Thinking of becoming a self employed courier? Selecting a vehicle and getting started.
Here are just a few tips that I hope may be useful for anyone considering starting a business as a self employed same day courier. As with most things in life there’s always more than one way to skin a cat. But this is just a few opinions and an insight into how I got myself started in the courier industry.
The very first thing most people will want to do is work out their initial set up costs...and one of the first steps to this will be deciding what vehicle you want to operate. There generally tends to be more work available for small vans than there is for large but you tend to be able to make more money per mile profit after diesel with large van work. So it’s a case of weighing up the pros and cons and deciding which option you think suits you best.
Something else to consider is that big van work can involve more what I like to call “hard work” haha. After all there is only so many boxes you can handball into a Peugeot Partner or Citroen Berlingo but it’s a different story when it comes to how many will fit into an XLWB transit! You will generally get paid a premium for these “hard work” jobs but it depends whether or not this is the type of work you want to be doing. In a nutshell my take on this is that big van work is more suited to those that don’t mind getting their hands dirty and are physically fit. Small van work while less manual labour intensive you will generally need to put in more hours driving to earn the equivalent wage you would in a big van.
Then you need to decide whether you are going to buy a vehicle outright or lease or rent. Buying outright is more of a gamble, as with leasing and renting maintenance is usually included in the Package, so you know your costs will be fixed. But if you’re lucky with the vehicle, buying outright will likely be less overall running costs than with renting. Your choice here will depend on several factors, like how much knowledge you have of vehicle mechanics and maintenance, do you have a mechanic you know and trust?...If you don’t, are you generally confident dealing with mechanics? These are all questions to consider when deciding which option to choose.
When I started out I opted for buying outright and was very fortunate in that I managed to get a “good one” and after 5 years of owning it was still going strong. Apart from servicing, MOTs and renewing wearables such as brakes, tiers etc I hardly had to spend anything else on it. I decided to get a loan from one of the large supermarkets to cover the purchase rather than vehicle finance as I found the interest rates to be far better.
One other bit of advice I would give is not to go out and buy a new or nearly new van, as you want to keep your running costs as low as you can. There’s nothing worse than having to dig yourself out of a big hole every week before you break even. Obviously you don’t want something too old as you need a vehicle that is presentable and reliable but it is pointless spending a fortune on a new van when the mileage you’re going to put on it (if successful) will see its value plummet at an alarming rate. Not to mention you will be wincing every time a forklift driver shunts into it while loading a pallet. Something neat and tidy with reasonably low mileage and a good bit of history would be my advice if deciding to buy.
Once you have decided on the vehicle you want and the options between owning/renting, you need to deliberate your insurance options. This is the bit that really stings! If you are new to this, as I was, you won’t have any commercial vehicle no claims bonus so you will have to start from scratch. With zero no claims you can probably now expect to pay anywhere between £1500 to £3000 per year for your courier hire and reward insurance depending on your age, previous driving experience and what part of the country you live in. Then on top of that you could expect another £200-£300 for goods in transit insurance which you will need to cover you in case of any mishaps with a customer’s goods. So you’re looking at maybe between £40-£70 per week just for insurance!
So now you have your vehicle and insurance sorted all you need now is some customers! I would strongly advise canvassing your local courier companies and seeing if they have any work available for owner drivers, you should be able to find some that will give you a go. The money subcontracting in this way doesn’t tend to be very good but it’s a great way to get a footing and start learning the ropes and also gets some money coming in while you try to build up your own customer base.
Well there’s obviously a lot more to getting started than the little I’ve covered here but I hope this may be of some use to anyone considering becoming a self employed courier. Good luck!