Credit Direct and LightStream are unlike most lenders. Instead of offering an auto loan secured by the vehicle you purchase, you can qualify for an unsecured personal loan to buy your next car.

Credit Direct is a loan marketplace that can help you find lenders that match your needs. This makes it ideal for funding vehicles that may not meet the minimum requirements set by other lenders and for borrowers who may not be able to qualify elsewhere.

LightStream car loans are designed for borrowers who have good to excellent credit. While it also offers personal loans with no restrictions on the vehicle you buy, you may be eligible for a rate discount and have better terms for refinancing a current loan when you work with LightStream.

Credit Direct vs. LightStream at a glance

Credit Direct offers a lower starting APR, but LightStream’s autopay discount and lower maximum rate may level the playing field.

Credit Direct

LightStream

Bankrate score 3.8 4.1
Better for
  • Smaller loans
  • Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit
  • Refinancing secured auto loans
  • Large vehicle purchases
Loans offered Personal loans for vehicle purchases Personal loans for vehicle purchases, auto loan refinance, lease buyouts
Loan amounts $1,000-$40,000 $5,000-$100,000
APRs 6.99%-29.99% 7.49%-16.19% with autopay
Loan term lengths 12-60 months 24-84 months
Fees Not specified None
Minimum credit score Not specified Not specified
State footprint 14 states All states
Time to funding 2-3 days 1 day
Autopay discount? Not specified 0.50%
Refinancing restrictions N/A Not specified

Credit Direct auto loans

Credit Direct does not offer traditional auto loans. Instead, you can use their personal loans to fund your car purchase. This allows you to buy a vehicle that other lenders might reject due to high mileage, low sale price or known damage.

Among personal loans, Credit Direct offers a standard product. However, you are limited to vehicles priced under $40,000. This may not be a deal breaker if you plan on buying an older used car or an inexpensive new car. But for used cars with recent model years or new trucks and SUVs, a loan from Credit Direct won’t cut it — average new car prices currently exceed $47,000.

Its limited state availability may also make it tricky for many borrowers to qualify. Overall, it may be worth checking your rate with Credit Direct. But you should consider more traditional financing options, including dealership financing, as well.

Pros

  • Credit direct charges no administration or origination fees
  • The advertised starting APR is competitive among both auto and personal lenders
  • No restrictions on what vehicle you can purchase

Cons

  • With a maximum amount of $40,000, these loans won’t let you fully fund most new vehicles
  • The maximum APR of nearly 30 percent exceeds what most rivals advertise
  • Credit Direct’s loans are available only in the following states: AL, AZ, AR, CA, FL, IA, LA, MD, MI, MO, NC, OK, PA, TX

LightStream auto loans

Unlike many fintech lenders owned by banks, LightStream does not offer secured auto loans. It also doesn’t offer prequalification, which means you will see a minor hit to your credit when you apply. While you’re rate-shopping, you should start with lenders that offer rate estimates with a soft credit check.

Despite that, LightStream is still a competitive option. Its loans start at $5,000, and you may be able to fund a vehicle worth up to $100,000. Very few personal loan lenders offer this much flexibility. And if you plan on refinancing your auto loan, LightStream is worth considering — other lenders may require you to borrow $7,500 or more to qualify.

It is also one of a few lenders that do not charge any fees, including late fees, on its loans. So, while you may face higher rates because the loan is unsecured, LightStream is a solid option for funding speed and total cost.

Pros

  • Same-day funding is available
  • LightStream offers a discount if you sign up for autopay
  • No administration or origination fees

Cons

  • While LightStream doesn’t specify a minimum credit score, you’ll need a healthy credit history and stable income to qualify
  • High minimum APR because loans are unsecured
  • No prequalification option, meaning you’ll take a credit hit to see your rates

How to choose between Credit Direct and LightStream

While both lenders offer personal loans for car purchases, they fill different needs. Credit Direct is a better choice for smaller loans, while LightStream is better for funding pricier vehicles or refinancing.

Choose Credit Direct for cheaper cars

Credit Direct is a good choice for smaller loans for unusual, older and discontinued vehicles. Because its loans are capped at $40,000, you will struggle to finance a more expensive vehicle. However, Credit Direct does not place restrictions on the vehicle you buy. You may be able to finance a car with a salvage title, vehicles older than a decade and other vehicles a traditional lender may be unwilling to finance.

You will need to be prepared for a higher interest rate, however. Credit Direct’s APR is not as high as some bad credit auto loans out there, but it can end up costing you hundreds more in interest than standard auto loans. Combined with its limited state availability, Credit Direct can help a select few borrowers — but it’s worth considering other options as well.

Choose LightStream if you want to refinance

LightStream has a higher starting APR than the average auto loan rates for new and used cars. But between its autopay rate discount and its APR cap, borrowers with good credit may still be able to snag a competitive rate. Those with excellent credit can likely find better rates elsewhere.

However, LightStream is the better option if you want to refinance your auto loan. Since it offers personal loans, you can stop using your vehicle as an asset and risking repossession. And since you can borrow as little as $5,000, it may be easier to refinance a loan you’re close to paying off than with a more traditional lender.

As with any refinancing — or new or used purchase, for that matter — calculate the cost and determine your potential savings. With no prequalification process, your credit score will dip after you submit an application, making it more difficult to check your rates with other lenders.

Compare more lenders before applying

Credit Direct and LightStream are both worth considering if you want to finance a nontraditional vehicle or want to avoid secured loans. But because neither offers the most competitive rates, you should compare more auto loans to see how these two lenders stack up against lenders that offer more traditional options.