How To Start A Delivery Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Elena Hudgens
By Elena Hudgens 16 Min Read

Have you ever wondered how to start a delivery business? A low-cost and low-stress way to make money with a flexible schedule? If you’re searching for a way to make some extra cash, starting a delivery service might be the perfect fit.

This step-by-step guide will show you everything you should know about how to start a delivery business. This includes what type of vehicle you’ll need, how much it costs, and what permits and legal documents you’ll need. 

It also covers the best types of food and drinks for delivering and how to find new customers. You can even learn about social media marketing and advertising your services on Instagram.

The best type of business for you

It might be tempting to start a traditional restaurant or market, but if you want to make the most of your time and money, you would want to start a delivery-only business. The cost of starting a traditional restaurant or market is much higher than the cost of starting a business that only does delivery. 

When searching for suppliers and ordering inventory, the goal is always the same: find products and services at an affordable price. For example, if you don’t have time for deliveries in between customers, an online order fulfilment center will be perfect for you.

Choose a business structure

Before knowing how to start a delivery business, you must know the different kinds of legal business structures. The most common legal business structures are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. 

You can form an LLC yourself for minimal costs or hire one of these Best-In-Class services to do it for you at a small additional fee. Establishing an LLC or a corporation will protect you from being held personally liable if your delivery service is issued.

What kind of vehicle you’ll need

At the very least, you’ll need a motor vehicle. But if you have a car, you might want to consider investing in a delivery van with a large storage capacity and power outlets so you can keep your phone charged on the go. Now for the legalities of owning a car or truck for delivering:

  • Liability insurance is required.
  • Your rig will need to be examined.
  • You’ll need to register your truck as a commercial vehicle.
  • You may need to obtain a business license.

If you plan to be driving around town all day then the last thing you want is a giant sign that says “taxi” or “delivery.” You might also want to think about getting one of those bumper stickers that say, “Follow me on Insta.” 

That way, people know what you do and will be more inclined to follow your account. And if they know what you do, they’ll be more likely to call when they need something delivered.  You can advertise on social media, hand out business cards, post flyers, and promote word of mouth referrals. It’s essential to put yourself out there and make it known that you offer this service.

Both new and used trucks are available on the market. Finding one can be difficult without any guidance present, but you’re in luck. Several resources out there review the top choices for cargo vans and trucks. Cargo vans, box trucks, pickup trucks–these are all viable options to choose from that will work best for this business. 

Fuel-efficient vehicles should also be chosen as it is likely that you’ll rack up a lot of miles on your delivery routes with these types of transportation services being necessary most days of the week. 

The Chevy Express Van Ford Transit Cargo Van Mercedes Sprinter are popular model among drivers who need reliable automobiles to deliver goods around town each day.

To start your delivery service, all you need is a reliable vehicle with the necessary permits and legal documents. Every city has different requirements, so make sure you check with your city’s transportation department before setting up your business. You’ll also need food or drink that is ready to eat or drink when delivered (or both).

How much does it cost to start a delivery service?

If you have not done proper research on how to start a delivery business, it can be expensive. 

There are so many expenses to consider, like the cost of your vehicle, your fuel costs, and any other promotional materials you’ll need. You’ll also need a business bank account and a lawyer on retainer to help you navigate legal issues.

The good thing is that there are ways to save money without compromising quality. For example, you might be able to buy a used car or borrow an old one from a friend or relative. 

You can also cut back on marketing by relying solely on word-of-mouth referrals for new business. Sometimes all it takes is a will to sacrifice something else in life in order to start making money with your own delivery service. 

Get equipment 

When you have a truck or van and the equipment you need for your delivery business, it’s time to start considering what type of tools you’ll need. 

Depending on the job, different tools are required, such as a dolly (a moving dolly or appliance dolly). The more tools one has in their possession, the more jobs one can do. For example, if you invest in many storehouses to keep the items for delivery, you can expand your business over a larger geographical area.

Securing cargo is very important so that customers don’t receive damaged items from deliveries being made. Separate equipment like ratchet traps and truck beds can be used to ensure this. 

You should always keep extra ratchet straps nearby for tie-downs – bungee cords will suffice too if not available- along with blankets that are used to protect goods being carried by customers ($11.99 spent on moving blankets is much cheaper than replacing broken items).

Pick the best-suited suppliers for the equipment. Some of the common equipment that you should have is

  • Computers
  • Printers, and copiers
  • Business cards
  • Brochures and flyers
  • Pick-up and delivery log 
  • Mailing envelopes
  • Shipping boxes
  • A vehicle 
  • A dolly

A variety of tools at your hand will make your jobs more efficient and fast. This could increase customer satisfaction and loyalty leading to more customer acquisition. 

There are various licenses and permits you’ll need to start your delivery service. One of the most important is a business license. The SBA has laid out a list of federal licenses and permits that must be viewed before starting your business. This will allow you to work as a delivery person legally.  

Another important permit is a food safety certificate. When delivering food, it’s imperative that you have this certificate because people expect their food to be clean and fresh. All of your employees must have this certificate too.

To start a business, you’ll need a business license. You can search for your local city or county office and meet with the licensing agent to file for a business license. They will set an annual fee based on the number of employees you have and how much gross income you make in a year.

A DBA typically isn’t necessary if your company is already registered as a corporation or LLC. However, it’s recommended that you research this for yourself as every state has different requirements.

Get insurance 

Before you start delivering, you’ll need to purchase the proper insurance and get all of your permits and legal documents. You can purchase a food handler’s permit online for $30. To avoid any legal issues, you should also register your vehicle with the state or county where you live. 

If you live in California, for example, this costs $60. And if you want to deliver beer or wine, then you’ll need to apply for a special permit ($75).  

Once your vehicle is registered and insured, it’s time to apply for your business license. You can do this by visiting your town or city website or contacting the local government officials in charge of business licenses (this information is usually located on the government website).


To start a delivery business, you have to register your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles. You’ll need your vehicle registration number and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can find this info on your car’s Title or Registration. 

Next, you’ll go to the Maryland State Tax Administration Office and complete a Business Registration Application. This is a free service however, it can take up to three weeks for approval.

You will also need to register for taxes, for which you will need to secure an Employee Identification Number or EIN. There are three ways to obtain an EIN – the IRS website, by mail, or by fax. 

Develop a business name

Naming your business is important. It has to be unique and creative. You have to set up a company from a legal standpoint- but it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are resources, such as LegalZoom, that can help you with this process of setting up your company legally so you don’t get in trouble later on by not being registered properly or trying to do things yourself without the proper knowledge of how these things work. 

The last thing anyone wants is for their business name and ideas stolen because they didn’t take the time out of their day (or night) if someone was going through all those channels looking at what new businesses were popping into existence lately.

How to find new customers

As with any business, it will be important for you to find new customers. To do this, you’ll want to invest in social media advertising. Social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook make it easy to promote your delivery service for little cost. 

You can also contact local restaurants and ask if they would like to partner with you. They will help promote your service and you’ll get a steady stream of customers who come back again and again.

Social Media Marketing 

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Source: Facebook Ads

Now that your delivery vehicle is up and running, it’s time to start marketing. One of the best ways to reach new customers is through social media. Promote your food and drink delivery service on Instagram with videos, pictures, or posts about what you offer. You can also use hashtags like #deliveryservice or #eaterservice so people in the area can find you.

Another great way to advertise is by using social media ads. Facebook’s advertising platform allows you to target an audience based on demographics, interests, behaviours, and more. This makes it easy for you to find your perfect customer. 

If you’re looking for a college-aged male who likes sports and lives near the university, that person is probably on Facebook all day long. You could target him specifically with a paid ad campaign–saving money on ads that are seen by people who are not interested in what you have to offer.

Here are some tips on how to market your business: You need customers. Get the word out by letting people know you’re open for business using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Build a website and make sure it’s easy to find when someone searches Google or another search engine optimization site (SEO).

Build a reputation 

Once you have your first job set up, it is time to execute. Keep in mind that the customer does not always know they are going to need your services again – this means establishing repeat customers will help build a sustainable business

Providing good customer service is key- this includes communicating with them every step of the way and making sure their vehicle looks clean outside as well as inside. If you do a great job, they will use it again and recommend you to their friends.


Starting a delivery business is an excellent way to break into the multi-trillion-dollar delivery industry. But with so many start-up costs, licensing requirements, and legal obligations, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Consider a pickup and delivery service if you are either a new or established entrepreneur. With its steady growth projections, this cross-industry business venture is an option worth exploring in these times of unprecedented economic uncertainty.

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Elena Hudgens is an entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience. She started her journey by building her own e-commerce website on Shopify and turned her $1000 savings to millions in just 2 years. Soon she started different ventures in which she failed and succeeded. And now, she's on a mission to help other entrepreneurs with her life and business lessons.
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