Costs of living on a narrow boat (Updated for December 2014)

Updated December 2014

We were afloat for 45 out of 52 weeks in 2014 so variable costs*** such as coal, diesel and gas have been divided by 45 and multiplied by 52 to give an annual figure.

** Budgeted **                                             ** 12 month Projection **            


Waterways Licence £723                              £761                                                
Boat Insurance £186                                     £238
Breakdown Insurance £210                           £149
Coal £410                                                      £299***
Diesel £993                                                   £535***
Gas £300                                                       £156***
Service £140                                                 £200
*Safety Certificate £35                                 £35
**Blacking £315                                           £315
Sub Total £3,312                                           £2,688
Contingency (15%) £497                              £890
Total £3,809                                                  £3,578     

I should note that our coal costs are reduced by collecting and burning wood along the way and our diesel is maybe low as we are light cruisers and only do about 30 cruising hours a month (at a little under 2mph) as our solar panels provide for the rest of our electricity and thus limits the amount of engine running to charge up the batteries.

Whilst we've recorded all of our costs for food, entertainment, phone/internet, dogs, laundry etc, I think these are more dependent on an individuals life style and may not therefore provide a useful like for like comparison. I'd be happy to help or expand further with these though if anybody should be interested and try to give you an idea of 'our' costs against 'our' living style to put it into the context of yours.
 
Updated July 2013

Based on the first six months of this year, our annual budget is looking like this:

** Budgeted **                                             ** 12 month Projection **

Waterways Licence £723                              £753
Boat Insurance £186                                     £236
Breakdown Insurance £210                           £143
Coal £410                                                      £361
Diesel £993                                                   £599
Gas £300                                                       £166
Service £140                                                 £200
*Safety Certificate £35                                 £35
**Blacking £315                                           £315
Sub Total £3,312                                           £2808
Contingency (15%) £497                              £848
Total £3,809                                                  £3656     

Whilst we've recorded all of our costs for food, entertainment, phone/internet, dogs, laundry etc, I think these are more dependent on an individuals life style and may not therefore provide a useful like for like comparison. I'd be happy to help or expand further with these though if anybody should be interested and try to give you an idea of 'our' costs against 'our' living style to put it into the context of yours.

Well here goes. . . .
I wouldn't say that I've dedicated my recent life to this topic, but have done a certain amount of surfing and asked a few questions to try and get an idea of the costs of living on a narrow boat. What would be extremely valuable for the likes of us who have barely started yet and others seeking the same answers, would be for those that know better to either give me the thumbs up or thumbs down for my guesstimates. Any comments left on my blog will be pasted into the relevant headings or at the foot of this page where generalised. For those who do comment, thank you.

Every ones situation and living styles will be different so if you eat, drink and be merry every night then living costs will of course be different to those that huddle around a candle for heat in the winter. This page is on the assumption that your boat has been brought and paid for so if this isn't the case, then only you will know the costs you need to consider in addition. Our own lifestyle is that if we go out for a meal it's only once or twice a month and we'd rather have a bottle of wine on board for the same price as a pint and a glass of wine in the pub, although one does of course enjoy the occasional treat. Food wise, we eat well and pretty much fresh produce as much as we can although there may be the odd quick food item in the fridge or freezer for the day's you want something easy. Our entertainment is pretty much around walking the dogs, some fishing, reading and our own company, so if you're at the go out often end of the scale then counter my figures accordingly. With regards to cruising, we're not a speed around everywhere, so our running costs are based around doing two or three hours and then mooring up for two or three days so again, adjust my workings according to your own lifestyle.

One other very important tag on is that the following information is virtually all based on best guess and assumptions as up to the point of putting this page together, we've only holidayed although we've just moved aboard for eleven weeks so this will allow me the benefit of some factual figures. We've all got to start somewhere though and this is our line in the sand, hence my thumbs up or thumbs down invitation above for which comments would be generally welcomed.

The reason for tackling this topic from such a naive viewpoint, well, it's the one that is very important to us and the one that we've struggled with more and there will no doubt be others in the same boat (please forgive the pun, but it had to be done).

Boat running costs (per annum for a 57' narrow boat with diesel central heating and a multi fuel stove)

Waterways Licence £723
Boat Insurance £186
Breakdown Insurance £210
Coal £410
Diesel £993
Gas £300
Service £140
*Safety Certificate £35
**Blacking £315
Sub Total £3,312
Contingency (15%) £497
Total £3,809

*Renewable every four years
**Based on blacking every two years.

Waterways Licence £723

As I understand it, there is a British Waterways standard licence that you can get for varying periods of time up to twelve months or an annual Environment Agency one. A combined Gold Licence is available to cover both sets of waterways and is cheaper than purchasing them both independently. We've just gone for the British Waterways standard twelve month licence at the moment as it covers the waterways we're planning to travel during our first year. The following link http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/boating/licensing will give you more information on this topic. With regards to what waterways are covered, I think it would be easier to view what the Environment Agency licence covers as it is a lessor number of waterways and therefore maybe easier to establish what is right for you. The link where this information can be found is http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/regulation/38795.aspx

Boat Insurance £186

Not too much depth of knowledge to provide here as we've just hunted about a bit on the Internet and in magazines and decided to go with an insurance company called Craft Insure www.craftinsure.co.uk. In the unfortunate instance that we ever need to claim for anything, we'll let you know how we get on.

Breakdown Insurance (Gold Membership) £210

For a pair of newbies, peace of mind goes a long way. Most we've seen offer varying grades of membership and the one we're probably going to go with is River Canal Rescue www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk. They offer a Gold, Silver, Bronze and Retainer membership and as much in life, the more you pay the more you get. Once we've earned the benefit of hindsight and I know a bit more about the lump of metal that makes the boat go forwards and backwards then we'll probably scale things back a bit.

Coal £410

First guesstimate and is based on using one and a half bags of coal (£10.50 per bag) for 26 weeks of the year. Having a multi-fuel stove we plan to find and burn logs as much as we can and you often see plenty on top of boats so one assumes you must come across the odd fallen tree or branch on your travels. When we were looking around to purchase our boat we met one liveaboard who said he'd only used one bag of coal for the whole winter that seems amazing to us, but great if it can be done as that'll put £399.50 back into the kitty. Short mild winters or long harsh ones will of course play havoc with the coal budget as would the level of heat that one regards as comfortable. Our only experience to date was a few weeks holiday in February when we actually found our boat to be much much cosier than our land home. The day temperature was ranging between about 3 to 8 degrees and maybe a bit of ground frost so fairly tropical compared to the -15's to -20's we were told about and that we will no doubt experience first hand at some point. Feedback welcome.

Diesel £993

Second guesstimate. It's been mentioned to us that our engine (35 HP) uses about 1.5 litres of diesel an hour for cruising and that the diesel central heating will use about .5 litre an hour. Based on our holidays between first and second top up, we used 85 litres of fuel (bearing in mind that we are not massive cruisers) and I've simply used this usage to calculate the following: 85 litres / the 35 days of our holidays x 365 days x £1.12 per litre to come up with £993.

There are two levels of fuel cost, one attracts duty whilst the other one doesn't. You need to declare the split when you purchase fuel and we were advised that the general rule of thumb is 60% propulsion (on which you pay duty) and 40% on domestic use (on which you do not pay duty), but it is up to you what you declare although I assume you need some sort of log in case you're questioned. As we had limited information, we just went with the general 60/40 split, but are now planning to log our usage for going forwards.` Feedback welcome.

Gas £300

Our only use for gas is the gas cooker. Probably over cooked this one a bit (I know, the puns have got to stop), but our third guesstimate is simply based on a bottle of gas a month, so twelve a year x £25 gives us the much researched (not) figure of £300.

Service £140

Quite simply, this is what our first service cost us when we brought our boat.

Safety Certificate £35

In order to get a waterways licence, you need to have a valid Boat Safety Scheme certificate. This just cost us £140 and is valid for four years, hence the 'annual' price tag of £35. You can find more information at https://www.waterways.org.uk/pdf/bss_guide

Blacking £315 (per annum cost based on doing it every two years)

We've just had our boat blacked and it cost £7 per foot x 57' equals £399 plus £230 to have it taken out, put on blocks, blacked and then put back in the water.

Well that's the basics as far as we've been able to establish for a boats annual running costs and whilst I hope it is of some use for other newbies, please remember that the above is not from an informed viewpoint following years of experience, it's from having owned our first boat for no more than a few months and having only spent a few weeks on it.

General Living expenses

As we're due to embark on a few months on board, we'll update this part of the page when we've got a few months under our belts of proper living expenses rather than the cost of holiday's to date.

3 comments:

  1. I hope you enjoy your new boat and your human masters are delighted.

    They have started off well re: the Solar Panels
    My Pengalanty has 4 x 190watt rated Schott 24-volt panels, in series and parallel to give a 48-volt output to the MPPT Tri-Star controller
    Your panels are the very best in output, design and exceptionally robust and well made, being assembled in Germany,and the cells grown in the Far East somewhere. When the longer light hours arrive with sun at a higher altitude in the sky, I am confident that you will not be charging your batts with the engine!
    I am cruising the Staffs & Worcs at the moment at Swindon, w.Midlands heading for Gloucester and Sharpness. After about a month their we cruise back up North. I live alone on my boat and my very dear friend Antoinette cruises her boat. I am always towing one boat, or the other, as Toni's boat is too big and heavy for her top maanage - something that was not considered when she purchased it. Best regards, ~Allan~

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  2. nice written post. i really enjoyed going through it. keep sharing some more interesting stories.
    Hire A Yacht In Dubai

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  3. Hi there, love the blog, you are on our home stretch of canal. Read a post you left about Pullman beds, very interested in your deign. Do you have any dimensions or pictures you could send us

    ady @ theblossomshop dot co dot uk leaving out the spaces and converting the dots

    We are in Croperdy marina for the winter and want to convert our two bench seats facing each other to a Pullman during this time.

    Many thanks Ady Bolton NB Lazi Daisy aka Purple Haze

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