How to Finance Equipment for Your Small Business

Manufacturing worker

When you need equipment for your small business, choosing the right lender can help you get the money you need and avoid pitfalls from inappropriate loans or unscrupulous lenders. In this article, you’ll learn some important differences; before you approach a lender, it’s wise to prepare for the application process, too, so we cover some of those steps as well.

1. Review your credit history and clear up any issues.

One of the key considerations for lenders is the creditworthiness of the business owner(s). Even if your credit is less-than-perfect, there are loans available (you’ll learn more about that further in this article), but it’s a good idea to clear up issues in advance of applying for a loan. Review your credit reports, correct any errors and pay any outstanding bills.

2. Create a list of your business’s equipment needs and research the cost and useful life of each item.

When making loans for equipment purchases, lenders will consider cost and useful life – the generally accepted standard for how long each piece of equipment can be expected to be in service – to ensure that lenders don’t make loans that outlast the life of the equipment.

Before you apply for a business loan to finance your purchases, research your equipment needs and the costs and useful life of each piece. (For more information and a list of the IRS’s determination of useful life for some types of equipment, see this from Investopedia.com.) This will help you ensure that the amount you borrow and the term of the loan are appropriate.

3. Determine your financing options

Small business loans are available from a variety of sources, from traditional banks to non-bank alternative lenders, although not all loans will cover all equipment.

This list is a snapshot of lenders, allowable uses and some advantages and disadvantages for each:

1. Traditional banks

Generally, banks lend based on a business’s cash flow, not on the value of the equipment. For this reason, while bank loans can be excellent options for established businesses, the lack of revenue and financial history means that startups usually don’t qualify.

Pros: Can be used for small and large equipment purchases, with lower interest rates and advantageous repayment terms

Cons: Requires strong credit and financial history; generally, not available to startups or to businesses and business owners with weaker credit histories.

2. Small Business Administration:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) doesn’t directly make loans; instead, the SBA provides guarantees to lenders (banks and approved non-bank lenders) to incentivize them to lend to small businesses. SBA programs include microloans for small equipment purchases (under $50,000) and 7(a) and 504 loans for large equipment (loans up to several million).

Pros: SBA-backed loans work well for many small business needs and come with competitive rates and terms; can work for startups and borrowers with imperfect credit; easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans; good interest rates and repayment terms; range of loans to cover small and large equipment

Cons: Longer application and processing time than some alternative lenders; requires personal guarantees on the loan and, sometimes, additional collateral

3. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

CDFIs include mission-based lenders including nonprofit organizations and sometimes credit unions that specialize in underserved small business populations such as women, minorities and low-income entrepreneurs. CDFI loans are generally made for working capital purposes, of which the equipment purchase is an allowable use.

Pros: Easier qualification; shorter loan-processing time; longer repayment terms; often, CDFIs offer a range of educational programs and other support for small business borrowers

Cons: Loan maximums generally don’t exceed $100,000; may have higher costs than traditional banks or SBA-backed loans (but are still less than most asset-based or non-bank alternative lenders)

4. Asset-based lenders

Unlike other loans that look primarily at borrower credit history or business revenue (or a mix), these lenders consider the value of the equipment as collateral, as well as cash flow or credit. Often, equipment manufacturers or vendors will offer these loans.

Pros: Easier qualification; can help with specific equipment purchases

Cons: Not always available; usually have higher interest rates or shorter repayment terms

5. Non-bank alternative lenders

These lenders, including peer-to-peer financers, don’t specifically fund equipment; instead, they fund working capital needs. They are considered cash-flow lenders, meaning that they make loans based on a business’s daily or weekly receipts.

Pros: Easier to qualify; shorter processing time; 

Cons: Loan maximums generally don’t exceed $100,000; Very high interest rates and short repayment terms (often with weekly or daily repayments) can make the loans very difficult for small businesses to manage; because of the aggressive terms, these loans are discouraged

Next steps

The best equipment loan for your business will be determined by a combination of your business/personal creditworthiness and the type of equipment.   If you’d like advice and further guidance before you move forward with your loan application process, contact Pursuit to learn how we can help.

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