Secured VS Unsecured Business Loans: What’s The Difference?
There are two basic types of business loans: secured and unsecured. Many business owners don’t have any collateral to pledge for a secured bank loan, and may have difficulty getting an unsecured loan as well, as the banks they do business with don’t offer unsecured loans.
Cue the scores of marketplace lenders (that is, non-bank lenders) who advertise that collateral doesn’t matter, or even that they offer “unsecured” business loans.
Sound like a good deal? Sometimes it is. Unfortunately, the phrase unsecured business loan is often used in a misleading fashion. If you get an unsecured loan, you’re almost definitely still on the hook if your business fails. The difference between a secured loan and an unsecured loan, in many cases, is not as clear-cut as it may seem at the outset.
Here’s everything you need to know about secured and unsecured loans.
Table of Contents
What Is A Secured Loan?
If your loan is secured, it means the lender has some sort of specific collateral to seize and, if necessary, resell in the event that you can no longer repay your loan.
Perhaps the most common example of a secured loan is a mortgage. Assuming the homeowner is no longer able to pay her mortgage, the bank can repossess the house to recoup their losses. Or, in the case of a business loan, a restaurant owner might put up their kitchen equipment as collateral.
Because the loans are more secure (hey, that’s where the name comes from), they are considered less risky. As long as you have collateral equal in value to the amount of money you’re attempting to borrow, you can get a lot of money at very good rates. Established businesses that have valuable collateral they can put up are eligible for secured loans, while startups and newer businesses usually are not eligible.
Typical Assets Used To Secure A Loan
- Accounts receivable
- Real estate
Secured Business Loan Pros & Cons
Pros Of Secured Business Loans
- Borrowing fees and loan terms are more borrower-friendly compared to those of unsecured loans.
- You only stand to lose the assets you put forth as collateral in the event that you default.
Cons Of Secured Business Loans
- You could lose whatever collateral you put down for the loan in the event that you default.
- Secured loans are inaccessible to startups and businesses that don’t have any significant assets.
Who Offers Secured Loans?
Traditional lending institutions such as banks and credit unions, including SBA lenders, typically offer secured loans. Equipment financing companies do as well, in the sense that your loan is secured by the equipment you’re paying off.
Some online lenders also offer secured loans, though many online lenders only require a “blanket lien” on your assets, which, while not requiring any specific collateral, has more potential downsides for a borrower than a traditionally secured loan.
What Is An Unsecured Loan?
At its most basic, an unsecured loan is one that isn’t backed by any form of specific collateral, such as a vehicle, piece of heavy equipment, or your accounts receivable. The lender will base their decision to lend you money on your creditworthiness (often determined by your credit score) and/or the strength of your business’s cash flow.
Because it’s much more difficult to reclaim money if you default on the loan, unsecured loans are much riskier than secured loans. And as we all know, the riskier the loan, the more it’s going to cost you. Expect to encounter higher interest rates than you would get on a secured loan. And, as lenders won’t want to risk too much on you, expect access to less money overall.
Many lenders defend against this risk by only lending to established businesses. They require that businesses have been in operation for at least a couple of years and have a healthy cash flow. After all, it’s difficult to determine the creditworthiness of a business that doesn’t have an established track record. However, there are also unsecured loan options available to newer businesses.
It’s important to realize that while a loan may be “unsecured” because it is not tied to any specific collateral, the loan may still require a personal guarantee. A personal guarantee is an agreement which states that if the business can no longer repay the loan, whoever signed the personal guarantee is, well, personally responsible for repaying the remaining balance. Know that if you’re the owner of a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you are already personally responsible for repaying all business debts.
It is pretty standard practice for lenders to require a personal guarantee. Yet, as long as a loan is not tied to any specific collateral, lenders are still able to advertise it as “unsecured.”
Unsecured Business Loan Pros & Cons
Pros Of Unsecured Business Loans
- They’re easier to get—you can qualify even if you don’t have any compelling business assets.
- You won’t bear any personal responsibility if you default—provided that your business is structured as an LLC and provided that the loan doesn’t require a personal guarantee (though most unsecured loans do, indeed, require a personal guarantee).
Cons Of Unsecured Business Loans
- Financing is more expensive compared to secured loans and you’ll usually have less time to repay the loan.
- May require a personal guarantee, which means you are personally responsible to repay the loan if you default (the same is true if your business is structured as a sole proprietorship or general partnership).
- You typically have access to less capital compared to secured loans.
Who Offers Unsecured Loans?
As follows are some types of lenders that offer unsecured loans that can be used to finance a business:
- Short-term online lenders
- Online lines of credit
- Personal lenders
- Credit cards
- Some nonprofit lenders
I’ve put together a list of the 15 best unsecured business loans, which can give you a good idea of what kind of options might be available to you.
First of all, if you come across a lender that’s advertising “unsecured” loans, be very careful before entering into an agreement with them. Quite frankly, in the context of business loans, the word can be used in a misleading fashion.
You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a lender that will give your business any sort of capital, unless they have some guarantee they’ll get the money back. When searching for a business loan, don’t bother looking for a so-called “unsecured” loan. You’re going to be on the hook either way. Instead, look for a loan that is secured in a way that works for you.
If your business can’t get a bank loan because you don’t have collateral, take a look at some of our small business loan reviews. The majority require a personal guarantee. These loans are not quite as good those you could get from a bank, but they’re the next best thing.
In a nutshell:
When You Should Get A Secured Business Loan
- You have specific collateral you can offer to secure your loan.
- You are prepared to lose this collateral if you default on your loan.
When You Should Get An Unsecured Business Loan
- You do not own specific assets that would qualify you for a secured business loan.
- You understand the risks of signing a personal guarantee.