As the cost of living crisis continues to be a challenge in the UK, more of us are looking for ways to save money on our monthly bills.

As a result, alternative living arrangements such as living on a narrowboat are becoming ever more popular options. It’s estimated that around 150,000 people are currently living off-grid in the UK – that’s to say outside of traditional urban infrastructure – with approximately 15,000 of those living permanently on the UK waterways, many on narrowboats.

The financial returns can be significant. In fact, our research shows that on average, you could save around £1,600 per month living in an off-grid home.

More than this, though, living on a narrowboat offers a more peaceful lifestyle. One that allows you to see the world at your own pace - all while avoiding the stress of rising mortgage rates and council tax increases.

This will sound like heaven to many people. So, if you were to live on a narrowboat, what costs would you need to consider?

Here, we outline the costs of living on a narrowboat full time and how much you could save on a monthly basis vs. a traditional home.

Cost of living on a narrowboat

Using latest industry data and a survey of our policyholders, we have broken down the typical monthly costs of living on a narrowboat.

Buying a narrowboat

The average cost of buying a narrowboat is £57,000 – often the cost of a deposit on a house. Many people will save to pay for this lump sum in one go, or perhaps take out a loan to pay back in instalments.

Boat licence

In order to use your boat on UK canals and rivers, you’ll need to licence it. The Canal & River Trust looks after waterways across England & Wales, with Waterways Ireland its counterpart in Northern Ireland and Scottish Canals in Scotland. Much like road tax for a car, your long-term licence will go towards maintenance of the waterways. You’ll need to make sure you have appropriate boat insurance in place to apply for a licence and a Boat Safety Certificate (BSS), which is like a boat version of a vehicle MOT.

  • From April 2024, a Canal & River Trust Licence for a typical narrowboat will cost around £100 a month.


As highlighted above, narrowboat insurance is a requirement in order to apply for a boat licence. And regardless of whether you’re a seasoned narrowboater or a beginner, it’s worth considering getting protection with specialist narrowboat insurance. 

Through Insure4Boats, you can protect your narrowboat against theft, accidental damage and malicious damage. We also offer £3 million Third Party Liability insurance as standard. Our narrowboat insurance policies also come with a range of optional extras, including contents insurance. It’s nice and easy to add to your policy and you’re not required to list every item that you have onboard.


Narrowboats typically run on Diesel. The amount you use will of course depend on many factors including the size of the boat and how much you travel in it. Separate fuel sources will usually come into play for cooking, heating and running appliances. Many narrowboaters take advantage of solar energy for these purposes, while coal and wood are still popular choices.

You can check out our complete guide to narrowboat fuel for more details.

  • The average cost for Diesel is around £60 per month.
  • The average cost for other fuel including coal is around £25 per month.
  • The average cost for firewood is around £90 per month.


There are two main options when it comes to your narrowboat – you’ll either pay for a mooring or choose to be a “continuous cruiser” meaning you don’t have a fixed location and are constantly on the move. There are pros and cons to both but the latter means you’ll save on a permanent mooring cost, usually payable to the Canal & River Trust or its equivalent, or a private owner if mooring in a marina.

  • Permanent mooring costs vary between different waterways. Our survey found the average UK bill to be around £300 per month, which includes visitor mooring costs that may be needed throughout the year. Usually this cost will also include your running water bill. Permanent mooring costs can increase significantly in built-up areas such as London.


As with a house or car, narrowboats require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly. This will include tasks such as inspecting the engine, painting, checking for leaks and blacking the hull.

You can find out more in our guide to narrowboat maintenance.

  • The average cost of maintenance is around £52 per month.

General utilities

Of course, there are some bills which are unlikely to differ from a traditional home. We have listed these below with their average monthly costs.

  • Broadband - £28.16
  • TV licence - £13.25

This brings the total monthly cost of living on a narrowboat to £714.66.

Cost of living in a house

Now, let’s outline the current costs to live in a traditional home - by which we mean a house, flat, bungalow or any other “bricks and mortar” style dwelling, for which you are required to pay council tax. The below is an average taken across the entire UK.

This brings the total monthly expenditure of a typical rental household to £1,493.49 or £1,785.37 for homeowners. Living on board a narrowboat could therefore save the average UK renter a whopping £778.83 every month, increasing to £1,070.71 for the average UK homeowner.

When taken as an average of both rental and mortgaged homes, this works out at a total monthly expenditure of £1,628.01 - with a saving of £913.35. 

Cost of living on a narrowboat vs a house: savings

Taking the average monthly cost to live on board a narrowboat and comparing it with that of a traditional household we have broken down the average cost saving per month by choosing to liveaboard permanently, on a continuous cruising licence.

Living costs for a traditional home will naturally differ by region, due to variations like house prices and council tax bands. These have been factored into our calculations below.

Overall, living on board a narrowboat full-time isn’t for everyone. It takes hard work and comes with sacrifices such as a smaller living space and alternative living arrangements. However, when it comes to saving money on your monthly expenses, the draw is undeniable. With so many more people taking the plunge and living off-grid, perhaps this will be the year you join them!


Please note the information provided on this page should not be taken as advice and has been written as a matter of opinion. For more on insurance cover and policy wording, see our homepage.