Wednesday 31 August 2011

Living Aboard Part 1: Costs

There is a great blog post on Boatshed Grand Union about how to choose a boat for living aboard. But after you've bought your boat what will living aboard cost?

When you are looking for a boat to buy you may wonder if living aboard is cheaper than living in a house. Your costs will depend on the particular house and boat that you are comparing. I started looking for boats for sale in London in the year 2000. I was renting a room in a shared flat and decided to buy a second hand narrowboat. Taking into consideration the BW licence fee, insurance, mooring fee, boat loan repayments to the bank, the cost of gas and coal etcetera I found that the lifestyle was similar in monthly costs to my lifestyle ‘on the bank’. However, a big motivating factor for me was to be able to own my home.

Liveaboard costs will largely depend on the size of your boat, how you have financed it, the luxuries or mod cons you have on board and the cost of your mooring. On a mooring you may pay for a shore-line of 240 volt metered electricity, yet while cruising you will generate your own 12 volt electricity. Heating may be gas, solid fuel or a diesel stove. A small space is economical to heat and diesel used for domestic purposes (as opposed to propulsion) is duty free. Your domestic water may be heated by gas, an engine calorifier or a back boiler from your main heating stove. So, the diverse number of options available means that it is difficult to calculate the typical running costs of a boat, per se. (This is of course also true of houses.)

If you don't own your boat outright you may be paying a marine mortgage or regular bank loan repayments. Mooring fees can vary across the country depending on the location and the facilities provided. The longer the boat the more expensive your insurance and BW licence will be. Engine maintenance is a sporadic and sometimes unpredicatable cost that you will have to budget for, unless you are a talented marine engineer and other systems on the boat, (e.g plumbing and electric) all require maintenance and repair from time to time.

Another regular cost is a boat safety certificate. A boat safety check must be undertaken every four years in order to validate your insurance. The boat safety examiner may make recommendations of changes you should make to your boat before he will renew your certificate, and these changes can incur costs.

So, don't let the temptation of a cheaper lifestyle encourage you to live aboard. You will derive more value from living on the waterways if you have a keen interest in canal heritage and towpath nature walks!

Buy Curious? Visit Boatshed Grand Union to browse boats.

Galley with dinette
A cosy home

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