Veterans have made many sacrifices to serve our country but unfortunately, some veterans experience financial hardships when they return from active duty. Keeping up with bills can be difficult while deployed and just a few missed payments can cause their credit score to take a hit. Other veterans make an even greater sacrifice and are left with a disability that prevents them from finding employment once they return home.
According to Credit Karma, 62% of military families say money issues are their biggest lifestyle stressor, based on the 2018 Military Family Lifestyle survey by Blue Star Families. Adjusting back to civilian life can be tough, especially without reliable transportation. Without a good credit score and a steady source of income, financing a car can be a challenge. So where do you turn? We'll cover the top resources available to veterans to assist with the car buying process.
Military Credit Unions And Banks
A credit union that serves military personnel and veterans can be a solution to getting a car loan for the vehicle you need, even if your credit isn't excellent. Credit unions are non-profit, member-owned entities that are typically more flexible about lending to customers with bad credit. This means your chances of securing an auto loan are improved when going through a credit union compared to going straight to a dealership. Joining a credit union can also offer lower car loan interest rates than a regular bank.
The largest credit union that assists veterans with auto financing is the Navy Federal Credit Union. With service in all 50 states and physical branches around military bases nationwide, Navy Federal will be convenient to join and accepts active-duty military members, veterans, Department of Defense civilian employees, retirees or contractors. The benefits of going with the Navy Federal Credit Union include lower interest rates for auto loans and an interest rate cap of 18%. They also offer an auto buying service to help veterans get the best possible deal on a car.
Another major financial institution offering auto loans for veterans is the USAA. The USAA serves active military members, military families, and veterans. They offer the benefits of a simple and quick auto loan process, no application fee, loan discounts, and specialized disabled vehicle loans. Like the Navy Federal Credit Union, the USAA also offers a car-buying assistance program to find you the best deals.
Private Lenders with Military Discounts
When joining a credit union isn't an option, you may be able to find private auto lenders who offer special auto financing for active military or veterans. Some of the perks include easier approval, lower interest rates, flexible payment plans, or lower down payment requirements. In some cases, having a low credit score may block you from access to these perks.
If you're not approved for an auto loan based on your credit, working with lenders who specialize in bad credit auto financing can provide the financing you need. Subprime auto loans can come with a higher interest rate, but you'll be able to save over the course of the loan by having a down payment ready and keeping the loan terms as short as possible.
No matter which route you take when financing your vehicle, it pays to shop around for your best interest rate by getting pre-approved. You'll then be able to compare rates and loan terms to find the best car loan for the vehicle you're looking for and your financial situation.
Auto Benefits for Disabled Veterans
While the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs doesn't offer assistance with vehicle loans, if you're a disabled vet, you may be able to get an allowance for a vehicle. If you qualify based on the list of service-connected disabilities, you could be eligible for a one-time payment of up to $21,058.69 to help you buy a specially equipped vehicle. If you have a vehicle but it's not equipped for your disability, you may also be eligible for a grant to add adaptive-equipment like power steering, brakes, seats, windows, or lift equipment to help you get into and out of the vehicle.
In order to get the allowance, you'll have to file a claim for disability compensation and complete the Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment (VA Form 21-4502). Once you're approved, the VA will pay the vehicle's seller directly and you'll have the vehicle fitted with the equipment you need.