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Car Buying?

If you’re getting ready to buy a car, new or used, the car-buying world is changing. Technology, the pandemic, and supply and demand mean we should all do our research and be aware of the auto market environment.  Before you start your search for a car, take some time to review car buying options, tips, and warnings.

Selecting a Car

Whether this is your first car or your tenth, here are a few items to consider when looking for your dream car:


What do you expect or need regarding gas mileage? Do you have a long commute? Are you trying to be green? Are you open to a hybrid or electric car? Check out the new options, as some vehicles tout anywhere from 40-108 mpg. That could be a significant saving in gas purchases.


What will you be transporting? Yourself, a family, clients, pets, cargo? Are you an antique shopper or garage sale hobbyist that needs accessible and large storage areas? Maybe you or a family member are aging or have a disability that requires a lower/higher entrance point or even a trunk with easier access to get groceries in and out. With sports cars, sedans, SUVs, vans, trucks, and even station wagons, the choices are unlimited, and there is definitely a model to fit your needs. Explore online and narrow your options before you test drive.

New or Used?

Can you afford a new car? Used cars can be much less expensive but sometimes come with unknown issues needing repair. If purchasing used, be sure to research the title and maybe even pull a CarFax on it. Did you know that currently, you can get a Carfax at a 50% discount ($25) through CUA? Just ask your lender for details. A Carfax Vehicle History Report covers information like reported accidents, number of owners, service history, last owned location, odometer reading, any active warranty, structural damage, etc.

Online Shopping

Check out CUA’s free online resources for vehicle shopping under the Auto Loan tab.

Search and Shop with CUA’s AutoSMART. Find vehicles, new or used, by model or geographic area, and you can contact dealers directly for prices, 24/7. Some dealer partners offer virtual appointments, free test drives from home, contactless purchases, and free home delivery. These services help manage time constraints and provide social distancing.             

Build Your Own on AutoSMART, where you can view and select trims, styles, colors, and options. You can filter results by price, mileage, year, trim packages, condition, and features. Standard features (mechanical, exterior, entertainment, interior, and safety) are outlined for ease in comparison. An estimated MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) is also provided. When you find a car you're interested in, you can contact the dealer directly from the website. Destination, options, and base vs. MSRP prices are also listed. And if you’re exploring several models, the site allows you to save vehicles you’ve found or built for future reference.

Payment Calculators can be found on both CUA’s website and within the AutoSMART site and can be fun if you’re looking for your dream car. And they can help you budget.

Be sure to check out the Preferred Dealer Partners listed on the AutoSMART site. These dealers have been vetted and have agreed to standards set forth by AutoSMART.  You’ll also see dealer reviews from buyers in your area.

A Member Purchase Certificate can be obtained and allows you to lock in your price online.

Lastly, AutoSMART provides educational resources for understanding your credit report, rebates, low-rate financing, and 0% financing.

The Money (if you haven’t bought yet)

  • Research prices - Used car values are impressive right now. With many Americans out of work or just getting back to work, used cars are popular and in short supply. If you’re buying, make sure you can get the auto you want before selling your used car. Or consider trading it in to be safe, as trade values are good too.
  • Prepare - An emergency savings account is a good idea for unexpected expenses. Mechanical repair coverage can also be purchased at CUA when you get your loan.
  • Financing - If you need a loan for your purchase, most people do; CUA has many options, including getting pre-approved before you even visit the dealership. We have no origination fees and same-day decisions for most applications.

CUA is happy to offer preapprovals up to a specific amount. When shopping and financing come up, tell the dealer you are pre-approved, or you have cash. Call your lender, and they’ll get a check ready for you to take when you pick up your car.

Applying is convenient - You can apply online, over the phone, or in person. If you go to one of CUA's Preferred Dealer Partners, you can even get your CUA loan right at the dealership. Just tell them you want your loan through CUA and avoid the finance hassle!

Questions About Your Credit Score?

If you have questions about improving your credit score and your specific situation, CUA has several resources.  You can visit with a CUA lender or a GreenPath representative.  CUA partners with GreenPath to provide free online educational materials and free access to licensed financial counselors.  Counseling sessions are held by telephone and the representative will ask for the name of your credit union. Personal information is not required, making the call completely anonymous and confidential.

Auto & Loan Protection Options

  • Vehicle Insurance - Not only is vehicle insurance required to get your tag but did you know that vehicle insurance is required to get a loan? Your credit union surely wants to help you protect your investment, but this is also protection for the lender. If you're in an accident or your car is stolen, you could find yourself facing expenses without insurance. Those could include medical for others involved in the accident, no replacement funds for the vehicle, and no transportation! Check out the insurance rates for the specific car you want to buy before you purchase. It’s easy with a quick call to your insurance agent. Also, consider that high-end vehicles cost more for fixing damage (higher premiums) or replacing tires and routine parts (out of your wallet). However, used cars may have more frequent repairs.
  • Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance is helpful if your car is totaled or stolen. The difference, or gap, between what your auto insurance reimburses you for the vehicle and the amount you owe on your loan can be significant, especially on a new or newly purchased car. GAP insurance helps cover this difference up to the allowed maximum. Your CUA lender can answer GAP questions and help you buy an affordable GAP policy.
  • Route 66 Extended Warranty is also available at CUA. Check with your lender about this feature which can be particularly valuable on used car purchases or those bought from individuals that do not have a guaranteed inspection. At CUA, an extended warranty includes a $0 deductible, emergency roadside service, rental car allowance, battery coverage, competitive rates, and a transferrable warranty.
  • Credit Life and Credit Disability Insurance is insurance we never hope to use. Should the borrower die or become disabled, this insurance is a great way to pay off your loan when these tragic situations occur. The policy is good for the borrower’s peace of mind, relieving the borrower's or the family’s financial stress. Your lender can explain coverage and the maximum benefits.


Maybe you’re only shopping, hoping to save some money, or perhaps you got a loan on your new car somewhere else or at the dealership, but now have second thoughts. A common question is, “Why are rates advertised as low as?” Lenders consider several factors regarding the rate on your loan. How long you need the loan, your credit score, and vehicle age can influence your rate. Additionally, CUA offers rate discounts for checking with direct deposit and for educators. Because there are many combinations of these factors and to not mislead, you'll see rates advertised as the lowest possible rate. To get an idea of the range, check rates by term length at to get an idea of where your rate might fall. CUA offers auto loans from 36 months to 72 months and as long as 84 months for new vehicles.

When you apply, you can pick your preferred closing branch, including electronic signing. You have the freedom to choose the payment schedule that works within your budget. i.e. monthly, semi-monthly (2x), bi-weekly (every other), or weekly.

Ready. Set. Go!

You’ve done your research, found your car and negotiated your best deal. You called CUA with any questions you had along the way and applied at CUA for an excellent solid deal with no hidden tricks. It’s time to take a drive in your new wheels!

Don’t forget to tell your friends about your good deal. Anyone can apply online, by phone, or in person. Same-day decisions are CUA's norm. You can apply online 24/7, with most applications receiving an answer in just a couple of minutes. What are you waiting for? That car is waiting for you, and if you've already got it, move that loan to CUA.


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