Personal loans, also known as unsecured loans, are a way of borrowing a fixed amount of money. You pay the money back, with interest, over a set time period. The interest rate on an unsecured personal loan is fixed for the period and you usually pay monthly.

For example, you might be able to borrow £20,000 over five years at 3% APR, with fixed monthly repayments of £359.

You might want an unsecured personal loan to spread the cost of a big purchase like a car or home improvements. Or perhaps you want a loan to help tide you over during a tricky financial period.

Whatever you want it for, the good thing about personal loans is that you’re not borrowing the money against anything you own. That’s why it’s called an ‘unsecured loan’. With unsecured personal loans, there’s no security for the lender if you don’t repay your loan. That means your credit history is very important when it comes to unsecured loans. Your credit check will play a big part in whether you’re approved for unsecured loans. It’ll also affect what personal loan rates you’re offered and whether you can access cheap loans or not.

In contrast, if you take out a secured loan, the borrowing is secured against an asset you own, like a house or car. That gives the bank or lender security, in case you default on your loan repayments. Read more about the differences between secured and unsecured loans here.

What is a credit check?

When you apply for personal loans, UK lenders do a credit check. That means they look at your credit file to check out your financial history. When it’s done in connection with an application for credit like this, it’s called a hard credit check. They’re assessing your borrowing and financial habits. Then they’ll decide whether you're a responsible borrower.

Every time a lender does a credit check, it’s recorded on your credit file. Multiple applications can cause lenders to think you’re struggling to get credit, and they’ll think you’re not a responsible borrower. You can read more about how your credit score affects your ability to get a loan here.

How to get the best unsecured loans

First, you’ll need to think about how much you want to borrow through your personal loan, and how long you need to pay it back. After that, it’s time to find the best personal loans for your needs, and apply. This is all pretty simple to do, thanks to our personal loan comparison table.

Each loan listed in our personal loan comparison table gives an example of how the loan works. This representative example gives a borrowing amount, borrowing term and how much interest you’ll pay on that unsecured loan. But it’s important to remember that it’s just an example. The actual personal loan rates you’re offered will be the lender’s decision after assessing your eligibility.

Every lender has its own criteria for what credit score you need to be accepted for their personal loans. That’ll affect whether they’ll give you an unsecured loan and what APR they offer. So you could even be offered personal loan rates that are lower than the representative APR that’s listed if you’re lucky. The personal loan comparison table is a good place to start to find the loans and the best rates. You can also find further information about some of the loans listed in the section below called ‘best personal loans’.

Understanding personal loan rates

If you’re looking for cheap personal loans, it’s important to understand what’s meant by APR (annual percentage rate). The APR is the amount you’ll owe on top of what you borrow, for interest and other charges. The representative APR shown in our personal loan comparison table is an advertised rate. It means this rate is offered to at least 51% of successful applicants. So it’s not guaranteed.

The APR you’re offered for your unsecured personal loan will depend on your financial status and credit history.

How our personal loan comparison can help

Our personal loan comparison table gives you a list of offers from a range of lenders, with different rates and terms.

Some people might think it’s easier to get a loan from the bank. But the best unsecured personal loans for you might not come from a bank.

To find the best personal loans available to you, it’s useful to think about this checklist:

  • Monthly repayments: This is how much of your personal loan you pay back each month. Some lenders might give you the option of taking repayment breaks, but it might cost more overall.

  • Representative APR: This is the interest you’re charged for borrowing through your unsecured loan. Look for a personal loan with a low APR, and check if the interest is fixed or variable.

  • Total payable: This is how much you’ll pay back overall, including your monthly payments and interest on your unsecured personal loan. The shorter your borrowing term, the less you’ll pay back.

  • Fees: With most personal loans, you’ll have to pay early repayment charges, or fees for late payments. Some brokers charge fees for arranging your loan too, so make sure you check the terms before you apply.

How much does a personal loan cost?

If your lender thinks you’re at risk of missing your repayments, you’ll be charged more for your loan. Some of the factors that affect the cost of your loan include:

  • How much you borrow: The more you borrow, the higher your monthly repayments will be

  • How long you borrow for: Short-term loans may come with a higher monthly cost, as they often charge more interest than longer-term loans

  • Your credit history: You might pay more interest if you have bad credit

  • Your income: If your income is low, you might be charged a higher interest rate

Once you’ve found the best personal loan for you, it’s a good idea to use our loan repayment calculator. It’ll show you how much you’d be repaying each month with that particular personal loan. Compare the best unsecured loans for your needs by looking at how much you’re borrowing, how much time you need to pay it back, and the fees. It’s a good way to get your finances in order and avoid any nasty surprises later.

It’s important that you only apply for personal loans you can afford to pay back. Here’s some information about what happens if you can't payback your loan.

What can I use an unsecured personal loan for?

When you do a personal loan application, you’ll be asked what you’ll be using the money for. Some lenders let you list multiple reasons. For example, you could say you want to borrow £10,000, which will be spent on home improvements, a car and a holiday.

Typically, unsecured personal loans are used for making a big purchase, or for home improvements. But you can use the money however you like, as long it's not specifically excluded in the loan agreement.

The cost of a personal loan is fixed, so your repayments stay the same every month. This means you can plan your budget better.

An unsecured loan to renovate your home

A home improvement loan can be a good way to increase your home’s value. Our home improvement loan comparison table can help you find the best unsecured personal loans. Then you can renovate your home in the most cost-effective way.

The best personal loans to finance a car

If you need money for a car, use the personal loan comparison table above to see if any of the unsecured loans would work for you as car finance.

You can also check the cost of car finance using our car finance calculator, and apply through our credit broker. You’ll get a quick decision and could even find a car through the service.

Which lender should I choose for the best personal loan?

Getting the best personal loan rates is unique to you and your circumstances. A bank isn’t always the place to find the cheapest personal loans with the best interest rates.

Interest rates affect all kinds of credit, borrowing and savings. Banks and lenders use the Bank of England base rate to decide the interest rates they offer.

If you get a loan offer from your bank, it’s a good idea to compare it with at least two other personal loans. Then you can make sure you’re getting the best possible personal loan rates available.

Banks vs. online lenders

Lots of different kinds of lenders offer unsecured loans. Finding the best personal loans for you will depend on your loan requirements and how you want to communicate with your lender.

If you’d rather speak to someone in person about your loan, a bank might be a better place for you to look for the best unsecured loans. If you’re happy to do everything online, an online lender might be able to offer you the best personal loan rates.

Can I get an unsecured personal loan with bad credit?

A bad credit loan lets you borrow even if your credit history’s poor. But you might not have a big choice of lenders, and you’ll have to pay more interest.

If you need more than you can get through an unsecured personal loan, you could think about getting a secured loan. They’re tied to something you own, like your house or car, but it means that if you can’t pay the lender can take it from you.

A selection of some of our best personal loans

We’re here to help you find some of the best personal loans. We’ve analysed hundreds of personal loans UK wide. Our personal loan comparison above will show you how each loan could help you with your next big purchase, or improve cash flow during a tough period. Whether you want a cheap loan or just want to find the best loan company, there’s lots to think about.

AA loans

If you’re looking for the best personal loans with low APRs and extra benefits you could consider AA loans. An AA loan could provide you with cash from £1,000 up to £25,000, with an APR as low as 3.1%, depending on your situation.

Pros

  • You’ll get 12 months’ Basic Breakdown Cover. Or, if you’re already a member when you take out an AA loan, you’ll get to choose an add-on for the remainder of your membership year. This could be something like National Recovery, for example.

  • If you’re an AA member already, you’ll get to access exclusive, low rates.

  • Depending on your credit rating, how much you want to borrow and your chosen term, you could get one of the best unsecured loans with a rate as low as 3.1%. So it’s worth a look for cheap personal loans.

  • Applicants get an instant decision in most cases.

  • You can apply for your loan online.

  • You can make extra payments or pay off your loan early with no penalties.

Cons

  • If you’re not already an AA member, you might not be able to access the best personal loan rates. The representative APR for a £4,000 AA loan is 8.9%, although if you borrow more, you’re more likely to get the cheapest personal loans. But you should only ever borrow what you need and should always repay it as quickly as you can.

  • You’ll usually receive funds within two working days from when the AA receives your signed agreement. That’s slower than some lenders.

  • You have to be 21 to get an AA loan, whereas some other loan providers will lend to those aged 18 and above or 20 and above.

  • The rate you see advertised might not be the rate you’re offered, as it’s a representative APR. The rate you’re offered will be based on your personal circumstances and credit history.

Post Office loans

These are good for borrowing large amounts of money at fixed, low APRs. A Post Office personal loan is usually a good-rate, solid, no-frills option.

Pros

  • Thanks to the Post Office’s Fast Checker, you can check your eligibility for a loan without affecting your credit score.

  • You’ll get an instant decision in most cases.

  • You could have the funds in your account the day after you apply (although it can take longer).

  • If you compare personal loans you’ll see that you could get a rate as low as 3.1% on a smaller Post Office loan. That makes it one of the best personal loan options on the market.

  • If you want a larger loan, from £15,001 to £25,000, you could get a fixed rate of 3.9% representative APR.

  • You might get to sign your agreement form online, speeding up the process and saving the need to post documents.

Cons

  • The rate you see advertised might not be the rate you’re offered, as it’s a representative APR. The rate you’re offered will be based on your personal circumstances and credit history.

  • It could take up to two working days for the money to arrive in your bank account with a Post Office loan once you’ve signed.

  • Plus, if you choose to pay your loan off early in full, the Post Office will charge up to 58 days’ interest.

  • The Post Office only lends to people over 21 years old.

Zopa

Best personal loans for digital savvy customers. Zopa is a peer-to-peer lending company that aims to give customers access to simpler, better value, stress-free loans.

Pros

  • Zopa’s big selling points are its fair deals and excellent customer service. Plus it’s well known for its handy money management tools and cutting edge technology.

  • A handy app means you can get a snapshot of your loan and stay up to date with its progress whenever and wherever you are. For these reasons, many consider Zopa loans among the best loans out there.

  • Zopa can give you a personalised rate within minutes, without affecting your credit score, thanks to its Borrowing Power tool.

  • You can apply and sign online, with no need for fiddly paperwork.

  • Once you’ve got your loan you can make extra repayments on the go, or pay off your loan in full, with no fees.

  • You can often borrow a bit more than with other lenders, up to £35,000.

Cons

  • Zopa lends to UK residents aged 20 and above. That’s younger than some loan providers, but others consider applicants aged 18 and over.

  • You’ll pay a borrowing fee, although this is absorbed into the overall loan so you don’t pay anything up front.

Shawbrook

Best for large personal loans and transparency. It offers personalised rates and a clear, simple approach to lending.

Pros

  • Shawbrook’s loans range from £1,000 to £35,000. So, if you need a lot of cash and want to take the unsecured lending route, it might be a better option than a traditional loan provider.

  • You can get an instant quote.

  • You’ll get a guaranteed, personalised rate from the start, with no nasty surprises. You’ll never feel ‘duped’ by an advertised representative APR which you’re then not offered

  • Getting a quote won’t impact your credit score.

  • Everything is done online with Shawbrook. You can sign on the dotted line with an e-signature without needing to go anywhere or post anything.

Cons

  • With most loans, you’ll need an income of £12,000 to be eligible. But with Shawbrook, you’ll need to earn a minimum of £15,000.

  • It can also take a bit longer to get the funds with Shawbrook – up to three working days.

  • Shawbrook has a long list of restrictions on what your loan can and can’t be used for. For example, Shawbrook’s personal loans can’t be used for bridging reasons, business or Christmas expenses.

  • Shawbrook does have an app, but it’s currently only available for customers with home improvement loans.