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Handyman vehicle what is best?

webby's picture

Hey all, I am thinking about getting a handyman license and starting a small business in my spare time. My question is what vehicle would be best, truck or van?

Opinions please, Any and all appreciated.


Edited 6/14/2006 5:01 pm ET by webby



(post #72452, reply #1 of 32)

What's a handyman license?

I use a van.  I can't imagine working out of a pickup (if that's what you meant by "truck").  I think you would want the vehicle loaded all of the time with all of the tools you would need and most of the typical hardware.

As for "spare time", I assume you don't otherwise have a 40-hour per week job because your spare time would just be evenings and weekends.  I don't think most people would want a handyman working inside the home at those times.



(post #72452, reply #7 of 32)

Don't know about a handyman license either...but thankfully, people do want workman at those hours :>)


(post #72452, reply #20 of 32)

"What's a handyman license?"

Around here it's a pickup with ladder racks.

The REALLY serious ones get dually pickups.

Men look at women the way men look at cars. Everyone looks at Ferraris. Now and then we like a pickup truck, and we all end up with station wagons. [Tim Allen]

(post #72452, reply #2 of 32)

van- 3/4 ton minimum

everythings inside, safe and dry


(post #72452, reply #3 of 32)

How's about an older ambulance?   Or hearse?


(post #72452, reply #4 of 32)

I'd love a bread truck, but too big for my neighborhood.

A small rectangular postal van might fit in the garage, but I can't find any to buy.

A van would work well, I imagine.

But, I have a Dakota 4 door, meaning a very small bed.  Not the best thing for convenience, especially in the rain, or if I need a Home Depot stop in a bad neighborhood.

Yeah, I'm thinking a van.  Or trailer. Someday, maybe...

Pete Duffy, Handyman

Pete Duffy, Handyman

(post #72452, reply #5 of 32)

Whatever your brother-in-law drives.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. --James Madison

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #72452, reply #6 of 32)

If I were going back to that, I would outfit a trailer or buy a Sprinter van - probably the latter.

You are a very rare person, seeing as how you have spare time



Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #72452, reply #8 of 32)

He won't have any long if he is any good.


(post #72452, reply #9 of 32)

if you have the room... I'd say step van... most are alum bodied so they don't rust... they are basicly square so things would stack well inside... huge sides would make a great signboard.... add a roll out awning like on an RV and you have a great ouside covered work area... small rack on the side to carry a few panels of sheet goods if needed... yep... i think i could make a pretty nice "go fix anything" truck out of one

around here i see em go pretty cheap for nice ones  less than what just an enclosed trailer would sell for....


(post #72452, reply #10 of 32)

I don't see how you can be a handyman without a van. There are too many tools and too much stuff you need to prevent constant runs to the hardware store. You'll make enough runs even if you are stocked up.

Piffen mentioned the Sprinter van. They are very nice.

I drive a 3/4 ton GMC van. Ladders on top and lots of room for a lot of stuff inside. Somedays it is even organized.

Rich Beckman

Another day, another tool.

(post #72452, reply #11 of 32)

I had a 3/4 ton pickup so used it. Of course I welded up a rack and use two bedside tool boxes. Between the boxes I covered the bed with 3/4" ply--with steel tubing bows supporting it. Tailgate locks. 4X8 anything fits between the boxes on the cover. Lumber, cornerbead etc go on the rack. Tools below. Usually use a trailer made from a 6 1/2 foot pickup bed as a dumpster--people like neat. Always had a general contractor's license but never heard of a handyman license. Found people found the term "handyman" to mean unskilled and therefore they wanted something for nothing. I don't use it. Small job specialist is better. You ARE planning on making a profit in your spare time...right..or just spare change? Start at $60.00/hr and build a rep. Tyr

Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.... Roman Poet Phaedrus 15BC–50AD

(post #72452, reply #12 of 32)

Get a GMC safari minivan, seats 8, holds plywood or sheetrock and is fantastic in the snow with all wheel drive.I have put 1500 lbs in with no problem. It weighs 5200 and rides great.

At my lumber yard ALL the contractors has pickups, I have no idea why, my truck will out work any of them.

This is the best vehicle I ever had in 32 years of business.

(post #72452, reply #14 of 32)


I also have a Chevy Astro AWD, and love it. Hey, what are we gonna do in a few years when you want to replace it with another? I believe 2005 was the last year of production.

I use mine for my remodeling business. Usually I work on a house from a couple of days to a month or more. I use a trailer to haul major tools and materials. Sometimes leave it on the jobsite as a tool shed. Carry basic tools with me all the time. I leave my middle seat in as I need to haul my two kids to daycare, etc.

But, for handyman work, I would think you would want a more substantial vehicle to keep lots of tools and basic repair parts in. What has been suggested so far, step van, old ambulance ("Emergancy Home Repair"), or Sprinter van would work better.


"Objects in mirror appear closer than they are."

Klakamp Construction, Findlay, Ohio

"Objects in mirror appear closer than they are."

Klakamp Construction, Findlay, Ohio - just south of the Glass City

(post #72452, reply #16 of 32)

I recently bought a Ford Escort wagon to do most of the mileage and save gas. I hope to extend the life of my truck for as long as I can.

If the truck goes, I go with it!

(post #72452, reply #13 of 32)

I know of two guys in my area with somewhat unique trucks that I always recoginze when I see them.

The guy that lives around the corner from me has what looks like an old bread truck (probably 12 or 14 feet of space behind the drivers seat).  Ladders are stored on the roof.  It has a receiver hitch and safety chain loops built into the rear bumper if he needs to pull a trailer.  The rear door is a pair of hinged doors with small vision panels instead of the normal roll up door.

There's another guy in the area that has an early 90's F-350 chassis with ambulance body.  He took the red and white flashing lights on the corners of the body and reworked them so that he has four floodlights on each side of the truck.  Comes in handy when he is cleaning up at the end of the day in winter.

You might be able to find a decent used tool truck (Snap-On, Mac, Matco, etc.).  Every once in a while I see a used Isuzu NPR or equivalent for sale.  I have no idea what the price would be on that though.



(post #72452, reply #15 of 32)

I run a full time handyman business. Licensed contractor. I use a 1 ton van. I like the Ford. I also have a 6 x 12 enclosed trailer that is loaded. It's my shop on wheels.

Being a part time handyman is going to be hard. When will you work? People don't want you there in their time.

Good luck!


General Contractor
Minneapolis MN

Gary Lundgren
General Contractor
Minneapolis MN
Mbr: BBB

(post #72452, reply #21 of 32)

I really liked your site, and would like to accomplish something similar with regard to the services you offer. It would be great to hear more about how you got started.




(post #72452, reply #25 of 32)

How I got started . . . where do I start?

Started out in 1998 with a 92 Ford Aerostar minivan.  Got it used for $600. It was a cargo van so no seats to remove. Put in my own shelving using slotted angle iron and scraps of sheet goods (plywood, etc) to make the shelves.

Started marketing on a shoestring. Put up flyers and cards wherever I could find a bulletin board within a range of where I wanted to work. Also let people I knew know so they could refer to me. Did not do any flyers in my own neighborhood. I believe it's not good to do business with family, friends and neighbors.

After I got some work in, and some money, went and got my contractor's license and insurance.

Graduated to a Ford E350 van. Added a trailer for all the tools I was collecting. Started advertising in a local paper. I do 6 mo. contracts with them now because it's a little cheaper when you give them a longer commitment than month-to-month. Became a member of Service Magic, an online resource for leads (

What else can I tell you?


Gary Lundgren
HandyWerks - Home Repair & Remodeling
Licensed & Insured
Member: MN Better Business Bureau

Gary Lundgren
General Contractor
Minneapolis MN
Mbr: BBB

(post #72452, reply #17 of 32)

Been doing Handyman work for years now, tried the P/Up route, but don't like having my stuff exposed all the time. Done the Ford van route for the past 12 years, don't like the mileage. Now building a custom trailer to haul behind my Toyota Tacoma. Still get almost twice the mileage as the Ford and I don't have to bend over inside to get things off the top shelfs. Trailer will carry everything the van does and easier to get to.
What's a handyman license?????

Never fear the want of business. A man who qualifies himself well for his calling, never fails of employment. Thomas Jefferson 3rd president of US (1743 - 1826)

(post #72452, reply #18 of 32)

I've used several different p/u trucks and vans, this is my current favorite:

(post #72452, reply #19 of 32)

Hey everyone thanks for the info. You all probably wonder where I went.

I wanted to reply last night and tried but my computer was acting sqiurrely. Wouldn't let me type a reply.

To clarify, I would gradually like to start a full time maintenance company including property management, repair, etc. Also some custom woodworking, I haven't figured out the best way to combine all of my interests or abilities but I am working on it.

I just graduated from college and would like to start small and expand on the work that I do now for freinds, and neighbors.

No I don't have much spare time, but I was trying to describe the flexible schedule I do have.

I have always loved building and making things, working with my hands and learning.

I would love to be a able to get a general contractors license but I don't have enough experience or training. I have taught my self most of what I know now. This site has been a wealth of good trustworthy advice. At thirty-five years old I can't really start in from the ground up with a contractor.

I called the city hall to find out what would be involved in starting a cabinet shop out of my garage. The lady said that I would need a business license and the building inspector would have to come out and see if my 'facility was adequate', Then I asked about a handy man service and evidently it is a city ordinance thing handymen should be licensed 50.00 annually, plus the 20.00 annual business license.

I was also going to ask here if I should have insurance for the handyman business?

Sorry for the long post, and keep the good advice coming.

I am thinking a van would be best for me. Or a truck and trailer.

Thanks all,




(post #72452, reply #22 of 32)

Liability insurance might be very reasonably priced for a handyman. It would give you a more professional image.

Search through the old posts. They have alot of info on insurance.

There is alot of good info from smartpeople about business in those old posts too.

(post #72452, reply #27 of 32)

I'm thinking that contractor's liability ins would be even more important for a handyman than for a remodelor.

you will be in twenty times as many homes as I will, maybe fifty. Each separate customer ijncreases that odds you will hurt something or that the HO willCLAIM that you did.



Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #72452, reply #28 of 32)

That is why I carry $1,000,000 liabilty insurance -for just me.

(post #72452, reply #31 of 32)


Edited 6/16/2006 9:28 am by BillHartmann

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #72452, reply #30 of 32)

What did you graduate with from said college?  May I ask?  As for the training and experience needed for a General  contractors license your in luck this year only you need none!  That's right zippo, just go in pay the man the money and poof your a GC.  Course passing of the fact your a GC might be a little tough but it can be done. Am I being cynical? I had a tough week sorry.

As for the truck/van I think a 3/4T van would be best for all the cr*p a handyman would need to carry.  Or better yet an old ice cream truck that way you could make a few buck to and from your job.


(post #72452, reply #32 of 32)

Hi jeffwoodwork,

I graduated from West Virginia State University in May with an, A.AS in Computer Aided Drafting, and an A. AS. in Architectural Construction Technology.

When I said I didn't have enough experience or training to get a GC license I meant that I hadn't worked in construction full time enough to go out on my own, or take the test right away and pass it.  I have done woodworking and remodeling ever since I was a teenager. I enjoy the challenges of this kind of work. I just never had the opportunity to get in with someone and really learn. I have taught myself most of what I know about this type of work. I didn't have a father or uncle or any family members in the business. I was able to work with a remodeler for one summer. I see plenty of need in my community for this kind of work.

I don't like the thought of working for someone else the rest of my life. I feel the drive inside of me to do something on mu own. When I look at myself and ask the question what can I do, this is what I can do.  This is my talent. Another person might say I can cook I am going to try to start a food business. See what I am getting at?

Like I said I would like to grow into a multi service company. Repair and maintanence, property management, like securing peoples vacation homes etc.

Custom woodwork and cabinet making are what I would really like to do best.

Thanks to all for the advice.


Edited 6/16/2006 10:00 am ET by webby



(post #72452, reply #23 of 32)

Box truck or a van. I have a 1 T Ford Van and I love it. Get good Weatherguard storage.
I had a pickup for several years but found that it didn't serve me like a van.

(post #72452, reply #24 of 32)

I recently got rid of my E-250 van and got a Sprinter. The hightop one with the longest wheelbase. I can stand up in the back. 20+ MPG. I wasn't looking for the longest model, but it was won on Ebay. Don't see too many used ones for sale. I run a handyman business and plan to be in for the long haul. On the other hand, I could turn it into one nice camper...