Running Costs

What does owning a canal boat cost?

Every owner is different, they cruise for longer or shorter periods, moor in different areas of the country under many different conditions, some in purpose built marinas others alongside a farmers field with no facilities. The actual cost will therefore vary with the circumstances; however, the following will give a guide to the new boater.

The example given is for a 55ft boat, originally built to provide a reasonably high standard of comfort including a diesel generator. It has a reasonably high usage of about 100 days per year and is maintained to a reasonably high standard without being excessive.

Fixed costs

These are the costs that you pay whether you are cruising or the boat is tied up on its moorings such as:
· Compulsory Insurance.
· License fees.
· Mooring fees.
· Maintenance such as bottom blacking, winterization and Boat Safety Certificate.

Variable costs

These are the costs that change with the frequency and amount you use the boat such as:
· Fuel & Gas.
· Toilet pump out or emptying.
· Water in some areas.
· Possibly solid fuel for a stove.
· Maintenance – normally based on hours usage.

Fixed costs

  • Moorings are likely to be the biggest fixed cost which will vary tremendously around the country. A premium mooring may cost £1,500 and the end of a farmers field a few hundred pounds. Residential moorings will normally cost more.
  • License fees for a 55ft narrow boat on British Waterways canals & Rivers in 2003 was around £555. Current fees can be found at
    · Insurance currently costs around £250 - £300 although this may reduce with no claims bonuses. More information and quotes can be obtained from Collidge & Partners.
  • Maintenance. You should add around £500 for bottom blacking and routine maintenance needed whether you cruise or not.

Variable costs

Estimating variable costs is fairly difficult however they are not high when compared with the fixed costs

  • Fuel – Diesel cost between 35 – 40p per litre, which works out at £300 - £350 per annum for fairly intensive cruising.
  • Heating & Cooking – Assuming gas central heating is not used intensively and the boat has a solid fuel stove being used some of the winter. Four bottles of gas would cost around £70 and 10 – 15 bags of coal around £85. If living aboard or more cruising during the winter these costs would increase.
  • Toilet emptying – Pump outs cost about £12 - £14 per tank so 4 to 5 a year would cost around £70. If using a porta potti toilet emptying may cost nothing or just a nominal charge, however it is much less convenient to cruise extensively with this small capacity.
  • Maintenance – The cost of engine maintenance and some minor mechanical replacements would cost around £150 per year. Just like owning a house you would need to create a fund for those larger repairs and maintenance jobs that are required from time to time say £150 per year.

Guideline summary of annual costs.

A 55foot narrow boat kept on a premium mooring, and used for approximately 3,000 cruising miles a year.

Moorings £1500
Insurance £300
BW License (With prompt payment discount) £555
Fixed cost maintenance & Blacking £500
Diesel £380
Heating & Cooking £155
Toilet emptying £70
Variable maintenance costs £150
Variable cost repair fund £150

Total £3,760