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Interested in plowing next year: Need LOTS of help

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by R Landscaping, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. R Landscaping

    R Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    First off, I AM currently searching around and reading a ton of threads on this to gain some knowledge of this industry, but in the mean time, I thought I'd post anyways.

    Ok. I'm 17 and am running a landscaping business (small, obviously) with a friend for at least this summer, and plan to continue it next summer as well as fall/spring clean-ups, etc. I'm saving up for a truck of my own.

    Now, I thought "hey, since I want a truck anyways, maybe I could plow on the side this winter and help pay for it". Now, I was planning on spending 5-6k for a decent gas 4x4 Dodge Ram with not too many miles on it. I wouldn't mind having a diesel 3/4, which, from what I've read so far, is more efficient for plowing, especially in the heavier storms. Around here that would run about 8-12k for a decent one. I'd probably shoot for 8-10k for it if I went this route.

    My question is: Is it worth it? My dad used to plow quite a lot of commercial accounts for years but no longer does it and says he doesn't think it's worth the money. I personally have 0 experience plowing, but my dad could definitely teach me some tricks of the trade.

    - Is this a bad idea? I obviously would get a 1m liability policy when I turn 18 if I were to go this route. Would I be better off subbing, or on my own just doing residentials? Is there good money in residentials when compared to commercials? Do I need to have written contracts?

    I've seen many people say to offer your customers different ways to pay (per push, seasonal, hourly). What is the best (in your opinion)?

    What kind of operation is ideal for residential/commercial work? For example, am I enough all by myself to do this work? Do I need me in the truck, and someone to shovel, or run a snowblower? Have a quad with a plow for tighter areas? What exactly do I need for this? How many people?

    Sorry for the long post..Trying to get some answers :). Thanks.

    EDIT: I forgot to mention, since my dad plowed for years, we actually have two plows, so I would have a plow to use without needing to buy one.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2009
  2. Mick

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

    First - check out the cost of insurance. This alone may make up your mind.

    Contracts would be meaningless at your age.

    There is no BEST way to plow; other than having a good mix of them.

    Yes, there's money to be made in residential. You just have to structure your pricing and route. Then hope for no mechanical trouble, getting stuck too many times, accidents etc.
  3. AndyTblc

    AndyTblc Senior Member
    Messages: 681

    If you do start plowing, I'd stick with driveways, since those are simple, and until you get the hang out plowing, then you can maybe go after a parking lot or 2. Don't go to big right away. Also since you're 17, you're probly going to school? So don't let plowing get in the way of school. School comes FIRST, even college (unless you have a full time job with the county or state). As for the money, it's easy money, but you won't pay for your truck the first year plowing, unless you get a bunch of accounts and get tons and tons of snow. But it's easy money, and I think it's fun.
    And for the truck, I assume you want a dodge seeing how the plows you have will fit onto a dodge?
  4. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    I'll go with the obvious. Maybe try and work with someone first. You may not even like plowing and you'll have all that money invested in plowing equipment.Better to try it with someone else stuff first.
  5. R Landscaping

    R Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    Ok. Well, let me rephrase my question w/ the equipment: If I do residentials, is JUST a truck w/ a plow enough? Do I need another person with me, or no? What other equipment would I need? A snowblower?

    Oh, and for insurance, I wasn't that concerned. Doesn't liability insurance for, say, landscaping, cover plowing as well? Or does it depend on the policy, etc.? I know a 1m policy tends to run 5-600 dollars or so. I was going to check with my insurance company on it.

    Yeah, I figured probably driveways were much simpler and probably the way to go..Just was kinda throwing the commercial bit out there. Yes, I'm still in HS. This will be my senior year next year and I'm on work study, so I'm only there a half a day. I figured I could plow before school. Now, granted, I'm sure I couldn't go all out b/c I'd only have xx amount of hours before school every morning. No doubt, education comes first.

    I worded that statement wrong about paying the truck off...What I meant is that I'm working this summer to earn a truck. If I were to get a bit bigger truck to plow/whatever with, that's fine with me (who doesn't want a bigger truck?), and I was hoping maybe to pay part of the extra few thousand off by plowing. It would seem to be a good investment to me.

    While the plow bit would certainly be a good reason to buy a dodge if I were to plow, it's mainly because I grew up with dodges. We've had countless dodges from our local dealer, so we know half of them by name. My dad knows where everything goes wrong on them, how to fix them, etc. etc. So, I guess maybe I am a bit biased on brand when it comes to trucks.
    It wouldn't be that much to invest, I don't think. I'll get a truck either way. If I decide to try plowing, it'll be a few extra grand in a bigger truck, and quite frankly I won't mind having one even if it isn't used to plow wesport. We have a spare plow or two, several utility quads to use (would need to get a plow for one if I were to go this route), etc. So, at least how I'm looking at it, it's only a few thousand more (>4k) for a bigger truck.

    How does pricing on residentials work? What is the best way to price them? Or is it like I've read so far -- it's best to give the customer options?

    Thanks for all the help guys.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2009
  6. the new boss 92

    the new boss 92 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,989

    hey i was in the same boat last year, my advise would be to pick up a drive ways(friends, familys, neighbors, ect...) i found for me residential isn't my thing. some people like driveways better then others. also let your clients know that your going to offer snow& ice removal, get work that way. also find another small landscaper in the area and ask him if he needs a set of back up hands. hope this helps!
  7. ATV Plow King

    ATV Plow King Senior Member
    Messages: 166

    1) You don't need an extra person, but would you rather sit in your nice warm truck plowing driveways while your buddy is behind you getting the walks. Or would you wanna get out after every drive shovel it then get back in and continue plow and so on? If you have an extra person your probably going to be more profitable even know hes getting paid your still getting more then your paying him.

    2)Where I'm at i need PLOWING INS it my be different for you.

    3)If you get enough snow to plow you'll most likely have a 2hr delay or the day off.

    4)For me most of my customers want a per push price, and they have a 2''-3'' trigger which means i don't start plowing till theres 2''-3'' of snow on the ground. I also offer ice melt/salt and make sure you charge for that and mark it up 10-30% depending on where your at, But if they want snowplowing and ice removal just give them an all together price like $100
    to get your driveway plowed and salted. But make sure you know that salts going to cost you $10 a 50lb bag. you going to need to apply the whole bag, so you got $10 for the bag mark it up 20% charge them $20 for it then a $15 dollar application fee.

    Pay $10 salt
    Charge $20 salt
    Charge $15 app fee.
    Total that you charge is $35

    You make $25 salt (b/c you need to subtract the $10 that you payed for it)

    Charge $65 plow + $35 for salt you tell them $100

    You make a total of $90 profit per driveway.

    That may not be the prices for your area but that a guide you can use for yourself.

    Hope this helps.

  8. R Landscaping

    R Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    Ok. Thanks.

    I was planning on probably sending a postcard or something to all of my customers form landscaping to inform them that I was doing snow/ice removal and I figured since they all are happy with my work with their lawns, they'd probably be quick to pick me over someone else to do their snow removal as well.

    Ok. That was extremely helpful..Thanks a lot. I really appreicate it.

    As far as trigger points, are they sort of negotiable? Can I kind of set whatever I prefer, like say 1"? Or is it a lot better in their stand point if the trigger point is, say, 2"? I didn't even think about 2 hour delays/closings..That's a great point and probably would make it a lot easier to do some driveways that day. How do you decide on a trigger point? Is 1" unacceptable? Is 2" better? I don't want to make it so I'm coming out 5 times a week (well, sort of lol), but I don't want to only go out 1-2 times all winter either. We certainly don't get as much snowfall as some of you guys in the west do.(although it varies every year).
  9. AndyTblc

    AndyTblc Senior Member
    Messages: 681

    1" isn't unacceptable, I think I've seen triggers here as little as half inch, but that is only for parking lots. I know at the beginning of the year as soon as there was snow, I'd get my tape measure out and as soon as it hit 2 inches, I'm heading out plowing to make that money, but about january, I just kind of judge it or say "oh they can wait a little while longer" from just the ich for plowing. Usually 2-3" is when I go out. But I would tell them the usual trigger is 2-3". But if it's just slush and is going to melt, then I will either get out before it melts, or i'll just let it go. This year I may pick up a couple parking lots and for sure more driveways. But tell them that you are in school, and if it snows while you're in school, that you will get to them as soon as possible. I've told a number of that to people, they said to take my time, and that school is more important.
    ALSO, don't let people walk all over you, especially the old people. I plow for one guy that says "I have to earn my pay". I plowed his driveway at 6am with 4 inches of snow and got my $10. Then again at 7pm with 6 inches of snow and he gave me $5. I just scratched my head and walked away and that was the end of it. Though he is one of those people who you consider it a privilege to plow for by saying "I plow for this person" and people say "wow, how did you land that guy" so I don't really complain TO much, but this persons daughter lives across from me and said that I should talk to him. Which I will try to this November. I've been plowing his driveway with for 7 or 8 years with the tractor, and since I have a plow on my truck now, I have to raise my prices to keep up. I have driveways half that size that I charge $15 for. It only takes a few minutes.

    As for insurance, I asked my insurance company if I need liability insurance for plowing, and they said only if I want more. Under my car insurance, the property damage covers any damage I do with the plow as long as it happened with the truck. But it won't cover my truck if something happens, as long as I'm covered for other people, thats the main thing. So check with your insurance company.
  10. R Landscaping

    R Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    I've read that there are triggers as low as 1/4". However, that was in relation to commercial (parking lots, banks, etc.) where they needed to keep it clean and dry so that they didn't have people getting hurt. In residentials, is, say, 1-2" trigger point acceptable? And then establish with customers how many times is enough and/or too much? Say, 1-3 times in 24 hours, and then after that just leave it for the next day?

    Ok. I'll check with my insurance company. Thanks.
  11. ATV Plow King

    ATV Plow King Senior Member
    Messages: 166

    Useually i tell my customer that i can came a 1''2''3'' and so on and let them decide.

    And the most important rule DO NOT LOWBALL!!!

    The dries that i do are 100 feet long 20 feet wide and then 35 feet wide were the garage is. and i charge 65 for those. then i plow the side walk with my quad. just dont underprice b/c if you do and relize your not making enough money its gonna be hard next year to tell them that you need double.
  12. SuperdutyShane

    SuperdutyShane PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,517

    Hey I have the same plan as far as plowing before school goes so I cant wait to get my license. I just planned it a little differently... I was going to just get rid of the banks before school and then go out and do the rest of the driveway after school. I figure that will work because Ill get there before people get up so they can get out of the driveway and get to work, and then when they get home the driveway will be completely done. Idk if that helps you but you could consider doing it like that?
  13. AndyTblc

    AndyTblc Senior Member
    Messages: 681

    Lol, thats probly almost more important than brushing your teeth. When I first started plowing/blowing snow with my tractor I'd charge neighbors $5 or $7, and went up from there. And a few months ago I was giving a quote on lawn mowing and of course my mom and dad just HAD to get in the middle of it and first thing my mom says is, "you know people rely on you to do things for cheap" and I told her I can't do that, I have to make money. Then she just said well don't do it at all, so keep that as another rule. NEVER LET YOUR PARENTS RUN YOUR BUSINESS!!!.
  14. Mick

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

    No. Plowing and Landscaping are two very different classes which is what insurance companies use to set rates. Whatever you do, make sure that the term "Snowplowing" is a "Listed Activity". If it's not listed on your policy or supplement, you're not covered. There are two different scenarios where you could be sued. First is where something happens and you damage something while plowing, like hitting a parked car or running into a garage door. This would be covered under your Commercial Vehicle policy (not Personal Use). The second is where you plow a lot and leave. A person then falls on the area you plowed (or were suppose to plow/salt/maintain). They sue the owner (actually the owner's insurance company) who in turn sues you. This would be covered under the General Liability policy. Oh, you don't have GL insurance? No problem, they'll come after your parents (that should make them real happy).
  15. Chrisxl64

    Chrisxl64 Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 574

    I HIGHLYYYYYYY recommend hooking up with someone to shovel/snowblow for a year, until you are A) out of school, and B) a legal adult. Will make a whole load of things easier, and more responsible, to your parents and their property. You can not enter a legal contract as a minor, meaning you can't even sign your own insurance paperwork.
  16. ATV Plow King

    ATV Plow King Senior Member
    Messages: 166

    Yea i agree with Chris Mick and Andy. they all bring up very good points. Subbing for someone would be the best route to go in the beginning to learn the ropes and make some cash while doing it. Also yo want to be covered b/c if your not and something goes wrong, lets face it your F^%$#D So be smart about it.
    And never let your parents run your bizz (unless one of them ones there one company! then take all the advice you can get) Like in my case my mom works for someone but my dad has owned his own construction bizz for the past 25 years. so my mom doesnt understand why i charge so much .. your only 16 blahh blahh blahh and my dad just says good job boy keep it up. and if i ever need any advice i just ask my dad and he can help me out. so yea just have a game plan before you go for the gold medal.

  17. R Landscaping

    R Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 6


    1) Check with my insurance company. I need liability insurance (1m coverage will do?) and make sure that snowplowing is in my listed activities. I also need commercial vehicle insurance as well?

    2) Look into subbing for another company (I don't need insurance for this?)

    3) Is snow blowing or even plowing with my quad in my neighborhood a possibility?
  18. Mick

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

  19. bigmudder77

    bigmudder77 Senior Member
    from wooster
    Messages: 125

    here in ohio i was told if i put a plow on my truck i need to have plow ins which is more to cover the plow incase of a wreck or theft (but it has to be on the truck which is stupid cause if i dont need it im gonna unhook it and leave it at the house then thats covered by your home owners ins)

    even if i just use it on my drive and drive on the road with the truck i still need to have plow ins

    i just did drive ways last year this year i might stick with it just try to get more i dont really have the time to do a biz with my job cause they need it done no matter what time it snows

    say it snows a ft at noon well im still at work till 3 well that leaves 3 hours of non plowing and people getting stuck and people getting pissed at you

    and salt here is like $5-7 a bag

    and atv plow king when you said this "so you got $10 for the bag mark it up 20% charge them $20 for it then a $15 dollar application fee."

    your marking it up 100% marking it up 20% would only make you $2 extra dollars so it would be $12 for 20%

    $20 for 100%

    but yes you can make money on it but yes it takes time no way your gonna pay for your truck the first year unless you go big and going big is a 24 hour job if it snows and you have alot of places to plow but you will make big bucks even hiring out but you need to think when plowing your fuel wont be free and plowing really sucks the gas down so you gotta account for all that and

    yes like most said dont lowball

    ya you can plow a lot that will take you an hour per push for $10 but you will use like $60 in gas or more so is it really worth it to low ball?
  20. Nick Estes

    Nick Estes Member
    Messages: 73

    it is deff. worth it. i'm only 19 and i've been plowing for a family friend that has a good size plowing company and alot of commerical accounts, and even a local school district. All i can say is that if you think u have the motivation to get up at all times of day and maybe go for 2 days without sleep when required you will make alot of money. i just started using my own truck last year and my truck payed for itself twice. and if i was you i wouldnt go with a dodge you'll spend more time in the trany shop then plowing.