Here is some of the research I did on the values of different types of canal boats when new and at the time of writing:
Do Narrowboats and Widebeams Hold Their Value?
I want to start off with some pretty comprehensive but maybe not conclusive research out of the gate. I am going to attempt to find narrowboats for sale and then see how much they were probably worth when bought. This is not an exact science, as the owner may have paid to add some custom extras, but it should at least give us some idea.
How do I plan to do this, you may ask? Well, there is a nifty tool that is called the Wayback Machine
This is not a perfect science, but lets see how accurate our guesses can be….
Swann Song is a 57 foot narrowboat built in 2016 by Aintree Boats. By the magic of the Wayback machine, I can see the list price of this boat back when it was bought.
Apparently, £75,500 fully fitted back then. Now there are a few things to say here. I am sure that the boat has some extras/ upgrades that add value. The listing talks about solid wood flooring and solar panels, for example. We can also consider that the value must have increased due to inflation. If we look at the same boat on Aintree right now, they are selling for £89500.
Also, this boat is not yet sold and we don’t know how realistic the boat owner is being with the price.
Even considering all of this, even if the owner has to knock off £10000 from the price, it still seems like the depreciation is not too bad.
Belle Eva is a widebeam from 2012, again made and fitted out by Aintree Boats. This is the price list Aintree had on their website at the time this narrowboat was produced.
A 57 foot widebeam was listed for £92500 fully fitted. This was for the 10 foot wide version, whereas Belle Eva is 12 foot wide. I will take a calculated guess that they paid around £10000 for that extra width, looking at how much other boat builders charge for that extra space at the time of writing (not even in 2012).
As with the last boat, I am sure that there are extras that the boat owners have added that increase the price they have paid. They talk about a custom-made pram hood and bow thrusters. And this is not a final price, this is just the price that the owner is asking.
Even taking those things into account, the owner won’t be loosing a lot of money on this boat even if they need to reduce the selling price a decent amount.
Let’s move onto Molly Marie, another Aintree Boats narrowboat built in 2014 and apparently 55 foot long. The asking price is £68000. The weird thing is though, Aintree never seem to have had a 55 foot boat on their price list ever (and trust me, I looked).
No big deal, lets be generous and go by the price for a 57 foot narrowboat in 2014, which was £69000 fully fitted.
With all said and done, this is the first boat that might actually lose the owner some money in the price bought new, but even then it probably isn’t much!
In my humble opinion, the interior of this boat is nice, but not quite as impressive looking as the other two. Maybe this goes some of the way to explaining why the price of this boat is a little lower compared to the original price listed. Even if you lose £10-15000 on a boat like this, its still not the end of the world when you compare to how much things like cars depreciate.
Mirrormere is a narrowboat built by Peter Nicholls, and it runs 40 foot in length. Unfortunately, the closest price list I could find for Peter Nicholls was 2002. I still wanted to include Mirrormere though, as it would be the oldest boat featured here and will give us a better idea about longer term depreciation.
A 40 foot narrowboat with engine fitted would be £58,850 plus VAT. Mirrormere was built in 1999 and this price list is from 2002, so we have a three-year gap to deal with 🙂 Over these 3 years the inflation rate in the UK was 1.75%, 1.18% and 1.53%. The VAT (sales tax in the UK) rate was 17.5% as well.
My very rough calculations, bearing all these figures in mind, would be a base price of £72250. You know the drill too. I am sure extras were bought….etc. etc. but at least we have an idea 🙂
When you compare the rough sale price to the current asking price of £37500, you can see that over a longer period of time you are likely to lose money. However, the boat is 21 years old at the time of writing, so that’s not too bad in my humble opinion.
Do River Cruisers Hold Their Value?
I am finding it somewhat harder to find information on river cruisers, as prices don’t seem to be listed so openly as I found for narrowboats.
Over the Rainbow is a Viking 22 river and canal cruiser built in 2007. At the time of writing, this boat is being sold for £18995.
Again, thanks to the Wayback Machine, I was able to find a price list from the same year….
Don’t you just love how 2007 internet looked 🙂 £23882 was the list price of this particular boat, however this did not include an engine. The listing says that Over the Rainbow has a 30 horsepower Honda outboard motor. I am going to add £4000 to the price for that….am I overestimating here 🙂 To be honest, my experience with river cruisers is limited 🙂
Also, the price list says ‘from’ and maybe some lavish extras were added to increase the price. In the listing, it does say that a solar panel has been added too.
I think we can safely say £30000 was spent on this boat when new. Maybe even £35000. So after 13 years, the boat still has a decent value at £18995. It is still holding around 60% of its original value.
Last Orders is another Viking river and canal cruiser, but this time it is the 24 foot model and was built in 2008. The price being asked for here was £32,950, and at the time of writing the boat was sold. Of course, we don’t know if any haggling took place on the sale 🙂
Here is the price list I found for the year of production on the Viking website. Get ready for ugly early 2000s internet!!
The price, as you can see above, was £35474, again not including the engine. And again, we don’t know what expensive extras might have been added. Again, I am going to assume that the engine costs around £5000, so why don’t we round it up to £45000 including everything. Let me know if you think I am being too generous here 🙂
All in all, the amount lost on a 12-year-old boat is not too bad, meaning the boat has retained around 70% of its value.
After All That, Do Canal Boats Hold Their Value?
In my humble opinion, it seems that most canal boats hold their value pretty well, all things considered. Of course, when any boat gets to 20 years or more you would have lost a considerable amount, as you are dealing with a degrading hull.
The fact that a 21-year-old narrowboat has only lost around half of its value doesn’t seem too bad to me. The river boats weren’t far off either, although the fibreglass hull is probably the main reason their value can go down faster.
I would temper these results by saying that the canal boat (and especially narrowboat) market is hot right now. Just go see how many narrowboat Youtubers there are now and you will see what I mean. This is generating extra interest and (I believe) is keeping prices higher than you may have seen ten or fifteen years ago. I am not sure how long this extra interest will last.
If you compare with something like a car, you are losing much more value sooner with those. The only upside to a car is that if you keep it long enough, it might turn into a classic and start to go up in price. Realistically, though, that isn’t likely to happen in your lifetime.
If you don’t like the idea of a canal boat depreciating in value, the best thing to do is to buy one that is at least a couple of years old. Usually, most of the depreciation happens in the first 5 years or so. When you buy a second hand narrowboat you are bypassing a lot of that major first step of depreciation.
Also, to keep the most possible value in your canal boat, I would recommend you look after it well and keep the interior looking modern and appealing. Doing the research for this article, I feel that the better presented boats were able to ask for higher prices.
Don’t forget that, even if you do get your money back on a boat, you are still probably losing money overall. Due to the yearly inflation in prices and the amount you have spent on the yearly upkeep of the boat. Boats are not the same investment as a land-based house.