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Compare credit union auto loans

Find affordable financing from a nonprofit lender.

Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
Geico Federal Credit Union Auto Loan
2.89% (starting at)
3 to 7 years
Member of Geico FCU
Members may be able to score up to 100% financing.
More Info
Alliant Credit Union Car Loans
5.40% (as low as)
Up to 7 years
Must be a member of Alliant Credit Union, minimum credit score of 640, DTI under 50%, and be 18 or older.
Low interest rates, but you'll need good to excellent credit to qualify.
More Info
San Diego County Credit Union Auto Loan
San Diego County Credit Union Auto Loan
Starting at 5.24%
3 to 7 years
A resident or employee in San Diego County, Riverside County or Orange County or immediate family or household member of a SDCCU member and employees of SDCCU Select Employer Groups.
If you’re local to SoCal, get a no-frills car loan with competitive rates.
Navy Federal Credit Union Auto Loans
4.54% (As low as)
Up to 15 years
Credit union member, US citizen or permanent resident, have age of majority.
Get an auto loan from a lender dedicated to serving military members and their families.
More Info

Credit unions are nonprofit lenders owned by their members. While you have to become a member to join, you can often find more affordable rates and forgiving requirements than a national bank. However, they can take a while to process — and membership typically is only open to select individuals.

How are credit union auto loans different from typical car loans?

There are a few factors that set credit unions apart. Credit unions are nonprofts that are jointly owned by their members, so they can often afford to offer more competitive terms and rates. They also typically offer longer terms, a wider variety of auto loans and a more personalized service than you might get with a national bank, online lender or dealership.

The main downside is you have to become a member to be eligible — sometimes before, sometimes when you apply. This can add another step to the application process, which is often already more drawn out than online or dealership financing.

What rates can I expect from a credit union auto loan?

Credit union auto loan rates typically start around 2.99% APR. That’s lower than your average car loan, especially compared to online and dealership financing. However, several factors affect the rate you can qualify for, including:

  • Credit score. You need to have near-perfect credit to get that 2.99% APR.
  • Debt-to-income ratio. Your monthly debt obligations usually can’t be more than 20% of your monthly income to qualify for the best rates.
  • Type of car loan. New car loans tend to have lower rates than used car loans at credit unions, regardless of your creditworthiness.
  • Model and make of vehicle. The lowest APRs aren’t always available for all vehicles.
  • Loan term. Often, credit unions offer higher starting rates for longer loan terms.

Do credit unions offer rate discounts?

Yes, you can often qualify for a rate discount by signing up for automatic repayments or using a car-buying service. Below are the discounts you can expect from top credit unions:

Credit unionRate discounts
Consumers Credit Union
  • 0.5% rate discount for signing up for autopay from a CCU account
  • 0.25% rate discount for signing up for autopay from another bank account
Alliant Credit Union
  • 0.5% rate discount for using the Alliant Car-Buying Service
Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Discount available to military members who sign up for autopay
PenFed Credit Union
  • 1% lower rates for using the PenFed Car-Buying Service
Geico Federal Credit Union
  • 0.25% rate discount for being a Geico policyholder or signing up for autopay

How to qualify

Credit union car loans come with two sets of requirements: membership requirements and car loan eligibility requirements.

Membership requirements

Credit unions are typically meant to serve a specific population. There are three main types of membership requirements for credit unions:

  • Geographic. Sometimes membership is only available to people who live in a certain area, like the San Diego County Credit Union.
  • Employment. Some credit unions are only available to employees at a certain organization, like Geico FCU or Teachers Federal Credit Union.
  • Donation. Many credit unions allow you to join even if don’t meet its typical geographic or employment requirements by making a small donation to a local charity.

Often you can meet geographic or employment requirements if a direct family member is eligible — even if you aren’t.

Car loan eligibility

Every credit union has its own eligibility requirements. However, there are some criteria you generally must meet with every lender:

  • Credit union membership
  • DTI under 45%
  • US citizen or permanent resident
  • Over 18 years old

Credit unions can be less than forthcoming about every factor they consider when you apply, which is one reason why you might want to prequalify first. This will give you an idea of what rates and terms you’re eligible for without hurting your credit rating with a hard credit check.

What types of auto loans do credit unions offer

Credit unions typically work with a wide range of vehicles that go beyond cars. You can often find:

  • New car loans. Finance a new car from a dealership.
  • Used car loans. Finance a used car from a dealership or private seller.
  • Lease buyouts. Finance the balloon payment at the end of a lease.
  • Car loan refinancing. Trade in your current car loan for a better deal.
  • Motorcycle loans. Finance a new or used motorcycle, usually from a dealer.
  • ATV loans. Finance an off-road vehicle, usually new.
  • RV loans. Finance a camper or mobile home.
  • Boat loans. Cover the cost of a new boat.

How to apply for an auto loan from a credit union

While the application process might vary slightly between credit unions, you’ll generally go through the following steps:

Step 1: Compare credit unions

Shop around your area to find a credit union you’d be willing to join. Weigh factors like rates, terms, the type of car loans offered and loan amounts.

Step 2: Prequalify

Often you can get a ballpark idea of what loan amounts, rates and terms you might be eligible for by filling out a short online form or talking to a loan officer at the credit union. Try to prequalify with a few lenders and use the offers to narrow down your choices.

Step 3: Become a member and get preapproved

Decided on a credit union? Fill out an application to get preapproved so you have a rate to take to the dealership. Car loan preapproval typically relies on a hard credit check, which can affect your credit score, so try to only get preapproved at one place.

At this point, you likely need to become a credit union member. Some allow you to apply for membership while completing the application while others require you to become a member first.

You can often do this by filling out a quick online form and opening a checking account. But every credit union has its own process.

Preapproval usually lasts for at least 30 days, sometimes as long as 90.

Step 4: Visit the dealership

After you’ve locked in your preapproved rate, head over to the dealership to buy your car — unless you’re buying from a private party. When signing the paperwork, tell the dealer you’re going to be paying through a credit union.

You have a few options at this point: You can use your preapproved rate to seal in a better rate with the dealership. Or you can go through with your credit union loan.

If you decide to go with the dealership financing, make sure to read the contract. Dealerships sometimes sneak in unnecessary add-ons that can make the overall cost higher. They might also offer 0% financing — though these typically have shorter terms and therefore higher monthly repayments.

Step 5: Sign the documents

Once you’ve settled on the car and car loan, sign your car purchase and loan documents. If you’re buying from a private party, you should receive the money by direct deposit to your account or as a check. Otherwise, your credit union typically sends the funds directly to the dealer.

What are the advantages of getting a credit union car loan?

From its minimal eligibility requirements to its membership discounts, here are a few perks of taking out a car loan from a credit union:

  • Highly competitive rates. You can find a car loan starting at 2.99% APR if you have good credit — sometimes even lower.
  • Lower minimums. You can sometimes find car loans as low as $500 from credit unions, making it a better deal for a cheap private party purchase.
  • Personalized service. Credit unions often have the option to apply online, in person or over the phone. If this is your first time, you could benefit from having someone walk you through the process.
  • Fewer requirements. These nonprofit lenders are often friendlier to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit.
  • Membership discounts. You can sometimes get a higher discount by signing up for autopay from your credit union bank account.
  • Car-buying services. Many credit unions also offer a car-buying service to streamline the application process.

Why consider other types of financing?

Consider these potential drawbacks before applying for a car loan from a credit union:

  • Long turnaround. Like banks, credit unions can sometimes move slower than online or dealership financing.
  • Membership required. Becoming a member adds another step to the car-buying process. If you’re already overwhelmed, a credit union might not be right for you.
  • Potentially poor customer service. While loan officers can offer personalized service, credit unions tend to have a reputation for being understaffed or hiring under-qualified customer service representatives.
  • Longer terms are more expensive. Long-term car loans are already expensive, since there’s more time for interest to add up. But credit unions also tend to charge higher rates on long-term loans, making it even more costly.

Bottom line

Credit unions often have some of the best deals out there, especially if you have bad credit. But they might not be the best choice if you’re looking for a fast, hands-off experience — the application can be complex. It also might not be a great choice for a long-term loan, since those tend to come with higher rates.

You can find out how credit union car loans stack up to other options by reading our guide to car loans.

Frequently asked questions

What credit score do I need to get a car loan from a credit union?

It depends on the credit union, though you don’t necessarily need good credit to qualify — many are willing to work with fair-credit customers. Most keep their credit requirements private, so the best way to know if you’re eligible is to prequalify.

If you have bad credit, you might want to take steps to improve your score first or look to a local community development financial institution (CDFI), which often offer low-rate financing to customers with less-than-perfect credit. Some credit unions are CDFIs, as are some local banks and nonprofit online lenders.

Is it better to buy a car with financing from a credit union or dealership?

It depends on your priorities. Dealership financing will likely be able to get you behind the wheel faster, but usually with higher rates than if you’d gone with a credit union car loan. However, if you’re preapproved for a car loan from a credit union already, you can use that as leverage to get a better deal with dealership financing.

Do credit unions check your credit when you apply?

Yes. Credit unions run a hard credit check when you apply — even for preapproval. If you have bad or no credit, ask if you can bring on a cosigner or at least a coapplicant.

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Anna Serio was a lead editor at Finder, specializing in consumer and business financing. A trusted lending expert and former certified commercial loan officer, Anna's written and edited more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. Her expertise and analysis on personal, student, business and car loans has been featured in publications like Business Insider, CNBC and Nasdaq, and has appeared on NBC and KADN. Anna holds an MA in Middle Eastern studies from the American University of Beirut and a BA in Creative Writing from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY. See full bio

Anna's expertise
Anna has written 251 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Personal, business, student and car loans
  • Building credit
  • Paying off debt

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