Boat Loans and Financing

Whether you live by the ocean, lake or bay, a boat can transform those hot summer days into an aquatic adventure that the whole family can enjoy. However, boats are not a cheap investment, and many owners look to boat loans to foot the bill.

Whether you choose a personal loan or a special boat loan, financing can be a great way to make the boat of your dreams a reality. Our SimpleScore methodology is the easy way to identify which loan will work best for you, using industry rankings, expert analysis and customer reviews to provide 2020’s best lenders for a boat loan.

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Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.

The 6 best boat loans of 2020

Boat loans at a glance

Lender Loan Amount APR Terms
USAA $5,000–$35,000 Starting at 5.75% 12–120 months
U.S. Bank $5,000–$150,000 Starting at 5.24% 12 months–20 years
LightStream $5,000–$100,000 4.79%–11.49% 24–84 months
Good Sam $10,000–$2M+ 4.49%–8.39% 48–240 months
Southeast Financial $20,000–$4M Starting at 4.49% Up to 15 years
Wells Fargo $3,000–$100,000 5.99%–24.49% 12–120 months

Rates accurate as of August 1, 2020

USAA - Best for Military Members

USAA offers all different kinds of boat loans, but you have to be a member to enjoy the benefits.

APR:
Starting at 5.75%
Terms:
12–120 months
Loan amount:
$5K–$35K
SimpleScore
3.75 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
USAA - Best for Military Members
3.75
  • Rates
    N/A
  • Loan Size
    3
  • Terms
    3
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    4
USAA’s military member benefits extend to your new boat, too, giving you up to $35,000 and 10 years to pay it back. Rates begin around 6%, a modest start to a modest loan, but USAA fails to provide the upfront transparency that you see with other lenders.
Full review

Our Two Cents — USAA won’t buy you a yacht, but it will give you up to $35,000 toward your new pleasure cruise.

Read our full USAA review.

U.S. Bank - Best Same-Day Decision

With same-day approvals, U.S Bank gets things moving faster than other lenders with drawn-out approvals.

APR:
Starting at 5.24%
Terms:
12 months–20 years
Loan amount:
$5K–$150K
SimpleScore
3.75 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
U.S. Bank - Best Same-Day Decision
3.75
  • Rates
    N/A
  • Loan Size
    3
  • Terms
    5
  • Support
    4
  • Fees
    3
Even though you can borrow up to $150,000, there’s no down payment needed, so you can borrow the full amount of the purchase and start boating that much sooner. If you’re a U.S. Bank customer, you can save even more with an extra discount of 0.50% off your APR. Just beware of prepayment penalties — you could lose an extra 1% off your loan if you close your account within one year.
Full review

Our Two Cents — U.S. Bank can get you on the water that much faster with no down payment needed and same-day decisions.


Read our full U.S. Bank review.

Lightstream - Best No-Collateral Loan

An easy, online application is made even better with next-day funding.

APR:
4.79%–11.49%
Terms:
24–84 months
Loan amount:
$5K–$100K
SimpleScore
4.2 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Lightstream - Best No-Collateral Loan
4.2
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    3
  • Terms
    3
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
LightStream delivers fixed-rate loans that can get you funding within 24 hours. While the rates and terms are about average, you can save a ton of money from the lack of fees and prepayment penalties. Auto-payments will give you an extra 0.50% off the cost of your loan, so you can save even more.
Full review

Our Two Cents — We love LightStream for its great transparency, its full rates and terms clearly outlined on the site with extra savings for autopay.


Read our full LightStream review.

Good Sam - Best for Easy-Reference Rates

Good Sam is a marine-specific lender specializing in boat loans with higher limits and more extended repayment periods.

APR:
4.49% – 8.39%
Terms:
48–240 months
Loan amount:
24 to 84 months
SimpleScore
4.2 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Good Sam - Best for Easy-Reference Rates
4.2
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Terms
    5
  • Support
    3
  • Fees
    3
When you’re buying a boat model from 2000 or newer, Good Sam can offer you some seriously impressive funding for all of your maritime dreams. It is very straightforward about its loans, offering clear rates and terms for everything from fishing boats to luxury yachts. Sign up for Rate Watch, and Good Sam will contact you when rates fall in line with your budget.
Full review

Our Two Cents — Good Sam stands ready for the big spender with specialized loans of up to $4 million for all of your luxury needs.


Read our full Uncle Sam review.

Southeast Financial - Best for Deferred Payments

This credit union believes in the finer things in life, offering boat loans of up to $4 million and more.

APR:
Starting at 4.49%
Terms:
Up to 15 years
Loan amount
$20K–$4M
SimpleScore
4.75 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Southeast Financial - Best for Deferred Payments
4.75
  • Rates
    N/A
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Terms
    5
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    4
Southeast Financial is one of the best boat lenders in 2020, offering loans of all sizes with generous repayment options. In addition to offering some of the largest loans around, Southeast Financial also has the lowest rates on our list. This means that while you stand to save money on your loan, you could also be able to afford a better boat than you would with another lender.
Full review

Our Two Cents — Summon your patience, because thanks to COVID-19, same-day approvals are temporarily suspended.

Wells Fargo - Best for Existing Customers

Wells Fargo doesn’t specialize in boat-specific loans, but its personal loan will do the trick instead.

APR:
5.99% – 24.49%
Terms:
12–120 months
Loan amount:
$3K–$100K
SimpleScore
3.8 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Wells Fargo - Best for Existing Customers
3.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Wells Fargo doesn’t waste its time differentiating between loans. Instead, you can simply use a personal loan to support your new boat purchase. While you won’t see the larger loans that are available from other lenders, there is still plenty of financing available to buy something the whole family can enjoy.
Full review

Our Two Cents — Wells Fargo is a stable, reliable lender that will give you the funds you need to purchase your new boat, as long as you keep your dreams reasonable.

Read our full Wells Fargo review.

What is a boat loan?

A boat loan is similar to other kinds of loans because it is money that you borrow and then repay in regular monthly intervals. The exact terms of your loan will vary from lender to lender, but most lenders will give you up to 10 or 15 years to make repayment in full. Your loan requirements will depend on the kind of loan that you need and whether you will be using a secured or unsecured loan. Your credit score and history will also determine your APR and repayment terms.

How boat loans work

When you want to take out a loan for a new or used boat, bank financing is not the only option you have. You could also benefit from working with an online lender, credit union or marine lending specialist, all financial specialists who can help you pay for your new purchase.

There is also the choice of a secured loan versus an unsecured loan. Both are popular ways of financing a new boat, but they are completely different. A secured boat loan uses your new boat as collateral on the loan. This means that if you fail to repay your loan, the lender can take your boat as payment. If you choose an unsecured loan, you won’t have to bargain with your boat, but you will likely face higher rates from the lack of collateral and may need a better credit score to qualify.

Large loan amounts

Buying a boat is significantly different than buying a car. It is not an everyday purchase but a large and very expensive investment that requires some pretty serious funds upfront. Boats don’t hold their value as well as other types of property, like your home, so it is important to know that you are not likely to get your money back if you decide to sell later.

You will also face higher monthly payments than you would with other kinds of purchases. Boat loans are no small investment, and interest and fees will only make the payments increase that much further. Before you commit to a new boat loan that can last ten or twenty years, you should run the math to see what you can afford and what will work for you long-term.

Refinancing

The arrival of COVID-19 brought an entirely new demand to the U.S., driving a thriving new demand for all things marine-related with the rest of the world shut down. The lower interest rates present an incredible opportunity for stable boatowners to refinance their boat loan so they can become debt-free that much sooner. Boat refinancing has always been a popular solution for those who want to leverage low market rates. By refinancing your boat loan at a lower interest rate, you can save yourself tons of money that will help you eliminate your financial obligation sooner rather than later.

Alternatives

Boats are very expensive purchases, which is why many borrowers opt for secured and unsecured loans. If you don’t want to take out a loan or cannot be approved for one, there are still other ways to make your boating dreams a reality.

There are many popular boating clubs and groups, such as Freedom Boat Club, that act as a timeshare system for boats. You buy in to own a boat with other people and share the use of the boat, much like a condo timeshare for vacation. Finally, you can always pay cash. While it may take some time to gather the funds necessary, you will also have the ability to buy your boat outright and can pocket the cash you otherwise would have paid in interest.

How to choose the best boat loan for you

  1. Calculate what you can afford. Just because you want a certain boat doesn’t mean that you can actually afford it. Before you begin shopping for a boat loan — or even a boat, for that matter — you should have a solid understanding of what you can afford. Take the time to calculate your monthly expenses so you know how much disposable income you can afford to put toward your boat.
  2. Consider additional expenses. Once you buy your boat, there will be even more expenses waiting. You will need to register and title your boat maintenance and repairs to keep things running the right way. There is also the cost of insurance, as well as your trailer and all of the insurance. Consider all of these expenses when calculating your monthly budget.
  3. Shop carefully. While you don’t want to commit to the very first loan you receive, you do want to take the time to thoroughly explore your options. There are many different types of loan structures and options, with some benefitting you more than others, depending on your exact situation.
  4. Read the fine print. While APR is an important factor of any loan, there are other things you should pay attention to before you choose a loan. If it’s an expensive boat loan, you are likely to want more time to pay off your loan. This is where it becomes critical to review loan terms, because these can vary significantly from lender to lender. It is also important to pay attention to fees and penalties that can eat into your loan and cost you far more than you actually received.

Boat loan FAQs

Should I make a down payment for a boat loan?

If you can afford it, it is always a good idea to make a down payment on a boat loan. You are likely to pay far less in interest and receive more favorable terms with a smaller loan, and a down payment can help the lender feel more secure in approving your loan.

Is a boat loan worth it?

Boats bring endless entertainment value, but not all boats will hold their resale value as well as others. As a boat owner, you will be responsible for the regular repair and maintenance, in addition to your ongoing loan payments, so you should choose a boat that is both affordable and reasonable for your means.

Where can I shop for boats?

Boat Trader, Boats.com, and Bass Pro are all popular places to purchase a new boat, but there are many other places to shop for boats. If you know what kind of boat you want, you can search for local dealers in your area for that manufacturer.

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

There are many lenders who offer boat financing today, either as specialized boat loans or simply in the form of personal loans. The kind of boat that you choose will determine what kind of loan that you need, because as you can see here, loan terms can vary wildly, and not all lenders may offer the funds that you need. The Simple Dollar’s best boat loans for 2020 offer extensive, flexible and creative ways to afford the shiny, new boat that you have always wanted.

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Methodology

The SimpleScore is our proprietary scoring metric to compare products and services at The Simple Dollar in a transparent, evidence-based way. Our editorial team identifies five quantifiable aspects to compare for every brand, determines the rating criteria for each aspect score, then averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore. For best boat loans, we compared interest rates, loan amounts, customer satisfaction, fees and customer support. Our ratings are meant to be a directional tool to help you in the process of choosing a boat loan provider. Be sure to continue your research and shop around for the best boat loan that fits your specific needs.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the boat loans we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Advertiser Disclosure
Lena Borrelli
Lena Borrelli
Contributing Writer

Lena Borrelli is a Tampa-based freelance writer who has worked with leading industry titans, such as Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and Simon Corporation. Her work has most recently been published on sites like TIME, ADT, Fiscal Tiger, Bankrate and Home Advisor, as well as many other websites and blogs around the world.

Reviewed by

  • Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in insurance, personal finance, and loans. Previously, she wrote and edited for Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, Ballantyne Magazine, Thread Magazine, The Post, ACRN, The New Political, Columbus Alive and the Institute for International Journalism.