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Are Small Business Loans Fixed Rate or Variable Rate?

Are Small Business Loans Fixed Rate or Variable Rate?
Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward

Updated January 7, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Are small business loans fixed or variable? It depends on what you choose — after all, it’s up to you. Small business owners who take out a loan have a choice of whether they want a fixed or variable interest rate loan. Knowing this, your next question may be which is better? And the answer is: Once again, it depends. Each business has unique needs, so the type of loan that is best depends on your business and monthly cash flow. Small business loans, variable or fixed, are ultimately similar in everything but interest rates, which can make for a difficult choice.

What Are Small Business Loans? 

A small business loan is money that is borrowed from a bank, credit union or lender. The owner intends to use the money for his or her business. The loan funds are typically used for things like:
  • Working capital
  • Real estate
  • Inventory
  • Business acquisitions
  • Renovations
  • Asset acquisition
There are various small business loans on the market that owners can choose from. The main thing that needs to be considered is the type of interest you want, meaning fixed or variable. Loans typically aren’t separated into variable and fixed rate options. When shopping, you choose which type of interest you want after you’ve been approved. When deciding if it’s better for you if a small business loan is fixed or variable, it should come as little surprise that each comes with its own set of pros and cons. 

What Fixed Interest Rate Loans Are

A fixed interest rate loan comes with interest that does not change. Once the loan is processed, monthly payments are the same for the life of the loan. This means borrowers can easily budget for a fixed rate loan because they know exactly how much each payment is going to be. They also know how much they are going to pay for the loan overall. The downside to a fixed rate loan is that if the market changes and banks start loaning at lower interest rates, borrowers with a fixed rate loan won’t see any changes. While their peers will be borrowing at lower rates, they will continue with the same interest. However, the flip side of this is that if rates go up, fixed rate borrowers are protected against big market swings. 

Fixed Interest Rate Loan Example 

Let’s assume you borrow $50,000 to purchase an additional asset for your company. The repayment period is five years and the interest rate is 6%. Your monthly payment would be $966.64 for the life of the loan, and you would pay $7,998.40 in interest. The total cost of the loan would be $57,998.40 (not including any fees).

What Variable Interest Rate Loans Are

When variable interest rate loans fluctuate, they mirror market changes, which means a loan with this type of interest may have different monthly payments one month to the next. However, the payment amounts aren’t usually that much different from one another in a stable economy.There are a few downsides to choosing a variable interest rate loan. The big one is that when rates go up, your payments increase. If your business’s cash flow is tight, this can make budgeting very difficult. Plus, with a variable-interest model, you never know what the total cost of your loan is until you’re done making payments. With a fixed interest rate, you always know exactly what you're paying month-to-month and in the overall grand scheme of things. 

Types of Variable Business Loans 

Small business loans come with variable interest as an option. Therefore, you can get the following types of loans with a variable interest rate:
  • Invoice financing loan
  • SBA loan
  • Merchant cash advance
  • Equipment loan
  • Microloan
Borrowers don’t need to search for small business loan fixed or variable rate options. Most loans come with a choice of both. 

Variable Interest Rate Loan Example 

The previous fixed-rate loan example saw the borrower take out a $50,000 loan with a five-year repayment period and a 6% interest rate. Overall, that borrower paid $7,998.40 in interest. If the borrower were to choose a variable rate interest loan instead, he or she might be offered a 5% interest rate, which could go up or down throughout the repayment period. Therefore, while this borrower might save money on the loan, it is not a guarantee. 

How to Choose Which Type of Loan Is Best for Your Business 

When choosing whether to go with a fixed or variable interest, you have to decide how much of a risk you’re willing to take. Most businesses want predictable monthly expenses and are willing to miss out on “historic lows” because they don’t like the idea of being vulnerable to market fluctuations. Because of this, many business owners often choose a loan with a fixed rate. On the other hand, businesses that have some breathing room in their monthly budgets and can take on a little risk may not like the idea of missing out on low rates. By choosing a variable interest rate loan, these owners could potentially save money in interest. They may not know exactly how much they’ll spend month to month, but their budget allows for some fluctuations.It often boils down to how risk averse you are as a small business. No matter which one you choose, however, it’s always a good idea to study up on business loan interest rate averages so you know what you’re getting into. 

Small Business Loans With Lantern 

So the question is: small business loan, fixed or variable? Each has advantages and disadvantages. Knowing your budget, financial goals and risk comfort will help guide you. When applying for a small business loan, you can use Lantern to obtain offers from multiple lenders. From there, you may choose the lender offering the optimal loan terms. Whether you choose a loan with a fixed or variable rate is entirely up to you. When exploring small business loans, lenders may offer everything from refinancing business loans to business debt consolidation loans.
Photo credit: iStock/Talaj
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC1221011

Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a personal finance expert with nearly a decade of experience writing online content. Her work has appeared on websites such as MSN, Time, and Bankrate. Lauren writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SoFi, including credit and banking.
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