8 Best Credit Unions for Car Loans

Young woman driving her car.
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Overall, credit unions offer better auto loan rates than banks or dealerships, which can save you money now and over time. This is because credit unions are not driven by profit like banks are and do not count on making the most off the loans they approve.

Much like banks, credit unions decide to issue loans depending on your credit, your employment history and your income. However, credit unions are often more willing to work with people who have fair or poor credit — scores less than 669 — when it comes to auto financing.

Best Credit Unions for Car Loans

Before choosing which credit union to take out an auto loan with, take the time to compare the APRs and loan terms. Most credit unions require you to meet certain qualifications to apply for a loan, so be sure you qualify before applying.

Here are eight best credit unions for car loans. 

NIH Federal Credit Union

The National Institutes of Health Federal Credit Union, serving the biomedical industry, provides its members with flexible terms and low rates for new, used and refinancing of auto loans. You can join the credit union if you’re a member of the healthcare or biomedical industry in Maryland, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Virginia or West Virginia — or if you’re a family member of someone enrolled. If not, the credit union will enroll you in a free membership to the American Consumer Council, which will qualify you.

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Why it stands out: Perhaps one of the best NIHFCU loan features is its online application process, which takes just a few minutes to generate results. Additionally, if you’re opening a NIHFCU TotalCare checking account and set up auto debits for your loan payments, the credit union will reduce your APR by 0.25%.

Pros:

  • Discount for setting up auto debit of payments from TotalCare checking account
  • Auto loans with starting APRs under 3% with terms of up to 60 months
  • 90-day deferral of first payment is available on all auto loans
  • Anyone can qualify for membership

Cons:

  • NIHFCU does not finance private party purchased vehicles

What to look for: NIH Federal Credit Union offers standard beginning APRs of 2.24% for new and used auto loans with terms of up to 36 months, 2.74% for auto loans from 37 to 48 months and 2.99% for auto loans 49 to 60 months. Other terms and rates are available. Loan amounts are financed up to $200,000.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Serving members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as military bases in Guam, Puerto Rico and Okinawa, PenFed Credit Union offers its members substantial options for car financing. The good news is that anyone can join. In addition to standard financing, this credit union also offers an online car-buying service tool.

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Why it stands out: Their unique car-buying tool allows members to search for new or used cars and get a variety of information such as its value compared with the asking price, as well as an alert showing any PenFed discounts available. Interest rates on auto loans drop to as low as 3.44% APR on cars purchased through PenFed’s car buying service.

Pros: 

  • Loan amounts up to $150,000
  • Discounted rates through PenFed’s car buying service
  • Terms available up to 84 months

Cons: 

  • Its standard APR rates aren’t as attractive as rates some other credit unions offer.

What to look for: PenFed Credit Union offers auto loan terms from 36 to 84 months on new vehicles with APRs from 4.24% to 6.04%. Up to 125% financing is available in the U.S.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit union has partnered with companies like Autoland and Enterprise to bring customers exclusive savings. To become a member, you must be a current or retired school employee or part of their family.

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Why it stands out: Along with all the different ways to save, SchoolsFirst also gives borrowers the option of requesting an auto convenience check, which will allow you to write a check for the vehicle at the dealer up to the approved loan amount. It also offers Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance with deductible assistance and options for no payments for 90 days.

Pros: 

  • Offers a school employees auto loan with “Summers Off,” which allows qualifying members to defer one or two consecutive auto loan payments during the summer
  • Allows you to finance a car from a private seller
  • Make no payments for the first 90 days

Cons: 

  • “Summers Off” program is only available on auto loans with original terms of 60 months or less
  • Membership is restricted to members of educational communities

What to look for: SchoolsFirst Credit Union offers new and used auto loans from 36 to 84 months. APRs for new cars start at 2.49% and APRs for used cars start at 2.64%. Maximum loan amount is 100% of the MSRP or Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail Value.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers excellent car loans for financing new cars with terms up to eight years. You can join if you are affiliated with the military, Department of Defense, Coast Guard or National Guard.

Why it stands out: Borrowers can expect convenience while applying for a loan online and if they receive a preapproved loan, Navy Federal will issue a check for the loan amount. Other benefits available to members include access to GAP — guaranteed auto protection — insurance.

Pros: 

  • New vehicle terms up to eight years
  • Starting APRs under 3% for both new and used vehicles

Cons: 

  • You or one of your family or household members must have military ties to join.

What to look for: Navy Federal offers starting APRs as low as 2.79% for new vehicles and 2.89% for late-model used vehicles with terms up to 96 months for new vehicles and 72 months for used. Auto loan preapproval checks and interest rates are good for 90 days from the approval date.

NASA Federal Credit Union

Members of NASA Federal Credit Union include current and retired employees of NASA Headquarters, any NASA Center or Facility or NAS, plus employees or members — and their families — of one of NFCU’s partner companies or associations. They offer flexible terms and low rates for new and used car financing as well as for auto loan refinancing.

Why it stands out: One of its features is the ability for members to apply online and get preapproved quickly. By having financing already in place, members have the advantage at the car dealership because they can focus on negotiating the car price instead of the loan terms.

Pros: 

  • No payment required for the first 60 days
  • Check your rate with no impact to your credit score

Cons: 

  • Terms only extend to 84 months

What to look for: NASA Federal offers the same rates for both new and used vehicles. Rates start at 2.89% APR for up to 36 months and 2.99% APR for rates up to 63 months. Other rates and terms are available. 

Suncoast Credit Union

This Florida credit union serves up a variety of vehicle-related products to help its members save money. You can join this organization if you live in one of the eligible Florida counties listed by the credit union, you’re an alumnus of Florida College or a family member of someone who does qualify.

Why it stands out: Suncoast will preapprove you for a loan online so you know what your budget is when you walk into a dealership. In addition to financing and selling cars, Suncoast’s Mechanical Repair Coverage includes rental reimbursement, 24-hour roadside assistance and travel expense reimbursement.

Pros: 

  • Very competitive new and used car financing rates starting at 2.50% APR
  • Special savings on eco vehicle loans — rates start at 2.25% APR
  • Online approval, buying and delivery options
  • Partnered with TrueCar and CU AutoBranch 

Cons: 

  • Maximum term is 72 months

What to look for: Suncoast Credit Union offers new and used car loans with APRs at low as 2.50% for up to 72 months. Other rates and terms up to 84 months are available.

Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union

You can become a member if you’re affiliated with the military, live in certain areas of Texas or are a family member of someone who qualifies. No matter if you’re buying a new car, used car or refinancing your current vehicle, you’ll get the same great rate at RBFCU.

Why it stands out: This credit union provides online help to members who are preparing for buying a used car or new car, with online calculators to help determine how much they can afford to borrow and whether a new or used car is the best financial choice. Randolph-Brooks also offers mechanical repair coverage and GAP Plus.

Pros: 

  • Rates are the same whether you buy new, used or refinance 
  • Qualified members can defer their first payment up to 60 days from loan date
  • Streamlined title and loan recording process

Cons: 

  • Branch locations are only in Texas

What to look for: You can easily apply online for a RBFCU auto loan if you aren’t near a branch or don’t prefer to visit one. For auto loans of 24 to 72 months, RBFCU offers a starting APR of 3.74%. For loans with a term of 78 to 84 months, the starting APR increases to 5.25%.

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union will let you join if you are an employee or family member of a qualifying company, live or work in certain Chicago communities or donate to become a member of Foster Care to Success.

Why it stands out: Alliant Credit Union offers both new and used auto loans with same-day approval and refinancing options. Alliant also has a car-buying service, which saves members an average of $3,750 off MSRP.

Pros: 

  • 0.50% rate discount when you use Alliant Car Buying Service
  • No prepayment penalties 
  • Same-day approval in most cases

Cons: 

  • Rates aren’t as low as some other credit unions offer

What to look for: New vehicle rates start at 3.69% APR and used vehicle rates start at 4.04% APR. APRs as low as 3.19% for new Tesla financing.

Final Take

Before choosing a credit union to finance your next vehicle, you first have to make sure you’ll qualify for membership. Next, you’ll need to compare auto loan rates and terms. The make and age of the vehicle and the term length you want will all influence the rate you’ll be offered, but not every credit union will make the same offer. Therefore, it’s wise to rate shop several credit unions to find the best deal. 

Gabrielle Olya, Barri Segal and Ruth Sarreal contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: Credit unions were ranked in order of lowest auto loan APR available to highest. APRs are current as of June 29, 2022. Rates are subject to change at the lenders’ discretion.

GOBankingRates is a personal finance and consumer interest rate website owned by ConsumerTrack, Inc., an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions, and other financial services organizations. Some companies mentioned in this article might be clients of ConsumerTrack, Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings and roundups are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the companies included in the article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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