Buy a Barge

Dutch barges and wide beam narrowboats have grown in popularity in recent years as an alternative to narrowboats. These spacious vessels are wider than narrowboats and offer a more generous living area that includes many of the features of a modern home. The type or design of barge you buy will to a large degree depend on where you want to use it (canals or sea), the specification required and how much money you have available.

Barges can be built of steel, plastic, aliminuim and wood. Steel barges are probably one of the most economical means of getting afloat and one of the best materials to build a barge with (strong, long lasting, durable). Barges made in aluminium are also available, maringally more expsnsive than steel they offer the advantage of being corrosion free.

'Dutch Barge Style' Narrowboats / 'Wide Beam' Narrowboats

Wide beam narrowboats / dutch style narrowboats are a good entry point to barge cruising as they are cheaper than Dutch barges. These boats borrow their design from narrowboats and their flat-bottomed, shallow draft, with keel-cooled engines makes them suitable for sustaining the 4 knots max speed of the UK canals (they are not suitable for sea journeys). Lengths normally vary between 40-60 feet long and they are often built to Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) category D requirements.

Dutch Barges

At the other end of the market, dutch barges are designed more for European river cruising  with frequent sea journeys, etc. These barges have a more powerful engine and angled side for improved handling through the water, have a deeper draft and more weight. Lengths vary between  50-75 feet. Most new built Replica Dutch barges are built to RCD Cat 'C' which is deemed suitable for wind speeds up to force 6 and significant wave height to 2m. There are a few barges that have been designed and built to Cat 'B' requirements.

The accommodation inside of a wide beam river barge and Dutch barge can be virtually identical, although a Dutch barge will normally have a covered wheelhouse, which can offer comfortable, all weather seating for 4 or more people, whereas wide beams normally have an open stern with tiller steering, the same as narrowboats. There will normally be slightly more usable internal space on a Dutch Barge design than on a wide beam.

Which barge?

Dutch Barge (40-50ft/secondhand) from £85,000

* These costs are only a rough guide and may vary.  Prices for narrowboats significantly from less than £10,000 for a second hand narrowboat, right up to £80,000 for luxury models.

See the OTW boat buyer's guide

Recreational Craft Directive (RCD)

The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) sets minimum requirements of a boat guaranteeing its suitability for sale and use within the European Union.

For more information on the Recreational Craft Directive click here

Boat Safety Scheme 

When purchasing a new or used narrowboat you should ask to see a Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) pass Certificate. The Boat Safety Scheme is jointly managed by Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency.  It's designed to minimise the risks of fires or explosions on boats cruising the UK's inland waterways network, by specifying a set of requirements that most boats must meet before they can be granted a navigation licence. 

You can see more details of the Boat Safety Scheme at

Marine Finance

Marine finance is available from high street banks, specialist lenders and via brokers. For sums under £5,000 many people choose to apply for a personal loan from a high street bank or building society. Marine Mortgages tend to be used for purchasing boats with a value £3,000+, and can normally be up to 70% of the value of the boat. 

For more information on marine finance click here


Narrowboats come in different styles and lengths so why not try day hire before you buy. Once you have found the type of narrowboat that suits your needs, you need to consider aditional cost - fixed and variable costs before committing to buying.

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:
· Maintenance – normally based on hours usage
· Fuel & Gas
· Toilet pump out or emptying
· Water in some areas
· Possibly solid fuel for a stove

Boat Licences

If you are if you are a buying a boat, you will need to get a licence from the relevant waterway authority. The type of licence you'll need depends on the sort of boat you have, where you want to cruise and how long you want to use it for. These can be purchased from one of the three organisations which runs Britain's waterways.

Canal & River Trust manages most of the canals and rivers including the Severn, Trent and Yorkshire Ouse.

The Environment Agency manages the River Thames, the River Medway, and the rivers of East Anglia.

The Broads Authority manages the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

 30 ft  40 ft  50 ft  60 ft  70 ft


 £741.68*    £832.01*  £923.69*

* These costs are only a rough guide and may vary depending on the number of berths, time of year and onboard facilities. Please contact the relevant waterway authority for up to date licence fees – there may be a discount for prompt payment.



Insuarance fees are on application, and these costs are only a rough guide* For more information on insurance click here

 Boat value <£25,000  Boat value <£40,000  Boat value <£60,000
 £150.00 per year*  £240.00 per year*  £360.00 per year*


Mooring costs depend on the location and facilities provided by the marina, but as a guide you should budget between £35 - £50 per ft plus VAT per year. For more information on moorings click here.



Yearly Mooring   


Temp Mooring (per week) 


40ft £1850


40ft  £44


50ft  £2310


50ft  £55


60ft Fees £2770


60ft £66


This vary hard to estimate, but you should allow a budget of £550 per year to cover annual engine service and bi-annual blacking  (2 - 4 years).


This depends on your usage, but the the typical costs are

Diesel £85 per year

Gas £85 per year



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