LightStream has the breadth of loan solutions to cater for almost any borrowing need, but it is as a provider of some of the best auto loans that it really stands out. As the online lending division of SunTrust Bank, LightStream has the support of one of America's leading financial services companies. A "revolutionary loan experience" is its pledge, but it is the solid reputation that LightStream enjoys that probably serves it best, particularly when it comes to auto loans. The combination of traditional banking foundations it has inherited from SunTrust and its embracing of technology means LightStream can deliver the best of both worlds to those searching for the cheapest auto loan rates.
LightStream Auto Loans review: Eligibility
- "Good credit" rating
- Personal banking account
LightStream emphasizes the importance of a good credit rating and sufficient income and assets from the outset. You may be rejected if these boxes aren’t ticked, or end up with a higher rate.
To be adjudged to have “good credit”, LightStream says you will likely need several years of credit history, as evidenced by credit card borrowing, installment debt and mortgage borrowing. A good payment history mainly clear of delinquencies and repayment issues, a tendency to save, and “stable and sufficient" income and assets are all also singled out as preferred characteristics.
Anyone wanting an auto loan must also have a personal banking account for paying money into and out of.
LightStream Auto Loans review: Application process
Application process: Entirely online
APR: From 3.49% with AutoPay, dependent on loan amount and terms
Fees: None, and no prepayment penalties
Loan terms: 24 - 84 months
- Fast online application
- No pre-approval
The entire auto loan application process is managed online and this is where LightStream really shines. Every page is filled with information, guidance points and important tips so you can make informed choices and get the right results.
The application process is also really fast, and you could even find yourself finalizing the entire purchase within a day. 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. However, LightStream will not accept information being relayed to it over the phone, by fax or email; if you need support with your application, there is an online form - and there is no contact phone number on the site.
Importantly, there is no loan pre-approval when taking out an auto loan with LightStream, meaning your credit score will always be impacted as a result of the hard inquiry that the company will pull.
LightStream Auto Loans review: Essential details
- Discount for using AutoPay
- Guarantees to beat competitor rates
LightStream offers auto loans ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, with borrowing allowed over terms of between 24 and 84 months. With regard to rates, new car loans are available from as low as 3.49% APR, but what you pay will ultimately depend on the amount you borrow, the term over which you repay, and your credit rating.
Very helpfully, there is a table that displays the range of APRs you can expect to be charged in different scenarios. Furthermore, the company bestows a 0.5% discount if you use its AutoPay feature, and commits to offering a rate 0.1% lower than that available through a competing lender, if you can supply sufficient evidence. In respect of fees, there are none. You can also pay your loan off early without penalty.
In terms of features, using AutoPay really is a must given the rate discount it awards. As it also means your payment will go directly to LightStream from your bank account, it seems a sensible option to adopt any way.
LightStream Auto Loans review: Service
- $100 satisfaction guarantee
- Option for automatic payments
While LightStream provides as much information about the auto loans process and rates as possible, there's the occasional cause for frustration. One such issue is the lack of a phone number, meaning if you have a problem, you’re going to have to chat using email, which can be frustrating and slow. Hopefully, you'll find the solution first in the FAQ pages, which are really well designed and packed with information.
LightStream itself is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but SunTrust Bank has been since 1966 and currently has an A+ rating. If you do have a poor experience during your loan application process, LightStream also promises to send you $100 as part of a loan experience guarantee.
Should you choose a LightStream Auto Loan?
LightStream auto loans are a great choice if you have a good credit rating and are comfortable with managing everything online. There is a welcome transparency about the rates you can expect to pay, along with the 'rate beat' guarantee and discount for using AutoPay. There are no fees to worry about either.
On the downside, the inability to speak to someone if you need support will deter some, but if you're searching for the best auto loans and want a slick and straightforward online platform through which to do it, LightStream is very hard to beat.