Short guide for first time buyers looking for a canal boat for sale

Buy bespoke narrowboats

Useful information for the first time buyer looking for a canal boat for sale, and indeed great advice for every boat owner.

The following information are given mainly to first time buyers, to facilitate their decision on purchasing their first narrow boat.

1) Preferred style of the boat, classified as “Stern”

There are three different styles of narrow boats which is important to consider on merit if you are thinking of buying a narrowboat in the UK:

  • TRADITIONAL NARROWBOAT: Ideal for live aboard, typical by a short back deck of 2-3 feet in length, giving more room inside for living.
  • CRUISER BOAT: An ideal holiday boat, a back deck of between 4-8 feet in length, providing ample space on the back for several people to stand and socialise.
  • SEMI-TRAD  NARROW BOAT: A good compromise between the above two. The looks of a Trad with the space of a cruiser.

2) What length of narrowboat should I buy?

Cruiser Narrowboat for sale UK

Cruiser Narrowboat. An ideal canal boat for holidays.

Semi Traditional Narrowboat for sale UK

Semi Traditional Narrowboat. A classically styled canal boat.

The length of boat you require obviously depends on the number of people who will be using the boat and the period of time that you will spend on it. Basically 30 – 40 feet is ample for a holiday boat, while 50 feet plus is ideal for extended cruising or live aboard.

A further point with regard to length is lock dimensions. There are a number of locks around the country, that restrict access to certain waterways, the lengths are as follows:

Leeds & Liverpool    60 feet (62 feet can just fit through)
Calder & Hebble      57 feet 6 inch

3) Steel plate:
Steel plate figures you will see will be for example 10/6/4 and relate to 10mm bottom plate, 6mm hull sides and 4mm cabin.
Nowadays standard specification is 10/6/4 but steel thickness of 8/6/4mm and 6/5/3mm – if well looked after – will provide you with many years of service, so they should not be ruled out.
Wood and GRP (glass reinforce plastic) are also used on boats, mainly for the cabin. These are more commonly seen on older boats and are not as desirable as all steel, but provide a cheater option.

Traditional Narrowboat for sale in UK

Traditional Narrowboat. A perfect liveaboard style of boat for canals.

4. Engine:
An obvious consideration is the choice of engine, whereby there are three categories, such as –
a) Air cooled (eg. Lister ST2)
b) Water cooled (eg. MBC 1.5)
c) Vintage engine (eg Russell Newbury)

The type of engine to choose when picking from the narrowboats for sale depends on a number of factors, including mechanical knowledge, spare time and size of boat. If you are looking for simplicity, then consider one of the modern water-cooled diesel engines or the older and slightly louder air cooled diesel engine. Both of these offer ease of use and reliability. The Vintage engine will suit the canal boat enthusiast, who likes to tinker with the engine; it is also only suitable for larger boats (40ft +) due to the size of the engine.

5. Toilet:
The two types of toilets fitted are
Pump out toilet and chemical toilet.
Pump out toilets are considered more hygienic, but a cost is involved of around £10 – £15. The chemical or Porta Potti is free to empty.

6. Heating/ Hot water:
Once again you have three main choices: –
a) Solid fuel stove (eg. Squirrel)
b) Gas central heating (eg. Alde)
c) Diesel fired heating (eg. Eberspacher)

The type of heating you have is down to personal preference. Many people prefer the solid fuel stove’s authenticity and dry heat, but on the negative side is the time spent preparing the fire, whereas gas and diesel provide almost instant heat.

Hot water will be provided either from a heating unit, eg. Paloma or from your central heating system. The second option form a Calorifier using the excess hot water from the engine cooling system or form a central heating boiler.

7. Electrics:
Nearly all narrowboats will have a 12 Volt system installed. To have a 240 Volt system you have a number of options, Inverter, Landline or Generator.
a) Landline: A connection to plug in at a marina, when an electric supply is provided.
b) Inverter: This is a devise that converts your 12 Volt battery supply to a 240 Volt supply for domestic use, an average price will be in the region of £100 to £1,000, bit is dependant on size.
c) Generator: Either a petrol, gas or diesel generator will give you a 240 Volt supply. Prices vary considerably with a petrol generator costing in the region of £400-600, while a diesel one will cost aroung £1.500 to £4,000.

8. Surveys:
With such an important purchase as a narrow boat it is recommendable to get an independent qualified surveyor to inspect your potential vessel. The cost of this varies according to different surveyors. On average the cost is between £350-900 for the surveyor and £150 for the haul out. For an official list of surveyors please contact Canal and River Trust on 01923 226 422 or we can provide a list of local surveyors.

9. Documentation:
The following documentation is essential for a boat owner:

Certificate of Compliance (C of C)
Boat Safety Certificate (BSSC)

These are generally the same item, but the BWSC is the updated version of the C of C. In basic terms, the BSSC is an MOT for a boat and covers the safety aspects like gas and electrical installations, but not the Hull or Engine condition. This certificate lasts for 4 years and a re-inspection is in the region of £75-£150. Every boat needs to have a valid certificate and if the boat fails, you have 6 months to rectify these problems.

10. Cost of owning a narrowboat:
a) Fixed costs:
Canal and River Trust  licence dep. on boat size £650
Boat Safety Certificate every four years  £150
Insurance approx. fully comprehensive  £240
Mooring per annum in a marina for a 50ft boat approx.  £2,150
Mooring canal side approx. dep. on location  1,200

b) Running costs:
Diesel approx 92p per litre 40 gal tank =180 litres Engine 1.5 litres per hour max 120 hours on a full tank
Pump out £10 to £15 dep. on location

c) Maintenance:
Annual spring engine service by an engineer £70 to £100
Blacking every two to three years approx £7.00per ft

11. Finance for boats:
Marine Finance can easily be arranged. Boat mortgages can be arranged on boats for over £25,000 and you can borrow up to 70% of the purchase price. Personal loans for up to £25,000 can also be arranged. Rates are competitive and written quotes are available on request..

Our helpful and friendly team will assist you in any aspect of purchasing a boat.

We always have a large variety of canal boats for sale to view at our marina at your leisure.

TELEPHONE: 01455 618555