Comparison is important when considering an online lender versus a bank loan. While both LightStream and PNC Bank provide new auto loans and refinance options, the road is quite different. Working with an online lender means you can secure financing from the comfort of your home, while banks may ask you to come in person but can boast more support.

LightStream, an unsecured personal loan lender, and PNC Bank are excellent options for starting your shopping journey. LightStream is best for fast funding, while PNC Bank is a good fit for those requiring in-person support.

LightStream vs. PNC Bank at a glance


PNC Bank

Bankrate score 4.1 4.2
Better for 
  • Financing your vehicle from the comfort of your home
  • Borrowers with a strong credit history
  • Buyers looking to buy at a dealership
  • In-person customer service
Loans offered New, used, refinance auto loans, lease buyout New, used, refinance auto loans, lease buyout
Loan amounts $5,000-$100,000 $7,500-$100,000
APRs 7.49%-15.69% with autopay Not specified
Loan term lengths 24-84 months 12-72 months
Fees None Not specified
Minimum credit score Not specified Not specified
State footprint All states 29 states
Time to funding As soon as the day you apply As soon as one day
Autopay discount? Yes, 0.50% Yes, 0.25%
Refinancing restrictions None Vehicle must be less than eight years old, under 80,000 miles (depending on credit score)

LightStream auto loans

Unlike PNC Bank, LightStream offers its borrowers unsecured loans to purchase a vehicle. This means that the lender does not communicate with the vehicle’s seller and instead gives the money directly to the borrower. This expedites the process, leading to quicker funding.

The unsecured loan structure means slightly higher rates for borrowers. Typically, your vehicle is used as collateral, which protects the lender against losses. Without that added security, LightStream enforces higher-than-average minimum auto loan rates of 7.49 percent.

LightStream’s lengthy loan terms may help lower your monthly payment even with higher rates.


  • Range of loan terms: The larger the loan term range available, the more flexible borrowers have. Drivers can finance for as little as 24 months or as long as 84.
  • No refinance restrictions: The lender does not enforce any restrictions on vehicle age or mileage to refinance.
  • Rate Beat program: If you get approved for a better interest rate from another lender offering unsecured loans, LightStream will lower its offer to be 0.10 percent below that rate.


  • High minimum interest rate: A starting APR (annual percentage rate) of 7.49 percent is on the higher end.
  • No prequalification: The prequalification process gives you a firm idea of expected rates without a hard credit check, a perk LightStream does not offer.   
  • High minimum loan amount: Borrowers must finance at least $5,000 when working with LightStream. This makes it a less-than-perfect option for those requiring only a small amount of assistance. However, LightStream’s minimum loan amount is lower than PNC’s minimum of $7,500.

PNC Bank auto loans

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, PNC Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the country. It serves consumers online or in person for their vehicle financing needs. It stands up against LightStream for its car-buying service and competitive rates.

Like most lenders, PNC offers secured auto loans, which typically translates to a lower APR. However, PNC doesn’t share its range of rates online.

On top of that, PNC only lets you extend your loan term up to 72 months.


  • Total Auto program: The PNC Total Auto program assists borrowers in shopping and financing their next vehicle.
  • Account-holder discounts: Those with a PNC account who sign off on automatic payments can benefit from a 0.25 percent APR discount.
  • Large footprint: Perfect for those who prefer in-person support, PNC has about 2,600 branches in 29 states. However, you must live in one of those states to get an auto loan from PNC Bank.


  • Refinancing restrictions: Vehicles must be under eight years old and have under 80,000 miles to refinance. Most lenders set the thresholds higher — at 10 years and 100,000 miles.
  • Funding delivered via check: Unlike many lenders that send funding via direct deposit, PNC funding is mailed as a check.
  • Dealership requirement: Borrowers getting a check-ready loan must work with one of the Bank’s franchise dealers.

How to choose between LightStream and PNC Bank

LightStream and PNC Bank are solid options for purchasing a new or used vehicle, refinancing or buying out your leased vehicle. Outside of comparing available interest rates, it is best to consider what experience you most prefer. If you feel comfortable navigating finances online and are confident in what loan term fits your needs, LightStream is a good route. If you are more hesitant about financing and need extra support, PNC Bank will provide a much better experience.

Choose LightStream for fast funding

Fast funding is a perk when buying a vehicle, as it expedites getting behind the wheel of your new ride. But a quick payment timeline is even more important when refinancing.

Many borrowers choose to refinance their loans if the monthly payment is too steep. Fast funding could help you avoid missing a payment. LightStream funds are available as soon as the day you apply, and all paperwork can be signed electronically, taking you one step closer to an improved loan.

LightStream sends your payment directly to your account, while PNC Bank will overnight you a check or let you pick up the check at a branch.

Choose PNC Bank for in-person support

While the ease of online funding is helpful for the tech-savvy borrower, many prefer the comfort of in-person support. PNC Bank has branches nationwide where borrowers can apply, adjust or ask questions regarding their loans.

PNC also boasts the best of both worlds regarding customer service. Borrowers can begin their application online and head to a brick-and-mortar location if additional help is required. Customer care consultants are available daily on the bank app or site for simple questions.

Compare more lenders before applying

Traditional banks and online lenders have pluses and minuses. PNC Bank is a great option for those requiring in-person support, while LightStream can provide fast funding. But finding the perfect loan for your needs requires comparison past just two lenders, especially if you have bad credit.