The Five Stages of Equipment Financing—From Application to Approval

Depending on the financing option you choose, your timeline for getting equipment financing will vary. But generally, the process of applying and getting funding for an equipment loan is quicker and easier than the process for getting a traditional loan.

We’ll go over each stage of the application process, and show how timing can change depending on your options.


If you decide to lease your equipment, your paperwork process will be minimal. Many equipment lenders are able to gather what they need from a one-page application. If you go with an equipment loan, your paperwork will be light, too.

With an SBA loan, the paperwork process can be more involved. (Granted--your loan size is usually much bigger for these loans, so you can expect that the lenders will want to know a little more about your situation before approving the loan). Have a couple things on hand when you start your initial application, like:

  • Profit and loss statements and balance sheets
  • Financial projections
  • Ownership and affiliations
  • Business certificates and licenses
  • Loan application history
  • Personal and business income tax returns (3 years worth)
  • Resume
  • Business overview and history
  • Bank Statements
  • Schedule of business debt

Whichever route you choose, the process is designed to get you what you need quickly and efficiently. With your paperwork in-hand, you’re ready to apply.


Most lenders use a quick, easy online application to get you prequalified and started on your loan. On average, the app may take thirty minutes to complete. The lender can usually determine how much you can borrow within minutes—getting you your equipment faster. This process is similar between equipment leases, loans, and lines of credit.


Underwriting is the financial background check your lender runs to make sure you’ll be a responsible borrower. While you may not have much to do in this step, this is one part of the application process that will vary greatly depending on the financing option you choose. So we thought we’d give you a head’s up:

Because you’re really just borrowing the equipment given to you, equipment leases have a very short underwriting period. The bank just needs to determine that you’ll be a responsible borrower and that you’ll make your payments on time. The turnaround time for these leases can be within days of your starting your application. It’s that fast!

Equipment loans also have a quick underwriting period. While you have a little more paperwork than a lease, equipment loans use the equipment you’re getting as the collateral for the loan. Which saves you significant amounts of time because you don’t have to wait for a third party appraisal company to value other collateral options. And you get your loan that much quicker.

Depending on the loan, underwriting for an SBA loan can differ. For SBA Express loans, the underwriting process can be done in a few days—getting you funding within a week. Larger SBA loans that require collateral like homes, offices, or other business furniture, fixtures, or equipment can take up to three weeks extra to complete the underwriting process, bumping your loan time from a few weeks to a month or more.


Wondering what types of things you should confirm? Aside from the length, interest, and fees associated with your loan, here are a few other questions you want to ask your lender before signing:  

  • Can I trade-in my equipment for something newer—particularly if it's something that tends to go out-of-date quickly? (leases only)
  • Are there any penalties for trading in my equipment earlier than scheduled? (leases only)
  • Are there any prepayment fees if I pay off the loan early?
  • What happens if my loan goes into default?


Once the underwriting has been completed, and your loan has been approved, you're ready to sign final paperwork. Make sure you understand and confirm the terms of the loan or lease—then sign. You'll receive your loan and be good to go with your new equipment in tow.

To learn more about applying for equipment financing, or different types and uses for equipment financing, download our complete guide, Equipment Financing: A Small Business Owner's Guide to Loans, Leases, and Lending, available now. 

Facts and data presented in this guide are for illustrative purposes only. Celtic Bank applicants are subject to our credit and underwriting standards to determine credit worthiness. Interest rates, fees, terms, and conditions are subject to change at any time without notice and will be disclosed upon final loan approval. This solicitation is not a guarantee of qualification.

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