What are the running costs of owning a boat?

  • Insurance – either 3rd party or fully comprehensive.
  • Licence – Canals and Rivers Trust. Price varies on boat length. Please note that some waterways have different fees.
  • Boat Safety Certificate – every 4 years.
  • River Canal Rescue (optional) – The canal boat equivalent to the RAC – price varies on level of cover.
  • Boat blacking – Painted protection for the hull. Boat needs to be taken out of the water, either using a slip or in a dry dock. Most boats are blacked with Bitumen or longer lasting Epoxy 2 Pack. Other products used include Keelblack and Comastic.
  • Diesel – propulsion only or propulsion and heating
  • Marina mooring fees (if required).
  • Coal and/or gas.
  • Engine Service – usually every 250 hours or once per year.
  • Pump out fees - if boat has a pump out toilet. Usually between £15-£20 per cycle. Elsan points for cassette toilets are usually free.

One thing to bear in mind; the longer the boat, the more expensive many of the running costs will be.

Booking a boat survey?

  • It is always advisable to get a survey done when buying your boat to determine its condition. There are three types of survey:
  • Full Survey – this is a comprehensive check of the structure of the boat and the internal condition and working status of all the appliances on board.
  • Hull Survey – this is an external survey only to check the condition of the hull.
  • Internal Survey – having an internal survey only determines the internal condition and working status of the appliances on board.

What’s the difference between a Cruiser Stern, Semi-Trad and Traditional narrowboat?

  • Traditional Stern is a narrowboat with the smallest external area at the back of the boat used only for steering. Allows more internal space on the boat, very useful for liveaboards.
  • Cruiser Stern narrowboats offer the most external space. Ideal for holiday boats or those who would like an outside social area for cruising or sitting out on the back of the boat with a nice cup of tea when you’ve found a nice spot to moor!
  • Semi-Trad narrowboats lie somewhere in between the two. They look more like a traditional style boat but usually have some fixed external seating with storage under.

Can I moor my boat anywhere along the canals and how long can I stay?
Canals and rivers have visitor mooring spots along the network. In most areas you can moor for up to 14 days. Note: some areas have permanent moorings which are reserved for those who pay a fee to stay there for extended periods. There will be notices advising if an area is permanent mooring only.

Pump Out or Cassette? Which is best?
Most boats have either a pump out or cassette toilet. A pump out toilet has a waste holding tank within the boat so that when the toilet is flushed, the waste goes into the tank. Tanks are usually large, so the time between having to empty them is much longer than a cassette toilet. There are pump out stations along the network and in most marinas. A fee is charged, usually between £15-£20. Advantages: Not having to clean the tank yourself. Toilets are usually ceramic and feel more like a house toilet. Disadvantages: Boat has to be moved to empty the tank and emptying the tank costs a fee. A cassette toilet is the same principle as a toilet in a camper van, although some modern types have a direct water feed and electric flush. The bottom cartridge is removed when full which you then take to an Elsan point to empty and clean. Advantages: Elsan points are usually free. No need to move the boat to empty the tank. Disadvantage: The cartridge is much smaller than a waste holding tank so it requires emptying more frequently.

There’s also a new arrival on the scene that’s becoming increasingly popular – the eco-friendly composting toilet. It’s quite an expensive alternative but kinder to the environment.

Opinion is divided amongst boaters over which is the best option. Choose the one that suits you best!

How do I get hot water on a boat?
There are various ways to have hot water on a boat. Some have gas boilers such as Alde, Morco and Rinnai. Some have diesel heating systems such as Webasto, Eberspacher or Mikuni. Some also have a back boiler from a multi fuel stove which feeds radiators and heats the hot water tank or calorifier. Most boats have a calorifier which heats up the water when the engine is run. Some boats also have an immersion heater which is useful when in a marina as the shoreline electric power heats the water. It’s always ideal to find a boat with at least two methods for heating water.

What about heating on a boat?
There are several ways to heat a boat. Many boats have a multi fuel stove which uses coal and/or wood. Some stoves have a back boiler which is a closed water system. The hot water passes through the piping to radiators which heat the full length of the boat. Other options include gas central heating, e.g. Alde gas boiler, diesel central heating e.g. Eberspacher or Webasto and some boats have a diesel drip fed stove which looks similar to a multi-fuel stove but uses diesel from the main tank (or sometimes a separate tank).

How much diesel do I need to run my boat?
Boats generally use approx. 1 litre of diesel per hour when cruising. Some boats also have diesel central heating systems. Consumption varies depending on usage. When buying diesel, you will need to declare what percentage is for domestic (heating) and what percentage is used for propulsion (cruising). Domestic use diesel is cheaper than propulsion.