Finding and buying a canal boat to live aboard
Deciding what boat to buy depends on what your liveaboard plans are. If you plan to live on a boat for more than a few months, buying a boat would probably be more economical than long term renting, if you were able to do some work yourself to improve it you could even show a profit! You will need to decide what level of comfort and amenities you want. You have to consider how much room you need and what facilities you want on board.
Buying a canal boat or narrowboat to live aboard.
You could buy a well equipped new narrowboat designed for living afloat with all conveniences for £150,000 or more. Or you could buy a reasonably habitable second-hand boat from about £20,000 upwards, more comfort and space and features pushing that up to £70,000 plus. Your budget will obviously be an important factor! See our full advice section on Buying a Canal Boat.
Most relatively modern boats (say last 15 years) are reasonably well equipped and can probably be lived on as well as cruised for a few weeks as designed. All boats on canals now have to have a valid 'Boat Safety Scheme Certificate of Compliance which is basically evidence of a fairly recent expert examination of gas, electric, heating, ventilation and fuel systems to make sure there are no major dangers. The sound advice is to get a survey done before you buy. The C. of C. tells you nothing about the condition of the hull or cabin or engine for instance. There is a list of marine surveyors in the Contacts section of Canal Junction. A survey will cost a few hundred pounds and the boat may need to be dry docked. You can see details of the Boat Safety Scheme at www.boatsafetyscheme.com.
Choosing the right sort of boat.
Ex hire boats are often available at low prices and usually have been well equipped and maintained. Hulls may be worn, though you can always get patches welded on, and engines and fittings may be tired. Don't get anything with other than a steel hull and cabin unless you are prepared to put up with leaks above and below the water!
But hire boats and many other canal boats were not purpose built to stay on for more than a few weeks at a time. Watertank and waste capacity, permanent bedrooms, storage for all your stuff, mains voltage, insulation and ventilation and heating for winter, type of fuel. etc. should all be important liveaboard considerations. Make a list of your requirements and tick off each boat you see against those requirements. There are always lots of boats for sale, don't rush in and buy the first you see, you may regret it later!
Places to buy a second hand boat to live on.
When looking for a second hand boat many people go to narrowboat brokers. Visiting boat brokerages could let you see and compare 30 or more boats in a single location, see our Boat Sales page. That gives you a great opportunity to compare layouts and features and decide which will suit you best.
Of course boats are also sold privately, advertising in the press, Waterways Magazines and online Listings and Auction sites.
Wherever you buy you should satisfy yourself that the person selling the boat owns the boat or has the right to legally sell it on. Unlike motor vehicles, boats are not covered by any registration scheme. Buying through a reputable broker/ marina based seller may provide an element of confidence in this respect, though in many cases they are only acting as brokers, they do not own the boat themselves which may limit their responsibilities if something goes wrong. Importantly consider getting the boat surveyed by a fully qualified surveyor who should also advise on safe buying practices, including when buying a new boat.
Some people claim that narrowboat market values vary significantly depending on where you are in the UK. Where house prices are very high (and where salaries also tend to be high) it is possible that second hand narrowboat prices will reflect that tendency. It may be worth travelling outside your local area to see boats.