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SECU Auto Loan Review

If you meet its membership requirements, an auto loan from North Carolina State Employees Credit Union (SECU) could be a good move with available rates well below the national average and more lenient credit requirements than some other lenders. Like other credit unions, SECU is a nonprofit institution serving members versus a for-profit bank. It’s the second-largest credit union in the U.S. by assets with more than 2 million customer-members and branches in all 100 North Carolina counties.

How do SECU auto loans work?

SECU offers loans on new and used cars and trucks, as well as refinancing for existing vehicles at the same rates. You must be a member residing in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee or Virginia to apply for a loan. The credit union does not offer loans for vehicles with flooded, salvaged or reconstructed titles or motorcycles, RVs or boats. However, members can purchase boats, motorcycles and RVs with an unsecured loan.

The credit union will finance up to 110% of the MSRP for new vehicles to cover taxes, tags, extended warranties and other costs, but be cautious when borrowing more than a car is worth so you don’t risk becoming upside down in your loan. You can also finance up to 110% of the NADA retail value of a used car or 100% for refinancing an existing loan.

SECU rates and terms: At a glance

Account Type Term APR
New Vehicles
(10,000 miles or less)
Up to 36 months 3.75%
37–60 months 4.25%
61– 72 months 4.50%
73 – 96 months 5.75%
Used Vehicles Up to 72 months 4.50%

 

The best rates go to those with the shortest terms on the newest cars. Used vehicles must be 10 years old or newer and have less than 150,000 miles. The maximum loan term is 48 months for models years six to 10 years old or vehicles with mileage between 100,000 and 150,000 miles.

Credit requirements. There is no minimum credit score requirement for receiving an auto loan through SECU — every member is eligible for the same loan APR regardless of score. Loan approval depends on your credit history and ability to repay current and proposed debts. However, borrowers cannot be under a bankruptcy plan or have caused the credit union a loss that remains outstanding, said Mark Coburn, senior vice president of lending at SECU.

To find out what your payment will be, use the SECU auto loan calculator or work backward from your preferred payment to find out how much can you car afford using a LendingTree calculator.

SECU car-buying service

Instead of driving from dealership to dealership chasing the best prices, members can take advantage of SECU’s car-buying service. But it’s probably worth the effort of comparing SECU’s program with other car-buying services — other credit unions offer discounted APRs when using their services plus the opportunity to buy a used car. SECU’s service is only for new cars.

The process starts by logging into Member Access online. You can:

  • Search by vehicle make & model or features
  • View photos of the vehicle
  • Read vehicle summaries, warranties, technical information and financing incentive info
  • Compare multiple vehicles

You can request a quote from participating dealers. SECU has partnered with AAA to locate vehicles that match your profile and present you with options. Trade-ins can be a part of the negotiations.

Vehicles can be delivered free to any branch or residences in North Carolina. Out-of-state deliveries may require an additional fee.

SECU membership requirements

You must be a SECU member to qualify for an auto loan. Membership eligibility includes:

  • Employed by the state of North Carolina
  • Federal employees assigned to the North Carolina government
  • Employees of public boards of education
  • Members of the North Carolina National Guard
  • County employees of the departments of social services, health, mental health and civil defense
  • Employees of associations formed for the benefit of the state of North Carolina employees
  • Immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) of a current member

People who meet the eligibility requirements can become a member by opening a share account with a minimum deposit of $25. People aged 12 and under can open a FAT CAT account with a $5 deposit. You can find a SECU Membership application form here, which you may either fill out and return by mail or in person.

How to apply for an auto loan at SECU

The auto loan process starts with filling out an application. You can apply for an auto loan at one of the branches across North Carolina, online or by phone 888-732-8562. Before you apply, gather the information you’ll need to complete the application. Loan officers can usually let you know if you’ve been approved the same day.

Here’s what you’ll need to apply for a loan:

  • Current and former addresses
  • Social Security number
  • Current phone number
  • Place of employment and recent work history
  • Gross monthly income
  • Residence status (own or rent) and housing payment
  • Monthly payments for utilities, credit cards and other vehicle loans
  • Number of dependents
  • Alimony/child support obligations

You may be asked to verify income through pay stubs, tax returns or other documentation. You may also have to bring in car insurance information and recent billing statements for refinancing. The application process includes reviewing your credit report and your history with the credit union.

Preapproval

The Auto Power Program for new and used vehicles allows members to qualify for a blank preapproved check before they decide on a specific vehicle. Members can shop for the vehicle they want and make a deal on the spot knowing the amount and rate for which they qualify. You could even use your preapproval to negotiate a better rate at the dealership.

If you have already signed a sales agreement with the dealership, you can add the vehicle information to the loan application. If not, you can get an Auto Power check approved up to a specific dollar amount so you can finalize the deal without having to go back to the credit union.

Is a SECU auto loan worth it?

SECU is a large, well-rated credit union offering competitive APRs, but those with the best credit may find even lower offers at other credit unions, especially if you’re planning to use a car-buying service to find your next vehicle. Yes, you will have to meet membership requirements no matter which credit union you’re considering but some may allow you to apply for an auto loan before applying for membership.

Pros of SECU auto loans

  • Rates are the same regardless of credit rating
  • No down payment required
  • Finance 110% of the purchase price for new and used vehicles
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Preapproval through the Auto Power Program

Cons of SECU auto loans

  • Must be or become a member
  • Lending limited to residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.
  • You can’t use the car-buying service for used cars.
  • Must carry collision and comprehensive insurance with a maximum $1,000 deductible.

Who is a SECU auto loan best for?

Members with excellent credit may be able to find lower rates elsewhere, especially if you qualify for the lowest rates for new cars through the manufacturer. Everyone else may find a competitive rate here regardless of their credit score. The credit union also offers competitive fees for GAP insurance, which covers the gap between the value of the car and loan payoff amount in case of an accident that your regular auto insurance doesn’t cover.

However,  if you’re not eligible to be a member, or live outside the handful of states where SECU’s auto loans are available, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

 

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