Best Boat Loans for 2023

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Editor's Take

LightStream is part of SunTrust Bank and offers unsecured loans designed specifically for financing boat purchases. You’ll need good credit to qualify and can borrow up to $100,000. Loan terms range between two and seven years and interest rates tend to range between 4.29% up to 10.84% when you sign up for AutoPay.

Once approved, you have the flexibility to choose your funding date, which can be as fast as the same day. LightStream also advertises it will beat any other qualifying rate.

Key Features

  • Good credit required
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to $100,000
  • No collateral required


  • 0.05% rate deduction with AutoPay
  • Fixed rate
  • No prepayment penalty

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Essex Credit

Essex Credit

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Editor's Take

Essex Credit offers competitive interest rates on loans financing a range of boats, from houseboats to pontoon boats and everything in between. You can apply online to get a rate quote and browse monthly payment amounts using their boat loan calculator.

Key Features

  • Financing for boats 1999 and newer
  • Loan amount: $10,000 to $5,000,000
  • Loan term: 4 to 20 years


  • Available in all 50 states and Puerto Rico
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 690
  • No pre-approvals offered

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Editor's Take

BoatUS offers financing options for a range of water vehicles, including powerboats, sailboats, multi hull boats, and pontoon boats. You can borrow anywhere between $15,000 and $350,000 with BoatUS, and sometimes even more. The required down payment depends on things like the age of the boat and the loan amount.

Key Features

  • Financing for boats 1990 and newer
  • Loan amount: $15,000 to $350,000+
  • Loan term: up to 20 years


  • Apply online
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Decision within 2-4 business days

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How to Finance Your Boat

Before you hit the dealership to find your dream boat, consider how you’re going to pay for this major purchase. While some companies may offer dealer financing, they won’t necessarily give you the best rate. Exploring your options in advance puts you in a better place to negotiate and also ensures you’re not paying any more than you need to. It’s always better to have more options than none; plus, we’ll tell you how to keep your credit score in tact while comparing your boat financing options.

Boat Loan

The most obvious option to finance your boat is with a boat loan. Specialized lenders use this product to help borrowers fund their boat purchase. The boat is used as the collateral for the loan. So while it’s not entirely unsecured, you’re not having to put up any existing assets as the collateral. It’s very similar to the way a car loan works. If you default on the loan, the lender would repossess the boat in order to take care of the amount owed on the loan.

Like any other loan, your interest rate depends on your credit score. If you have lower credit, you’ll receive higher interest rates, making your monthly payments higher. Your required down payment may also fluctuate depending on the lender and your credit. When taking out a boat loan, your down payment could range anywhere between 10% and 25% of the purchase amount.

That means if your boat costs $50,000, you’ll need anywhere between $5,000 and $12,500 as your down payment. This is definitely an important detail to figure out with a lender before you get too far down the application path.

Personal Loan

If you have good credit, you could apply for an unsecured personal loan to finance your boat. Also known as a signature loan, you don’t need any collateral to qualify for the loan. Even your boat can’t be taken away if you end up defaulting on the loan. Of course, you’ll face other consequences like damaged credit and an account in collections, but your personal property will be safe.

Using an unsecured personal loan to finance your boat may come with higher interest rates, but lowers your personal risk.

Personal loans for boats can be found with online lenders as well as banks or credit unions. Another online option is through peer-to-peer lending. The down side is that even though you get a more risk-free loan, you’ll probably have to pay a higher interest rate.  

Home Equity Loan

Another option to finance your boat is for homeowners who have a large amount of equity in their property. You can tap into this money a couple of different ways. The first way is through a home equity loan. This is essentially a second mortgage and lets you borrow one lump sum. You make monthly payments over a certain period of time, often between 5 and 15 years.

The other option is to get a home equity line of credit. You can choose between getting a lump sum or drawing on your account as you need cash. To finance a boat, you could opt for the lump sum if you choose. You only accumulate interest on the amount you borrow and again repay the borrowed funds over a set period.

There is a bit more red tape with these home equity products because you need to get an appraisal to confirm your home’s value. You also need to pay closing costs with a home equity loan. On the plus side, you may be able use your loan payments as a tax deduction. You can also get lower interest rates with a home loan than with other unsecured loans.

The reason for this, of course, is that your home is the collateral for these loans. So while you certainly can use a home equity loan to finance your boat purchase, know that if you can’t keep up with the loan or HELOC payments, you could lose your home.

How to Qualify for a Boat Loan

No matter what route you ultimately choose to finance your boat, you definitely want to shop around for multiple offers first. You don’t need to worry about multiple inquiries hurting your credit score as long as you complete your loan comparisons within a few weeks.

To make sure you’re as prepared as possible, make sure you understand your current credit score. This has a huge impact on your interest rate, which affects your monthly boat payments. Your credit score is influenced by the following factors:

  • Payment history
  • Amounts owed
  • Credit mix
  • Hard inquiries
  • Negative information

Check to make sure everything on your credit score is accurate so you don’t end up paying more than you need to.

Also think about how much you can comfortably spend each month on your boat payment. Your lender will look at your debt-to-income ratio to determine how much of a loan you’ll be approved for. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily should take out a loan of that size. You’re the one paying your bills each month, so it’s important to make sure you have the ability to meet all of your current financial obligations, as well as any emergencies that may pop up. That’s how you should really figure out your budget for your boat.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you get a boat loan for?

Boats retain their value more so than cars do, so you can expect a longer loan term. The average length is about 10 years, which helps to spread out monthly payments. In some instances, you may even be able to get a boat loan as long as 30 years, though this is less common.

How much of a down payment do you need?

If you finance through a dealer, you may be able to qualify for a special on a zero down payment boat. This upfront savings, however, is usually compensated for with higher interest rates. For typical boat loans, you can expect to pay between 10% and 25% of the purchase price as your down payment.

What credit score do you need?

Credit score requirements vary by lender. If you don’t have good credit, you may have to shop around more to find a boat lender willing to work with you. Just make sure your monthly payments are still affordable with potentially higher interest rates.

How long does it take to get approved for a boat loan?

With an online boat loan, you could get approved within hours. Other lenders may take a day or two to process your application. When using a home equity loan or HELOC to finance your boat, it could take a month or more to close on the loan.

Find a lender for your boat loan today!

Ready to hit the water? Apply for a boat loan today with one of these top rated lenders.

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with our top pick LightStream

by Lauren Ward

Personal Finance Writer

Lauren Ward is a personal finance writer with nearly ten years of experience covering topics like loans, credit, and real estate. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three children.

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