How to Use a Personal Loan Calculator
When choosing which personal loan is right for you, you’ll want to be certain you can manage your monthly payments and pay the least amount of interest possible. Of course making those decisions might require math, and no one likes doing math, right?
How the personal loan calculator works
A personal loan calculator provides a monthly payment estimate based on the loan information you enter. When calculating the total cost of your loan or comparing loan costs, you’ll first need to input the amount of money you’re borrowing (or plan to borrow).
Next you’ll enter either the interest rate or the annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is the total cost of a loan, including interest and additional fees, over the course of a year expressed as a percentage of the original amount borrowed. If a loan’s payment term is less than or greater than a year, the APR is found by multiplying or dividing the interest payment and any other finance charges so they can be expressed on an annual basis.
Thankfully, the Truth in Lending Act, or TILA, requires many lenders to express their loans in terms of APR so you shouldn’t have to make those calculations on your own.
Once you’ve entered the loan amount and APR, you can enter your loan term – or time frame of the loan – either by the number of years or months. Once you’ve done that, the calculator will provide the total amount you’ll pay, the total interest you’ll pay, and the cost of your monthly payments during the life of your loan.
Types of loan calculators
Applying for any kind of loan—sadly—means doing a lot of math. You have to do stuff like calculate annual percentage rates (APRs) and figure out how your monthly payment will be affected by the length of your repayment term. With some loans, you even have to factor in taxes and insurance.
However, just because you have to do some math, doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. There are lots of great loan calculators available online that ask for your basic loan info and then do the hard part (read: the math) for you.
Mortgages are installment loans that use a home as collateral. Mortgages are often used to purchase a new home, though you can also use the equity in your home to take out a new mortgage if you need money for another purpose, like home improvements. Equity is the amount of your home you actually own, and you gain equity over the life of the loan, reaching full ownership once it’s totally paid off.
Mortgages also generally require a downpayment. The downpayment is a percentage of the total cost of the home, and the more money you’re able to put down upfront, the lower the interest rate will be.
Experian’s mortgage calculator allows you to input your home price, down payment amount, loan term, and interest rate to estimate how much your monthly payments will be and how much you’ll pay in total. The calculator also has advanced options if you want to incorporate the costs of all your homeownership expenses – including property taxes, home insurance, mortgage insurance, and homeowner’s association fees – into one lump sum.
Mortgages are complex, so a single calculator may not account for every expense associated with your home buying costs. Mortgages tend to have origination fees, which you’ll have to pay when you first take out the loan, and may also have prepayment penalties if you choose to pay off the loan early. You may also refinance your mortgage at some point. Refinancing your mortgage allows you to change the repayment terms on your remaining loan balance, often trading a longer payment time for smaller monthly loan payments.
Debt consolidation calculator
A debt consolidation loan is taken out to pay off multiple other loans. Ideally, this new loan would have a lower interest rate and can simplify the loan repayment process, as you’ll only have to make one payment each month rather than several.
If you’re interested in comparing different loan offers for debt consolidation, consider checking out the OppU Debt Consolidation Calculator.
Auto Loan Calculator
I know. You’re absolutely shocked that a site like Cars.com would offer one of the best auto loan calculators. We know. We’re surprised too. In all seriousness, though, this is a great calculator that includes lots of car-specific data points. For instance, when you’re buying a car, you’re probably going to get hit with sales tax. So this calculator lets you enter that tax rate to give you a full picture of how much you’ll paying. It even has a feature where you can estimate and factor in the value of your trade-in.
Nobody likes being hit with surprise fees and taxes, so the Cars.com calculator makes sure you get as clear a snapshot as you can before actually applying.
Debt Snowball/Avalanche Calculators
When you’re making a plan to pay down your existing debt, you’re probably choosing one of two methods. Either you’re focusing on paying off the debt with the lowest balance first, also known as the “Debt Snowball” method, or you’re making your highest-interest debts your top priority, better known as the “Debt Avalanche” method.
No matter which method you choose, you’re going to need a calculator to help you make a plan of attack. Luckily, there are actually two really great calculators out there that will help you with both methods. They’re offered by Undebt.It and Unbury.Me. Neither calculator is super fancy because they don’t need to be. They walk you through the debt organization process and give you a clear picture of how long it will take you to become debt free, how much you’ll be paying each month, and how much you’ll pay in interest along the way.
If you want to learn more about the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods, you can check out our blog posts:
Student loans calculator
Student loans tend to have higher interest rates than other kinds of long term loans, and many borrowers have a mix of public loans and private loans. If you’re looking to consolidate your student loans, refinance your student loans, or even just work out the best payment strategy for your situation, you’ll likely want to have a calculator at hand.
Because every student loan situation is different, it would be tough to make one calculator that could account for every borrowing situation. Instead, you could consider checking out the Federal Student Aid Office’s “Loan Simulator.”
Credit card calculator
Credit cards and other lines of credit work differently than other kinds of personal loans. You’ll be approved for a certain credit limit, which is replenished as you pay off your balance. Most credit cards have a grace period, so as long as you pay your bill in full each month before the due date, interest will not accrue.
Unlike many installment loans, however, credit cards do not have a set amortization schedule. That means if you only make the minimum payment each month while continuing to make purchases with your card, your credit card debt will continue to grow.
Experian’s credit card calculator allows you to input your current credit card balance, APR, and monthly payments so you can see how long it’ll take you to pay off your card if you don’t add additional purchases in the meantime. It also allows you to add additional cards to the calculation.
Payday Loan Calculator
Before taking out a payday loan, you should know what you’re getting yourself into. Because, while the interest rates for these short-term, no credit check loans might seem reasonable, their APRs show you just how expensive they are compared to other types of loans. That’s why, when you’re considering taking out a payday loan, you should always check the APR first. But don’t worry, all you need is the principal amount you’re borrowing, the length of your repayment term, and the interest charge, which might be referred to as a “loan fee” (Unlike other loans, payday loans are designed to be paid back in a single, lump-sum payment, which means that interest is often charged as a flat fee, rather than an ongoing rate).
Once you have that information, you can visit this payday loan APR calculator provided by CSGNetwork.com. The calculator might not look like much, but it’ll get your APR calculated lickety-split.
Improving your loan options
No matter how many calculators you use and which way you add up your options, you may not be able to find a low-interest loan if you don’t have good credit. If you can’t find any loan options within your budget, consider waiting until you can improve your credit score. By making all of your payments on time and paying down your debts, you can improve your credit history and, over time, you may find yourself on your way to a shiny credit report and the creditworthiness that comes with it.
If you’re facing a financial emergency and you don’t have the time to turn your bad credit into excellent credit, consider borrowing from a friend or a family member or look into not-for-profit or nonprofit options like credit unions or government assistance.
A personal loan calculator can only help you understand the lowest cost and rates of your available options. If you want better personal loan rate options, you should consider improving your credit history or finding a co-signer.
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