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The Best Boat Loans

Where Can You Get the Best Boat Loans?

No matter what kind of watercraft you have in mind - from a simple fishing boat to a luxury yacht - you want financing that allows you to make it happen. While you could turn to your local bank for a loan, you might find a better offer elsewhere. There are a number of lenders who specialize in marine loans, and they might give you more competitive interest rates and terms.

What are the requirements for qualifying for a boat loan? That varies widely. Of course, it helps to have good-to-excellent credit. For high-end boats of $200,000 or more, expect lenders to have minimum credit score requirements of at least 700 along with the income and assets to support such a purchase. Also, for bigger boats, your loan approval process is likely to require a marine survey: just like buying a home, an inspection shows both you and the lender that it's a sound vessel.

Monday, December 11th

2023 Boat Loan Reviews

Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award LightStream Review 5 Star Rating


5 Star Rating
  • Boat loans from $5,000 to $100,000
  • Very competitive interest rates
  • Loan terms from 24-144 months *
  • Interest rate discounts when payments are made automatically
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

You may have heard of LightStream as a division of SunTrust Bank. While SunTrust recently merged with BB&T to form Truist, you can still expect an amazing client experience when obtaining a boat loan under the LightStream name.

Several factors considered to determine eligibility

LightStream prides itself on recognizing that there is no single definition for "good credit" when applying for a boat loan. That being said, to qualify for financing, it helps if you have several years of credit history across a variety of account types (major credit cards, vehicle loans, mortgage), a solid payment history with little to no delinquencies, and experience with saving money as demonstrated by investments, bank accounts, and/or cash down payments on real estate. The stability and sufficiency of your income and assets will also be taken into account when LightStream evaluates your ability to take on a new loan to buy a watercraft.

Fantastic interest rates and loan terms

This lender offers a wide variety of options for marine loans. Maybe you're buying a brand-new inflatable Highfield Classic for $5,000 and want to pay it off in a couple of years. Or, maybe you've got your eye on a pre-owned 21' Mastercraft for $75,000 and prefer to have a good long time to pay it off - say, six or seven years. Their interest rates are among the best we've found for these type of purchases - of course, the better your credit profile, the lower your interest rate may be.

Same-day loan approval and funding

Among providers of boat loans, LightStream stands out for how easy it is to apply and get a quick approval. The entire process can be done online with little to no hassle: check rates, apply from your computer or mobile device, and you could get a loan with no fees or prepayment penalties. You don't even have to provide any documentation on the boat you're buying. No marine survey or other collateral is required to secure the funding. You can choose the date you'd like your loan to be funded, and some loans can be funded on the very same day you apply.

Best Boat Loans

Interest rate discount

You'll get further client-friendly perks with LightStream that you may not find elsewhere. For example, your monthly payments will be discounted by a half-percent if you set them up to be automatically deducted from your bank account. In addition to saving you money, this helps ensure your payments are made on time, every time.

Impressive customer feedback

In addition, LightStream has a long track record of happy customers, within the boat-buying market and beyond. The company is "A+" rated and accredited by the Better Business Bureau, with nearly 150 years of experience under the SunTrust/BB&T/Truist umbrella. More compelling, however, are the reviews from boat owners who gladly recommend LightStream after having a flawless experience buying their own watercraft. It's difficult to find anyone with something bad to say about using this lender for a marine loan.

Best lender for boats under $100,000

Buying a boat can represent the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and for boats priced at $100,000 or less, LightStream is the best way to make it happen. Their boat loans come with affordable interest rates, zero fees, and with a broad spectrum of repayment terms to meet any preference. Because of their fantastic reputation for quality customer service and transparency, LightStream is the obvious choice as our first-place selection for boat loans under $100,000.

* Payment example: Monthly payments for a $25,000 loan at 10.24% APR with a term of 12 years would result in 144 monthly payments of $302.25.

Trident Funding Review 4.5 Star Rating

Trident Funding

4.5 Star Rating
  • Higher-end boat loans from $25,000 to $50,000,000
  • In business since 1996
  • Works with a lending network of 19 financial institutions
  • Largest originator of boat and yacht loans in the US
  • Office locations on both coasts
  • Very competitive interest rates
  • "A+" rated by the BBB

If you're buying a higher-end watercraft and need a boat loan ranging from $100,000 to as much as $50 million, Trident Funding is the provider you consider. In operation for almost three decades, this company is the largest originator of yacht and boat loans in the United States. They work with nearly two dozen financial partners to customize the ideal lending package for your circumstances. Trident Funding is the preferred resource of BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of the United States) for any boat loans greater than $25,000: a stamp of approval that's worth noting.

Stringent eligibility requirements

What can you expect from the boat loan application process with Trident Funding? First off, be sure you meet their eligibility requirements. You'll need a credit score above 700 to qualify - which should come as no surprise, given that you're looking for a larger-than average loan. The model year of the boat you're financing also matters: most banks don't want to finance a craft that is older than 20 years. However, Trident's partners may make an exception; for example, if you're looking to purchase a 25-year-old Hatteras with a brand-new engine, there are a few partners in their network that might consider it if you're a strong applicant.

Quick quote if you're just getting started

You have two options with respect to your application: you can start by requesting a Quick Boat Loan Quote: enter your name, email phone, state, plus as many details about the vessel as you have available - such as make and model, year, length, engine(s), purchase price, any applicable sales tax, and total loan amount. After submitting the online form, you'll be contacted by the Trident Funding representative who serves your location. This is a great choice if you're at the beginning of your buying process and want to find out how much you might qualify to borrow.

Online loan application if you're ready to buy

On the other hand, if you already have a boat you want to purchase and need to get the ball rolling on a loan, we recommend that you go directly to Trident Funding's online loan application. Be prepared to enter information in detail, including your Social Security Number, employment and annual income, and even your level of boating experience. Be aware that submitting this form initiates a hard credit pull that will temporarily impact your credit score.

Further documents may be required

Depending on your circumstances, your application may require further documentation after you've submitted it. This can include a personal financial statement, tax returns from the previous two years with all supporting documents (including business returns if you own your own company), and proof of liquidity (bank statements, investment and retirement account statements, and so on) for loans of $250,000 or more.

Best Boat Loans

Approval within hours

Trident Funding chooses from the lenders in their network to match you with a good boat loan. How long will it take? You can expect a 5-6 hour turnaround timeframe from application to approval if your loan is under $150K, and up to 24 hours for larger loans.

Marine survey often needed

From there, how quickly you get the loan proceeds depends on the boat you're purchasing and your individual profile. According to the Trident representative with whom we spoke, 90% of the time the lending bank will require a marine survey - this is similar to a home inspection when applying for a mortgage. The marine survey ensures that the vessel has been accurately represented and protects both you and the lender. Getting a completed survey can take anywhere from 7-10 days, so be prepared for that. Once it's finished, your loan goes to underwriting for approval and then to closing. From there, you should have your boat loan funds within 48 hours.

Preferred down payment of 10-20%

How about rates and fees? Trident Funding doesn't disclose in detail what to expect, though their marine loan interest rates start at a very competitive number with loan terms ranging from 10-20 years. Some of their lending partners may consider even longer or shorter terms. You should also plan on putting down 10-20%; the more money you include in your down payment, the more likely you are to qualify for a longer loan term if you prefer.

World-class reputation

When it comes to reputation, it's hard to find a better choice than Trident Funding for luxury boat loans. The company has earned an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau, and ample customer testimonials indicate that the entire borrowing experience is "smooth sailing" (pun intended). The one small drawback we found is that Trident Funding doesn't provide boat loans for liveaboards, so if you are planning on sailing the globe for a year or two, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Ideal lender for luxury boat loans

For discerning clients who seek concierge-level attention to detail and need financing to purchase a vessel, Trident Funding is the ideal source of boat loans. There's just no other service that compares, and we easily give Trident our highest recommendation for marine loans over $100,000.

Excel Credit Review 4 Star Rating

Excel Credit

4 Star Rating
  • Boat loans from $25,000 to $10,000,000
  • In business since 1993
  • Approvals within 24-48 hours
  • Minimum down payment of 10%
  • Loans can close within 5-7 business days
  • Service provided within the lower 48 United States
  • "A+" rated by the BBB

Excel Credit is based out of the Orlando, Florida area and has been helping customers buy boats, aircraft and RVs since 1993. When using this provider to get a boat loan, don't be surprised if you're helped by the company owner himself! That's the kind of personalized attention you can expect if you choose Excel Credit for your marine financing.

Lender has many repeat customers

Excel Credit gets lots of compliments from clients, including several who have used the service more than once. We encourage you to visit the Testimonials page on the website, where you can read what their customers have to say, and even see photos of the watercraft (or airplane! Or RV!) purchased with the loan proceeds. It could also be a fun way to picture your own dreams coming true in the near future. The Better Business Bureau agrees with Excel Credit's customers, giving them a perfect "A+" rating.

Could provide more info upfront

We wish Excel Credit offered more boat loan information on their website. How much can you expect to pay, on average, in interest and loan fees? Great question. Unlike their closest rivals, Excel doesn't disclose those details on their site.

Best Boat Loans

Step by step application

You can use their Quick Rate Quote form to submit your contact information and details about the boat you're thinking of purchasing, or jump directly to completing their online Boat Loan Application. It's not the most tech-savvy form you've ever seen: you can't see the entire application at once; you have to fill in each page (first applicant details, then residence information, and so forth) before you can see subsequent pages - but you can save your work and return to it later if you need to gather paperwork for your boat details or personal financial statement.

Submit quote request to connect

Our best recommendation, if you're not in a hurry to get a boat loan immediately, is to fill in the Quick Rate Quote form and have an Excel Credit loan officer reach out to you. That will give you the opportunity to ask all of your questions about loan rates and terms, application-to-approval timeframes, and then decide if you'd like to proceed with the complete online application.

Trustworthy option for boat loans of $25,000+

You have every reason to expect good things when working with Excel Credit to get a boat loan from $25,000 up to $10 million. Their approvals often come within 48 hours once you submit the full application, and your loan proceeds could be ready within seven business days. For financially-secure clients who qualify for a loan and are prepared to make a down payment of at least 10%, Excel Credit offers an efficient, friendly service for financing high-end watercraft.

LendingTree Review 3.5 Star Rating


3.5 Star Rating
  • Boat loans up to $1,000,000
  • Funds available for new and used boats, plus refinancing
  • Referral service pairs you with up to 5 lending partners
  • APRs vary widely
  • Repayment terms between 61 days and 180 months
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
  • 24+ years in business

LendingTree is part of a group of companies that offer financial services, such as Ovation Credit and Student Loan Hero. LendingTree is an all-in-one source of borrowing options across a wide spectrum, from credit cards to marine loans.

Boat loans up to $1 million

What can you expect from boat loans through LendingTree with respect to amounts and interest rates? That heavily depends on your individual credit profile, income level, and the total you're looking to borrow. Generally speaking, LendingTree has partners that can fund up to $1 million in boat loans. Your interest rate will be determined by the individual lenders; LendingTree only discloses that no loans through their service will have an APR higher than 35.99%. You definitely don't want to pay that much in interest on your boat, but you'll need to apply to get the better offers specific to you.

Extensive, informative lender database

A big plus with using LendingTree to get a boat loan is their impressive lender database. Where some boat loan services only give you access to one or two financial institutions, LendingTree has hundreds. We love the transparency available here too: any partner presented to you by LendingTree comes with detailed information about their company history and numerous client reviews. Because this referral service often utilizes lesser-known lenders, that's a great way to be reassured that your boat loan is in good hands - even if the funding comes from a company you've never heard of.

No surprises in the online application

To get started, click on the type of boat loan you need: New Purchase, Used Purchase, or Refinance. Assuming you're buying a new or used boat, you'll enter the purchase price, intended down payment amount, desired monthly payment, intended boat use (pleasure, part-time charter, or full-time charter; live-aboard use isn't available through LendingTree), birthdate, and whether or not you already have a boat in mind. If you already know the boat you want to purchase, you'll select the make, model, and model year from the dropdown boxes on the form. Then, indicate how soon you want to complete your purchase, whether or not you've had a bankruptcy within the last seven years, and other personal details required to give you a preliminary match with a boat loan. Be aware that those details include your Social Security Number, but until you complete an application with the lender of your choice, only a soft pull will be done on your credit report.

Best Boat Loans

Credit monitoring included if desired

At the final step of the process, you'll be creating an account with LendingTree to receive your boat loan offers. There's one checkbox on the final page you may want to unselect: it enrolls you into a free service with credit monitoring and monthly score reports. It's optional, and it may be more than you need if you already have that coverage elsewhere.

Get up to five boat loan offers immediately

If LendingTree is able to verify your information and credit history, the next screen will show you up to five loan offers from their financial partners. All you have to do is select the boat loan that best meets your needs, submit any paperwork required specifically by the lender to finalize your application, and you'll be on your way to getting the money for your watercraft! On the other hand, if you don't get matched with any boat loans, don't be surprised if LendingTree makes recommendations for budgeting tools and other "related" services.

Great reputation, minus the spam

How does LendingTree measure up with other lenders offering boat loans? While it's not possible to see customer feedback solely related to watercraft purchases, the service has earned thousands of perfect five-star ratings from happy clients across the spectrum of loans and other products offered here. The Better Business Bureau agrees with their assessment, giving LendingTree accreditation and an "A+" rating as well. On the other hand, we found many people who complain that they've gotten too many spam calls, emails and texts after providing their contact information to LendingTree - some even weeks or months after their application. We wish LendingTree did a better job of controlling their partner's communications with their customers. Keep that in mind if you use this service to find a boat loan.

Great option for getting multiple boat loan quotes

There are a few services that specialize in providing boat loan offers from multiple lenders, and among them LendingTree is a great choice. Direct boat loan lenders may give you more loan rate transparency upfront, but LendingTree does everything it can to give you as much information as possible during the application process. For anyone who likes the idea of having more than one boat loan presented to them before making a decision, LendingTree is a solid choice.

Upgrade Review 3 Star Rating


3 Star Rating
  • Fixed-rate loans from $1,000 to $50,000
  • Wide range of interest rates
  • Repayment terms from 24-84 months
  • Origination fees of 2.9% to 8% included in the interest rate
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
  • Two lending partners

Upgrade has been around since 2017, making them one of the newer options for boat loans. Their service offers access to rewards checking, credit cards and financial education, which may be of interest for clients looking to streamline their finances. Headquartered in San Francisco, Upgrade also has offices in Montreal and Phoenix.

Boat loans are "large purchase" , not watercraft-specific

Unlike some of the lenders we evaluated, Upgrade's loans aren't restricted to boat purchases. When you request a loan quote here, you'll be asked to specify the desired loan amount (from $1,000 to $50,000) and the loan purpose: in this case, it would simply be "large purchase" . You'll also have to indicate if you're applying alone or with another applicant, and then enter the name, address, and birthdate of the person or people who will be responsible for the loan.

Heads up if self-employed

Next, you'll give information about your income. If you're self-employed, watch for the pop-up and read the FAQ, because your documentation requirements are different from those who have income reported on a W2 each year.

Provide SSN to get loan quotes

To finalize your rate quotes, Upgrade has you create a user account with your email address and a password, and then your Social Security Number for identity verification. A soft pull of your credit will be done, which shouldn't impact your credit score. Without that final piece of data, Upgrade won't be able to find your credit profile and you'll get a notification and PDF of your loan request denial.

Best Boat Loans

Don't forget to factor in origination fees

Assuming you're interested in getting a loan through Upgrade to buy your boat, and they're able to verify your information, what can you anticipate in terms of rates, terms and fees? All loans offered here are fixed rate, with a wide range of interest rates - including some that are pretty high. Included in those interest rates is a one-time origination fee, which ranges from 2.9-8% of the loan total. Those fees come out of your loan funds: so if you borrow $10,000 to buy a boat, for example, and you're assessed an origination fee of 5%, you'll receive $9,500 in your account. That's important to keep in mind as you determine how much you want to borrow in total: make sure you request an amount that covers everything you'll need for the purchase after the origination fee is deducted.

Loans can fund within a business day

When your loan has been approved by Upgrade, the money for your watercraft purchase can be in your bank account in one business day (but it may take an extra day or two for your bank to post the deposit). One reason Upgrade is able to fund loans so quickly is because there are only two financial partners they use: Blue Ridge Bank and Cross River Bank. The additional perk is that, unlike some referral services, you don't have to take any extra steps to finish your loan application. The downside is that only two lending companies are evaluating your loan application.

Plenty of positive customer reviews

We were pleased to find out Upgrade has a good reputation. The BBB gives this lender an "A+" and accreditation (even though their lending partners don't necessarily have an equally flawless rating there). And, with over more than 13,000 customer reviews, Upgrade got a 4- or 5-star rating in nearly 95% of them. Most clients describe Upgrade loans as quick, easy, and reliable, even if some experience longer-than-desirable wait times when applying for a loan or reaching out to customer service.

Quick boat loans up to $50,000

While they don't specialize in boat loans, Upgrade is still a good choice to get the money you need to buy a boat for $50,000 or less. There are very few hoops to jump through, and funds are available quickly. Thousands of consumers have already used Upgrade to get the money they want for a wide range of reasons, and you should feel comfortable using them for your boat loan too.

BoatUS Review 2 Star Rating


2 Star Rating
  • First Approval is a featured partner of BoatUS for loans less than $25,000
  • Trident Funding is a featured partner of BoatUS for loans over $25,000
  • Listed with the National Marine Lenders Association
  • Financing available up to $4,000,000 on boats 10 years old or newer

BoatUS guides their prospective boat loan customers to 2 options: Trident Funding for boat loans over $25,000, and First Approval Source for loans under $25,000. We've already reviewed Trident Funding, so this review focused on First Approval. According to First Approval, they have a broad range of lenders in their network and years of experience in the marine and RV industry, claiming that they are "able to succeed in obtaining financing where others fail" . The company is based out of Georgia.

Recommended partner of BoatUS

Initially we were impressed with First Approval Source for earning the recommendation of BoatUS, the Boat Owners Association of the United States. With over 500,000 dues-paying members, BoatUS is a solid resource for anyone involved with recreational boating. They connect anyone interested in a boat loan under $25,000 with First Approval Source, taking them directly to the lender's online application.

Standard boat loan application

That application is what you'd expect from any boat loan financing service. You'll be asked for detailed personal information, including your Social Security Number and employment situation. Be aware that a hard pull on your credit report will be performed once you hit submit.

Unfinished main website

Of course, before authorizing that credit check, you'd probably want to know more about the lender, right? When we went directly to the First Approval Source website, we weren't blown away by what we found. On their main page, there were three important sections (Fast Approvals, Encrypted and Secure, Amazing Offers), that still had the placeholder "lorem ipsum" text blocks. Not a good look, to say the least.

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Focus more on boat dealers than consumers

Thinking we'd find more details by clicking on the "Learn More" button under Recreational Financing on the First Approval Source homepage, we were disappointed to see that it just redirected to First Approval Source's "Contact Us" page. Digging a little further, it seems that this lender works primarily as a behind-the-scenes financial partner for boat dealerships across the US: First Approval Source is listed with the National Marine Lenders Association and describes itself as "helping dealers increase their profits while satisfying the financing requirements of their customers of every credit profile" .

Missing details

The information offered to dealerships state that First Approval Source can offer loans up to $4,000,000 on boats that are 10 years old or newer. However, if you're interested in obtaining a loan, you'll have more questions. How much will you need as a down payment? How quickly could your loan be approved and funded? What interest rate can you expect? There are no answers on the First Approval Source site.

Proceed with caution

Could you apply for a boat loan directly through this provider? Apparently so. Would we recommend it? Not without more information. It's challenging to find any kind of feedback directly from clients who have used First Approval Source, and we didn't turn up a listing from the BBB either.

Much better options exist

If all other options for boat loans fall through, you may want to reach out to First Approval Source. Who knows, you may get exactly what you need and at rates/terms that are affordable. But, without greater transparency and a fully-finished website, this lender ends up towards the bottom of our rankings among providers of boat loans.

Compare the Best Reviews

Continued from above...

On the other hand, for smaller watercraft, you may not need a boat-specific loan. These loans are usually structured as a traditional personal loan and are based solely on your creditworthiness, not on what you're buying. That's good news if you have less-than-perfect credit too: you'll pay more in interest on your marine loan, but at least you can still qualify as a borrower.

There are quite a few options out there for boat loans, and it can be challenging to determine which financial institution or lending service is the right one for your unique situation. To simplify your search for a marine loan, here are several factors to consider:

  • Loan amount. How much do you need to borrow to buy the boat? Some lenders only provide up to $50,000, while others have a minimum loan amount of $25,000 and go all the way up to $50 million. Make sure the provider you're considering is appropriate for the loan size you need.
  • Funding timeframe. If you already have a boat in mind and you live in a hot market, it'll be important to get your loan proceeds quickly. A few boat loan companies can have the funds deposited on the same day you apply.
  • Loan information. Does the company tell you upfront what you can expect in terms of interest rates, loan amounts, and any fees associated with the loan? Is it easy to get a preliminary quote?
  • Reputation. What do other boat owners say about their experience getting a boat loan from the service you're considering? Has the Better Business Bureau given the company a strong rating?

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best providers of boat loans available today. We're confident that this information will help you get the financing you need to purchase the boat of your dreams!

The Best Boat Loans Compare Boat Loans Compare Boat Loan Reviews What are the best Boat Loans Best Boat Loan Reviews

Boat Loan FAQ

Boat loans range from $1,000 to as much as $50,000,000. Your ability to qualify for a marine loan is heavily dependent on your financial situation, including your credit history, income and savings/investments, and the age and price of the watercraft you hope to buy.
On luxury watercraft, yes. If you're obtaining a boat loan of $100,000 or more, expect a down payment requirement of 10-20%, depending on the lender you choose. If you're buying a lower-priced boat, your funding will probably be structured as an unsecured personal loan and won't need a down payment.
What do you have in mind? If you're purchasing a million-dollar yacht, your boat loan will require a considerable amount of documentation, including a marine survey, prior to being approved. On the other hand, if you're taking out a loan to buy an inexpensive, used fishing boat, it'll likely be a personal loan that can be used for any purchase.
As long as you've entered your information accurately and you pass a credit check, your loan approval can happen almost instantaneously, though for higher loan amounts it may take a day or two. But, getting the funds for your loan won't necessarily be same-day, especially for more expensive boats that require a marine survey and other paperwork prior to funding.
On some boat loans under $100,000, you could be approved and have the money deposited to your account on the day you apply! On larger loans, expect the entire process to take at least a week or two, because your lender will likely request a marine survey that can take some time to arrange (similar to a home inspection when buying a house and applying for a mortgage).
It always helps. There are a few lenders who will approve you for a boat loan with poor to average credit, but you'll pay much higher interest rates. And, for luxury boats with price tags of $100,000 or more, you typically need a credit score of at least 700 to be eligible for a boat loan.
All boat loans will require a credit check, and further verification may require basic financial documents such as tax returns, bank statements, and proof of income. When buying a bigger boat - in price, size, or both! - your process is likely to include much more extensive paperwork, like a marine survey and a personal financial statement.
The most obvious fee is interest. Depending on the size of your loan, the lender you choose, and your credit history, you could pay as little as 3% or as much as 36% APR. Your boat loan may also come with a one-time origination fee, costs for a marine survey or other paperwork necessary before your loan is approved, and so forth. Be sure to get a fee breakdown before you sign on the dotted line with any provider of boat loans.
The Best Reviews of Boat Loans