How much do pet transporters make? Overview of earning opportunities

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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The demand for professional pet transporters has been on the rise this year. Lots of self-employed folks are looking to enter the field, with the same questions on everyone’s minds. How much do pet transporters make? How much can I really earn doing this? Well, while the job is not a get-rich-quick scheme, persistence and professionalism can yield impressive revenue. The reality is that they can make between $8,000 to $10,000 a month, even if they complete 15 to 20 jobs per month, according to Penny Hoarder. But let’s go through some facts and more specifics.

What do the numbers say?

Last year, according to APPA, Americans spent $123.6 billion dollars on their pets. This includes pet food and supplies, veterinary care, as well as pet transportation services. The upward trend is expected to continue, with the total expenditures approaching $100 billion this year. Put in another way, the average dog owner spends about $140 on his furry friend every single month. 

How much of that goes to the transporters themselves isn’t easy to determine, but we’ll do our best. According to CitizenShipper statistics, an average driver makes anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000 per month. That’s before expenses, and assuming multiple shipments made each week. Those who build up a reputation and increase their reach eventually start making approximately $20,000 per month.

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Keep in mind that this kind of revenue takes time to establish. So the answer to the question “how much do pet transporters make” depends on how long they’ve been in the business. Those who are just starting out need to manage their expenses and bid strategically. 

In general, you should always have a good idea of what a trip is going to cost you. Fuel prices, accommodation, and other expenses can cut deep into your profits! Beginners often charge under a dollar per mile to make their bids competitive, only to find that they’re losing money on each trip. Fortunately, there are ways to scale things up quickly. 

Stacking shipments to increase revenue

Our onboarding articles and video tutorials offer several different strategies to optimize revenue, but we’ll describe only one here. Shipment-stacking is a very common approach, but one that many beginners overlook. Put simply, it consists of scheduling multiple shipments for the same trip, there and back again. Delivering pets to different owners along the same route allows for massive savings in fuel and time. 

Stacking shipments isn’t always simple, but you can ease into the process. When you make a bid using CitizenShipper, you get suggestions on other shipments in the same area. Try bidding on those in the same time frame and see how it works. You can even bid lower than usual since you’re already going the same way. Over time, stacking those bids will become something you do on autopilot. If all goes well, consider investing in a bigger vehicle to increase your capacity for simultaneous shipping.

Keep in mind, though, that an independent transporter needs to maintain a reputation. Don’t stack too many shipments if you’re not sure you’ll be able to get to them all! Overextending yourself and then having to cancel on a client usually isn’t worth the extra $300 or so. So plan each route carefully, stacking shipments when and where you can. 

Starting your own pet transportation business

The guidelines above apply even if you’re a contracted driver for a big shipping company. But if you’re starting as an independent, self-employed pet transporter, there are other steps you’ll need to take too. 

  • Market research. Start by getting information on the demand for pet transport services along the routes that you intend to cover. Who are your potential customers? What are their needs, and how are they being met?
  • Find your niche. As a small business owner, you might need to focus on a particular segment of the market. Will you be catering to retired cat owners? Building relationships with dog breeders? Each niche has its own specificities.
  • Know your competition. Find out how well other pet transporters in your area are doing. Use their experience to learn what works and what doesn’t. Then, think of a way to improve on what they’re offering. To get you started, here’s a list of IPATA-approved pet transporters (searchable by state).
  • Formulate a business plan. If you’ve done your due diligence, you should be well on your way to putting together a solid business plan. You can hire consultants to handle this step, but it helps if you’ve laid out the basics yourself.
  • Register as a legal entity. Once you’ve got your ducks in a row, consider the options for registering your business (LLC, GP, SP, etc.) If you’re not confident in your ability to handle legal matters, hire professional aid to help out with the paperwork.

All this provides is the groundwork for a successful startup business in a crowded field. The initial investments aren’t necessarily that high, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Starting small, building a reputation, then gradually increasing the scope of your operation is usually the way to go.

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Interested in becoming a pet transporter?

We hope this answers the basic questions on how much pet transporters make. There’s plenty of money to be made in pet transportation if you know what you’re doing. For a more in-depth look, check out some of the onboarding resources we linked above. If you’d like to give it a shot, sign up now to access the CitizenShipper marketplace. Subscription is free for the first three months, and we never take a cut out of your earnings!

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