Co-Signing A Loan: The Good And The Bad

Co-Signing A Loan: The Good And The Bad

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated March 28, 2022

Co-signing happens pretty frequently in the world of lending and loans, it’s a way for someone with better credit to help someone who struggles with their finances and credit. This practice is most common among close friends and family members as it requires a good relationship with lots of trust.

There are mixed feelings about whether or not co-signing a loan is a good idea, the root of the issue is that people don’t really understand what co-signing a loan entails. Like most financial commitments understanding all the risks and benefits is the best way for you to make the right choice. 

What Does It Mean To Cosign A Loan?  

Co-signing a loan means your name is added to the primary borrower’s loan application. That means you are legally obligated to repay the loan if the primary borrower defaults on the loan payments. 

A cosigner is needed when the primary loan applicant is unable to get approved on their own merits. In this case, the cosigner’s positive financial and credit profile help strengthen the loan application and increase the odds of approval. 

Other Perks Of Having A Cosigner

  • To Get Better Interest Rates – Unfortunately people with bad credit scores and history have to pay higher interest rates because they are seen as high risk by lenders. But if they are able to get a co-signer who has a good credit history they could benefit from that person’s credit strength and therefore be offered a more affordable interest rate.
  • To Build Credit – In order to build your credit scores, you need to get credit which can be difficult for people who have a bad financial history or no history at all. This is where a co-signer can be beneficial. Someone who has a good credit history can co-sign a loan to help a person with bad credit get a loan and therefore help them build their credit.
  • To Avoid Predatory Lending Practices By getting a co-signer you can avoid predatory lenders who prey on those looking for a loan but have bad credit. 

Co-Signing Vs Co-Borrowing

There’s a difference between co-signing and co-borrowing. The main difference is that a co-borrower has a right to the money or property that’s part of the loan, regardless of what type of loan it is. A co-signer, on the other hand, has no right to the property, even though they would be responsible to take over the payments if the primary borrower is unable to. 

For instance, joint mortgages that typically involve spouses who co-borrow on the loan each have ownership of the property, and business owners who take out a personal loan together to grow their company each have access to the money. But co-signing simply means both parties are obligated to repay the loan, though the co-signer has no stake in the money or property if the primary borrower defaults. 

Benefits Of Co-Signing A Loan

There are a lot more benefits for the borrower than there are for the cosigner. Some benefits may include: 

1. It Helps A Friend Or Family Member Obtain Financing.

One of the main benefits to co-signing a loan is the rewarding feeling you’ll get for helping someone in need. If you know someone who may otherwise not be able to secure a mortgage to buy a home, a car loan to purchase a vehicle, or any other type of loan that will help financially, your signature on the loan application could mean the difference between approved and denied. 

2. Helps Build Credit For Both Signers.

Since you’ll be attached to the loan in the same way as the primary signer/borrower, your credit can also benefit if the loan payments are made on time.  

Drawbacks Of Co-Signing A Loan

There are more drawbacks to cosigning a loan than benefits such as the following:

1. You Will Get No “Material” Reward

This is the most obvious reason why co-signing for a loan, a car or even a mortgage could be a bad idea. There is no “material” benefit to you, you won’t get to drive the car or live in the house but you’ll be responsible for the payments. You’re simply financially backing the borrower. 

2. You Are Responsible For The Loan

If you co-sign a loan with someone you are legally responsible for the loan. If the payments stop being made by the borrower, you will be obligated to pay the debt. This can cause numerous financial problems for you if you are unable to do so. 

To avoid such a situation, be sure to co-sign only when you know you can afford it and you are okay with financially covering the borrower. It’s also important to keep track of these payments. Simply putting it to the back of your mind and not checking up on them every month will not be an option. You will have to treat it like all of your other monthly bills and stay organized and on top of it.

3. You Could Be Rejected For A Loan You Need In The Future

Co-signing a loan now could make it difficult for you to get a loan if and when you need one because it affects the debt-to-income ratio. When lenders pull your credit report, they will see the loan you are co-signing and will consider it as part of your debts. 

Think about your future carefully before you decided to co-sign a loan. You might not think you’ll need a loan in the near or even distant future but you never really know and you don’t want to be rejected if the time comes.

4. It Can Affect Your Credit

Since you have taken on the responsibility of being a cosigner you need to protect yourself and your credit scores. Put aside some money just in case the other signer defaults and be prepared for the worst. Missed payments will not only affect the borrower but your credit as well. 

5. Hard To Remove Yourself As A Cosigner

If you change your mind about being a co-signer after you’ve already added your name to the loan, you may find the process of removing your name a difficult one. To do so, the borrower may have to refinance the loan to have you removed. 

But this requires the borrower to be able to qualify for a new loan on their own merit. If the borrower is unable to qualify, refinancing may not be an option, which means you may be stuck being a co-signer until the loan is fully paid off. 

Otherwise, you may need to wait until the loan is paid off or for the home to be sold to cut financial ties. But in these cases, it’s the borrower who has the power. 

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Should You Co-Sign a Loan? 

Before becoming a co-signer on a loan, there are certain important considerations you should make first:

Can you afford the loan? 

If the borrower defaults on the loan, will you be able to comfortably make the additional payments, on top of the bills you already pay for yourself? Even though you may qualify to become a co-signer, you should still make sure you’re fine with taking over the payments if the borrower can’t.

Do you fully understand all terms of the contract?

Since you’ll be responsible for taking over the loan if the primary borrower defaults, you’ll want to understand all the terms of the contract that you’ll be bound to. This includes the payment dates, penalties, and so forth. 

Do you understand the risks?

There are several risks that come with being a co-signer. For starters, you’re obligated to repay the loan if the primary borrower fails to keep up with loan payments. 

Your credit could also be negatively affected if the borrower misses payments, or if the debt load is more than you can handle. Your ability to secure your own loan may also be impacted due to the added debt you’re taking on. 

Finally, your relationship could be harmed. If the borrower fails to make payments on the loan, you’ll be stuck taking over. Naturally, this could put a strain on your relationship, as you may resent the borrower. 

Be sure to weigh all the risks of being a co-signer before you agree to this arrangement. 

Co-Signing A Loan FAQs

Who can co-sign a loan? 

Anyone can co-sign a loan as long as they meet the lender’s financial and credit requirements. Generally speaking, a co-signer will need a steady income, manageable debt, and good credit.

Will co-signing a loan build my credit? 

Co-signing a loan can build your credit if payments are made on time every month. Also, adding a different type of loan to your portfolio can help mix up your credit, which can also help build credit.

Can I remove myself as a co-signer? 

The easiest way to remove yourself as co-signer is to insert a clause in the contract that releases you from your obligations if you so choose. Otherwise, the process can be a lot more complex.  Your next best bet would be to refinance the loan, in which case the borrower takes out a new loan without your name on it, and pays off the existing loan with the new funds. Otherwise, the home will either have to be sold or the loan will need to be fully repaid to remove your name from the loan. 

Bottom Line

Wanting to help out a friend or family member is never a bad idea but when you’re asked to help them out financially you should think carefully about the consequences. Depending on the situation the good can outweigh the bad but the bad can also outweigh the good. The best idea for both parties is to have the best understanding of what co-signing a loan really means, that way if you have the opportunity to help out a friend you’ll be able to say yes with confidence.


Rating of 4/5 based on 23 votes.

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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