A New Deal: On the Road to Better Social, Physical and Mental Health

More Than Wheels is an innovative program that makes cars affordable for the working poor.

    • April 22, 2009

Access to reliable transportation can mean the difference between working multiple part-time jobs, securing a stable job with decent pay and benefits, keeping medical appointments, and managing daily demands. Yet, driving unreliable, fuel-inefficient, older cars with high repairs costs, financed at high interest rates, take a heavy toll on poor families often resulting in compromised health. Through the opportunity to purchase dependable transportation—new fuel-efficient cars—More Than Wheels (Formerly Bonnie CLAC; Cars Loans and Counseling) helps vulnerable families learn the skills necessary to improve their health and financial well-being.

More Than Wheels was founded in 2001 by Robert Chambers and Leo Hamill, who were working in sales for a large local auto dealer. Frustrated by the high interest rates so many of their low-income customers were paying—particularly women—they saw a clear need for an organization to act as an advocate for car buyers, one that would make buying a car simpler and more affordable.

To help low-income individuals purchase both cost- and fuel-efficient cars, More Than Wheels leverages bargaining clout with dealerships and offers loan guarantees. For many clients, More Than Wheels also represents a way to developing firm financial footing. The program provides on-going budget counseling and credit education to place families on the path to economic security, which can help lead to healthier living. Since 2001, More Than Wheels has helped over 1,000 individuals through its finance program, about 73 percent of whom are women.

More Than Wheels is a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Vulnerable Populations Portfolio, which is committed to meeting emerging health needs of communities by identifying smarter, cost-effective approaches to address problems of the most vulnerable.