In one of my first blog posts, No Nonsense Advice on Starting a Classic Car side Biz, I said that any business idea is 100% cooler with a classic car. And I stand by that point.
If you’ve got a classic car, why not use it to make a bit of spare cash to pay for its upkeep? Here’s 10 side business ideas for making money with a classic car.
1) Advertising/ Publicity
Probably one of the easiest options to make money, you can offer the side of your classic car as a blank canvas to advertise on.
This could work well if you do a lot of travelling in your classic car, or live in a busy area. And if the client is willing to pay for a vinyl wrap of the body you don’t really need to worry about your paintwork being mint.
The only downside? You’re a permanent advertisement. You could always try negotiating for magnets that you could take off when you need to be a little less conspicuous, or a smaller window sticker ad, but I imagine that wouldn’t be as appealing to a company interested in advertising on a vehicle.
Also you should definitely check with your insurance company before you turn your car into a rolling billboard as they might need you to have business insurance, which is generally more expensive, so you’ll want to factor that into the price you'd charge for advertising.
Classic cars have been having a moment on TV for a while now so depending on where you are in the country you could also make some extra money appearing in TV adverts or at promotional events.
Unlike the vinyl wrap idea, you wouldn’t need to commit to changing your vehicle permanently- but because these opportunities are really easy money they're few and far between, so you’ll have to make some effort to find them. Also, unlike with the vinyl wrap, your car needs to be restored to quite a high standard if you want the chance of getting an advertising offer.
Sometimes I'll see posts on social media for publicity and advertising “opportunities” but these are nearly always unpaid. Which is fine, if you've got the time photoshoots can be fun and you’ll get some great shots of your car at the very least- but this article is about making money, so let’s move on.
2) Photo Booth/ Photo Shoot
When I was a kid it was all about bouncy castles, but photo booths are fast becoming the entertainment of choice for weddings, parties and events.
If you have a big classic car, like a VW camper or a Citroen H van (or even a vintage caravan to go with the car?) you can convert it quite easily into a simple photo booth without having to make any drastic alterations to your vehicle.
Basic equipment for a simple set up can cost around £500 for a DSLR camera and Polaroid camera/ portable printer (and it helps if you’re already interested in photography!)
Now the bad points: you’ll most likely lose a lot of your summer evenings and weekends, you can’t go indoors so you’re really reliant on the weather being good, especially if you don’t like taking your van out in bad weather! Also, drunk people may try to smoke in your van and will almost definitely spill their drinks in the van.
If you don’t have a big classic car/ vintage caravan, or just don’t fancy the idea of it then I do have another suggestion.
Lots of photographers offer engagement shoot packages or anniversary packages, ect. so you could always contact a few local photographers offering your classic car as a prop for couples to pose in, or just advertise it directly to people interested in photo shoots and see what interest you get.
We’ve even done weddings where the couple just want photos of themselves with a nice car and don’t actually need chauffeuring anywhere.
3) Catering Van
Everybody needs to eat! Why not turn your classic car into a food business?
Ok, I'll admit this one is quite a big commitment and yes, you have to be good at cooking and love whatever you're making because there's a big chance you'll be eating the leftovers on more than one occasion.
But there's thousands of possibilities for what you could choose to serve, here's some ideas off the top of my head:
From my personal experience of food at festivals (market research required!) there’s a massive gap in the market for vegetarian and vegan food.* At the last VW show we went to the only vegan food stand had a 30 minute queue which was way bigger than other, meatier stalls (although admittedly it was raining and they had a big awning with seating, so that could have also been the draw for people).
There's also been a big push in recent years for healthy eating which I think people are becoming more attuned to, so if you could think of something healthy and delicious to serve you might be onto a winner.
Depending on what you choose to serve, you could rip out the interior on your vehicle and get a professional built in set-up- but I’ve seen other food stalls where minimal alterations had been made to the van (including the vegan stand I mentioned above) and it still looked good.
You need to be a bit of a risk-taker to go for this business idea. From what I hear from traders, food stands are very up and down in terms of profitability- you can have an amazing sell-out weekend or struggle to cover your fuel costs. But then, the bigger the risks are the more money you could potentially make and hey, if it was easy money more people would do it.
*Ok wait, I can give you a fact on the rise of veganism- in 2006 150,000 people identified as vegan, in 2016 it's 542,000! (Source)
Don’t take for granted all the stuff you’ve learned about classic cars from owning one. Knowledge is valuable and (much like the food industry) it's one of the few markets that we'll always need.
Writing an E-Book about your restoration project could be both fun and profitable. Or, if you feel confident working on your own classic car, why not advertise a class for basic car maintenance (specific to whatever classic you own) and see what interest you get?
Although a lot of stuff like that can be found for free on the internet (like here!) some people find it useful to be shown what to do in person. You could even offer it as a paid workshop at a festival or classic car show.
You can provide transport for weddings (and funerals, if you feel like it) with most standard classic car insurance policies (always check with your company first though!)
But for anything else, like high school Proms and race days, you need a Private Hire License from your local council, which, unless you know you can get a lot of work from this, might not be worth the investment.
This is another pretty crowded market, because it's reasonably easy to drive people around and be polite to them (unless you have a horrible personality), so it's tempting to make yourself the cheapest option to get the work but my advice would be- don't do it!
First of all, no one likes the budget option and people can be suspicious of something that seems too cheap. Besides, if you're charging a fraction of the price of other companies in your area you'll have to work way harder to make as much money as them- which is no good reason to be sacrificing your free time.
6) Holiday Hires
You need to jump through a lot more hoops to get insurance policies for holiday and day hires- but at least that means less people are offering it as a service.
If you have a campervan you can offer it as an alternative to a caravan holiday (which can be pretty expensive.) Although you'll want to make sure you have breakdown cover for the vehicle and get the vehicle maintained regularly to minimise the chance of a breakdown and spoiling someone's holiday (not to mention a bad review!)
If you don't have a camper you can still hire out your classic car for day trips or weekends away.
7) Car Valeting
Let’s get real- new technology is changing the car industry fast and no one really knows what it will look like in the next 10 years. One thing I do know? People will always need stuff cleaning (until someone invents robots that will clean for us, or self cleaning cars).
Car cleaning products can be crazy expensive- but people are actually willing to buy them, so it stands to reason that people will also pay you to use these products on their cars.
Sooo you don’t need a classic car to do this one really, but an amazingly clean classic car would make great advertising for this kind of business.
8) Sell Anything
As I said in my earlier article, lots of business ideas will work without a classic car element, the classic car just makes it 100% cooler. If you’ve got any hobby that you could potentially turn into a business then incorporate your vehicle in some way.
9) Car Restoration
If you believe what you see on TV, there is money to be made buying, restoring and selling classic cars. But there's quite a big time commitment involved in restoring cars, not to mention expense on parts alone, so if you want to go with this option make sure you know what you're doing.
Alternatively, you could specialise in one aspect of car restoration- such as wiring, lowering, building interiors, upholstery, ect. and become so amazing at it that you’re the only person people want to go to.
This is probably the most boring way to make money with your classic car and also quite a gamble too.
It involves buying a lovely classic car, keeping it totally original, dry storing it for 10+ years and only bringing it out once a year for maintenance. Then, once it’s nice and rare, you’ll be able to make a massive profit when you sell it at auction.
This is risky- as I mentioned earlier, the car industry is going to change a lot in the next 10 years and the price of classic cars could do anything so investing in them is a gamble. It's a complete guess what's going to be worth money in the future and what isn't. It’s also a rubbish way to own a classic car, never taking it out or appreciating it. But it is an option, so I'm just throwing it out there.
None of these ideas are wildly original and probably won't change the world- but they don’t have to. Whatever you choose to do, as long as you've got a sensible plan of what you're going to sell and who is going to buy it you can't go too far wrong with your classic car side business.
Got an opinion? Let us know in the comments
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