What Is A Balloon Payment?

What Is A Balloon Payment?

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated February 15, 2023

Balloon payments are a non-traditional form of financing that involves little to no payments at the beginning of the loan’s term followed by a substantially larger lump sum payment due at the end of the loan’s term. Typically borrowers who want to use this type of financing must have great credit and be very trustworthy overall because of the loan’s intense payment structure.

However, this doesn’t mean that balloon payments aren’t the right option for many consumers. As always, consider your current financial position, debts and future financial goals when determining whether a balloon payment is right for you or not. Before making your decision, take the time to understand what balloon payment loans are, the corresponding advantages and disadvantages, and why they are considered riskier financial products compared to others on the market.  

What Is A Balloon Payment? 

When an entire loan balance is due, it is known as a balloon payment. Usually, a balloon payment is a lump sum paid at the end of a loan’s term that is substantially bigger than the regular payments. Balloon payments occur when a loan is not amortized.

Instead, the borrower forgoes an expensive monthly payment in exchange for a larger payment at the end of the loan’s term. Generally speaking, the balloon payment is at least double the amount of a regular payment, but the final payment could be larger.

Balloon payments can be risky for the borrower because there is a large lump sum payment due at the end of the term. More often than not, balloon payments are related to mortgages. That being said, sometimes balloon payments are also an option for business, personal and auto loans. Finally, to qualify for a balloon payment structured loan, the applicants need to have good credit, ample cash on hand, and a significantly high income.

Types Of Ballon Payment Loans 

Personal Loan

Consider a personal loan worth $10,000 that is amortized for 10 years but is due and payable in 2 years. In this case, the borrower makes amortized payments based on the 10-year term but the balance will be due in 2 years instead of 10 years. This means there will be a balloon payment at the end of the 2 years.

In the early stages of an amortized loan, the biggest portion of the payment is all interest. As the term of the loan moves forward, the payments are composed of less interest and more principal. By the end of the 2 years, the lump-sum amount due is pretty close to the principal, unpaid balance.

Car Loan Balloon Payment

An auto loan balloon payment is a large lump sum payment made at the end of the loan term to pay off the remaining loan balance. 

This payment is typically much larger than typical installment payments. In many cases, the payments made throughout the term are interest-only payments, which helps keep payment amounts lower and more affordable for borrowers without extending the loan term. 

If you agree to make a balloon payment at the end of the car loan term, you must ensure that you have the funds to cover this larger-than-usual payment. Otherwise, you could be charged a hefty penalty fee.  

Will I Save Money By Making A Balloon Payment?

It’s also important to understand that you’re not actually saving any money over the loan term. Just because you make smaller payments throughout the term does not make the overall loan more affordable. You’ll have to make up for the difference with your big balloon payment at the end of the auto loan. 

In addition, be wary of interest rates with balloon payments, as some lenders may charge higher rates on car loans with balloon payments.

Mortgage Balloon Payment

Balloon payments can also be used with mortgages. As is the case with a car loan, a mortgage balloon payment is a larger payment made at the end of the loan term after smaller installment payments were initially made. This balloon payment covers any principal still outstanding once the term ends. 

Mortgage lenders typically keep mortgage terms shorter when there’s a balloon payment involved, as they don’t want to have to wait the entire amortization period (20-25 years) to collect the funds owed. 

Pros And Cons Of Balloon Payments

As with all forms of financing, there are related advantages and disadvantages. Typically, balloon payments are known to be one of the riskier financial products to use. Although, that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for some borrowers. Be sure to understand your financial situation and future goals before making a decision on whether or not balloon payments are right for you.

Pros Of Ballon Payments

  • Nominal Or No Preliminary Payments. At the beginning of a balloon loan, the payments are very small or even non-existent.
  • Affordable, Short-Term Capital. Balloon loans are a fantastic, cheap way to finance something in the short-term given that you can meet the requirements of the payment structure.

Cons Of Balloon Payments

  • Higher Risk To The Borrower. Compared to traditional loans, there is more risk associated with balloon payments. The risk is attributable to the intense payment schedule.
  • Expensive In The Long Run. The cost of balloon loans can be higher in the long term, despite the cheap cost in the short term. This is especially true if the loan is structured with interest-only payments.
  • Difficult To Predict And Rely On Future Cash Flows. Even if you can predict your future cash flows, there is always a chance that the cash inflows won’t be what you anticipated. This could result in you defaulting on the loan.

Should You Get A Balloon Payment Loan?

One of the most complex financial products on the market are balloon payment loans. For this reason, only eligible borrowers with stable income and significant cash on hand should use this kind of financing. Balloon payments are ideal for investors who want to free up capital or businesses that need financing immediately and have extremely reliable future cash inflows.

Unfortunately, this means that balloon loans aren’t ideal for the average borrower. This is because, as an average borrower, it is challenging to predict whether or not your future income will grow substantially. Instead, it is safer to take out a loan that is affordable based on your current income since it is steady and reliable.

A Better Alternative

If you like the structure of balloon payments, but can’t afford it, a wise alternative is to make a bigger down payment upfront. Of course, you’ll need to wait until you’ve saved enough money to make the down payment you want. If you’re not in a rush, this is an ideal option for the average borrower instead of using balloon payments.

Balloon Financing FAQs

Is balloon financing similar to a lease?

No. When you choose a balloon payment schedule for your loan, you own the vehicle and can keep it after the loan term ends. On the other hand, you don’t own the vehicle with a lease, even though you’re making payments. Leasing a car means you’ll have to return it at the end of the contract period, unless there’s a clause in the contract that gives you the option to buy it.  

Can you make a balloon payment early?

Yes, you can pay your balloon payment early in most cases. To do so, you’ll need to pay more towards your loan throughout the term. It’s important to understand that some lenders may charge early repayment penalty fees, so make sure you verify if these fees apply before paying the loan off early.

Can I get balloon financing with bad credit?

To get balloon financing on an auto loan, you’ll need a decent credit score. The higher your score, the better the odds of loan approval at a lower interest rate and more favourable terms. As such, it’s best to check your credit score before applying for a loan. That said, you may be able to secure balloon financing on a car loan if you work with an alternative lender that allows bad credit. Keep in mind that alternative lenders tend to charge much higher interest if you’re applying with bad credit

Is balloon financing cheaper than a regular loan? 

Not really. Balloon financing usually costs the same as a conventional loan. By making smaller installment payments throughout the term, you’ll eventually need to make up the difference with a bigger balloon payment at the end of the term. Not only that, but you may pay a higher interest rate on a car loan with balloon payments, depending on the lender.

Bottom Line

Everyone’s financial position is unique, one person may greatly benefit from a balloon payment loan structure while others may not benefit. Take the time to seriously consider your finances before making a decision. If you’re interested in being connected with a lender in your area, Loans Canada works with a wide variety of lenders and service providers to help get Canadian consumers the financing they need.

Rating of 3/5 based on 1 vote.

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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