LightStream auto loan review: Funding for nearly every type of car

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In a Nutshell

With loan options for new cars, used cars, classic cars and more, LightStream just might have something for every car buyer. LightStream offers both secured and unsecured auto loans and an APR-besting program, “Rate Beat.”

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Pros Cons
Will beat competing APR offers by .10 percentage points (with conditions) Best rates are only for people with strong credit
Secured and unsecured auto loans No phone or email applications
No prepayment penalties No preapprovals

What you should know about LightStream auto loans

An online lender, LightStream is a division of Truist Financial Corp.

A variety of loan options

One of LightStream’s main selling points is that it offers a variety of auto loans. You can apply for a loan for a new or used car from a dealer or from a private party. You can also go to LightStream for less-common borrowing options, including unsecured loans for a car purchase — meaning your car won’t be used as collateral.

LightStream also offers a loan option for classic cars, with no restrictions on age or mileage. You can use its loans to refinance, buy out a lease, and even finance a motorcycle or RV.

An offer to beat competitor rates

LightStream doesn’t advertise the most-competitive interest rates upfront, but its “Rate Beat” program promises to beat other lenders’ offers by .10 of a percentage point if the loan meets certain conditions. This means you can compare lenders and bring your best offer back to LightStream for a slightly better deal if approved.

Just keep in mind that the additional percentage off your rate doesn’t necessarily mean big savings. The more you borrow and the higher your loan rate, the more it can potentially save you. But it still may not add up to a lot. Here’s an example.

 

Competitor

LightStream

Loan amount $20,000 $20,000
Competitor interest rate 6% 5.9%
Loan term 5 years 5 years
Total cost of loan $23,199 $23,144
Savings $55

Other banks or credit unions may offer bigger rate discounts to customers who qualify or meet special conditions.

Potential for quick funding

If you’re approved for a LightStream loan, you may be able to receive your loan funds the same business day you apply. LightStream deposits the money directly into your bank account, so you can make an offer on a car as a “cash” buyer. This means you may have the opportunity to negotiate for a better purchase price.

No loan preapprovals

Many lenders will give you the opportunity to be preapproved for a loan before you accept a final offer. Preapproval gives you an idea of how much money you’ll be able to borrow, what your interest rate might be and other terms of your loan. This information may allow you to compare offers and negotiate. Just remember that these are only estimates — you’ll have to officially apply to finalize your rate and other terms.

With LightStream, the only way to get an offer is to submit an application for a car loan, which will trigger a hard credit inquiry by LightStream. If you don’t like the offer, you can choose not to accept the loan, but the credit inquiry could still cost your credit scores a few points.

A closer look at LightStream auto loans

Here are some other LightStream auto loan features to consider as you compare them to other lenders.

  • Fixed-rate loans only: Variable rate loans aren’t available. And LightStream only offers its Rate Beat program on fixed-rate loans from other lenders.
  • Rate quotes include an AutoPay discount: If you opt out of auto pay for your monthly payments, your rate will be .50% higher.
  • $100 loan experience guarantee: If you receive a loan and you’re not completely satisfied with the process, fill out a survey within 30 days of receiving your loan and LightStream will send you $100.
  • A tree planted for every loan: LightStream has planted more than 1,500 acres of trees: one tree for each loan. The lender also offers “virtually paperless” loan processing and services.

Is a LightStream auto loan right for you?

LightStream targets people with solid credit and gives the best rates and terms to those who fit that profile. People with the strongest credit may even be approved for an unsecured loan.

Lenders can define excellent credit in different ways. LightStream says its customers usually have …

  • Several years of credit history
  • A mixture of installment loans and credit cards
  • A record of on-time payments
  • The ability to save money
  • A stable income

LightStream offers its lowest rates for new and used cars when you borrow between $10,000 and $24,999.

If you’re looking for a used car or a different amount of financing, you may still be able to get a good rate through LightStream’s Rate Beat program, but you’ll have to do the extra work to shop around and bring back your offer from another lender.

How to apply for a loan from LightStream

You can apply online for a LightStream auto loan.

If you’re approved, you’re required to have a MasterCard or Visa credit card for verification purposes, but your card won’t be charged. You’ll then have 30 days to submit your bank account information so that LightStream can transfer the loan funds into your account.

But before you apply for an auto loan with LightStream, it’s a good idea to check your credit and compare other loan offers. Understanding your credit can help set expectations — in general, lower credit scores will result in higher interest rates. And shopping around can help you find the best loan rate and terms for your needs. Read our article on how to get a car loan to learn more about the process.

Auto loan alternatives to consider

It’s worth considering another option if LightStream doesn’t seem like the best one for you. Here are two more to consider.

  • Capital One Auto Finance auto loan: Capital One Auto Finance could be great for someone who’s rebuilding their credit.
  • Alliant Credit Union auto loan: Alliant may be a good choice if you want to apply for a loan preapproval online or use the credit union’s car-buying service.