Buying a canal boat – what about running costs

Expenditure – whilst a canal boat can reduce your housing or 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 you’re considering living aboard see our Costs of Living Afloat page in our full Liveaboard section


Canal boat running costs

Boat Size – when buying a boat bear in mind that most running costs depend on the length and width of the boat.

Mooring fees vary greatly depending on the location of the marina or mooring, size of your boat, type of mooring and the facilities available. Annual moorings could vary from £1500 for an ‘online’ rural mooring without facilities to over £4,000 in an average marina, or much more in a desirable London location. Notice that a licence to moor your boat is not the same as a licence to live on your boat. Marinas and moorings which do offer residential moorings will often carry a considerable surcharge.

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 CRT moorings and privately-owned locations, but this is to be expected, given the facilities they provide – security, electrics, pump-outs, servicing etc.

Waterway Licences give you the right to float your boat on canals or rivers and (usually) to use use the locks and facilities. There are a wide range of licences with annual prices ranging from a few pounds to a few thousand pounds, see our grey WATERWAY LICENCES Information Box.

Maintenance costs for engine and boat upkeep will depend on how much work you are able to do yourself. See our Boatowner Advice pages. Engine annual servicing on a marina could cost £250 upwards, but materials for DIY costing under £100. A three yearly docking for blacking and anode replacement on a steel hulled boat could cost from about £700 to over £4,000 depending on boat length and materials used, a DIY docking probably about half that.


The Canal and River Trust (CRT) issue licences for most navigable canals and some rivers, like the River Severn. Their Annual Cruising Licence currently costs between £600 and £1300 depending on the length of your boat. There are surcharges for boats wider than narrowboats.

A restricted Rivers Only licence costs between about £50 and £800. See the CRT website for details.

The Environment Agency (EA) issue licences for some other waterways including the River Thames. fees vary by waterway, see the EA website.

Other Authorities issue licences for other waterways, such as the Fens.

Traditional Narrowboat

Consumables like batteries which could cost £400 or more every three or four years. Over a longer period of ten years or more boat cabins, decks and roofs will need repainting. A full professional repaint including signwriting can cost over £6,000, a DIY paint job from about half that.

Marine Insurance is required to licence a boat. This could vary between about £250 for basic third party cover to over £1,000 for fully comprehensive residential cover. Valuable items on board such as watches or cameras may need to be individually listed to be covered. In some cases an out of water survey can be required before cover is provided which could cost over £1,000.

A Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Examination must be passed every four years by most boats. BSS Examiners charge from about £150 plus then there are the costs of any required repairs or updates.

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.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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