Finding the right canal boat to live on
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 to live aboard
You could buy a reasonably habitable second-hand boat from about £20,000 upwards, though more comfort and space and features could push that up to £70,000 plus. See Buying a boat to Liveaboard and our Canal Boat Buyers Guide. Importantly consider getting the boat surveyed by a fully qualified surveyor. Visiting boat brokerages could let you compare 30 or more boats you might be interested in a single location, see our Boat Sales page.
Most relatively modern boats (say last 10 years) are reasonably well equipped and can probably be lived on as well as cruised on 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 there. 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 .
Steel hulled and cabined narrowboats will range in price from about £10,000 upwards. Ex hire boats are usually well equipped though hulls may be worn, you can always get patches welded on, and engines tired. Don't get anything other than steel hull and cabin unless you are prepared to put up with leaks at both ends!
However most boats were not purpose built to live on, they were built for no more than a few weeks stay. Watertank and waste capacity, permanent bedrooms, mains voltage, insulation and ventilation and heating for winter, type of fuel. etc. may all be important considerations. Your requirements will be different if you are permanently moored or are cruising. We've more advice about finding and financing a residential boat purchase.
Other liveaboard costs
You'd have to budget for a waterways licence (about £500 a year depending on boat length) and insurance, say £200 or more. Mooring can be free if you are moving regularly or well over £2,000 a year if you are on a proper residential site with mains services. Then you have the usual fuel and heating costs.