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Secured vs. Unsecured Loans

Emily Clemens • November 17, 2021

There are pros and cons to both secured loans and unsecured loans. Learn more to determine which one is the best choice for you.

One of the main differences between a secured and unsecured loan is collateral. Secured loans require collateral from the borrower, while unsecured loans do not. Read more to help make the right decision for your finances.  

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What Is a Secured Loan?

A secured loan is funding you receive from a lender that is backed by collateral. Loan collateral are assets that could be collected to pay back your loan if you’re unable to. 

Collateral may include: your house, other real estate, vehicles, insurance policies, checking account, savings account, stocks, and expensive valuables or collectibles. Your home is usually the collateral for a mortgage, your car for a car loan, and your bank accounts for personal loans.

Examples of Secured Loans

  • Mortgages — a loan to pay for a home, your home is the collateral. 
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC) — allows you to borrow money using your home’s equity as collateral.
  • Auto loans — a loan used to purchase a vehicle, with the vehicle being the collateral. 
  • Boat loans — a loan used to purchase a boat, with the boat acting as collateral.
  • Recreational vehicle (RV) loans — a loan used to purchase an RV, with the RV being used as the collateral.

Secured Loan Benefits

Secured loans are typically easier to get than unsecured loans. They may be the best option if you have poor credit or are rebuilding your credit. Overall benefits include: 

  • Looser credit requirements 
  • Lower loan rates 
  • Higher borrowing limits 
  • Longer repayment terms
  • Can help build your credit

Secured Loan Drawbacks

Secured loans do have some drawbacks you should consider, including: 

  • Risk of losing your assets
  • Possible restrictions on what you can use the loan for 

Loss of assets is the biggest risk with a secured loan. Losing key assets could be detrimental to your lifestyle, so it’s important to consider your ability to make secure loan payments.  

What Is an Unsecured Loan?

An unsecured loan is funding from a lender that doesn’t require collateral and instead is based on your creditworthiness. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions will look at your credit history and your credit score. It’s a higher risk for them to lend you money without collateral, so they’ll want to feel confident that you’ll pay back the loan. 

Just like with a secured loan, there are pros and cons to think through. 

Examples of Unsecured Loans

  • Credit cards — a common type of revolving loan, borrowers can repeatedly borrow money up to a set limit.
  • Student loans — loans used to pay for college, students don’t have to provide any collateral but tax returns and wages can be garnished to pay unpaid student loans.
  • Personal loans — a no collateral loan with a fixed period of time for repayment with monthly payments made in equal amounts.

Unsecured Loan Benefits

One of the biggest advantages of an unsecured loan is it doesn’t put your assets at risk. Overall, you may benefit from: 

Unsecured loans are often preferable if you’re looking for a small amount of money. They’re often sought after by small businesses or startups. 

Unsecured Loan Drawbacks

Even though you aren’t risking your belongings, unsecured loans can have drawbacks, such as: 

  • Higher interest rates 
  • Additional fees 
  • Stricter repayment terms 
  • Lower borrowing limits 

Unsecured personal loans can put you deeper in debt very quickly because of their high interest rates. If you miss payments, your debt can accumulate quickly and damage your credit score. This can then cause problems when you try to get funding later on. 

Main Differences Between a Secured and Unsecured Loan?

The main differences between a secured and unsecured loan are collateral, amount of funds, eligibility, and repayment terms. The chart below offers a quick breakdown. 

Secured loansUnsecured loans
  • Ideal for larger loan amounts
  • Required collateral 
  • Looser credit requirements
  • Less risk to the lender
  • Lower interest rates
  • Flexible repayment terms
  • Ideal for smaller loan amounts
  • Doesn’t require collateral 
  • Relies on creditworthiness
  • More risk to the lender
  • Higher interest rates
  • Stricter loan terms

There might be additional differences depending on the lender. 

What Happens if I Default on My Loan?
If you stop making payments and default on a secured loan, the lender has the right to take possession of your collateral. If you default on an unsecured loan, your credit will suffer.

Which Loan Is Right For Me?

There isn’t one answer for which is better, a secured loan or an unsecured loan. It ultimately depends on your financial situation and what you’re looking for in a loan. 

If you want to take out a large sum of money for an expensive purchase like a house or new car, a secured loan is probably best. If you need quick approval for a small amount of money, and have really great credit, an unsecured loan may be better. 

Weigh the pros and cons of each and prioritize what’s important to you. Be realistic about how much debt you’re willing to take on and your ability to pay it back. Regardless of your choice, work on boosting your credit. Be conscious of your credit score, make timely payments, and reduce debt where you can. This will help you get access to funds when you need them most.

Secured vs. Unsecured Loans FAQs

Still have some lingering questions? Read on for more help choosing between a secured loan and an unsecured loan.

Which is better, a secured or unsecured loan?

Secured loans are more common and often easier to get. However, you do have to provide collateral. So if you default on your loan, you may lose your home, your car, etc. An unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral, but it can be harder to get with higher rates and fees. 

Is a secured loan a bad idea?

A secured loan is often a good idea for individuals looking to buy a new home, a new car, or pay for another large expense. However, it’s important to make sure you can meet the loan’s terms. Make sure you can pay back the total amount and make regular, timely payments. 

Do secured loans hurt your credit?

Any loan has the potential to hurt your credit if it goes into default. If you stop making monthly payments on your loan or don’t pay on time, it may damage your credit score. This can make it harder for you to borrow money in the future. 

How do I qualify for a secured or unsecured loan?

Every lender will have their own specific requirements for loan qualification. But in general, most lenders will check your credit scores and credit history, review how much debt you already have, and check that you earn enough income to afford the monthly payments. If you apply for an unsecured loan, these factors will likely receive more scrutiny, because there’s no collateral to back your loan — making it riskier for lenders.

Final Thoughts

Borrowing money is a big step. It can be really helpful for building your credit and making changes in your life like moving into a new home or purchasing a reliable vehicle. However, with debt comes responsibility. Make sure you know what secured loans and unsecured loans entail before making a final decision. 

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