If you want a business that is affordable, easy to maintain, and simple to operate, a trailer rental business may be perfect for you.
In this article, I am going to cover how you can start your trailer rental business. This beginner’s guide will include step by step instructions on setting up your business, selecting your trailers, obtaining appropriate insurance, and attracting customers.
Why is a trailer rental business so attractive?
The answer is simple. Regular people need trailers for a variety of reasons and many don’t want to invest the money to buy a trailer when they may only need to use it for just a short period of time.
They may need one to move, dispose of trash or large items, or go on a trip. Regardless of the reason, you can easily meet that need by renting out small utility trailers at an affordable price.
Of course, you can also service the trucking industry by renting out larger, commercial grade trailers to truckers. In many cases, these rentals will be for much longer periods of time and will also generate much more money per trailer.
Either way, your service perfectly fits a real customer need.
Of course, that’s not the only reason why this business is so good. We’ll talk more about the pros and cons of operating this business, so you can get a more complete picture of what’s involved in this type of business.
Ok, we’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get into it!
If you would like to see a condensed version of this article in video format, check out my YouTube video on the topic 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 Types of Trailers Are There [And Which Are Best For Rentals]?
Now, it’s worth noting that trailers come in many shapes and sizes.
As I just mentioned, they can include large trailers that are used by semi-trucks to haul freight as well as smaller utility trailers used by regular folks to move furniture or to haul away trash.
You can start a rental business for any of these types of trailers but you need to bear in mind that your customers are going to be different depending on the types of trailers you will be offering for rent.
If you want to get into renting out trailers for semi-trucks, you are talking about very large trailers. These are not trailers you can just store or park in your driveway or garage. Below are some of the most common types of trailers used by semi-truck operators to haul freight.
- Dry van trailers
- Refrigerated trailers (aka Reefers)
- Flat Bed Trailers
- Step Deck or drop deck trailers
- Lowboy trailers
- Dump trailers
Of course, if you are going to be starting a rental business, you will want to know which types of trailers are in most demand in the rental market. The overwhelmingly popular choice is dry van trailers because they are the most common type of semi-truck trailer you see on the road.
It’s basically the rectangular-shaped trailer that you see everywhere and is often used to transport clothing and household goods, non-perishable food and drinks, building products, and other common items.
A dry van trailer is a great choice when you are starting out your rental trailer business because of its overwhelming popularity, easy maintenance, and relatively low cost.
Of course, as you expand, you can start offering other types of specialized trailers, such as reefers (which are refrigerated trailers used to haul things like perishables, chilled or frozen foods, etc.) but they are more expensive and will require more maintenance and repairs. The same holds true for dump trailers and tippers, which use hydraulics to lift the trailer bed up and down.
You can normally rent these specialized trailers out for more money, but as we just covered, there will be tradeoffs in terms of cost and maintenance.
Trailers for Pickup Trucks
Now, as I mentioned above, semi-truck trailers are not the only game in town. You can appeal to pick-up truck owners as well by getting trailers that will attach to a special hitch on the bed of the pickup (gooseneck trailers) or a standard hitch on the back of the pickup (standard trailers).
Many pickup truck owners use hotshot trailers (which are smaller than your typical dry van or flatbed trailers) to haul a fairly large amount of freight without needing to have a semi-truck. You can certainly appeal to this demographic of truckers by renting out bumper pull or gooseneck trailers.
Related Reading: If you want to learn more about hotshot trucking, check out my article on how to start a hotshot trucking business.
Bumper pulls are more straightforward, while goosenecks will be more complex and expensive. That being said, goosenecks can be a great choice due to their increased stability.
If you want to position your trailer rental business to the people outside the trucking industry, you can purchase smaller utility trailers for this purpose. In this case, you are marketing to regular folks who just need a trailer for a day or two (or maybe a week) to move stuff, get rid of garbage or go on a trip.
It’s a completely different business model and dynamic because your rental business is not dependent on the trucking industry at all. Of course, you won’t be able to rent out the trailers for as much money, but the trailers will be cheaper to obtain.
There are two types of utility trailers – enclosed and open-air. I don’t think you need a long explanation for them – these pictures serve pretty well to show the differences.
How Much Do Trailers Cost?
The most significant cost to starting your trailer rental business is going to be obtaining your trailers. So the following information is going to be critical.
If you want to position your rental business toward truckers, you need to look at the right types of trailers. I have collected information on some of the most popular types of semi-truck trailers and their corresponding costs in the table below. There are also links to the various sites where I obtained the information.
I would note that the information below is based on larger trailers (e.g.,53′), and is the result of some estimation and averaging by me. I ignored what I thought were aberrations in price because I thought including them they would be misleading. My point is that there were some pretty broad ranges in price, so take that into account.
|Type of Trailer||Estimated Cost (New)||Estimated Cost (Used)|
|Dry Van Trailer||$30,000-$60,000||$12,000-$50,000|
|Flat Bed Trailer||$45,000-$50,000||$5,000 – $40,000|
If you are appealing to the hotshot pickup truck community, new gooseneck trailers are around $20,000 – $30,000, but will vary depending on size, etc. Obviously, used goosenecks will generally be cheaper depending on their size, age, condition and features.
If you want to target the retail customer market, your price per trailer becomes much more affordable. A small 4’X6′ new open-air utility trailer will run you around $1,200 at Home Depot. Enclosed utility trailers tend to be more expensive and in most cases a bit larger, with prices averaging around $10,000 for a new one.
Other Costs of Trailer Rental Business
Now it’s important to note that the cost of your trailer is not going to be your only expense. You are going to have insurance costs (which can be significant) and costs associated with setting up your business.
The costs of setting up your business will usually run a few hundred dollars, depending on whether you establish an LLC or other corporate entity, whether you spend money on business licenses, and how much you invest in your business website, etc. You may also have marketing expenses and and costs for storing or parking your trailers.
All in, however, your overall costs for these types of miscellaneous expenses should be far less than the costs of obtaining your trailers.
How Much Money Can I Make Renting Out Trailers?
According to coop.com, you can make $1,455 per month renting out a single trailer full time. That is, of course, an estimate and your actual revenue will vary depending on the type of trailer you rent out and the demand for that trailer.
I used coop.com’s revenue calculating tool to find this estimate, which you can access here.
As you grow your business and accumulate more and more trailers, your revenue can obviously grow too. In fact, there are people who have fleets of trailers that they are renting out on platforms like coop.com and are apparently making great money doing this.
Ok, now that we got some of the introductory (but key questions) answered, let’s dive into setting up your trailer rental business.
How to Set Up Your Trailer Rental Business
If you want to set up your trailer rental 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 trailer rental business you may want to consider forming an LLC, Corporation, etc. A nice affordable option is Northwest. You can get started for just $39 as of the date of this article.
- Pick a Name and Logo For Your Trailer Rental Business. Look at Shopify for Name Ideas and Canva to design a logo)
- Create a Basic Business Profile 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. You need a business plan for your trailer rental business, which is just a roadmap for your business. See the SBA’s free guide on how to develop one.
- Pick the Right Marketing 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 rental business you will be running and obtain necessary licenses. You will also want to get appropriate insurance for your trailer rental business to protect against lawsuits from accidents and other liabilities. More on that later.
If you want to learn more about how to set up a business in general, check out my ultimate beginner’s guide to starting a business, which goes in to many of these areas in much more detail.
How to Market Your Trailer Rental Business
One of the keys to success for your trailer rental business is making sure you have customers coming in the door. Pretty obvious, I know, but I can’t overstate how important this is.
If you are going the semi-truck trailer route, I think one of the best options is going with coop.com. They are a Ryder company, so you know they are reputable. The process is simple – you sign up with them and you can get customers from their platform. When I called, they set me up with an initial consultation with one of their reps to walk me through the process.
The rep gave me some helpful tips on what types of trailers do well and the process for renting them out, parking them, and how coop can help make this business as passive as possible. If you are looking for a relatively low key approach to your rental business, this platform is worth checking out.
Plus, you get to leverage the immense power of coop.com and gain the benefit of their large marketing machine.
Of course, if you choose to go it alone, you can do that as well. This will be necessary if you are going to be targeting residential customers who just want simple utility trailers.
First, I would make sure you have a strong online presence.
Google My Business (now known as Google Business Profile) is essential if you want to be found during a Google search as a local business offering this service. You should also get a decent looking website and consider online marketing via paid ads (it can be Google Ads or Facebooks Ads or even marketing your business through popular platforms like Yelp).
Try different marketing strategies and don’t be afraid to mimic what works. In many cases, your competitors have already done the trial and error for you. Find out what they are doing to market their business and experiment with that.
Don’t Forget About Insurance For Your Trailer Rental Business
Insurance is an important element of safely running your trailer rental business.
If you work with a company like coop.com, they will require it.
But even if you go it alone, it makes sense to protect yourself with appropriate insurance coverage in case things go sideways.
Progressive is a major player in this space, so you should consider them as an option.
Some of the other insurance companies operating in this area include mbainsurance.net (who specialize in covering businesses renting out utility trailers).
Ok, now that we’ve covered some of the key steps in establishing a successful trailer rental business, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of this type of enterprise.
Pros and Cons of Trailer Rental Business
There are a ton of great benefits to owning a trailer rental business. Here are some of the pros:
Pros of Trailer Rental Business
One of the most compelling benefits of a trailer rental business is its relatively low cost to start. As we discussed earlier, you can buy a new utility trailer for as little $1,200 new. You will need to find a place to store your trailers, but renting out some space in a lot will not break the bank.
And your repair and maintenance costs will be much cheaper than, for example, the costs associated with other businesses, because you are not dealing with complex engines or other machinery, like in trucking or manufacturing.
Now, as we mentioned, your day to day maintenance should be relatively light because of the nature of the asset you are renting out. You can also keep your daily operations pretty simple because you can use sites like coop.com (which we already discussed) to make the business fairly passive and turn-key.
Easy to Expand
Because trailers are discrete items, it is really simple to grow your business. Just buy more trailers! Of course, you have to be smart about it and not overextend yourself, but as you become more comfortable and knowledgeable about what works, it’s easy to sensibly scale your business.
As we discussed earlier, you can make decent money renting out trailers. The combination of low cost and solid returns make for a really compelling business.
But every business has drawbacks and it is important to know what they are, so you go into the business with a sober and realistic view of what to expect. Here are some of the cons of owning a trailer rental business.
Cons of Trailer Rental Business
Every business is going to have some level of competition. This one is no different. Depending on your strategy, you may be facing competition from other rental businesses in the trucking industry as well as large corporate players, such as Home Depot (which rents out utility trailers, for example).
Some Repairs and Maintenance Will Be Needed
Despite being relatively low maintenance, you will still encounter some repairs and upkeep along the way, Things will break or malfunction and you will need to deal with the costs and hassle associated with that.
Demand Will Mirror Trucking Industry
As you can imagine, if you are renting out trailers to truckers, the demand for your product will rise and fall with the trucking industry. It’s an unavoidable part of the business, unless of course, you cater to non-trucking customers (renting out small utility trailers to residential customers, etc.).
So you need to be prepared for the potential ups and down of operating type of business.
So there you have it – a beginner’s guide to starting your own successful trailer rental business. If you are looking to expand your rental business by including trucks, check out my detailed article on how to rent out trucks profitably.
If you are interested in the trucking industry more generally and want to explore a variety of transportation business ideas, check out my comprehensive article on the topic here.