@LeRainDrop I'm not sure exactly if the loan will be secured directly against the car. It might be some kind of regular loan as I am already going to be paying about 8K of the total cost of the car. There was no mention of the CU keeping the title or anything. I will call them for more details tomorrow.
I'll have enough liquid resources at home that if times get hard I can liquidate if required that would give me a few more months flexibility or alternatively I can just return back to Ireland and live with my folks.
Typically, banks/credit unions in the US offer "auto loans" at lower rates because they are secured by the car itself. They also offer unsecured loans at higher rates. In the middle sounds like the option they presented to you of putting up the $5k as collateral in exchange for a lower rate. I suppose it's up to you whether you'd rather pursue a low-rate the auto loan with the credit union keeping a lien on the title until paid off, or a low-rate secured loan with the $5k. It's about six of one, half doze of another, haha! Seeing as you have saved other money to back you up for at least a few months, I'd agree that moving forward with a secured loan is a great way for you to build credit here.