Car & Truck
Buyers Guide

Ready to buy a car or truck?
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!
At Tongass Federal Credit Union, we know that buying a car or truck can be one of the most exciting moments in life. It can also be intimidating and complex, though. So we’ve made this handy guide to walk you through the essential steps to take to get the right vehicle for your budget and needs!


Before You Start

Credit Scores: Your credit report and score will determine the rate on your auto loan, so it’s important to have an understanding of that score before you get started. You also can find potential errors that may be hurting your score and resolve them before you apply for a loan.

Determine Your Budget: It’s tempting to go shopping right away, but you’ll also want to figure out how much you can afford including:

  • Monthly Loan Payment: Use our calculators to determine how much car loan you can afford!
  • Insurance Premium: In Alaska, the average annual cost is $373 to $1,559, but you can get a more accurate figure using online estimators on insurance sites.
  • Gas & Maintenance: It helps to understand approximately how many miles you’ll drive each year to estimate gas costs and also maintenance (which averages $0.09 per mile, according to AAA).
  • Emergency Expenses: Leave yourself a small budget for emergencies, as well.

1. How do I get a loan?

The next step is to get pre-approved for your car loan so when you find the vehicle you want, you’ll already know the rate you’ve qualified for; the minimum and maximum you’ve qualified to borrow; how much of a down payment you’ll need.

Gather your information:

  • You’ll need your current paystub & your gross (amount before taxes) monthly income.
  • Time with your current employer
  • How much down payment you have
  • An estimate of how much you’d like to borrow

Visit a branch, call us or get pre-approved now!

Credit not great? 
With TFCU, if you improve your score after you have your loan, you can reduce your rates!


Which car should I choose?

Start with some research to determine the car that will best fit your needs and budget.

A few things to consider:

  • Will you be driving a lot? If so, look for a vehicle with low miles.
  • How much space do you need? If you have family, you may want to look for something with extra space and safety features.
  • Where will you be driving and what weather will you drive in? Decide if you need or want 4WD or AWD.
  • Do you want new or used and what will your budget allow?

Once you’ve got some cars in mind, you’ll want to use resources online to determine if it’s definitely the best car for you. There are several reputable resources including,, and

Terms to Know:

APR: The annual percentage rate which may not be the same as the interest rate. It covers the actual annual cost over the course of the auto loan.

Cosigner: Someone who signs and assumes equal responsibility for an auto loan.

GAP Insurance: This is optional coverage in case the car is totaled or stolen. It covers the ‘gap’ between what you owe and how much the car is worth.

Interest Rate: The percentage that the lender charges for borrowing money.

Principal: The amount loaned.

Term: The amount of time you have to pay back the loan, usually offered in 12-month increments lasting somewhere between two and eight years.


Find your car & make it yours!

Now you can go shopping and find your car! There are plenty of ways to find your car including dealers and private sellers.

Check Its Value: Once you’ve found your car, be sure to check its NADA value before negotiating or buying. You’ll need to know the year, make & model, trim package, mileage and any options on the car to determine it’s value.

Negotiate: Asking the seller or dealer for a lower price could save you some money, and you might be surprised at how well it works!

Select Insurance: Car loans require full coverage insurance. You’ll need to provide this to your lender before the time of closing the loan.

Paperwork: There will be paperwork to complete to finish setting up the loan. Your Loan Officer will help complete it all.

Happy Driving!

Auto Loans


6.35% APR*

Boat Loans


6.99% APR*

VISA Credit Card


9.95% APR*

ATVs & Toy Loans


6.50% APR*

Why finance through TFCU?

Low rates, zero down payment for qualified borrowers.
Financing available for less than perfect credit borrowers.
Local people, local answers. Quick decisions & quick closings.
We know our communities; we understand periodic income from some Alaskan lifestyles.
We consider Members' entire stories when making lending decisions.

1 Subject to the terms and conditions detailed in the Guide to Benefits. Participating merchants on BaZing are not sponsors of the program, are subject to change without notice, may not be available in all regions and may choose to limit deals.


3 Based on approved credit.