A loan is often a better choice for a source of cash than a credit card, as interest rates on loans are generally considerably lower compared to credit cards. There are some exceptions to that rule—payday loans, for one—but using a loan calculator will help you determine whether the loan that you’re considering is fairly priced and right for you.

Use this calculator to test out any loan that you are considering. By tweaking the loan amount, loan term, and interest rate, you can get a sense of the possible overall cost. You will see that as the term of the loan increases, your monthly payments go down, but the overall cost of the loan (i.e., the total paid) rises. Be sure to consider any fees that you may be charged for mortgages and other specific types of loans.

Key Takeaways

  • Loan calculators can help you figure out your monthly payments on different types of loans.
  • These include mortgages, car loans, personal loans, and so on.
  • They can also help you understand how much you can afford to borrow based on your income and other factors.
  • Don't focus entirely on the monthly payment. Figure out how much the loan will ultimately cost you in total interest.
  • Two key factors will have the largest influence on the interest rate that you're offered: your credit rating and whether the loan is secured or unsecured.

You can also look at the loan calculator in reverse. Find out how much you can borrow based on a monthly payment that you can afford at the interest rates that you may be offered. Even if a bank or a car dealership offers to lend you money, it’s your job to determine whether that would be a wise financial move for you.

Credit Rating Basics and Loans

Your credit is scored by credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. An individual’s credit score is reported as a three-digit number, generally ranging from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the better your score. The better your credit score, the lower the interest rate on the loan, since you will be seen as a lower borrowing risk to the bank.

Even with a good credit rating, check to be sure that your interest rate is appropriate—loan discrimination and targeting by subprime lenders could mean that you’re not being offered the rate that you should be getting.


The percentage of the population that achieves a perfect credit score.

Secured vs. Unsecured Loans

Mortgages and car loans are secured by the collateral of the house or car from which you are borrowing money to purchase. As a result, they are offered at lower interest rates than personal loans.

A personal loan with no collateral against it—also known as an unsecured loan—will cost you more in interest because if you default, then the bank will have nothing tangible to foreclose on or repossess to cover your debt. These loans typically carry higher interest rates, all else equal.

What Factors Affect the Interest Rate on a Loan?

First, interest rates are set according to the overall interest rate environment in the economy, as set or targeted by the central bank. Next, the length of the loan will matter, with longer loans carrying higher rates. Your credit score will also matter; riskier borrowers will face higher interest rates. Finally, if the mortgage is secured (i.e., backed by collateral), it should carry lower interest rates than unsecured loans.

How Much Loan Can I Afford?

You should be able to adequately cover the monthly loan payments, including principal, interest, and any fees with the income you currently generate. In general, it's recommended to spend no more than 30% of your gross (i.e., pre-tax) income on a mortgage and 10%-15% on an auto loan.

Where Can I Compare Lenders' Interest Rates?

Several comparison websites offer real-time interest rate quotes so you can compare and shop based on the loan criteria and your own financial and credit picture.

The Bottom Line

Before you take out any kind of loan, first run the numbers with a loan calculator. By knowing how much your monthly payment is going to be, you can more easily determine whether a loan is affordable given your current financial circumstances or if you need to keep shopping for a better offer.