Living on a narrowboat in London: what you need to know

The community of narrowboat owners in London is booming. The lure of an alternative lifestyle of characterful accommodation, connecting with nature and wildlife is drawing many to canal life. On top of this, many seek the chance to feel a real sense of belonging that is strong amongst fellow boaters. That’s not to mention the need for affordable living that has driven so many, without knowledge or experience, to trial life on the water. 

Narrowboat living is not for the faint-hearted. The cosy interior, toilet emptying and (especially in the winter months) being exposed to the chilly weather may not appeal to everyone, but there is something quite charming about life on board. Considering taking the plunge yourself? Well here are the basics to consider…


Base Costs

With house prices in the capital through the roof and rent skyrocketing, more people than ever before are turning to the waterways. 

The average house price in London stands at a hefty £606,102 (nearly 17 times the average salary!) vs just £57,000 for a narrowboat, so it’s easy to see the appeal. It is important to note though that narrowboat prices vary widely from a £15,000 renovation project and up to £150,000 for a top-end, brand new boat built to your own personal specifications.

Narrowboat rentals are less common, but could offer a way to ‘test the waters’ before committing to life on the canals. Sharing with an existing boat owner is a good way to learn the ropes and see if the realities match up to your boating fantasy.


Narrowboat Name Generator letterbox



Permanent moorings in London can cost as much as £20,000, so ‘continuous cruiser’ licences are popular. In doing so, you’ll only be required to pay for your boat license, costing between £500 and £1,600 a year depending on the length of your boat. The catch is that you only be able to moor up in any one place for up to 14 days (with some premium spots as little as 12 hours), but with the cost of a permanent mooring permit being so dear, this seems a small price to pay. The added benefit of cruiser licences is regularly getting to know lots of new fellow boaters. A notoriously friendly community, you’ll feel a real sense of home amongst fellow boaters wherever you next moor up.

Developments to create new moorings in East London are offering a lifeline for local residents and people with a connection to the area, with vastly reduced permanent mooring fees of £375 + VAT per month.


Additional Costs

  • Boat Safety Certificate - essentially a boat MOT estimated at £180. 
  • Insurance - will vary depending on cruising distances, but budget for around £250-£500 per annum + contents insurance based on value insured.
  • Heating, electric and fuel will vary depending on how frugal you are prepared to be, but overall bills should be dramatically less than those generated in a one-bed London flat.
  • Maintenance costs need to be factored in. To discover more about what is involved in the upkeep of a narrowboat, look out for our upcoming blog Become an expert on narrowboat maintenance by watching these 5 videos.



It’s easy to feel overly secure when immersed in the boating community, but it’s important to ensure your vessel is protected. It goes without saying that doors and windows should be locked as appropriate and additional fastenings and bars as extra deterrents. Avoid leaving valuables on show in windows and consider installing alarms or CCTV for extra security. With fuel prices at a premium, consider fitting a fuel cap lock to ensure you’re not left marooned.



If you want to embrace the environmentally friendly life, the Canals and Rivers Trust has introduced an eco-mooring zone of the canal in Islington, where pollutants such as diesel engines and smoke emitting stoves are banned.


Want to personalise your narrowboat? Use our narrowboat name generator to choose the perfect name.

New call-to-action

Header Image Source

Related Articles