A little research on the Internet has shown me that, on average, boaters have a good chance of making the cut. Boaters tend to be in a slightly better financial position than people who don't boat. Boaters are also likely to own a few other toys, a fact that, given a good payment record, should increase credit scores. I share this fact with Murray, who quickly brings me back to reality.
"So you know how to Google? Big deal, hotshot," he says, slipping the calculator back inside his overcoat. "Even if your credit is great, you still need cash. Today these guys want what we in the biz call earnest money. That's a down payment, for those of you who've forgotten the concept. And sorry, a token amount won't cut it. We're talking at least 15 percent."
As I mentally scan my bank accounts, he moves without hesitation to the next subject -- interest rates. As I soon learn, larger loans of $25,000 and up currently have fixed rates in the neighborhood of 7 percent. For loans less than $25,000, expect between 8.5 and 9 percent. And that's to those with good credit. Terms? As long as 10 years for the smaller loans, and between 15 and 20 years for the larger. The actual rate will be decided not only by your credit score but also a multitude of arcane items each bank considers in its own unique formula.
"See what the dealer can do, but don't be afraid to shop your loan around a few reputable places -- such as Bank of America or Excel Credit -- that are familiar with marine financing," says Murray. Odds are, they may come back slightly different. "But if it's just going to be a few tenths of a percentage point, don't screw around -- go with the guy who's selling you the boat. He's the one you'll be coming back to for service. When your stern drive eats its gears and you want it back by the weekend, who do you think will get better treatment? The guy who gave the dealer his financing or the one who went somewhere else to save a few pennies?"
Should I take a chance and wait, hoping that interest rates might drop? "No," says Murray. "Just do it. Sure, there's a chance that interest rates might go down, but even if they do drop, half a point isn't going to make much of a dent in your monthly payment." He again produces his trusty calculator. "At 7 percent, the payment on 50 grand over 15 years is $449. At 6.5 percent, it's $435. Even if rates fall as low as 6 percent, it'd still only save you about $28 a month. That's dinner for one, and not a very good dinner at that."