A guide explaining the costs of owning a narrow boat
<< Back to Blog list
Tue Jul 6, 2021 at 10:45am

Living aboard a narrow boat

We are frequently asked by people who are new to boating, what the yearly costs to living aboard would be? This depends on a few factors including your boats size and where you are intending to moor. But to give you a general idea we have put this guide together. Living aboard is a life style choice and shouldn’t be seen as a cheap way of getting on the property ladder. As with buying a house when you purchase a new or used narrow boat there are going to be costs involved. These costs are divided into two sections fixed and variable.

The fixed costs for living aboard in the UK

Moorings within a Marina

This is more than likely going to be your biggest cost in this section. As you can appreciate, the length of your boat and where in the UK you want to moor is going to determine the final cost. Mooring in Central London is going to be far more expensive than say against The Fens. You will also have to take into consideration the facilities that are on offer, like security, shops, pump out and other amenities. So the final cost for moorings within a marina will depend on location, facilities and boat size.

Moorings along the canal

The CRT (Canal and River Trust) long-term moorings on the canal network are often an economical proposition. The down side with this option is there are limited facilitates to no facilitates on some moorings and you should bare this in mind. It is also very difficult to obtain these types of moorings.


Club moorings

These are often less expensive and bring the advantages of social life - but with responsibilities too.

Licence Fees

Licence fees will vary according to where you keep your boat as well as the boat size. You can register your licence for 12, 6 or 3 months. CRT offer a prompt payment which is less then the cost of the licence if it is paid before the old licence expire, this can now only be obtained if you purchase your licence online. Click HERE for more information on costs.


Insurance costs around £250-£500 per annum, but will depend on your boat and whether you are cruising. There are many insurance companies that you can use but our advice is to employ an insurance company that specialises in narrowboats. It is worth shopping around as some insurance policies also include RCR ( River Canal Rescue) cover.

Blacking every three years

You would be looking at £820 to £1500, dependant on the length of your boat and which type of blacking you want to use. The main two types are bitumin blacking and two pack epoxy resin. You can do this yourself which would reduce costs.

The Variable Costs

Estimating the variable costs can be rather difficult, but we will try to list as many things you need to take into consideration and give you an estimated price. Please remember these costs will vary from boat to boat.

Engine fuel and fuel for Heating

Red diesel will be cheaper than the diesel that you purchase from the forecourt, and prices will depend on the chandlery and the location from where you make your purchase. You need to declare to the chandlery the percentage of your fuel which will be used for your engine and then if applicable what will be used on your diesel central heating. The typical split of your bill can be 60% for engine and 40% for heating. The chandlery will be able to advise you on the best rates for you depending on your personal usage.

Fuel for Heating and Cooking

If using diesel as your heating supply (see above). Other options for heating and cooking are gas bottles and solid fuel. Solid fuel in the winter 10-15 bags a year around £150. Gas for central heating and cooking, using six bottles a year - about £180.


This will depend on the tank size of your boat. Here at Venetian Marina the Chandlery  currently charge £19 per pump out.

Emptying a cassette toilet is usually free at most marinas. There are also other CRT points along the canal system where you can dispose of your waste.

Engine maintenance

The engine oil will need to be changed at least three times a year. Engine Service should be done every year or two and can cost up to £250 plus VAT.

If there is anything we have missed off this guide and you would like to know the answer, please leave us a comment or contact us on 01270 528251 and we will be happy to answer any of your questions.

Other Recent Posts