Is a Small Business Loan Secured or Unsecured?

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Reviewed by Matt Pelkey
• 6 minute read

Starting and growing a small business often requires access to capital. While some entrepreneurs might have savings to invest, many turn to business loans to secure the necessary funds. When seeking financing, one crucial decision to make is whether to opt for a secured loan or an unsecured loan.

So what’s the difference between the two? Is one more common? And which is better?

Each option comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks that can significantly impact your business’s financial health. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between secured and unsecured loans, discuss some pros and cons of each, delve into the types of collateral used for secured loans, and help you determine which option might be better suited for your business.

What is the difference between a secured and unsecured loan?

The fundamental difference between secured and unsecured small business loans is in the presence of collateral. Collateral is an asset that a borrower pledges to the lender as a guarantee for the loan. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can seize and sell the collateral to recover the outstanding amount.

In the case of secured loans, collateral acts as a safety net for the lender, providing them with a form of recourse in case of non-payment. Unsecured loans, on the other hand, do not require collateral. Instead, they are granted based on the borrower’s creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan.

Secured Business Loans vs. Unsecured Business Loans

Pros of Secured Small Business Loans

Lower interest rates. Secured loans often come with lower interest rates since the lender has the security of collateral. This reduced risk is passed on to the borrower in the form of more favorable terms.

Higher loan amounts. Lenders are typically more willing to provide larger loan amounts for secured loans due to the collateral’s value. This makes secured loans suitable for significant business expenses.

Easier approval. Secured loans can be easier to obtain for businesses with limited credit history or lower credit scores. The collateral reduces the lender’s risk, making approval more likely.

Longer repayment terms. Lenders that have a form of collateral to secure their loans are typically more willing to offer longer repayment periods.

Cons of Secured Small Business Loans

Risk of collateral loss. If you default on a secured loan, the lender might seize and sell the collateral. This could lead to a loss of valuable assets, potentially jeopardizing your business’s operations.

Longer application process. The process of securing a secured loan is often more involved due to the evaluation of collateral. This can result in a longer application and approval timeline.

Pros of Unsecured Small Business Loans

No collateral risk. The most significant advantage of unsecured business loans is that you don’t risk losing collateral if you default. Your personal or business assets can remain untouched.

Faster approval. Unsecured loans generally have a faster application and approval process since there’s no need for collateral valuation. This can be crucial when you need funds quickly.

Simplicity. With no collateral involved, the loan process is simpler, involving less paperwork and administrative tasks.

Cons of Unsecured Small Business Loans

Higher interest rates. To compensate for the increased risk, lenders often charge higher interest rates for unsecured loans, which can lead to higher overall repayment amounts. Borrowers with good credit will have an easier time getting approved for better rates.

Smaller loan amounts. Due to the lack of collateral, lenders might be more cautious about extending larger amounts of money through unsecured loans.

What types of collateral are used for secured business loans?

Collateral for secured business loans can vary widely depending on the lender’s policies and the nature of your business. Common types of collateral include real estate, equipment, inventory, accounts receivable, and even personal assets of the small business owner. The value and liquidity of the collateral play a role in determining the details of the loan agreement, including the loan amount and terms.

What are the best types of secured business funding?

Choosing the right loan option can significantly impact your growth trajectory and financial stability. Here are some common types of secured business funding options to consider:

Secured term loans. Secured term loans are a classic option for secured business funding. These loans are backed by collateral, which provides the lender with a safety net in case of default. Collateral for bank loans can include real estate, equipment, inventory, or accounts receivable. The interest rates for these loans tend to be lower compared to unsecured loans due to the reduced risk for the lender. Term lengths can vary from short-term business loans to longer-term loans of several years.

Equipment financing. If your business relies heavily on specialized equipment, equipment financing can be an excellent secured funding option. In this arrangement, the equipment you’re purchasing serves as collateral for the loan. This type of funding is particularly popular among industries such as construction, manufacturing, and healthcare. The loan terms are often tied to the equipment’s expected lifespan, and this option can help you preserve your working capital while still acquiring the necessary tools to run your business effectively.

Inventory-backed loans. If your business deals with a substantial inventory, you can leverage it to secure funding through inventory-backed loans. This loan type is especially useful for businesses that experience seasonal fluctuations in demand. Lenders use your inventory as collateral, and the loan amount is often determined by the value of your inventory. Inventory-backed loans can help you manage cash flow during slow periods and invest in new inventory to meet peak demand.

Accounts receivable financing (factoring). Accounts receivable financing, also known as invoice factoring, allows you to turn your outstanding invoices into immediate funds. This can be particularly beneficial if your business frequently deals with clients who have longer payment terms. Factoring companies provide you with a portion of the invoice amount upfront, and they collect the full payment from your customers. The accounts receivable serve as collateral, and the amount you can borrow is determined by the value of your outstanding invoices.

Personal or business assets. If you’re comfortable using personal or business assets as collateral, you might consider secured loans backed by a personal guarantee of assets like your home, investments, or even valuable business equipment. This option can provide flexibility in terms of how you use the funds, but it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks involved. Defaulting on the loan could lead to the loss of these valuable assets, so careful consideration is necessary.

Are SBA loans a type of secured business financing?

Many small business owners look for loans that are backed by the U.S. small business administration. It’s important to note that this type of financing is not issued by the SBA itself, but that the SBA will guarantee the loan. Because that ensures the lender will be repaid, small business owners are able to get their funding at very favorable rates. Therefore SBA loans are not a form of secured business funding, however the loan is guaranteed by the federal government.

Is a secured or unsecured loan better for my business?

Choosing between a secured and unsecured loan depends on your business plan, financial situation, goals, and risk tolerance. If you have valuable assets that you’re comfortable using as collateral, a secured loan might offer you more favorable terms and higher borrowing capacity. On the other hand, if you’re concerned about putting your assets at risk or need a faster loan application process, an unsecured loan could be a better fit.

Consider your business’s creditworthiness, the urgency of your financial needs, and your ability to manage risk. It’s also recommended to consult with financial advisors or loan specialists who can provide tailored guidance based on your business needs and specific circumstances.

DISCLAIMER: This content is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as financial, investment, or legal advice.

This content is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as financial, investment or legal advice.