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Complete Newbie buying truck today help!

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by unicorn, Jul 5, 2012.

  1. unicorn

    unicorn Junior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 3

    I have never plowed before and I am looking for advice.

    I plan on buying a 1997 Dodge Ram 1500 with an 8 ft plow later this afternoon. I think I am getting it for a good price. I am buying the truck for my other business, in essence the plow is being thrown in for free, or minimal cost. ( I need the truck for my other business.) My other business pretty much dies from December to March, and I have a VERY flexible schedule, even in my busy season.

    The seller appears to be an honest guy, and tells me the plow has been used for only 1 year. He tells me has had work performed on the truck to make it closer to Ram 3500, with respect to suspension, etc. (I haven;t seen the truck yet) I don't know if this is possible, or just a story. I am not qualified to determine this on my own. The price of the truck is the ace up my sleeve, if you will. (It is going for less than $3,000,everything included.)

    I have always wanted to do some plowing, whether residential or commercial. I don't mind snow or the cold. I love using my snow blower, and always have since I bought in 10 years ago. (Even in the winter before last where we got 120 inches, the most on record in CT.) No one has to beg me to go clear snow out of the driveway. Here's my question:

    Is it a pipe dream, am I nuts to think I could make a few bucks this year, maybe pay for the truck, if there is a normal snowfall this year. (I think we normally get 40 to 50 inches a year.) I am willing to sub, do residential, whatever, to learn the ropes and make some $. It would be the only truck I have, not a fleet, etc. I am paying cash for it. I am assuming that wear and tear, which I don't know what that will be, is the main factor here, (In addition to me not knowing how to plow as I write this in July.) But everyone has to start somewhere. If it puts a great strain on the truck , I just stop plowing, go to snow blowing and wait for March to arrive and then get back to my primary job.

    On the human, as opposed to mechanical side, I don't mind not knowing everything before I start doing something, I don't mind making mistakes, I will listen to good advice, and I don't even care about being laughed at. I am a firm believer in persistence and not giving up simply because others have. ( Like the old saying, how do you know that the guy you're cheating off of in school is smarter than you are.)

    What I really want to know is the following:

    Is it likely that I end up making, say $2,000 in revenue, but sinking $8,000 into the truck. Is this common occurrence and I should expect it, or that only happens if you aren't lucky.
    My basic rule of thumb is that I could make around $30 to $50 an hour net for myself in spendable money after all expenses to the truck and otherwise, after everything involved, I am ok with that, as I write this. If it is 75% certain that I end up losing thousands of dollars, I won't bother. If I break even, with the serious possibility that in future years I make $, and breaking even is just a part of paying your dues, I am ok with that.

    If you guys think that is doable, then I don't think I should back out of buying the truck. What do you guys think?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. Rc2505

    Rc2505 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,245

    None of us would be in business if we were going to lose money, or even break even. You can't expect to make money your first year, but if you average it out over a 3 to 5 year period, you will make money. The biggest misconception in this buisness is the get rich quick thoughts. If we have record snowfalls, it's possible to get rich, but the long hours take a toll on you quickly. Just put a buisness plan together, and learn the first coule years. By the time you have the business end figured out, you will also have the plowing end figured out. Good Luck!
  3. unicorn

    unicorn Junior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 3

    Thanks for your reply. When you say that you can't expect to make money in the first year, is that primarily due to not having enough revenue generating work, or because I will have to throw money into the vehicle for wear and tear?

    Other replies to my original question by other posters welcomed.
  4. SullivanSeptic

    SullivanSeptic PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,419

    Reagrding the truck, it is 15 years old and has been used for plowing so expect to have to put money into it. It doesn't matter that "its like a 3500" or not. The most that could have been done is the springs have been changed out for bigger ones. But its still has 1500 axles, drivetrain, brakes, frame, etc. If it was me, I would consider my self luck if i didn't put any money into it from a season of plowing. My newer truck, 2007.5 Chevy 2500 Diesel, has something go wrong every year. Its just the nature of the business. But there is nothing wrong with buying an older truck. 3 grand is a good deal as long as the truck doesn't need anything major.

    As far as plowing, go get hired on as a sub with a local company. They will give you some lots or team you up with another plower so you can learn. There will be a learning curve for you. Your efficiency and speed wont be the same as experienced guys. You should be concerned if your going out on your own with your own accounts. Things to think about are: what if your truck breaks down, how will the clients get the snow ceared. Collecting money. Bidding properly. Start out as a sub and learn for a few years and then break off onto your own.
  5. Plowtoy

    Plowtoy Senior Member
    Messages: 929

    I agree with the other responses. Be prepared to spend some money on repairs. If its not had transmission or axle work it will probably need it before too long. Also, I always disclose exactly what I have done with my vehicles when I sell them. ONLY USED TO PLOW MY OWN DRIVEWAY. If he has a dated receipt showing that he just purchased the plow last year, maybe believe him, but I bet he cant produce any receipt. I don't believe in borrowing money, so if you can do this as a cash deal, I think it is a great way to start. Don't get in over your head. Sub contract the first couple years and then work into your own contracts. GOOD LUCK TO YOU, Dave
  6. unicorn

    unicorn Junior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 3

    Thanks for replies. More are welcome. It never hurts to learn. If I buy the truck, and sell off the plow, and plan on using it as a regular truck as a backup plan, am I ending up with problems anyway, because a truck used for plowing will "never be the same"?

    I can use the truck itself for other things if plowing isn't advisable, but maybe I should buy a non plow 2500 or larger series truck first, and add the plow later.

    Is that what you guys would do?

    Thanks again
  7. SullivanSeptic

    SullivanSeptic PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,419

    Nobody can really tell you what truck you need to buy without having more info. Everyone has different needs. I personally will only use 3/4 and up size trucks for plowing. But we tend to run our trucks hard and have larger plows and salters on them.

    A 1500 can plow, its just the age and miles on the truck. You need to expect the worst. If the trans goes out or you blow a head gasket, or the rear end lets loose, would you be screwed? If so, don't buy this truck. But then a newer truck can do the same. Lots of guys on here will tell you that repairs are always needed when plowing. Stuff will break.
  8. Wilnip

    Wilnip Senior Member
    Messages: 583

    I can tell you are going to win.
    1 your humble
    2 you are going to sub 1st and not think you know it all
    3 you are paying cash
    4 you are asking questions.
    I think you pretty much answered your own questions. I have a 3/4 ton and a half ton(99 dodge 1500). Just changed front springs to 3/4 ton after the 1st year of plowing with it. I feel the tranny is the weak spot in a half ton. If it doesn't have a trans cooler, put one on. I think I got mine for $60 online and an hour to install it.
    I don't think the plow is a year old though. But if its in decent shape, you can't go wrong.
    I think you will do fine
  9. BPS#1

    BPS#1 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,395

    You'll be fine.

    I had never plowed with a pickup before 2011. I've run a lot of different equipment all the way from small lawn mowers, bigger lawn mowers up thru over 400 HP tractors pulling 50' farm implements.
    I was confident I could soon pick up on how it went. And I did.

    I paid for the plow in well under one season (cash money for a used one) and made a few bucks doing it.

    As for whether or not you should buy that particular truck....... thats your business.
    I wouldn't buy it, its a dodge. But thats just me.
  10. mpgall26

    mpgall26 Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    Small truck, which also has a place in snow management. Take the cautions of repairs and reliability especially with an older vehicle. The idea of sub is key so you get to learn from others and also have the appropriate backup when you have mechanical issues. The biggest caution and advice is if you decide to go on your own(don't), make sure you have proper liability coverage. I'd hate to see you get slammed while just trying to dabble and make a buck, and you will. Cover your a**
    Plus, as a sub your not going to get killed on here for YOUR bidding.