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Credit unions are known for their competitive rates and slightly more lenient eligibility criteria for their members. PenFed and Consumers Credit Union both have low starting rates on financing for new and used cars.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, commonly called PenFed, was established in 1935 and is the second largest federal credit union in the U.S. Its membership is open to anyone, and you can establish an account with an initial $5 deposit. Consumers Credit Union has a similar initial deposit of $5 and has over 178,000 members.
Both offer similar auto loan options. Consumers Credit Union may have an edge because it doesn’t charge fees and offers an autopay discount. But for those who qualify, PenFed does have lower rates on its loans and offers financing for up to 125 percent of the purchase price of your vehicle.
PenFed vs. Consumers Credit Union at a glance
PenFed and Consumers Credit Union offer similar loans across the U.S. However, PenFed has a slightly lower starting rate — but it also has more fees than Consumers Credit Union.
Consumers Credit Union
|Loans offered||New and used financing, auto refinancing||New and used financing, auto refinancing|
|Loan amounts||Up to $150,000||Not specified|
|APRs||Starts at 5.24%||Starts at 5.54%|
|Loan term lengths||36 to 84 months||36 to 84 months|
|Fees||Late fees and returned payment fees||None|
|Minimum credit score||Not specified||Not specified|
|State footprint||All states||All states|
|Time to funding||Not specified||Not specified|
|Autopay discount?||Not specified||0.25%|
|Refinancing restrictions||Must have fewer than 125,000 miles||Not specified|
PenFed auto loans
Like most credit unions, PenFed requires you to be a member to qualify for its auto loans. However, PenFed allows anyone to open an account. This means that no matter where you live, you may be eligible for one of PenFed’s auto loans. You get the lowest rates by shopping through PenFed’s car-buying service. Its lowest rate, 5.24 percent, is on par with the national average for super prime borrowers (5.18 percent).
PenFed also has 24/7 customer service, which can be a big benefit if you run into any issues with your loan during the application process or while you’re repaying.
Beyond its large loans and low starting rates, though, PenFed is about average when it comes to auto loans. It has late fees and returned payment fees. And unlike Consumers Credit Union, it does not advertise a rate discount for automatic payments.
- Low starting APR
- Finance up to 125 percent of vehicle’s value to cover closing costs
- 24/7 customer service
- High late fee and returned payment fee
- No advertised rate discount
- Lowest rates reserved for vehicles purchased through TrueCar
Consumers Credit Union auto loans
Consumers Credit Union also requires you to be a member to qualify. Its starting rates are slightly higher than PenFed’s, but you can get a small discount by signing up for autopay. This can help you save money on your loan, allowing you to put that extra money toward other bills and expenses. CCU also offers shopping through TrueCar, though it’s unclear if using the service nets you rate discounts as it does with PenFed.
CCU’s lack of fees may help you if you find yourself in a tight financial spot. But customer service is only available at certain times.
And most important, used cars have significantly higher rates than new cars. Any car older than 2016 will have a minimum APR of 7.19 percent — or more if you opt for a longer loan term. So while PenFed and Consumers Credit Union are similar, you may want to stick with PenFed if you’re buying an older used car.
- Autopay discount of 0.25 percent
- Branches across the U.S.
- No late fees, prepayment penalties or origination fees
- Loan amount ranges aren’t specified
- Higher rates for 2016 or earlier models
- Limited customer service hours
How to choose between PenFed and Consumers Credit Union
PenFed is a better fit for people who know they want to finance an expensive vehicle with loans up to $150,000. Consumers Credit Union is a good fit if you want to avoid fees and take advantage of an autopay discount, which not all lenders offer.
Choose PenFed for large loans
The average amount financed for new cars sits at just under $41,000, according to data from Experian. PenFed will finance up to 125 percent of your purchase price, maxing out at $150,000. This means that you can cover extra purchases like gap insurance or taxes. But remember, you’ll have to pay interest on these costs if you finance them through a loan — ideally, you should pay them upfront alongside your down payment.
In addition to its large loans, PenFed also partners with TrueCar to help you find and finance a new or used vehicle. This may help you score the lowest APR available: 5.24 percent on a 36-month loan. Compared to the average auto loan rate of 7.09 percent for the same term, you could potentially save thousands in interest. But that’s only if you qualify for the lowest rate — you’ll likely need excellent credit to do so.
Choose Consumers Credit Union for its rate discount
Consumers Credit Union may have a slightly higher starting rate than PenFed, but if you don’t qualify for that rate anyway, CCU’s autopay discount might make up for it. While it may not seem like much, an autopay discount can cut the interest you pay — which in turn lowers the total cost of your loan.
For example, a $50,000 auto loan with Consumer Credit Union’s starting 5.79 percent APR (without autopay) has a monthly payment of $962 over a 60-month term. With the autopay discount, the monthly payment drops to $956. It may not seem like much, but that amounts to about $347 you won’t pay in interest. You can calculate the total cost based on the rate you receive to see what your savings might be.
And since Consumers Credit Union doesn’t charge any origination fees, prepayment penalties or late fees, you can avoid other big expenses that come with borrowing an auto loan.
Since both lenders offer prequalification, which doesn’t harm your credit score, you may as well prequalify with both and see which offers you the better rate.
Compare more lenders before applying
PenFed is more upfront about how much you are able to borrow, but both it and Consumers Credit Union offer similar rates and use TrueCar to help you find and finance your next vehicle.