Buying a canal boat – questions to ask.

Date posted: 26 December 2014

Have you ever thought about buying a boat? Read on because here is your comprehensive check list to buying a canal boat.

What to look for when buying a canal boat

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Recently this very scenario cropped up when some friends of ours talked about buying a canal boat. Sean and I have owned boats for several years and knew most of what are friends should be looking out for, and what the pertinent questions that they should be asking were. But this was for yachts not canal boats, so we investigated and learnt a great deal in the process. Here is the result of enquiries; we hope you find this list helpful.

  1. Does your boat have a boat warranty?
  2. Boats under 4 years of age require a certificate of conformity to the Recreational Craft Directive, usually class D (inland waters), this certificate confirms the standard of the build.
  3. As to see the BSC (Boat Safety Certificate).
  4. Make sure before you part with any hard earnt cash that you have an independent survey (don’t allow the vendors to suggest a surveyor), these will cost between £400 and £700 depending on the size and type of canal boat.
  5. Consider having the boat lifted out for a full hull inspection, the price will vary again from £150 to £450, depending on the facilities offered at the yard, where you plan to have her lifted.
  6. Check the maintenance log for the engine, when was she last serviced?
  7. Ask to see the maintenance log for the engine, and any receipts they might have.
  8. Consider the engine hours, and the type of engine, check with an engineer to see if and when the engine might need replacing.
  9. Whilst she is lifted out, check the propeller and shaft for signs of wear and damage.
  10. Check the coupling and shaft diameter, to make sure these are correct.
  11. You need to consider her structure, what is the original steal thickness of her hull,

a)      Base 5 -10mm?

b)      Hull 5-6mm?

c)       Cabin 4-5mm?

12. What is her hull number?

13. What material is the boat made from, ask particularly about, hull, cabin and sides, they may not all be from the same fabric. I have realised that materials used are :

Fibre glass

Marine plywood

Plywood (serious no no here!)

Ash faced ply

Oak faced ply


14. Have anodes been fitted if so when, how many and what weight, the usual size is 2.5kg and there should be 3-4 of these.

15. When was the last hull blacking?

16. What are the internal fittings made of  – brass?

17. When were the water  and fuel tanks replaced?

18. What is the capacity of the tanks for fuel and water ( fuel about 250 litres and water anywhere from 400 litres up is advisable) The size of your tanks will dictate the distances you can travel between marinas and boat yards.

19. What is your gas type – propane?

20.Check on the number of gas cylinders (2-4) and the size (13kg), give them a shake before buying them, see how much is left, you don’t want to buy a boat with two empty cylinders.

21. Check the pipework leading from the gas bottles to the heating/cooker, is it worn anywhere.

22. Do they have a gas certificate?

23. Is the toilet a chemical potti or fully plumbed in.

24. How old is the holding tank for the toilet, and what is its capacity?

25. How many batteries does the boat have? 1 for the engine and up to 6 for domestic use.

26. Check the age of the batteries.

27. The DC voltage should be 12V.

28. Does the boat have solar panels.

29. What mooring equipment is being sold with the boat, for example: Boat hook, poles, life buoy, ropes and fenders.

30. Is there a pram hood cover?

31. Is there any cruising equipment on board?

32. Where are the electric controls; are they easily accessible?

33. What is her heating system? Does she have a solid fuel stove, back boiler or central heating?

34. How is she fitted out internally, is the floor laminate or solid wood?

35. How is the hot water generated, by a calorifier with a 240v immersion element?

36. Consider the size of this tank, how quickly does the water heat up.

37. Does your boat have an electric shoreline.

This list is pretty comprehensive, but if you are seriously considering buying a canal boat, I would suggest you print this list off as a chart and visit a number of boats and tick the boxes on each boat off. That way you will have a comparable list, from which to start bargaining on the price!

If you found this information helpful or have other matters you feel that potential buyers should consider please add the comment to the bottom of the page and I will add it to the list.

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