Auto Loans

Lightstream Auto Loan Review

According to LendingTree data, Lightstream is one of the best auto lenders out there. It’s particularly competitive for borrowers who have excellent credit, and if you can find a better rate elsewhere, Lightstream has a policy that it will match or beat that rate.

Here’s a breakdown of the Lightstream auto loan so you can decide if it’s right for you.

What is Lightstream?
Lightstream financing: At a glance
A closer look at Lightstream auto loans
The fine print
How to apply for financing

What is Lightstream?

Lightstream, a online lending division of SunTrust Bank based in Atlanta, Ga., offers consumer loans as well as auto loans. Lightstream finances everything from cars to swimming pools and is completely online. It does a relatively small amount of auto lending compared to other financial companies like Ally, but it focuses on the prime borrower market — that is, borrowers with good credit. Lightstream looks for borrowers with credit scores of 660 and above.

In the auto loan realm, Lightstream offers financing and refinancing for almost anything with an engine: new and used cars, classic cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs and aircraft. It also offers private buyer financing (if you don’t get your used from a dealer) and lease buyouts.

Lightstream financing: At a glance

For all of Lightstream’s auto loans, you have to have a minimum of $5,000 to finance and a maximum of $100,000, a pretty wide range. Depending on how much you borrow, terms range from 24 to 84 months.

These are the starting APRs for all the auto loans Lightstream offers*:

  • New car auto loan: Starting at 3.49%
  • Used car auto loan (purchased from a dealer): Starting at 3.49%
  • Used car auto loan (purchased from a private seller): Starting at 4.99%**
  • Refinance: Starting at 3.49%
  • Lease buyout: Starting at 4.99%**
  • Motorcycle: Starting at 4.69%**
  • Boat / RV / Aircraft purchase or refinance: Starting at 4.29%**
  • Classic car auto loan: Starting at 3.09%**

*To qualify for these APRs, you’ll have to have excellent credit and make payments with autopay. If you chose to do traditional invoicing instead of autopay, your rate will go up 0.5%. **Rates as of 1/14/2019.

A closer look at Lightstream auto loans

Here are some pros and cons. Be sure to consider them and look at other lenders to compare and find what’s best for you.

Highlights of the Lightstream auto loan

  • In a recent data analysis by LendingTree, we found Lightstream offered the lowest average APR to and was chosen most often by people with a high credit score (680+).
  • It has a rate beat program will beat any qualified rate from another lender by 0.10 percentage points.
  • There are no fees or prepayment penalties.
  • Same-day funding is available (conditions apply).

Lowlights of the Lightstream auto financing

  • It doesn’t offer financing to people with fair to poor credit.
  • It prefers borrowers with low debt to income ratios.

The fine print

To qualify for an auto loan with Lightstream, you’ll have to have a history of fiscal responsibility — good to excellent credit, good income and some assets built up.

  • You must have a credit score above 660.
  • You should have an established credit history. Lightstream wants to see that you’ve had debt before and you’ve paid on it responsibly.
  • You have to have income enough that you’ll be able to pay back the loan comfortably, on top of any other obligations, such as rent or mortgage.
  • You should have some assets, such as a savings account, retirement savings or equity in a home or car.

How to apply for financing

If you decided you’d like to take Lightstream for a test drive, go to the Lightstream website and click to apply. Here’s what it’ll ask you to input:

  • What type of loan you want (new versus used auto loan, for example), the amount you want and how long of a term you’d like.
  • Personal information including your address, social security number and the last four digits of your driver’s license.
  • Employment, income and asset information, including how much you have in bank deposits, stocks and bonds, and retirement assets.

Shop around for an auto loan and see what multiple places advertise. If you use LendingTree, you might see up to five loan offers or prequalifications by filling out only one form.

Bottom line: who is Lightstream best for?

Lightstream is best for people who match the following criteria. Whether you meet these or not, though, you should check out other lenders in addition to Lightstream. See what your local credit union offers, look at other auto loan reviews and don’t be afraid to take lenders for a test drive within that two week period.

If you have good credit history. You’ve shown that you have taken out loans before and paid them back on time. The first factor indicates other lenders have trusted you, which makes new lenders more likely to do the same. The second indicates you’re going to pay back future loans on time, too. Overall, lenders take this to mean that it’s not very risky to lend you money, so they’re more willing to do so and at a lower APR for you.

If you have a low debt-to-income ratio. This means you make enough money to cover what you have to pay. This is measured on a monthly basis. So if your rent, insurance and credit card payment add up to $800 a month and you make $2000 a month, your debt-to-income ratio is 40%. The lower this number is, the more capable you are of paying back a loan and the more lenders are generally willing to give you a good loan offer.

If you have a good set of assets, such as a savings account and retirement account with a few thousand dollars saved, it shows you’re more responsible. If you saved money for a rainy day, the lender doesn’t have to worry so much about getting paid when you do have a rainy day. For example, if  you have a large medical expense one month that you didn’t expect, you’ll still be able to pay your car loan that month because you saved money.

If you have a good to excellent credit score (680+), it usually means you have recent or current loans that you’ve been paying back well. And if you’ve made paying your debts a habit, you’re likely to keep up that habit, which lenders see as being a good thing. (You can check your credit score for free here.)


Disclaimer: This piece may contain links to MagnifyMoney, a subsidiary of LendingTree.


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