Make Money with Your Car

If you live in a rural area, you can make money delivering mail, newspapers or even driving a school bus.

| April/May 1993

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    If you have a vehicle and live out in the country, you can make part time money with your car or van.

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Country people get along just fine without city sewers or half-hour pizza delivery. Still, there are plenty of goods and services that must be provided to families, farms, and small businesses scattered across wide rural distances. One way to earn cash in the country is to service the spread-out rural "infrastructure"—driving motor routes delivering newspapers, students, and mail.

One commodity that requires timely delivery is the news. Maybe Dan Rather can supply big-picture news electronically, but nothing can replace the small-town daily or weekly newspaper. Advertising is the key. The farther from town a newspaper can peddle its wares, the larger its distribution map, and the more potential country-customers the salespeople have to entice. A paper will go to considerable lengths to maintain its rural distribution network—the keystone of which is the rural motor-route driver. If you have the (often peculiar) hours free, have a reliable vehicle, can perform routine maintenance and minor repairs on it, and are willing to drive country roads stuffing papers in delivery tubes, you can bring in a steady cash income.

Best paying are big-city daily papers, which are delivered farther afield than you might think. Less affluent and tighter with pay are the small-town dailies. Most dailies publish on all five weekdays and Saturday. Although many small-town papers deliver their weekday papers in the afternoon, television news programs are getting the jump on afternoon news. As a result, small-town papers are gradually moving toward morning delivery, to accompany morning coffee. Be prepared to work between midnight and the wee hours of the A.M.

Evaluate The Market  

From a local store, buy copies of all the papers that serve your area. Tour the roads looking for plastic paper-delivery tubes on steel fence posts and tubes or hooks fastened to mailbox posts (it is illegal to put papers in mailboxes, so drivers fasten small hooks to the sides of posts and hang papers from them in plastic bags). Tubes come in an assortment of colors and have the paper's name and perhaps a sales message and telephone number embossed on the sides. The more tubes, the better-paying the route. Most delivery services pay drivers a combination of a mileage fee and a customer commission— $10 or so per paper drop plus about $.25/mile—or a lump-sum salary of a roughly equivalent amount.

Small commissions add up, and a customer density of 10 papers/mile pays $1.25/mile, which you can usually drive in five minutes or less—you could gross over $10/hour. A top route will run about 60 miles with 200 customers, and will gross over $200 each six-day week. It should take you under three hours to drive.

With a longer route, both pay and driving time are higher. If tubes are scattered thinly, the pay can be less—unless they belong to a major-city paper. Often, big papers pay generous mileage allowances or offer lump-sum contracts for routes which may be cash money losses for them, but which pay out by increasing the geographic coverage they can show to advertisers.

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