Buying a canal boat - what about running costs

Expenditure – whilst a canal boat can reduce your housing and holiday bills, there are a number of yearly running costs to consider on top of the purchase price. These include; mooring and licence fees, insurance, general maintenance and fuel and heating. If living aboard on a permanent residential mooring, you’ll probably have to pay the lowest band council tax. However, if you’re genuinely continuously cruising around the system, you’ll not be liable for council tax or water rates. And don’t forget that you will also have to shell-out for a television licence. Where possible, calculate your costs beforehand – it’ll result in fewer financial surprises.

Canal boat owner Expenditure

Licences - all canal boat owners must apply for a British Waterways Licence. This allows you to use the canals and rivers and is similar to a tax disc for cars. Before applying for a Licence, you must give details of your current Boat Safety Certificate and insurance. The Licence evidences your craft has met the approved safety standards and that you have the appropriate cover. If you have a 50 foot craft you can expect to pay just under £700 for a 12 month licence.

Craning outInsurance – there are a number of firms offering canal boat insurance, so identify what type of cover you need and shop around. In 2011, Towergate Insurance launched its new Fresh Waters policy offering customers four cover options; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Bronze gives third-party and legal expenses cover, Silver extends third-party and legal expenses to include fire, theft and weather-related claims, Gold builds upon this with accidental damage and personal accident protection, whilst Platinum encompasses all options, offers higher cover limits and a bespoke breakdown/rescue support service from River Canal Rescue.

 If your craft is your home, ensure your policy reflects this. Towergate Insurance includes up to £25,000 home contents cover which can also be extended for personal belongings away from the boat.

Exclusions and restrictions apply, dependent on the age of the boat and its mooring location. For example, exclusions apply to boats over 25 years old and without a survey; mooring location exclusions are assessed on an individual basis.

Mooring - if you’re planning to live-aboard and continuously cruise, you’ll need to use British Waterways or private moorings. You can stay on a BW mooring for up to 14 days, after this, you’ll be asked to ‘move on’. Whilst it’ll cost you to moor at BW locations in towns and villages across the UK, those out ‘in the sticks’ tend to be free. So research availability of both types of mooring in your region.

Similarly, if you’re planning to use your craft for holidays only, check out the availability and prices of moorings in your local area; you don’t want to find yourself with a boat you either can’t moor close to home, or can’t afford to moor. Marinas cost more than permits for British Waterways moorings and privately-owned locations, but this is to be expected, given the facilities they provide – security, electrics, pump-outs, servicing etc.

De-Winterising Your Narrowboat


Shared ownership
If total ownership of a canal boat isn’t for you, consider buying a share. A number of firms offer this facility – you simply pay into a fund for maintenance and other costs and the boat usage is divided up dependent on the number of owners. When you’ve had enough, simply sell your shares on.


Ask the Experts


Ask the experts
View this and other Guides at (click on boat, then boat tips) and for insurance advice call 0800 515629 or 01743 284664. Lines are open 9am - 7pm weekdays/9am - 1pm Saturday (from April to September) and 9am – 5pm the remainder of the year.


Canal boat owners taking out Towergate’s Fresh Waters policy can either purchase River Canal Rescue support at a discounted rate or opt for a higher level of policy cover and receive it automatically.







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