Narrowboats have captured the imagination of people for years and since the industrial revolution faded, leaving the waterways quieter, it has gradually led to the leisure boat industry becoming ever more popular.
If you are dreaming of an idyllic, slow-paced lifestyle that the narrowboat life has to offer as a liveaboard or whether you want to have holidays and weekends away messing about on the water, you are not on your own.
More and more people are being drawn to the inland waterways and to owning their own narrowboat, giving them a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy the wonderful surroundings with friends and family.
Buying a narrowboat
Once you have decided that you are going to take the leap and purchase a narrowboat the question is, do you go for a brand new bespoke model or the cheaper secondhand option. Of course, there are pros and cons to both and sadly most decisions will be made to fit the budget rather than what we would love to do.
So let’s take a look at the prices that you can expect to be paying.
Buying a brand new narrowboat
Buying a brand new narrowboat is a dream I am sure every boat owner has, but, is it a reality for you, (I use the terminology ‘dream’ because wow they are a bit pricey).
To be realistic you will need to be looking at a minimum of about £100,000.00 and to be honest, that could be being generous, but they can run into hundreds of thousands. This is where it is worth going to different boatbuilders to find out what they have to offer and what you may or may not be able to afford with your budget.
It really is impossible to give an exact price because everyone will want different things from the internal design and fixtures.
Finding the right boatbuilder is essential, you need to know that the materials and workmanship are of high quality, as without this your new investment may not hold its price in the years to come.
Many boatbuilders specialise in just building the shells that they will then supply to the boat builders that offer a fitting out service. Although some do specialise in building and fitting the narrowboat you will still need to know what your requirements are and have a plan to work from.
Even if you walk in and they have a ‘standard off the peg’ narrowboat for sale you will be surprised at just how quickly you can spend on all the little extras that you want, where boats are concerned you could very quickly find that your budget is blown by £15-.20,000 in no time.
One way you can save on costs when buying new is to take on a project and buy a ‘sailaway’, this is obviously only an option if you have the knowledge, time, skills and the commitment, to do so. But don’t go into this blind, it can cost you big money by learning the hard way, again this is where the boatbuilders will come into play ask the questions and be sure you understand the answers.
There is a lot to consider and it can be a little daunting so here we have some pros and cons that may help you decide better between new vs secondhand.
Pros of buying a brand new narrowboat
- You will get exactly what you have dreamt about and the satisfaction of getting it.
- You can have a hand in the final design and finish.
- You will be getting the latest technology
- There will be no wear and tear and you can maintain it to your standard.
- You have a warranty and all boat builders have to be compliant to the Recreational Craft Directive.
Cons of buying a brand new narrowboat
- The biggest has to be the cost.
- The depreciation in value as soon as it hits the water.
- There may be costs to crane and transport your new narrowboat to your mooring location.
- It is you that is going to give it the first bump and scratch, so be ready for that one.
Buying a second-hand narrowboat
Buying secondhand also has pro and cons just not quite as many, the main ‘pro’ is the fact that the depreciation in value has already been taken by someone else, so you get to pay less.
OK, let’s see what you might be able to get according to the budget you have.
If you are happy to give your new boat some TLC with some DIYing and you can live with having a smaller boat, like the 50-foot option, then you would probably be looking to pay up to about £25,000 and £30,000.
As an example, while researching this in detail I found a 40 foot Springer on the market for just £25,000. Ok, it needs a little work and some money spending on it, but it has a survey and is perfectly serviceable.
Look to pay up to around £40,000–£50,000 mark and you should be able to find a larger narrowboat with a cruiser stern and one that has a few more of the necessities and home comforts, such as two bedrooms and central heating etc. Just like cars, there are bargains out there especially if you are prepared to put some love and work into your investment.
As the example for this, I have found a wonderful ready to go Pinder 50ft cruiser stern on the market for £45,000 and no work needed.
If you are lucky enough to be able to go over and above the £50,000 range then you will be able to look at getting the larger, better-equipped and comfortable narrowboats and up to £100,000 will get you all the tech, fitted kitchens and luxury that you could want for your money.
My example for this is one Parrindi 65ft cruiser stern boat that has been extremely well looked after and wants for nothing, on the market for £75,00.
These examples show that there is definitely plenty to choose from on the market, yes you might have to make some compromises but for what you are able to save by buying secondhand we think it is well worth those compromises.
Facts about narrowboats
Here we will cover some of the facts that you should know about narrowboats and what you will need to consider before rushing out to spend your hard-earned money on something that may not be suitable for your needs.
The width of a narrowboat
A narrowboat is called just that because it is long and narrow. A true narrowboat will be under 7ft to allow for travel through all of the narrow locks and waterways in the UK, which is the reason why you will find that a large proportion of them are 6′ 10” (we are using old school measurements here because it is what you will need to know and how the boat size and locks were built).
Although there are wide-beam canal boats that measure 10ft, which some boat owners opt for giving them a larger living area, these are extremely restricted on where they are able to travel on Uk inland waterway system.
The length of a narrowboat
The length of a narrowboat, although nowhere near as important as the width, can vary greatly and is something that you should take into consideration, as bigger may not always better when it comes to a narrowboat.
- 50 foot is the smallest of the narrowboats allowing it to navigate all of the waterways and locks with ease and being shorter it is a great size for beginners.
- 57 foot another great size that will be able to navigate all of the locks and waterway with the exception of a tiny bit on the river Oose.
- 60 foot you should get to know your locks with this one but you will still be able to access a very large proportion of the system and locks.
- 67 foot and 70 foot these lengths really do make the difference to the living accommodation and even allow for an extra bedroom, but again you will be restricted, so get to know your locks and which ones to avoid. That being said, it is not a vast area that is off-limits, so we feel the extra room is well worth it.
Types of narrowboats
The traditional stern – As the name suggests this was the traditional design of a working boat, allowing very little room at the tiller, approx 2-3 feet, so it could be a lonely job for the boatman. However, this not only allows for extra interior space, but it also provides a little more cover and shelter for your engine.
Semi-traditional stern – This is not unlike the traditional stern with the exception of having an enclosure between extended bulkheads with a little extra space for seating.
The Cruiser stern – This is the most modern of the stern types and has come about as the leisure boat industry became popular. It allows for a nice sitting area while enjoying the surroundings on a sunny and socialising with fellow boaters, allowing you to be cruising while still socialising and relaxing with family and friends.