New boats are generally built to order, so you can insist on the features you want. There are three main types of boat used on the UK's inland waterways to consider: narrowboats and Dutch barges and river cruisers.
Most of these boats are built to order. Many builders are recognised for a particular type of boat: some build very traditionally, others may use unusual materials or craft techniques. There is a wide range of fit-outs, enough to suit every budget.
Almost all such boats are hand-crafted, and take many weeks to complete. You'll have a choice of layout, colour scheme, fixtures and fittings. By specifying every detail, you can get the boat of your dreams - but don't expect to get afloat as soon as you've made your decision!
You should inspect several builders' work before making your decision, perhaps by visiting a boat show. Discuss your requirements in detail with your chosen builder, and agree a delivery date and price. Be prepared to visit the builder at regular intervals during the work.
Some boat-builders are now offering 'standard models' that you can buy from stock. These are often good-value craft, without all the refinements of the most expensive bespoke boats, but sure to stand you in good stead for many years' boating. You can always add more luxurious features later. Boat shows such as the London Boat Show and the Crick Boat Show are good places to see examples of these craft.
River cruisers are usually made from 'GRP' fibreglass moulds, and available in standard configurations - just like a car. You could be afloat within days of buying your new boat.
You will often have a choice of engine type and accessories. Many builders offer a 'family' of cruisers in different sizes, so you can choose one that fits your budget and your family.
Not everyone wants to buy a ready-to-use boat. If you are a DIY enthusiast, you might prefer to buy a partly-built narrowboat which you complete and fit out yourself.
You can buy a narrowboat shell, comprising the steelwork and nothing more. It will generally be painted in primer, with bearers (supports) fitted for the chosen engine. The stern tube, propeller and window openings will be in place. 'Sailaway' boats are similar, but with the engine already fitted.
Last date edited: 7 July 2015