Buying a Narrowboat – Where we looked when starting our boat hunt

So you’ve done a bit of research (Of course read our blog posts!) and you’re thinking do you know what, I think I want to pursue this a bit further, lets look at some boats! Now where to look, there is hardly a boat forecourt on every corner is there? Well actually when you start to look into it, there are a lot of Boat brokerage and sales companies out there, whilst it’s not exactly every corner you’d be surprised how they seemingly hide in plain site.

To begin with I do want to advise that we are by no means experts on this! Anyone reading who knows of any other places to look please feel free to comment and help anyone in the same boat as us (Pardon the pun, although it was totally intentional!) 🙂

So quickly the adverts we found tended to be from three sources:

Brokerage – the easiest comparison we can make with a brokerage is to a standard Estate Agent, they have boats (Often located at their boat yard/marina) and they sell on behalf of the vendor.

Sales – again looking at comparisons here they are similar to your used car sales forecourts, and are often combined with the brokerage sites, however these boats are owned by the company rather than private vendors.

Private Sales – this is where the owners were advertising and selling the boat on their own behalf, through individual sites.

We started with the sites with which we are familiar, such as eBay and Gumtree, where the majority of adverts were from Private Sellers. Honestly this was a great start for us, looking on sites which have a format with which we are familiar was great, and made things a little less daunting to begin with. However the one thing I would say, I don’t think I would want to look at these boats as a novice, you will of read in an earlier post that when we went to view a boat we liked the look of, was actually the first time James had stepped on board. As friendly and supportive as everyone in the Canal World has been I still can’t help but feel going armed with more knowledge of what to look out for is invaluable! Making these sites and Private Sales a little more daunting for us blatant newbies.

What’s more the choice on these sites isn’t huge! So we went on the hunt of more specialist sites. What did we find? Well we have tried to summarise a few of the sites we used below. Again these are just our opinions of how the sites worked and what we found useful in our boat hunting journey.


So this site was recommended to us, in honesty we found it quite difficult and clunky to navigate. Although the images and information given on the site does seem to be second to none, going into a great level of detail on the advertised vessel. The majority of users do tend to personal sellers.

Great Haywood Boat Sales

So Haywood are a brokerage/sales company operating from Haywood Marina in Staffordshire, this is where we went to view the first boat that we liked. The website is pretty simple to navigate, and they have a nice range of boats on the site, the pictures are also great and easy to view, a big deal to me as a visual person. What’s more the main way to filter the boats is by price (Ideal if you don’t want to fall in love with something miles out of your price bracket.

When we visited they had a friendly, if not quite official sales office, the whole experience felt very much like an estate agents, looking round the vessel with the sales exec.

ABC Boat Sales 

Much similar to Great Haywood, ABC seem to act as a brokerage, we didn’t end up viewing any boats off the site, or to be honest using it a great deal, so in honesty not much to say here!

Rugby Boat Sales 

Again Rugby boat sales act as a brokerage, and again we didn’t view any boats listed on their site, although we did look at the site fairly regularly! If I had to have a criticism? Whilst on the site you can search by length etc. the thumbnails of the boats for sale don’t give you any information (such as the length) so a boat can look huge or small in the pictures and their isn’t a quick point of reference to know the size you are looking at!

Whilton Marina

Finally, we used Whilton Marina a lot! They again act as a brokerage and a sales company, so why did we use these more than the others? Well firstly from a geographical point of view they are only 10 miles from us, making visiting them very easy! When you arrive they have a lovely friendly sales team, who will hand over the keys to any boat you want to view and point you in the direction of it. Whilst this nice relaxed viewing process may not appeal to all, it really did appeal to us! We found it particularly useful for the beginning of our search as it enables you to look at different styles of boats, be it length or any other factor without much in the way of obligation or chase up sales calls! Their website is pretty straightforward, although navigation of the images is a little clunky, and they also offer a blog with tips and ideas which is a nice choice! Definitely worth a look in our book!

So to end, if we were to recommend anything it would be to look around as much as possible, but almost on a contradictory note, don’t look at too many boats in one web surfing sitting, you will find that you get the boats muddled up, and forget where you saw what and and what boat! For more of our thoughts on searching for a narrowboat look our other posts The Narrowboat Check List and “You’ll know your narrowboat when you get on her” for what we were looking out for and the advice we received! Happy boat hunting!

James & Kirsty

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