Auto Loans

7 Best Credit Unions for Car Loans

Credit unions are capturing a bigger portion of U.S. auto loans for a reason: they are typically able to offer lower auto loan rates than banks or other lenders. The catch is that membership is required in order to take advantage of them, but joining might be easier than you think. Here are seven of the best credit unions for car loans.

7 Best Credit Union Car Loans
Credit Union APR Range* Loan Amounts Terms (months) Membership Requirements
Pentagon Federal 1.99% – 17.99% $500 – $100,000; 110% financing 36 – 84 Valid SSN or TIN
Navy Federal As low as 1.79% $250 minimum, no maximum Up to 96 Military connection
Golden1 As low as 3.24% Up to $0; 100% financing Up to 84 California
NASA Federal As low as 2.54% $5,000 – $125,000 Up to 84 Annual membership fee or NASA connection
Randolph-Brooks Federal 2.70% – 18.00% Up to $100,000; 125% financing 24 – 84 Texas; military connection
Consumers As low as 2.69% Up to $100,000; 100% financing 0-84 Nominal donation
Suncoast As low as 3.00% Up to $100,000 Up to 84 Florida

*Rates may include APR discounts.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union

PenFed offers some of the lowest rates available on all types of auto loans: new, used and refinancing. You don’t have to be a member to apply for a loan, but you will have to join before accepting one. But PenFed doesn’t have strict membership requirements — all you need is a valid Social Security number or Tax Identification Number (TIN). All members must have a “share” in the credit union, so you’re required to open a share savings account with a $5 minimum deposit.

Navy Federal also offers competitive auto loan rates, though its membership requirements are more strict than PenFed. If you qualify, Navy Federal offers a 0.25% APR discount off its lowest rate for active-duty and retired military members with direct deposit on a new auto loan, which could bring the starting 1.79% APR even lower. Its prices for auto loan add-ons, such as GAP insurance, are also low.

To join Navy Federal, you must have ties to the U.S. military. If you’re eligible, you must open a Navy Federal savings account with a deposit of $5 to become a member.

Golden 1 Credit Union

California residents could find a great auto loan at one of the largest credit unions in the country with over 900,000 members and $10 billion in assets. It offers low-APR financing and refinancing on both new and used vehicles, and loans for new and used boats, jet skis, RVs and ATVs.

Golden1 Credit Union offers membership to everyone who lives or works in California, in addition to the family members and domestic partners of current members; those outside of California are allowed if they are in select employee groups. To become a member, you only have to open a Golden 1 savings account with a $1 deposit.

NASA Federal Credit Union

NASA Federal offers competitive rates, especially for auto loans up to 36 months — and its rates for terms beyond that on new, used and refinanced cars aren’t bad, either. But even better, its membership requirements are easy.

We can’t all be NASA scientists, so almost anyone could join NASA Federal Credit Union through a complimentary one-year membership to the National Space Society (NSS), entitling you to full membership at NASA Federal. Thereafter, NSS membership costs start at $45 a year ($25 for students and $35 for seniors). Any employee or retiree of NASA, National Academy of Sciences and partner companies and associations may join without an NSS subscription, including their relatives or household members.

Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union

Texas-based RBFCU offers new, used and refinance auto loans, as well as financing for RVs, motorcycles, boats (excluding yachts), specialized watercraft and ATVs. Like some other credit unions, its rates are the same for new, used and refinance loans. You may apply without being a member, but you must be a member in order to finalize your loan.

As RBFCU was originally a military credit union, anyone who has access to the commissary at any one of these military installations could join: Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. You might also qualify for membership if someone in your family is a member or if you or someone in your household lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in one of the counties or institutions RBFCU serves. There are also thousands of other affiliations that may pave the way to membership.

Consumers Credit Union

Like other lenders, Consumers Credit Union’s lowest auto loan rates include a 0.50% APR autopay discount, which you could get by authorizing automatic loan payments directly from your CCU account or through an online banking transfer. A 0.25% APR discount could be applied instead if you arrange electronic automatic payments from another institution.

To become a member of Consumers Credit Union, you only need to make a one-time payment of $5 to the Consumer Cooperative Association. Additional membership benefits include educational seminars on personal finance and scholarships for high school seniors.

Suncoast Credit Union

Born from a teacher’s credit union, Suncoast took its competitors to school and became the largest credit union in Florida. It offers competitive auto loan rates for new, used and refinanced vehicles. “Green” vehicles — cars with 28 combined MPG or greater — qualify for the lowest rate.

Suncoast membership is open to those who live, work, attend school or worship in any of the Florida counties that Suncoast serves, most of which are on the state’s west coast. You might also qualify for membership if someone in your immediate family is already a member.

How to find a credit union auto loan

If you don’t qualify the credit unions we listed here, or they just don’t sound good for whatever reason, you could search for one local to you, or one affiliated with your employer, religious group or other association. The National Credit Union Association has a credit union locator, which allows you to search by address, zip code, credit union name or charter number.

Get preapproved

Once you narrow down the best credit union — or other lender — for you, it’s time to get at least one preapproved loan offer. When you go to the car dealership with a preapproval in hand, it puts you in the driver’s seat for negotiating the best deal. The alternative is that a dealer arranges financing and may raise your APR to their advantage. With a preapproval, you can ask the dealer to beat the rate you have.

You could apply to multiple lenders yourself, or fill out an online form at LendingTree and get up to five auto loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness. It doesn’t hurt your credit score to apply to multiple lenders any more than it does to apply to one, as long as you do your applications within a 14-day window; some credit scoring methods even allow up to 45 days.

Methodology

The credit unions we chose had to offer starting auto loan rates of 3.00% APR or lower with amounts of $100,000 or more, have relatively open membership requirements and serve a large member base.

 

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