Credit unions are known for their competitive rates and slightly more lenient eligibility criteria for their members. PenFed and Consumers Credit Union have low starting rates on financing 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 has lower rates on its loans and offers financing for up to 125 percent of your car’s purchase price.

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.

PenFed Consumers Credit Union
Bankrate score 4.4 4.3
Better for
  • Large loans
  • Refinancing for extra cash
  • Fewer fees
  • Online car-buyers
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 6.84%
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


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    • Customer service: The credit union boasts 24/7 customer service for its members, a big benefit if you run into issues while applying or repaying.
    • Prequalification: Borrowers can preview their expected loan rates and terms without a hard credit pull.
    • Large loan amount: Drivers can finance a loan up to $150,000.
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    • Potential fees: PenFed enforces fees for returned loan payments, late charges, automobile lien placement charges and check stop payments.
    • Membership requirement: Only members can secure financing with PenFed.
    • Traditional underwriting: The credit union uses credit score as its primary detriment for acceptance.

Consumers Credit Union

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    • Autopay discount: Those who sign off on autopay can benefit from a 0.25 percent discount on their APR.
    • No fees: Unlike most lenders, CCU does not enforce any fees and penalties.
    • Prequalification: This allows borrowers to gauge expected rates and terms without damaging their credit scores.
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    • Undisclosed loan amounts: The credit union does not disclose its loan amounts, which can be challenging for those with a specific number in mind.
    • Higher rates for older cars: The rates offered for older vehicles are steeper than those for newer cars.
    • Membership requirement: In order to secure financing, you must be a member of the credit union.

How to choose between PenFed and Consumers Credit Union

PenFed is a better fit for people who want to finance an expensive vehicle. Consumers Credit Union is a good fit if you want to avoid fees and take advantage of an autopay discount.

Choose PenFed for large loans

According to Experian data, the average amount financed for new cars is just over $40,000. 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 8.25 percent for the same term, you could potentially save thousands in interest.

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 has 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.

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

Both PenFed and Consumers Credit Union offer similar rates and use TrueCar to help you find and finance your next vehicle.

Before you make a final decision, explore the benefits of credit union auto loans and learn how to get the lowest rates to make the most out of your next loan.