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MV Income Potential

If you love military vehicles, your "OD fever" can be put to work. There are many ways to start a business in and around the military vehicles hobby. This Olive-Drab.com page has a few ideas to get you started.

Audie Murphy stars in his own life story, To Hell and Back
Audie Murphy stars in his own life story, "To Hell and Back". The movie featured many action scenes where military vehicles were used. The Department of Defense rarely provides the vehicles and extras for movies; specialized companies maintain inventories of equipment for rental, as discussed below on this page. Click on the link to read about To Hell and Back on Amazon.com.

Today in WW II: 17 Sep 1939 Soviet troops invade Poland from the east.  More 
17 Sep 1944 Thousands of Allied planes begin airborne assault on Holland, Operation Market Garden.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Making Money With Your Military Vehicle

Military vehicles are not only workhorse trucks and a fascinating hobby, but they also can make money for you as a business. Here are the main ideas that people use for full or part-time income opportunities with military vehicles.

If you do this type of thing only a few times per year, you will not require any licensing as a business and may have favorable tax treatment on the income. If you do it more often, you will be considered a business and must show any gain as income. However, you can then deduct your costs and take advantage of tax strategies only available to business. Get advice from your professional tax person about this.

Buy Low, Sell High.

As you gain confidence in your knowledge of the availability and pricing of military vehicles you can make money on the difference between what you pay as a knowledgable buyer and what the general public will pay.

One of the best ways to do this is to buy a vehicle, say a CUCV Blazer, at auction or from a private party at a good price. Spend a minimal amount to fix it up cosmetically and then drive it with a FOR SALE sign. Because of the camo paint job and military look you will typically be able to turn it over very quickly, making something on the transaction.

Some things to consider which add value quickly:

  • Add interesting cosmetic items such as fire extinguisher, spotlight, siren, whip antenna etc.
  • Increase the military look with fresh camo paint, winch, mil tires etc.
  • Put authentic military lettering and numbers on in the correct places.

This is probably the most common and most available way to make money with your military vehicles and can be done by anyone in any part of the country or world.

Restore for Profit

This is similar to "Buy low, sell high" but with more effort going in to the beast to make it worth more. You have to be careful, though. It is quite possible to put in so much time and effort that you cannot get it back no matter how good your work. Still, there have been a number of successful people who rebuild military vehicles from wreckage into good looking, servicable vehicles and are able to sell them at handsome profits because of the increased value and interest.

This works best if you can combine it with relocation. For example, when Japan's economy was hot a few years ago there was a lot of money to be made exporting WW II style jeeps from the US to Japan. At that time, you could buy a Willys MB here for $3 to $5 thousand, put a few thousand into improving it mechanically and in appearance, plus export and shipping costs. It was possible to sell the jeep in Japan for $15 thousand or more. The few Americans who knew how to market the vehicles in Japan did very well.

The market in Japan has dried up for now, but you can often do the same right here in the USA. Buy a rusty truck from a farmer who has had it in his field for years, put in your hours and dollars in fix up, then sell it in a big city (Los Angeles or New York in particular) for a big profit. Don't underestimate the amount of work, but if you plan carefully and can do the mechanical and body work yourself, a good solid profit will be made as a return for your time and effort.

Rent your MV Collection

Taylor's Russian T55 Tanks ready for Courage Under Fire.
Taylor's Russian T55 Tanks ready for "Courage Under Fire".

At one time the Department of Defense provided vehicles, equipment and soldiers as extras for films, but no more. With rare exceptions today's slimmed down military gives very little help to movie productions. Therefore, there is a steady demand for military vehicles for movies as well as for commercials, photo shoots, parties, parades etc. Get the word out about what you have and watch for discussions about opportunities on the MV Internet forums. You can usually get at least one or two rentals per year with very little work and make up to $1000 per day just for the vehicle. For example, in 1998 there was a public call for vehicles and drivers in the San Francisco area to be in a commercial being filmed there. Pay was $600 for the day, basically just to show up.

Rental Dealers: Several dealers make a business out of vehicle rentals to the film industry. This can be very lucrative, as well as a lot of fun, but you have competition. There are well established companies who are already doing a good job. Here is a list of some of the better known companies who provide complete, running military vehicles and aircraft to the motion picture industry:

Taylor, for example, has an incredible inventory of Russian and East Block vehicles to provide the "other side" in movies such as Courage Under Fire . Rental companies may work with you to rent out your vehicle to their customers for part of the fee.

Deal in Parts and Accessories

If you don't have the time, space, or inclination to make a business out of vehicles, you can create a business around mechanical parts or any collection of the thousands of things which make up a vehicle. This includes everything from take-out engines and transmissions (the heavy, greasy stuff) to manuals and decals (small, clean, neat) or anything in between. Many people have become small, part-time dealers buying parts directly from Government Auctions and reselling via eBay, your own web page or classified listings. If you are careful in what you buy, both in what you take into inventory and how much you pay for it, you will be able to re-sell and clear something for yourself.

Rebuild or Reproduce

Another angle on the parts business is to rebuild or reproduce military parts. For example, instruments and optics take special skills and tools. There are people who have bought the necessary tools and parts to make up reproduction wiring harnesses or cables for military vehicles. Others specialize in MV cosmetics like canvas, paint, decals, or stencils. Certain original sheet metal parts for jeeps and other trucks are completely gone, so there is a market for reproductions. You can rebuild generators and starters, repair locks or hinges, fire extinguishers or sirens --- there is no end to it if you just use your imagination. Military vehicles are a "niche market" which has some advantages in finding customers. Become a specialist in one thing and advertise in the MV magazines and Internet forums so people know you are there.