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.