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How to Get Pre-Approved for a Credit Union Auto Loan

How to Get Pre-Approved for a Credit Union Auto Loan

The time has come to replace your road-worn clunker. But, a new set of wheels is a hefty financial commitment. Fortunately, you have options — like a vehicle loan — to help you afford your next car or truck.

You can make the process even smoother and less stressful by getting pre-approved for an auto loan. By doing so, you’ll know before you go car shopping what your budget is and how much your monthly payments will be.

So, rev your engines and let’s get started.

Why get a pre-approved auto loan?

The Auto Loan

Here are some facts:

  • Most people don’t have a stack of cash sitting around. They can’t just go out and buy a car outright.
  • Even if you do have adequate funds, spending a lump sum on a car may not be an efficient use of your money.
  • Using a credit card is either not feasible or not an optimal route.

Most people need or want financing to make car buying possible.

Enter the auto loan. Auto loans are practical financial tools that can enable you to afford large ticket items like vehicles.

The Pre-Approved Auto Loan

Having a pre-approved car loan takes it a step further. It personalizes it to you. When you get pre-approved for an auto loan you’ll be able to strut onto that dealership lot already knowing:

  • How much you can spend
  • What your monthly payments will be
  • How much financing your sweet ride is going to cost you

With a pre-approved vehicle loan, the process and paperwork for purchasing your car should be more streamlined (read: quicker and easier!) and less hassle. It also means you won’t have to discuss financing with the dealership — an activity many people find awkward, uncomfortable or unpleasant.

Why get my loan from a credit union?

This is perhaps a good segue into highlighting why getting your auto loan from a credit union may be ideal for you. Because credit unions are not-for-profit, membership-based institutions, they have a lot to offer that for-profit banks and car dealerships can’t. In general, among the many benefits credit unions can provide are:

  • Better rates
  • Lower fees
  • More flexible payment terms
  • Easier application and approval process
  • Better customer service

Your credit union has a vested interest in you. It’s inclined to work with you to come up with a loan arrangement that fits your life. Credit unions also tend to be more forgiving of a less-than-stellar credit history.

Certainly worth looking into! Comparison shopping for your auto loan is a smart move. You’ll likely find that credit unions have the best car loan deals.

Couple car shopping with auto loan pre-approval

What’s the loan & car-buying process?

You understand how loans work and the benefits of getting one through a credit union. But you might still have questions on how it all flows together:

  • What are the actual steps in the loan application and approval process?
  • What do you do once you have pre-approval? How do you take that and actually buy your car?

Loan Application & Approval Process

We can't speak for other lenders, but our car loan application process is fairly straightforward. In just a few steps you could be qualified for an auto loan and ready to go car shopping.

Preparing to Apply

Before getting into the loan process, though, it’s a good idea to do some honest and thoughtful prep work. It’s worth the effort to assess your lifestyle, financial situation and the kind of car you want. This way you’ll be ready to start the loan application and be able to make smart-for-you choices.

At VCU, we don’t have a hard-and-fast list of prerequisites you must meet to qualify for a loan. Instead, we look at each applicant’s request and personal situation individually. These are some of the thing we’ll probably look at to assess your loan worthiness:

  • Credit
  • Length of credit
  • Loan-to-Value (LTV) of car loan requested
  • Time on job
  • Time as a VCU member


Here’s what you can expect when you apply for a vehicle loan at our credit union.

Turnaround Time

All in, if you’ve already found the car you want to buy and your paperwork is in order, you may be able to close and sign your VCU auto loan in a single day. You can almost hear the jingle of new keys and smell the fresh upholstery now….

Going to Buy Your Vehicle

Knowing what to do with that pre-approval is a fairly important thing to understand. How do you actually buy your car with that pre-approved loan? Is it as simple as walking into a dealership and plopping the document on the Finance Manager’s desk?

Not quite. Don’t sweat it, though. We’ll lay it all out for you.

Shop with Confidence

Having a pre-arranged auto loan can give you leverage as you car shop. You’re essentially a cash buyer, which puts you in a power position to some degree. (Having a car to trade in can bolster your position even more.)

If the dealer knows you have a loan locked in, he or she may take you more seriously. The dealer will likely skip traditional sales tactics that can put you at the disadvantage when it comes to negotiating. You may even be able to score some additional price concessions or get some bonuses thrown into your deal.

Buy with Ease

With your pre-approved VCU auto loan in hand, you can negotiate the sale price of the vehicle you’re interested in. Once you’ve agreed on the price, the dealer will give you a bill of sale that includes all of the details (cost, VIN, etc.). You’ll probably have to leave a small deposit to hold the car. Then you’ll bring the bill of sale to VCU and we’ll give you a certified check to present to the dealer.

It may seem like a bit of back and forth, but with all the paperwork in order in advance — it can really flow rather smoothly and quickly. You’ll be driving off that lot in your shiny new ride in no time!

Why should I get my car loan from Valley Credit Union?

You are the reason we’re here! VCU exists to give our members the utmost in services and products.

We strive to make your car financing experience a good one — less hassle and the best deal possible. You’ll find our auto loans are competitive and flexible, to suit your needs. On top of that, our Auto Consulting program makes actually buying your new car straightforward. You’ll get personalized, expert advice and assistance from a pro.

About the Author

 Justin Roberts, Vice President of Lending

Justin Roberts is our Vice President of Lending and has been in the financial industry for over 18 years. He is an Oregon State University Graduate and has just completed Western CUNA Management School. When he is not focused on helping the members at Valley, you will find him coaching his two sons and volunteering his time to help develop the youth in our communities through sports.

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