When it comes to making a decision on buying a canal boat, one of the first questions is, ‘Should I buy a new or used narrowboat?’  Here we discuss the various state of boat builds from hull only to a complete new build to help you make the decision on how to invest.

Ten years ago 10% of the 31,000 boats on the waterways were used as primary residences. According to the Canal & River Trust, 26% of today’s 33,000 boats are now used as primary residences. Buying a narrow boat is just like buying a house, you have the choice of a new build or a home that has already been lived in. It’s down to personal choice which you choose, some people like the idea of having a brand new narrow boat whilst others are happy to make any alternations necessary to make a pre-loved boat their home.

The cost for either option will vary. So, once you know the length and style of boat you are interested in, it is best to request quotes from boat builders for a new build and then compare online prices for the used boats. This will then give you some specific figures to work on.  In general, you can expect costs of around:

  • £25,000 for a budget new build. Starting with a simple 20-foot cruiser.
  • £130,000 for a high end new build. E.g. 70-foot narrow boat fully equipped to a high standard.
  • £10,000 for a budget used boat, but can cost as much as £90,000.


So, what are the benefits of buying a new boat opposed to buying a used one?

There are three different types of new build boats available, and these are:
• Complete build
• Hull only
• Sailaway

A complete build is relatively self-explanatory, in the sense that the boat will be fully built and fitted with everything you will need to live in it immediately. A hull/shell only boat means that you will receive the frame for the boat and will be required fit absolutely everything else. The sailaway is sold as a waterproof shell fitted with ballast, floors, windows, doors, engine and electrics. This enables the owner to use the boat as a ‘camper’ whilst fitting out the interior.

One of the main differences between purchasing a new or used boat, will be that if you’re planning on employing boat builders to create your dream boat then you can have a say on the design of it.


You will receive boat builder & ancillary equipment warranty which you would not receive when buying a used boat. It will be available with all the latest technology. You will also be able to enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of having a new product.

But nothing is smooth sailing, so there will be a few things that need to be taken into consideration such as:
• Cost
• Finance may be needed to help
• Depreciation
• Additional costs – Crane hire and transport
• Stress

Some people may think that purchasing a new build may not be for them and might opt for a used boat instead. You will be able to buy a used boat from a private seller or through a brokerage company. We offer a buying and selling service here at Trinity Marinas, to help you get the best price for the boat that you are looking at.

Some of the benefits associated with buying a used narrowboat are:
• Availability
• Choice
• Cost
• Lower depreciation

So, it is considerably cheaper to buy a used boat compared to a new one but you will be compromising on having input into the design and having it tailored to suit your needs.

A few other disadvantages of buying second hand are:
• Unknown repair history
• Older technology
• Worn equipment

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, but it is up to the preference of the individual which they would like to spend their money on.

For any enquiries regarding new-builds, we have Harvey’s Boat Builders on site at Trinity Marinas, who can build your narrowboat to the highest standards.