Commercial Vehicles 2007

Auto Financing Programs

Like most entrepreneurs, you probably have little time for visiting dealerships one by one to find out about auto financing. Well, let your mouse sniff out the bargains, at least initially. Research on the internet is your swiftest tool when looking for the best lender deal to finance your commercial vehicles. Doing your homework by reading web-posted offerings from auto manufacturers, financial institutions, independent companies and specialized fleet service companies means you can start your search by shopping around for loans by computer. Navigating most of the sites is easier than ever, thanks to the advice, tips and links that sites now offer.

You can compare costs and values for new and used vehicles with the Kelley Blue Book and similar automotive informational guides. One of the most researched auto resources is www.autobytel.com , which offers tools to calculate your monthly loan payments, taking into account current rebates and insurance premium quotes. Even Google Finance has entered the automotive fleet business and compares leasing quotes for vehicle fleets from more than 700 financial institutions.

Chrysler/Dodge, Ford, GM, Nissan and Toyota offer various methods of funding your light truck fleets. Ford Credit's commercial lending services for both large and small fleet owners have flexible terms and rates. GM's financing and leasing division, GMAC, offers extended terms through its SmartLease plan, which allows you to pay for the portion of the vehicle you expect to use during the leasing period. Its SmartBuy program offers lower monthly payments with a balloon payment at the end of the lease, and the SmartEdge program offers different payment options, details on payment calculations and types of insurance coverage.

Check out www.nissanusa.com for a credit tutorial including credit laws, terminology and factors affecting your credit rating. When you're ready to buy or lease, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. helps make your decisions more affordable. DaimlerChrysler (which includes Dodge and Jeep) has launched its latest version of the Business Vehicle Finance program to customize packages for companies' car and truck needs, taking into account your balance sheets, tax liability and the intent and size of your business. GE Commercial Finance Fleet Services covers a wide spectrum of options, including ways to help you improve cash flow and spread costs out over time. It also adds daily fuel reporting to its web-based applications, My.Dashboard and My.Reports, to help clients pinpoint inefficiencies and monitor fuel prices.

Although auto manufacturers usually recommend financial institutions with auto-related services, you can also turn to independent financing services to lease or buy. OPEN from American Express comes to the rescue with a $100,000 term loan or line of credit with no collateral or required minimum balance. If you are already a business card member and have been in business for at least two years, you'll qualify for special rates.

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This article was originally published in the December 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ready to Roll.

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