There are several options to consider in financing a boat. If it is a new boat, most banks and finance companies will provide a long payoff period on a boat since it is a discretionary purchase and, historically, these are very safe loans for the financier to make. If the boat is pre-owned, the finance rate (APR) is usually a little higher and the maximum term allowed is probably shorter.
To begin the process of investigating the financing of a boat, start with your credit score. Your ability to finance a boat and to get the best possible terms is more dependent on your credit score than on any other single factor. Run check on your credit score and your credit history. You may find some problems there where erroneous information has been reported and it would behoove you to get those items cleared up (and your credit score that improved) before you apply for a loan. Generally speaking, if your credit score is above 650, you should have few problems and if it is above 700, you can probably get the best terms.
With your good credit score in hand, visit the bank where you have your accounts as well as your credit union, to determine their boat financing programs. Many times, they will provide better rates and terms to a known customer than a boat finance company will provide to a stranger. Regardless, it just pays to ship.
Next, go on the internet and do a Google search for "boat financing". Check out the ads that appear and shop them diligently until you find a competitive deal. Do not make any commitments until you are done shopping!
If you are purchasing the boat from a dealer, check with him to see what connections they have pre-arranged for financing of the boat. Since they do this hundreds of times a year (and since the majority of their business is dependent on financing), they usually have the ability to 'shop the deal' among the larger banks in the region that finance boat transactions. Once again, your credit score will likely be the single most important factor contributing to the deal that you get.
Do not be surprised if the boat financing offered to you at the dealership includes optional credit life insurance, extended warranty coverages, and other 'add-ons'. It certainly is your option to accept or to decline these options without affecting the underlying financing package. Boat dealers are paid handsomely for selling these add-ons, so be prepared for the onslaught of offers. Depending on your financial condition, credit life might be worthwhile, but for most people, it is not. The extended warranty coverage is only important where the engine manufacturer's standard warranty is limited to 12 to 18 months. Most marine manufacturers now warranty their engines for 24 months or more. Most problems that you may have with the actual boat hull will normally rear their heads within the manufacturer's standard warranty period. Radios, instruments, accessories, etc are all covered by their respective manufacturers, usually for a period of one year.
When facing boat financing decisions, be sure to have a budget for your entire boating experience including not only the monthly cost of the boat, but also operational expenses for fuel, insurance, repairs and maintenance, etc. It would be terrible to have a nice, shiny new boat in the driveway and be able to use it because you did not expect the cost of operating it!
With a little homework on your part (and a good credit score!), Financing your boat should not be a problem. Have a great voyage!