ALEXANDRIA, Va. and ST. LOUIS — Staff Sergeant Shawn Marsland, 16th Signal Company, stationed at Fort Hood, TX, and his wife Cassandra are experienced car buyers. So even though they were eager to buy a pickup when they moved back to the states, they took the time to shop around—not only for a vehicle in the best condition and at the best price, but also for the best financing plan to meet their particular needs. Today Staff Sergeant Marsland and his wife are driving a 2007 F150 XLT they bought from Enterprise Car Sales, at a price they could afford, and financed by PenFed, at a great rate.
Their experience is a good lesson for younger soldiers who fall victim to a variety of dubious practices that can result in consumers over-paying for a vehicle that is not in the best condition or financing the vehicle for less favorable terms than they are entitled to receive.
With a majority of its branches in the United States located on or near military bases, PenFed (Pentagon Federal Credit Union) wants to make sure that no soldier or civilian gets burned when they’re ready to buy a new or used car. That’s why at PenFed, it’s not required to be a credit union member to get free, unbiased advice from an experienced professional before making a purchase.
The PenFed branch at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas, the largest active-duty US military base in the world, is a great example. “We encourage anyone in the process of buying a car to let us review their paperwork at no charge before closing the deal; regardless of whether or not they intend to finance with PenFed,” said Debra York, Senior Manager, Branch Operations for PenFed at Fort Hood.
York explains that, too frequently, military customers are victims of unscrupulous dealers who take advantage of young soldiers’ excitement and enthusiasm for their first car purchase, as well as their guaranteed pay. Scams range from falsifying loan applications, bait-and switch financing, and knowingly selling a car that has been in a wreck without telling the customer.
“We constantly try to educate soldiers by offering free programs that explain various options for selecting and financing a car; including available financing options for those who have a limited or negative credit history and cannot qualify for a loan with traditional lenders—including PenFed’s financing,” said York.
This advice is especially useful for those considering a used car, where it is important to work with a reputable dealer that offers a wide selection of top quality vehicles at great prices and with great service after the sale.
The Marshland’s experience is a good example. After visiting a variety of places near the base selling used F150s (the vehicle they wanted), they were discouraged. “The quality of the vehicles went from bad to worse, and the prices being asked were outrageous,” said Staff Sergeant Marsland.
But their luck changed when Mrs. Marsland arrived at the PenFed branch at Fort Hood for some regular banking business and noticed a special promotion with Enterprise Car Sales. “Neither my husband nor I realized that Enterprise Car Sales had such a wide selection,” said Mrs. Marsland. “Not only did Enterprise locate the exact kind of truck we wanted in San Antonio, which was farther away than we would have ever looked on our own, they delivered it to Fort Hood the next day and included a complete set of new tires.”
PenFed’s auto lending program includes a longstanding partnership with Enterprise Car Sales, which specializes in “haggle-free” used car pricing, as well as a guaranteed seven-day or 1,000-mile repurchase policy. In addition, not only does every used car from Enterprise pass a 109-point inspection by an ASE-certified technician, it includes a 12-month/12,000 mile Limited Powertrain Warranty and roadside assistance for one year.
Having shopped around, the Marslands knew how much they were willing to pay and were impressed when Enterprise’s “haggle-free” pricing was well below the Kelley Blue Book value. “Although there was a special promotion for 0-percent financing for 48 months, we opted for a .49-percent interest rate over a five-year period, so we’re paying the equivalent of less than one month’s worth of car payments in interest for the entire loan,” said Staff Sergeant Marsland, who financed his car through PenFed.
Bred-in-the-Bone History with Military
The partnership between PenFed and Enterprise to serve military families seems natural considering their mutual bred-in-the-bone connection to the military.
Predating the Pentagon building itself, PenFed was established in 1935 as the War Department Federal Credit Union with the purpose of promoting thrift among members, “by affording them an opportunity for accumulating their savings; and to create for them a source of credit for loans for provident or productive purposes.” Today, 17 of PenFed’s 24 branches are located on or close to military bases nationwide.
Enterprise has a similarly strong commitment to the military. Enterprise was founded in St. Louis in 1957 by Jack Taylor, a decorated World War II naval aviator who named the company after the USS Enterprise, the aircraft carrier on which he served. Today, Enterprise employs approximately 55,000 people in the United States — 5,300 of whom are U.S. military veterans and active or inactive reservists. The company plans to hire 1,500 veterans and reservists this year, up from 1,400 military employees hired in 2011. In addition, Enterprise pays the salary differential for employees on active duty so they continue to receive full pay throughout the duration of their service.
For PenFed members, this innovative and successful partnership with Enterprise Car Sales allows individuals to seamlessly shop and finance a used car all in the comfort of a known environment that is safe and trusted, as well as take advantage of some of the lowest rates in the marketplace. And with more than 130 locations across the nation, Enterprise is also conveniently located near many military bases.
In fact, PenFed’s co-branded website with Enterprise Car Sales allows members to have access from one page to thousands of available used vehicles, as well as estimate monthly payments for specific vehicles based on specific terms and conditions and even apply for a loan while shopping online. Using online options, members can prioritize their search by body style, price range, estimated monthly payment, and fuel efficiency, as well as compare vehicles.
Advice for Military and Civilian Used Car Buyers
PenFed and Enterprise have developed a set of tips to help ensure that military and civilian shoppers drive away with the used car they want at a fair price:
- Do research. Do as much advance research as possible on everything from online crash test ratings to reviews. If you are thinking about trading in your current vehicle for a newer model, then it is a good idea to research the value of your car as well. Additionally, annual maintenance costs or vehicle service contract costs and coverage should be considered. After selecting a vehicle, request a CARFAX Vehicle History Report, which the dealer may provide free of charge.
- Be objective. Decide on body style, price range, and features that are “needed vs. wanted” prior to visiting a sales lot. This homework will make it much easier to choose the model and style that fits both needs and budget, as well as focus on comparable vehicles and avoid the temptation of extra bells and whistles.
- Consider insurance. A quick call to an insurance agent is a good idea once car preferences have been narrowed down to a few models. Just because the monthly vehicle payment might fit the budget doesn’t mean the insurance bill will. For instance, switching from liability coverage on a 2011 compact to full coverage on a late-model, mid-size sedan would create quite a hike in insurance costs. The difference should be included in the purchasing decision.
- Get pre-approved. Pre-approval from PenFed enables members to know exactly how much they can spend when shopping for a vehicle. They also are likely to receive a better interest rate by securing the loan through PenFed; the low-cost leader for used car loans.
Staff Sergeant Marsland agrees. “Young soldiers are not the only ones who get burned by making car-buying decisions too fast. Civilians are also victims, but around military bases young soldiers are an easy target for scammers waiting to take advantage of them,” he said. “My advice to anyone is to shop around for vehicles and financing options before signing anything, and to do business only with reputable companies that will take the time to work with you to find the vehicle you want at the price you can afford and offer a range of financing options that will work for your own situation.”
About PenFed (Pentagon Federal Credit Union)
Established in 1935, PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the United States with over a million members and more than $15 billion in assets. PenFed provides an extensive selection of financial products including mortgages, automobile loans, credit cards, checking/savings accounts and other personal loans to its members worldwide. Its core membership includes the Department of Defense, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard; Department of Homeland Security personnel, employees or volunteers of the American Red Cross, numerous military associations and many others. PenFed is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration and is an equal housing lender. For more information about PenFed and to apply for a great rate auto loan, visit PenFed.org or call 800-247-5626.
About Enterprise Car Sales
Enterprise Car Sales, which has sold more than one million used cars, offers more than 120 makes and models of high-quality, late-model used vehicles. In addition to more than 130 locations, the Enterprise Car Sales website enables users to search by specific terms and features through thousands of used cars available nationwide, including an option to have a vehicle transferred to the closest Enterprise Car Sales location. For more information about Enterprise Car Sales visit www.enterprisecarsales.com.
SOURCE Pentagon Federal Credit Union