How to Make Money with a Cargo Van [9 Strategies that Work]

If you have a cargo van (or are considering buying one) and want to learn some great ways to make money with it, you are in the right place.

In this article, I am going to discuss 9 effective strategies that you can use to make money with your cargo van. When you are generating income with your cargo van, what you're really doing is starting a cargo van business (even if it seems informal), so I'll also touch briefly on some basic information on how to set up your cargo van business.

We'll get into all of that later on, but here's a quick preview of the 9 strategies we'll cover (with links, so you can jump ahead if you want). I will also provide specific resources and links to platforms that you can use for each of these strategies, so you can start making money right away.

Before we jump into the 9 strategies, I'll also cover some introductory questions that you may find interesting, such as how much money a cargo van business makes, how much it costs to start one, and, as promised earlier, how to set up such a business.

Note: If you prefer a condensed version of this article in video format, check out my YouTube video below.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and complete a transaction, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

What is a Cargo Van?

If you're here, you probably already know what a cargo van is, but in case there is any confusion between a cargo van and a passenger van, let me provide a quick definition.

A cargo van is a type of van that does not contain seats in the back. Instead, it is empty, which allows you to load it up with cargo. Because of its size and maneuverability, it is a perfect vehicle to transport goods around urban centers.

It's easy to drive (you don't need a commercial driver's license (CDL), easy to park, and, as mentioned, it can fit a fair amount of cargo. It can also be ideal for smaller moving jobs.

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Cargo Van?

According to Truecar, new cargo vans can range between $25,000-$35,000. Source

As with most things, buying used is going to save you money. Used cargo vans on Edmunds start as low as $2,500 (although some ran over $50,000 for almost-new Mercedes cargo vans). Probably overkill, in my view.

How to Lower Your Starting Costs:

Unless you have a pile of cash lying around, you will probably need to get financing for your van. The good news is that there are plenty of options. Generally speaking, the availability and terms of your financing will depend on your income level, stability, and credit history.

You can also lease your van.

You can often lease your cargo van for a smaller down payment and lower monthly payments than if you buy. Of course, if you buy a really low-cost used vehicle, that may wind up being far cheaper than leasing a new van.

Leasing allows you to lower your start-up costs, but it also allows you to expand more rapidly (if that's part of the plan for your cargo van business). That's because each new vehicle you get won't require as much money as buying will.

Also, in most cases, you may also have fewer maintenance and repair responsibilities if you lease vs. if you buy.

But one thing you must absolutely keep in mind when leasing, though, is mileage caps. If you expect to put on a lot of miles, financing may be a far superior option.

Other Expenses

Although obtaining your cargo van is likely going to be your biggest upfront expense, there are other costs as well. You will also need to spend some money on equipment, accessories, licenses, insurance, marketing, etc.

They will be a modest expense when compared to the cost of acquiring your van, but they can still cost hundreds of dollars or more.

How Much Money Can I Make with My Cargo Van Business?

A cargo van business can be profitable. The average owner-operator of a cargo van business in the U.S. makes around $65,446 per year, according to Ziprecruiter. This translates to around $31/per hour.

Of course, that's an average. As you would expect, there is a wide range of incomes for this business, from as low as $17,500 to as high as $243,000.

And it goes without saying that nothing is guaranteed in business.

The actual amount you make may vary depending on where you operate, how much you charge, how well you manage your expenses, how skilled you are at getting profitable loads, and a host of other factors.

How Do I Set Up My Cargo Van Business?

If you want to set up your cargo van business the right way, there are some basic steps you should follow:

  • Set Up Your Business Entity. If you want to get some basic liability protection for assets held outside your cargo van business you may want to consider forming an LLC, Corporation, Etc.
  • Pick a Name and Logo For your Cargo Van Business. Look at Shopify for Name Ideas and Canva to design a logo)
  • Create a Basic Website and Get Your Business on Google My Business. Check out these free resources From Google to get started. Basic free business profile website and intro to getting on Google My Business.
  • Develop a Simple Business Plan. See the SBA's free guide on how to develop one.
  • Pick the Right Load Strategy This is exactly what we'll cover in the next section.
  • Get Appropriate Licenses, Permits and Insurance. You'll want to check federal, state, and local laws around the type of cargo van business you will be running and obtain necessary licenses. You will also want to get appropriate insurance for your cargo van business to protect against lawsuits from accidents and other liabilities.

Now, I covered the basic stuff here, but if you want a much more detailed explanation of each of these steps, check out my Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Starting a Business.

How To Make Money With A Cargo Van

1. Load Boards

One of the simplest and most reliable ways to make money with your cargo van is by going on load boards and finding freight deliveries. There are tons of load boards out there (some charge money and others do not).

The leading load board out there is DAT.

They have the most loads on their network, with over 900,000 loads posted daily. Because of their size and scope, they also have leading edge tech and info, including unlimited searching, instant alarm match notifications, broker credit scores and days to pay, market rates, mileage routing and much more.

I have an affiliate relationship with them and secured a deal where if you use my link, you can get a free 30 day trial with full access to their network and features. So, you get to try out the leading load board for a full month for free. I would note that this deal is only for new subscribers.

If you are interested, just click below to take advantage of this no-risk offer.

2. Deliver Food

Another way to make money with your cargo van is to deliver food for restaurants, catering companies, and any other type of food company. Of course, Door Dash, Uber Eats, Instacart and many others can provide you a steady flow of food delivery jobs.

You can even buy a bread route and operate one for a nice profit. What is a bread route? These are routes where you get a dedicated territory from a bread company, like Arnold's or Pepperidge Farm and get a commission for each sale you make to stores in that territory. Depending on how large a route you buys, you can use your cargo van to make the deliveries.

If you want to learn more about this strategy, check out my article on how to buy a bread route.

3. Deliver Retail Goods

There are plenty of companies, and manufacturers, that need deliveries made all of the time. Whether it's supplies, medical equipment, or appliances, you can certainly fill that need with your cargo van. Sites like GoShare can connect you to people or businesses that may need these types of deliveries.

4. Deliver Furniture (Or Offer Moving Services)

As I mentioned earlier, you can also offer to move items for companies or individuals. In the industry, it's known as a “Man with a Van.” Whether its helping a person move out of their small apartment, or helping a small office relocate, your cargo van may be the perfect choice for these types of jobs.

You can get these types of jobs on sites like Taskrabbit, Thumbtack, and similar sites.

There are also specialty sites like Lugg and Dolly that you can explore to get moving jobs with your cargo van.

5. Rent Out Your Cargo Van

On slow days, you can even rent out your cargo van to movers or other companies or individuals who may need it. Not a bad way to make some nice passive income with your cargo van.

You can list your cargo van on popular car rental sites like Turo.com or on specialty sites like Fetchtruck.com.

If you want to learn more about how to rent out your cargo van, check out my full article on the topic here.

6. Deliver Flowers

I used to own a florist, so I understand the need for good delivery drivers.

If you offer a safe and reliable service at a fair price, you can definitely satisfy that need. Start by just calling local florists in your area. The great thing is that cargo vans have the perfect amount of space to handle even the largest flower delivery orders (which is really important on days like Valentine's day or Mother's Day when the volume of orders is through the roof).

7. E-Commerce Driver

You can take advantage of the booming e-commerce wave by becoming a driver for companies like Amazon. Cargo vans are perfect for this task. If you want to learn more, check out Amazon Flex. They aren't available in all cities, but there is pretty good coverage nationwide already.

8. Mobile Billboards

A far more passive way to make money with you cargo van is with mobile billboards. It's a pretty cool strategy and I wrote an entire article on how to get started. Check it out here.

9. Use Your Cargo Van to Start Low-Cost Alternative Businesses

Mobile Car Wash Business

Ok this idea (and the next one) are a bit off the beaten path, but I think they are interesting options.

You can start a mobile car wash business. Once you have your cargo van, the rest of the materials and equipment are pretty cheap (like $250!). If you like taking a dirty and worn-out looking car and making it sparkle, then this may be the right business for you.

If you are interested in this option, check out my article on how to start a mobile car wash business for less than $250.

Gutter Cleaning Services

Finally, you can start a gutter cleaning business with your cargo van because it can carry the very tall ladder (on the top of the van) that is required to operate this type of business. It can also easily fit all of the equipment needed for the business (which can be bought for less than $1,000, including the ladder).

If you want to learn how to start a low-cost gutter cleaning business, check out my article on the topic here.

Conclusion

So there you have it – 9 great ways to make money with your cargo van (along with tons of resources and tips to get you started). If you want to explore more great transportation business ideas, check out my complete guide here, which covers over 30+ business ideas in the transportation industry.

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