Secured vs Unsecured Loans: Here’s the Difference

The main difference between a secured and unsecured loan is that you must put up a personal asset as collateral to obtain a secured loan.

In contrast, with an unsecured loan, no collateral is required.

Secured Loan Unsecured Loan
Collateral Required Yes No
Interest Rate Lower Higher
Borrowing Limit Higher Lower
Term Medium to long Short
Application Process Shorter Longer

Secured Loan

A secured loan is a loan backed by an asset, which acts as security for the lender.

The lender can legally seize the asset and sell it if you default on your payments.

Collateral

The asset you purchase with funds you borrow functions as collateral for certain secured loans.

An example of this type of agreement is a mortgage, where your home secures the principal.

Depending on what your lender will accept, you can also pledge other assets as collateral, such as your car, savings account, or investments.

If you’re struggling with making timely payments, your lender can place a lien on your asset, which will prevent you from selling it until you’ve settled the underlying debt.

Interest Rate

Secured loans tend to offer lower interest rates since the asset designated as collateral offsets much of the risk lenders assume when they loan money.

Borrowing Limit

Due to the extra security provided by a personal asset, your lender will be willing to extend more credit to you.

Term

In general, the longer a loan remains outstanding, the greater the risk of default.

However, the lenders’ risk is greatly reduced with an asset acting as collateral, making it more financially viable to issue loans spanning many years, even decades.

Application Process

You can expect a drawn-out application process when you sign up for a secured loan.

The reason is your lender must verify the asset you contribute as collateral and conduct an appraisal to ensure it’s valuable enough to cover the loan principal.

Fact

Even though your home acts as collateral for your mortgage, you can still leverage it to obtain a second loan, such as a home equity loan of credit (HELOC) if you have enough equity in the property.

When Should I Use a Secured Loan? 

Here are some instances where using a secured loan is ideal:

You’re looking for long-term financing

Secured loans are suitable for large purchases or investments that require a lengthy period to pay off in full, such as a house or car.

You have bad credit

By pledging an asset as collateral, your chances of obtaining a loan increase substantially as it compensates for your subpar credit standing.

You want to keep your interest costs low

Low-interest rates are the primary benefit of secured loans.

Securing the lowest rate possible is important if you plan to consolidate your existing high-interest debt.

Wooden blocks spelling out collateral

Unsecured Loan

An unsecured loan is based entirely on your creditworthiness and not any tangible asset.

As a result, the lender has no asset they can liquidate to cover the loan if you default on your payments.

Collateral

You have no requirement to contribute an asset as collateral to acquire an unsecured loan.

Instead, lenders evaluate your credit report to gauge the likelihood of you failing to honour your payment obligations.

They will also assess the stability of your income, your capacity to handle additional debt, and other aspects relevant to your finances.

Interest Rate

As there’s no asset backing the principal, lenders set higher interest rates on unsecured loans to compensate for the increased risk they’re exposed to when they issue one.

Borrowing Capacity

An unsecured loan is backed strictly by your promise to repay the principal.

As a result, you’re less likely to gain access to a considerable sum of money, as lenders stand to lose more if you don’t make your payments.

Term

Getting access to long-term financing (10 years +) can be challenging if you opt for an unsecured loan product.

Lenders assume more risk when they issue loans repayable over many years since a broader range of unforeseen events can precipitate default.

The lack of an asset to protect the principal vastly increases this risk.

Application Process

In general, you can expect a straightforward and quick application process with an unsecured loan.

There’s little information for the lender to assess besides your credit report and income details.

Don’t Forget!

In the alternative lending market, lenders can charge exorbitant interest rates on unsecured loans (40% +), especially for borrowers with poor credit.

When Should I Use an Unsecured Loan?

Below are some scenarios where an unsecured loan is the optimal choice of financing:

You need money immediately

You can get approved for an unsecured loan quickly, with little paperwork to submit, which is convenient if you’re in a financial emergency and need access to credit right away.

You’re financing a short-term project

Unsecured loans are ideal for short-term projects with predictable costs.

They also work well for paying medical expenses, past due bills, or for renovations around the house.

You’re opposed to putting up collateral

If putting up a personal asset as collateral causes an increase in anxiety, you’re better off with an unsecured loan, as the lender has no access to your property in case of a default.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s better, a secured or unsecured loan?
  • What’s the difference between a secured and unsecured loan?

Mark is a freelance writer who specializes in covering personal finance topics related to investing, mortgages, credit cards, and more.

He is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.