DCU Auto Purchase, Refinance and Lease Buyout Loans: 2022 Review

Digital Federal Credit Union is based in Massachusetts but makes auto loans nationwide. Membership is required, and there are many ways to join.

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Auto loan reviews

DigitalFederalCreditUnion
  • New auto purchase loan

  • Used auto purchase loan

  • Auto loan refinancing

  • Auto lease buyout loan

The bottom line:

Best for borrowers looking for flexible loan options, possible rate discounts and the benefits of credit union membership.

New auto purchase loan review

DigitalFederalCreditUnion
Digital Federal Credit Union - New car purchase loan

Not yet rated

Est. APR
3.74-13.24%
Loan amount
$2,500-$500,000
Min. credit score
Did not disclose

Pros

  • Application process can be 100% online.

  • Has a 24-hour access consumer loan call center.

  • Offers two opportunities for discounts on already low rates.

  • Provides same-day or instant loan approval.

  • Allows co-signers.

Cons

  • Submitting an online purchase loan application results in a hard credit inquiry.

  • Credit union membership required to get a loan.

  • Social Security number required with initial application.

Best for applicants wanting fast approval, rate discounts and other credit union benefits.

Full review

Digital Federal Credit Union, also known as DCU, offers new and used car purchase loans, refinance loans and lease buyout loans. Credit union membership is required to finalize and fund a vehicle loan, but individuals can submit a loan application and join DCU after receiving their loan decision. There are many ways to become eligible for DCU membership. Members are also required to open and maintain a primary savings account with a minimum $5 balance. This account can be opened and funded online.

DCU has two different loan applications, one for auto loan refinancing and one for auto purchase loans. DCU’s auto refinancing pre-qualification process, which includes lease buyout loans, stands out for simplicity and speed. From the DCU website, applicants can input their cell phone number to receive a verification code by text. Upon entering this code and Social Security number last four digits, an applicant’s information, including existing vehicle and loan information, automatically populates the auto refinance application. Based on a soft credit inquiry, applicants see estimated rates instantly. A hard credit inquiry is done only after an applicant proceeds with the loan.

DCU’s online application for auto purchase loans is less automated and requires the manual input of information. It does not offer rate estimates with a soft credit inquiry, and submitting the purchase application results in a hard credit inquiry. Usually an approval decision is provided within minutes. Applications for all auto loan types can also be made through a 24/7 consumer loan call center.

DCU rates are the same for both new and used vehicles. Auto loan rates on the DCU website reflect rates available to borrowers with excellent credit and a 0.5 percentage point discount. To qualify for this discount, members must use direct deposit and automatic payment from DCU checking. An additional rate reduction of 0.25 percentage point is available for energy efficient vehicles.

Unlike many credit unions, DCU focuses more on direct lending to consumers than providing loans through car dealerships. The credit union does provide financing for cars purchased through online used car retailer Carvana.

Digital Federal Credit Union may be a good fit for those who:

  • Need a more flexible lender. For auto loans, DCU has no minimum requirements for credit history or applicant income. Loan repayment terms can be as low as 12 months for purchase loans and 6 months for refinance and lease buyout loans.

  • Want the benefits of credit union membership. Borrowers who open or have a DCU checking account, add direct deposit and make their loan payments electronically will receive a rate discount on auto and other consumer loans. Accounts and loans can be managed through DCU’s online and mobile banking, including submitting future pre-filled loan applications.

  • Want to see potential savings from refinancing. In most cases, borrowers can quickly see how much they might save by refinancing their current auto loan through DCU. Using the online refinancing application, applicants can input their cell phone number, have the application pre-fill including their existing vehicle and loan information, and within minutes see their loan offer.

Digital Federal Credit Union at a glance

Application process
  • Origination fee: None.

  • Personal information needed: Social Security or ITIN, address, time at address, phone, email, birthdate, employment status, employer name, housing status, housing payment, driver's license number, vehicle identification number.

  • Pre-qualification available: Rate estimates for auto refinance loans and lease buyout loans are available on the website with a soft credit check, although DCU does not consider this pre-qualification. Purchase loan applications don’t offer rate estimates with soft credit inquiry. Submitting a purchase loan application results in a hard credit inquiry.

  • Online, in-person or both: Process can be 100% online including document upload. Applications are also taken 24/7 through a consumer loan call center and in credit union branches. Members can also apply in online banking and may already have a preapproved auto loan amount displayed there.

  • Approval speed: Same day or instantly after all information submitted.

  • Funding: Same day of loan closing.

  • Minimum FICO credit score: Did not disclose.

  • Minimum credit history: None.

  • Minimum annual gross income: None.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 60%.

  • Bankruptcy-related restrictions: No bankruptcies in the previous 12 months.

  • States covered: All 50 states.

  • Membership: Eligibility can be by family membership, working at or retiring from certain companies or belonging to or joining a designated nonprofit organization. Those who live, work, worship or attend school in certain Massachusetts communities are also eligible. Eligibility guidelines are on the DCU website.

  • Maximum vehicle age: None.

  • Maximum vehicle mileage: 250,000 miles.

  • Other vehicle restrictions: None. Vehicle can be purchased from a franchised dealer, independent dealer or private party.

  • Loan amount minimum: $2,500.

  • Loan amount maximum: $500,000.

  • Refinancing time restrictions: Can refinance as soon as an applicant has account information for the previous loan.

  • Loan terms: 12-84 months for auto purchase; 6-84 months for auto refinance and lease buyout.

  • Automatic payment: Offered but not required.

  • Rate discount: Yes, 0.5 percentage point with direct deposit and automatic payment from a DCU checking account. Also, 0.25 percentage point with fuel-efficient vehicles that get 35 mpg or more. Discounts can be combined.

  • Greater-than-minimum payments: Accepted and can be made by automatic payment. Is automatically applied as paid-ahead status (to the next due payment).

  • Biweekly payments: Yes, and accepted by automatic payment.

  • Late payment fee: Yes, 4% of the payment due, with a $5 minimum. Has a 15-day grace period.

  • Refinance administrative fee: Charged only for the refinance of existing DCU loans. Amount is based on the loan balance at the time of refinancing.

  • Prepayment penalty: None.

  • Co-borrowers allowed: Yes.

  • Co-signers allowed: Yes, can complete application at the same time.

  • Payment options: Mailed-in check, phone, mobile app, online, ACH, in person. DCU is part of the Co-op Shared Branches network, so auto loan payments can be made at more than 5,000 credit union locations nationwide.

  • Selected payment due date: Yes, both before and after signing loan agreement. Can submit a due date change request at any time.

  • Cash-out refinancing: Yes, cash limit depends on equity available based on 100% of the vehicle value and subject to credit approval.

  • Hardship plans: Yes, based on member’s need, programs can include modifications, re-amortizations, skip-a-payment, payment deferrals, and account re-ages where past due accounts are brought current after several on-time payments.

  • Assistance provided: A consumer loan call center with DCU representatives is available 24/7 to assist with loan applications and answer servicing-related questions for members who have loans. A loan origination team assists with in-process loans during regular information center hours.

  • Availability: Information center hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ET.

  • Contact options: Phone, visit branch, email, social media, chat within online banking.

How does this loan compare?

RefiJet
Consumers Credit Union
Est. APR

3.39-22.00%

Est. APR

5.44-21.24%

Loan amount

$5,000-$100,000

Loan amount

$7,500-$500,000

Min. credit score

500

Min. credit score

620

Used auto purchase loan review

DigitalFederalCreditUnion
Digital Federal Credit Union - Used car purchase loan

Not yet rated

Est. APR
3.74-13.24%
Loan amount
$2,500-$500,000
Min. credit score
Did not disclose

Pros

  • Maximum vehicle mileage higher than other lenders.

  • No maximum vehicle age.

  • Has a 24-hour access consumer loan call center.

  • Finances vehicles purchased from private parties.

  • Offers two opportunities for discounts on already low rates.

  • Allows co-signers.

Cons

  • Submitting an online purchase loan application results in a hard credit inquiry.

  • Credit union membership required to get a loan.

  • Social Security number required with initial application.

Best for applicants looking for more flexibility and fewer restrictions when financing a used car.

Auto loan refinancing review

DigitalFederalCreditUnion
Digital Federal Credit Union - Refinance loan

Not yet rated

Est. APR
3.74-13.24%
Loan amount
$2,500-$500,000
Min. credit score
Did not disclose

Pros

  • Offers rate estimates through website using a soft credit check.

  • Offers shorter term loans.

  • Has a 24-hour access consumer loan call center.

  • Application process can be 100% online.

  • Offers two opportunities for discounts on already low rates.

  • Will refinance existing DCU auto loans.

  • Allows co-signers.

Cons

  • Credit union membership required to get a loan.

  • Social Security number required with initial application.

Best for applicants wanting a simple, fast application process to refinance their car.

DCU offers cash-out refinancing, meaning borrowers with vehicle equity may be able to receive cash up to 100% of the vehicle’s value with their refinance loan. Borrowers should weigh the pros and cons of cash-out auto refinancing.

Auto lease buyout loan review

DigitalFederalCreditUnion
Digital Federal Credit Union - Lease buyout loan

Not yet rated

Est. APR
3.74-13.24%
Loan amount
$2,500-$500,000
Min. credit score
Did not disclose

Pros

  • Offers rate estimates through website using a soft credit check.

  • Maximum vehicle mileage higher than other lenders.

  • Offers shorter term loans.

  • Application process can be 100% online.

  • Has a 24-hour access consumer loan call center.

  • Offers two opportunities for discounts on already low rates.

  • Allows co-signers.

Cons

  • Credit union membership required to get a loan.

  • Social Security number required with initial application.

Best for applicants who may need more flexibility to finance the purchase of their leased car.

More from Digital Federal Credit Union

DCU also provides antique car loans and mobility loans for people with disabilities, as well as loans for motorcycles, boats and recreational vehicles. It offers gap insurance, payment protection and auto insurance through an affiliate, DCU Insurance.

The DCU website has many educational resources, including the Streetwise Financial Education program, Auto Loan FAQs and Vehicle Title FAQs.

DCU headquarters are in Marlborough, Massachusetts, but the credit union serves more than 900,000 members and their families in all 50 states. It was chartered in 1979 and, based on assets, is now the largest credit union in New England and one of the top 20 nationwide.

Digital Federal Credit Union auto loan rates

Lenders set their own requirements, but Digital Federal Credit Union’s lowest rates are typically available only to borrowers with good or excellent credit (a FICO score of 690 and above). Borrowers with bad or fair credit won’t qualify for the lowest interest rates.

You can check your credit score before applying for a car loan.

Loan example: According to NerdWallet's auto loan calculator that uses the VantageScore credit model, a borrower with a credit score of 661-780, a $20,000 car loan, repayment term of 48 months, interest rate of 4.5% and $0 down payment would have monthly payments of $457.

To review Digital Federal Credit Union, NerdWallet sent a survey requesting more than 60 data points and followed up with company representatives. The information was compared with other lenders that seek the same customer or offer a similar product.

Frequently asked questions