If you are looking to start a transportation business, but don't know where to begin, you are in the right place.
In this article, we are going to discuss 30+ amazing transportation businesses that you can start. We will group these businesses based on different kinds of transportation vehicles.
We'll start off with the biggest and most expensive vehicles first (semi-trucks) and move down the price range (finishing off with regular cars).
Here's a list of the topics we'll cover:
I will include key information about these businesses (when available), such as how much it costs to start, how much money you might make, and what you need to do to get started.
So whether you want to go big and start a long haul transportation business with your semi-truck or a drive the occasional passenger from their home to the airport on the weekends (or anything in between), we've got you covered.
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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 Transportation Business?
Before we get into the various types of transportation businesses, I think it makes sense to have everyone on the same page in terms of what is a transportation business. Simply put, a transportation business is a business that delivers goods or people from one place to another for a fee.
The focus of this article is going to be on transportation businesses you can operate with trucks and similar types of vehicles. Of course, you can run a transportation business with airplanes, ships and trains as well, but that is outside the scope of what we'll be covering.
Ok, now that we've got the introductory stuff out of the way, let's get into it.
Semi-Truck Transportation Businesses
Semi-trucks are the biggest, most expensive, and most difficult types of trucks to operate. I think everyone knows what a semi-truck is, so I won't go at length into what they are. If you don't know, just see the picture above. Semi-trucks require a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate and are almost always used for long distance hauls.
How Much Do Semis Cost?
New semis cost between $130,000 to $200,000. Used semis are much cheaper. You can buy one for as little as $30,000 (but even used semi-trucks can get up there in price – as high as $180,000, depending on the year, make and model). Source
I know – those prices seem brutal. But remember that buying is not your only option. Leasing is an option (and an attractive one if you don't have a lot of money right now). By the way, even if I don't specifically mention it later on, leasing is an option for all of the vehicles we discuss in this article, so you should definitely explore it when the time comes.
Leasing has some great benefits, including lower initial costs and less repair and maintenance obligations. That lower acquisition cost also helps you grow your fleet faster (if that's your goal).
Speaking of maintenance and repairs, you will want to keep in mind that repairing semis can be costly. You definitely want to budget for that when planning your transportation business.
How Much Money Can a Long Haul Transportation Business Make?
According to CTA Trucking (a long haul transportation company), the average gross of most of their trucks ranges from $4,000-$10,000+.
They state that an owner-operator can earn around $2000-$5000+ weekly. That's $104,000 – $260,000 if you work all 52 weeks. Not bad at all!
What Type of Transportation Business Can I Run with a Semi-Truck?
As I mentioned before, semi-trucks usually haul freight across long distances. I mean, if you ask someone to picture a trucking business, a fleet of semi-trucks transporting long hauls is probably what will come to mind.
Long Haul Trucking Business
Long haul trucking (also known as “over-the-road” or “OTR” trucking) is a business where your semi-trucks will transport freight over long distances (usually 250 miles or more). The payment for delivering these types of loads is typically higher than for shorter distance jobs.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that OTR trucking can require drivers to be on the road for weeks. As you can imagine, that's isolating, exhausting, and sometimes downright dangerous for drivers. This means it's tough to find good, safe and reliable drivers because they will be in short supply and high demand.
You can, of course, become an owner-operator of a semi-truck and make the deliveries yourself. In order to do this, you will need a CDL (if you don't already have one) and will also need to meet various legal requirements.
If you want your own trucking authority (which you will need if you operate a semi and want to engage in interstate transport), you will need to apply to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for a Motor Carrier (MC) Number. It costs around $300 and they have a 21 day vetting process.
You will need appropriate insurance and file a BOC-3 form, which basically appoints a service of process agent in the states in which you will operate.
You will also need a Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) if you are transporting freight across state lines. Additionally, if you operate across state lines and meet certain other requirements, you may need a US DOT number and an International Registration Plan (IRP).
It's a lot of paperwork, but the rewards can be worth it.
If you are feeling discouraged, remember that this is not uncharted territory. Plenty of drivers and entrepreneurs have taken the plunge to start their own trucking business. There a lot of examples where these owner-operators have steadily grown their trucking business from one truck to a fleet of trucks and created a trucking empire.
Short Haul Trucking Business
If long haul trucking isn't for you, you can explore a short haul trucking business.
This transportation business focuses on shorter routes of 150 miles or less. Although you might make less money when compared to a long haul business, the shorter hauls allow you (or your drivers) to come home every night. That's a major selling point if you want to recruit drivers. Plus, it can make your quality of life much better if you are an owner-operator driving these routes.
How to Get Started
If you want to learn more about starting a trucking business with your semi, check out my article on how to start a trucking business with just one truck. It's perfect for anyone who wants a step-by-step guide on how to start a semi-trucking business. We talk about how to set up your business entity, the best way to get loads, and much more.
Box Truck Businesses
Next on the list is businesses you can start with a box truck. These vehicles are less intimidating (and cheaper) than a semi-truck. That makes it much easier to get a box truck business up and running.
What is a Box Truck?
A box truck (also known as a straight truck, box van or cube van) is a truck that consists of a chassis cab truck with an enclosed rectangular cargo area. Box trucks are usually 10–26 feet long and can range from Class 3 to Class 7 (12,500 lb. to 33,000 lb. gross vehicle weight rating). Source.
They often have a roll-up door (similar to a garage door) at the back that gives you access to the cargo area. If you've ever rented (or even seen) a decent sized U-Haul or Penske, you know what a box truck is.
How Much Do Box Trucks Cost?
New box trucks cost around $25,000 to $45,000 for a light duty class 2 or 3 truck. Larger box trucks will cost more.
Below is a table showing the price of new box trucks by size.
|Box Truck Size||Box Truck Price Range|
|Light duty class 2 and 3||$25,000-$45,000|
|Medium duty class 4||$35,000-$50,000|
|Medium duty class 5||$45,000-$70,000|
|Medium duty class 6||$50,000-$90,000|
Of course, there are more affordable options.
If you want to stick with buying your own truck, you can buy a used one at a big discount. Used box trucks with 200,000 miles can go for as little as $5,000 – $10,000. Of course, newer, lower-mileage trucks will cost more, with prices ranging between $10,000 – $40,000, depending on condition, age, and mileage. Source.
How Much Money Can a Box Truck Business Make?
The national average income for a box truck owner-operator is $110,275 a year. That translates to roughly $53 an hour. But the income range is really broad. It can be from as low as $23,500 to as high as $293,000! Source
How much you will actually make may depend on many factors, including the number of loads you deliver, how well you control expenses, and where your business operates.
What Type of Transportation Business Can I Run with a Box Truck?
Box trucks are perfect for the “less than truckload” sector, which has been expanding with the rise of e-commerce.
Box trucks are ideal for delivering packages, furniture, bulk food items, and other cargo that needs local delivery. They are perfect for these tasks because they are designed to navigate urban areas but have enough cargo space to handle pretty large shipments.
One of the great benefits of a box truck business is that, unlike a semi-truck, you can usually drive a box truck without a CDL.
Here are some transportation businesses you can easily start with a box truck:
Regional Trucking Business
If you own a larger box truck capable of handling big loads, you can operate a freight transport business specializing in regional deliveries.
Local Delivery Business
There are plenty of companies that need local delivery services. Whether it's supplies, medical equipment, or appliances, you can easily fill that demand with your box truck. Sites like GoShare can connect you to people or businesses that may need these types of deliveries.
If you live in an area that has a decent residential population, you can start a moving business with your box truck. It's doesn't take much. You will need at least one other person to help you move items and will need to look into state and local rules around operating this business, but it's a very straightforward business to launch.
Box Truck Rental Business
This is a bit of a twist on your standard transportation business. You can rent out your box truck to companies or individuals that need it. I love this idea because it is so low key and can generate some passive income for you. Check out Fetch – they are an online platform that allows you to do this (note: your box truck must be under 12 feet in length and less than 10 years old).
Mobile Billboards Business
Here's another strategy that is a little unconventional. If you don't know what mobile billboards are, they are advertisements that you can place on the sides of your truck.
If you buy a box truck that is suitable for mobile advertising, you rent out that space to companies that want to advertise on the side of your box truck.
After all, it's a huge amount of space that gets a lot of visibility, especially if you drive around during peak hours on busy roads.
People have become used to normal billboards and ignore them a lot of the time. But mobile billboards are still new enough that they draw eyeballs.
If you want to learn more about this mobile billboard strategy, including a step-by-step guide to starting this type of business, check out my article on the topic.
Did you know that you could buy a FedEx delivery route that covers a designated territory?
This means that you will make money for each delivery made within that territory. The best part is that you don't have to worry about getting contracts for your box trucks. FedEx handles all of that because they give you packages every single day – all you have to do is make sure they all get delivered on time.
It can be a highly profitable business and, if you structure it right, it can run itself. Once you have a manager and reliable drivers in place, the day-to-day operations of this business can be run without your involvement.
If you want to learn how to buy a FedEx route in 5 easy steps, check out my article on the topic here.
How to Get Started
If you want a complete guide to starting a box truck business, check out my article that takes you step-by-step through the whole process.
Dump Truck Businesses
Another great transportation business is a dump truck business. What I like about this business is its versatility – you can service a variety of industries with your dump truck.
How Much Do Dump Trucks Cost?
A new dump truck is expensive. They start at around $100,000, but they can climb to around $150,000. Higher-end models (e.g., Kenworth) can start at $180,000 or more. Source
A used dump truck will be much cheaper, with costs as low as $15,000 (although they too can go over $100,000). Source
How Much Money Can a Dump Truck Business Make?
A dump truck owner-operator can make $39,000 to $200,000, with the average base income landing at $97,174. Source
It's a big range and that's because there are a lot of things that impact how much you make, including your location (some areas are more suited to dump truck businesses, such as those located close to mining operations, areas that are experiencing a boom in construction activities, etc.)
What Types of Transportation Businesses Can I Start with a Dump Truck?
Service the Construction Industry
You can use your dump truck to provide services to the construction industry. Construction companies and developers, landscapers, and other businesses often need raw materials, gravel, dirt and other items delivered to and from work sites. Your dump truck can be perfect for filling that need.
Snow and Waste Removal
You can also provide snow and waste removal services. You can offer these services to local governments, companies and individuals. For example, HOAs always need snow removal services during the winter and these jobs can be pay really well. One strategy is to use your dump truck for landscaping and construction during the warmer months and transition to snow removal when the weather gets colder.
Junk Removal For the Retail Sector
You can also offer your dump truck services to homeowners and house flippers who need to throw away a lot of junk from residences. It's a different business model because you are going to be marketing to the general public, but it can be a great strategy.
How to Get Started
For full step-by-step instructions on how to start a dump truck business, check out my beginner's guide on how to start a dump truck business.
Next up on the list is vans. There are two types of transportation businesses for vans: (i) cargo transport and (ii) passenger transport.
To deliver goods, you will need a cargo van. Cargo vans are perfect for transporting goods around urban centers. They are easy to drive, easy to park, and can move a decent amount of cargo. They can also be perfect for small moving jobs.
To transport people, you will be need a passenger van.
Passenger vans have many of the same characteristics of cargo vans. They are similar in price, size, drivability, etc., but they have several rows of seats. This means you can transport a lot of people in comfort. You see passenger vans often operating in group taxi or bus charter services.
Passenger vans are often used for “shared ride” passengers who are going to (or coming home from) the airport. These vans drive groups of people who are going in the same general direction. Because you ride with a bunch of other people, you often wind up paying less than if you took a private taxi or Uber.
We'll talk about both types of vehicles and the various businesses that you can start with each of them.
How Much Do Vans Cost?
New cargo vans can cost between $25,000-$35,000. Source
Buying a used cargo van is going to be a lot cheaper and is something you may want to consider. I looked at used cargo vans on Edmunds.com and found ones starting as low as $2,500 (although I also saw some that ran well over $50,000 – for almost-new Mercedes cargo vans).
New passenger vans run between $28,000-$43,000. Source
Like cargo vans, buying a used passenger van is going to be much more affordable. I looked at used passenger vans on Edmunds.com and found ones starting slightly under $2,000 (although they too can cost well over $50,000).
How Much Money Can a Van Transport Business Make?
A van business can be profitable. The average owner-operator of a van business in the U.S. makes around $98,660 per year. Source
This is almost double the national median income.
Of course, in business, nothing is guaranteed. The actual amount you make may will depend on where your business is located, what type of transportation business you are in (cargo or passenger), how much you charge, how well you can control your expenses, how effectively you market your business, and many other factors.
What Types of Businesses Can I Start with a Van?
Cargo Van Businesses
You can 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. You can use your cargo van to make the deliveries, of course.
If you want to learn more about this strategy, check out my article on how to buy a bread route.
Deliver Retail Goods
As we discussed when talking about box trucks, there are plenty of companies and manufacturers that need local deliveries made all of the time. Whether it's supplies, medical equipment, or appliances, you can certainly fill that need with your cargo van. Check out sites like GoShare to connect with people or businesses that may need these types of deliveries.
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.
You can also check out Bungii – they connect people who own cargo vans and pickup trucks (like your business) with people who want help moving furniture, etc. They are not available in all cities, but have decent coverage nationwide. Taskrabbit is a popular online platform that list various odd jobs. You may want to check them out too because they almost always have moving jobs listed there.
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. Even if they already have a van and delivery driver, sometimes the drivers call in sick or just don't show up.
Or, on especially busy days like Valentine's day, a single van may not be enough to handle all of the deliveries. It can be huge relief to the florist to know that they can call a service like yours that will seamlessly step in.
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. As mentioned before, you can use platforms like Fetchtruck.com (if it's available in your area) to list your cargo van for rent.
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.
Honorable Mentions: These aren't transportation businesses per se, but are businesses that you can start with a cargo van.
Mobile Car Wash
Another great business opportunity is starting a mobile car wash business. This is basically a car wash that comes to you. So you can get your car washed at work or even while you are away.
Once you have your cargo van, the rest of the materials and equipment to start this type of business is pretty cheap. 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.
Passenger Van Businesses
Offer a Car Service
This is obviously the most common business to run with a passenger van. As I mentioned earlier, you can offer shared ride services (taxi-like service where you transport people going in the same general direction), charter van services (where a group of people going on a trip, for example, charter your van for that trip), shuttle van services (where you transport people back and forth along a route), and a bunch of variations on these types of passenger delivery services.
Rent Out Your Passenger Van
This is a cool strategy that is made possible by sites like Turo.
Turo is the like the Airbnb of car rentals. Basically, using Turo, you can rent out your passenger van to people who are looking for one. To see how much money you can make on Turo with a passenger van, check out their Carculator.
When I looked up a 2018 Ford Transit Van on the Carculator, it showed that I could earn over a $1,000 a month! Not bad considering you can probably finance one for monthly payments that will be far less than that. It can be a cool little arbitrage.
How to Get Started
For a complete guide on how to start your transportation business with a van, check out my detailed article on the topic here.
Pick Up Truck Businesses
Service the Construction Industry
Construction and pick-up trucks go hand in hand. Although your pick-up truck won't be able to carry as much as a dump truck, there are plenty of landscapers and developers that may need smaller loads delivered and hauled away. Your pick up truck can be perfect for this task. You can look at online job boards for these smaller tasks or you can let people find your business online by registering your business on places like Google Business.
Make Local Deliveries
We already covered this type of business before. Just like with box trucks and cargo vans, you can use your pick up truck to make local deliveries. Check out sites like GoShare to get started. If you have a closed bed pickup truck you may also want to consider Amazon Flex if they are available in your area
Snow Plowing Business
If you attach a snow plow to the front of your pick-up, you can start offering snow plowing services. It's a seasonal business, but you can make a killing if there is steady and heavy snowfall throughout the winter. If you have a decent residential population, you may want to reach out to Home Owners Associations as they often contract with companies for the winter season to take care of plowing snow in their communities.
Pick up trucks are great for towing stranded vehicles because of their pulling ability. All you need to do is get the right towing equipment attached to your pick-up and you can get this business off the ground fairly easily. Once you have established your towing business, check out sites like Towpanda, Towingleads, and Servicedirect to get leads on towing jobs.
A pickup truck is versatile and you are not limited to hauling for the construction industry. You can haul away junk from individual homes, haul away mattresses – basically anything that will fit into the bed of your pickup. If you are looking for potential leads on mattress returns, check out sites like Sharetown.
A pickup truck business can also offer moving services. There are plenty of ways to get moving jobs. Check out sites like Goshare, Bungii and Sharetown to get moving job leads for your pickup truck business. You can also check out platforms like Taskrabbit for moving jobs.
Truck Rental Business
If you want to learn more great ways to make money from your pickup truck, check out my full article on the topic here.
Transportation Businesses With Your Car
Now we turn to the final category of transportation businesses – businesses that you can start with just a car. A car is not going to be as versatile as a pick-up truck or some of the other vehicles we discussed, but there are plenty of ways to make good money and develop a thriving business with your basic automobile. Let's get into it!
Food Delivery Business
We've mentioned food delivery before, so this should come as no surprise. You can easily start a food delivery business with just a single car. Get on platforms like UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart and others to launch your food delivery business.
Goods Delivery Business
Your car can deliver items too. It won't be able to carry as much as a box truck, cargo van or pick-up truck, but there is plenty of demand for smaller local deliveries. For example, GoShare offers drivers of regular cars the ability to act as a courier for small packages. If you have a 4 door, mid-sized sedan or larger, you may also be able to deliver packages with Amazon Flex (if they are available in your area).
Ride Sharing Driver Business
This one has to make the list right? You can become an Uber or Lyft driver and start your passenger transportation business. It's obviously a tried and true way to make money with your car (tons of people have done it before you).
Car Rental Business
We've talked about Turo before, so I won't go over it again. There are plenty of people offering their cars for rent on Turo and I know there are people who own fleets of cars (I mean like well over a hundred!) that they list on Turo. They have used this strategy to create a car rental empire.
If you want to learn more about how to do this on Turo, check out my article on the topic here.
So there you have – over 30 great transportation businesses that you can start. Now I recognize that most people who are starting off may be short on money, so I have written articles that show you how to start a transportation business with just a single vehicle. Check them out below.
If you want to learn how to ride the boom in the transportation industry but don't want to actually drive, check out my article on truck investing for passive income.