Many people believe that living on a narrowboat is cheap as chips. Here we give you a summary of all the standard costs of owning a narrowboat.


Really, the answer to this is how much do you want to spend and how long do you want your narrowboat to last you.

There are a few main things that everyone talks about:

  • blacking – which is basically taking the narrowboat out of water, cleaning it and adding a few coats of bitumen black paint to help reduce the speed of rusting.
  • anodes – again related to rust / erosion of the hull.
  • engine service – oil changes, filter changes, usual stuff for trying to keep an engine healthy!
  • Boat Safety Certificate – needed every 4 years.

Out for blackingThis refers to applying black paint to the parts of the hull that are under water. It protects the steel from the water to reduce the progression of rust. There are two different paint options – bitumen or epoxy.

Blacking costs vary depending on if you do it yourself or pay someone to do it. You have to cover the cost of renting the slipway or dry dock, the paint and time. It takes 3 – 4 days to complete to allow for each coat of paint to dry before it goes in the water. As with most narrowboat related costs, the longer the boat, the more it costs. Blacking needs to be re-done every 2-3 years.

Here is a link to our first blacking – obviously we filmed as much as we could. Spoiler alert, we paid a lovely man to do the work for us as we both work full time (and used our holiday to go cruising).


The anodes are sacrificial – the theory is that by attaching a piece of metal to the hull that is more reactive than the hull itself then this piece of metal will corrode first.

Anodes start from about £10 each (not including the welding). We had two anodes towards the bow of the boat already that were in quite good condition but still opted for two more to be added in the middle of the boat.

Engine Service

Engine servicing can be another DIY job if you are a bit handy or mechanical. A service will cost up to about £200 – the majority to cover labour. I am going to start doing this myself in future to save a few pounds.

For more information about the Boat Safety Scheme, check out this website or our video here.

Mooring and licensing

When you have a boat and use it on the public waterways, you have to pay for a license. This can either be to Canal and River Trust or the Environment Agency, depending on where you plan to travel. There is lots of information about licensing, including a nice table to show the costs (which are dependent on the length of the boat) on the CaRT website.

The other thing to think about is where you are going to keep your narrowboat, which is where mooring costs need to be added to the list. Of course, you can choose to be a continuous cruiser and not take up a home mooring.

As with everything, mooring costs can be linked to the length. It is possible to get moorings through CaRT Waterside Moorings website, a private marina and sometimes off towpath moorings are available privately too.

The mooring costs also vary depending on the facilities available. For example, if there are shower and laundry facilities, plus electricity, water and pump out, you would pay more than a mooring that perhaps only had water and electricity. The cost tends to reduce the further north of the country you moor too. London is the top end of the price range.

Living costs

As with a house, you have to consider the cost of heating, water and electricity. If you are going to run a TV, you still need to pay for a TV license if the boat will be your primary residence. If you have a residential mooring, you will need to pay council tax – this will be the lowest band for the area.

At the beginning of 2017, we put together a video to discuss the cost of running the boat over winter. We have since made some changes to how we live which we hope will have reduced these costs and will publish a new video soon.

Cost of Winter