How to Start a Delivery or Courier Service

by Caryn Kelly ; Updated September 26, 2017
A reliable vehicle is needed for pickups and deliveries.

Whether you will work alone or hire employees or sub-contractors, starting a courier or delivery service is a viable and oftentimes lucrative endeavor. Entrepreneurs who start a courier business should have good driving records and the ability to read maps and use GPS navigation systems. Punctuality and interpersonal skills are also very helpful. While a delivery or courier service involves the purchase and maintenance of a reliable vehicle, the rewards of owning your own business can outweigh the initial costs.

Gain courier experience. Subcontract with an established delivery or courier company to learn how the business is run before starting your own business. You can earn and save money for your fledgling business while you learn.

Decide what kind of items you want to pick up and deliver. The storage capacity of your vehicle will play a large part in this decision. The wider the variety of items you handle will increase your income potential. If you handle only envelopes, small packages and confidential legal documents, you need a high-quality, waterproof courier bag. If you decide to also deliver larger items, such as food, medical cargo, industrial cargo or large boxes, you will also need a moving dolly.

Buy or lease an appropriate vehicle. Purchase a GPS navigation system to avoid getting lost. If you will employ other drivers, be sure to install two-way radios in their vehicles so you can communicate with them.

Decide what areas you’ll service in your delivery or courier business. Large cities and metropolitan areas fare better than rural ones. The larger your geographic reach, the more you can boost your income potential. You can choose to service a single city or an entire state. You might also decide to cross state lines or even provide international delivery services. Arm yourself with local and long-distance maps and become intimately familiar with the areas you decide to service.

Establish a fee schedule for your delivery or courier service. Consider mileage, gas consumption, and the nature of the items you'll be picking up or delivering when computing your fees. Check the services and fees of existing delivery or courier services to make sure you are competitive. Keep a log in your car at all times so you can track your mileage. Make sure to keep all receipts for parking, tolls and other costs related to your business for income tax purposes.


  • Invest in a refrigerated van or truck if you’ll be transporting time-sensitive perishable or medical items.

    Buy courier business software, such as ASCAR or Courier Complete, to keep track of your business finances.

    Join a courier business association, such as The Messenger Courier Association of America or the Express Carriers Association.

    Consider using a bicycle if the square mileage of your service area is small enough and the packages you’re handling can be placed in a waterproof carrier tote.

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