Patelco Credit Union auto loans review: Free car-buying assistance and resources

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In a Nutshell

Patelco auto loans can come with competitive rates as well as the ability to qualify for rate reductions over time. The credit union helps make the car-purchase process easier with free “concierge” assistance for members and the ability to apply for preapproval. But to potentially take advantage of these benefits, you must be a member or eligible for membership.
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Updated October 21, 2021

This date may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.

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Written by: Sarah Archambault


  • Range of loan options
  • Ability to qualify for loan-rate reductions for on-time payments
  • Free assistance with car-buying


  • Only available to credit union members
  • Vehicles can’t be more than 10 years old

What you need to know about Patelco auto loans

Based in California’s Bay Area, Patelco Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in the country. Founded in 1936 by a few employees of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T today), Patelco now serves communities in Northern California as well as the employees of more than 1,100 businesses across the U.S.

Variety of auto loan options

Patelco offers its members a range of auto finance options.

Free car-buying assistance and resources

Patelco Credit Union helps car buyers apply for auto loan preapproval and begin their vehicle search in one place. If you’re preapproved for a Patelco auto loan, the credit union’s free car-buying service can shop around for the car you want, negotiate with the dealership and — in many cases — deliver your new set of wheels right to you.

If you prefer to do the car-shopping yourself, you can access the online service Autosmart to search through the inventories of the credit union’s partner dealerships, read reviews, lock in your price and apply for a loan.

Possible loan-rate reductions

Patelco offers competitive starting annual percentage rates, or APRs, when compared with some other auto lenders. And if you don’t qualify for the credit union’s lowest rates, you may be able to reduce your rate if you make consistent, on-time payments.

Patelco’s LevelUp program may lower your APR by 0.5% after 12 consecutive on-time payments. You may be able to get up to three rate reductions over the course of your loan, for a total rate discount of 1.5%.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to have solid credit scores to qualify for this program, and the interest-rate reduction won’t lower your monthly payments. Instead, more of each payment will go toward principal, shortening your loan term and reducing what you pay over the life of the loan.

A closer look at Patelco auto loans

Here are a few more things to know if you’re considering a Patelco auto loan.

  • Patelco auto loans are only available to members. And while the credit union doesn’t charge a membership fee, you must meet at least one of its criteria for membership.
  • You can choose from loan terms of up to 84 months.
  • Patelco doesn’t charge a prepayment penalty, meaning you won’t have to pay a fee if you pay off your loan early.
  • You can finance up to 125% of the vehicle’s value, even when refinancing, which can help if you owe more than the vehicle is worth.
  • Patelco will finance vehicles with up to 125,000 miles, but the car can’t be more than 10 years old.
  • The lender also offers gap insurance and mechanical breakdown protection, which may be able to help cover some major repairs not covered by your warranty. 

Is a Patelco Credit Union auto loan right for you?

Patelco could be a good option for someone new to car-buying and financing — or who’s short on time. Patelco offers the convenience of applying for auto loan preapproval and help in selecting and buying a car online, all in one place.

Patelco could also be ideal for someone who qualifies for the credit union’s competitive starting APR or for rate reductions through the LevelUp program.

But if you don’t qualify for membership or want to finance an older vehicle, you’ll need to look elsewhere for a car loan.

How to apply for an auto loan from Patelco

You can apply for auto loan preapproval on Patelco’s website. To apply, you must be eligible for membership, a U.S. resident and 18 or older, and have a valid Social Security number and source of income.

Members will be able to proceed directly to the application while non-members will have to confirm their membership eligibility.

If eligible, you can choose whether you want to add a joint applicant or co-signer.

Auto loan alternatives to consider

If you aren’t sure if a Patelco Credit Union auto loan is right for you — or you aren’t eligible for membership — here are a couple of other lenders to consider.

  • PNC auto loan: PNC could be good for someone who wants the ability to shop for a loan and car in one place.
  • LightStream auto loan: LightStream may be ideal if you want a lender who may be able to beat other rates you’ve been offered.

About the author: Sarah Archambault is a freelance writer based in New England. She enjoys learning new ways to spend money wisely and helping others figure out how to make smart financial decisions. Sarah is a graduate of the Newhouse… Read more.