Checking | Auto Loans | Mortgage | HELOC | Personal Loans | Credit Cards | Membership

Where To Get A Good Car Loan?

There are many things to consider when deciding where to get a car loan. A quick search reveals a bunch of options with confusing terminology. Searches for “where to get approved for a car loan” reveal options ranging from credit unions, banks, to different types of dealership loans.

But where can you get a good car loan, one that meets your needs? With so much information out there, it’s hard to know which type of auto loan is the right choice for you.

Where you get a car loan can have a big impact on your personal finances for years to come. Different auto loans have different term lengths, APR financing rates, monthly payments, down payments, and more.

The right decision can save you hundreds of dollars in the long term, while the wrong choice can hurt you financially.

At Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal), we believe in putting people before profit, and our auto loan options reflect this.

Our car loans have competitive rates, flexible terms up to 84 months (that’s seven years!) and financing up to 120% of the value of your vehicle. With our quick pre-approval process, you could be shopping with confidence tomorrow. Please note we do not offer Membership or loans to non-California residents (other than former CA residents who were already Members or Preferred Partner Members working in out of state locations).

If you’re considering a new or pre-owned car purchase, we encourage you to call us at 866.287.6225 to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

Get Started on Your Auto Loan!

Where To Get An Auto Loan: Credit Union, Bank Or Dealership?

For most prospective car buyers, the answer to “where can I get a loan to buy a car” is usually a credit union, bank, or dealership.

Indeed, these are the most common places to obtain a car loan, and there are several pros and cons to each.

Credit Unions

One common place for buyers to get an auto loan is from a credit union. A credit union is much like a traditional bank, but where traditional banks are for-profit institutions, a credit union is a not-for-profit institution where the members of the credit union are also the owners.

This means that the yearly profits from the credit union are given back to members in the form of higher savings rates, lower fees and loan rates, and even dividends.

The main reason that it makes sense to buy an auto loan from a credit union is the lower loan interest rates. Because credit unions are not-for-profit institutions, they typically offer auto loans with significantly lower interest rates than the average rates offered by banks. This lower rate will save you more money over time.

Second, credit unions may also offer a lower minimum loan requirement. At times, credit unions offer car loans with no minimum loan amount, so depending on the type of auto loan you are looking for, such as if you plan to make a large down payment and only finance a small auto loan, a credit union may make the most sense.

Finally, credit unions are often more understanding when considering loan applicants. If your credit score isn’t perfect but you have a reliable income and good recent payment history, you may have an easier time getting approved for a car loan at a credit union.


Many people choose to get a loan to buy a car through a local or national bank. Particularly if you already do business with a bank and they are familiar with you, you may want to consider using this option.

Banks will look at your financial history and put together a financing plan. You can also get this financing plan before you ever set foot in a dealership. This is a good option for a financially confident buyer with great credit.

However, there are several things to consider before applying for an auto loan through a bank. First, banks tend to have higher interest rates than credit unions, and what’s more, there are usually numerous fees involved.


Financing your auto purchase directly through the dealership is also a common and attractive option for car shoppers.

Just like the name implies, this option eliminates the need for you to go to your local bank or credit union to arrange financing. Instead, the dealership works with the financial institution to arrange the loan. When considering this option, there are three common routes to understand.

Dealer-arranged Financing

Dealer-arranged financing is used to simplify the process of obtaining a car loan. With this system, the dealership acts as the intermediary between you and the financial institution.

With this option, dealerships choose the financial institution, not you, which won’t work out in your favor if you run into problems making payments further down the road.

The advantage of this option is the convenience. You don’t need to go to the bank or credit union to get financing, the dealership does it all for you.

However, as a customer, you don’t get any opportunity to shop around or compare rates to look for the best deal.

Captive Finance Companies

A captive finance company is an in-house financing option run by a large carmaker, such as Ford Credit or Toyota Financial Services. As a buyer, you will most often see this option when shopping for a new car or a certified pre-owned vehicle.

The advantage here is, again, convenience. Obtain your financing at the same time you choose your car. These options also come with attractive financing packages such as 0% APR during promotional periods. However, this option is only available to buyers with very strong credit.

"Buy-here, Pay-here" Financing

Buy-here, Pay-here financing is offered directly through the dealership itself. In simplest terms, by eliminating the need for a bank or other financial institution, you pay the dealership directly. This financing option is often offered to shoppers with sub-prime credit.

However, this option should be approached with caution. It can be a predatory lending model, with extra high interest rates and hidden fees that cost you much more money over the long term. If you do decide to choose buy-here, pay-here financing, be sure to read the fine print, twice![i]

Why Drivers In Southern California Choose CU SoCal

At CU SoCal, we put people first. When it comes to our auto loans, we’re willing to work with you, even if your credit isn’t perfect. We understand that life happens, and our lending structure is set up to help you get the good car loan you deserve, so you can get on the road.

Financing Up To 120%

We are here to help you get the car that meets your needs. Our financing options can cover up to 120% of the Kelly Blue Book value of your future car on new and pre-owned vehicles.

Older used vehicles especially may be eligible for financing up to the wholesale Kelley Blue Book value.

For newer vehicles, we offer competitive financing rates to help bring your dream car within reach. Higher financing rates lower your initial down payment and with our competitive rates and flexible terms, our auto loan options are affordable for you.

Competitive Rates

CU SoCal is proud to offer competitive rates as low as 2.89% APR on new vehicles. We are able to offer these low rates because we are a not-for-profit credit union that puts people over profits. Our first priority is you.

Quick Pre-Approvals

With our quick pre-approval process, we can get you pre-approved for an auto loan before you even set foot in the dealership. Get pre-approved with an auto loan through CU SoCal and shop with confidence, certain that you can afford the car you decide to test drive.

Flexible Terms Up To 84 Months

Our low APR is enhanced by our flexible loan term lengths of up to 84 months, or seven years. These flexible term lengths allow us to lower your monthly payment, bringing your dream car within reach!

CU SoCal Auto Loans

At CU SoCal, we are people focused. That’s why we have different kinds of auto-loans for different kinds of shoppers! No matter what you’re looking for in your next vehicle, whether you want an SUV or a motorcycle, we’ve got auto loans designed to meet your needs.

Auto Loans

Our auto loans are designed for shoppers looking to buy your next car or truck, either new or pre-owned. With our competitive rates, financing, and quick pre-approvals, these loans are designed to help you get the car you want. We lend on character, not just on credit, and have options available for shoppers with lower credit scores.

Recreational Vehicle Loans

Shopping for a new motorcycle or motorhome? We have recreational vehicle loan options for you as well! Whether you want to set sail on the seas or try out the van life in a more comfortable motorhome, we have competitive loan options that can help you live the lifestyle you crave.

Apply For A CU SoCal Auto Loan Today!

Now that you know the answer to “where can I get a car loan”, please consider CU SoCal.

At CU SoCal, our goal is to help you get your new car without financial stress. With our competitive rates, long term loans of up to 84 months, and financing options up to 120%, we’re proud to serve those who live, work, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.

Please note CU SoCal does not offer car loans to individuals with FICO scores below 600, nor to non-California residents (other than former CA residents who were already Members or Preferred Partner Members working in out of state locations).

Please give us a call today at 866.287.6225 for an expert, no-obligation consultation.
Get Started on Your Auto Loan!

Help + Support


Co-Browsing Code

Building Better Lives

Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) is a leading financial institution empowering those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County to reach their goals and build strong financial futures. CU SoCal provides access to convenient money management services and offers competitive rates and flexible terms on auto loans, mortgages, and VISA credit cards—turning wishing and waiting into achieving and doing.


562.698.8326 | 866 CU SoCal Se Habla Español