Business Profile: Bicycle Rental Service

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Start-Up Cost: $7,500–$12,000

Potential Earnings: $50,000–$80,000

Typical Fees: $12–$15 per half-hour rental

Advertising: Flyers/brochures, Internet

Qualifications: None

Equipment Needed: Fleet of bicycles and repair kits

Potential Home Business: Yes

Staff Required: No

Disabled Opportunity: Possibly

Hidden Costs: Liability/theft insurance

Lowdown: Remember the days of the bicycle built for two, when tourists rented bikes to explore island areas where cars either didn’t exist or were blessedly limited? Those days are still here, but the majority of bicycle rental businesses are clustered around heavily trafficked tourist spots, such as Michigan’s Mackinac Island or Florida’s sandy beaches.

However, with increased rails-to-trails projects, there are many more bicycle paths away from resort areas that are creating excellent new rental opportunities. Many bicycle rental shops are now featuring inline skate rentals as well, especially in places like California. Regardless of what you decide to offer, you’ll be amazed at how much money can be made in this relatively easy business.

Each day, you’ll take a fee for short-term rentals, offering the possibility of instant repeat business or a large number of daily rentals. And, because most bicycle rentals are cash transactions, you’ll have instant money. What could be easier than that?

This was one of the many businesses that I started and while it wasn’t the most profitable, I did make decent money. And it was fun. And it was a relatively easy to start business that I was able to do on a summer vacation from college.

Start-Up: Your main costs stem from the fact that you must buy a good fleet of bicycles, typically 20 to 25 of them at a cost of $300 or so each. If you invest in only used bicycles, your maintenance costs will be high. Considering that you’ll be earning $12–$15 per half-hour rental, you could make a sizable amount of money very quickly in this business if you’re in a tourist area (especially one that doesn’t allow many cars).

Bottom Line: Do your homework and choose the right location for this business. Obviously, it will only be seasonal in northern climates—is that all you want? Or would you rather make money from this relatively simple, straightforward business all year long? You decide. Either way, you’re bound to make a decent piece of change.

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