Be smart when buying a boat


It’s no secret that nationally, the fastest selling boats are freshwater fishing boats, personal watercraft and pontoon boats. And why not, boating is one of the great pleasures in life.

We’ve all heard that the best two things about boats are the day it’s purchased and the day it’s sold. Sorry, but that’s a down and out lie.

Fishing boats get us to more and better fishing.

Personal watercraft, often referred to as jet skis, are all about sports car-like fun and speed, and pontoons boats provide nothing short of instant relaxation.

All are good at what they are designed to do. The right owner with the right boat is in for years of great times.

But after all the window shopping, tire kicking, online research and in-person inspections, there’s more to buying a boat than simply signing on the dotted line.

After all, none of the above is free. In fact, the purchase of that dream boat is probably going to come with a relatively thick book of monthly payment coupons. So be smart when buying.

I’m a practical sort: born to a dad who worked hard, earned every penny and minded his wallet smartly. Thus, life lessons learned as a kid still control my spending.

I don’t ask what the monthly payments are as a deciding factor when considering a purchase.

I want to know the total cost, and I’ll then decide how best to pay.

Most of us simply can’t pay for boat in cash. So we need to get a loan, and that’s okay.

Understand this: boats fall in the “want” category, not the “need” category. That means that one can expect lenders to charge higher percentages than they do for “need” items such as vehicles.

That’s just the way it is, so expect it. Nevertheless, boat buyers should search for the best loan they can find.

Meaning, of course, the lowest interest rate and most comfortable terms.

From BoatUS, the nation’s most popular boat owner’s advocacy association, come the following tips concerning financing a boat purchase.

Each has been edited for space.

A fixed-rate, fixed-term, simple-interest loan is the most common, with the same monthly payment for the life of the loan, which will vary in length.

Down payments from 10% to 20% are the norm. Be sure to ask if there are penalties for paying off the loan early.

And too, ask to see that kind of information in writing on the loan papers. Beware of super low advertised rates. There may be some small print that could make that loan less attractive.

For instance, the rate might only be fixed for a few years or the loan period might be shorter.

Generally, interest rates are lower and loan terms longer for newer boats and larger loan amounts.

Boat loans are often spread over 12, 15 or even more years.

Wondering how much of a loan you can afford? Ask your lender or dealer how much each $1,000 borrowed will cost per month.

Your lender will also review your debt ratio and other criteria.

As with any loan, there are some additional costs involved. Sales tax, processing fee and title and registration fees are common.

And ask your lender to give you an itemized list of closing costs so there are no surprises.

Keep in mind that good credit scores equal lower boat loan interest rates and more favorable terms.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.
Previous articleA little dirt doesn't hurt
Next articleFemale educators in Geauga County offer scholarship
Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.


  1. I liked that you mentioned one of the most important factors to consider when buying a boat is getting the best loan possible with the lowest interest rate. My husband and I are thinking about buying a boat, and we are looking for advice to find the right one for us. I will let him know about your recommendations to help him find the best boat for our family.

  2. Thank you for informing me that there are many boat loan options that can spread for over 15 years! Yesterday, I was talking to my father, and he mentioned that he really wants to spend more time on the water. He thinks that is such a great way to connect with friends and family, and it is very relaxing. I hope that he looks for a nice boat that will last a long time; he should probably also look into services that can get him parts when it does need repairs though.

  3. I’m planning to buy a Bennington Pontoon boat once I retire at the end of next year. Of course, I won’t use all my retirement funds for it, so I’ll get a loan to afford the boat. I like that you said I should keep in mind that your credit score has an effect on how much your interest rates would be. I’ll keep what you said in mind and try to keep a good credit score, so I’ll have an advantage when I get a loan for my boat. Thanks, Mike!

  4. I like what you said about getting a boat so that you can get to better fishing spots. My sister wants to take her kids on a fishing trip in the coming weeks. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for boats that can help her with this.


We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.