Best for Bad Credit : Southeast Financial
Best for Bad Credit : Southeast Financial

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A boat loan is a loan used to purchase a new or pre-owned boat. It may be necessary to obtain a boat loan if you don't have the cash to purchase the boat outright.

Boats vary in size, use, condition, and features, and the loans to finance them vary just as much. There are unsecured boat loans, secured boat loans, loans offered by banks and online lenders, and loans offered by marine lending specialists. There are also commercial boat loans which are ideal if you use your boat as a business such as a charter operation.

The best boat loans offer competitive rates and terms, are available for a variety of boats, and are offered by reputable banks. We reviewed more than a dozen companies that offer boat loans before deciding on our top choices. Keep reading to see which boat loan is right for you.

Best Boat Loans of 2022

  • Best Overall:Essex Credit
  • Best for Bad Credit:Southeast Financial
  • Best Unsecured Loan:LightStream
  • Best High-Value Boat Loan:SunTrust
  • Best Marine Lending Specialist:Trident Funding
  • Best Commercial Loan:Coastal Financial
  • Essex Credit
  • Southeast Financial
  • LightStream

Best Overall : Essex Credit

Why We Chose It: Essex Credit is our choice for best overall boat loan because it offers multiple types of loans including ones for borrowers who use the boat recreationally and for those who want to live on their boat. It has a simple online application process, has been in business since 1981, and offers long terms.

Essex Credit is a division of Bank of the West. Its goal is to get you approved for a boat loan as quickly and easily as possible. It offers boat loans for new and used boats (year 2001 or newer) as well as RV loans and boat refinancing options. The company has mixed customer reviews with some customers appreciating the ease of the online applications while others had a difficult time getting in touch with someone from customer service.

It specializes in long-term boat loans from five to 20 years for borrowers with good credit; typically a minimum FICO score of 700 or higher is needed. Loans have fixed rates starting at 3.74% (as of ) and no prepayment penalties. However, there are loan processing fees that vary depending on the type of loan. Additional fees that you will incur when purchasing a boat include taxes, title, registration, and licensing fees. These can be rolled into the loan as long as your loan-to-value ratio (LTV) meets their guidelines.

The company performs a credit review within 1-3 business days of when you apply for a boat loan online but funding times vary based on the type of vessel and type of loan. Essex Credit finances most types of boats except those that go over 99 mph.

Why We Chose It: Southeast Financial is our top choice for boat loans for borrowers with bad credit because it has a low minimum FICO score requirement of 550, free credit consultation, and will even lend to borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy in the past if they are discharged.

Southeast Financial has been financing boats since the early 2000s, offers loans in all states, and focuses on providing the best rates and terms for all of its customers. It specializes in funding subprime borrowers' loans. In addition to boat loans, it offers RV loans, boat warranties, horse trailer loans, and motorcycle loans. Customers appreciate the responsive customer service teams, marine industry knowledge, and variety of loans.

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