So, you’re looking to finance a truck. Common sense says the thing you need to know is “what’s my rate?”

While that’s fair, there are other factors you need to consider and how those factors may affect your business. Can the rate be important? Sure. But let’s look at a few other items that should be a bigger part of your decision-making process.

Number One: What’s the down payment?

You could have a rate that looks great, but what if the down payment doesn’t match what your business can feasibly put forward for a new truck? Or maybe you want a lower down payment to conserve cash flow? Maybe you want to put more down so you have less to finance over your term. The down payment should be an important part of your conversation with a commercial lender. And speaking of terms…

Number Two: What are my term options?

Again, your rate could look great, but how many months are you paying that rate for? Even at American Equipment Financial, we have different programs with different term options, so you can only imagine what that looks like across the commercial lending space. Some programs allow for more term options so you can find a sweet spot for how long you will be financing your truck for. Some programs may cap out their term offerings below what you are looking for, so your monthly payment ends up higher than what you were hoping for. Make sure you pay attention and don’t get sucked in by low rates when there are other factors involved. Check out this example:

Number Three: What other fees do I have to pay?

Most commercial lenders will have a fee that is due at the beginning of your contract, and in some cases, certain lenders will charge a fee to even get started. While these fees can seem less important in comparison to the large price of the equipment as a whole, you should pay attention to the differences in fees between different lenders. A lower fee with a higher rate can still come out cheaper in the long run than a higher fee with a lower rate, and vice versa. Even if it’s just a small difference, that’s still money that you can save to re-invest in your business. Make sure you’re taking everything into account when you’re looking at commercial lending options.

Looking to get some conversations started with us on financing for a truck? Get payment and term options in just five minutes without us running your credit: http://localhost/AEFS/pre-qual/

Words and phrases like pre-qualified, pre-approved, and approved have been used to describe one’s loan application status in a number of industries over the last several decades, perhaps none more prominently than the mortgage world.

Words and phrases like pre-qualified, pre-approved, and approved have been used to describe one’s loan application status in a number of industries over the last several decades, perhaps none more prominently than the mortgage world. Commercial financing, however, has really lagged behind the sensibilities of nearly every other lending segment’s protocol. That is to say, it used to be simple: you were either approved or declined.

Recently, however, with our own innovation of the PreQual system in 2017 – and with a number of so-called ‘fintech’ (or financial technology) lenders entering the marketplace, buyers have begun to get exposed to a number of other application statuses in between. The reasons for this vary, but usually have a lot to do with the ever-increasing velocity of online transactions.

Each day, we hear about a customer getting approved only to find out their desired truck sold yesterday. Buyers and sellers of equipment are moving faster and faster – leading to the need for preemptive qualification (that is, the ability to predict with some reliability whether or not you have the buying power needed to negotiate the purchase of equipment.) Understanding if you can buy first, and secondly how much you can spend, enables one to shop in their price range with more confidence.

Pre-qualification is the art of reviewing standard data points.

Pre-qualification is the art of reviewing standard data points like time in business, personal and business credit history, monthly cash flow, reserves/working capital on hand, and a number of other factors to see if you qualify based solely on the available data. American’s PreQual system is an advanced underwriting platform that compares this data against 110,000 possible scenarios and combinations, aggregating our own internal credit parameters alongside those of three dozen partner banks to find the ideal place where a customer’s transaction fits.

We’re awfully proud of this system – but not all “pre’s” are created equally. You’ve probably seen the spam emails that are sent regularly to your inbox – often on a daily basis if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of having your information sold by a company with a slimy privacy policy. They read: “You’re Pre-Approved!” We all shake our heads at this nonsense. After all, how can you be pre-approved if you haven’t provided any information? I’m sure we’ve all had an experience where we were told we were pre-approved, and found out later that we weren’t approved at all.

Pre-qualification differs from pre-approval because it is based on actual data points supplied by the end user. Pre-approval is usually based solely on market data. This means pre-approval might help identify classes or groups of applicants that may qualify, but pre-qualification helps identify actual individual applicants that fit the criteria, often through a comparison of that individual’s data against the market data available.

When our competitors offer customers a quote or a pre-approval, usually they’re providing a customer who meets barebones requirements like two years in business, 600+ credit, etc. the lowest possible rate and terms they offer. Then, once the collect a full application package on the customer, they let the customer know that the actual terms will be much higher. We’ve turned this concept on its head – we intentionally quote on the high side of a customer’s range to help set proper expectations. Our goal is to come in with lower terms once everything is actually formalized. This is the essence of why pre-qualification is superior to pre-approval.

In the mortgage world, a pre-approval usually happens once the bank knows how much you keep in your bank account and has looked at your credit. The pre-qualification happens once you supply financial information and complete the full application process. Then, final approval happens once you decide what you want to buy and the bank verifies the property you’re seeking qualifies for the exact mortgage program they’re underwriting. We have modeled our process after this sequence of events.

After a pre-qualified customer identifies the equipment they want to move forward on, we perform due diligence on the dealer (or seller) and equipment. This is an involved process that includes performing lien searches, completing an asset valuation and appraisal process, and rounding up any final documents we need to verify everything you stated on the PreQual is true. For many customers purchasing equipment that costs less than $50,000-$75,000, this can be accomplished very quickly.

The value of pre-qualification is that it allows us to look at a customer’s data points and lock in terms for 90 days while they shop for the ideal equipment, truck, or trailer. It also helps customers who don’t qualify to find that out day one, and for customers who only qualify with a large down payment to start the process of saving and preparing for the upfront costs associated with getting their venture up and running.

The best piece of advice we can offer to customers looking for a reliable equipment finance company is to use common sense. If a company is offering you terms without any real data on your company – the terms can be (and probably are) too good to be true. If a company asks you for a full financial package and application before they’ve given you a quote – consider this a sign of things to come. If their process does not allow them to give realistic payment numbers upfront, many of their documentation and funding processes will probably be equally outdated and cumbersome.

At American, we’re proud to be the only equipment financing company to understand that times are changing and customers need answers they can rely on right away. If you’re ready to get started finding the perfect commercial equipment to start or grow your business, you can get pre-qualified right away and receive terms in just 2-3 minutes.

owner operator lease to own

As a company inundated with requests for semi truck financing – there is one overarching question we get all the time.  Why American?

After all, a simple Google search of semi truck financing companies reveals that an owner operator can find financing options galore.  What’s more, most dealers who sell class 8 trucks and heavy trailers also offer in-house financing or manufacturer financing options from companies like Daimler and Paccar.  What makes us most unique is that we pride ourselves on being a ‘one stop shop’ for semi tractor financing – a single firm that caters to all different credit types, allows you to buy used, and understands the unique needs of owner operators versus fleet operators.

One Size Semi Truck Financing Doesn’t Fit All

Years ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with a respected local dealer of over the road trucks.  He explained that he was constantly frustrated by the programs available to truckers because of the so called ‘funding gap.’  The funding gap is a huge middle of the road space where there are no viable options for good credit owner operators that fall just shy of qualifying for bank rate programs, but who are over qualified for the high-rate, large down payment offerings of many asset-based lending alternatives.  At the time, the market was saturated with funding sources happy to occupy either extreme, but with no one willing to work the middle.

American understands that owner operators don’t all belong crammed into one program.  Our semi truck financing programs evaluate industry and driving experience, savings and cash on hand, homeownership and other metrics that help us place middle of the road customers into a fair program where the structure and terms more accurately match the risk inherent to the deal.  What that means to our customers is we won’t place a 660 credit score customer who shows good experience and reserves into the same program as a 400 credit score first time owner operator.  It also means we are able to offer financing options that help owner operators build their fleets over time, and graduate from starter programs to better terms as they improve their personal credit, cash flow, and commercial pay history over time.

American Equipment Finance understands that there are a lot of options, but as a direct lender that has in-house financing programs alongside two dozen outside funding source relationships, we are very often the only option a driver needs.

New or Used – You Decide

Many manufacturer and bank programs restrict what semi truck an owner operator can buy.  They require a truck be either physically on the lot, of a certain make or variety, or be new (or relatively new).  American finances new trucks, but what really sets us apart is our willingness to finance used semi trucks and trailers.  Not all trucking applications require a brand new truck, and most of our customers have figured out that you can make the same gross revenue with a used truck as with the more expensive new one.  Moreover, while many manufacturers offer 0% financing and other seemingly attractive options, customers are wising up to the fact that these companies make all of their money on markup in the price.  Thus, a 15% financing option on a used truck can often pencil out to be cheaper than the 0% option on a new truck, such as in the below example:

New truck sale price: $135,000                                                                    Used truck sale price: $55,000

Sticker markup on truck at dealership: $6,000                                                  Depreciation in year one: $4,800

Depreciation in year one: $29,500                                                                    Interest expense in year one: $6,550

Interest expense: $0                                                                                         Total costs of ownership in year one: $11,350

Total costs of ownership in year one: $35,500                                                  Market value of asset after year one: $50,200

Market value of asset after year one: $99,500

Since most of the depreciation is front-loaded when an asset is newer, many used trucks retain more of their value over time and require less time to payback.  American gives truckers the flexibility to buy new or used, and for better credit profiles, we can finance trucks that are 15, 20, or even 25 years old.

We Put the Owner Operator First

American helps owner operators in ways that go beyond just providing a simple truck loan or lease.  We help with financing for APU’s, engine rebuilds, and even fabrication projects such as converting a daycab truck to a dump body or adding a drop axle.  We have programs where your down payment goes entirely to the dealer to help reduce how much you borrow, and offer terms as long as 60, or even 72 months for certain newer truck models.

Once of the key ways that we can be competitive is through our Build a Fleet program.  American allows a customer with twelve on time payments to come back to finance a second truck – while most competitors require you to payoff your first loan before you can qualify for more funding.  Thus, by the end of a four year term, a customer can be operating a three truck fleet.  We believe in transportation customers and recognize trucking as the backbone of the American supply and logistics chain, and in many ways, the backbone of the entire economy.

We’re in it for the Long Haul

American Equipment was formed when two companies that had already been in business for 30 years decided to get together, combining speed and technology with customer-first values.  We put owner operators first from the time we receive an application until your final loan with us is paid in full.  So, yes, there are a lot of semi truck and trailer financing companies in the market, but there’s only one American Equipment Finance.  While anyone can lend money for a truck purchase, the ability to provide flexibility and service have consistently made us the premier truck and trailer financing company, and the choice of dealers, private sellers, auction houses, first time owner operators and large commercial fleets – not to mention truck listings companies like Commercial Truck Trader and Trucker to Trucker.

We’re here to prove semi truck financing doesn’t need to be complicated to cater to the needs of our customers.  We’re American and we’re in this for the long haul.

Ready to Finance a Truck or Trailer? GET TERMS NOW

Each week, we’ll interview one of our experienced Finance Officers for a brief question and answer session about something interesting from the week, along with tips and tricks to make your finance process easier, and their unique perspective on the industries and customers we work with.

This week, we caught up with Doug Fuller in our Kansas City office who helped fund a deal that would have been hard to gain traction at some other lending companies in the country due to the company’s low time-in-business. Never one to overlook all of the details, we were able to find this well-seasoned entrepreneur’s deal a home.

Q: In previous Q&As, we talked about the fact that we have built a business on helping customers with non-traditional profiles. Was that the case here?

A: It was a new business enterprise which can be more difficult for other lenders. In this case, the customer was a well-seasoned entrepreneur looking for $160,000 of capital to fund his entire equipment acquisition. When you’re looking at lending for a more risky profile, like with new businesses, there are a lot of variables that will give other lenders pause when reviewing an application like this.

Q: Did this make the loan process any longer than what you would consider “normal”?

A: No, everything ran smoothly, as our processes are well-equipped for moving along in a timely manner ~ even with applicants that fit a non-traditional profile.

Q: How were we able to help this customer in the end?

A: We were able to provide the $160,000 of capital to fund his entire equipment acquisition, and provide the opportunity for another business owner to live out the American Dream!

Q: What advice do you have for other customers who have a similar profile?

A: Don’t be discouraged by certain lenders turning you away if you are new in business. Different lenders have different areas of focus… one size does not fit all! Keep looking, and be ready to share details about your business ~ tell your story! You may be able to find a lender that is right for you.

Check back in a couple weeks as we talk with another one of our finance officers! Stay up to date and learn more from our valuable resources at

Why choose a non-bank lender for your machine tool loan?

A common question that comes up with nearly all of our customers is, “Why choose a non-bank lender?”  After all, banks have access to the most inexpensive capital, in theory have no limits on how much they can lend, and have all of the resources in the world to make borrowing money both fast and simple, right?  Like most theories, it is feasible, but in practical application doesn’t usually work for most customers seeking machine tool financing.  Here’s why.

Cash is king

Banks like liquidity – that is lots of cash on hand.  Most machine tool financing transactions are with customers that by design do not have a lot of cash on hand.  Machine shops are one of the most receivable intensive categories of customers we lend to, meaning their balance sheet is way more likely to show a large accounts receivable balance as opposed to cash reserves.  If you think about the logic behind how a shop full of machine tools operates, it’s easy to comprehend why.  For starters, machine shops often need to make a lot of product in advance of being paid.  This means they have to expend cash on materials and inventory with a long lead time to create finished product, and even longer set of terms before they can receive payment in full.

Besides wanting to see cash on the balance sheet, banks also like to touch it.  In other words, for older machine tools expect to see a down payment requirement of 10-20% easily.  That means you’re no longer just vying to get an approval by demonstrating liquidity, you’re actually risking your liquidity and giving up access to vital working capital you may need to produce product just to obtain financing.

Alternative and non-bank lenders finance machine tools based on the value of equipment and potential to earn income, not just on a strong balance sheet.  That means if you buy something like a horizontal machining center or CNC machine that has a strong intrinsic value, you have an easier path to financing even if your current cash flow isn’t particularly strong.  Machine tool loans are very desirable for a lender, because there’s a huge market for resale of the collateral and the equipment tends to depreciate very slowly, unlike, say, a used truck on a piece of construction equipment.

Time is of the essence

In a business completely built around production deadlines, it’s easy to understand why it’s important to cut down on the turnaround time from selecting a machine to implementation of a tool in the shop.  According to Business Money Today, the average bank takes around 45-60 days to process your commercial loan application, and that’s assuming you provide everything they require upfront.  With the average lead time of a machined product being 30 days, shops could see as many as two product cycles go by without being able to access their lathe, press, or other machine tool.  The lost productivity alone is probably more than the interest savings over the life of the loan they’d gain by choosing a bank.

Our average turnaround time for most machine tool loans and leases is just ten business days from application to funding.  Moreover, with our creative purchase order and prefunding arrangements, we’re often able to get a vendor to deliver a machine tool to our customer even prior to funding, cutting down on losses in productivity.

That great interest rate comes with a different kind of price tag

When customers first apply for a machine tool finance transaction, we usually expect to hear questions about rate and terms.  This is because customers have been programmed to ask the basic question: “What’s the interest rate?”  What’s particularly jarring about the campaign to cram customers into one line of questioning is that it’s a dishonest way to ask customers to evaluate a deal.  ‘Rate’ is calculated in five or six different ways, whether it’s buy rate, sell rate, per year yield, APR, simple interest rate, payback as a percentage of the loan, or some kind of rate factor, none of these numbers tell a customer anything tangible about a transaction.

So when a bank offers a ‘low rate,’ we always ask the customer to consider the tangibles.  Will they report to your personal credit?  If so, have you considered that this may leverage your credit personally, keeping you from buying a new car or refinancing your home?  Will they file a blanket lien, essentially encumbering all of your business and personal assets in the process? Will they cross-collateralize against your bank accounts, giving them free reign to transfer money from your checking account if you ever fall behind on payments?

Financing with an alternative lender ensures you still have access to credit exposure with your bank personally and commercially, allowing you to use bank funds for operating expenses and working capital, items that are more capital intensive over time, and that don’t have offsetting, predictable return on investment metrics.  Buying inputs for a run in your machine shop is a recurring priority that you’ll need your bank relationship for, so it makes sense to use an outside lender for capital expenditures like adding a new press brake or mill.

Banks find ways to say ‘No’

Banks are set up very differently than in house machine tool financing programs.  They are designed to protect a very narrow credit window by ensuring you fit inside every box.  Our machine tool financing programs, contrarily, are designed to find ways to include customers conventionally excluded by most mainstream lenders.  This includes unconventional profile customers seeking a machine tool loan, including:

Being philosophically programmed to build creative structure around transactions to offer approvals that banks can’t gives us a major advantage in the B, C, and even D credit spaces, but we often find ways to help our A credit customers when the bank drops the hammer due to their lending policies.

Not all banks are created equal.  Some can and do approve machine tool deals at decent terms.  Understanding that banks might require you to sacrifice time, leverage, and operating cash can help you weigh the decision of how best to proceed – especially knowing that a lot of banks end up saying no when the process is all said and done.  Nonbank lenders are eager to compete for your business and will be more willing to make exceptions that banks cannot, while still giving you the flexibility to utilize your bank exposure for daily and monthly recurring operating costs.


At American Leasing & Financial, we’re so passionate about machine tools (and financing for machine shops and their tooling needs in general), that we actually created a special financing program just for machine tools. Machine Tools is a niche funding processor backed by two dozen boutique funding sources and banks, as well as our own in-house funding arm American Leasefund. We pride ourselves on offering flexible cnc, mill, press, and other machine lending programs, regardless of credit issues, for startups and established businesses alike. Learn more at OR apply now for an easy approval in as little as 24 hours.

The biggest challenges in financing for new logging businesses

logging equipment leases and loans

 As experts in startup and new business finance, American Leasing has assisted thousands of entrepreneurs with the tedious process of getting their logging operation off the ground.

This experience has given us some serious perspective on the challenges facing equipment-intensive industries like construction and logging.  Consider this: logging companies often need an average of four pieces of heavy equipment compared with two needed for most construction niche or trucking companies.  Forestry operations are process oriented businesses and the most successful companies are ones who can handle multiple phases of that process – from cutting and felling, to forwarding, delimbing, and processing.  In fact, many logging companies even specialize in transporting logs and chips to mill with their own log trucks and trailers.

What this need to specialize in multiple processes creates, however, is the need for lots of equipment.  With excavation companies, a single excavator is usually enough.  With pavers, they can get started with just a single paving unit.  Brand new logging companies, on the other hand, usually need a loan for a feller buncher, skidder, and log loader just to have the basics.  It’s not uncommon, therefore, for us to receive daily requests from loggers for $200,000 in equipment just to establish a new venture.  Over time, this serious need has caused us to train our representatives on the basics of how to help our newer forestry industry customers get on the right track to smart growth.

Age isn’t just a number

Logging equipment is used in some of the toughest terrains in the world.  Because of this, it’s understandable that lenders and customers alike are averse to buying exceptionally old machines.  Because we have no age restrictions on logging equipment, we like to counsel customers to pursue a happy medium between brand new equipment and older, but still valuable equipment.  The reason for this is simple: a newer harvester (provided it has the same mechanical capacity) makes a logger no more money than an old one.  It can be tempting to buy something shiny and new, but if you can find a good, low-hour feller buncher, or better yet a feller buncher that was part of a well known companies fleet (and subject to a high standard of maintenance), you’ll be better off because of it.  Consider this: a $50,000 feller buncher will cost a customer an average of $1,600-$2,000 a month.  On the other hand, a $150,000 one will cost between $4,800-$6,000 per month.  That savings, over the course of four years is as much as $200,000.  If you are mechanically inclined and have the ability to maintain a solid piece of used equipment, the savings are well worth it.  What’s more, most lenders don’t like to lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to a startup logging company.  Choosing a more budget friendly used machine will make it substantially easier to qualify.

Without working capital, it just doesn’t work

A lot of loggers pursue financing with just enough money for their first month’s payment and documentation fees, but never consider that there are too many things that can go wrong to operate on such a tight budget.  For wage earners looking to turn a corner and start their own venture, we advise saving a cushion of around six months worth of working capital to cover expenses like equipment payments, insurance, potential maintenance and repairs, fuel, and payroll.  Having reserves not only improves your practical odds of success in a very competitive forestry world, but also makes you less of a risk to a lender.  Without a track record of success in business, the only way a logging finance company can judge your chances of being profitable are your personal credit, work experience, and cash on hand.  If you can alleviate on of the biggest concerns by showing a nice rainy day fund or savings, you’ll make your finance or leasing officer’s job much easier.

Temper your expectations

Most logging companies, assuming the owners have good personal credit, can qualify for around $100,000 in equipment financing.  That’s a far cry from what most of them want day one.  If you can lower your expectations and choose equipment that will get you by and allow you to begin generating revenue, you can always upgrade to bigger and better equipment in time.  Our rule of thumb is that most owners should begin to build real equity in their equipment about 50% of the way through the term.  If you finance on a 60 month term, you can probably start thinking seriously about buying something else 2 1/2 years through your lease or loan term.  Logging equipment finance companies are real sticklers about customers biting off more than they can chew, but business owners who opt for slow growth can win the hearts of underwriters and demonstrate genuine business savvy – the kind that turns startup companies into success stories.

Cutting right to the chase

Obtaining logging equipment as a startup in the equipment intensive forestry world can be challenging, however, customers who aren’t afraid to buy used equipment, can show working capital and reserves, and who don’t mind buying less (or at least less expensive) units are bound to be more successful in their pursuits.

At American Leasing & Financial, we’re so passionate about logging equipment financing (and financing for log trucks and trailers), that we actually created a special financing program just for loggers.  Logging Finance .com is a niche funding processor backed by two dozen boutique funding sources and banks, as well as our own in-house funding arm, American Leasefund.  We pride ourselves on offering flexible forestry equipment lending programs, regardless of credit issues, for startups and established businesses alike.  Learn more at OR apply now for an logging equipment loan approval in as little as 24 hours.

Securing the Best Terms for Farm Tractor Financing

Financing a farm tractor is a really unique experience because most people who run a farm or ranch get boxed into one of two categories.  Either A) you’re a large commercial outfit who produces for companies like Tyson or Costco; or B) you’re the little guy just raising your own chickens or cows.

If you’re in the ‘A’ category, companies like Ag Direct or Farm Credit can offer out of this world rates in exchange for a blanket lien on everything you own (including land and livestock).  Let’s just say you’ll be lucky if they don’t ask for your first born.  For bigger companies, this represents quite an opportunity cost for farm equipment financing – especially if you’re simply adding tractors.

If you’re the little guy, you still might be able to get in with one of these companies with a large down payment a really short term, and the same blanket lien on everything you have.  Smaller farms and ranches usually strive to hang onto as much cash as possible to get them through harvest, making most big advance payments a non-starter.

So why do the major players in the farm tractor financing marketplace utilize these structures so frequently?  That’s simple: because they want to turn their out of the box tractor leasing programs into captive financing funnels.  You see, once a big company has a blanket lien, and once a small company has committed a large chunk of cash AND a large chunk of ongoing monthly revenues to tractor payments, they HAVE to return to the same lender for financing because they no longer have additional collateral to pledge or money to commit upfront to a new farm implement.

A better way

Farm tractor loans don’t have to be at the cost of pledging everything a farmer has.  Moreover, for one man (or one woman) outfits looking to finance, they don’t have to be short term or upfront cost intensive.  At American Leasing & Financial, we use a proprietary lending model focused on personal credit (even in the absence of commercial credit), cash flow, and time in business.  What’s more: we interview every customer to learn more about their unique situation so that we can understand the return on investment (ROI) opportunity adding a tractor may yield.

For some of our customers, a single tractor may be overworked at more than one land site.  For others, they need a larger tractor to cover more ground.  We even help farms just getting started that need to add their very first tractor.  The point is: when we have a comfort level that the tractor will help make a farmer money, we are able to structure simple, lightly structured farm tractor financing terms.

This approach also allows us to help those with credit challenges.  Rather than asking for all of their money and leaving them strapped to make a payment, we might ask that they pledge another tractor as additional collateral.  We can even structure their contracts with annual or seasonal payments to help take the bite out of a bill that comes in a non-revenue time of the year.

Wrapping Up

Getting the best deal on financing for a farm tractor doesn’t have to be rocket science, but it does require thinking outside the box.  Instead of focusing in on the best interest rate programs, customers should consider return on investment, steering clear of captive financing traps.  By knowing how much revenue you’ll net as the result of leasing or financing a tractor, you’ll already be a step ahead of the pack.  Coming to the table with additional collateral to help answer back potential credit issues will also help.

At American Equipment Finance, we’re so passionate about farm tractor financing (and financing for farm trucks and other equipment and implements), that we actually created a special financing program just for farmers.  Farm Tractor is a niche funding processor backed by two dozen boutique funding sources and banks, as well as our own in-house funding arm.  We pride ourselves on offering flexible farm equipment lending programs, regardless of credit issues, for startups and established businesses alike.  Learn more at OR apply now for an farm equipment approval in as little as 24 hours.

“Towing” the Line: How Tow Truck Financing Can Lead to Smart Growth

Let’s face it.  There’s no shortage of finance companies offering some kind of program for any and every kind of truck out there.  We help provide leasing and financing options for everything from bucket trucks to water trucks.  Tow trucks, however, are kind of unique.  Here’s why: tow trucks are directly linked to a specific work function: towing.  Now, that might sound simple enough, but if you think about why that matters, it can really be a game changer.

Tow companies earn revenue literally based on the number of tows they have, and, provided they’re operating at full capacity, the number of tows they can execute in a given day is directly tied to the number of trucks they have on hand.  So, buying a tow truck, regardless of the interest rate, assuming it can be put to work, is always going to be a net profitable purchase.

For this reason, we’ve begun to help towing companies calculate the cost of their financing in a novel way: by looking at return on investment (or ROI).  The calculation is fairly straightforward: You take the number of additional tows per month the new truck will add times the average cost per tow times the financing term.

Second, you divide that result by the total interest paid back over the life of the tow truck loan.

For example:

Recently, we helped a towing outfit in Jackson, Mississippi finance a new Ford F650 wrecker at a monthly payment of $911 per month.  This truck adds the capacity for four to six additional tows per day times twenty-four working days per month for around 125 tows per month.  With an average revenue stream of $200 per tow, they expected to gross an additional $20,000-$25,000 per month as a result of the tow truck’s acquisition.

It’s easy to ponder interest rate and think about the total payback being $55,000 on a $40,000 truck, but over that same 60 month period, the company will now gross $1.5 million more in revenues.  When you take that $1.5 million divided by the $15,000 cost, the return on investment is an exceptional 100 to 1.

We have run through this same mathematical exercise with a number of companies considering a tow truck lease, and have developed benchmarks for what constitutes a worthwhile investment.  In truth any tow truck that won’t at least produce a  3 to 1 or 4 to 1 return is not worth financing from a practical standpoint.

Wrapping Up:

So, why is ROI so much more important than interest rate in the evaluation of a tow truck financing offer?  Simple, because you’re not buying a jet ski or an RV.  Because this isn’t just a material possession, but rather a means to production of revenue you will almost always be worse off by not financing a wrecker than you are by financing one at a higher rate.

At American Leasing & Financial, we’re so passionate about tow truck financing (having financed thousands of rollback and wreckers over the last twenty-five years), that we actually created a special financing program just for tow trucks.  Tow Truck is a niche tow truck loan processor backed by two dozen boutique lenders and our very own in-house funding arm, American Leasefund.  We pride ourselves on offering flexible tow truck lending programs, regardless of credit issues, for startups and established businesses alike.  Learn more at OR apply now for an tow truck financing approval in as little as 24 hours.


As a company primarily built to be an in-house funding arm, American Leasefund has always depended strongly on American Leasing & Financial sales representatives to continue to grow our portfolio. In our efforts to encourage sustainable growth, however, we’ve been forced to turn to broker business to maintain our rate of expansion. Broker business as a model for growth is not a novel idea. Companies like Financial Pacific and Pawnee Leasing have utilized a pool of well-qualified and reputable brokers to grow their operations for several decades. For us, however, the prospect of relying on broker information has always been something we’ve undergone with a fair amount of cautiousness.

A popular question from our brokers, then, has been with regards to what they can do to increase their odds of approval? Unlike many of our contemporaries, we’re not simply analyzing a matrix score to approve or decline. Rather, we’ve built a niche for our no-nonsense, manually reviewed credit decisions. Knowing that we manual review (and in many cases even interview potential lessees/customers) is, in and of itself a powerful weapon in the application process. After all, this means that we’re very interested in the specifics of the transaction and not just in overarching generalities like credit score, time in business, and bank statements. Explanations are crucial components in our credit officers’ decision-making.

What this translates to is the reality that the average credit officer needs more than just stats to make a decision. We’ve come to rely heavily on the ‘write-up’ or ‘transaction summary’ as a critical tool to answer the outstanding questions and give a sense of humanity to the transaction that statistics simply can’t provide. A write-up, for example, can explain customer credit issues like a recent bankruptcy. It can justify the cost of the new acquisition: is the customer replacing an old piece of equipment, upgrading, or simply adding something new? The key to writing a good transaction summary is to explain any negative facet of a transaction that has a worthwhile explanation. You’d be surprised how many deals get declined that might have been approved with the benefit of a decent explanation from the broker.

Moreover, a write-up can also summarize the terms that a customer is willing to adhere to. If a customer wants a shorter-term on a riskier transaction, for example, that can be a positive selling point. If a customer can swing a larger advance payment or has additional collateral, that can lead to a sensible approval that helps the credit officer feel like they’re in a more secured position.

Our salespeople in-house with American Leasing & Financial are trained to not only prepare a transaction by collecting the minimum submission requirements, but also know to shore up any inconsistencies and prepare a transaction summary for review. Because of the sheer volume of transactions we review on a daily basis, it’s impossible for credit officers to do a broker or salesperson’s job and track down answers to such glaring questions.

From the perspective of a customer, the wisdom is to provide details and explanations to your broker/salesperson. Rather than look at a loan or lease application as an opportunity to provide simply the minimum details that are needed, it makes more sense to go above and beyond and provide more information than what’s required. Working together, a sales representative and customer can put together a package worth approving.


We received a transaction from a broker the other day. At first, we dismissed it immediately because the owners had a recent bankruptcy and their house was about to go into foreclosure. The request was for a used SUV costing $35,000. The customer was in a rural area and wanted to use the SUV as an upscale transport vehicle to expand a taxi/limo service they started three years ago.

Initially, it was an easy decision to pass on the transaction. It didn’t fit our standard credit criteria, nor would it fit any of our lending partners. What made us second guess our instincts, however, was the fact that the customer had a good website (signifying a stable and successful operation) and showed evidence of enough cash-flow to service the debt. Moreover, their business model seemed appropriate for the area: one that caters to both winter and summer recreation. After taking a closer look at the transaction, we decided it would be worth further investigation, and received permission from the Broker to interview their client.

We had a frank and honest conversation with the client in which we discussed, among other things, their plans for using and making money with this new acquisition. The customer had done his homework, but had unrealistic expectations when it came to financing. Although the company had adequate cash-flow, with the assets they had in place, this particular item needed to come with an $800.00 a month payment. The problem is a matter of term. Not many lenders want to become the new “largest creditor” for a borrower just out of bankruptcy.  Recognizing the wisdom in that principle, we had in our minds the possibility of a 36 month term with additional collateral in the form of some older titled vehicles that were offered as security.

The customer knew how much they could afford, and we agreed. In a good month the vehicle would generate about $3,000 a month in gross revenue. After factoring in the cost of insurance, taxes, fuel, maintenance, and drivers, the monthly payment need to be no higher than $800.00 if they were to make a profit. We agreed to fund the transaction for up to $25,000.00, albeit at a longer term than we originally envisioned, so as to ensure a payment well within the customer’s predetermined budget.

Where many finance companies specialize in pushing a high monthly payment on customers, our strategy has always been to ensure the payment provides the customer with an opportunity to be profitable while using the equipment.  The benefit to this strategy, for us, has been a stable and well-performing portfolio: not only do our customers not sign up for payments beyond their means, but we also get the comfort of knowing the payment is reasonable within the confines of their cash flow.

In short, selling a customer a high payment does us no good, it merely increases the risk of default and prevents the customer from making money when the equipment is at its most productive.  By paying close attention to how the term can make or break the deal, we’ve been able to mitigate the risks to ourselves and to our customers.  For us, that’s just one more piece of the American Leasing Advantage.