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Boat costs

Keeping a boat on the French canals

Owning a large boat on the inland waterways of France does not need to be an expensive affair.


A canal barge is usually iron hulled with a steel superstructure and very little woodwork outside, except for doors, hatches and handrails. When the boat is based on the canals, and a long way from the sea, maintenance of the exterior is minimal, with just some painting to be done each year.

The only major item could be a wooden wheelhouse found on some boats, and this has to be regularly varnished due to the effects of the sun and rain (boat owners will know what I am talking about!).

A barge needs to be hauled out every four years for cleaning and repainting of the hull with a tar-based paint. Four years may seem a long interval, but it is not necessary to do this more frequently.


Insurance companies in France generally base their rates on the value of the boat. For a barge with a value of 100,000 euros the premium would be about around 1% of the value of the boat for good coverage. This may be slightly more for boats valued at around 50,000 euros, and slightly less for those worth more than 150,000 euros.


Most barges and canal boats over 10 years old will not be expected to depreciate in value if maintained in good condition. If they are not maintained, they may depreciate rapidly, as with all boats.

Canal taxes

In France there is a system for paying to travel on the canals. This is payable for the period that you are travelling and not when you are moored. At present, for a 20m barge the rate is 203.60 euros for 30 days cruising (not necessarily consecutive days), or 626.50 euros for a full year’s unlimited travel. In Belgium there is a minimal tax of just a few euros, and in Holland no charge at all.

Mooring fees - docking charges

In general most moorings along the waterways are free of charge except for private marinas (like ours), where there is a rate of less than 10 euros for the night. Rates will, naturally, be higher in Paris! If you leave your boat in a marina, then rates vary, but should not exceed 2,000 euros for the year.

Sample costing

For a 20 metre barge costing 100,000 euros, bought for cash (i.e. no finance costs):
- Annual maintenance: 1,000 euros
- Mooring: 2,150 euros
- Depreciation: 0 euros
- Insurance: 1,000 euros
- Canal dues: 626 euros
Put aside for 4-yearly hauling: 800 euros

Total 5,576 euros

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