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The Best Boat Loans

Where Can You Get the Best Boat Loans?

For many, nothing compares to the feel of a boat on the open lake or ocean waters. Boating embodies a deep-seated connection with the elements, a sense of adventure, and a unique lifestyle that captivates people around the world. Boats offer a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, whether you like to escape to serene waters and relax, or explore hidden coves and coastlines.

To help people achieve owning the boat of their dreams, many companies now offer boat loans through online applications. The surge in popularity of online boat loans is dur to a number of factors. All of these can work together to help you qualify for a boat loan sooner and easier than ever before.

Wednesday, July 17th

2024 Boat Loan Reviews

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

LightStream

5 Star Rating
  • Unsecured boat loans from $5,000 to $100,000
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Loan terms from 24 to 144 months
  • No fees, no appraisals, no home equity requirements
  • Interest rate discounts when payments are made automatically
  • Low rate guarantee
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

Navigating the waters of boat loans can be challenging, but if you're in the market for marine financing, LightStream emerges as a top-tier choice. Operating under the umbrella of parent bank Truist, LightStream stands out for its inclusive approach to credit evaluation.

More lenient in lending

Unlike some lenders, LightStream acknowledges that there's no one-size-fits-all definition for "good credit." While a solid credit history across various account types is beneficial, the lender considers factors beyond the conventional credit score. A history of timely payments, experience with saving, and the stability of your income and assets all play a role in determining your eligibility for a boat loan.

Very competitive interest rates

One of the standout features of LightStream is the diverse range of options it offers for marine loans. Whether you're eyeing a modest AB Inflatables Lammina or a luxury Scarab, LightStream accommodates your needs. The interest rates, surprisingly, remain competitive across different loan amounts and terms from 2 to 12 years. Of course, your credit profile influences where you fall within their range.

Easy-breezy process from application to funding

Applying for a boat loan with LightStream is a breeze, setting it apart from other providers. The online application process is hassle-free - check your rate, apply from your computer or mobile device, and enjoy a loan with no fees or prepayment penalties. And fortunately, you won't be burdened with providing extensive documentation on the boat you're purchasing, and there's no need for a marine survey or collateral to secure funding. Some loans can even be funded on the same day you apply.

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Perks make their loans even more attractive

LightStream sweetens the deal with client-friendly perks that go beyond the loan terms. Opting for automatic deductions from your bank account grants you a half-percent discount on the interest for your monthly payments. Additionally, their Rate Beat Program promises you a rate 0.10 percentage points lower if you're approved for a comparable loan by a competitor. While this doesn't extend to secured or collateralized loans from other financial institutions, it adds an extra layer of competitiveness when you compare apples-to-apples boat loans.

Long history, positive reputation

What truly sets LightStream apart is its stellar reputation. The company boasts an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, backed by nearly 150 years of experience under the Truist umbrella. Positive reviews from boat owners who have experienced seamless transactions with LightStream further emphasize the lender's reliability and customer satisfaction.

Still the first place to look for a boat loan

For those dreaming of owning a boat, especially those priced at $100,000 or less, LightStream continues to rank as the best choice. Their boat loans offer not just affordable interest rates and a broad range of repayment terms but also a commitment to quality customer service and transparency. With a reputation for excellence, LightStream deserves its place as our top pick for boat loans under $100,000, making it easy for your journey to boat ownership to be nothing but smooth sailing.

Trident Funding Review 4.5 Star Rating

Trident Funding

4.5 Star Rating
  • Higher-end boat loans from $25,000 to $2,000,000
  • Works with a lending network of 50+ financial institutions
  • Largest originator of boat and yacht loans in the US
  • Office locations on both coasts
  • "A+" rated by the BBB
  • Hundreds of five-star reviews
  • In business since 1996

If you're eyeing a high-end watercraft and need a boat loan ranging from $25,000 to a whopping $2 million, Trident Funding is an excellent choice. With nearly three decades in operation, they proudly hold the title of the largest originator of yacht and boat loans in the United States.

Over 50 lending partners

Collaborating with over 50 financial partners, Trident tailors lending packages for new and used boats, as well as refinancing current boat loans. This is also the preferred resource of BoatUS for loans over $25,000, earning a mark of approval that speaks volumes.

Do you qualify?

To embark on the boat loan voyage with Trident Funding, make sure you meet their criteria. A credit score above 600 is a prerequisite, not a surprise given the larger-than-average loan you're probably seeking. The boat's model year is also a factor, with no loans available on vessels older than 20 years. And, be aware that Trident Funding exclusively offers loans for pleasure boats, not liveaboard watercraft.

Use the tools if you're just browsing

If you're in the early stages of the buying process and want an idea of your borrowing potential, opt for a basic rate quote. Scroll down to the Boat Loan Rates section, adjacent to the Payment Calculator tool, for a quick estimate.

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Application will affect your credit

For those ready to make a purchase, head straight to Trident Funding's online loan application. Be prepared to provide detailed information, including your Social Security Number, employment details, annual income, and even your boating experience level. Keep in mind that submitting this form triggers a hard credit pull that affects your credit score.

Quick approval, but you may need extra paperwork

Depending on your situation, your application may necessitate additional documentation, such as a personal financial statement, tax returns from the previous two years, and proof of liquidity for loans exceeding $250,000. Trident Funding promises to quickly evaluate your application, providing approval within 5-6 hours for loans under $150,000 and up to 24 hours for larger loans.

Expect a marine survey

But, you've still got some steps to take after your initial boat loan application has been approved. In most cases, a marine survey, akin to a home inspection, is required to verify the condition of the vessel. Completing the survey takes 7-10 days, after which the loan goes through underwriting and closing, with funds typically available within 48 hours.

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Initial interest rates are competitive

While Trident Funding doesn't disclose detailed rate information (due largely to the fact that it will depend on the lender they match you with), their rate estimate tool at the time of this evaluation offered competitive percentages for most new boat purchases. As usual, the lowest rates tied to the highest credit scores.

Feedback is universally positive

Trident Funding has earned an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau and receives ample praise from hundreds of boat owners on Trustpilot, making it a top choice for luxury boat loans. The only drawback is the restriction on liveaboard boats, so if circumnavigating the globe is your plan, you will need to explore other financing options.

Best option for luxury boat loans

For those seeking concierge-level attention and financing for a high-end vessel, Trident Funding is unparalleled. Their stellar reputation, flexibility, and tailored service make them one of our top recommendations for boat loans exceeding $25,000.

Excel Credit Review 4.5 Star Rating

Excel Credit

4.5 Star Rating
  • Boat loans from $25,000 to $25,000,000
  • Approvals within 24 to 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
  • In business since 1993

If you're in the market for a boat loan, Orlando-based Excel Credit offers a personalized touch that sets them apart. Picture this: you might even get assistance from the company owner himself - that's the level of attention Excel Credit has brought to the marine financing marketplace since 1993.

Application is a little outdated

Don't let the initial impression stop you here - their online application might feel a bit outdated. It's not the most tech-savvy, requiring you to fill in each page before seeing subsequent ones. Yet, you can save your progress and return later, handy for gathering boat details or financial statements.

Borrow up to $25,000,000

You can borrow anywhere from $25,000 to an impressive $25,000,000 through Excel, but you should anticipate making a down payment of 10% as part of your loan requirements. You should have your initial approval within 24-48 hours, and depending on what paperwork is needed in your individual situation, you could have loan proceeds within 7 business days.

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Try the rate quote form if you're not in a hurry

If time isn't of the essence, filling in the Quick Rate Quote lets an Excel Credit loan officer reach out to you. This way, you can get your questions answered about rates, terms, and application timeframes before deciding on the complete online application.

Clients are very happy

Excel Credit has a long list of satisfied clients, some using the service to fund the purchase of more than one boat. Explore their social media channels and testimonials page to read firsthand accounts and even see photos of watercraft, airplanes, or RVs purchased with loan proceeds - a great way to envision your own dreams coming true. The Better Business Bureau continues to give Excel Credit a stellar "A+" rating.

Definitely worth your time

Getting a boat loan through Excel is remarkably straightforward. Although we'd like to see the lender provide a bit more upfront information, even an approximate range of interest rates and loan terms, the praise Excel Credit has received consistently over three decades is enough evidence that they're doing a wonderful job on boat loans from $25,000 into the millions. This is a lender that absolutely understands the marine loan industry, so you'll be in good hands if you go with Excel.

Discover Review 4.5 Star Rating

Discover

4.5 Star Rating
  • Loans from $2,500 to $40,000 (structured as a personal loan)
  • Terms range from 36 to 84 months
  • Payment can be deposited on the next business day after approval
  • No origination fees
  • No prepayment penalty

Discover is so much more than a credit card brand. Did you know that they might be one of your best options for buying a boat (at least, one on the more affordable end of the price spectrum)?

Borrow up to $40K

All of Discover's "boat loans" are really personal loans that can be used for any purpose. You can borrow anywhere from $2,500 to $40,000, with terms that span 36-84 months and with competitive interest rates as well. There's no minimum credit score required to apply here, but naturally the best loan offers go to those with the best credit profiles. You can click on the "check your rate" button without any impact on your credit score, or use the sliders on the page (loan amount, length, your credit score) to get a ballpark idea even before doing that.

Next-day funding on most loans

Once your application has been approved and you accept Discover's loan, you could have your money deposited into the bank account of your choice by the next business day (as long as the loan is funded on a weekday night). You could experience a delay if there are any typos or errors on your application.

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No fees for origination or prepayment

And, if you're able to pay your loan back early, no worries. Discover doesn't charge fees for prepayment (and there are no origination fees either, by the way).

Almost 25,000 five-star reviews for these loans

Discover borrowers are exceptionally happy with their loans. Across more than 26,000 ratings just on Discover's personal loans, nearly 25,000 of them were a perfect five stars. And no, Discover didn't filter out the negative ones: they were collected by a third-party service and updated in real time, so you can trust that they're legit. Clients say that they were thrilled to see that Discover came in with better rates and terms than their bank or credit union, that customer service is top-notch, and that the approval process was quick and easy.

Surprisingly good option for boat loans

Who knew a credit card company could be a great option for non-luxury boat loans? Well, you do, now! As long as you're not trying to by a $20M superyacht, getting a personal loan through Discover can open up the pathway for the boat of your choice; it won't matter if you're trying to buy one new from the dealership or a used one through a private sale, because the loan is funded independently of your plans on how to use it. We're pleased (and a little surprised) to give Discover a well-deserved high rating as an option for financing a boat purchase.

Upstart Review 4 Star Rating

Upstart

4 Star Rating
  • Loans between $1,000 and $50,000 (structured as a personal loan)
  • Uses more than your credit score to determine eligibility
  • Connects borrowers to more than 100 banks and credit unions
  • Most loans funded within 24 hours
  • Over 2.7 million customers and $34 billion in originations
  • Available in 48 states (excluding Iowa and West Virginia)
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
  • Over 40,000 five-star reviews from clients

Financing a boat without straining your finances or solely relying on your credit score is the essence of what Upstart brings to the table. Founded by former Google employees, Upstart takes a distinctive approach by evaluating your college degree, field of study, work history, and credit history years to determine your eligibility for a boat loan.

Millions of customers

This unique approach makes Upstart a positive force in the fintech world, particularly for recent graduates or those still building their credit history. The numbers speak for themselves: over 2.7 million customers have embraced Upstart, resulting in $34 billion in loan originations.

Do you meet the criteria?

To set sail with one of Upstart's boat loans from their network of 100+ banks and credit unions, you'll need to meet certain criteria. Generally, a FICO or Vantage score of at least 580 (or 620, depending on your state) is required, and applications with bankruptcies or delinquent accounts probably will be rejected. Additionally, you must be at least 18, with a minimum annual income of $12,000, a personal US bank account, and either a full-time job, a job offer starting within 6 months, a regular part-time job, or another source of regular income.

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Personal loans that can be used for boat purchases

Your loan is structured as a personal loan, so technically you can use it for whatever you like. You can borrow anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, making Upstart an option for more budget-friendly watercraft (you'll need to look somewhere else if you've got your eye on that custom Feadship superyacht). However, state regulations may influence minimum and maximum loan limits. The loan terms typically span three or five years, and as of our latest evaluation, the APRs were very competitive. One last note: if you live in Iowa or West Virginia, you unfortunately won't qualify to borrow money through Upstart.

Next-day funding is possible

Upstart's application process is efficient, taking you just 5-10 minutes to input basic details like your name, address, income, employment, and educational background. Fortunately, this process won't impact your credit score as Upstart performs a "soft" credit check. Within minutes of applying, you may receive loan offers, and upon accepting the terms, your funds could be in your bank account as soon as the next business day.

You may pay origination fees

When reviewing loan offers, be mindful of origination fees, which can range from 0% to 8%, depending on your state. Also, watch out for any late payment or check-bouncing fees. Fortunately, Upstart welcomes early loan repayments and extra payments.

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Solid reputation

Upstart has an outstanding reputation, with an "A+" BBB rating and accreditation, accompanied by minimal complaints. Over 45,000 Trustpilot reviews paint an equally positive picture, with an almost flawless average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. Many clients return to Upstart for their lending needs, and funds are promptly deposited upon accepting the loan terms - a process that many complete using their smartphones.

A couple of drawbacks

We did notice a couple of drawbacks to using Upstart for boat loans. First off, they're obviously not a marine-focused lending option. That isn't a huge disadvantage necessarily, but it keeps them from offering you anything that might be more specific to boating needs. You also see that reflected in their upper limits for lending amounts; they even come in a little lower than several other non-boating-specific financing options we evaluated (some rivals offer up to $100,000, even though those loans are also structured as a personal loan). And, some competitors even offer no-fee loans.

Better than most

Upstart deserves a high rating among boat loan choices. As long as you're looking at a vessel that's $50,000 or less (or you're making a down payment that means you only need to borrow that much), Upstart's perks earn it consideration for your next marine loan.

LendingTree Review 4 Star Rating

LendingTree

4 Star Rating
  • Boat loans up to $999,999
  • Funds available for new and used boats, plus refinancing
  • Referral service pairs you with up to 5 lending partners
  • APRs vary widely, based on chosen lender
  • Repayment terms from 24 to 84+ months
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
  • Almost 30 years in business

With LendingTree's roots dating back to 1998, this online loan marketplace has played a pioneering role in alternative financing, including boat loans, credit cards, and small business loans. You're matched with up to five lenders in their fully-vetted network of partners, whether you're financing a new boat purchase, getting a used vessel, or refinancing a marine loan you already have.

Connect with hundreds of prospective lenders

Unlike some services with limited options, LendingTree provides access to hundreds of financial institutions. The transparency offered is noteworthy, providing detailed information about each partner's history and client reviews. This feature instills confidence, especially when dealing with lesser-known lenders introduced to you by LendingTree.

Lenders offer up to nearly $1M

Curious about the amounts and interest rates for boat loans through LendingTree? It heavily depends on your unique credit profile, income level, and borrowing needs. Generally, LendingTree partners can fund boat loans up to a dollar short of $1 million, with interest rates determined by individual lenders. It takes applying to receive your personalized offers.

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No hit to your credit until you choose a lender and apply

Initiating the process is simple; choose the type of boat loan you need, whether it's for a new purchase, used purchase, or refinance. The application prompts you to enter essential details such as the purchase price, down payment, desired monthly payment, intended use, and personal information. While sharing your Social Security Number is required, LendingTree only performs a soft credit check, so there's no impact on your credit until you complete the application with your chosen lender. Everything from that point forward depends on the financial institution you ultimately work with, but you'll have plenty of information about that lender at your fingertips before you have to make the final call.

"A+" from the BBB but can lead to unwanted communications

LendingTree holds an impressive reputation, supported by an "A+" BBB rating and thousands of five-star reviews. However, some users have reported receiving spam communications after providing their contact information to LendingTree. That's not so unusual with referral platforms in general, but the complaints in that regard from LendingTree users are more widespread than some rival services we've seen.

Still a great resource overall

For those who appreciate having multiple boat loan options before making a decision, LendingTree is a solid starting point. While missing out on a higher ranking because of the information-selling issue, we continue to give LendingTree a solid recommendation.

SuperMoney Review 4 Star Rating

SuperMoney

4 Star Rating
  • Loan referral platform
  • Transparent in naming the partners they work with
  • Great resource for vetting loan providers
  • Lots of reviews from other borrowers
  • Loans up to $100K
  • In operation since 2013

SuperMoney, a prominent name in the financial services arena since 2013, extends its expertise to help individuals make well-informed decisions about their boat loans. This platform, widely recognized by Forbes, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, offers a comprehensive array of financial services, including personal loans that can be used to buy a boat.

Get referrals to multiple lenders

SuperMoney operates as a referral platform, connecting you with an extensive network of lending partners. While they don't directly fund boat loans, they facilitate a seamless process for you to review offers, compare options, and choose a lender that aligns with your needs and budget. This approach ensures that you can make an informed decision after evaluating various loan options. You'll even see some of the lending partners we reviewed separately, so it might be worth it to use SuperMoney as your jumping off point, rather than filling out the initial application on each of those sites.

You won't be spammed after applying here

To see what SuperMoney can do for you, you'll navigate through the usual questions about your loan preferences, credit score, and employment status. Providing personal information is a part of the process, primarily for identity verification and a soft credit check. SuperMoney stands out by prioritizing user privacy - your information won't be sold to third parties, shielding you from unwanted solicitations.

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Check out the lender database

SuperMoney's customer-centric nature extends to its list of lending partners, which you can readily access on their dedicated page for personal loans. Here, you'll find valuable client reviews without having to commit to the application process, offering an added layer of convenience and information accessibility. You could even use the database to research any boat loan options you've found on your own, no commitment required.

Useful, trustworthy service

Despite the absence of a listing on the Better Business Bureau, SuperMoney has an outstanding reputation with over 400 ratings on Trustpilot, averaging an impressive 4.9 stars. Users consistently highlight SuperMoney as a valuable resource for researching lenders, even if they ultimately choose to secure a loan through a different platform.

One of our favorites among boat loan referral platforms

In your boat loan research, SuperMoney serves as a fantastic resource, providing you with valuable insights, a user-friendly experience, and the ability to compare multiple loan options. Although your rates and terms will still be completely dependent on the lender you select for your boat loan, SuperMoney's overall reputation and the wealth of information it offers make it an excellent starting point. We appreciate SuperMoney's promise not to sell customers' information, and it earns a high rating among companies offering boat loans.

First Approval Source Review 3.5 Star Rating

First Approval Source

3.5 Star Rating
  • Concierge-type service to match you with the right boat loan
  • Can create a custom package that includes insurance and warranty protection
  • Recommended partner of BoatUS
  • 75+ five-star reviews from satisfied borrowers

First Approval Source gives you concierge-level help in finding the right financing for your boat. Based in Georgia, the company doesn't use computers to do all the heavy lifting. Instead, once you've filled out the online inquiry form, their team of actual human beings goes to work to build a package that meets your needs, not just the financing itself but also insurance and warranty protection, if you want them.

Be ready to get really personal with the online form

But, to really find out what First Approval Source can do for you, you'll have to reach out. It's easy to do that with the online form on their website, but that's where we first got the inclination that there are some specific parameters for working with them for a boat loan. Right on the initial page, it asks if you know the salesperson's name at the dealership. What if you're buying from a private seller? You'll also be asked for your driver's license (not just the number but an image upload) and Social Security numbers just a few pages in.

Skip the web and go to the phone

You'd do better to reach out to First Approval Source directly, rather than filling out the online application. You're going to hear from them anyway after you submit it, so why not just call first? That's the quickest route to finding out how much you can borrow, whether or not they'll finance your purchase of a used vessel, and so on.

They don't sell your information

There are a few things we appreciate about First Approval Source. One, they promise to keep your information secure: even though they work with multiple lenders to get you the best package for your boat loan, they're not trying to make money by selling your phone number to third-party marketing companies. That's a breath of fresh air!

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Recommended by BoatUS

Two, First Approval Source is the BoatUS recommended lending option for any boat loans under $25,000. BoatUS is a leading boat owners association in the US, with over 500,000 members, and so their recommendation means something.

All 5-star ratings from dozens of clients

Third, since the last time we evaluated First Approval Source, they've earned at least 75 five-star ratings. Clients name specific representatives for being helpful and dedicated to getting them the best marine loan terms, and they go into detail on the ways that this company goes above and beyond in the lending process. We invite you to check out the reviews on Google for yourself (we also should point out that it's the only place we found reviews - First Approval Source still doesn't have any rating we could find with the Better Business Bureau or on Trustpilot).

Give them a call for an old-fashioned boat loan process

Who's the ideal First Approval Source borrower? Probably someone who wants to skip all the online stuff and go right to a service that will take the reins and find a good match for their boat loan. We're happy to see so much feedback that came in since our last review of this company, and all of it enthusiastic and positive. First Approval Source's website is missing some of the bells and whistles of more digitally-focused options for boat loans. Still, give First Approval Source a call if you'd like to get a boat loan in a more traditional, less tech-y way.

SoFi<sup>®</sup> Review 3.5 Star Rating

SoFi®

3.5 Star Rating
  • Boat loans available from $5,000 to $100,000 (structured as a personal loan)
  • Flexible repayment terms spanning from 2 to 7 years
  • Most loans funded same or next day
  • Available in all states except Mississippi
  • Live customer support 7 days a week
  • "A+" BBB rating

SoFi, a financial powerhouse with over two million members and $50 billion in funded loans, extends its expertise to marine loans, helping people realize their dream of becoming boat owners. In addition to boat loans, SoFi provides an array of resources for strategic debt payoff, financial security, investing, and future savings, fostering a comprehensive approach to financial independence.

No surprises in the initial application

Applying for a boat loan through SoFi is about as easy as it gets. Enter your basic information, desired loan amount (up to $100,000), and indicate "major purchase" as the reason for your application. SoFi will try to verify your identity and make a soft pull on your credit based on the details you enter; you may need to enter your SSN if your credit history can't be located based on what you put in previously.

Not the most competitive rates

Bear in mind that all SoFi loans are structured as personal loans: these aren't specific to the marine industry, so no matter how you use your loan proceeds, the process will always be the same. Of course, the strongest applicants qualify for interest rates on the lower end of the spectrum. The average SoFi borrower, regardless of what they used their loan for, was cited as having a 14.84% APR over a 5-year loan term. How does that stack up against other options for boat loans? It's not the best or the worst. But, as a comparison, our #1-ranked lender's highest quoted APR is lower than SoFi's quoted average, so keep that in mind.

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A few ways to lower your interest rate

There are a few perks at SoFi that could get you a lower rate, though. They offer a 0.25% APR discount for setting up your account for autopay, and another half percentage point off if you opt for an account with direct deposit.

Watch out for origination fees

But, if you don't take the time to carefully go over your boat loan terms with SoFi, you might be caught off guard by other fees. Even though SoFi proudly puts in large print that they don't charge origination fees, the harder-to-spot text at the bottom of the site says that borrowers should anticipate fees ranging from 0 to 6%. Given that your SoFi boat loan could be anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000, 6% is not what we would call nothing. We also don't love this lack of clarity or consistency on SoFi's part.

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Same-day funding on most approved loans

And, if you've spotted a boat that you've just got to have and you want to make an offer before someone else does, SoFi has good news for you: over 80% of their loan applications get funded on the same day if paperwork is signed by 7PM EST on a business day.

Mostly positive reputation

We can also say that SoFi's reputation is nothing to worry about overall. The Better Business Bureau gives the fintech company a perfect "A+" rating, and we found more than 7,000 five-star ratings on Trustpilot too. Regardless of their reasons for borrowing money, clients usually say that the process is smooth, they're happy with the amount they qualified for and the interest rate, and that the experience was transparent from start to finish. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, we did notice over 1,300 complaints filed against SoFi in the last three years: all of them were resolved appropriately, and many of them related to general banking issues unrelated to any kind of loan product, so you're probably safe looking at SoFi for your boat financing.

Could be worth a look

It can't hurt to see if SoFi can offer you a boat loan, especially if our higher-rated lenders aren't an option for some reason. But, it might save you a bit of time to use one of the referral platforms on our list that includes SoFi as an option: that way, you can compare them against other lenders with one initial application. SoFi probably isn't going to come in with the absolute best rates and terms, but there's no reason to avoid this lender if they offer you a boat loan you can afford.

Upgrade Review 3 Star Rating

Upgrade

3 Star Rating
  • Boat loans from $1,000 to $50,000 (structured as a personal loan)
  • Origination fees from 1.85% to 9.99% deducted from loan proceeds
  • Repayment terms from 24 to 84 months
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB
  • Two lending partners
  • In business since 2017

Established in 2017, Upgrade offers a diverse range of financial services, including rewards checking, personal loans (that can be used to buy a boat), credit cards, and financial education. Headquartered in San Francisco with additional offices in Phoenix, Atlanta, Orange County (CA), and Montreal, Upgrade has successfully served over 2.5 million customers, issuing loans exceeding $24 billion in its initial years.

Basic application process

Working through the boat loan application process through Upgrade is relatively uncomplicated. Kick off by specifying your desired loan amount, ranging from $1,000 to $50,000, and indicating the loan's purpose (for a boat, that would best match "major purchase"). Provide the necessary personal details for yourself and any additional applicants, specifying whether it's an individual or joint application. Annual income details are required, with specific qualification requirements outlined for self-employed applicants.

You'll need a verified account

To access your boat loan rate quotes, create an Upgrade account with your email address and a chosen password. Verification of your identity involves providing your full Social Security Number. (In the event Upgrade cannot locate your credit profile through TransUnion or another bureau, you'll be notified that your loan request was denied.)

Interest rates are high, plus origination fees

We're not over the moon excited about Upgrade's rates and terms for marine loans. You'll find fixed-rate APRs with repayment terms spanning 24 to 84 months. That's pretty standard, but their APRs don't include Upgrade's one-time origination fee of 1.85% to 9.99%, deducted from the loan proceeds. If you don't calculate carefully and account for those fees, you could wind up with a total that doesn't meet what you need to borrow for the boat you're buying.

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Two lending partners behind the scenes

Upgrade channels its boat loans through two financial partners, Cross River Bank and Blue Ridge Bank. While Cross River Bank holds a "C-" rating from the Better Business Bureau, Blue Ridge Bank enjoys a more favorable "B+" rating. Upgrade itself maintains an "A+" BBB rating, giving us confidence that this isn't a bad option for loans in general.

Good reputation, especially with those who have low credit scores

With almost 40,000 Trustpilot reviews, Upgrade continues to solidify its good reputation, with 92% of customers awarding the company a 4- or 5-star rating. Although some customers note slightly longer wait times than they expected for loan processing and approval, the majority describe the loan application process as quick, easy, and reliable. Qualifying for a loan with a credit score below 600 is a standout feature, one that resonated positively with customers.

Not bad, but not our favorite

We only feel comfortable giving Upgrade a middle-of-the-road rating. While the lender is definitely reliable and may have options for borrowers with lower credit scores, we can't get past those steep origination fees and high interest rates. Plus, these loans aren't boat-specific: that's not an immediate "no" from us, but with the other drawbacks we mentioned, it's enough to stop Upgrade from getting an enthusiastic "yes" .

Compare the Best Reviews

Continued from above...

One key driver why online boat loans are so popular is the unparalleled convenience they offer. Today's consumer value efficiency and simplicity in their lives. Online boat loans provide a streamlined application process, allowing borrowers to complete the entire transaction from the comfort of their homes. Gone are the days of cumbersome paperwork and time-consuming visits to brick-and-mortar banks or other lending institutions.

Another thing that sets online boat loans apart is the speed of approval and disbursement of funds. Traditional lending often involved lengthy approval processes, causing delays that could hinder the timely purchase of a boat. Online lenders leverage technology to expedite the approval process, letting you receive a quick decision on your loan - and get quick access to your funds.

Securing a boat loan involves navigating through various financial waters, understanding the intricacies of marine financing, and ensuring a smooth sail towards ownership. Whether you're dreaming of a luxurious yacht or a modest fishing boat, here's what you need to know as you explore the world of boat loans.

Boat loans are specialized loans designed to finance the purchase of a boat. They function similarly to auto loans, with the boat itself often serving as collateral to get you a lower interest rate (a secured boat loan). Lenders assess your credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio, and the type of boat you're purchasing when determining your eligibility. A higher credit score usually results in better loan terms, including lower interest rates.

Lenders offer fixed or variable interest rates, and the loan term can range from a few years to more extended periods. Longer loan terms can result in lower monthly payments but may lead to higher overall interest payments. Shorter terms may mean higher monthly payments but lower overall costs. Also, many lenders may require a down payment, usually ranging from 10% to 20% of the boat's purchase price. A larger down payment can lead to better loan terms and increased chances of loan approval.

Beyond the loan amount, you should consider other costs associated with boat ownership, such as insurance, maintenance, storage, and docking fees. These should be factored into your budget to ensure a realistic financial plan.

The boat loan application process involves submitting personal and financial information, including proof of income and credit history. Be prepared to provide details about the boat you intend to purchase, including its make, model, and purchase price. And, if your boat is in the $200K+ range, you'll likely need a boat inspection called a "marine survey" : similar to the inspection that's required on a home prior to qualifying for a mortgage, your lender will want to know that the vessel is seaworthy before approving the purchase.

The good news is that most of this can be done online. You've got an ocean of opportunities out there as you work to get the seafaring vessel of your dreams, and all it takes is a few clicks to find your financing.

What should you look for as you decide where to apply for a boat loan? Keep these things in mind:

  • Loan structure. Is the boat loan set up specifically for boats (which is often more like a traditional auto loan), or is it a personal loan? Personal loans tend to have much higher interest rates. Also, be sure to note whether it's an unstructured (not secured by collateral) or structured (secured by collateral) loan: if you default on your payments, you will lose whatever you used to secure that loan (like the boat itself). Do you need to make a down payment?
  • Rates and fees. How much will your monthly payments be? How long is the loan term? What fees are charged beyond interest (like origination fees, processing fees, and so on)?
  • Available loan amount. How much does the lender let applicants borrow? Is it enough to cover the full amount for the boat you're hoping to buy? How long will it take to get the funds if you're approved?
  • Reputation. What have other boat owners said about the lender? Were there any (unpleasant) surprises at any point of the application process or after the loan was funded? Has the Better Business Bureau given the lender a favorable rating?

Securing a boat loan requires careful consideration of your financial situation, the type of boat you want, and the terms offered by lenders. To help you on your quest, the experts at Top Consumer Reviews have evaluated and ranked some of today's most popular sources of boat loans. By navigating these waters thoughtfully, you can set sail on your maritime adventure with confidence and financial peace of mind.

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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.
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