Boat Loans And Financing

Shopping for the boat you want is exciting, but if you choose to finance the boat, then you also need to shop for a lender to get a boat loan. Of course, shopping for boat financing isn’t nearly as much fun as shopping for a boat, but it’s still an important part of the process.

You should have a good understanding of how boat financing works and what your options are before you start combing through boats for sale on Boat Trader’s search pages for that perfect boat! While you don’t need to master the art and science of boat finance, you will need to know what to expect as you begin the process.

High credit scores and liquid funds are the keys to securing boat loans these days.
High credit scores and liquid funds are the keys to securing boat loans these days.

What Do You Need To Qualify For A Boat Loan?

You will need to show the lender your financial ability to pay back a boat loan. Banks will look at your credit rating, so it’s important for you to look at it first. Three major bureaus provide this kind of information to lending institutions: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Start there.

It’s important for you to check your credit rating before the bank looks into it. Here’s why: If you find a problem or some inaccuracies, it’s much easier for you to get those straightened out before you apply for a loan.

Be sure there are no closed accounts that are being reported as open, and close any open accounts you don’t use anymore. By accessing your credit report first, you can stop problems before they start. There are lenders out there who will do subprime financing, which provides options for people with lower credit scores, but the national lenders will likely require credit scores to be 680 or higher. So, tidy things up before you begin.

Banks also look at your debt-to-income ratio, which is determined by dividing your monthly debt payments by your monthly income. Many lenders prefer a debt-to-income ratio of around 40 or 45 percent, including payment on the boat loan for which you are applying.

Lenders also will look at your net worth and liquidity. Your net worth is defined as assets minus liabilities – usually properties owned less any debt you have. A liquid asset is anything that can be turned into cash within 30 days or less.

Boat Down Payments And Ownership Costs

“Obviously, if you’re applying for a boat loan, you have to be able to show that you have the money to make the down payment, but also be able to pay for the expenses of owning a boat – whether that’s insurance, slip fees, fuel, all those things that go into boat ownership,” said David Mann, membership program manager for Boat U.S., a boat owners association that connects lenders with buyers, among other services.

Boat down payments are usually between 10-20 percent, but can depend on the cost and value of the boat as well as your location and finances.

The boat loan rate for which you qualify is going to hinge on factors mentioned above, but it also could swing on the term of the loan — how many years you’ll be paying on it — or even the age of the boat you’re buying. For example, you might be able to get a better interest rate on a boat that’s as little as one year newer. In general, smaller loans for shorter terms usually have higher interest rates than larger loans for longer terms. Again, rates can vary with your credit history.

“First, we always say do your research. In marine lending, there’s a lot of disparity between lenders,” Mann said. “An individual might have a relationship with a local bank or credit union that might not necessarily know boats, but they do boat financing because they do car and RV and motorcycle loans. Sometimes it’s easier and faster to work with these local banks or credit unions, but it could also mean that your loan terms will be shorter. The national lenders, on the other hand, will finance boats in all 50 states and they often have a good understanding of boats. Be aware that their underwriting process can be a little bit more rigorous.”

Steps in the Process of Boat Financing

Shopping for a boat loan overlaps with the process of buying a new boat. Here are the basic steps:

  • Know and understand your financial abilities and your credit rating. Check your credit with the major credit reporting bureaus and correct any inaccuracies.
  • Call around to local resources and look online to find out what different boat lenders can do for you. Boat financing is not like financing a car where you can walk into a dealership and leave in a few hours with a new or used car. Boat financing can take longer if the lender requires a report from a marine surveyor. 
  • When you apply, be ready with tax returns and bank statements that show your financial ability to repay. Be prepared to submit those materials to speed up the review process.
  • Be aware of special use limitations. If you want to live aboard your boat, use it for commercial purposes such as charters or as a fishing guide or to cruise internationally, tell the lender. Not all lenders will loan money on a boat used for those purposes.  

Other Things to Consider

Getting An Accurate Boat Value for Loan Purposes

Forewarned is forearmed, right? You bet it is, so if you’re looking at used boats, it’s also a good idea to understand what they’re worth. Boat lenders pay attention to boat values when lending, and you can access the same information they have.

Like credit reporting agencies, there are a few sources for researching boat values and prices. These resources can also help you determine the value of your own boat, which is great for getting a fair trade-in or resale price.

The key bit of guidance for securing a boat loan is to do your research and to be as prepared as possible.

“The lenders that BoatUS works with take into consideration the age of the boat and the value of the boat,” Mann said. “There is not a significant difference in available rates or terms between a brand-new boat or a 3-year-old boat, for instance. Since these lenders are looking at the value of the boat, they will typically require a down payment of around 10 to 15 percent.”

Get a Boat Loan Quote

Boat Trader has a convenient solution called BoatsBank that provides customers competitive boat loans tailored for different financial situations. BoatsBank can help with dealer and private party purchases, boat refinancing and title and Coast Guard documentation services.

Check Boat Loan Rates

If you want to check what your boat loan rate and monthly payment should be Boat Trader’s Boat Loan Payment Calculator can help you research that as well.

Below are some examples of monthly boat loan payments:

Loan: $15,000
Down payment: 10%
APR: 6.79%
Example payment schedule: 144 monthly payments of $135

Loan: $30,000
Down payment: 15%
APR: 7.25%
Example payment schedule: 180 monthly payments of $273.86

Loan: $65,000
Down payment: 15%
APR: 5.50%
Example payment schedule: 180 monthly payments of $531.10

Loan: $200,000
Down payment: 15%
APR: 4.99%
Example payment schedule: 240 monthly payments of $1,318.81

FAQs

How does a boat loan work?

A boat loan is a function of principle, an interest rate and the length of the loan. In general, smaller loans for shorter terms usually have higher interest rates than larger loans for longer terms. Also, higher credit scores help lower the interest rates you pay.

What information will I need to apply for boat financing?

Essentially, you will need bank statements and tax returns that demonstrate income. Banks also will consider your credit rating, your debt-to-income ratio, net worth and liquidity.

How do I know how much I can afford?

Banks can help you determine that, but you can also use our online boat loan payment calculator to find a payment you are comfortable with.

What credit score do I need for a boat loan?

The higher the better. Higher credit scores will help you secure loans at lower interest rates. There are subprime lenders out there, but by and large, major lenders want to see credit scores of 680 or above.

How long do boat loans last?

Terms vary with the size of the loan and your ability to pay, but expect to have a loan term of 24 to 48 months for trailerable boats and up to 240 months — or 20 years — for larger craft.

Written by: Brett Becker

Brett Becker is a freelance writer and photographer who has covered
the marine industry for 15 years. In addition to covering the ski boat
and runabout markets for Boats.com, he regularly writes and shoots for
BoatTrader.com. Based in Ventura, Calif., Becker holds a bachelor’s
degree in journalism and a master’s in mass communication from the
University of Central Florida in Orlando.

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