What Is An Installment Loan?

Personal Loans  Term Loans  Installment Loans  
installment loans - smarter loans

Installment Loans Unveiled

Any loans that include a contract of repayment of the amount borrowed (plus interest), to be paid with a set number of payments on a schedule, are considered as installment loans. Installment loans can be for as little as a couple months up to 30 years, depending on the amount and type of loan. These loans are different from a line of credit because, once the final installment payment is made, the loan is paid in full and the account is closed.

Installment loans are a type of credit account that can be used for several purposes, such as making purchases or consolidating bills. Among the reasons why they are so popular is because repayment is broken up into manageable smaller amounts that borrowers can fit into their budget each month.


This article will cover these subjects about installment loans:

  1. Types of installment loans
  2. Qualifications
  3. The search for installment loans
  4. Getting the best out of installment loans


Types of Installment Loans

When a borrower applies for an installment loan, they can get approved for either a secured or unsecured loan. A secured installment loan means that property of some kind is used as collateral which can be taken back by the lender if payment is not made. Like a car in the case of a car title loan. Unsecured loans are usually for a smaller amount and do not require collateral, but the lender can sue the borrower if payment is not made.


Below are examples of installment loans and whether they are secured or unsecured:

  • Auto loans to purchase a car or other vehicle (secured installment loan)
  • Boats loans to buy a boat (secured)
  • Student loans to pay for the costs of education (unsecured installment loan)
  • Mortgages to buy a home or other real property (secured loan)
  • Home equity loan for home improvements or other purposes (secured loan)


Personal loans, either through a bank or credit union or other institution are considered installment loans. They are sometimes called signature loans, and are repaid on a monthly basis over an agreed period of time. Personal loans are not secured by collateral and can be used for any purpose.



Installment loans through traditional lenders are usually the best choice for borrowers, since they offer better interest rates and terms. However, people with bad credit might have trouble getting approved for an installment loan from a bank, or they may be charged higher interest.

Even if a borrower has bad credit, it is a good idea to at least make an attempt to get approval for an installment loan from a bank or credit union. Even if the interest rate charged is higher because of bad credit, most likely it will not be as high as the costs involved with payday loans or online guaranteed approval installment loans. Not only do these loans commonly require a lump sum repayment, but they often result in borrowers being caught in a debt trap.

Requirements for installment loans are basically the same, whether it is to purchase a car, home, education, or a personal loan.


Lenders will consider the following:

  • Credit score
  • Income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Employment


The lender needs to have documentation which will prove how responsible the borrower is with handling credit and remaining employed. The lender will factor in several issues to paint a picture that will determine eligibility and, if approved, the rate of interest that the borrower will be charged.


The Search for Installment Loans

Lending institutions of all shapes and sizes advertise installment loans among their financial products. This is an advantage for the borrower, since it allows the room to search various lenders to find fees, interest, and terms which work to their distinct advantage.


Among the sources to look for installment loans are:

  • Banks and credit unions, especially those where the borrower has an established relationship, since they may offer discounts to existing customers.
  • Financing companies. These businesses are not banks, but companies that offer all types of loans to qualified individuals, even people with damaged credit.
  • Online lenders. There are a large number of online lenders that have added installment loans (also called flex pay loans) to their list of credit offered. Borrowers should expect to pay top dollar for an installment loan, but they do give them to people with bad credit as long as they are employed and have a bank account from which the lender can take out payments.
  • Loans from friends and family. Some borrowers are fortunate enough to have relatives or friends with enough money to lend. This is a viable alternative only if both parties come to an agreement of all the terms and put them in writing. If the borrower defaults on the loan, it can cause permanent damage to a relationship.
  • Credit card companies. Several major credit card companies offer installment loans to customers in addition to credit cards.


With regard to installment loans, there is no such thing as too much research. It is very important for the borrower to carefully investigate any lender they are considering. Each has different terms, rates, and other rules regarding their lending practices. Borrowers should read all of the fine print before signing off on a loan. Comparison shopping for a lender is the most efficient way to end up with the best deal.


Getting the Best out of Installment Loans

Installment loans are like any other form of credit, they should be used responsibly and only when needed. They should not be used to solve financial problems, which can cause a cycle of debt that can last a lifetime. However, they are a fine solution to get money in order to achieve goals or get items that can be paid back over time.

A successfully executed installment loan is one that has terms which are ideal for the borrower’s budget. The timeline for repayment should be reasonable. The borrower should make at least the minimum payment, on time, every time. And finally, the loan is paid in full, with the lender satisfied and the borrower in less debt with a very good entry added to their credit report.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Smarter Loans Staff

The Smarter Loans Staff is made up of writers, researchers, journalists, business leaders and industry experts who carefully research, analyze and produce Canada's highest quality content when it comes to money matters, on behalf of Smarter Loans. While we cannot possibly name every person involved in the process, we collectively credit them as Smarter Loans Writing Staff. Our work has been featured in the Toronto Star, National Post and many other publications. Today, Smarter Loans is recognized in Canada as the go-to destination for financial education, and was named the "GPS of Fintech Lending" by the Toronto Star in 2019.