The Business of Cardboard Boxes


box1The idea is simple. Pick up boxes and sell them. Almost 36 million people moved in the United States in both 2012 and 2013. It takes an average of 70-80 boxes to pack a 1,500 sq ft home. Cardboard boxes usually range in price from $1-2 each on the lower end, to $4-5 each on the higher end. It’s easy for someone to spend $100-$200 on moving boxes. However, it’s what people do with the boxes when they are done that I want to bring your attention to. They usually give the boxes away for free to anyone willing to take them off their hands.

How a box business can work in a nutshell

People move, unpack, and then give all their moving boxes away for free, usually on Craigslist. You go and pick up as many as you can, or as many as you can fit in your vehicle. Then, you bring them back home and list them for sale.

What kind of boxes do you want?

You want to get boxes that can be folded down flat for easy transport and storage. I wouldn’t get many fruit boxes. Thicker boxes are usually more desired, as are newer boxes

What kind of boxes do you NOT want?

Fruit boxes because they don’t collapse. Really small boxes aren’t worth much and aren’t as desirable. People aren’t going to want boxes that have gotten wet and aren’t as structurally sound anymore.

Other things to consider before picking up boxes

How far do you have to drive and how long will it take to get there? Do the math and figure out approximately how much the boxes are worth. Figure out how many boxes you need to get in each pickup for it to be worth your time. It’s not worth spending a half hour picking up 4 boxes.

How much can you sell used boxes for?

Used boxes will usually sell for 50 cents to a dollar a piece, and going as high as $2 for larger and more heavy duty boxes. I would set a minimum amount that someone needs to buy, or sell them in packages of 10,20,30,40 etc.

What are some extra ways to make money?

You can offer to deliver the boxes for an extra fee, or build the delivery amount into the total price and offer free delivery. There are many people, especially during a time of moving, that would gladly pay a little extra to save themselves the time.

For in town moves, offer to come and break down and remove all the boxes afterwards for free. For those with larger number of boxes, even offer to buy them back. Remember to factor time and gas into how much you can pay for the boxes and still be profitable.

What value are you adding?

To the people that are getting rid of their boxes, you are providing them with a quick way to get rid of all their boxes to one person. You show up on time and don’t flake out, which is a huge problem in the free section.

To the people that are buying boxes from you, you store them yourself during slow periods of when people aren’t moving as much (certain times of the year) You provide the needed quantity of used boxes in one trip. You have used boxes in stock at the moment people use them. Not everyone has the time to sit on Craigslist for hours trying to land free boxes. You can offer to deliver the boxes as not everyone has a car or the ability to pick up boxes. You can also offer to buy them back for a small amount, or pick them up for no charge afterwards. There are a lot of ways to insert value.

Selling boxes can be a great way to make some extra cash, and for the right person, in the right city, it could be turned into a nice little business. For everyone else, I hope I’ve helped you better understand the cardboard box market.

Have you ever sold any boxes?  I know there are a handful of you out there that have done this, or have thought about doing it! I’d love to hear your stories.


  1. Hey Ryan,

    Cool post, good idea.

    I always try and sell my moving boxes after having moved. In my experience, it’s been a little difficult to get them to sell though. I’ve had 20 boxes listed for sale for $1 a piece, and I maybe got one or two responses that ended up flaking out. After a month of no responses, I just let the ad die, and kept the boxes for myself.

    My idea for this summer: bicycles. Through my own cycling, I’ve learned a lot about repair, so I should be able to do some fix & flip. I have my wife’s Trek road bike listed on CL now and the number of interested responses has been very encouraging.

    Lastly, my cool sale of the week: My neighbors were cleaning out the garage, and I of course took the contents from their curb and moved them into my garage and listed them on Craigslist. Sold a set of truck tires in fair condition for $50 in 24 hours.

    • Hey Aaron, I think there are a lot of variables that go into how quickly the boxes sell. I think the takeaway from it is that you were getting responses, which is a good indicator that their is demand near your listed price.

      Bicycles are a great niche to get into, especially as their use continues to rise across the country.

      That’s awesome about the tires.

  2. Ryan:

    Have you done anything with purchasing plastic barrels for rain barrels?

    There is a company here that has alot of excess plastic and metal barrels

  3. What a great idea for a business in these enviromentally)sensitive times. Imagine the energy and resources saved with this enterprise. Will share that our local potato chip company saves and reuses their boxes that they use to restock grocery stores. I recall that they reuse these things hundreds of times…a huge savings. AND Coca Cola sometime back went from cardboard boxes to reusable plastic racks …Market acceptance I would think is the main hurdle…

  4. Hi,
    I need about 100 – 120 boxes approx. 18x18x16. It can be used but clean. Can you contact me with some serious person who is willing to sell for some price below $1 ? ( Home Depot is selling for $1.26 for this size box.
    you can check this proce on Home Depot site). Thanks.

  5. I never really thought about re-selling boxes. I was wondering how could you get a involved in the cardboard box business directly. I guess manufacturing or maybe just being a middle man for the manufacture to sell to either customers or companies.

    • Buying from the manufacturer but need to see how cheap you can purchase them from Lowes/Home Depot/Walmart etc. Would need to be competitive on price or be offering the boxes delivered as a service in bulk, for example. Maybe offer free delivery and lots of different sizes.


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