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Northwest Federal Credit Union Auto Loan Review

With low starting rates, relatively easy membership requirements, two different car-buying services and other perks, Northwest Federal Credit Union has several selling points that could vault it to the top of your auto loan shopping list.

A Northwest Federal Credit Union auto loan is most likely a best fit for those living in northwest Virginia and parts of Maryland. However, the extent of its boundaries is unclear, so it would be best to contact Northwest Federal if you’re seeking a loan but reside outside of its core service area.

How do Northwest Federal Credit Union auto loans work?

Northwest Federal Credit Union offers loans for new and used cars, lease buyouts, motorcycles, boats and RVs. It also has a variety of ways to refinance an existing car loan, and even refinances its own loans. That’s somewhat unusual among auto lenders, but like other credit unions and banks, Northwest Federal Credit Union rewards buyers of the newest cars who opt for the shortest terms by giving them a shot at the lowest possible rates.

Term APR Range Min. Loan Amount Mileage/Vehicle Restrictions*
Up to 36 months 2.14%–4.14% $5,000 2011-2021 models
37–54 months 3.64%–4.64% $8,000 2011-2015 models
37–63 months 2.64%–3.44% $8,000 2016-2021 models
55–66 months 4.14%–5.14% $10,000 2011-2015 models
64–72 months 2.94%–3.94% $10,000 2016-2021 models
73–75 months 3.14%–3.54% $10,000 2018-2021 models
76–84 months 4.94%–5.64% $20,000 2018-2021 models
85–96 months Starting at 7.49% $40,000 2020-2021 models

*Add 2 percentage points to the lowest rate for vehicles with more than 100,000 miles.

Credit requirements

The Northwest auto loan rate that you qualify for will depend on a few factors. Your credit and income come into play, of course, just like with any other lender. But as you can see in the chart above, minimum rates start from different levels depending on your loan term length and your vehicle’s model year. For example, 36-month rates start at 2.14% for 2021 models but start at 4.14% for 2011 models.

Should you apply?

Aside from the (potentially) low rates you might qualify for, especially if you’re in the market for a newer vehicle, there are a couple of additional reasons you might consider a Northwest auto loan:

  • Deferred payments: If you qualify based on your credit, you won’t have to make any payments for the first 90 days. Keep in mind that interest will still accrue during this time.
  • Bonus points for card holders: If you have the credit union’s NOW REWARDS Mastercard® from Northwest FCU, you could earn 5,000 bonus points (some restrictions will apply).

Northwest Federal Credit Union car-buying services

Another perk is access to two car-buying services that streamline the auto-buying process: Carvana and TrueCar.

Carvana

Northwest Federal Credit Union partnered with used car retailer Carvana in 2017 to offer members a way to shop for and finance a car completely online. Carvana is able to deliver a vehicle directly to your home. If you don’t like the car, you can return it within seven days, but make sure to read the fine print before buying since that’s a big purchase that needs to be considered carefully.

TrueCar

If you’re more hands-on, TrueCar may be more appropriate for you. This service allows you to search for cars in your local area from participating dealerships. It’ll give you handy stats on what others have paid for the car, and you may qualify for discounts as well. You’ll need to visit the local dealership to complete the financing and the purchase of the car.

Keep in mind that such car-buying services offer convenience, but you may be able to negotiate as good or better deals on your own from dealerships of your choosing.

Northwest Federal Credit Union membership requirements

It may be possible to apply for a Northwest auto loan without first being a member, but you’ll eventually need to meet its membership requirements, which extend to people who are:

  • Employed by certain partner companies
  • Work for, volunteer for or are a member of certain community charities
  • Affiliated with certain government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security

It’s also possible to become a member of Northwest Federal Credit Union by joining certain organizations that are open to enrollment from people nationwide. For example, you can become a Northwest Federal Credit Union member if you join the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (a basic membership costs $50).

You can join through one of three routes:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • By visiting a local branch.

You’ll also need to keep at least $1 in a basic savings account, but Northwest Federal Credit Union will fund your account for you so you don’t have to pay anything aside from any organization fees to qualify for membership.

How to apply for a Northwest Federal Credit Union auto loan

Northwest Federal Credit Union only includes information for how to apply for an auto loan online; presumably, you can also apply by visiting a local branch. You can also apply for preapproval for a Northwest auto loan, so you can have your financing lined up before you shop. You will need to provide:

  • Personal information including name, date of birth and contact information
  • Social Security number
  • Citizenship status
  • Financial information such as gross monthly income and expenses, plus employment status.
  • Two most recent paychecks plus W-2

Pros and cons of Northwest Federal Credit Union auto loans

Northwest auto loan rates are competitive, but they’re not the only thing to consider when deciding if this credit union is right for you.

Pros

Low rates start at 2.14% for those with the best credit financing new cars for terms up to 36 months. This is on par or better than other credit union auto loans that we’ve seen.

Variety of terms and types of auto loans, including private party loans. Northwest Federal Credit Unions offers loans between 12 and 96 months, but keep in mind the risk of long auto loans.

Protection plans offered, including mechanical protection, GAP and other insurance offerings. Consider such add-ons carefully before buying.

Cons

Membership is required. However, there are ways for anyone to join.

Transparency may be an issue — the credit union declined to answer our questions, such as whether it finances vehicles outside of Virginia and Maryland.

Limits on used cars means it’s not possible to finance cars older than the 2011 model year.

How to pay your Northwest Federal Credit Union auto loan

You can make your Northwest auto loan payment through several routes:

  • ACH transfer through Online Banking
  • ACH transfer or debit card payment through the Online Payment Center — however, watch out for a 2% fee for debit card payments
  • In-person at a Northwest Federal Credit Union branch
  • In-person at any of 6,000 shared branch locations
  • By mail

If you’ll be sending a check in by mail, you can request a loan payment coupon booklet from the credit union to include with your payments.

Or you may send a check directly to:

Northwest Federal Credit Union
Attn: Loan Payments
P.O. Box 986512
Boston, MA 02298-6512

Who is a Northwest Federal Credit Union auto loan best for?

Northwest auto loans have four big selling points: low starting rates, long term lengths, two different car-buying services, and no payments for the first 90 days for those who qualify. If any of these perks intrigue you, a little persistence might pay off to see if you meet its membership and other requirements.

Otherwise, because we’re not sure about the national availability of these loans, Northwest Federal Credit Union is probably a best bet for those living in the credit union’s main service area. If you live outside of Virginia and Maryland, you can always consider other auto loan options.

 

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