BEST OF

Best Boat Loans in 2023: Finance Your Boat

Boat loans can be unsecured or secured by the boat. Compare financing options from online lenders, banks and credit unions.

By Annie Millerbernd and  Jackie Veling 

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Setting sail on your own boat is a priceless experience. But unless you’ve saved a lot of cash, you’ll need a boat loan to make your dreams a reality.

Here are lenders that offer boat loans, plus information on how to finance a boat with a personal loan — including unsecured and secured loan options. Learn where to find boat loans and factors to consider before applying.

Best Boat Loans in 2023: Finance Your Boat

Our pick for

Unsecured boat loans

SoFi
Get rate

on SoFi's website

SoFi

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi

Est. APR

7.99-23.43%

Loan amount

$5,000-$100,000

Min. credit score

None
Get rate

on SoFi's website

Lightstream
Get rate

on LightStream's website

LightStream

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Lightstream

Est. APR

6.99-23.99%

Loan amount

$5,000-$100,000

Min. credit score

660
Get rate

on LightStream's website

Achieve
Get rate

on Achieve's website

Achieve Personal Loans

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Achieve

Est. APR

7.99-29.99%

Loan amount

$5,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

620
Get rate

on Achieve's website

Upgrade
Get rate

on Upgrade's website

Upgrade

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Upgrade

Est. APR

8.49-35.97%

Loan amount

$1,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

560
Get rate

on Upgrade's website

Upstart
Get rate

on Upstart's website

Upstart

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Upstart

Est. APR

6.50-35.99%

Loan amount

$1,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

None
Get rate

on Upstart's website

Laurel Road Personal Loan
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Laurel Road Personal Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Laurel Road Personal Loan

Est. APR

8.99-24.25%

Loan amount

$5,000-$45,000

Min. credit score

660
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

RocketLoans
Get rate

on Rocket Loans' website

Rocket Loans

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
RocketLoans

Est. APR

7.73-29.99%

Loan amount

$2,000-$45,000

Min. credit score

640
Get rate

on Rocket Loans' website

How do boat loans work?

A boat loan is an installment loan with fixed monthly payments typically over two to 20 years. You can get a boat loan from a bank, credit union or online lender.

Interest rates and loan terms vary based on the lender, the size of the loan, your credit score and income, and whether the loan is secured by the boat or unsecured.

Applying for an unsecured boat loan is typically fast, and some loans can be funded the same or next day after you’re approved. Lenders usually deposit the funds into your bank account, from which you can withdraw the money to purchase a boat.

Secured boat loans vs. unsecured boat loans

Boat loans can be secured by the boat or unsecured and backed by your signature. Here are basic differences.

Secured boat loans

Secured boat loans use the purchased boat as collateral. They may have higher loan amounts, longer repayment terms and lower rates than unsecured loans. The risk is that you can lose your boat if you default.

With a secured boat loan, you may also need to make a down payment, which means you’ll need cash upfront.

Secured loans work best for borrowers who don’t qualify for an unsecured loan, want a higher loan amount and are comfortable with the risk associated with secured loans.

Unsecured boat loans

An unsecured boat loan doesn’t use the boat or anything tangible as collateral. Without that backing, rates on unsecured loans may be higher and terms shorter.

Approval for an unsecured boat loan is based on factors like your credit score, income and existing debt.

If you default on an unsecured loan, you may not lose the boat, but you’ll still face consequences, including a damaged credit score and wage garnishment if the lender takes you to court.

Pros and cons of secured and unsecured boat loans

Pros

Cons

Secured boat loans

  • May carry lower interest rates and longer terms.

  • If you have a low credit score, you may have an easier time qualifying.

  • You may need to have cash on hand for a down payment.

  • If you fail to repay the loan, the lender can seize your boat.

Unsecured boat loans

  • No collateral is required, so you won’t risk losing your boat.

  • Interest rates may be higher and terms shorter.

  • You’ll need a strong credit score and solid finances to get the best offer.

  • If you fail to repay the loan, the lender can take you to court.

How long are boat loans?

Repayment periods for boat loans vary depending on the type of loan you choose.

Unsecured personal loans typically have shorter repayment periods — two to seven years. If you choose a secured boat loan, your term can be as long as 20 years.

Keep in mind the term you choose affects the interest you pay. Shorter terms have higher monthly payments but carry less interest.

For example, a four-year, $30,000 boat loan with an annual percentage rate of 15% will have monthly payments of $835 and cost $10,076 in interest. The same loan with an eight-year repayment term will have monthly payments of $538 and cost $21,683 in interest.

Use NerdWallet’s boat loan calculator to calculate your boat payments.

What is the average interest rate on a boat loan?

Boat loan interest rates vary by lender. An unsecured boat loan will have an annual percentage rate ranging from 6% to 36%. See the table below for average unsecured interest rates based on your credit bracket.

How's your credit?

Score range

Estimated APR

Excellent

720-850.

11.3%.

Good

690-719.

15.6%

Fair

630-689.

22.3%.

Bad

300-629.

25.2%.

Source: Average rates are based on aggregate, anonymized offer data from users who pre-qualified in NerdWallet’s lender marketplace from July 1, 2022, to Oct. 31, 2022. Rates are estimates only and not specific to any lender. The lowest credit scores — usually below a 500 credit score — are unlikely to qualify. Information in this table applies only to lenders with APRs below 36%.

Secured loans may have lower APRs, with many lenders offering single-digit rates. If you're not sure what credit bracket you fall into, check your credit score for free on NerdWallet.

Where to get a boat loan

In addition to getting a boat loan from an online lender, you can also get a secured boat loan from a bank, credit union or marine lending specialist. Here are some examples.

Secured boat loans from banks

You’re more likely to find secured loans from banks. Banks may offer perks to existing customers, like discounts and favorable loan terms. If your bank offers boat loans, it’s a good place to start.

Bank of the West

Bank of the West offers boat loans in all 50 states, but not in Washington, D.C. You can submit your application online. You'll then be assigned a sales representative who will work with you to close the loan.

Loan amount: $10,000 to $5 million.

Rates: 4.24% to 10.49%.

Terms: 4 to 20 years.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank’s boat loans are available in the 25 states where the bank has branches. You may have to visit a branch to close a boat loan, but the bank says it can make same-day preapproval decisions.

Loan amounts: $25,000 to $150,000.

Rates: Starting at 5.24%.

Terms: 1 to 20 years.

USAA

USAA works primarily with military members and their families. Though you can apply online, you must call USAA to complete your application.

Loan amounts: $5,000 to $500,000.

Rates: Starting at 6.20%.

Terms: 1 to 15 years.

Truist

Truist Bank has locations primarily along the East Coast, and existing account holders can apply by phone. Those without accounts will need to apply in person.

Loan amounts: Starting at $3,500.

Rates: 6.30% to 8.52%.

Terms: Up to 20-years.

Secured boat loans from credit unions

Credit unions can offer low-rate secured boat loans to their members. These not-for-profit lenders may look past a low credit score or rocky credit history on a loan application and consider a borrower’s whole financial picture, including the relationship with the credit union.

Your local credit union is a good first stop, though national credit unions also offer boat loans. Navy Federal and First Tech, for example, both offer boat loans with 15-year repayment terms with rates starting below 10%.

Loans from marine lending specialists

Marine lending specialists are financial service companies that act as brokers to find you a boat loan. They secure funding through outside sources such as banks.

Boat loans from marine lenders may have similar rates and repayment terms to personal loans. One advantage might be the ability to work with a specialist who understands the boating business, according to the National Marine Lenders Association.

These loans must be secured by the boat and require down payments from 10% to 20% of the purchase price.

How to get a boat loan

To get boat financing directly from a lender, you’ll need to apply for a loan. Most loan applications are online and require you to submit personal information like your name, address, contact information and Social Security number. You may also need to submit proof of identity, employment and income.

If you’re applying for a secured loan, you’ll want to have information about the boat on hand, including the builder or manufacturer, model, model year and purchase price.

Once you submit your application, you’ll wait for an approval decision. If you’re approved, you may need to visit the bank or credit union to close the loan and receive funds. Unsecured personal loans, especially from an online lender, can typically be closed online and funded the same or next business day.

Can I get a boat loan with bad credit?

Borrowers with bad credit may still qualify for a boat loan. Some online lenders offer unsecured personal loans specifically to borrowers with bad credit.

Secured loans from a bank or credit union may also be a smart option for borrowers with bad credit since approval decisions rely less on their credit.

Alternatives to boat loans

Financial experts don't recommend personal loans for discretionary purposes, particularly if you already carry credit card or other debt. If you can’t afford to buy a boat today, or you’re not quite ready to make the commitment, here are some alternatives.

Save up for the purchase. Consider holding off and starting a savings plan toward buying a boat. You may be able to negotiate a cheaper price by paying with cash, and you’ll avoid paying interest on a loan.

Join a boat club. For a one-time fee and ongoing monthly or annual dues, boat clubs provide access to a fleet of boats for their members and guests.

Consider peer-to-peer rentals. Similar to renting a house on Airbnb, you can temporarily rent a boat through a peer-to-peer rental marketplace, such as Boatsetter or GetMyBoat.

Last updated on April 19, 2022

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Boat Loans in 2023: Finance Your Boat

Frequently asked questions