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LightStream Auto Loan review

LightStream Auto loans are some of the best you can get, and the wealth of excellent customer reviews really support this.

LightStream Auto Loan review
(Image: © LightStream)

Our Verdict

LightStream Auto Loans come in all shapes and sizes, so you'll find a good fit for you. Not the cheapest, not the most expensive, but one of the best services around.

For

  • Digital application process and fast results
  • No prepayment penalties

Against

  • Upfront credit check that will affect your rating
  • Rigid credit and approval requirements

LightStream Auto Loans come from a division of SunTrust Bank, a company that has been in business for more than 100 years and has a solid reputation and customer base. The rates on offer from LightStream are not as good as those of some of its competitors, but it does offer an uncomplicated, accessible and streamlined online application process. LightStream itself is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but SunTrust Bank has been since 1966 and currently has an A+ rating. It’s a reliable choice for customers who have great credit scores and want a safe bet for their investments. It's our current top pick of the best auto loans.

LightStream has its feet firmly planted in traditional banking foundations which makes it a bit more expensive than its credit union or online finance counterparts. That said, its APR of 3.99% isn’t shabby compared with some other offerings, and its application process is simple and straightforward. 

LightStream offers you quite a few different auto loan options which means that you can, if you’re prepared to take on the APR (in some cases this is heavily affected by your loan terms and your choice of vehicle), buy pretty much anything you want. 

The options include: auto lease buyout, purchase from a dealer, purchase from an individual, new vehicle, vehicle refinance, RV/boat/aircraft, and motorcycle. The loan amounts vary from $5,000 to $100,000 and the rates go as high as 8.34%, dependent on loan amount and length of term.

LightStream Auto Loans review: How the process works

Key specs

Application process: Entirely online 
APR: From 3.99% with AutoPay dependent on loan amount and terms
Fees: None
Loan terms: New vehicle, used vehicle, vehicle refinance, used vehicle 10-15 years, up to 84 months payment terms, no prepayment penalties

  • Fast and efficient online application process
  • Plenty of information along the way
  • Limited loan options for poor credit ratings

From the outset LightStream emphasizes the importance of a good credit rating, sufficient income and assets. You won’t get far if these boxes aren’t ticked as you will end up with a higher rate, or you may be rejected. 

The application process through LightStream will also affect your credit score so it’s advisable you don’t do so unless you’re confident of your rating. 

The entire process is managed online and this is where LightStream stands out compared to some of its competitors, such as Alliant Credit Union Auto Loans. Every page is filled with information, guidance points and important tips so you can make informed choices and get the right results. The company offers a discount if you use AutoPay – rates without AutoPay are 0.50 percent higher - which is great for long-term savings, but you need to ensure you select this option right at the start or you won’t be eligible. 

LightStream’s application process is also really fast, you could even find yourself finalizing the entire purchase within a day. You don’t need a down payment to get started and, if you had a poor experience during your loan application process, the company will send you $100 as part of a loan experience guarantee. 

If your loan is successful, the funds can be deposited directly into your account so you can pay cash to the dealer or the individual seller immediately. It’s worth noting that LightStream has also made an effort to optimize the application process for mobile devices which means you can apply from your smartphone, your tablet and your PC.

LightStream Auto Loans review: Ease of use and customer reviews

  • Mixed customer reviews
  • Simple and accessible platform 

The LightStream platform is very easy to use with plenty of information and insight into how the application process works. There is a lot of fine print, it is a bank after all, but it’s worth reading to ensure that you tick the boxes and get the discounts. It isn't as supportive as the likes of U.S. Bank Auto Loans, which is more expensive but offers a full-banking service. But the rates are lower here.

The company makes it very clear from the outset that a great credit rating is one that shall be rewarded and what you need to get your discounts and competitive rates. LightStream even commits to beating any qualifying rate at 0.10 percentage points lower than those offered by a competing lender, but only if you offer sufficient evidence.

There aren’t many reviews that directly mention LightStream, most of them are around SunTrust Bank which is the parent company but they do mention the auto loans division. These reviews are varied, some are from very unhappy customers on Yelp and BBB that have had bad experiences while others on ConsumerAffairs have been mostly positive. It’s a mixed bag, but overall tends to be more positive.

LightStream Auto Loans could help you get a new car with ease

LightStream Auto Loans could help you get a new car with ease. (Image credit: LJ.com)

LightStream Auto Loans review: Is it transparent, accessible and usable?

  • Online calculator to instantly assess rates
  • Difficult to find information about fees

While LightStream has made an effort to provide as much information about the auto loans process and rates as possible, there are still some blank spots. One of these is the lack of any phone number. If you have an issue, you’re going to have to chat using email which can be frustrating and slow. Someone like Capital One Auto Loans offers better customer service.

The site has zero contact options on the landing page and the site map doesn’t help much either, you’re pretty much on your own once you’ve started the process. 

You can use the FAQ pages, which are really well designed and packed with information, or you’ll have to wait for a response from the customer service team when they get to your mail. The application and loan process is transparent, the platform easy to use and understand, and the overall experience is positive. 

Should you choose a LightStream Auto Loan?

LightStream auto loans are a solid choice for the customer with a great credit rating, who’s comfortable with managing everything online and who is absolutely fine with zero personal contact from start to loan finish. 

While the SunTrust Bank affiliation does provide a measure of accountability and security, the lack of contact with a human being isn’t great, especially if something goes wrong. That said, the company has made an effort to provide competitive rates, to flesh out its offering with extra discounts and services, and to bolster its site with tons of useful information.