Similar to securing an auto loan, the first place to start is by checking your credit score. Remember, over the life of a 3.5+ year loan, even a 1 percent APR reduction can have a huge effect. If you score is lower than what lenders require to give you a good rate, take a few months to bring your score up before applying for a boat loan.

The next steps are to know what you can afford and to start shopping around in your price range. Don’t forget that the sticker price isn’t the final operating cost and that you still need to account for fuel, storage, maintenance, taxes, title, registration, and insurance.

Now it’s time to talk with a variety of lenders to begin comparing terms and interest rates before choosing the loan that works best for you. Most boat dealers offer in-house financing as well. Occasionally, dealer-based financing will give you access to manufacturer deals that can save you money, but never assume dealer financing is your best option. Shop around before you decide.