One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Have you heard that saying? It means you may have things you don’t need or want—things that are useless to you but may be of value to someone else.
Someone may have a use for something you’re discarding. Others can make money hauling the stuff away.
Not too long ago I helped a friend clean out his dad’s garage. He knew he’d have a pretty large pile of junk to get rid of, so ahead of time he made an appointment for a scrapper to show up about the time he figured we’d be done going through everything. (“Scrapper” is a term used for someone who hauls junk.)
Anyway, when the guy showed up I offered to help him load his trailer. That gave me the opportunity to chat with him about his business. (You know me—I’m interested in anything people do to make money.) After talking to him about what how long he’d been doing this sort of work and why he was doing it—getting a feel for the positive and negative aspects of the job, I did some research to see if a person could really make decent money hauling trash. And you can. In fact, hauling junk can be quite lucrative. There are people who do it for a living, but it can also be a profitable way to make extra money.
Earn extra money hauling junk
How does $40 to $60 an hour sound? That’s the common range a scrapper charges to haul away your junk. There are several reasons that contribute to that figure. One is that the hauler will have fees to pay when he dumps the stuff. Another is that this is a labor intensive job.
You may be charged additional fees for hauling certain types of trash. That would include things like paint, electronics, or yard waste. Check your community’s policy on the disposal of hazardous waste to see what items are likely to incur surcharges.
Here’s is the part that really impressed me: From a scrapper’s point of view not all of your junk is necessarily trash.
I noticed that the guy who hauled away my friend’s stuff sort of sifted through it as we were loading. Some things weren’t just tossed on the heap, but set along one side of the trailer. He was a little vague about why. Basically, he said those items might need some “special handling.” There was an old TV that probably fit the description of hazardous waste, but other stuff seemed pretty ordinary to me. Research told me that scrappers may haul your junk away for a price, but the disposing of it is only part of their business. I learned that many of them are very frugal. They find ways to increase their profits.
Some scrappers will sift through stuff as they load it. Others will take the haul to another location and look for “treasures.” Tools, repairable furniture, clothes, toys, games, lamps, etc.—usable, fixable things can provide a second stream of income:
Many items can be sold on craigslist or eBay—as is, or with a little fixing up.
Or they may make contributions (tax deductible) to a local charity.
Or keep something for personal use.
Other items may become gifts. (You might be surprised at how much junk is practically new—sometimes still in the box.)
Not every job you take will yield items such as lamps and tools that can be upcycled or even recycled. Nor will you sell every item that holds that potential. Still, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that hauling could provide viable funds.
Where do you find customers?
• People clean out their houses and end up with a pile of items they don’t want.
• Real estate agents and banks need houses cleared out before they can sell them.
• Storage units need someone to clean out stuff left in a unit when the customer doesn’t pay.
• Contractors need their construction sites cleaned.
• Property managers need apartments cleared out before they can rent them again.
As with any endeavor, thoroughly investigate what hauling requires of you. It can be a moneymaker, but for any freelance business to succeed you have to have the right information, tools, and protection to maximize your potential. The following are some thoughts that came to my mind as points to consider. If you are interested in taking on the job, I’m sure you’ll think of more.
Obviously, you’re going to need an appropriate vehicle to haul with—at a minimum, a pickup truck that runs well. How good looking this vehicle needs to be is debatable. On one hand you’re hauling trash, on the other your potential customer base may be into “presentation.” Regardless, it needs to be reliable and not leaking fluids—people are not likely to give you a good reference if you stain their driveways.
Sturdy clothes, boots, and gloves are necessary. Some of the stuff you load and haul may be very dirty, have sharp edges, or present other hazards.
I’ve already mentioned that many scrappers have a place they use to sort through their loads. Finding saleable items is not the only reason to have such a base. Not everything a scrapper hauls is easily disposed of. A prime example would be paint. Most areas require that paint cans be opened and the paint in them completely dried before it is dumped. Do you have a safe, convenient place to do that? (Your garage may not work. After all, you already use that space. Also, your neighborhood covenants might not allow it.) And remember paint will not be the only product that has specific disposal requirements.
Make sure you always dispose of junk legally. In most places you cannot take your trash to a private dumpster. You’ll want to know before getting into the hauling business where you can take various items. Not everything goes to the same place. And since dumping sites are usually businesses, what will they charge you to do business with them?
One last thing I can think of is how are you going to let people know you’re available? I see a lot of magnetic signs on pickup trucks. You might also want to establish a presence on the internet.
Keep it legal
I’ve already touched on this topic. Where will you establish your base of operation? Some communities have prohibitions to (1) running a business in certain areas, (2) storing various chemical, electronic, and mechanical items. (That list is probably not complete.) Do you need a business license? Insurance and bonding are issues you need to check into. And here’s one I really don’t get—some residential areas do not allow homeowners to have advertising on their vehicles.
Whatever you do, you do you need to be legal. You don’t want to lose a great business opportunity because you failed to comply with the law.
Keep good records
Keeping good records is essential to any successful business. Your records tell you if you are actually making enough money to justify being in business. You’ll also need them to figure your taxes. And you’ll want to be able to prove that your business licenses, insurance, and bonding are current.
You can make extra money hauling junk, but it is a business and you’ll want to treat it as such.