10 Low-Maintenance Business Ideas

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Ideas include a laundromat, self-service car wash, self-storage facility, and more.
Updated April 9, 2024
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Starting a business can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to managing and maintaining it. However, there are several low-maintenance business ideas that require minimal effort and could still generate a steady income.

These ideas include a laundromat, self-service car wash, self-storage facility, parking lots, vending machines, and online courses. Learn more about these small business ideas so you can find one that’s a good fit for your budget, lifestyle, and financial goals.

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Key takeaways

  • Low-maintenance businesses require a minimal time commitment on the part of the owner.
  • They typically don’t need many (or any) employees.
  • Return on investment (ROI) and start-up costs are important factors to consider when looking for a low-maintenance business.

10 low-maintenance business ideas

Low-maintenance business comparison

Company/App Best for Estimated potential income Estimated time commitment
Laundromat Recession resistant $1,000+/wk. 12 hrs/wk
Self-storage Income potential $6,700-$1500/wk 5-50 hrs/wk
Vending machines Minimal staff $170/wk 8-16 hrs/wk
Self-service car wash 24/7 income $700/wk 14-21 hrs/wk
Online courses Subject experts $250-$2,500/wk 3-7 hrs/wk
Dropshipping Retail businesses $250-$1,250/wk 2-8 hr/wk
Print on demand Establishing a brand $1,000/wk N/A
ATMs Simple operations $375/wk N/A
Parking lot Passive income $1,400/wk Flexible
Affiliate marketing Digital nomads $1,000/wk 10-30 hrs/wk
Note: These are estimates. Your results will vary based on location, experience, skills, and other factors.

Laundromat

Pros Cons
  • Minimal time commitment
  • Minimal employees needed
  • Potential for multiple locations
  • Possible extra sources of income
  • High startup costs
  • Lots of competition
  • Recurring costs
  • Customer issues

If you are an entrepreneur looking for a business that has the potential to bring a high return rate with minimal time commitment, owning a laundromat may be the business for you. You also don’t need to hire many employees for a laundromat, which means more money in your pocket.

Laundromats are resilient businesses that could weather a variety of economic conditions, including recessions. People are always going to need to wash their clothes, which means you could see regular cash flow. And, while many businesses may struggle through the first few years, about 95% of new laundromats are still thriving after the first five years, reports Laundrylux.

One of the biggest drawbacks of starting a laundromat business is the high initial investment and possible overhead you will need to continue to pay. The cost to open a new laundromat ranges from $200,000 to $1 million. You’ll need to buy or lease a building for your laundromat as well as the washers and dryers that go in it. You also have to pay to regularly maintain the equipment so that it continues to make money for you.

Learn more in our guide to buying a laundromat.

Self-storage

Pros Cons
  • Less vulnerable to recession
  • Minimal time commitment required
  • Can use less desirable real estate for your business
  • Possible extra revenue sources
  • Competition
  • Tenant issues
  • Security requirements

You may have noticed an increasing number of self-storage facilities in recent years. That’s because they can be a cash cow that could earn significant returns for a minimal time commitment. Self-storage business owners may work as little as five hours per week, provided they have a dependable on-site manager.

A self-storage business could also spawn additional revenue streams such as truck rentals, moving supplies sales, or insurance plans for tenants.

However, there is a lot of competition in the self-storage industry today. If your facility is in a hard-to-find, less accessible location, your occupancy rate may suffer. Before you invest in a larger facility, you could start by listing extra space in your home or garage on Neighbor.com.

Other disadvantages to owning a self-storage facility include the need for high-level security systems and possible issues with tenants not paying their bills, squatting in the unit, or abandoning the unit and all its contents.

Vending machines

Pros Cons
  • Low start-up costs
  • Low overhead
  • Minimal staff needed
  • Flexible hours
  • Maintenance costs
  • High competition
  • Require a location with a power supply
  • Vandalism and theft
  • Slow returns

Vending machines are a good business venture option for those with limited capital to invest in a new business. The cost of buying a vending machine ranges between $1,500 and $10,000. Once you’ve invested in the machine, your only main costs are purchasing the items to sell and dealing with maintenance issues.

A vending machine business only requires you to work one or two days per week, primarily restocking the machine. You can be flexible when you do work, so it is easily something you can do while having another job to bring in extra income. Vending machines can be located in many different locations. As long as there is a power supply nearby and you have permission, you are good to go.

The downside of a vending machine business is dealing with repairs if the machine is damaged from vandalism, theft, or even an impatient customer who gets frustrated when the machine eats their money without releasing the chips or candy bar they wanted.

Learn more in our guide to making money with vending machines.

Self-service car wash

Pros Cons
  • Staffing costs are low, if any
  • Can operate 24/7
  • Good earning potential
  • Seasonal business
  • Low margins
  • High upfront investment
  • High overhead expenses
  • High water usage
  • Consumers may use express car wash instead

It’s estimated that small, self-serve car washes earn, on average, about $40,000 a year in profits. However, you may face some competition from automatic car washes that appeal to customers who don’t want to wash their vehicles themselves.

While consumers use car washes year-round, no matter where they live, they are probably less likely to want to wash their car in a self-serve bay in frigid winter conditions. For that reason, this is a better business for warmer climates.

The primary disadvantage to starting a self-service car wash is the upfront costs of the business. You’ll need to pay for the land, building construction, and equipment. Self-service car wash businesses also have many overhead expenses, such as electricity and water usage.

Online courses

Pros Cons
  • Low startup and overhead costs
  • Fast growing market
  • Establishes you as a subject matter expert
  • Flexibility for you and the students
  • Work from anywhere
  • High competition
  • Inconsistent income
  • Open yourself to criticism

Do you have a specific skill other people may need? Then you should consider teaching an online course. There are several platforms where you can offer online courses and get paid for your knowledge and expertise, including Udemy, Skillshare, and Teachable. With many of these sites, you create a video course, make it available, and then sit back and let the money roll in.

Those who are successful with their online course could earn between $1,000 and $10,000 per month. Plus, your start-up and overhead costs are almost non-existent.

However, there is a downside. Your income may be inconsistent, so you may need other income to fall back on. There is also a lot of competition out there with online courses. The more niche the subject of your course is, the less possible competition you will have from others teaching the same skills.

Dropshipping

Pros Cons
  • No need to carry inventory
  • Minimal startup costs
  • Easy to get started
  • Highly competitive
  • No control over shipping
  • Low profit margins
  • Limited control over quality

Opening your own online ecommerce business is relatively easy these days thanks to dropshipping. Dropshipping is one of the best side hustles you can start that could become a full-time business.

With dropshipping, there is no need for you to buy and carry any inventory. To start, you would build an online store with an e-commerce website builder, like Shopify, and then connect with a dropshipping supplier.Any orders from your online store are fulfilled off-site by the manufacturer or other vendor. They send the product to the customer with your name and branding without giving the customer any clue that it didn’t come from you.

Starting a dropshipping business is low maintenance, and your startup costs should be minimal. Since you don’t need to carry inventory, you don’t need a physical location and can manage your business from home. On average, dropshipping businesses could bring in between $1,000 and $5,000 monthly.

However, the profit margins with dropshipping aren’t as high as some other low maintenance online businesses. You still have to pay the wholesale cost of the things you sell. Also, since your goods are held offsite, you don’t have much control over quality and supply chain issues.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to get started
  • No need for inventory
  • Can run the business from home
  • Can offer various products
  • Enables you to establish a brand
  • Low profit margins
  • Potential issues with quality
  • No control over order fulfillment and shipping
  • Unsatisfied customers
  • Potential copyright issues

Print on demand is a low-maintenance business where you create and sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other items with your unique graphic designs. It offers a good way for you to establish yourself as a brand.

Print-on-demand businesses could bring in, on average, about $1,000 per week once the business gets up and running. Better yet, you don’t need screen printing equipment in your basement. Instead, you create and sell the designs through a print-on-demand company like Redbubble or Amazon Merch on Demand. You also don’t need to carry inventory or handle the shipping.

Of course, when you work with a third-party vendor, you lose control over some aspects of your business that may impact your customer’s satisfaction. For example, you don’t have any control if your products take too long to ship or have issues with quality. Print-on-demand businesses also have lower profit margins than many other businesses.

ATMs

Pros Cons
  • Passive income
  • High profit margin
  • High demand business
  • Simple business model
  • Machines require maintenance
  • High startup costs
  • Income is location dependent
  • Requires a background check
  • You need several machines to make decent money

If you are looking to make money with minimal time commitment, an ATM business offers a good way to earn a passive income. Once you’ve set up your machines, ideally in locations where they’ll get a lot of traffic, you just need to sit back and wait for them to earn money.

As an ATM owner, the money you make comes from the fee you charge customers to withdraw money. The average ATM withdrawal fee is about $3. If your ATM had 25 daily transactions, you’d be making $75 a day, or about $2,250 monthly. Plus, the more machines you own, the more money you’ll make.

The downside of starting an ATM business is that it does require an upfront investment. ATMs cost about $2,000 to $3,000. You also may want to buy ATM insurance to ensure you're covered in cases of theft, vandalism, or damage. Also, you’ll need to pass a background check if you want to start an ATM business.

Parking lot

Pros Cons
  • Quick returns
  • Low overhead
  • Competition from free public parking
  • Security and liability concerns
  • Considerable upfront investment

The private parking industry is expected to grow to over $10 billion by 2030, so now is a good time to open a parking lot. Owning a private parking lot could be a very lucrative business that requires little maintenance. On average, parking lots earn about $73,000 annually. Some parking lots rake in as much as $148,000 in profits annually.

However, you’ll have to invest between $9,500 and $18,500 upfront to get the parking lot built and the business off the ground. Construction can take between one and three months. You should also consider getting insurance and installing a security system in your parking lot to protect yourself from any possible liability issues.

Affiliate marketing

Pros Cons
  • Minimal investment
  • High income potential
  • Work from anywhere
  • Allows you to do what you love
  • Fluctuating commission-based income
  • Takes a lot of time to get started
  • Learning curve
  • High competition
  • No guarantee of success

They say if you do something you love, you never have to work a day in your life. Many people are doing this through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when companies and brands pay you a commission for promoting their products or services. You can promote affiliate companies through a blog, YouTube channel, or social media outlets.

It takes little to start an affiliate marketing business. It’s a job that you can do from anywhere, so it’s perfect if you want to be a digital nomad. The income potential is also attractive. According to Glassdoor, the average pay for an affiliate marketer is $76,498 per year.

However, because the income is commission-based, it can be inconsistent. There is also a lot of competition in the field and no guarantees you’ll earn any money. And there is a bit of a learning curve to be successful at affiliate marketing. You’ll need to learn search engine optimization (SEO) and other strategies to increase your followers and viewers.

How to choose the right low-maintenance business

When it comes to choosing the best low-maintenance business for you, the choice can depend on several factors. Factors to consider include:

  • Time commitment: How much time will the business take to get started, and once the business is in operation, how much time will you have to work on the business?
  • Start-up costs: Do you have the money needed to start the business? For example, a self-storage business could be lucrative, but you’ll have to buy the property and build the units first. A business selling digital products has very minimal start-up costs.
  • Return on investment (ROI): If you need to invest in start-up costs for the business, is there the potential to get a decent return on your investment to make it worthwhile?
  • Profit margin: How much in profit will you earn on the business? For example, a print-on-demand business has a low profit margin because you’ll have to pay the wholesale costs of the items you sell.
  • Overhead costs: What ongoing bills will you have with the business? A self-service car wash can have high water and electricity bills, affecting your profits.

FAQ

What is the easiest business to start and maintain?

The easiest business to start and maintain is one you can do online, like online courses, dropshipping, print-on-demand, or affiliate marketing. These businesses have low startup costs and minimal overhead costs. They also give you the flexibility to work when and where you want.

What are some low-cost business ideas?

Some businesses with the lowest costs are online courses, dropshipping, print-on-demand, and affiliate marketing. None of these businesses require a significant upfront investment to purchase property or equipment. And they have low overhead costs.

What is the best low-maintenance business?

The best low-maintenance business is a self-storage facility. Once the building is built, it doesn’t require much work on your part to be successful. As long as the self-storage is located in a visible location, you won’t have to do much to market it to potential customers. And the income potential with a self-storage unit is higher than many other low-maintenance businesses.

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Low maintenance businesses: bottom line

Low-hassle businesses are those that allow you to set it and forget it. Once the business is in operation, it requires little time from you to generate an income.

If you have the money to invest in the upfront costs for a laundromat, self-storage, or parking lot, these could be good low-maintenance businesses for you to start. However, if you don’t have money for upfront costs, businesses like affiliate marketing, dropshipping, or online courses may be a better fit.

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Author Details

Danielle Letenyei Danielle Letenyei is a professional writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her interests include budgeting, travel, credit cards, insurance, and creative side gigs. She hopes her work on these topics can help others navigate the intricate landscape of personal finance.

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