Can I use my car as collateral for a loan?

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If you need a personal loan but are having trouble either finding a low rate or getting qualified, you may need to turn to secured loan options. Secured loans require collateral, or an asset that the lender may repossess should you fail to repay the loan. Some lenders let you use your car as collateral for a loan, but there are a few things to know before going this route.

Can I use my car as collateral for a loan?

In short, it is possible to use your car as collateral for a loan. Doing so may help you qualify for a loan, particularly if you have bad credit. By putting up collateral, you assume more risk for the loan, so lenders may also offer lower rates in exchange.

However, to use an item you own as collateral on a secured loan, you must have equity in it. Equity is the difference between the value of the collateral and what you still owe on it. For example, if your car’s resale value is $6,000 but you still owe $2,500 on your car loan, you have $3,500 of equity in your vehicle. In this situation, you’d have positive equity, because your car is worth more than you owe on the loan.

The biggest risk of using your car as collateral is that if you default on the loan, your bank or lender can take possession of your vehicle to help pay for part or all of your owed debt. Fees might also apply.

If you’re curious about using your car as collateral, check your lender’s terms to find out whether it allows this type of collateral and how much equity you’ll need.

What other collateral can you use for loans?

Your car is not the only type of collateral you can use for loans. Other types of collateral include:

  • Your home: Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) use a percentage of the equity you’ve accumulated in your property as a loan amount or line of credit. Typically, banks let qualified borrowers tap up to 85 percent of their home equity.
  • Your car title: A car title loan, also known as a “pink-slip loan” or “title pawn,” uses your car as the primary collateral for the loan. It’s a high-stakes loan, since it usually has terms for a very short period — like 15 or 30 days — and charges extremely high interest rates. Due to the costly fees and interest rates, this loan option can go downhill very quickly if you’re unable to repay the debt in the short time frame.
  • Your savings account: Share secured loans or passbook loans are types of personal loans that use your savings account as collateral. These are most often offered by banks and credit unions.

The bottom line

Before using your car as collateral on a loan, double-check your other options. Do you have a trusted family relative who is willing and able to offer a short-term loan? Do you have enough time to save up for the expense or find supplemental income to cover it?

If a loan that uses your car as collateral is your best option, make sure to shop around with a handful of lenders. Compare repayment terms, interest rates and associated fees to find the loan that’s the best fit.

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Written by
Jennifer Calonia
Contributing writer
Jennifer Calonia is an L.A.-based writer and editor. She's covered topics like debt, saving money and credit cards. You can find her work on Business Insider, Forbes and more.
Edited by
Student loans editor