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SDCCU Auto Loan Review

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If you live in California and you’re looking for a car loan, San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) is a great lender to add to your shortlist. It offers good rates, especially on loans for cars newer than 2015, plus several ways to buy your next vehicle. If you qualify, you won’t need to start making payments until three months after you take out the loan.

How do SDCCU auto loans work?

There’s much to like about SDCCU. It not only has competitive auto loan rates, the credit union offers its lowest starting rate for 2015-2020 vehicles whether you’re buying new or used or refinancing your car loan. The credit union even refinances its own loans, something some other lenders won’t do.

But it’s important to keep in mind that your exact rate will depend on your credit and the term length of your loan. Starting rates are higher for 2014 and older vehicles. Plus, SDCCU won’t fund auto loans for cars older than 2009. More importantly, it won’t fund the purchase of any vehicle outside of California. So while you may be able to join SDCCU even if you live outside of Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, or out of state, you won’t be able to purchase a vehicle with an SDCCU auto loan unless you plan on buying it and registering it in the state of California. It does not offer loans for RVs, boats or ATVs.

SDCCU auto loans at a glance:

  • Origination fees: None
  • Loan amounts: Starting at $5,000
  • Terms: 42, 66, 78, or 84 months, although you may request a shorter term length.
  • Credit requirements: No specific minimum required credit score, but SDCCU will check your credit.
  • Vehicle restrictions: Cars must be purchased and registered in the state of California, and must be model year 2009 or newer.
Starting APRs for New, Used and Refinance Loans
Model Year Up to 42 months Up to 66 months Up to 78 months Up to 84 months
2015-2020 3.15% 3.65% 4.15% 5.65%
2009-2014 5.15% 5.65% N/A N/A

Buying a car through SDCCU

SDCCU not only offers auto loans, it provides car-buying services as well. It offers three options:

  1. Online car-buying service through TrueCar allows buyers to specify what car you want, find it easily online, and lock in member pricing before you even set foot in a dealership. You can use this service to buy new or used cars.
  2. Signature car-buying service is a concierge service offered directly through SDCCU. You may use it to purchase a new car only, which will be delivered to the nearest SDCCU branch for you to pick up. There are 44 branches in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties.
  3. Direct car sales through SDCCU are typically in-person discounted car sales occasionally offered through the credit union.

SDCCU membership requirements

In order to take out an auto loan through SDCCU, you must first be a member. Membership is open to anyone who lives in Orange, Riverside, or San Diego counties, or relatives of current credit union members. If you don’t qualify according to those criteria, anyone — nationwide — can become a member by joining the Financial Fitness Association first, for a fee of $8. You’ll also need to keep at least $1 in a savings account in order to establish and maintain your membership.

How to apply for an auto loan at SDCCU

There are two ways you can apply for an SDCCU auto loan: online, or by visiting a local branch. The credit union does offer preapproval for its auto loans, however this will result in a hard credit inquiry. You will need to provide:

  • Loan type: Whether you’re buying from a dealer or private seller, refinancing or buying out a leased vehicle.
  • Vehicle information: New or used, its estimated purchase price and the make and model, if you’ve picked out a specific car.
  • Personal information: Name, age, address, phone number, email, Social Security number, citizenship status and whether you own or rent your home.
  • Financial information: Gross monthly income, monthly mortgage or rent payment and employment status.

Pros and cons of SDCCU auto loans


  • Competitive rates: Credit unions traditionally offer lower rates than banks, but we’ve seen even lower rates at competitors, including those that offer a discount for using autopay or its car-buying service.
  • Up to 100% financing: Some lenders offer 110% or higher financing but it’s important to be careful when borrowing more than what your car is worth so you don’t wind up underwater on your car loan.
  • Several options for car-buying assistance: There are three different ways to buy a car through SDCCU.
  • No payments for the first three months if you qualify.
  • Optional purchases: You could buy GAP insurance and payment protection services, but consider such add-ons carefully before you buy.


  • Vehicle restrictions: Loans are not available for vehicles older than 2009 models.
  • Geographic restrictions: Not available for vehicles that will be purchased and registered outside of California.

Who is an SDCCU loan best for?

If you live in California and you’re looking to buy a relatively new car, SDCCU is a good option. It may be a particularly good choice if you don’t have a down payment and aren’t able to make payments for a few months. Of course, you would still need to pay any taxes and other fees out of pocket. Remember, the cost of a car is more than its sticker price or even the loan: there’s insurance, fuel and other expenses. The ideal scenario is where you’ve saved up a hefty down payment and can immediately afford a new auto loan payment and all of the costs that go with your new car.


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