The charity making life better by water

Two men checking boat licences

Licence your boat

Licence your boat

From narrowboats to barges, canoes to large river cruisers, you need to licence your boat if you want to keep and use it on our canals and rivers.

What types of boat need a licence?

All types and size of boat with or without a motor need a licence. Motorised boats include river boats, canal boats and houseboats.

All portable, unpowered craft (those without motors) such as canoes, kayaks, dinghies, rowing boats, paddleboards and even light inflatable craft, also require licensing. Further information on unpowered craft can be found in our paddle sports section.

Before you purchase a licence

Please note that the licences we offer are only valid for the Canal & River Trust network, with the exception of the gold licence.

Before you purchase anything, check whether you'll be boating along any of our 96 canals and navigable rivers through our interactive map.

Two adults steer a narrowboat on a sunny day

What type of licence do I need?

First of all, you need to decide whether you need a business or private licence.

If you use your boat for any kind of business, such as a floating café or shop, rent it out for people to live on, or use it as a holiday boat, you'll need a business licence.

If the boat is purely for your own private use there are three choices for a private boat licence.

Long term licences

You can buy your long-term licence at any time of the year. They start on the first day of the month and last for either three months, six months or 12 months.

Please be aware that you can only buy a three-month licence if you have a home mooring.

Short term visitor licences

You can buy a short term licence at any point of the year. They're valid for one week or one month.

Our 30-day explorers visitor licence gives you up to 30 days use, which you can use at any time within 12 months of issue. The days do not need to be consecutive.

Gold licences

If you regularly use both our waterways and those owned by the Environment Agency (EA), you can save money on your boat licence by having a combined gold licence.

All gold licences run from 1 January and expire on 31 December.

If you have not previously held a gold licence, you may be eligible for a part year licence.

Please read our terms & conditions for further information regarding all of our private licence options.

Boating elsewhere?

Different navigation authorities have different licences and fees. If you are not boating on our network, you will need to contact the relevant authority:

Having trouble with our online system? Our short videos provide a step by step guide on how to purchase a licence.

Last Edited: 07 September 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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