Is a credit union auto loan better than a bank?

Finding the right car means finding the right loan, and we can help.

Should You Get a Credit Union Auto Loan?


If you’re looking to buy a new or used car, you’re probably not just looking for the right make and model but the right loan too.

What does the right loan look like? It most likely means a low interest rate, terms that fit your needs, and a quick and easy application process. It’s a loan that gives you the keys to your dream car at a price you can afford.

A credit union auto loan typically has a lower interest rate than big banks, as well as flexible terms and speedy financing options both online and at participating dealerships. In short, we can get you on the road and keep you on your budget.


What are the difference between a bank and a credit union auto loan?

The big differences between a bank and a credit union auto loan are the financing terms.

Big banks may be able to offer you a promotional rate if you have a long relationship with them and good payment history. But you’ll have to get the car loan during this promotional period or wait until it comes around again.

Since credit unions like us are not-for-profit institutions owned and operated by our members, we’re able to offer better rates and terms than for-profit banks, who are owned by shareholders and beholden to their bottom line.

According to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the average rate on a five-year new car loan from a credit union was 2.98% in the first quarter of 2021. For banks, it was 4.77%.


4 reasons to get a credit union auto loan

If you’re shopping for a new or used car from a dealership or private party, here are 4 reasons to consider a credit union auto loan.


1. Lower interest rates

As mentioned above, 2021 credit union auto loan rates were better than big banks by an average of 1.79%. If you’re borrowing $30,000 for a car, a credit union loan can save you $1,451 in interest over the life of the loan.

This is because we put our members first, not profits.


2. Local ties & personalized service

We've been in San Francisco since 1951, so we have deep ties to our community. And we’re proud of that. We know the Bay Area auto market and we know our members.

At SF Fire Credit Union, we’ll take the time to get to know you and figure out your unique needs. We’ll treat you like a person, not a number.

We know each and every one of our members has a unique story and a unique financial situation. But that shouldn’t mean you have to pay more for a car loan. We’ll work with you to help you get the loan you deserve.


3. Easy application process

People used to have to go into a credit union branch or visit a dealership in person to get a car loan. Not so much today.

Our online car loan application is simple and speedy. Plus, we have free auto buying services for our members, like AutoLand, that lets you search for, negotiate, and finance your car from your couch.

If you prefer an in-person experience at a dealership, that’s not a problem either. You can finance your auto loan with us through the Credit Union Direct Lending (CUDL) program at participating dealerships.


4. Credit union membership has other benefits

Since we’re owned and operated by our members, our mission is to provide them with lower rates on other products, like mortgages and personal loans, and fewer fees on checking accounts and credit cards.

You also never have to worry about paying to access your checking account. You’ll get access to the Credit Union Industry's Co-Op Network of 30,000s ATMs nationwide, which is more than Bank of America or Wells Fargo combined.

We care about our members financial education. It’s important to be informed before you make any financial decision. That’s why we offer free financial education, confidential financial counseling to help you through a rough patch, and a wealth of articles in our Learning Center.


Get the car loan that’s right for you

Getting the right car—the car that fits your personal needs and unique style—is important. Getting the right car loan—the one that fits your budget and financial situation—is just as important.

Credit union auto loan rates are typically lower than big banks, have flexible terms, personalized service, and a quick and easy online application process.

Becoming a member at SF Fire Credit Union is easy. If you live, work, worship, or attend school in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Marin Counties, you can join today.

If you have more questions about auto loans, credit unions, or any of our other products and services, check out our Learning Center for more articles.

Related Content

Buying a Car

Online Car Loans in San Francisco

Get a car loan from home. Shop for cars and car loans online quick­ly through the Cred­it Union Direct Lend­ing program. 

Learn More

Buying a Car

Private Party Auto Loans

There can be some advan­tages to buy­ing a car from a pri­vate par­ty, but there can also be some risks involved. Learn how to pro­tect your­self. Find out every­thing you’ll need to apply for a loan and trans­fer own­er­ship of the car. 

Learn More

Buying a Home

Should You Rent or Buy a House?

Think­ing about rent­ing or buy­ing a new home? Learn the pros and cons of each to decide which is right for your situation.

Learn More

Discover More

Nehemiah, international photographer.
Putting him first since 2012.

Checking you can count on

We offer the Bay Area’s best checking account. No minimum balance, no monthly fee, and up to 12 ATM surcharge rebates per month.

Learn More
Nehemiah, international photographer.
Putting him first since 2012.
Kundan, Bay Area artist.
Putting her first since 2016.

Get the card that works for you

Our fee-friendly Platinum Visa Credit Card comes with rewards, travel benefits, and a low APR.

Learn More
Kundan, Bay Area artist.
Putting her first since 2016.

Let's Talk

As a local credit union, we want to get to know you and help you achieve your goals. Come into a branch or call us today. Our people are happy to serve you.


(415) 674-4800
(888) 499-FIRE (3473)
Mon – Fri 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sat 9:00AM - 5:00PM


Stop by a branch

Branch hours
Mon – Fri 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Find a Branch or ATM