If you’re ready to apply for a term loan for your small business, you want the terms of your loan to be as unique as your business. That said, one of the most important factors you should look at when taking on a term loan is…how long should your loan last? In the world of small businesses, the general impression has been that term loans offered by both banks and alternative lenders are typically short-term, usually with a maximum duration of 24 months.
That has changed in recent years, however, as more banks and alternative lenders, such as Kapitus, have begun offering a new option to small business borrowers – term loans extending up to 60 months. In some cases, long-term loans may offer benefits for established small businesses such as a lower fixed payment.
What Factors Should You Consider?
There are several factors to consider when determining what the duration of your loan should be. Additionally, the factors you should consider for a 60-month loan may be different than the ones you would consider for a loan that is 24 months or shorter.
“If you’re able to get something approved outside of two years, you have a different decision as a business owner,” said Josh Jones, Kapitus’ Chief Revenue Officer. He added that when a small business owner is considering taking a loan of 24 months or shorter, they should examine what they are using the borrowed assets for and when they expect a return on those assets.
For example, if your business is borrowing money to develop and market a new product that will be introduced to consumers in two years, then maybe a 24-month loan makes more sense for you.
“For something 24 months or shorter, you have to look at your needs, and kind of do some liability matching to what the use of the capital is and whenever it is a return is going to happen,” said Jones.
If you’re considering a 24-month loan, you should take into account the total amount that you would be paying back the lender over two years, and the fact that new debt will most likely be available to you, if needed, once you’ve paid off the loan.
“Typically, debt payment coverage based on the use of the money is a big thing,” said Jones. “Or the fact that I know I have regular needs for capital. If I know my business can support that regular payment, I may not want anything longer than 24 months because I always want an available credit limit.”
Factors to Consider When Going Long
When considering taking a loan longer than 24 months, there are several factors that you need to consider the the total cost of the loan. If you apply for a term loan that will be paid back over 60 months, for example, the total interest will be higher on that loan because the lender is taking on longevity risk – the risk that your business may not still be around in five years. After all, the average lifespan of a small business in the US is 8½ years, according to NAV.
Are you, the borrower, willing to pay more for a five-year loan than a 24-month loan? The answer to this depends on your ability to consistently make payments, and what you are using the borrowed assets for.
“With total cost, the shorter you go, the more the total cost goes down,” said Jones. “It is possible that the annual percentage rate (APR) of a 24-month loan will be more, but business owners should be more concerned about the total cost of financing, not just the APR. I’m borrowing this money, what is my total payback? If I can reduce the cost, if my business can support the payment, or my opportunity supports the payment of my debt, then that’s going to be the winning factor.”
With a longer-duration loan, you need to carefully consider:
- The amount you will be paying each month. Generally, the total cost of a 60-month loan will be greater than that of a 24-month loan (of the same amount). Therefore, if you need to borrow assets, and your cash flow only allows you to pay a limited amount of debt service coverage every month, a long-term loan may make more sense since the fixed payments will be lower than a short-term loan.
- Prepay Options. If you take out a 60-month loan and you want to pay it back in full in 24 months, you may have a few options in terms of the total cost of capital. Some lenders will charge you a prepay penalty by charging you the interest you would have paid had the loan gone to term. Other lenders may give you a prepay discount – they’ll discount the amount of interest you would have owed had the loan gone to term. In either case, you should carefully examine which option would be cheaper for you when you set the terms of the loan.
What Should I Use a 60-Month Loan For, and How Do I Qualify?
You can use the proceeds of a 60-month loan on anything you choose for your business, and the amount
taken out for a long-term loan is typically higher than a short-term one.
Generally speaking, proceeds for a long-term loan are usually spent on permanent assets for your business, which could include the purchase of property, office equipment, office furniture, computers and company vehicles. Perhaps you need a long-term loan to acquire a well-established business to complement your own.
Be aware that the requirements and underwriting process for obtaining a loan beyond 24 months are more stringent than a standard two-year loan, mainly because the lender is taking on that longevity risk.
“Even if you have a great credit score, it can be very difficult for a business to get a 60-month loan unless they have [many] years in business,” said Jones. “That’s because the likelihood of a business [that’s well established] making it another five years is much higher than a business that’s shorter. It’s not meant to be insulting to anyone’s good business, it’s just the way the stats play out.”
Talk to Your Financing Specialist
The duration of your term loan will depend on several different factors; but, like with most loans, your ability to pay the loan back will usually be the key. Examine your balance sheet and cash flow history, and talk to the financing specialist about whether lower payments over a longer time horizon may be a better option for your business.