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Secured vs. Unsecured Loans: What's the Difference?

Knowing the difference between secured and unsecured loans can help you make a more informed decision about what's best for you. Learn more about each loan option and the factors to consider before taking out a loan below.

What Is a Secured Loan?

Secured loans are loans that are financially supported by collateral. Collateral is an asset, like a house, land, a vehicle, or jewelry, used to guarantee the repayment of the loan. If the borrower fails to repay the loan, the lender may seize the collateral to recoup the loss.

If the collateral exceeds the loan amount, the lender refunds the difference to the borrower after the sale. If the value of the collateral is less than the amount of money owed, the borrower must pay the difference to the lender.

These kinds of loans are generally lower risk for lenders because of the involved collateral, and borrowers can take out secured loans to pay for more significant purchases, such as property. The biggest drawback of secured loans is that the borrower risks losing the asset used to secure the loan if they can't make the agreed-upon payments.

What Is an Unsecured Loan?

Unsecured loans are loans that require no collateral. In other words, you can acquire these loans without pledging any assets to the lender in exchange for the debt. Unsecured loans are riskier for lenders than secured loans, thus requiring more scrutiny.

The lender assesses the potential borrower's creditworthiness, income, and debt-to-income ratio to determine whether they qualify for the loan. The loan amount for unsecured loans is generally smaller and tends to have a higher interest rate.

What Is the Difference Between Secured Loans and Unsecured Loans?

Here are a few notable differences between secured and unsecured debt:

1. Collateral

The main difference between secured and unsecured loans is collateral. While secured loans involve collateral, unsecured loans don't require you to put up collateral in exchange for the loan. However, borrowers who default in paying unsecured debts may still face credit implications, so it's essential to ensure prompt payment regardless of the kind of loan you get.

2. Interest Rates

Secured loans generally attract lower interest rates and annual percentage rates compared to unsecured loans because the borrower has more incentive to repay the loan. However, a borrower with a high credit score may still get favorable rates for an unsecured loan.

3. Borrowing Limits

Secured loans tend to have higher borrowing limits than unsecured loans because of the risk margin and financial approval requirements.

4. Qualification Requirements

The eligibility requirements for unsecured loans tend to be stricter than those for secured loans, as unsecured loans pose a greater risk for lenders. Before approving the loan, the lender may consider multiple factors, including your credit score, income and debts, and repayment history, and the standards may be particularly high for unsecured loans.

5. Restrictions on Usage

Generally, secured loans have fewer restrictions on how you can use them. Unsecured loans may require you to use the money for a specific purpose, such as paying for school tuition or specific personal expenses.

6. Risks

In general, for either type of loan, borrowers who default on their repayment obligations risk having their credit scores lowered. Obtaining a secured loan comes with the risk of potentially losing the asset you put up if you fail to repay the loan.

Is a Personal Loan Secured or Unsecured?

Personal loans are usually unsecured, although lenders may offer secured options. You can use unsecured personal loans to finance home remodels, weddings, medical bills, travel, and other similar expenses. It's essential to confirm from the lender if the intended use is permitted.

What Are Some Types of Secured Loans?

Three Types of Secured Loans

Here are three types of secured loans:

  • Mortgages: A mortgage is a loan used to purchase a property, where the lender uses said property as security for the repayment of the loan amount, interests, and all associated costs. For example, if you buy a house with a mortgage, the lender can repossess the house if you fail to make payments.
  • Auto loans: Vehicle loans are used to finance the acquisition of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and boats. The vehicle is used as collateral, giving the lender the right of repossession if the borrower defaults.
  • Secured credit cards: Secured credit cards can offer those with limited credit history the chance to build their credit scores. The lender makes a cash deposit on the account, which serves as collateral and credit limit.

Other types of secured loans are business loans, life insurance loans, and bad credit loans.

What Are Some Types of Unsecured Loans?

A couple of common types of unsecured loans include:

  • Student loans: Student loans can either be private or federal with standard repayment terms of 10 years. They're used for a specific purpose — paying college-related expenses, including tuition, accommodation, and course materials.
  • Revolving loans: These loans enable the borrower to spend as they go. Two examples are personal lines of credit and credit cards.

Factors to Consider Before Getting a Loan

In addition to your credit score, repayment history, and assets, here are four things to consider before getting a loan:

1. Hidden Charges

Confirm all associated expenses before signing the agreement. Hidden charges can impose an additional burden, making it challenging to repay the loan.

2. Financial Budget

Apply for a loan you're capable of repaying, so you can keep your credit score in good standing and avoid the risks associated with taking out certain kinds of loans. The best lenders assess your ability to repay the loan and provide advice before proceeding with the transaction.

3. Multiple Offers

Take your time to review multiple loan options and choose the best one for your situation. Assess the interest rate, additional charges, repayment plan, and the terms of the agreement before you apply. You want to partner with a lender that provides affordable loan structures and favorable terms.

4. Application and Payment Processes

Check if the lender has online access in addition to its brick-and-mortar location. This way, you can easily monitor your loan repayment and contact the lender with questions when necessary.

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