Got Power Tools? Tackle Small Maintenance Jobs as a Side Hustle

A man uses a chainsaw to cut down a tree while wearing a red flannel shirt, suspenders, jean and a hat.
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Not everyone owns a power washer, paint sprayer, chainsaw, backpack leaf blower, multipurpose steam cleaner or cordless wet/dry vacuum for auto detailing. But those who do own these tools can use them to make extra money.

It can be well worth investing in certain small power tools that most people don’t own to develop a side gig.

For example, Popular Mechanics ranked its top three power washers, ranging in price from $159 to $529. HomeAdvisor, a website that helps homeowners find home improvement professionals, estimates the typical power washing job for a house with siding is $220 to $380 and $130 to $220 for a driveway. Thumbtack, another website that connects clients with service providers, suggests paying 16 cents to 22 cents per square foot of power washing.

So the money earned on just two power washing jobs would easily recoup the cost of buying even the more expensive power washer.

It’s easy to spread the word on social media or flyers on windshields about your services, whether chain saw cutting and debris removal after a big storm takes down trees or steam cleaning furniture and rugs before the holidays.

Each city or county has their own regulations on what services require a license, business registration fee or insurance. Even if it costs a couple hundred dollars to file the correct paperwork, that cost can be recouped within a few jobs.

Rob Littke, a contractor who does large and small projects for clients, offered a few tips for folks considering purchasing expensive tools. Here’s his advice.

How to Make Money Renting Equipment and Doing Small Maintenance Jobs

Rent Before You Buy

Littke suggests renting any tool before buying it so you can figure out which brands and designs work best for you. Home Depot has a wide selection of tools for rent. A cordless paint sprayer costs $27 for four hours or $38 for the day, while a pressure washer is $63 for four hours or $76 per day.

If you are doing a project for yourself or selling your services, Littke suggests renting tools instead of buying them unless you know you’ll use them regularly.

“When you rent a tool they are always in good shape, clean and ready to use. No hoses are broken, nothing needs to be replaced or refilled,” he said. “You never get to a job site and find out it doesn’t work.”

Also, some tools don’t perform well if they aren’t used frequently.

“There’s nothing worse for a paint sprayer than not using it,” he said, explaining there are pumps and rubber seals that can get stuck if they are left dormant.

“I sold my paint sprayer because I was never using it,” he added. (FYI: Littke prefers brushes and rollers because sprayers require so much preparation covering furniture, floors, doors and windows.)

Find Good Deals on Tools

Home Depot’s tool rental department is also a great place to buy tools. They sell them after being rented a few years.

“I bought a chainsaw there for about $100 that would have been more than $300 new. And since they use the same tools, they stock all the parts to fix them,” he said.

Facebook Marketplace is another good resource for used tools. “I can’t tell you how many people run out and buy a $700 tile saw to tile one bathroom, then they use it once and never again,” Littke said. After a couple years of that tile saw taking up room in the garage, it ends up on Facebook Marketplace for $300 or $400.

Harbor Freight is a chain of more than 1,100 stores across the country that sell 7,000 different tools and accessories for up to 80 percent less than the price of competing products. It buys direct from the factories that supply better-known brands and is able to pass savings along to customers, according to its website. Littke said he has saved hundreds of dollars there for tools that are the same high quality as name brand equipment. He buys the extended warranty for an extra $7, and if something breaks or simply wears out over time, they replace it with a new one.

Buy a Truck, Drive it for Money

If you need to buy a used vehicle for your own use, it makes sense to get a truck because it gives you the ability to use it to make extra money.

Many people need to move just one piece of furniture across town or throw an old mattress away at the town dump. It’s not worth hiring a moving company, and renting a truck from Home Depot is often more trouble and money than finding someone who owns a truck.

Weston Willingham, a senior at the University of Florida, made hundreds of dollars using his $6,000 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 throughout high school.

“My mom is a Realtor, so she always knew people who needed something moved,” he said. “Then I think people started saying: ‘Call Weston. He has a truck. He can help you.’ I was also an extra set of hands.”

Along with the space of a truck, Willingham showed up ready to lift and load as well.

He didn’t set prices, but asked customers to pay what they felt comfortable with. He made at least $40 per job and often more than $100.

“I was lucky because I was in high school and I could be flexible. Sometimes people would call me saying: “Hey I’m going to need you here right now and I will pay you well enough you will want to drop whatever you are doing and help out,” Willingham recalled.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.