ashby Canal where Trinity Marina is located. You can travel as far as Birmingham in a widbeam but beyond that will struggle. For more information contact the Canal and River Trust A useful page to look at also is this is you copy and paste into a web browser: is always the option of taking the widebeam by road. Hope this helps.
william hammerton | Wed Dec 14, 2016 at 7:41pm
am selling our flat would like to buy a widebeam that needs a little work as I am a carpenterWould pay for professional advice
Robert Horne | Tue Dec 20, 2016 at 1:35pm
Hi there with regards to canals & rivers suitable for widebeams to travel are there special maps that we can buy purely for widebeam boats ?
Whilton Marina | Wed Jan 4, 2017 at 12:20pm
Hello WilliamWe would be unable to advise you, but would suggest that you look at as many new or used narrowboats as possible to get ideas and speak to boat builders. Research fit out types and decide what you like and what you dislike.
Whilton Marina | Wed Jan 4, 2017 at 12:35pm
Hello RobertAs far as we are aware there are no special maps of the canal system purely for widebeams. The normal maps of the canal system will have information about width/length of locks and height/length restrictions, so are applicable to all boats.
Chris | Thu Jan 5, 2017 at 9:43pm
Thanks for this very useful advice and information. Can widebeams be transported at all, on land or by sea by haulage/shipping companies? If an owner would need to relocate from England to Scotland for example.
Whilton Marina | Mon Jan 9, 2017 at 11:17am
Hello Chris, Yes widebeams can be transported by road. You'd need to speak to a specialised haulage company to arrange this.
Kate | Sun Jan 15, 2017 at 3:34pm
Hello - Im thinking of buying a canal boat to set up as a cooking school/ bnb when ?i move to Birmingham. Will it be hard to get a permanent mooring in the city area? and can I get anyone to do work on the boat or does in ned to be a specialist ship yard?
Whilton Marina | Tue Jan 17, 2017 at 12:51pm
Hello Kate, we suggest you look for a mooring first before buying the widebeam, as the length of the mooring will dictate the length of boat you can buy. Moorings in Birmingham city centre may be difficult to find due to high demand. We suggest that you do your research and contact as many marinas in the area you want to obtain a mooring first.
Nick Broadh | Wed Jan 25, 2017 at 4:43pm
Excellent read. Thanks Nick
Jane Benwell | Fri Mar 10, 2017 at 11:36am
HiHave had many years aboard cruisers but are now seriously contemplating a live aboard. Have seen some barges at 8'6" wide. Would this width still hold the same restrictions on cruising as a full wide beam? Also what sort of ball park price for this width by 65' long new. Also would like a rayburn or similar on board powered by red diesel for heating and cooking. Would this be a problem regarding the weight.Any help would be gratefully appreciated.RegardsJayne.
Whilton Marina | Mon Mar 20, 2017 at 2:02pm
Hello Jane, Yes an 8ft 6" boat will be classed as a widebeam and be restricted on certain canals. We do not sell new narrowboats so it would be best to talk to a narrowboat builder regarding costs, but we would suggest depending on build specification you budget between £1,500 and £2,000 per foot to build a new 8ft 6" 65ft boat. Yes you can use a Rayburn for cooking and heating on a narrowboat, but it must be a marine specification and fitted to Boat Safety Certification standards, the boat can be re-ballasted if necessary.
Karen | Thu Aug 17, 2017 at 3:05pm - this link may be of interest.
Whilton Marina | Mon Aug 21, 2017 at 3:06pm
Thanks Karen,The above is a link to a Waterways World map of the waterways showing where you can travel on a widebeamed boat, you will need to copy it into a web browser.
Louise | Wed Jan 17, 2018 at 11:16am
Found 65ft 13ft Dutch barge, needs work, still in Amsterdam. Want to bring to uk , but so far no one can accommodate this in the south coast area,my dreams of living in my forever home seem out of reach, my work is here too, if I move elsewhere with this barge I will not be able to afford this ,
Johnny allen | Fri Jan 19, 2018 at 6:31pm
I'm looking for a wide beam1
Whilton Marina | Mon Jan 22, 2018 at 4:18pm
Hi Johnny, Please click on the link below to view our boats for sale, we currently have two widebeams for sale.
Kate | Thu Feb 1, 2018 at 5:46pm
Hi, is ther3 any way of working out a sensible price for a used widebeam with london mooring? Also, do i need to find a solicitor for the process or is it cool to leave all that stuff with a broker?
Whilton Marina | Tue Feb 6, 2018 at 12:38pm
Hi Kate, We have had Widebeams for sale between the prices of £39,950 to £100k +. Depending on your requirements you will be able to find one within your budget. You do not need a Solicitor if buying a boat through a broker. The broker will assist with the process. To find a permanent mooring for a Widebeam in London will be your biggest challenge and will be very expensive
Martin Carr | Sat Apr 7, 2018 at 4:56pm
Interested in buying a widebeam. £100k max budget.Please keep me posted.Regards Martin
Whilton Marina | Tue Apr 10, 2018 at 10:16am
Hi Martin, we are happy to subscribe you to our database so that you will get email updates from us when a widebeam boat comes in for sale.
Tina Jacobs | Tue Apr 24, 2018 at 9:36am
I am looking to purchase a 2 beth wide beam please could I be added to your database Wilton Marina ?. I am struggling to find moorings, I would like to be as close to Newbury as possible, preferably in a marina any suggestions ? (will be living aboard permanently) also you previously mention haulage what figures do they change for their services? thanks for any advice
Whilton Marina | Tue Apr 24, 2018 at 2:18pm
Hello Tina, yes, we will add you to our dataabse so that you'll get email updates when any 2 berth widebeamed boats come in for sale at either of our marinas. Widebeams can be transported by road. You'd need to speak to a specialised haulage company to obtain costings and arrange this. Moorings can be hard to find, especially for widebeams as many marinas are built to accomodate narrowbeamed boats. Best to contact all the marinas in the area you want to moor the boat for availability and prices.
paul everton | Tue Jun 5, 2018 at 5:08pm
hi i am looking for a wide beam with 2 bedrooms at arround 55k or less can you help we are in northwich cheshire.
paul everton | Tue Jun 5, 2018 at 5:08pm
hi i am looking for a wide beam with 2 bedrooms at arround 55k or less can you help we are in northwich cheshire.
Whilron Marina | Wed Jun 6, 2018 at 2:00pm
Hello Paul, Thanks for your enquiry regarding widebeam boats for sale with us. We currently have two widebeamed boats for sale, one called' Second Mouse' & one called 'Jay', I will email email you the links to the boats on our website.
Kevin Summerley | Tue Jul 10, 2018 at 3:32pm
I believe that one can buy a "slimline" broadbeam boat that is 9ft wide and which can cover some 70% of the available waterways. I would appreciate it if you could let me know more about who manufactures these slimlines and also if they would provide a map of where their boats can go on the Cut.
Whilton Marina | Tue Jul 24, 2018 at 3:18pm
Hello Kevin, widebeamed boats do often come in a variety of widths, however generally tend to be from 10-12ft wide. We are unaware of which manufacturers specifically build 'slimline broadbeamed boats, it is probably best to search online, or to contact boatbuilders. 9 ft is only a little wider than a normal narrowboat which are 6ft 10" wide, but will restrict your cruising on some canals. Having a boat much longer than 57ft will also block you on some locks which only fit 57ft boats.
Karen Barker | Sun Dec 2, 2018 at 5:22pm
I am in my early 50s and am considering buying a wide beam and living on it permanantly with my dog Alfie. I want a simpler life and lower running costs than owning a house. I would like any advise anyone could offer good and bad as to why I should go ahead.
Whilton Marina | Mon Dec 3, 2018 at 1:15pm
Hello Karen, we recommend that you do plenty of research about living aboard a widebeamed boat. There are lots of online communities and forums where you can ask advice and opinions from people who live aboard.
Nigel uglow | Wed Apr 17, 2019 at 8:34pm
Hi, Im an expat living in Canada. My wife and myself are considering selling up our farm here in Canada and returning to the Uk. We are considering buying a narrowboat to live on most of the year round. We are not concerned about the space and know we will love living on a boat. Do you have reccomendations of specific boats, ie good boat builders, good makes of engines and the ones to stay clear of. We would be looking at a used boat for under £80,000. As i mentioned we are in the early stages of considering this idea so we can have the best advice when the time comes. Thank you so much all advice welcome!Regards Nigel
Whilton Marina | Tue Apr 23, 2019 at 12:23pm
Hello Nigel, If you are new to narrowboating we suggest that you do as much research as possible by reading various boating websites and forums, and learn about narrowboating by watching our YouTube videos. If you are able to come to the UK to look at narrowboats, visit narrowboat brokerage companies and go on as many narrowboats as you can to establish what style and size would suit your way of living. You can also register for new boat email updates on our website. Good luck with your dream of returning to the UK to live on a canal boat.
Paula murray | Mon Sep 9, 2019 at 11:23pm
Looking at buying a wide beam, 10 ft max. My family live in then Cheshire area would that be a problem with the width?
Whilton Marina | Tue Sep 10, 2019 at 1:02pm
Hello Paula, There are restrictions on some of the waterways on the Cheshire area, look at our illustration on this blog for more details. Or contact the Canal and River Trust for more details by copying this link into your web browser: Also you should always check for stoppages and emergency closures of the waterways for repairs and maintenance before setting off on a journey on the Canal and River Trust website.
Parkylife | Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 12:24pm
Hi there, Great read of the pro's and cons, thx! From your experience do restoration projects ever come up for sale? ie used shells / half-finished projects. I'm looking for a 5-year project, store shell in dry dock and complete build from shell up. Thx :)
Whilton Marina | Mon Feb 24, 2020 at 1:34pm
Hello Parkylife, Yes project boats do occasionally come up for sale. You just need to keep your eyes peeled!
Scottish Gent | Sat Mar 21, 2020 at 1:56pm
I note that 4 Canals in England are suitable for the Wide Beam Boat, could anyone clarify if any canals in Scotland are suitable please?... Many thanks.
Whilton Marina | Sat Apr 4, 2020 at 3:45pm
Hello Scottish Gent, If you copy this link into your web browser: there is lots of information about the Scottish Canals, however the if you wanted to take a canal boat from England to Scotland the hard limit is the Union Canal / the Falkirk Wheel at a maximum beam (width) of 11 feet 6 inches
thatmanviv | Mon Apr 6, 2020 at 11:58am
Thank You for all this information and for providing an opportunity for beginners to express themselves.Much Appreciated.
Michelle | Wed Aug 19, 2020 at 7:56am
Hi, we have a river cruiser 34ft moonraker and are looking for mornings at a preferably secure boatclub. It’s on the Severn in dry socks so we want it transported to the north somewhere so it’s closer to home.... so far I can’t really make out if we can navigate the waterways here....?Where can we keep our ship?
Michelle | Wed Aug 19, 2020 at 10:54am
Hi, we have a river cruiser 34ft moonraker and are looking for mornings at a preferably secure boatclub. It’s on the Severn in dry socks so we want it transported to the north somewhere so it’s closer to home.... so far I can’t really make out if we can navigate the waterways here....?Where can we keep our ship?
Louis Patten | Tue Aug 25, 2020 at 11:57pm
Hello everyone, I have found a widebeam and she is 55 feet long by 14.5 feet wide. Im worried if the width is too wide for London Canals? I thought I could ask someone on here with better knowledge?
Whilton Marina | Wed Aug 26, 2020 at 10:47am
Hi Michelle, depending on the length of your boat would depend on how far you can cruise up north, the CRT website has a great website helping you route plan. Regarding your moorings for up north we would advice you google local marinas and ring around for mooring spaces they may recommend others.
Whilton Marina | Wed Aug 26, 2020 at 10:57am
Hi Louis,We dout you would get your 14.5ft widebeam along the canals in London, most locks will only take two narrowboats at 6.10 along the side of one another. I would try ringing the CRT. Thanks
Agustina | Fri Aug 28, 2020 at 11:30am
Could you recommend marinas where we can moor the boat permanently in London that won't cost a fortune?? We're thinking about getting a wide beam :0) thanks lot!!!!
Whilton Marina | Wed Sep 9, 2020 at 4:51pm
Hi Agustina,Unfortunately we can not recommend any marinas in the London area.Your best options are googling marinas in the area you wish to moor. Thanks
Silas Catcheft | Mon May 31, 2021 at 3:03pm
Is the draught any different with a WB?
paul johnson | Mon Oct 11, 2021 at 2:11pm
We are thinking of buying a liveaboard widebeam . We have a marina local to us that would be suitable for us. The only thing we can't find any information about is whether they are damp and cold to live on. we would be looking for a new boat so they all seem to have under floor heating and radiators but are they insulated to make it energy efficient? Seems like a daft thing to ask for someone looking to live on a boat but I think most people over look this which is why there are a lot of nearly new boats for sale? Hopefully someone who has a few seasons experience could help. thanks
Whilton Marina | Tue Nov 23, 2021 at 10:20am
Hi Paul, We have never had anyone complain about damp and being cold on their boat. On a narrowboat or widebeam we would defiantly recommend heating of some sort, A solid fuel stove will heat any boat and keep it warm all day and night. We have a lot of residents on the marina, most of them have radiators and use them accordingly during the summer, In the winter they use the solid fuel stove to heat the boat. Many thanks
Tim | Wed Feb 2, 2022 at 9:39am
I'm planning on returning to UK in a couple of years to retire after a long time abroad. I no longer have firm roots in one area so wife and I are considering a narrow boat to be able to constantly cruise as long as we are able bodied enough to do so. I read in some places that if we buy a boat as our primary (only?) residence it is VAT exempt. How do we go about this process and is it only on new builds? (Not having to pay 20% VAT would make a massive difference.)
Tim | Fri Feb 4, 2022 at 3:09am
Does anyone make widebeams that are seaworthy enough to make a coastal passage to be able to get round the issue of the pinchpoints preventing them going north to south on the system? I have heard of some crossing to France on days with very favourable conditions - even narrowboats, but it is a longer trip up the coast from one section to another. I would happily have some plywood window covers and a leeboard if that is what it would take to make such trips safe.
Whilton Marina | Tue Feb 15, 2022 at 4:06pm
Hi Tim, None of our boats have VAT on them, if you buy a brand new boat there will be VAT on the total cost.Seen as we are in the middle of the country we wouldn't want to recommend going along the coast in a boat. Widebeams have been across to France with an esscort.
Reg fowler | Sun Mar 27, 2022 at 8:32pm
Hi !My wife and I had 10 years living on a boat !take it from me damp is a big factor you have to consider ! water on one side of the hull and warmth on the all other adds up to condensation ! and don't let them kid you about the insulation no matter what you do you still get the damp !
Lindy Gregg | Thu Apr 14, 2022 at 9:29am
We are very interested in widebeams but how do we get to talk to owners or even look around any never mind actually trying one out. We know we can hire one but we’d like to see a few and ask lots of questions. Help please!

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