How Much Does A Good Narrowboat Cost?

Today I’m going to cover costs, it’s always a controversial one as everyone has a different opinion, but it is one of the things we get asked the most and the rate we seem to be asked it is increasing. “How much does it cost to buy a narrowboat then?” well what a wonderfully broad question that is. I think the increase is partly thanks to what appears to be an increasing number of news articles, suggesting you could buy this incredible live aboard narrowboat for just £25,000, it’s a tempting headline isn’t it. Whilst we brought Fantine two years ago now we still keep our eye on the market, I’m not sure if people do so much with houses, as you almost always know they’re heading up, but we like to know what’s happening with boats, so we know where we are.

So how much does it cost to buy a narrowboat? If you wanted you could pick one up for less than £10,000, for that you’re not looking at much square footage and your also undoubtedly looking at a good amount of Handy Andy time to get it liveable. On the other end of the spectrum you could pay in excess of £120,000, nearly the average cost for a starter home in the UK, for that you’ll have a little more square footage and a new fit out.

It’s so difficult to put a price on, it depends almost entirely on what you want as an individual, much the same as a house does. For us personally, we spent our time looking in what I consider to be the midrange, so boats that fall between £35,000-£50,000.

I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot and I can’t help but conclude that a lot of it is down to how confident you feel. There is no doubt that we could have got a better deal for the same boat, had we brought privately, but being entirely green in the narrowboat world purchasing through a slightly pricier brokerage meant that we had more confidence in the purchase, we had a bit more support around us. At that time, to us the slight addition on the asking price was worth the support and guidance that we received.

The need for confidence doesn’t stop there, I think that now, two years into understanding life aboard we’d feel more confident in buying a boat that needs work. Whilst I am no more competent at DIY than I was, I have an increased knowledge of how to go about renovations and improvements, and also a better idea of what could be a problem, and what is a big walk away no no problem.

There are so many variables that affect the price you pay for a narrowboat, it can be something as simple as the fitout being of an incredibly high standard, which adds noughts to the asking price. Likewise, if you can happily envisage yourself in a 32ft narrowboat the tag line of live aboard this boat for £25,000 is more achievable. In my opinion there is no such thing as a definitive price for a ‘good’ narrowboat. It’s worth what it’s worth to that person on that day.

When we were looking, whilst we were looking in what I consider to be the mid-range, we always had in our heads that we would need to spend a certain amount on the boat to make it what we want. With Fantine we budgeted £7,000, and we’re looking to spend around that again to update the kitchen and floors.

Granted every boat has its price range, even if we striped Fantine out and installed a brand new five-star interior she’ll never be an £80,000 boat. It’s a careful balancing act, she’s what we call home, and because of that we really want her to feel that way, which is why, whenever we can we look to make the changes that make her more like home for us. That must be balanced though against her value, and we have to weigh up whether the changes we want to make are worth whatever they might cost. Because when it really comes down to it, provided she is warm, clean and dry, we have what we essentially need.

None of this means that you can’t get a good boat for £15,000, of course you can, you just might need a little pot of gold to get it truly good. It’s all down to individual taste, and I struggle to give a one size fits all answer. I’m fussy, for me I like the exterior to be traditionally painted, I like certain home comforts, and that all comes with a price tag. Although I must admit the advances that have been made lately and making a lot of the more rustic boats really look the part.

I would say that from what I have seen recently the price of boats does seem to have dipped somewhat, and boats do seem to be taking a little longer to sell. That’s just my own observations mind, I couldn’t say this is definitive across the board. Which surprises me somewhat with the amount they now appear in popular culture and the media in general. Perhaps people are coming to the realisation that there is more to life aboard than the low purchase cost,

Anyway I’m digressing a lot, “How much does it cost to buy a narrowboat then?”, as much as you want it to. If you want to find a boat that fits your taste and needs perfectly, well unless you’re lucky you’re likely to have to pay a little bit more for that. If you’re confident with what you’re doing and willing to do a bit of work, well there’s no reason you couldn’t get change from £20,000. A boat is worth what is worth to you, to me it really is as simple as that.

If you’re willing to take more a risk, and be confident in your decision, willing to potentially have a bit of remedial work there are bargains to be had. Paying more or going through a brokerage doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a smooth ride either, if we have learnt one thing it’s that boats are a minefield.

I can envisage a little bit of back lash for this post, I think it is inevitable that on this subject people will have a different view point. So how to answer the question, well they cost as much as you’re willing to pay and the risk you’re willing to take.

James & Kirsty

A diary of live aboard life

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