Show Me the Money!

Financing options can make van buyers good to go

by Alyssa Quintero on July 1, 2006 - 9:00pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 4

Without a doubt, purchasing a modified vehicle is a huge financial commitment. Added to a pile of medical costs related to your neuromuscular disease, buying a vehicle poses a major financing challenge.

In addition to the actual price of a new or used van, the conversion can cost $12,000 or more. So you ask: “How can I possibly pay for all of this?”

Fortunately, you may have more options than you realize in finding the funds for your new vehicle.

Extended-term financing

Mobility by Volvo’s reimbursement program offers buyers up to $1,000 toward the cost of installing adaptive equipment in a new 2005 or 2006 model, including the Volvo XC90 pictured here.

Traditional vehicle financing means taking out a loan to cover the price of a vehicle and the modifications, and signing an agreement to make monthly payments on the loan’s principal and interest over a specified period. The purchaser, the vendor and the lender, usually a bank or other financial institution, agree upon the terms of the loan.

Extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, lets you make monthly payments lower than those on more typical five- or six-year loans.

“The best option for retail clients is to have long-term loans with low interest rates,” said Oliver Ramaker, director of business development for Liberty Motor Co., which sells converted vehicles to consumers.

For example, Access & Mobility Finance, based in Lafayette, Calif., offers financing nationwide for up to 10 years for new and used modified vehicles. Tom Matson, the company’s founder and president, offers fixed rates, no prepayment penalties and no minimum finance charges.

Like many accessible vehicle dealers, Ramaker said, “We’ve had very good success with his [Matson’s] company in the past, even with people who have a poor credit rating because of their medical expenses.” The company, which has provided loans for assistive technology for eight years, will refinance a client’s loan at a lower rate when his or her credit rating improves.

“We work hard to try to help everybody,” Matson said. “We work closely with the consumer and the [mobility] dealer to create a loan package that will fit into their budget.”

Larry Finman, owner of Special-Needs Vehicles — Adapt Mobility of Tucson, Ariz., has been equally im-pressed with Access & Mobility’s flexibility because it finances the overall cost of the vehicle and mobility equipment. Some lending institutions only lend against the vehicle’s chassis.

Matson urges consumers to go through an established dealer that belongs to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), in order to get “the appropriate product for their circumstances.” For more about NMEDA, see “Eye on the Industry.”

While 10-year financing reduces your monthly payment, Matson cautions consumers that an extended term means “you’re going to be paying for that vehicle a long time. So you need to take care of it, and try to pay it off early to reduce the amount of interest you pay.”

Mike Harris, president of Rollx Vans, said that longer financing terms are becoming more popular in the auto industry (see “Resources for Modified Vehicles”).

For example, Ford’s Mobility Motoring Program offers extended-term financing for new, modified vehicles, with the loan period determined by the vehicle’s price. For those who qualify, Ford offers a nine-year term for a vehicle that exceeds $40,000.

Harris noted that extended-term financing “can lower your monthly payment by as much as $200,” though you’ll pay more interest in the long run.

Tech loans

Freedom Motors offers the Honda Element X-WAV, which is available with either a passenger-side or driver-side conversion for wheelchair users who want to drive. Consumers can choose an automatic remote-controlled door or a manual, spring-assisted system for the side-entry ramp.

Along similar lines, the federal/state Alternative Financing Program (AFP) grants low-interest loans to people with disabilities, their parents, relatives or advocates in order to purchase assistive technology or services, including big-ticket items like adapted vehicles. AFPs operate in 33 states and U.S. territories (see “Resources for Modified Vehicles”).

AFP loans feature low interest rates, loan guarantees, extended repayment periods, support services to keep payments current, and the opportunity to build credit or improve a low credit rating.

Many AFPs make allowances for bad credit, especially if the credit issues are related to a person’s disability. People who don’t qualify for traditional bank loans may find AFPs more receptive to their applications.

Used vehicles

Another way to reduce the overall cost of a van is by buying a one- or two-year-old used (“pre-owned”) vehicle with a new modification. Finman urges consumers to focus on vehicles that have less than 30,000 miles and are no more than two or three years old.

Stephen Estes, sales manager for Nor-Cal Mobility in Chico, Calif., said that purchasing a used year-old van with a new conversion can cut the cost by $4,000 or $5,000. Or, you can get a quality, used van with a used conversion by working with the NMEDA QAP dealer in your area.


Rather than buying a van, consider leasing or renting (see “Van Rentals”).

Caraleasing, a nationwide company co-owned by Caral and Hal Masback in White Plains, N.Y., offers three- to seven-year leases for new wheelchair-accessible vans and other terms for used vans. You choose the vehicle and the conversion, and Caraleasing will custom-build your lease.

“Leasing will always be less expensive than financing,” Caral Masback explained. “When you finance a vehicle, you pay for the entire life of the car. When you lease it, you pay for what you use.”

At the end of a lease, you have a purchase option or you can return the vehicle to the dealer. Clients also can buy the vehicle at any point during the lease.

Caraleasing’s terms cover the cost of the vehicle and the conversion, but not all leasing companies include the cost of the adaptive equipment.

Masback said that the company takes an individual’s poor credit rating into consideration, especially when it’s affected by mounting medical costs related to a disability. “We really work hard to get people into a vehicle that’s going to be within their means,” she said.

Additionally, the company offers a special five-year lease that can be canceled if you no longer need the van. The arrangement requires a down payment of $2,000 and at least 15 payments.

If the vehicle is returned before the five years are up, you pay an early cancellation charge equal to five months’ payments.

Rollx Vans has an extensive inventory of new and used minivans and full-size vans, including the Chrysler Town & Country, the Dodge Grand Caravan (pictured) and the Ford E-250. The Rollx conversion is offered with either a standard folding ramp (pictured) or an in-floor ramp that lifts the wheelchair and user.

“We’ve had a number of people take advantage of the early cancellation program, and it saves them thousands,” Masback said.

Reimbursement programs

Through their mobility programs, some major car manufacturers offer reimbursement for the installation of adaptive equipment when you buy or lease a new vehicle.

For example, Daimler-Chrysler’s Automobility program will provide a maximum $1,000 reimbursement for conversions made to new Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Town & Country models.

Consumers can receive up to $1,000 reimbursements for vehicle conversions from Acura, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Lexus, Saturn, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Some programs, like Mobility by Volvo, cover the cost of transferring mobility equipment from an old vehicle to a new one.

If you’d like to receive a mobility reimbursement on a leased vehicle, most carmakers advise that you receive written permission from the leasing company.


“Determined to Drive,” March-April 2004
“Funding Freedom,” May-June 2006
“Safety in Your Chair Means Safety on the Road,” March-April 2004
“When Your Plan is a Van,” March-April 2004

Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED)
(800) 290-2344

National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA)
(Quality Assurance Program)
(800) 833-0427

Access & Mobility Finance
(925) 299-1039

Burhill Financial Services
(866) 521-0083

(800) 995-9123

Acura Mobility Program
(800) 382-2238

DaimlerChrysler Automobility
(800) 255-9877

Ford Mobility Motoring
(800) 952-2248

General Motors Mobility
(800) 323-9935

Honda Mobility Assistance Program
(800) 999-1009

Lexus Mobility
(800) 255-3987

Mobility by Volvo
(800) 803-5222

Toyota Mobility
(800) 331-4331

(800) 374-8389

Access Vans of Louisiana
(225) 648-3100

AMS Vans
(800) 775-8267

(800) 470-7067

(800) 843-5438


Bruno Independent Living Aids
(800) 882-8183

Crescent Industries
(207) 777-3500

(973) 808-9709

Driving Systems
(818) 782-6793

Electronic Mobility Controls
(225) 927-5558

Freedom Motors
(888) 625-6335

Independent Driving Systems
(888) 422-5337

Liberty Motor
(888) 578-8886

Nor-Cal Mobility
(877) 333-8267

Ride-Away Handicap Equipment
(888) 743-3292

Rollx Vans
(800) 956-6668

SpecialNeedsVehicles — Adapt Mobility
(520) 292-8769

Vantage Mobility International
(800) 348-8267

Viewpoint Mobility
(877) 368-6022

Accessible Vans of America
(888) AVA-VANS

Wheelchair Getaways
(800) 642-2042

“Buying a Used Car” (consumer guide from Federal Trade Commission)
(877) FTC-HELP
Disabled Dealer Magazine

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
(888) 327-4236
“Adapting Motor Vehicles for People with Disabilities”

RESNA Alternative Financing Technical Assistance Project
(703) 524-6686


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