Consider a 5-year car loan that starts at 1.99%

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Some of the best car loan rates we've seen this year are from LightStream, the online consumer lending division of Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank.

LightStream is offering customers with excellent credit five-year car loans starting at 1.99% when they choose the automatic repayment option.

Compare that to the national average for auto loans, which is 4.14%, according to our national survey of lenders.

Rates start at 2.49% for borrowers who don't sign up for auto pay, which is still well below the national average.

Another thing that makes LightStream loans stand out is that they're unsecured, which means there is no lien required for your car. Your vehicle is not collateral for the loan.

If you borrow $18,000 at 1.99% APR for a five-year loan, the monthly payment is about $315.

Compare that to borrowing the same amount at the national average of 4.14% APR for five years. You’d pay $333 a month.

The lower rates from LightStream would save you $18 monthly, which adds up to $1,080 over the entire loan. You save over a grand by going with the better rate.

Loans are available nationwide and the application, approval and funding process is virtually paperless. You apply online at the LightStream website and can receive a response within minutes. There are no fees or prepayment penalties.

But to qualify for this financing, LightStream says you'll need a FICO credit score in the upper 700s to low 800s and at least five years of significant credit history.

To get the best rate, you also must allow LightStream to deduct the monthly payment from your checking account, which can be at any bank in the United States. You do not need to open a checking account with LightStream or SunTrust.

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If LightStream isn't a good fit, search our database of the best car loan rates from dozens of lenders in your area to find a deal that's right for you.

Use our auto loan calculator to work out the monthly payment regardless of how much you're borrowing or what the interest rate might be.

Having an idea of how much you’d pay for a loan at a bank or credit union means you can bargain better with a car dealer’s finance manager.

Either the dealer has to beat the loan terms, or you can go with LightStream for auto financing. Either way, you'll know you're getting a good deal.

If you’re shopping for a new auto, use our 5 simple steps to the best deal on a new car or truck. It can help you shop smarter and with confidence.