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Driveway Add-Ons

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by micah79, Aug 31, 2003.

  1. micah79

    micah79 Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    This Winter will be my 2nd year plowing residential driveways. I was wondering If you guys think that it is more profitable to do a basic push and salt rather than getting out of the truck to shovel the area in front of the garrage and the walkway to the front door. Last year I was charging $5 extra to do the shoveling, but I felt like it was bogging me down. So, Should I offer the shoveling?, and if so is $5 a good price. The average garage is a 2-3 bay, and the average walkway is prob 30'.
     
  2. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    shoveling

    Check out these two threads on the subject. They are from Chuck's "PlowSite FAQs" above. Basically, you're not going to make as much money shoveling as plowing. If you can add more plowing instead of shoveling, that's the way to go. Shovel if you want and your accounts call for it or you need to generate more revenue but can't get more plowing accounts.

    http://www.plowsite.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=7949

    http://www.plowsite.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=9229

    $5? Way too low for any area considering the risk you're taking. Just my opinion.
     
  3. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Unless you're charging the same hourly rate that you are plowing, sidewalks are bogging you down and costing you income.

    I don't advertise the fact but if someone asks about sidewalks, I quote a price that reflects my hourly rate for the truck. That usually eliminates the interest, but some have me do them. I use a little Toro 2 stroke snowblower and a shovel for corners and steps.

    If you are considering doing a number of these, then a small lightweight snowblower will speed the job and save your back!
     
  4. meyer22288

    meyer22288 Senior Member
    Messages: 999

    5 dollers is way to low a price to charge for sidewalks. A 30' should be about 20 dollers and up. You are risking A slip and fall which can really effect your life if you were to get hurt. You are also risking a hurt back if the snow is very heavy. Charge more for the walks and see what the costomer wants to do. Think about getting a smaller snowblower for the walks. For cleaning around garage doors and around cars shouldnt be to much extra in my opinion because that is really what you are there to do, make it so the customer can exit his/her drivway safely.

    pumpkin:
     
  5. Lawn Lad

    Lawn Lad Senior Member
    Messages: 407

    As Pelican said, unless you're charging time for your truck, you're loosing money.

    You could also add a shoveler to the truck once you have enough shoveling work. The $15 an hour you'll pay a shoveler will certainly be made up by the $75 an hour extra you'll be making having someone shovel. The key is just having enough shovelers.

    When I started plowing we would only offer the shoveling service We'd shovel in front of the garage and to either the back or side door. Front walks would be more. The price for the basic service almost doubled the regular contract price. Rather than getting $225 or $250 a drive, we were getting $425 to $475 a drive. I also included landscape repair in the upgraded service. Any front walks (service or city) would be done a per occurence basis, and would be anywhere from $15 for a small front service walk (drive to front door 3' wide) up to $40 or $50 for all service and city walks. The variable income from the front walks (which was only at 15% to 20% of the homes) would pay for the variable costs on the storm.

    In essence we I was doubling the revenue from each plow truck by adding one laborer. It was great while it lasted. I found it was more of a headache to find reliable shovelers than anything else. If you didn't have a shoveler for a route, the driver was fubar as his route would take twice as long.

    It's a great way to add revenue without additional capital investment as long as you have the labor. We still do walks, but just part time on one route. The other routes are set up to be just plowing.
     
  6. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Profound advice from an experienced businessman!
     
  7. micah79

    micah79 Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    Thanks Guys. I was right, I was getting ripped for $5, I'm considering not doing walks this year, or at least charging more. I have a question regarding the salting. I have been charging $5 extra for salt as well. The way I look at it is that all I have to do is flip a switch and drive down the driveway on my way out. It only cost me about $1 in materials, so I figured it was worth $4 to flip a switch while I was already driveing down the driveway anyways. Let me know if I can charge more. I'm always lookin to make more $$$ without ripping off the customer. Many of my customers are repeats from the summer, so I like them to feel good about their purchase.
     
  8. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Not quite. You need special equipment ( at least the spreader, in my case I use another truck, too). It also takes more gas to haul the spreader and material. You have to store the material or have a place to get it. You're providing another, specialized service that not everybody else is providing. You're taking extra risks and liability. If you're using salt, you are also causing damage to your equipment due to corrosion, which will lead to additional cost of repair/replacement - besides extra regular maintenance. You have further maintenance of the spreader.

    I mostly use a sand/salt mix so can't speak to pricing for salting. I generally charge double my cost of material for a particular area. If you're using bagged, there are threads on that you might search out. I think there are also some posts on this subject under Chuck's FAQ thread.
     
  9. cat320

    cat320 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,223

    Not for nothing but your really not just flipping a switch when you get right down to it.Like Mick said there is more to it,don't sell yourself short even though they are summer time customers.
     
  10. Lawn Lad

    Lawn Lad Senior Member
    Messages: 407

    For $5.00 what if a customer complains that your salt application was not effective and now you're making another trip out, and they don't want to pay for it. If it's colder you'll be using more than $1.00 of product on that driveway to be effective, or if you have a lot of ice to melt. What if the customer claims the salt you applied killed a plant. You may elect to replace it to keep the customer happy, but at $5 you've lost your shirt.

    I don't know your market, but I'd bet that once you charge for de-icing what you should be (maybe $20 or $25 per app) that most people won't have you do it. Unless its a standard in your market area where people expect it, I don't think the residential market will support the actual cost of providing the service.

    I sure would hate to do the invoicing too for a $5 service. For me to keep track of everything I've got to have a minimum charge that covers my administrative time to handle the information. $5.00 isn't enough to include it on my route sheet.
     
  11. micah79

    micah79 Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    Well I already have the salt in the spreader, and I like to keep a pallet of bags in the bed for weight anyways. I don't see how I could charge almost as much for salt as I do for a plow. Invoicing isn't a problem. All I do, is charge lets say:$35 instead of $30. I would never go out again for $5. I'm just saying while I'm there its not much of an inconvience. I wouldn't drive out just to salt. I'm talking about the storms when I'm already there plowing. I'm just putting salt down after I already plowed. My contract has a limitation of liability clause that states that I do not cover damage caused by salt.
     
  12. wyldman

    wyldman Member
    Messages: 3,265

    You have to go pick up salt.You have to store it,and then load it on the truck.Those bags are heavy to load in the salter in the middle of the storm.It's an awful lot of work to make a lousy $4 profit a drive.So you flip the switch......and POOF....now,your salter craps out,and there goes your profit.It would take a heck of a lot of $4 driveways to pay for a new one.You should be making WAY more per app for salt.
     
  13. micah79

    micah79 Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    Well my hopper isnt gonna break every storm. It is a new Buyers tailgate. I already have the pallet and hopper on the truck anyways. I already have to store the salt for a parking lot that I do. I buy bags really cheap from a local bagging company, so I dont pay much more than buying by the ton. The way I look at it is this $4 x100 drives = $400 profit. Poof!!! I can buy a new hopper every storm with my profit. Even though last year, I made about $4,000 with my hopper and didn't put 1 cent into it. I appreciate the advice and all, but I'm not lookin to be made out like a fool. Do you really think that my stuff will break every storm? Some of the contractors in my town include salt with the plow, so I dont know how much I could charge.
     
  14. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    You've only got 3 months out of the year to see a return on your investment, I charge the same rate to salt as I do to plow. I put down a healthy dose so there aren't any call backs, but in my case the salter is a separate truck from the plow.
     
  15. micah79

    micah79 Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    So Pelican, What should I do? Should I bump up my price to maybe $10. There seem to be quite a few competitors around here that include salting in their price. Do you run into that much?? I do live in southeastern Michigan.. It isnt that cold and our biggest snow was 4" last year. Maybe you get hasher winters then I do.
     
  16. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    I don't have a lot of competition here, very few have small salt trucks in my area. Your market will determine what you can charge, but if it's not profitable, I wouldn't bother with it.
     
  17. wyldman

    wyldman Member
    Messages: 3,265

    What is everyone else charging ? At least you should be in line with them.It will be a lot more profitable if you get more for it.Were all in this to make money right ?
     
  18. wyldman

    wyldman Member
    Messages: 3,265

    That $400.00 is not pure profit though.You haven't taken any equipment costs into account.The eventual repairs\replacement of the unit,initial cost,fuel costs (it takes more to drive around with the salter,and materials onboard),extra wear and tear on the truck,etc.You still should be getting more for it.Add the cost of one slip and fallclaim,the proper insurance required,and you can see it won't be profitable.
     
  19. micah79

    micah79 Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    true, sorry for being sarcastic. I thought you were making me sound dumb or something. I definately want to charge more, but I'm not sure if people will bite the hook around here. My average customer lives in a $5000,000 house, so they have the money, but they dont want to get ripped of either. They are always paranoind that contractors are taking advantage of the rich. I was kinda of thinking of the Walmart approach, lots of drives with a smaller profit margin. Do you thing this is a good idea. It sounds good, but this is only my second year, and I have a lot to learn. I think i've decided that shoveling is b.s. .I could do a whole new drive in the time that it takes to shovel. Plus shoveling gets tiring after a while. It seems that people dont value $$ shoveling much.
     
  20. wyldman

    wyldman Member
    Messages: 3,265

    I would never try to make anyone sound dumb,and I'm sorry if I did.Just didn't want to see you work hard for nothing.A few years down the road when you need a new truck,you need the money to go buy one.We shouldn't work to just get by,we should work smarter to get ahead.

    While your idea of the Wal-mart approach is a good idea,i don't think it pertains well to snow removal services,otherwise Wal-mart would probably be doing it.