BEST OF

Best Boat Loans in 2021: Finance Your Boat

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

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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.

You can get a boat loan from a banks, credit union or online lender. The application process is typically fast, and approval is largely based on your credit score and ability to repay.

Before you jump 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, have a plan to pay it off.

Here’s how to finance a boat with a personal loan — including unsecured and secured loan options — where to find boat loans and factors to consider before applying.

Summary of Best Boat Loans in 2021: Finance Your Boat

Our picks for

Unsecured boat loans

Lightstream
Check rate

on LightStream's website

LightStream

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Lightstream

Est. APR

4.49-20.49%

Loan Amount

$5,000-$100,000

Min. Credit Score

660
Check rate

on LightStream's website


Min. Credit Score

660

Key facts

LightStream targets strong-credit borrowers with no fees and low rates that vary based on loan purpose.

Pros

  • No fees.

  • Competitive rates among online lenders.

  • Offers .5% rate discount for setting up autopay.

  • Special features including rate beat program and satisfaction guarantee.

Cons

  • No option to pre-qualify on its website.

  • Requires several years of credit history.

  • Does not offer direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 660.

  • Several years of credit history.

  • Multiple account types within your credit history, like credit cards, a car loan or other installment loan and a mortgage.

  • Strong payment history with few or no delinquencies.

  • Investments, retirement savings or other evidence of an ability to save money.

  • Enough income to pay existing debts and a new LightStream loan.

Available Term Lengths

2 to 7 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: None.

  • Late fee: None.

Disclaimer

Your loan terms, including APR, may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term length, and your credit profile. AutoPay discount of .50% points is only available when selected prior to loan funding. Rates without AutoPay will be .50% points higher. To obtain a loan, you must complete an application on LightStream.com which may affect your credit score. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 6.14% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $304.85. Truist Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. ©2021 Truist Financial Corporation. SunTrust, Truist, LightStream, the LightStream logo, and the SunTrust logo are service marks of Truist Financial Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Lending services provided by Truist Bank.

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Upstart
Check rate

on Upstart's website

Upstart

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Upstart

Est. APR

5.38-35.99%

Loan Amount

$1,000-$50,000

Min. Credit Score

None
Check rate

on Upstart's website


Min. Credit Score

None

Key facts

Upstart is a good option for those who have short credit histories and promising financial futures.

Pros

  • Accepts borrowers new to credit.

  • Able to fund loans within one business day.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors with some debt consolidation loans.

  • Allows borrowers to choose and change payment date.

Cons

  • Borrowers can choose from only two repayment term options.

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No mobile app to manage the loan.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: None.

  • Minimum credit history: None, this lending platform accepts borrowers with credit history too limited to produce a FICO score.

  • Minimum gross income: $12,000.

  • Employment: Full-time job, full-time job offer starting in 6 months, a regular part-time job, or another source of regular income.

  • Must have U.S. residential street address where borrower resides (unless military personnel on active duty).

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • Valid email account required.

  • Personal bank account with U.S. routing number required.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 0% - 8%.

  • Late fee: 5% of past due amount or $15, whichever is greater.

Disclaimer

The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 3-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 21.97% and 36 monthly payments of $35 per $1,000 borrowed. For example, the total cost of a $10,000 loan would be $12,646 including a $626 origination fee. APR is calculated based on 3-year rates offered in the last 1 month. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. Your APR will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will be approved.

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Prosper
Check rate

on Prosper's website

Prosper

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Prosper

Est. APR

7.95-35.99%

Loan Amount

$2,000-$40,000

Min. Credit Score

600
Check rate

on Prosper's website


Min. Credit Score

600

Key facts

Peer-to-peer lender Prosper has rates and fees that compare to other lenders for good-credit borrowers.

Pros

  • Option to change your payment date.

  • Offers joint loan.

  • Offers wide range of loan amounts. 


Cons

  • No rate discount for autopay.

  • Charges origination and late fees.

  • Borrowers can choose from only two repayment term options.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 640; borrower average is 726.

  • Minimum credit history: 2 years.

  • Minimum income: No minimum income requirement; borrower average is $113,000.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50% (excluding mortgage); borrower average is 18% with housing payment.

  • No bankruptcies filed within the past year.

  • At least three open accounts on credit report.

  • Fewer than five credit bureau inquiries in the last six months.

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • Must provide Social Security number and a U.S. bank account.


Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 2.41 to 5%.

  • Late fee: $15 or 5% of unpaid amount (whichever is greater).

  • Insufficient funds fee: $15.

Disclaimer

For example, a three-year $10,000 personal loan would have an interest rate of 11.74% and a 5.00% origination fee for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 15.34% APR. You would receive $9,500 and make 36 scheduled monthly payments of $330.90. A five-year $10,000 personal loan would have an interest rate of 11.99% and a 5.00% origination fee with a 14.27% APR. You would receive $9,500 and make 60 scheduled monthly payments of $222.39. Origination fees vary between 2.41%-5%. Personal loan APRs through Prosper range from 7.95% to 35.99%, with the lowest rates for the most creditworthy borrowers. Eligibility for personal loans up to $40,000 depends on the information provided by the applicant in the application form. Eligibility for personal loans is not guaranteed, and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. Refer to Borrower Registration Agreement for details and all terms and conditions. All personal loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC.

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OneMain
Check rate

on OneMain Financial's website

OneMain Financial

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
OneMain

Est. APR

18.00-35.99%

Loan Amount

$1,500-$20,000

Min. Credit Score

None
Check rate

on OneMain Financial's website


Min. Credit Score

None

Key facts

OneMain is an option for bad-credit borrowers, but it comes with high starting rates and an origination fee.

Pros

  • Option to choose your payment date.

  • Offers joint and secured loans.

  • Able to fund a loan the same or next business day.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans.

Cons

  • Rates are high compared to other online lenders.

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No rate discount for autopay.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: None.

  • Minimum income: None; average is $45,000.

Available Term Lengths

2 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: $25 to $400 or 1 - 10%.

Disclaimer

Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on your ability to meet our credit standards (including a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral). Larger loan amounts require a first lien on a motor vehicle no more than ten years old, that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. Maximum annual percentage rate (APR) is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. Depending on the state where you open your loan, the origination fee may be either a flat amount or a percentage of your loan amount. Flat fee amounts vary by state, ranging from $25 to $300. Percentage-based fees vary by state ranging from 1% to 10% of your loan amount subject to certain state limits on the fee amount. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered under the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral for a loan. OneMain loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z, such as college, university or vocational expenses; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes. Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600. Borrowers (other than present customers) in these states are subject to these maximum unsecured loan sizes: North Carolina: $7,500. New York: $20,000. An unsecured loan is a loan which does not require you to provide collateral (such as a motor vehicle) to the lender.

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Secured boat loans

Bank of the West

Bank of the West offers boat loans in all 50 states, but not in Washington, D.C. You can’t add a co-signer to the loan, but you can apply with a co-borrower who would be on the title. The bank requires at least a 10% down payment.

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

Rates: From 4.29% to 9.99%. Rates vary by loan amount and repayment term.

Terms: 4 to 20 years.

Qualifications: Here’s what you’ll need to apply for a Bank of the West boat loan:

  • Asset information, like the amount you have in savings and investment accounts.

  • Two years of verifiable income history.

  • Information about your other existing debts.

  • Social Security number or tax identification number.

The bank says it prefers borrowers with credit scores of 700 or higher.

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 application decisions when you apply online. It's one of few lenders that charges a fee for paying your loan off early — 1% of the original loan amount if the loan is paid off in the first year, up to $100.

Loan amounts: $10,000 to $150,000.

Rates: Starting at 5.24%.

Terms: 1 to 20 years.

Qualifications: Borrowers must live in one of the states where the bank has branches to get a boat loan. Approval is based on the boat you’re financing, as well as the amount requested, your credit score and history, and other factors.

USAA

USAA works primarily with military members and their families. The lender offers a 0.25% APR discount for setting up automatic payments, and no down payment is required.

Loan amounts: $5,000 to $35,000.

Rates: Starting at 5.75%.

Terms: 1 to 15 years.

Qualifications: You must meet USAA’s eligibility requirements to get a boat loan. Whether you qualify and the rate you get depends on the boat you’re financing, your creditworthiness and other factors.

How boat loans work

A boat loan is an installment loan with fixed monthly payments typically over two to 15 years. 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.

Secured boat loans

Secured boat loans use the purchased boat as collateral. They may have higher loan limits, 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 but you’ll borrow less.

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 else as collateral. Without that backing, rates on unsecured loans may be higher and terms shorter. Generally, annual percentage rates range from 6% to 36%, and terms range from two to seven years.

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

Where to get a boat loan

Online loans

Online lenders typically offer unsecured boat loans only. These lenders may be able to approve and fund loans more quickly than other lenders. Online lenders also offer pre-qualification, which shows you what loan amount and rate you could get without affecting your credit.

Some tailor their loan products to borrowers with good or excellent credit (690 or higher FICO), while others accept lower credit scores and focus more on factors like your monthly cash flow, education and where you work.

Bank loans

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

Credit union loans

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 your relationship with the credit union. Credit unions should be the first stop for members looking to finance a big purchase.

Navy Federal and First Tech 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 from banks.

Boat loans from marine lenders 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. A bank may require a down payment or make it optional.

Boat loans: Questions to ask before you apply

How does the loan fit into my budget? Monthly payments on a boat loan should fit comfortably within a budget that covers all of your needs, wants, debt payments and savings. Use our boat loan calculator to see estimated monthly payments, interest costs and total payments.

Payments toward the boat loan — combined with other debt payments — shouldn’t exceed more than 20% of your income.

What is the true cost of boat ownership? Buying a boat isn’t your only new expense. Additional costs include fuel, licenses, insurance, storage, maintenance and repairs. Boats also depreciate over time, just like a car.

Does my boat have resale value? It’s smart to buy a boat that is both affordable and popular, as this can attract potential buyers if you decide to sell it and pay off your loan at any point in the future.

Alternatives to taking a boat loan

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 March 31, 2021

Methodology

NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 30 lenders. We collect over 45 data points from each lender, interview company representatives and compare the lender with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar personal loan product. NerdWallet writers and editors conduct a full fact check and update annually, but also make updates throughout the year as necessary.

Our star ratings award points to lenders that offer consumer-friendly features, including: soft credit checks to pre-qualify, competitive interest rates and no fees, transparency of rates and terms, flexible payment options, fast funding times, accessible customer service, reporting of payments to credit bureaus and financial education. We also consider regulatory actions filed by agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We weigh these factors based on our assessment of which are the most important to consumers and how meaningfully they impact consumers’ experiences. 

This methodology applies only to lenders that cap interest rates at 36%, the maximum rate most financial experts and consumer advocates agree is the acceptable limit for a loan to be affordable. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for our star ratings. Read our editorial guidelines.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Boat Loans in 2021: Finance Your Boat

Frequently asked questions