PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the US, and unlike other credit unions, membership is open to everyone with a $5 deposit. It offers financing for new and used cars, as well as refinancing options. PenFed rates start low, and rebates are available if you go through the PenFed Car Buying Service with TrueCar. Classic extras like gap protection and extended warranties are also available. If you're buying new, PenFed has exclusive manufacturer rebate offers with Audi, Ram, Jeep and more.
Best for: Existing PenFed members with good credit.
- Low APRs
- Car buying service through TrueCar
- Exclusive manufacturer rebates
- Eligibility criteria not stated
- Prequalify with hard credit check for new members
- Numerous customer service complaints
What makes PenFed’s auto loans shine
PenFed is the second-largest credit union in the US and membership is open to anyone in all 50 states — a unique trait for a credit union. Most credit unions have residency or employment requirements, but PenFed only requires a $5 deposit into a savings account to become a member.
Rate offerings for new auto loans are low, starting at 5.19% for the shortest loan term of 36 months. The longest term has the highest starting rate of 6.54%.
Used auto loan rates start at 6.04% for 36 months and up to 6.24% for 72 months. These rates are also pretty low for used vehicle financing.
Plus, you can refinance a new or used vehicle for a rate also starting at 5.19%. But you can’t refinance an existing PenFed auto loan.
PenFed also offers gap insurance, extended warranties and debt protection products — very standard extras most other auto loan providers offer.
Car buying service and manufacturer rebates
PenFed has a car buying service through TrueCar where you can search for a specific vehicle and match up to a dealership. Once you’ve selected a car with the dealer, contact PenFed to finalize the details. After that, head to the dealership and take delivery of the vehicle with your funds. TrueCar rates for new cars start at 4.49%, and at 5.74% for used cars.
In addition to the car buying service, PenFed offers exclusive manufacturer rebates with top brands including Jeep, Ram, Audi, Dodge, Chrysler and more. The biggest manufacturer rebate we saw was up to $2,000 from Audi, as of March 2023.
Where PenFed falls short
As low as PenFed’s starting rates are and we all love cash rebates, it’s not all roses.
You’ll face a hard hit to your credit if you haven’t had a PenFed account for at least 90 days. And even if your account has been around for that long, there may still be a hard credit check. For that reason, PenFed may be a better choice for established members.
Additionally, eligibility criteria is not listed on the site, so you’ll either have to contact PenFed directly or apply to see what you may qualify for.
Payment Saver Auto Loans no longer offered
As of December 2021, PenFed no longer accepts applications for its Payment Saver Auto Loans — auto loans with balloon payments.
These auto loans started out with small monthly payments and one large “balloon” payment at the end of the loan. These loans are typically considered riskier than more traditional payment schedules due to the large payment due at the end, and many balloon loans lead to paying more in interest than a typical fixed auto loan.
PenFed’s auto loan details
PenFed isn’t transparent on all its loan details, but here’s what we could wrangle up.
|Minimum credit score/credit range||Not stated, but likely 670+|
- New auto starting rate — 5.19%
- Used auto starting rate — 6.04%
- Refinancing starting rate — 4.89%
|Loan amounts||$500 to $150,000|
- New loans — 36 to 84 months
- Used loans — 36 to 72 months
- Refinancing — 36 to 84 months
|Turnaround time||Around 1-7 business days|
|Availability||50 states, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands|
How to qualify for a PenFed auto loan
PenFed is a credit union, so you’ll require a membership to take out a loan. You must also open a savings account with a $5 deposit to become a member.
But other than that, PenFed doesn’t disclose eligibility requirements. However, with PenFed being a credit union, you may need good to excellent credit (above 670) to qualify for an auto loan or the lowest APR offerings.
How to apply
If you’re not using PenFed’s car buying service through TrueCar, the application process is pretty straightforward:
- Prequalify online. PenFed offers and encourages prequalification with a soft credit check. Prequalify using its online application.
- Review and fully apply. If you like the prequalification loan terms you received, you can fully apply with a hard credit check.
- Accept loan terms. If you’re happy with the loan details, you may accept the loan and use the funds to purchase the vehicle of your choice that fits PenFed’s vehicle requirements.
- Follow repayment plan. PenFed’s auto loans are repaid in monthly installments, lasting up to 86 months. PenFed also offers hardship programs if you’re struggling to make payments.
How PenFed compares to other lenders
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PenFed reviews and complaints
|BBB customer reviews
1.19 out of 5 stars, based on 224 customer reviews
|BBB customer complaints
566 customer complaints
4.6 out of 5 stars, based on 1,239 customer reviews
|App Store Score
4.2 out of 5 stars, based on 6,557 customer reviews
|Google Play Score
4.5 out of 5 stars, based on 14,594 customer reviews
|Customer reviews verified as of
21 March 2023
PenFed gets great reviews on Trustpilot but not-so-great ratings on the Better Business Bureau (BBB). On its BBB page, members cite slow processing times and poor customer service. However, very few complaints are related to its auto loans, and most of them appear to be unique circumstances.
Overall, the most common positive reviews praise PenFed’s simple, quick and user-friendly online applications. Many reviews are happy with their loans and credit cards, but unfortunately, there’s little mention of experiences around its auto loans.
Is PenFed legit?
Yes, PenFed is a legitimate credit union. PenFed is federally insured by the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) and is the equivalent of FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insurance. NCUA works with credit unions, and FDIC works with banks.
Need more options?
If a credit union isn’t the path you want, or you simply need something entirely different, compare more top auto loan options.