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Best boat loans of June 2023

Sep 28, 2023


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Personal loans

Best overall boat loan

Est. APR
* with AutoPay
Loan amount
$5k– $100k
Term: 2-7 yrs
Min credit score
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Personal loans

Best for buying a sailboat

Est. APR
with AutoPay
Loan amount
$1k– $50k
Term: 2-7 yrs
Min credit score
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Personal loans

Best for buying a used boat

Est. APR
Loan amount
$600– $50k
Term: 1-5 yrs
Min credit score
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Personal loans


Est. APR
Loan amount
$2k– $50k
Term: 2-5 yrs
Min credit score
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Check rate with Bankrate

Personal loans

Best for buying a luxury boat

Est. APR
with AutoPay
Loan amount
$5k– $100k
Term: 2-7 yrs
Min credit score

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How to get a boat loan in 3 easy steps

1. Answer a few questions

Take a few minutes to answer questions about yourself and the loan that you need, and we can match you with potential lenders. This service is free and will not affect your credit score. 

Make sure you have good credit, look into a co-signer or find a lender that works with bad credit borrowers.
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2. Compare your offers

Get prequalified and compare loan product offers based on important factors like APR, loan amount and minimum monthly payments. 

Take your time and check with multiple lenders to ensure you get the best deal possible.
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3. Lock in your rate

Choose a lender and visit its website to complete the application process. If you’re approved, you could get funding within a few weeks.

Make sure you have financial documents regarding existing loans, income verification, etc.

What is a boat loan?

A boat loan is similar to an auto loan. In this case, a boat loan gives you the money to purchase a boat. This can be anywhere from a small boat to a more luxury craft, depending on your financial situation and desires. 

Some lenders offer loans specifically for boats, but most will offer personal loans that can be used to finance boats and related costs. Looking for an online boat loan from a personal loan lender can give you more options to find the least expensive option for you. 

Most lenders will ask the borrower to fill out a loan application, which can be fairly thorough. Lenders will also likely ask for information like tax returns and proof of assets. It's likely that you'll need to provide a detailed account of your personal finances during the application process.

The application process is typically fast and approval is largely based on your credit score and income. Though banks typically require 10 percent to 20 percent down for the purchase of a boat, you may be able to finance 100 percent of the cost.

5 factors to look for when choosing the best boat loan lender

What makes a lender 'best' for one borrower will be different for another. However, you can sift through the options by considering these 5 factors.

  1. Usage requirements. Some lenders restrict what you can use the loan on. Read the terms and conditions thoroughly to make sure the lender allows you to use the loan for your intended boat-related expenses. 
  2. Used boat restrictions. Some lenders or institutions may be hesitant when it comes to financing an older, pre-owned boat because some may interpret this as a potential risk factor. If you're financing an older boat, don't be surprised if your lender requires you to conduct a full inspection of the vessel to ensure it's in good condition before getting approved. 
  3. Member benefits. While you may be tempted to turn to a marina-specific lender for financing your boat, banks, lenders and credit unions often offer benefits to pre-existing members or borrowers. Some potential perks include interest rate autopay discounts, extended grace periods or payment relief options that aren't offered by online lenders. Plus, the application process will likely be more simple than with another institution because your information will already be in the system.  
  4. Rates and terms. The key to finding the best loan for you is to know the interest rates you could qualify for before applying. Your credit score largely determines the APR you'll be offered and many lenders offer prequalification, which allows you to check your predicted rate before applying. Prequalify for at least two lenders to get an idea of what a competitive interest rate could look like for you. Also consider the repayment terms from each lender and what your payment needs are to make sure the loan won't hurt your finances down the road.
  5. Fees. Carefully read the terms and conditions to see what fees each lender you're considering charges. Some waive every fee while others charge application, prepayment and origination fees, to name a few. These fees can add up quickly and significantly detract from the overall value of the loan, so make sure to search every fee charged and consider how it could impact your balance.

Compare boat loan rates in September 2023

LightStream Overall 7.99%-25.49% with Autopay $5,000-$100,000 2-7 years 695
Upgrade Buying a sailboat 8.49%-35.99% $1,000-$50,000 2-7 years 600
PenFed Buying a used boat 7.74%-17.99% $600-$50,000 Up to 5 years 700
SoFi Buying a luxury boat 8.99%-25.81% $5,000-$100,000 2-7 years 680
Prosper Buying a deck boat 6.99%-35.99% $2,000-$50,000 2-5 years 640

A closer look at our top boat loans 

Here's a deep-dive into each lender for boat loans, why it's the best in each category and specifically who would benefit most from borrowing a boat loan from the company.

LightStream: Best overall boat loan

Overview: Specifically geared toward borrowers with good to excellent credit, LightStream offers personal loans for nearly every legal purpose. The company is known for its stellar customer service, including its $100 Loan Experience Guarantee program. 

Upgrade: Best for buying a sailboat 

Overview: Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Upgrade is a fintech company that lends credit to consumers through its online portal. Geared toward borrowers with good credit, the company also offers discounts, like autopay rate discounts, to eligible borrowers. 

PenFed: Best for buying a used boat 

Overview: PenFed, a national credit union, is well known for its customer service, low rates and member benefits. While borrowers need to be a member to qualify, the criteria is generally easy to meet and the application process is quick and efficient.

SoFi: Best for buying a luxury boat 

Overview: SoFi offers low rates, flexible repayment options and low fees for the most creditworthy borrowers. It also houses a plethora of valuable financial resources, guides and tools.

Prosper: Best for buying a deck boat 

Overview: Prosper is a peer-to-peer lender that offers some of the most competitive rates on the market, starting at 6.99 percent and gears its loans toward borrowers in good credit health.

How we choose our best lenders

To select the best personal loans, Bankrate’s team of experts evaluated over 30 lenders. Each lender was ranked using a meticulous 20-point system, focusing on four main categories:

  • Checkmark
    The interest rates, penalties and fees are measured in this section of the score. Lower rates and fees and fewer potential penalties result in a higher score. We also give bonus points to lenders offering rate discounts, grace periods and that allow borrowers to change their due date. 
  • Checkmark
    Minimum loan amounts, number of repayment terms, eligibility requirements, ability to apply using a co-borrower or co-signer and loan turnaround time are considered in this category.
  • Checkmark
    Customer experience
    This category covers customer service hours, if online applications are available, online account access and mobile apps.
  • Checkmark
    For this factor, we consider how well information is presented to the borrower on the lender’s website. This includes listing credit requirements, rates and fees, in addition to offering prequalification.
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years in business
Credit Card Search
lenders reviewed
loan features weighed
data points collected

How boat loans work

Banks and other lenders have tailored their products to fit nearly every budget and lifestyle. However, there are two main categories that boat loans usually fall into: secured and unsecured.

Both of these options have pros and cons, but the loans and rates available to you will depend on the lending institution and your financial history. It’s important to understand the difference between the two types of loans before signing up for any financing.

Secured boat loans

A secured loan is geared toward lower-credit borrowers and is backed by collateral (property, a vehicle or a value item that's used to recoup the loan value if the loan payments aren't made). In the case of a secured boat loan, the boat itself could serve as collateral. 

Due to the collateral provided by the borrower, secured loans usually feature lower interest rates than unsecured loans and are accessible to borrowers with a low score or thin credit history. Secured loans are also accessible to borrowers who may not have the best credit history, as lenders aren't as stringent with secured loan requirements. 

Unsecured boat loans

An unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral, and generally comes with higher interest rates and more restrictions than secured loans. 

Unsecured personal loans are a common boat financing option, as they generally come with better rates and have benefits, like repayment flexibility.

Where to get a boat loan

While there are multiple companies that offer boat loans, your loan details and offer will differ based on the lender or institution's qualifications. Make it a priority to research every one of the options listed below to make sure you're getting the best loan with the most competitive rate for you.

  • Through an online personal loan lender
  • Your credit union (or one in your area if you qualify for membership) 
  • A traditional bank, whether it be online or in-person at a brick-and-mortar location
  • Through a marine-specific financing company or dealer

Where to get a boat loan

Boat loans are available for both new and used boats; generally the biggest difference between the two is in how much you'll need to borrow and where you get the loan from. If you buy a new boat, you may be able to get financing from the dealer or through a marine specialist. Used boats, such as those you buy from an individual, may not have dealer financing as an option, which would cost you more up front but less in the long-term. 

Like most vehicles, the newest, biggest or most high-tech models end up costing the most. As a rule of thumb, assess the likelihood of a future upgrade to determine whether a loan for a new boat is worth it. If you have your eye on an upcoming model or an upgraded version of your current boat, consider looking at pre-owned boats so as not to put yourself in large amounts of debt unnecessarily.

New vs. used boat loans

Aside from the make and model, the biggest difference between new and used boats is how much you will need to borrow. Generally, new boats are going to cost more, so you will need to borrow more money or put down a larger amount up-front. The exception to that is if you are deliberately choosing a used boat that costs more than the price of a new boat because of the size or features.

The other difference may be in where you can get a loan. If you buy a new boat, you may be able to get financing from the dealer. Used boats, such as those you buy from an individual, may not have dealer financing as an option. However, online lenders will still be available to help fill in any funding gaps.

Can I lease a boat?

If you're itching to get on the water but don't live nearby or you foresee the boat being docked for most of the year, renting is a cost-effective and practical way to avoid the cost and routine maintenance of boat ownership. While in the long run renting is much more affordable, it can still require a large chunk of change. 

Renting a non-luxury vessel can cost upwards of $200 per day, but it can cost as high as $50,000 per day if you rent a superyacht. When deciding whether renting is a good option for you, consider both the advantages and potential downsides


  • Try out different boat types
  • Use the boat as much or as little as you'd like 
  • No upkeep or maintenance


  • It's more expensive over time
  • The boat may not be in perfect condition
  • You have less freedom

How to compare boat loan lenders

Comparing lenders is the most important step in the process of finding the best loan for your credit situation. Here are three steps to take before applying to ensure you're not putting your finances at risk in the long-term: 

  1. Prequalify for as many lenders as possible to see your predicted eligibility odds and potential rates without impacting your credit. 

  2. Compare the predicted offers to find the lender that offers the most competitive rates and terms. 

  3. Research the discounts and member benefits of the remaining lenders to find the one that best meets all of your financial needs.

Pros and cons of getting a boat loan


  • Checkmark

    Lower down payments: Depending on the institution, the down payment you're required to make could be less than what you'd have to pay with other financing methods.

  • Checkmark

    Long repayment terms: Since the loans are larger, the average repayment term for a boat loan falls between 15 and 20 years.


  • Potentially high fees: Origination and administrative fees have the potential to cut into a large portion of your loan amount, so make sure you're aware of any and all fees before signing on the dotted line.

  • Debt-to-income impact: Boats are a large investment, no matter the cost. Taking out a larger loan could boost your debt-to-income ratio significantly, which makes it harder to get approved for other forms of lending, like a mortgage or a car loan.

What to consider before getting a boat loan 

When it comes to purchasing a boat, financing is a necessity for most borrowers. Before signing on the dotted line, it's best to know the ins-and-outs of the process so you know what to expect and what to look out for. Here are the 5 most important factors to consider before submitting your application. 

  • Your credit score: Since most lenders use credit score to determine eligibility and rates, the higher your score, the more cheap your loan will be in the long run. 
  • Your budget: Before setting your sights on one specific lender, make sure your predicted monthly payment will fit comfortably into your budget or see if your budget is malleable enough to handle another (potentially large) payment. 
  • The type of loan you'll need: Secured loans are better for those with lower credit and are willing to put their boat — or another asset — up as collateral. Unsecured loans are best for those in good financial health who qualify for the lower end of the interest rate ranges.
  • The total cost involved with owning a boat: There are multiple factors that go into owning a boat, from insurance (which is roughly 1.5 percent of the insured value), fuel costs, dockage and storage fees, taxes and registration costs involved with boat ownership. Make sure to factor in every cost to ensure you can afford the long-term costs as well as the sticker-price of the vessel. 
  • How often you'll use the boat: If you don't live near a body of water or expect the boat to be docked for most of the year, then it may be worth it to think about renting for occasional usage, rather than spend six-figures on having to manage another payment on a boat.

Alternatives to boat loans 

If a boat loan isn't in the picture, there are other ways to finance such a purchase. Just keep in mind that while all of these options are technically available, it doesn't mean that they're the best fit for everyone. Before choosing an option, assess your finances to make sure it doesn't break the budget. 

Unsecured personal loans, while potentially more expensive and harder to get approved for, can be good financing tools when looking to buy a boat. These loans are found through banks, credit unions and online lenders and since they don't require collateral, there's less risk involved. However, some lenders may limit what you can use the funds for, so read through the fine print before making a final decision. 

Home equity loans can also be used to finance a boating-related purchase, although it's not recommended. A home equity loan allows you to tap into the equity you've built up in your home to finance a purchase, with your home acting as collateral. If you miss the monthly payments, you run the risk of losing your home to the lender to settle your debt. 

Plus, the interest on a home equity loan is tax deductible only when using the funds to make improvements toward your home, so the interest you pay is on the hook for taxation if used to purchase a boat.

How to finance a boat with a personal loan

Follow these 6 steps once you've realized that a boat loan is the best financing option for you: 

  1. Figure out how much you need to borrow. Calculate the exact amount you need to avoid overborrowing.
  2. Check your credit score. Most credit card issuers offer free credit checking as a perk. Otherwise you can check your score through one of the three credit reporting bureaus.
  3. Choose your loan type: Make sure the lender you're applying for offers the type of loan you need before applying. 
  4. Research lenders: Compare multiple lender details and prequalify for at least two if possible to find the best deal.
  5. Choose a lender and apply: Some applications are completely online, while others may require you to complete parts of it (or all) in-person. Make sure you live within a reasonable distance to a physical location if you prefer an in-person experience. 
  6. Prepare the necessary documents: Every lender will differ on its requirements, but it's generally best to have documentation on-hand like some form of government ID, your Social Security number, proof of residence or pay stubs. 

Once your loan request is approved and funded, you receive the entire amount in your bank account, minus fees such as origination fees.

How to calculate how much boat you can afford

To decide how much you can afford a boat, consider factors like the following:

  • The APR: Look through the lender's credit requirements, APR ranges or prequalify to see your approval odds and what your monthly payments potential interest rate could cost you.
  • Your monthly income and expenses: Calculate your debt-to-income ratio to see how much more debt you can reasonably take on while maintaining your budget.
  • Other current debts: If you have other high-interest debts, like private student loans or credit cards that have been weighing down your wallet, consider paying those down before taking on another loan. 
  • Repairs and maintenance: Before applying, calculate the maintenance, insurance and storage costs to determine whether a boat will fit comfortably in your budget. Also factor in the potential for emergency repairs and how much it could cost with your desired make and model.

FAQs about boat loans

The bottom line

If getting out on the open water has been a lifelong goal,many boat loan financing options are available. Depending on your credit and income, you can find secured or unsecured boat loans that fit your needs and budget.
Before jumping in, consider that most financial experts don’t recommend personal loans for discretionary purposes, especially if you already carry credit card or other debt. If you take a personal loan or a boat loan, have a plan to pay it off. Use our boat loan calculator to see how much your monthly payment might be.