It's true that auto loans and home loans offer attractively-low annual percentage rates (APRs), while credit cards offer borrowing power without the risk of ever seeing the repo man haul away your financed valuables.

But wouldn't it be nice if you could get the best of both worlds when it comes to making a big-ticket purchase or refinancing your high-interest debt?

Turns out you can -- through a personal loan. As with credit cards, personal loans are unsecured loans that allow you to finance almost anything without having to provide the lender with collateral (i.e. you won't risk losing your car or home).

But unlike credit cards, personal loans offer fixed monthly payments and carry much lower APRs for those with good or excellent credit (read this if your credit score needs a fast boost) -- which could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest charges over time.

Here are four instances where taking out a personal loan can make great financial sense.

1. Using Personal Loans to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Tired of paying double-digit interest rates and juggling payments on several credit cards? Consolidating your credit card debt could save you hours of hassle and thousands of dollars in interest charges. While transferring your card balances to a 0% interest credit card may be worth considering, refinancing your credit card debt into a low-interest personal loan may be an even smarter idea.

For starters, those with good or excellent credit scores can find personal loans with APRs as low as 6% to 10%, rivaling the ongoing APRs of most credit cards. And because personal loans have fixed monthly payments and fixed terms (personal loans are usually to be paid off in one to five years), they offer more predictability and could push you to ultimately pay off your debt faster than you would through credit cards that could tempt you to spend more.

Here's more good news: Refinancing your credit card debt with a personal loan can help improve your credit score, as paying off credit card debt lowers your credit utilization ratio while opening an installment loan (in this case a personal loan) expands your credit mix, which makes up 10% of your credit score.

2. Using Personal Loans to Finance Big Life Events

Lenders don't offer 'secured' loans for many of the big events that happen in your life because experiences, emergencies, or personal procedures can't be used for collateral.

Personal loans on the other hand can help you affordably finance almost anything. Whether you need to borrow for a wonderful event like a wedding, or for more serious events like medical procedures, car repairs, or life emergencies, lenders can offer you personal loans sized from $500 to $100,000 or even more depending on your income and credit rating.

Lenders can sometimes even approve and send the funds to your bank account in as little as a day or two.

3. Using Personal Loans for Home Improvements

Itching to remodel your master bathroom or add that nice covered deck to your backyard? While historically-low interest rates may tempt you to reach for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, think twice before doing so, as you risk losing your home to the lender if you miss enough payments or default.

Unlike a home equity loan or line of credit, you don't have to use your home as collateral to be approved for a personal loan, which is 'unsecured.' That means if an unforeseen circumstance like an illness or a job loss makes it impossible to for you to repay the loan, your home won't be taken away as it's not tied to the loan.

4. Using Personal Loans to Buy a Used Car

Some used cars can be reliable bargains that are perfect for students or commuters looking to save money. Others are decades-old classics that make great garage shop projects. There's just one problem: many lenders will only approve auto loans for cars that are up to five years old, as older cars hold less collateral value.

If you're cash-strapped but still want to snag that amazing car deal, consider taking out a personal loan to finance the car. Not only can you get an affordable one- to five-year repayment term just as you could with a traditional auto loan, you'd again reap the benefit of an 'unsecured' loan, meaning your car can't be used as collateral or taken from you if you fail to repay the loan.

One more big bonus here: Because you can be approved for a personal loan with funds transferred to your bank account before you even start car shopping, you'll have the same powerful advantage in negotiating with a dealer as if you had cash on hand -- which could save you hundreds of dollars more on that already-sweet deal of a vehicle.

The lesson? Personal loans offer a collateral-free way to affordably finance anything from big-ticket items to unforgettable experiences. As with any loan, the better your credit score and the higher your annual income, the better the APR you'll be offered as you shop lenders for the most affordable rates.

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