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Published February 21, 2023
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Business Loan vs Personal Loan: How to Choose

A personal loan offers funds for a variety of uses, while a business loan must be used for business-specific expenses. Both can be secured or unsecured, with fixed and variable interest rate options.

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A personal loan and a business loan have some similarities, such as the option to choose a fixed or variable interest rate and a predetermined repayment schedule. Major differences between the two are what it takes to be approved for the loan and how loan funds can be used.

Overview of personal loans and business loans 

It can be hard to know whether a business loan or a personal loan would better suit your needs. While these loans have similarities, their key differences can help you decide which type of loan best suits your goals. 

Personal loans 

A personal loan is a lump sum of money offered by a lender, like a bank, credit union or alternative financial institution. Personal loan funds can be used for whatever you like, but you are required to pay back the amount with interest on a set schedule over a predetermined loan term. 

How a personal loan works

Borrowers can apply to a bank or alternative lender to get a personal loan for a specific amount. Approval and interest rates are generally contingent on your credit score and other things, like your income and whether you can offer collateral to guarantee your loan. If you can provide collateral, your personal loan would be considered “secured” and you can generally expect to get a more favourable interest rate.

Personal loans can be used for a variety of things like buying a car, covering unexpected expenses and paying for post-secondary education. When you take out a personal loan, you’ll agree on a set repayment schedule. Payment terms are highly dependent on the lender, and you may have anywhere from one to seven years to pay back the loan.

Business loans 

Like a personal loan, a business loan is a lump sum offered by a financial institution (or a specialized government agency or loan program) that you must pay back over time with interest according to an agreed-upon repayment schedule. Unlike a personal loan, however, a business loan must be used for a specific business-related purpose, such as buying new equipment or running a marketing campaign.

How a business loan works

To qualify for a business loan, you’ll have to meet strict qualification requirements, and prove that you have a viable business. You’ll also likely have to provide a business plan, company records, credit reports (possibly for both yourself and your business) and more. Because so much information is required to be approved a business loan, the approval process can be time-consuming. Don’t expect to get a business loan quickly.

As with a personal loan, a business loan can be secured or unsecured, and can come with a fixed or variable rate of interest. Furthermore, you’ll be expected to repay the loan according to the schedule outlined in your business loan agreement.

Business loans vs personal loans

Business LoanPersonal Loan
Common typesSecured and unsecured small business loans, business lines of credit, commercial mortgages, Canada Small Business Financing Program loans, startup financing and more.Secured and unsecured loans.
Debt consolidation loans.
Home improvement loans.
Retirement savings loans.
UsesFinancing equipment purchases, increasing cash flow, fulfilling large orders, purchasing real estate or land, buying or financing technology.Consolidating debt, buying a car, paying for school expenses, making home repairs or improvements, covering emergency/unforeseen expenses.
Where to getBanks, Business Development Bank of Canada, federal and provincial governments, business organizations, and some alternative lendersBanks.
Credit unions.
Some alternative lenders.
Typical loan limitsBetween $5,000 and $500,000, but may go as high as $5 million for larger companies.Up to $50,000, depending on lender.
Typical interest ratesAround 5.5% on average, but may range from 3% to 40%.Around 10% on average, depending on credit profile.
Qualification requirementsRequirements vary by lender but may include: a business plan, financial projections, business documents that show how long you’ve been operating and more.

Your personal credit score and that of your company may also be considered.
Credit history and score, age of majority, permanent address, proof of employment and income.

How to decide whether a business loan or personal loan is right for you

To figure out which loan is the best financing option for your needs, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you need money fast? Personal loans are typically funded faster than business loans. To approve a business loan, lenders will usually need to look over all your business documents and financing history, which can take time.

How much money do you want to borrow? Because running a business can be so costly, you may need access to a large amount of funds. Business loans typically have higher loan limits than personal loans.

Are you incorporated? To get a business loan, some lenders in Canada require that your enterprise be legally incorporated, a process which costs money and could be time-consuming. 

How old is your business? If your business is new or hasn’t yet generated a lot of profits, it may be harder to get a business loan. Lenders want to be sure a business is viable before they allow it to borrow funds. However, there are specialized business loans for companies that have been running for 12 months or less.

Do you want access to grants and special financing? To encourage business development and promote specific industries, some business lenders also offer special grants, financing programs and low-interest loans.

Frequently asked questions about business loans vs personal loans

Can you use a personal loan to buy a business?

Yes, a personal loan is one of several financing options you can use to buy an existing business in Canada. To do so, the price of the business will need to fit within typical personal loan limits.

Which loan is best, a business or personal loan?

The type of financing that’s best for entrepreneurs depends on several factors, such as amount of funds needed, personal credit score and history, and age of the business.


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