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When you borrow money from a lender, whether it’s a personal friend or a bank, you’ll need to know the total cost of paying back the loan. A loan calculator uses basic information to estimate your installment payments and give you an idea of how much interest you’d pay over the life of the loan.
Use this loan calculator to determine your monthly payment for any loan. You can also see how your loan amortizes, or how much is paid down, over the payoff period.
Use the loan calculator if you know the amount you expect to borrow.
Let’s say you want to borrow $10,000 to update part of your home. The lender has offered 5.99% APR on a three-year loan. With those terms, you’d need to pay back a little more than $300 per month. In the end, you’d pay $950 in interest.
How to use a loan calculator
A loan calculator allows you to compare different scenarios and how they might affect your budget. Referring to the previous example, maybe $300 per month is too costly for you. That’s OK — play with the variables to help you figure out your next step. You could shop for a lower rate or opt for more time to pay back the loan. Or you could reconsider how much you want to borrow.
Here’s a guide to the information you’ll need in order to use the calculator and definitions for some of the terms you'll come across.
Loan amount: This is the amount you plan to borrow, or the principal. Some loans, like a home mortgage, require a down payment, which is the cash you’d chip in toward the purchase. The loan amount should be the purchase price minus any down payment you plan to contribute.
Months: This refers to the number of months you will have to pay back the loan. Also called the loan term, the length of time you take to repay the loan can impact your APR as well as how much you pay each month and in total over the life of the loan. To pay less interest, you’ll want to pay back the loan in fewer months, which will increase your monthly payment. To reduce how much you pay each month, stretch out the loan over a longer period. But keep in mind that a longer term means more interest over the life of the loan.
APR: The annual percentage rate, or APR, is used to calculate the cost of the loan. The higher your loan’s APR, the more expensive the loan will be. APR is not the same as an interest rate, since it includes other fees you pay to take out the loan. The APR you’re offered may depend on your credit score, income, loan amount and loan term, among other factors. It varies by lender, and can be a good tool for comparing loan options.
Once you provide the loan amount, months and APR, the loan calculator will estimate your monthly payment and total interest. It also will show you a schedule of payments. Here’s how to understand the results of what you entered into the loan calculator.
Monthly payment: This refers to how much you’d need to pay per month, with this payment covering principal and interest.
Total interest: This estimates the amount you will have paid, on top of the amount you borrow, by the time the loan is paid in full.
Loan amortization schedule: If you pay a fixed amount each month as you pay off the loan, the amortization schedule can show you how much you’d pay toward interest and principal with each payment.
Which calculator should you use?
The loan calculator above will give you an idea of the cost of a basic loan. But you may also want to use a loan calculator that is more tailored to your needs.
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Don’t see what you’re looking for? NerdWallet has a long list of mortgage calculators to help you make whatever financial decision comes your way.
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