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The Pros & Cons Of Owning A Houseboat

February 28, 2023
Boat insurance

Considering becoming the proud owner of a houseboat but need to know the pros and cons? Read below all the pros and cons of living on a houseboat!

blue houseboat

Houseboat ownership has risen in popularity over recent years, in part due to rising rents and property prices across the UK, meaning people are seeking out other ways to live outside of traditional bricks and mortar to try and save money. The number of boats across the UK has increased by 6% to 34,573 in the last ten years and, in London, this figure has risen dramatically by 84% to 4,274.  Houseboat sales have also shot up by an astronomical 880% in the last year alone, further evidence that their popularity is clearly growing.

For some people, the idea of living on a houseboat surrounded by water is idyllic and a dream way to live, although it certainly isn’t for everyone. Before purchasing a houseboat however there are a range of factors to consider, everything from one off costs to annual bills and where you can keep your boat. Here we outline some of the pros and cons to think about.


Affordability: Houseboats are seen as more affordable to buy than a standard home, and when looking at the initial purchase price it is not hard to see why this makes them attractive. Whilst they can vary in price quite significantly, the average price is between £250,000 and £450,000. You can pick up much cheaper ones however from as little as £10,000 that are smaller or need renovating to make them suitable for living in. There are additional costs to think through outside of the purchase price though. The main things to be aware of are:


·       Boat licence: These are calculated based on the and width of the boat, the duration of the licence (three, six, or twelve months) and whether you are after a canal and river licence, or just a river licence. You can get a discount if you pay for it in full online.


·       Mooring costs: Mooring costs can be very expensive and vary in price dramatically. For example, central London moorings costs are extremely rare and can cost as much as £18,000 a year. It is possible to get much cheaper mooring costs outside of central London and in different parts of the UK, they tend to start at around £2,000.  Long term moorings are also available for three years at a time. Mooring can be either residential, which allows you to live on your boat full-time, or leisure, which limits the time to a few days a week. The best moorings are fully serviced with water, fuel, and power. It is always best to find a mooring before buying a boat.


·       Insurance: If you plan to live on your boat, you will need to get specialist houseboat insurance. This will not only cover the value of your contents but also the boat itself. Boats are obviously more susceptible to weather damage than traditional houses, as well as accidents such as sinking, hitting into objects and problems caused by wildlife and animals.


·       Council tax: If your boat is moored permanently, it will typically be in the lowest tax band, with single occupants benefiting from a 25% reduction. However, if you are happy to move every two weeks as a ‘continuous cruiser,’ you will not have to pay this.  Some people like the idea of moving every two weeks and obviously it saves money as well, but this won’t appeal to everyone so it’s worth giving this point some real consideration before you buy.

Boat safety certificate: A boat needs to be licensed, insured, and have a valid Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate, so very similar to a car having a full MOT. This costs approximately £150 per year, plus the cost of any repairs.

  • Other expenses: The cost of fuel and heating will depend on how much you intend to travel and how warm you like to be, wood for a log burning stove would start at around £10 a week. A single person living on a narrowboat can expect to pay approximately £55 a quarter for utilities, and £20 a month for toilet pump-out.

You should also think about other non-financial aspects when deciding if living on a houseboat is right for you. For example, you will have significantly less space than with a standard home, you will also need to think about things like water tanks and generators, especially if you plan to be a continuous cruiser and move around, and some of these things will need to be looked at and emptied manually, which isn’t for everyone. You will also have no garden and you will be more exposed to the weather and the elements. So, in the winter it can get quite cold, but it can also present some great benefits in summer time. The main point is to investigate all these factors before you buy a houseboat. The purchasing of the boat itself is also something to investigate first. If you do not have the funds to buy it outright, you can get a mortgage as with a typical bricks and mortar property. However, you would need a specialist marine mortgage to do this.


Whilst there are all these practical and financial points to look into, living on a houseboat can provide a truly unique way of living that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. You would be surrounded by likeminded people who are often after a similar way of life. Other benefits include:


·       Being part of a community: People who live on houseboats often look out for each other, and keep an eye on each other’s boats, so you will be part of a wider community of boat owners who all want the same thing.


·       Saving money: Whilst there are costs to think about when buying a boat, overall, it is significantly cheaper to live on a boat in terms of monthly cost and expenditure than a typical bricks and mortar home.


·       Moving around: As mentioned above, you could be a ‘continuous cruiser’ and move on from one destination after 14 days. This not only means you would save money but also you would have the luxury of finding somewhere else to live and having more variety in where you want to stay.


Whatever you decide on your boat purchasing journey, always make sure you look into the pros and cons fully before you make your final decision. Double checking all the details, such as having the best type of insurance policy suitable for your boat and your needs will go a long way and save a lot of trouble later down the line.


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