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Patelco Auto Loan Review

Patelco auto loans, much like offerings from other credit unions, stand out for their low rates. The drawback is that membership is required. Residents in certain parts of California may find membership barriers especially low while others could join through an eligible company or a Financial Fitness Association. Members who meet certain requirements can combine multiple rate discounts to further reduce their APR on a new or used car, motorcycle, boat or RV.

How Patelco auto loans work

Patelco Credit Union is based in San Francisco but offers new, used and refinance car loans to members throughout the U.S. You don’t have to be a credit union member in order to apply for a Patelco auto loan, but you do need to become a member in order to receive your loan. This involves authorizing Patelco to open a savings account in your name with a $1 deposit. We’ll talk more about membership requirements in a minute.

Patelco: Rates and terms at a glance

  • APRs starting at 2.90%
  • Terms between 0 and 84 months
  • Minimum loan amounts:
    • None, between terms of 0 and 66 months
    • $10,000 for 72-month term
    • $20,000 for 84-month term

A Patelco auto loan can be used to purchase a vehicle from a dealer, private party or even buy out a lease. Patelco advertises APRs starting at 2.90%, though this does include a 0.10% Commitment Household discount. The maximum APR you could pay is 11.45%. Here’s a closer look at starting APRs by category.

New Used Refinance Motorcycles, boats and RVs
Lowest APR 2.90% 3.00% 2.90% 9.90%

 

Refinance loans. Unlike some other lenders, Patelco offers the same starting APRs for auto loan refinancing as it does for new car loans. In addition to refinancing for a better rate and/or term, you can also go through Patelco for a refinance when you want to remove one of the names from your car title.

How to apply for financing

Patelco accepts loan applications over the phone, in person or online. You and any joint applicant must be at least 18 years or older and must be legal residents of the U.S. in order to apply. Here’s what you’ll need to submit:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • State-issued ID
  • Employment information
  • Type of loan you’re applying for
  • For a refinance, your vehicle’s make, model, year and your current loan amount
  • For a new purchase, the make, model, year and purchase price

You can receive a decision on your application almost instantly, however Patelco may request further documentation of your income and employment before giving you final approval. In this case, the process from application to loan funding takes roughly 8 to 10 days, depending on how quickly you submit the documents.

Patelco membership requirements

Membership isn’t required to apply for an auto loan, but it is required to receive your loan. You’ll have to authorize Patelco to open a savings account in your name. Patelco offers savings accounts with no minimum balance required, but you’ll have to meet one of the following membership requirements:

  • Live, work, attend school or worship in 16 eligible California counties or the cities of Bakersfield, Eureka, McKinleyville or Santa Cruz, Calif.
  • Be enrolled or an alumni of these universities: University of California Berkeley, San Francisco State University, California State University East Bay.
  • Work for one of 1,100 sponsor companies. Search for yours here.
  • Have a family or household member who is a current Patelco member.
  • Be the surviving spouse or child of a deceased employee-eligible member.
  • Be a member of the Financial Fitness Association.

Qualified members are eligible for several discounts:

Timely Repayment Incentive Program (TRIP): Patelco’s “Level Up” program offers a 1.50% APR discount for members who don’t initially qualify for the lowest rates. These members receive a rate reduction after making 12 consecutive, on-time payments. Rates can be reduced by .50% APR every year for a maximum discount of 1.50%.

Enterprise car sales: If you buy a used car from Enterprise with Patelco financing, the credit union will apply a 1.00% APR discount, regardless of whether you already qualify for the lowest advertised rates. Plus, you get a free CARFAX vehicle history report and 12 months of roadside assistance.

Commitment Household Discount: This 0.10% rate discount, which is included in advertised rates, is available if you maintain an auto loan, keep an active Patelco checking or credit card account and maintain a savings balance averaging at least $3,000 a day or $50,000 a month in or across eligible savings accounts.

Refinance discount: When you refinance an auto loan from another lender, Patelco offers a 0.50% APR discount. This promotional discount is only available seasonally, twice a year.

Patelco insurance

In addition to discounts, Patelco offers several types of insurance including Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) insurance coverage of up to $50,000 which can be added to your loan as a one-time, upfront payment of $595 or financed into your loan. GAP insurance is not required coverage for your vehicle.

Buying a car through Patelco

If you use its free car-buying service, Patelco will shop for the best deal on the car you want and possibly even deliver the car to you, but this service is only available in California.

Credit union members also get access to free financial counseling and financial education tools through its BALANCE program.

The fine print

A Patelco car loan could be a good deal, especially if you can repay relatively quickly, qualify for one or more of the discount programs described above and keep a few more things in mind:

Loan amounts and terms: There are no minimum loan amounts as long as borrowers are willing to repay the loan in 66 months or less. There’s also no maximum loan amount though the faster you can pay back your loan, the lower your APR. Patelco also offers terms up to 84 months but there are risks in taking out an extended auto loan.

Mileage restrictions: Patelco has no make or model restrictions but loans are not available for cars over 10 years old or with more than 125,000 miles.

Credit score: For applicants with FICO Scores below 650, Patelco may consider factors like employment history and debt-to-income ratio for your loan approval. Patelco does not define a minimum credit score.

Loan to value ratio: You may borrow up to 125% of the car’s value — a higher loan-to-value ratio than we’ve seen at other lenders — but we’d recommend caution when borrowing more than a car is worth.

Before you apply for a loan, shop around with other banks and credit unions to see how their rates and discounts compare. You could fill out a single online form at LendingTree and receive up to five potential loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness.

Is a Patelco car loan worth it?

Patelco offers competitive auto loan rates that can be even lower if you meet certain criteria for one of several discounts. But you must first be a member.

Pros

  • Multiple rate discounts can be combined to reduce your APR.
  • Patelco’s First Time Buyer program allow applicants with little credit history to qualify based on income and employment history.
  • Get auto loan preapproval without impacting your credit scores.
  • Get an Auto Convenience Check (ACC) or a check issued by Patelco that you can use to buy a car from a dealer or private seller.
  • Patelco staff processes paperwork for title changes on your behalf.
  • No loan prepayment penalties.

Cons

  • Membership required.
  • The TRIP, or Level Up program can reduce your interest rate but will not reduce your monthly loan payment.
  • APRs for motorcycles, boats and RVs are higher than competitors.

Who is a Patelco auto loan best for?

Most borrowers are likely to be pleased with Patelco’s competitive rates, especially if you qualify for one of the credit union’s multiple rate discounts. Those looking to refinance an existing car loan will find the same starting rate as new-car buyers. Buyers in the market for a used car will pay slightly higher APRs, but if you’re able to repay the loan relatively quickly, there are no minimum amounts, a plus if you’re planning to buy an inexpensive vehicle. However, if you’re looking to buy a car over 10 years old, you’ll need to finance it elsewhere. Motorcycle, boat or RV shoppers are also likely to find better rates with competitors, particularly if their credit is strong.

 

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