Installment Loan – What it is and How it Works

What is an installment loan? Installment loans provide a convenient solution for consumers aiming to address significant expenses, unexpected financial emergencies, debt consolidation, or major purchases like a car or home. These loans necessitate regular payments, commonly referred to as installments, for repayment.

Installment Loan - What it is and How it Works

In addition to interest charges, borrowers are obligated to cover various fees. These fees include application processing fees, loan origination fees, and possible additional charges, such as those for late payments.

How Does it Work?

Individuals can secure installment loans to access a fixed sum of money provided in a single lump sum, repayable over a specified period. Typically featuring a fixed interest rate (though some lenders may opt for variable rates), these loans mandate consistent monthly payments.

In addition, each monthly installment is divided, with a portion allocated to reducing the principal amount borrowed and covering the interest on the loan. Throughout the loan term, regular monthly payments persist until the lender closes the account upon full repayment. However, it comprises both the principal and accrued interest.

Types of Installment Loans

There are various forms of installment loans. In addition, despite their similar operational structure, each has distinct characteristics, intended purposes, and average interest rates.

Personal Loans

A personal loan is a sum of money offered by a lender and repaid by the borrower through monthly installments with a fixed interest rate. Moreover, these loans are obtainable from online lenders, private lenders, and credit unions.

In addition, repayment terms for personal loans cater to a diverse range of borrower needs, spanning from 24 months to 60 months and, in some cases, extending to as much as 72 months.

However, personal loans stand as an excellent financing choice for individuals seeking to manage various expenses, spanning from vehicle repairs to home improvements.

Payday Loans

Payday lenders frequently offer no-credit-check loans, meaning they don’t assess your credit score before approving the loan. Although it’s designed to assist consumers in emergencies or when alternative credit sources are unavailable.

Payday loans typically involve smaller amounts compared to personal loans, often capped at around $500. However, their interest rates are frequently much higher than those associated with traditional loans.

These short-term, high-cost loans can result in a prolonged cycle of debt due to their elevated interest rates, potentially lasting for years. Unlike traditional loans, payday loans do not require a credit check; instead, your paycheck serves as collateral against the borrowed amount.


Mortgages represent another prevalent form of installment loans. Typically, homeowners repay the borrowed funds over either 15 or 30 years with a fixed interest rate.

Due to the backing of collateral, such as a house or condo, mortgage interest rates tend to be comparatively lower.

Car Loans

Car loans are a widely favored category of installment loans. Typically, consumers either make a down payment on a car or utilize the trade-in value of their existing vehicle.

The remaining balance of the purchase price is then financed through a car loan, with borrowers making monthly payments to the lender until the loan is completely repaid.

Student Loans

Student loans come in two primary types: private and federal, both operating as installment loans. The more commonly utilized option is federal student loans, accessible to qualifying students without stringent credit score prerequisites.

Except for Direct PLUS loans for parents, graduate students, and professional students, federal student loans typically do not involve a credit check for eligibility.

Buy now, Pay Later Loans

“Buy-now, pay-later loans” serve as a brief financing solution that enables you to make purchases and settle the cost through interest-free installment payments. However, these payments are typically spread over a specified period, often spanning a few weeks.

While these services offer benefits, they can also lead to overspending, enticing individuals to exceed their repayment capacity. Additionally, these loans may create the illusion that products or purchases are more affordable than their actual cost.

Differences Between Secured and Unsecured Installment Loans

Installment loans come in two forms: secured or unsecured, and collateralized or non-collateralized, respectively. In addition, mortgages and auto loans are examples of secured loans, with the home or vehicle serving as collateral.

On the other hand, certain installment loans, often known as personal loans, are unsecured and do not require collateral. These loans hinge on the borrower’s creditworthiness, typically assessed through a credit score, and their ability to repay, as evidenced by their income and assets.

Unsecured loans usually carry higher interest rates compared to secured loans of a similar nature. Moreover, this higher interest reflects the increased risk of non-repayment that the creditor assumes due to the absence of collateral.

Where To Get Installment Loans

Installment loans are accessible through banks, credit unions, and online lenders, each institution featuring distinct products, eligibility criteria, and terms.


Banks, which are more widely accessible, often impose stricter lending criteria. However, existing bank members may enjoy exclusive benefits, such as rate discounts or extended repayment terms.

Credit unions

Credit unions may offer better rates due to lower overhead costs. However, credit unions may not have physical branches to react facially with loan officers, but they have quicker approval times.

Online lenders

Online lenders typically provide a streamlined application process, quick approvals, and faster funding times through automation. However, the online application process is usually convenient, and many lenders, regardless of type, allow online applications for various products.

Regardless of the loan type, it’s crucial to compare rates from at least three lenders before committing. Many online lenders offer prequalification, allowing borrowers to assess predicted rates and approval odds without impacting their credit.

Advantages and disadvantages of installment loans

Installment loans offer flexibility, allowing customization based on the borrower’s specific requirements regarding the loan amount and repayment duration aligned with their ability to repay. This flexibility enables borrowers to secure financing at significantly lower interest rates compared to revolving credit options like credit cards.

Advantages of Installment Loans

Installment loans have many advantages, which include:

Regular Monthly Payments

Consistent throughout the loan term, monthly payments for installment loans remain unchanged. This stability facilitates the creation of a household budget, simplifying ongoing bill payments for borrowers.

Good Credit Score

Maintaining a good payment history, free from late payments on an installment loan, contributes positively to improving your credit score.

Refinancing opportunities

Refinancing a new loan can be advantageous if interest rates decrease or your credit improves. This move is likely to result in lower monthly payments or a shortened loan duration.

Disadvantages of Installment Loans

When contemplating an installment loan, it’s important to weigh the potential disadvantages of installment loans as well.

Fixed Payment

Given that installment loans provide funds in a lump sum, it’s worth noting that you cannot increase the borrowed amount if you encounter a new financial challenge or emergency.

Potential Long Payment Schedule

Installment loan payment periods can be extensive, ensuring that you can consistently meet monthly payments throughout the entire loan duration. Furthermore, if you intend to pay off your loan ahead of schedule, be mindful of potential prepayment fees that your lender may impose.

Expensive for Poor Credit

The interest rate you secure for an installment loan is heavily influenced by your credit score. However, individuals with poor credit may face challenges, experiencing potential loan denials.

Also, they may be offered higher interest rates, which can increase the overall cost of monthly payments.

Potential Fees

If interest rates decrease, you have the option to apply for another personal loan at a lower rate. It’s important to note that this process may involve paying an additional origination fee to facilitate the loan.

How To Get an Installment Loan

Research and Compare Rates

Lenders employ various methods to evaluate loan applications and determine interest rates. Therefore, it is advisable to compare installment loans from multiple lenders.

Additionally, exploring alternative financing options such as low-interest credit cards or lines of credit, especially for substantial expenses, can be a prudent approach.


Getting a pre-qualified loan for a mortgage allows you to explore your potential loan amount, interest rate, and monthly payment without impacting your credit score. This process enables you to assess how these payments may affect your budget before committing to the loan.

Improve Your Application

Before applying for a loan, it’s worth considering options such as a co-signed loan or securing an unsecured loan with collateral. These alternatives might enhance your qualification chances or lead to a lower interest rate or a higher loan amount.

However, it’s crucial to be aware of the consequences if repayment becomes challenging. In the case of a co-signed loan, your co-signer shares responsibility, and they are obligated to repay by default.

Similarly, with a loan secured by collateral, the collateral could be seized if you’re unable to meet the repayment terms.


Installment loans are available from various sources, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Additionally, it requires loan approval and disbursement, which vary based on the type of loan and the specific lender’s processes and policies.


In conclusion, an installment loan, as stated above, provides a more convenient solution for the borrower to address expenses such as unexpected financial emergencies, car or home purchases, etc. While these loans offer benefits, it’s crucial to weigh the associated pros and cons.

If you choose to take out an installment loan, it’s advisable to shop around and compare rates and terms from multiple lenders before finalizing any agreements. This approach ensures you secure the most favorable terms that align with your financial needs and capabilities.