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LightStream: 2024 auto loan review

2024-04-15 07:00:00

At a glance

4.1
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5

Bankrate Score

  • Availability
    Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
  • Affordability
    Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5
  • Customer Experience
    Rating: 4.4 stars out of 5
  • Transparency
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5
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About LightStream

  • Moneybag

    Loan amount

    $5,000 to $100,000

  • Credit Good

    Min. credit score

    Not specified

  • Rates

    APR from

    7.24%* with autopay

  • Funds available in

    As soon as the day you apply

LightStream auto loans are best for fast funding

LightStream provides unsecured personal loans that can be used to purchase a vehicle. The lender doesn’t interface with the auto’s seller. Instead, the money is sent directly to your bank account. That lack of extra steps and paperwork means that LightStream can fund loans with lightning speed — even as soon as the day you apply. That’s faster than the majority of its competitors.

LightStream pros and cons

LightStream offers long-term loans and quick funding, but there are some key drawbacks, like not having the option to prequalify.

PROS

  • Checkmark

    Good user experience

  • Checkmark

    Fast funding timeline

  • Checkmark

    Loan terms up to 84 months

CONS

  • Close X

    High minimum interest rate

  • Close X

    Standard acceptance criteria

  • Close X

    No prequalification

LightStream is an online lender offering unsecured auto loans for new and used car purchases. It also offers auto loan refinancing and lease buyouts. Each option can be funded the same day you apply.

Because LightStream’s auto loans are unsecured, your car is not used as collateral. Its rates are close to average for personal loan lenders but start higher than you typically see for auto loans. LightStream’s minimum rate for new cars is 7.49 percent, which compares unfavorably to the national average auto loan interest rate of 7.18 percent.

Do you qualify?

LightStream only lends to borrowers with good to excellent credit. The FICO scoring model, popular among lenders, defines a good score as 670 or higher. (LightStream may have a proprietary definition.) You should also have:

  • Several years of credit history.
  • A variety of account types.
  • Good payment history.
  • A proven ability to save.
  • Stable income.

LightStream versus Credit Direct

Credit Direct is a loan marketplace that connects borrowers with unsecured loans. Its loans range from $1,000 to $40,000, meaning this lender may be a better choice for borrowers hoping to finance an inexpensive vehicle. However, it serves only 14 states and doesn't offer refinance and lease buyout loans. Of the two, LightStream is likely to be the more accessible option for many buyers.

See our LightStream vs. CreditDirect guide

LightStream vs. PNC Bank

PNC Bank has a large network of branches. People who don’t like LightStream’s fully online approach may prefer PNC’s in-person interactions. It also offers the unique Total Auto program, which helps with searching for vehicles in your area and comparing prices. However, LightStream offers lower minimum loan amounts and may have lower rates for borrowers with less than perfect credit. See our full LightStream vs. PNC Bank breakdown for more help deciding.

See our LightStream vs. PNC Bank guide

What we like and what we don’t like

When comparing auto loan lenders like those from LightStream, it’s smart to consider both the benefits and drawbacks. 

What we like

  • Good user experience: LightStream operates entirely online, and its website is simple and easy to navigate. The application is quick and can be completed using a phone, tablet or computer.
  • Fast funding timeline: You can receive funding as soon as the day that you apply for a loan with LightStream, and the funds are deposited directly into your bank account.
  • Loan terms up to 84 months: You can apply for repayment terms from 24 months to 84 months, which gives you more flexibility in finding an affordable monthly payment.

What we don’t like

  • High minimum interest rate: LightStream’s auto loan is an unsecured personal loan, so you don’t use your vehicle as collateral. Due to the increased risk to the lender, this translates to a higher starter interest rate than competitors offer.
  • Standard acceptance criteria: Some auto lenders are moving away from solely relying on your credit score for lending decisions. But LightStream requires a good or better credit score.
  • No prequalification: When you submit your application with LightStream, you’ll go through a hard credit check. Unlike with other lenders, there’s no way to check your rate and eligibility beforehand.

How to contact LightStream 

LightStream offers customer assistance via an online form but does not have a phone number for general queries. Business hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET and Saturday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. Information regarding your application or loan can be found 24/7 on LightStream’s website or app.

Auto loan types offered

LightStream offers auto loans for new and used vehicles. It also offers loans for refinancing and for buying out your lease.

New and used auto loans

  • Amounts: $5,000-$100,000
  • Terms: 24-84 months
  • APR: 7.24%-15.19% with autopay

LightStream’s auto loans are unsecured, so their rates start higher than those of many auto loan competitors. You may be able to score a lower rate with a bank, but LightStream may still be a better option than dealership financing. That’s especially true if you’re concerned about defaulting on the loan. And with terms of up to 84 months, you should be able to find a payment plan that works for your budget.

These loans can also be used to purchase from a private seller, with rates from 7.74 percent.

Refinance

  • Amounts: $5,000-$100,000
  • Terms: 24-84 months
  • APR: 7.49%-15.44% with autopay

LightStream’s refinance option has a lower starting amount than many banks — which makes it good if you are near the end of your current loan. However, the starting APR is high. So if you financed your car when rates were lower, you may want to hold off on refinancing unless you need a longer payment term. In that case, LightStream’s 84-month term could be useful, but it will end up costing you more in interest.

Make sure to explore our other lenders to secure the best car refinance rates.

Lease buyout

  • Amounts: $5,000-$100,000
  • Terms: 24-84 months
  • APR: 7.49%-15.44% with autopay

As with LightStream’s new and used auto loans and refinancing program, you will have flexible loan terms and the ability to finance a large amount, which can be handy if you leased a more expensive model.

LightStream is one of the more competitive options when it comes to buying out your lease, especially since many banks and other online lenders don’t offer it. Like with its new and used auto loans and refinancing program, you will have flexible loan terms and the ability to finance a large amount, which can be handy if you leased a more expensive model.

How to apply for a loan with LightStream

You can apply for a loan with LightStream on its website. You may need to provide identifying documents after completing your application. If you apply within business hours, you could receive a response, sign your loan documents electronically and receive funding within the same day.

Features and additional perks

LightStream offers the Rate Beat program. If you can get approved for an unsecured loan from another lender at a lower interest rate than LightStream offers, LightStream will lower its offer to 0.10 percent below your best offer. That can help you save money if you take the time to shop around.

Additionally, LightStream boasts a 0.50 percent rate discount if you enable autopay.

Fees and penalties

LightStream states upfront that it does not charge any fees on its loans, so you need not worry about costs such as origination fees or prepayment penalties.

LightStream FAQs

How Bankrate rates LightStream

Overall score 4.1
Availability 4.8 LightStream offers a wide range of loan amounts and repayment terms.
Affordability 4.3 LightStream’s rates start high, and it does not disclose its eligibility requirements.
Customer experience 4.4 LightStream stands out for its fast funding timeline, but it does not have customer support via phone, and its support hours are limited.
Transparency 3 Fees are listed on its website, but LightStream does not offer prequalification.

Methodology

The Bankrate team assessed more than 35 auto lenders to find the best. Bankrate considered 18 criteria, such as acceptance criteria, loan amounts and APR range. These scores are broken into four categories.

  • Availability: Loan amounts, repayment options, dealership requirements and state availability all contribute to this category. Lenders that serve customers nationwide with flexible loan amounts rank higher.
  • Affordability: This section houses APR ranges, acceptance criteria, fees and discounts. Lenders with the lowest rates, fewer fees and most generous acceptance criteria receive higher scores.
  • Customer experience: Our team looked at how easy it is for customers to apply for and manage their loans. Criteria include how long you have to shop, customer service hours, whether there’s an app and autopay availability.
  • Transparency: This includes prequalification and disclosure of rates and fees. We favored lenders that make it easy for customers to preview possible costs

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.

Written by
Rebecca Betterton
Writer, Auto Loans and Personal Loans

Rebecca Betterton, a Certified Financial Education Instructor℠, is a writer for Bankrate who has been reporting on auto loans since 2021.

Edited by Editor, Personal and Auto Loans