What to Know About Secured vs. Unsecured Personal Loans

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ByChristopher Boston
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Reviewed byAlvin Yam, CFP
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Updated: February 25, 2024

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Personal loans offer a convenient way to borrow money, whether for managing unexpected expenses or funding a major purchase. They give you access to funds upfront, which you then pay back with interest over a set period. This makes them a popular financial tool, as you can tailor them to fit various needs and circumstances.

Before taking out a personal loan, familiarize yourself with the differences between secured and unsecured personal loans. Doing so ensures you choose an option that aligns with your financial situation and increases your chances of loan approval.


What Is a Secured Personal Loan?

A secured loan is a type of personal loan where you pledge an asset as collateral to guarantee the loan. Since the collateral serves as a security for the lender, you can typically access funds at a lower interest rate due to the reduced risk to the lender.

Some assets you can offer as collateral for a secured personal loan include a car, savings account or other valuable properties. The idea is that if you fail to repay the loan, the lender has the right to seize the collateral to recover the loan amount. This arrangement makes secured personal loans a viable option for borrowers who might not qualify for unsecured loans due to poor credit history or other reasons.


Depending on the lender, eligible collateral for secured personal loans can include real estate, vehicles, jewelry, collectibles such as precious metals, cash/savings accounts, investment holdings or certificates of deposit. — Alvin Yam, CFP®

Pros and Cons of Secured Personal Loans

Secured personal loans typically come with their own set of pros and cons. While they can offer favorable terms and larger loan amounts, they also carry the risk of losing collateral. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of secured personal loans helps you make informed financial decisions.


What Is an Unsecured Personal Loan?

An unsecured personal loan provides accessible funds to borrowers for various purposes, be it debt consolidation, financing major purchases or covering unexpected expenses, without securing the loan against personal assets.

The approval and terms of unsecured personal loans hinge mainly on your creditworthiness, primarily assessed through your credit score and income. Lenders consider these factors to gauge the likelihood of timely repayment. Since these loans don't have collateral, they often carry higher interest rates than secured personal loans, reflecting the higher risk. Still, they're usually the go-to option for personal loans due to the convenience and accessibility they offer.

Pros and Cons of Unsecured Personal Loans

When considering unsecured personal loans, balance their benefits against their potential drawbacks. While they offer convenience and accessibility, they may come with higher interest rates and stricter credit requirements. You can better determine if it's the right choice by weighing the pros and cons.


Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Secured vs. Unsecured Personal Loans

Making an informed choice between secured and unsecured personal loans requires understanding how they differ in terms of collateral requirements, interest rates, loan amounts and qualification criteria. Each factor plays a significant role in determining the suitability of the loan for your specific financial situation and goals.

  • Collateral: The requirement of collateral is a defining difference. In secured personal loans, you pledge an asset, like your car, which the lender can claim if you default. This risks asset loss but often results in better loan terms.
  • Interest Rates: Secured personal loans typically have lower interest rates, as your collateral mitigates the lender's risk. Conversely, unsecured personal loans generally carry higher interest rates, reflecting the higher risk to the lender when there's no collateral to secure the loan.
  • Borrowing Limits: How much you can borrow varies significantly between the two. Secured personal loans can offer higher amounts, given your collateral backs them. In contrast, the amounts for unsecured personal loans may be smaller, limited by the lender's evaluation of your creditworthiness and income, without any asset backing.
  • Qualification Requirements: Secured personal loans focus on your collateral and repayment capacity. Meanwhile, unsecured personal loans emphasize your credit score and income, as there's no collateral to back the loan. This distinction is meaningful if your credit history could be better or you don't have significant assets to offer as collateral.

Understanding these factors helps in choosing a loan that aligns with your financial capacity and needs, ensuring you're making a decision that supports your overall well-being.

How to Choose Between Personal Loan Types

Deciding whether to opt for a secured or an unsecured personal loan largely depends on your financial needs and circumstances. Both types of personal loans have distinct features and requirements, making them suitable for different scenarios.

A secured personal loan is ideal if you can provide an asset as collateral and are seeking lower interest rates or higher loan amounts. This type of personal loan is particularly beneficial if you need a substantial sum of money for a significant home renovation or to consolidate high-interest debts. Additionally, it’s a great choice if you are confident in your ability to repay the loan, as failing to do so could result in losing the asset you've put up as security.

If you don't have assets to use as collateral or prefer not to risk a valuable asset, an unsecured personal loan is an excellent choice. This type of personal loan is typically more accessible to a broader range of borrowers, including those who may not have significant assets but have a good credit history. Consumers who need quick access to funds may also benefit from unsecured personal loans, which often offer streamlined application processes.

FAQ About Secured vs. Unsecured Personal Loans

Understanding the nuances between secured and unsecured personal loans can be complex, and it's common to have questions about these financial products. To help clarify these differences, MoneyGeek compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

Generally, secured personal loans have lower interest rates because the collateral reduces the lender's risk. Unsecured personal loans, which carry a higher risk for lenders, usually have higher interest rates.

Yes, it's possible. Secured loans can be easier to obtain with bad credit since the collateral offsets the lender's risk. However, terms and interest rates may vary based on the lender's policies.

If you default on a secured personal loan, the lender has the right to seize the asset you offered as collateral to recover the loan amount.

Unsecured personal loans can be more challenging to qualify for since they rely heavily on your credit score and income. Lenders scrutinize these factors more because there's no collateral.

Common collateral includes assets like cars, savings accounts or other valuable properties.

The amount varies by lender, but unsecured personal loans typically offer lower amounts compared to secured loans, as they are based on creditworthiness.

This depends on your situation. Secured loans might offer higher amounts and lower rates, which is beneficial for consolidating large debts. An unsecured loan might be sufficient for smaller debts and doesn't risk personal assets.

Yes, like any form of credit, unsecured personal loans can impact your credit score. Timely payments can improve your score, while late payments or loan defaults can damage it.


About Christopher Boston

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Christopher (Croix) Boston was the Head of Loans content at MoneyGeek, with over five years of experience researching higher education, mortgage and personal loans.

Boston has a bachelor's degree from the Seattle Pacific University. They pride themselves in using their skills and experience to create quality content that helps people save and spend efficiently.

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The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the rates mentioned may have changed. We recommend visiting the lender's website for the most up-to-date information available.

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