9 min 16 sec

Digging For Profits: One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Hustle

An automotive painter discovers a profit center in the scrap bin at work.
High Profit Niche Ideas Products Reselling

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What It's About

A side hustle that goes from the dumpster to the bank!

Business Model
Skills Required
Resourcefulness & Power of Observation
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Don and Cathe learned a really important lesson. In the beginning, they were processing lights on a first come basis, but these days, Don and Cathe keep an eye out for more profitable headlights like those from BMWs and Lexuses (that they can flip for up to almost $800!).

When new inventory comes in, they now process headlights on a value basis, starting with those that will yield greater profits down to those that will not. They can make more money off of one those headlights than five of the cheaper ones.

Fun Fact

Back in the 1970s and 80s, most (if not all) cars sported the same kind of halogen bulbs housed in either round or square-shaped headlight housing units. But by the 1990s and 2000s, each manufacturer started making their own headlights in-house. They started introducing Xenon HID and LED bulbs, and as the headlight and taillight options increased, the prices did as well. Now that they’re all exclusive per the manufacturer, they can control the prices, and as a result, the market itself.

Notes from Chris

Episode 825
Don Schaffer of Tigard, Oregon is not new to the reselling world. Growing up, he was the go-to “parts guy” on the playground, where he specialized in skateboards and bicycles. In his teenage and young adult years, he frequented thrift stores, where he’d purchase armfuls of albums and cassettes that he would play until he got tired of them—and then turn around and resell or trade them.

In simple terms, Don belonged to a generation that still saw the value of something after the “newness” had worn off.

This point of view served him well over the years, but as the world evolved, he noticed that people were putting less value on things with minor flaws. At the autobody shop he worked at, for example, he routinely saw parts being chucked into the bins due to a little bit of “wear and tear”—and the most common of these rejects were headlights and taillights.

When your headlight gets a crack in it or it retains fluid, insurance companies say that you’re entitled to a new one. In most instances, your insurance pays for the brand new headlight in full, the body shop orders it, and then they put the new headlight in.

And to Don’s utter dismay, they would throw away the old one regardless of whether the damage was minor or not.

Body shops will fix a dent or scratch on a car, but when it comes to something as minor as a headlight, it’s just easier for them to replace it entirely. Headlights and taillights are small money to body shops that try to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, so it doesn’t really make sense for them to invest valuable labor that could be spent elsewhere refurbishing of them.

That’s when Don had a lightbulb moment of his own—if they were throwing them away anyway, why not see if they’d give them to him to resell?

For the first three months of his new hustle, Don would pick up headlights and taillights from the shop he worked at and seven others that his boss managed, spruce them up, photograph them, write up some descriptions for them and gauge their prices based on their condition and what was available on the market, and then he’d list them on Craigslist.

But things changed when he was contacted by a fellow headlight reseller in southern California. This reseller wanted to see what he had, so Don let him come over to his house to check out his lights. After carefully reviewing what he had to offer, he set aside six or seven different headlights on the table and offered Don $500 for the bunch.

The reseller handed Don five $100 bills, packed his haul into his truck, and drove off into the sunset. Don was in shock when he walked back into the house and showed his wife, Cathe, the $500 he had just made. He told her that he thought they were really onto something here, and that was the point he started to take it seriously.

To start, Don enlisted the help of Cathe to help him navigate the wonderful, wacky world of eBay. For the rest of that year (2016), they spent nights and weekends hustling their headlights and taillights on eBay bringing in ~$25,000 in gross sales with 70% profit margins. The following year, Don decided to drop a day off of his work schedule so that he could dedicate more time to the hustle which led to their numbers doubling.

By 2018, Headlight Recycle Service crossed the six-figure mark bringing in $155,000 in sales.

Don’s early days flipping skateboard parts on the playground ended up serving him well later in life. Is there a skill like that you can draw upon? Is there a headlight hustle in your future?



Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"The more regularly you list on eBay, the better you perform in the algorithm. And if you’re posting consistently, your products get seen by more buyers. It doesn’t have to be every single day, but as consistently as possible."
—Don & Cathe Schaffer #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau