The term unsecured loan relates to a loan which is not secured on any physical asset or other legal entity.
To understand the term unsecured loan we will first look at the opposite, the secured loan:
Many loans can be secured on physical items or other assets such as intellectual property rights. The idea is that if the asset is worth something on the open market then it can be repossessed from the borrower and so taken as payment for the loan if the borrower defaults on the loan repayment.
Many businesses take out loans financed on their fixed assets including buildings and machinery. Today the most common asset for a consumer to use as collateral for a secured loan is their home. These types of loans are commonly referred to as secured loans and it has given rise to a big industry that is cashing in on releasing the equity in peoples homes to finance their wants, desires and debts.
Property prices normally rise over time and many western countries have seen a boom in property prices as populations increase and as their countries economy increases. This mean that a house bought for $100,000 in one year may be worth $200,000 in 6 years time and so people have spare cash locked into their property. Many people have bought their home as it is where they want to be and don't want to move. The money is therefore hard to get out unless they borrow against the property with a secured loan.
This type of loan can be of great benefit to some, with lenders often allowing more adverse applicants to take out a secured loan due to the security the lender has over their property. However, this is of no use to someone who does not own the property they live in.
If you are a tenant, live with your parents, or if you are a student with no legal title over any property then you would be restricted to the unsecured loan.
The unsecured loan does have some advantages and some disadvantages. As it is not secured on anything there is less work to do and the loan can normally be obtained faster. There are many online comparison services showing lenders who offer this type of loan.
One of the main disadvantages of the unsecured loan is that they pose a greater risk to the lender who would need to take legal action to recover the loan should the borrower default, they wouldn't be able to repossess any property as the loan is not secured. As a result of this they normally ask for a greater interest payment than with a secured loan and this can make the loan a lot more costly.
Both unsecured and secured loans have advantages and disadvantages but if you don't own property an unsecured loan is a reasonable financing option.