How does co-signing a loan work?

Whether you’ve been asked to co-sign a loan or need someone to co-sign a loan, here are the complete details to know before making a move.

What does co-signing a loan mean?

In simple terms, co-signing a loan means three things. First, you’re helping someone get a loan. Second, you’ll be responsible for paying off the loan if the person you’re helping fails to pay it off. Last, although you’re responsible for the loan, you don’t get to share the borrowed funds or any underlying property. 

Typically, co-signers are close family and friends, which makes sense because you’ll need someone you can trust when taking on such a risk. Most people are denied a loan because of a bad credit score. Whether that’s because of poor payment performance or insufficient credit history, having a co-signer with a good credit score helps turn the situation around.

Benefits of co-signing a loan

As mentioned earlier, co-signing a loan carries some risk, but first, let’s look at the brighter side of things.

You’re helping friends and family

It’s always a good day when you can give the people close to you a leg up. For instance, your help can be a game-changer or life-changer to a financially responsible young borrower who’s being denied a loan because they’re still in the process of building their credit score. 

Or maybe it’s someone who needs to recover from a bad financial situation. They may need a loan for all sorts of worthwhile reasons, such as debt consolidation, buying a car, or paying for their education. 

There’s a potential credit score boost

Both signers can increase their credit score if payments are made on time. While this is a nice perk for the co-signer, the primary borrower will appreciate it more if they fail to qualify for the loan because of a poor credit score. The credit score boost means they’ll have a better chance of securing a loan without extra help in the future.

You get a better deal, overall

Co-signers use their good credit score to increase the chance of loan approval and secure better interest rates for their friends and family. Without this support, a person with a bad credit score and history will likely get a higher interest rate because of the risk they pose. In some cases, having a co-signer saves them from predatory lenders who charge excessive interest rates to desperate, bad credit borrowers.

Risks of co-signing a loan

When people raise the question of whether co-signing a loan is a good idea, it’s often because of the following reasons:

No financial benefit

This is a glaring fault of co-signed loans. You’re taking on the risk, but there’s no material reward when the loan is approved. Instead, it’s the person you’re co-signing for who gets to drive the car or spend the money for whatever purpose they have in mind.

Potential for financial loss

Besides the lack of material benefits, you may also end up paying off a loan you didn’t use. That’s because when you co-sign a loan, you’re basically telling the lender you’ll be responsible for paying off the loan if the primary borrower defaults. 

The lender will approve the loan on that basis alone, then hold you to your word if the situation calls for it.

Negative impact on future loan applications

A co-signed loan shows up on your credit report and increases your debt-to-income ratio. This may cause lenders to doubt your ability to service a new loan, particularly if it’s a large sum. So even if you think you may not need a loan down the line, your situation could change at any time. Then it would be your turn to get declined for a loan you really need. 

In the worst-case scenario, if both you and the other signer fail to pay off the loan, your credit scores will take a hit. This not only affects your chances of loan approval but can also create other problems, such as dealing with debt collectors and court judgements.

No peace of mind

Having debt is something that easily stays at the back of your mind. Being a co-signer is slightly more worrisome because you won’t be in control of the other person’s behaviour. That means you’ll have to check in with them to keep track of payments constantly. You may even resort to saving some money aside just in case the primary borrower defaults.

Strained relationship

Indeed, most people will only co-sign a loan for people they’re close to. But this can quickly change if there’s a disagreement over payments or if someone breaks their promise. Because discussing money issues can be uncomfortable, it’s easy for both signers to have different expectations if they avoid the topic. Therefore, when disappointment sets in, the relationship might be lost.

How to ask someone to co-sign your loan

With so many risks attached to co-signing a loan, it becomes tricky asking for this favour. However, there are things you can do to improve your approach.

  • Explain your reasons for taking out the loan. It helps if you’re taking out the loan for a reason the co-signer can relate to. Also, if the co-signer is close to you, they’re more likely to empathize and help, despite the risks.
  • Be honest about why you need a co-signer. If your bad credit score is a result of missed payments, you may be afraid that the potential co-signer won’t trust your ability to make future payments. However, the co-signer needs to know the risk level before committing. Otherwise, you might end up rocking the relationship boat.
  • Discuss the risks and find a solution. Make sure that the co-signer knows they will be legally responsible for the loan. Next, face the issue of what would happen if you default head-on. In any case, it’s important to always be transparent and honest in your communication to avoid any nasty surprises for the co-signer.

Can you get your name off a co-signed loan?

Unfortunately, co-signing a loan may be easy, but reversing the process isn’t always as simple. That being said, here are some ways to have your name removed from a co-signed loan.

Ask to be removed

Sometimes, the terms and conditions of the loan may state that the co-signer can be excused once a specific number of on-time payments have been made. It’s best to review the loan terms before signing, so you know exactly what your options will be.


This only works if the primary borrower can now qualify for a new loan by themselves or if they’re switching to a different co-signer. Once the new loan is approved, the existing loan is paid off, and the account is closed. 
Since your name is not on the new loan, it essentially means you’re free of co-signer obligations. Generally, most loans can be refinanced, including credit cards, personal loans, car loans, mortgages, and student loans.