This question has been asked of me quite a few times recently. Some grown ups looking for extra cash and some have been teenagers looking to start their own businesses and break the norm of working at the mall, working in fast food joints, and waiting until you are a certain age before you can get any of the aforementioned jobs.
Well, the answer is "it depends" ... it depends on your situation and many other factors.
First, how much money do you need to make? If you need thousands per month in PROFIT, you may be looking in the wrong area. Most paper routes will pay you via a 1099 and the gross amount will range from $100 - $1500 per pay period. Now, 20%-30% of that check will probably have to go to local and federal government for taxes. You must purchase your own supplies so subtract these expenses from your profit. Also, you have to provide the delivery vehicle, the fuel for the vehicle, and pay for all the necessary maintenance on the vehicle. Subtract all of these expenses from your profit.
With gas prices rising every week, you will make less and less profit if you use a car or any other gas powered vehicle to deliver your papers. To maximize your profit, you will need to walk or ride a bike to deliver your papers. Most routes are too big to walk or ride a bike so you must look into purchasing/using a car that gets really good gas mileage. Using your gas guzzling SUV to deliver newspapers is probably a bad idea.
In what neighborhood will you be delivering papers? This is a HUGE factor in determining how much money you will make. Talk to the current carrier to see how people pay and don't pay on the route. If the route has a high number of people who don't pay or pay late, this all will lower your profit! Never get a route with 10% or higher customers who pay late or don't pay at all. Your distribution company will NOT cut these people off. You are basically buying the paper to GIVE the paper to the non-paying customers.
How valuable is your time? If you value your time any, then you must set a number of hours per week that you deem acceptable for delivering newspapers. If your time is not valuable and you can spend forever and a day outside delivering the papers, you may be able to trick yourself into believing you are making a profit. If your time is valuable, every hour spent on your paper route reduces your profit.
Most paper routes are NOT profitable. Talk to the current carrier if possible as this will give you the best idea of the profit of a particular route. NEVER believe the quote the paper distribution company gives you as they are NEVER going to tell you the amount of money you will make. If they do give you a number, cut 25%-50% off that number because you will NEVER get the number they quote you on your check. I am not sure why they lie, but they do. Oh, I do know why ... if you knew how much money you will not be making, you probably would not want that particular route!