Are Long Term Narrowboat Rentals Worth it?

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As the narrowboat craze builds, a lot more people are looking to get their own authentic narrowboat experience. If you are in this boat (see what I did there!), would it be better to buy a boat or go for a long-term narrowboat rental instead? Let’s dive deep in the weeds and find out together 🙂

Why are Long Term Narrowboat Rentals a thing?

A vast majority of people are more than happy with a few weeks spent in the Summer sun in a quaint rented holiday narrowboat. However, with the current craze of live-aboard nomad style narrowboating (similar to the van life craze in America), more and more people are looking for a more long-term experience.

As a real live-aboard boater would do, they want to spend months rather than weeks cruising the canal network and finding out what this trendy new lifestyle is all about. I mean, if you are going to commit to living on one of these things, you want the full experience before diving in.

Another reason that long-term narrowboat rentals exist is because of the growing number of foreigners that have been captivated by all those narrowboat vlogs on YouTube and want to try it out for themselves. It’s not uncommon to hear of people flying in from exotic locations such as Hong Kong and America simply to partake in a narrowboat experience 🙂

How Much are Long Term Narrowboat Rentals?

Of course, any kind of narrowboat rental can vary a lot depending on the quality of the boat you are hiring. But to put it bluntly, you are not likely to get this on the cheap.

After doing some research, I found some prices quoted as follows:

  • £550 a week for a two person narrowboat
  • £900 a week for an eight person narrowboat
  • £1100 to £2850 per calendar month (depending on the boat length)

As you can see, it’s not exactly cheap!

Are There Other Options?

If the costs stated above are making your eyes water, you might want to think of these other options.

Turn into a ‘Dell Boy’

For those of you not aware of the British comedy ‘Only Fools and Horses’, Dell Boy is a character that is very good at wheeler dealing (soon we’ll be millionaires Rodney!!).

Instead of doing a long-term rental of a narrowboat, you could simply buy a boat of your own and then sell it at the end of your long-term stay.

For example, if you wanted to stay on the boat for 3 months, you would be looking at a total cost of somewhere in the region of £5000-6000, even for a small boat.

As I found out in my recent article on depreciation, narrowboats don’t depreciate that fast (especially right now, as the market is so hot and full of willing buyers). You could easily buy and sell a narrowboat and even make a slight profit. In the worst-case scenario, you are unlikely to lose more than the money you would pay for a rental. Just make sure to look over any purchase thoroughly! If you buy a lemon, you will end up paying way more on repairs!

The downsides to this approach are that it will be a slower process to buy a boat than to hire one, and you need to have a bigger amount of capital to invest to pull it off.

Do it in the Winter

Another way to do this on the cheap would be to take your narrowboat extended holiday over the Winter months. This is when most narrowboat rental companies have less business and might allow you to hire one of their boats for a discount.

In fact, my recommendation would be to approach a narrowboat hire company that doesn’t advertise Winter hires at all (or is preferably closed down over Winter). If they have boats sitting around over Winter doing nothing, they might see the benefit of letting one go out for a long-term rental.

What Would I Recommend?

Have you seen the narrowboat market lately? Its crazy! Good boats are often snapped up within days of going on sale. This makes the perfect situation for buying and selling a boat rather than paying out ‘dead money’ for a long-term rental.

If you are the handy type, you could even but a project boat and do it up whilst living in it for several months. Then you narrowboat nomad experience would pay for itself.

If you don’t feel confident searching out your own boat, maybe you can make friends with an experienced boater that can help you. Or you could buy from a reputable broker that you know won’t sell you a dud!

I have some other articles that you might find helpful too. One is about tips for buying a secondhand narrowboat, as well as another one comparing different canal boat types.

The main thing to say is welcome! Welcome to the most amazing lifestyle on the planet! It is amazing to see so many people sharing in that beauty that is narrowboat life!!

1 thought on “Are Long Term Narrowboat Rentals Worth it?”

  1. Interesting article and totally agree that the canal market seems really hot right now, especially where I’m based; it seems like everyone else has decided to try it after covid or something and it’s hard to get hold of a boat! Have you had any experience with escape the rat race who seem to be offering something similar?


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