Living in London: Cost of Living on a Narrowboat versus in a Flat

As the cost of living in London continues to increase, many people are considering alternative living arrangements, including narrowboats. This is a huge lifestyle change that more people are investing in, but will it actually save you money? This article compares the cost of living in London on a narrowboat against a London flat.

Cost of buying a London narrowboat versus a flat

Average cost of buying a flat in London: £480,000*

The cost of buying a flat in London will depend a great deal on the location. The average price of a one-bedroom flat in London is now around £480,000 but it is worth bearing in mind that, as a general rule, the further away from the city centre the property is, the cheaper it will be. There are a number of schemes in place to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder, including the shared ownership scheme. New developments are being worked on all over the capital with many homes being put aside for first-time buyers.

Average cost of buying a narrowboat in London: £57,000

The price of buying a narrowboat depends on the amount of space you want and the amount of work you are willing to do. It is possible to pick up a 'project' for as little as £15,000 or you could spend around £150,000 on a high-spec new boat. When choosing a boat it is worth noting that the size of the vessel can affect mooring costs as fees are typically charged per foot. The average narrowboat is around 57ft due to the size of UK locks and as a rule of thumb the cost of a narrowboat is around £1,000/ft, however, this can vary greatly.

Cost of renting a London narrowboat versus a flat

Average monthly cost of renting a one-bedroom flat in London: £1,250

Due to the high price of property in London, many people rent instead of buying. The cost of renting a one-bedroom flat can vary depending on the area you choose to live in. The average price of renting a one-bed in London is now around £1,250 a month but if you are willing to live in a shared house this can be significantly lower. The main benefits of renting over buying is that you have more freedom to move around should you change jobs or your circumstances change and there is also no need for a substantial deposit as there is with buying.

Average monthly cost of renting a narrowboat in London: £650

The primary reason for people living on narrowboats in the capital is to avoid the rental costs of a flat or house and so it is fairly uncommon to rent a narrowboat. That being said it is not unheard of and doing this can be a good way to decide if life on the water is for you. Sharing a houseboat with the owner can help you learn more about boat maintenance and can result in incredibly cheap rent of as little as £300 per month, but the average rental is around double this. Please note that we would be unable to provide cover for a craft being rented out or for someone renting the craft. 

Cost of bills in a narrowboat versus a flat

Average monthly bills in a flat: £230

When considering either buying or renting a property it is important that your factor in the cost of bills every month. This needs to be added into your budget to ensure that you don't end up without electricity or water. Your average monthly bills will depend on the size and age of the property, the number of people living there, your provider and how much energy you typically use. You may also choose to pay for additional extras such as a TV licence which will also need to be factored in.

Average monthly bills on a narrowboat: £75

Living in a narrowboat can be cheaper in terms of bills due to the reduced energy consumption. However, there are a number of costs you need to consider; fuel. heating, cooking and toilet emptying. The boat's main electrical system will be run off batteries which are re-charged when the engine is running - as in a car. As with living in a house or flat, your bills will depend on your energy consumption and will likely be higher in winter. Again, any additional extras including a TV licence will need to be calculated into the monthly cost. Some permanent residential moorings can be in an expensive council tax band so it is important that you research this carefully.

Other costs of a London flat

There are a number of costs when it comes to living in a flat in London, whether you are buying or renting. For example, there are a number of fees you need to factor in, such as agency fees, a deposit, furniture if the property is unfurnished and the cost of a survey if you are buying. It is important that you research these costs and are aware of them before you start making offers. It is also important that if you are buying a property you understand the costs that may come down the line with repair works.

Other costs of a London narrowboat

Living in a narrowboat can incur a number of costs you may not have considered, the most important of which is the cost of mooring. This will depend on where you keep your boat and whether you have a permanent mooring or if you will be a continuous cruiser. Permanent moorings allow you to stay in the same place and often give you access to water and electricity, these can be expensive with the most popular spots in London costing thousands of pounds a year.

Whilst continuous cruising is a far cheaper option, often costing around £700 a year, it means you will have to move your vessel every two weeks. This can be time consuming and can also have a huge impact on the length of your morning commute. You also need to consider the maintenance costs of a boat, including having the hull blackened every few years (which costs around £500).

Overall comparison

Living on a narrowboat can be a more affordable way to live in London, particularly if you are looking to buy as the boats tend to be far cheaper than a flat or house. However, you must keep in mind that this is a lifestyle choice and requires a great deal of thought.

Narrowboat insurance from Towergate

If you do decide that the boating life is for you then it is important that you protect yourself and your belongings with the right insurance. We insure narrowboats on a market value basis, insuring the craft and not the location or the pontoon. Our cover can protect you for a range of incidents including, fire, theft and personal accident and it is also possible to add breakdown cover to give you peace of mind when you're on the water. For more information visit our dedicated narrowboat insurance page or call one of our specialist advisers on 0344 892 1987.


Boats and Outboards

This is Money

The Standard

Boat Sales UK

ABC Boat Sales


* All cost estimates based on listed sources, correct at time of writing (January 2018).

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