5 Top Tips When Buying Your First Narrow Boat

It’s a minefield out there! Buying your first boat can be a pretty daunting experience, so what do you really need to look for and consider when buying your first? Well hopefully we can help to remove a few of those mines.


I struggle to believe it but it’s two years since our purchasing journey began, it was a stressful and daunting time, but we learnt a heck of a lot about the purchasing process. So, if you’re looking to purchase your first boat perhaps our little antidotes might help, or they’ll be that ridiculous that you’ll spend ten minutes laughing at us, either way it’s a distraction, right?

1) Know what you want

Easier said than done I know! We were told by a lot of boaters that your second boat is always your perfect one, having learnt from your mistakes with the first. It’s a sentiment we now agree with, but that’s not really sound advice is it? What can you do in the initial stages to try and minimise the effect?

I think one of the ways to truly know what you want is to view as many boats as possible, easier said than done right? This is where I seriously recommend a brokerage, whilst you may be for or against purchasing from them they offer one thing in abundance, boats. Ordinarily this mass boat collection is in one place, and they are often happy to give you a selection of keys and let you crack on. Getting around different boats and different boat styles really helps you to form properly based opinions on what you like, what you don’t like and what is none negotiable.

2) While you’re at it don’t fall for those glossy pictures 

How do people do it, how do they manage to truly transform the look of something through a selection of perfectly angled, perfectly filtered pictures? It is so easy to browse boats online, and even easier to see a selection of images which instantly have you drooling. But browser be warned! We travelled countless miles to look at boats which looked like palaces in their photos, they were anything but when we got there. Equally do not rule a boat out purely on pictures, Fantine’s pictures were terrible, but I think this worked in our favour in stopping other people from being as keen to view her while we sorted out all the admin before purchase.

3) Listen to the boatsperts

I seriously cannot recommend a survey highly enough, look at it this way you’re making what is likely to be the most costly purchase of your life, don’t mess around! The survey cost can range dependent on the level of boatspert you go for. We went down the middle, with a surveyor cost of around £450, on top of this there was the cost of pulling the boat out of the water. I would seriously say keep this in mind and just consider it part of the purchase cost, I’d much sooner spend £600 than watch £40,000 sink.

4) Rule with your head

With the survey in mind be prepared to make hard choices, boats are good at becoming pits to throw money into. If you are happy to purchase a floating pit to throw your money into, no problem, if you don’t really have the ability to do that be prepared to make a tough decision, be prepared to walk away from something, particularly if your boatspert comes back with a remedial list longer than the grand union.

5) Don’t force it

We were on a bit of a time frame with the boat, the tenancy on our rented property was up in April and we knew we’d have to make a decision on whether we wanted to renew for a further 12 months, or end the contract. This gave me an added feeling of pressure to find a boat now. We had read and been told time and time again you’ll know your boat when you get on her. Every boat we stepped foot on I tried to force that feeling. Truth is for me that feeling did come, once we got onto Fantine. Try not to push yourself too much to feel something, on the other hand James felt nothing for any of them (Cyborg) so perhaps for some people a big feeling just isn’t going to come.


It really is that murky! Boats are a minefield, best of luck out there navigators!

James and Kirsty

A diary of live aboard life

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