A Basic Guide to Buying the Perfect River Boat

If you have made the brilliant decision to buy a boat, then you will now want to do as much research as you can!

Boat ownership can be incredibly fun, and you will soon be taking your family and friends on adventures. There are several different types of boat, and the type that you choose to purchase will depend on your reasons for wanting one and on your specific requirements.

Why Buy a Boat?

Many people buy boats so that they can enjoy sailing at sea or river cruising in their spare time. Other people purchase boats as a unique holiday home, whereas other people opt to live on their boat all the time.

When considering which boat is going to be the best fit for you, you will want to spend some time deciding how you are going to use your new vessel. For example, if you are only going to use it for the occasional river adventure, then looking at river boats for sale is going to be a good idea. Whereas, if you plan to live on your boat all the time, then you might want to consider a bigger boat and to learn more about the pros and cons of living aboard.

What is a River Boat?

A river boat is a water vessel that is exclusively used to travel through rivers. These types of boat have had many different purposes throughout history, such as the transport of cargo and for people to travel from one place to another.

Modern day river boats are generally used for transport, for pleasure, for vacations, or as liveaboards. 

Boats that are designed for use on a river will vary in size and will generally have a shallow draft and a flat bottom. Boats that are primarily for recreational use will likely be at the smaller end of the scale, whereas those used for transport and for residing in will tend to be bigger.

Cabin Cruisers

Cabin cruisers are a popular type of river boat. These vessels can be found in a wide range of different sizes and styles. They are powered by a motor engine and will feature a galley as well as accommodation for sleeping.

If you want to use your boat to travel at a relatively fast speed, while also having space to enjoy yourself inside the vessel, then a cabin cruiser can be a good choice for you.


Narrowboats are typically made of steel and are all 6 feet 10 inches wide. These are perfect boats for exploring rivers and canals due to their size and ease of use. Narrowboats can be used in relatively shallow water that is not suitable for other types of river boat.

The design of these boats originated in the UK. They were created to navigate the British canal system, which is often narrow and shallow. It is not common to see these boats outside of the UK, although they have been adopted for use in some parts of the EU.

In the US, it is more likely that wider canal boats will be available for river cruising.

Canal Boats

Modern canal boats are available in many different sizes and designs. Although they take their inspiration from narrowboats, canal boats are not restricted in design to certain measurements. They can therefore be much longer and wider than typical narrowboats.

A canal boat may also sometimes be referred to as a barge, although this term is usually reserved for boats of a commercial nature, such as those carrying freight. For personal and recreational use, the term canal boat is much more common.

Choosing Your Boat

Now that you know a little bit about the different types of river boats that you can choose from, the next step is to decide which type you might like to buy.

If this is your first boat, then a cabin cruiser may be a sensible choice. This will allow you to get to grips with boat life before developing your interest into other models.

If it is your intention to live on the boat, then investigating the various narrowboat and canal boat options may be preferable. This is primarily to do with the layout of the boats and how much space you will have inside. If your vessel is only going to be for occasional use, then the size of the boat itself may be of much less importance to you.

Setting a Budget

You will have to decide upon a budget before you set out to browse boats for sale.

The cost of boats varies widely, and it will save you time to only look within the budget that you can comfortably afford. It will be possible to find a boat to suit every budget, although you should be prepared to not get exactly what you want if you are aiming for the lower end of the scale.

Inspect Before You Buy

Having an inspection done on your boat before you buy it is always a good idea. This will give you the peace of mind that your new vessel is in good working condition and that there are no huge problems with it.

If the inspection does reveal that there are some problems, then you can decide whether you are willing to put the work in before you go ahead with the sale.

Your New Boat

Once you have purchased the perfect boat, then you can look ahead to many years of fun on the rivers.

You might find that boating evolves into a very serious hobby for you and that you eventually cannot remember what life was like without your boat!