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Newbie Question, Ideas for Plowing Driveway

Discussion in 'Residential Snow Removal' started by driveway_clear, Jun 23, 2006.

  1. driveway_clear

    driveway_clear Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    As you can see, this is my first post. I've been reading this forum quite a bit, however.

    Like many other members, I'm looking to plow my driveway. We recently bought a house and I want to remove the snow myself. The driveway is steep, windy, and wide. It's asphalt. I've gotten some good tips on pre-treating it from the forum. Thanks.

    Initially, I was thinking of getting a garden tractor and plowing with that. But, I think the driveway is too steep. Here are some other thoughts I had:

    • Buy a very used truck just for plowing the driveway and to get supplies from the lumber and garden center. Still my preferred option.
    • Put a Snowbear or similar plow on my lady's new Sequia. I don't want to mess up her vehicle.
    • Get a used ATV to plow. I don't think it would work well on the steep driveway.
    • Get a Bobcat. Much too expensive!

    Let me know if my thinking is flawed.

    It brings me back to the used truck. What should I look for? I'm thinking an older truck (4x4) with high miles that has been well maintained and has not been used for plowing. I would purchase a used plow package. I know a little about Fords--F-150 (light-duty full size), F-250 (heavier-duty full size), F-350 (heavier still duty full size). I read that someone is using a ranger and that could be an option. But, if it costs me more to rig a Ranger for plowing than it does to get a bigger truck that would plow okay, I'd rather get a bigger truck. I don't want to fuel a Ford/Chevy battle here, but are the rough equivalents to the F-150, F-250, and F-350 the GMC/Chevy 1500, 2500, and 3500 respectively? Where does the Chevy half-ton fit in?

    Is it best to look for an F-150 or the GMC equivalent considering it's only for the driveway and I don't have a lot of money to spend for a truck? I'm hoping not to spend more than $5,000. Maybe a ranger would be enough? Will I need to put airbags or timbrens in the truck?

    I'm thinking that used trucks might be less expensive during the summer.

    There's a lot to this! Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks.
     
  2. tvpierce

    tvpierce Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 209

    I was in your same situation. I opted for something a that was very functional, and a lot more fun: I went with a Jeep (without a plow) then found a plow to fit it. I figured, why have a half ton pickup sitting in the yard rusting all summer, when I can have a convertable to drive around on sunny days. :nod:
    A Jeep or a Ranger has 10 times the capacity of an ATV -- ATVs are for walkways, not driveways. Do a little research on this forum -- Jeeps are highly regarded as plow vehicles. They are the ideal driveway machine... even the guys who do it for a living will attest to that.

    Good luck.

    Let us know what you decide to do.

    jp
     
  3. Chris-R

    Chris-R Senior Member
    Messages: 321

    From what you say in your post, I'll assume that whatever you buy will not be your daily driver. With that said, if all you want to do is plow your driveway and nothing else, why would you want to spend $ 5,000 plus insurance, vehicle maintenance, gas, etc. when you can pay a reliable snow removal company something like $75 per storm? Economically speaking, it makes no sense to buy a truck, tractor, atv, etc. just to do your own driveway. Since you just bought a house, you may have a need for a pickup truck but keep in mind the ongoing expense of insurance, excise tax, maintenance, etc. The Bellingham, MA Home Depot rents trucks for $20 per day so if you needed stuff for your house, you can always go to a Home Depot, rent a truck, etc. If you're hell bent on getting something, then I suggest a full size pickup. It is the most useful of vehicles. You can stack 4X8 sheets of plywood in it, fill it with all sorts of junk, haul wood if you have a wood stove, tow a big trailer, etc. I think any 1/2 ton full size 4x4 truck like the F-150 would be fine unless you're hauling wood or contemplate you may haul wood in the future. If so, get a 3/4 ton truck like the F-250 so you can handle the weight.
     
  4. DeereFarmer

    DeereFarmer PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,296

    What the everyone said above it true. Here are my opinions: I know from experience. I dealt with a steep curvey hill for years. A truck is expensive and might have a hard time plowing on the hill. You are going to need a fairly good truck to get up a hill. It can also pack down the snow to ice. I think a Jeep is just going to be too light. An ATV is good, but they are pretty expensive. I have never plowed with one, so I don't really know. I would not put a plow on the Sequia if you don't want to mess it up. The Bobcat is too expensive as you mentioned. You might have a hard time finding someone that wants to attempt to plow a steep driveway and you will have to have it plowed often too. Just my thoughts. With a steep driveway you loose no matter what.
     
  5. Mick

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

    First decide if you just want to have a plow to play around with. If that's the case, go for it. If not, hire someone to have the headache of keeping that plowed. A lot depends on the length and steepness of the driveway. I've got one that's so steep and windy that the homeowner can't get up with a Ranger even after I've plowed it but before I sand it. Two years ago, he decided to be a smart a-- and I had to pull him out of the ditch to finish sanding. Another is so steep, he can't get his car up even after I sand it. I sand it so he can WALK up it.

    Now, supposing yours isn't quite that steep - for sure you'll want 4wd.

    Chevy half ton is the same as a 1500/150. Each will typically take a 7.5' plow. 150/1500; 250/2500; 350/3500 is similar (ie: 1/2 ton; 3/4 ton and one ton)

    If you're just doing your own, don't bother with any airbags/load boosters. Just put some weight in the back end. Typically with a 1/2 ton, 3-400 lbs is plenty.

    Just my advice for buying a used plow - buy one already mounted on the truck you're going to use. If you don't know what you're doing, it's easy to buy an incomplete unit or one where the mounting hardware is not compatable to your truck. Or one that's leaking like a sieve. Buying the correct mounting hardware and/or wiring harness can run several hundred dollars. Installation can also run several hundred dollars. Pumps can be VERY expensive. Then, that "really good deal" isn't such a good deal after all.
     
  6. driveway_clear

    driveway_clear Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Thanks for your replies.

    I'll consider a jeep. Good idea. I just need to make sure it has enough power/weight to move the snow.

    Chris-R, I hear you about the truck. I'm used to doing things myself and I think the truck could serve a practical purpose as well as being fun. Professionals would do a better job. I'll catch on though, I hope!

    Thanks for the explanation of the truck levels. The idea of buying truck and plow together is good, but when I talked to some people they said that trucks that have been used for plowing are usually in rough shape. Any additional thoughts?

    I see some F150's and Rangers that don't look like they could plow. I know 4x4 is required. Any other things that the truck or jeep must have to plow?

    Do you think I could get a decent truck/jeep and plow for that amount?

    Do you have any thoughts on good places to purchase in the MA area?

    Thanks.
     
  7. DeereFarmer

    DeereFarmer PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,296

    Most plow trucks have been beaten, no matter how easy people go on them, the stress just beats them. I am not saying that there are not any good used plow trucks, because I am sure there are. I bought a truck that had never plowed before and the plow was put on to it. I think that this is the best way, but like anything else used, you can always have problems. For $5000 you should find a decent truck (with plow or plow separate), but expect to put some money into it. You are going to find beat trucks that are fairly old and may need some updating. I would stick with 3/4 tons, an F150 or Ranger is just asking for trouble on a driveway that demands so much. If you are just doing your own driveway than the only two things a would recommend is 4x4 and good ballast in the back for better traction. I would start to look on Autotrader and websites for vehicles around here just to get an idea. For <$5000 it your best bet will be to try to buy from a private sale, which can lead to problems.
     
  8. graycenphil

    graycenphil Member
    Messages: 82

    Long step driveway...sounds like fun. Really.

    I plowed my long (900 foot) driveway for four years with my Sears lawn tractor. It will work, but it takes a long time. If it is snowing hard, you have to plow it a few times during the storm. But I put on my one piece snow suit, the dog runs up and down the driveway and the kid watches from the window and you really enjoy the snowstorm. Sometimes you can only plow downhill and it takes even longer, but who cares, you are enjoying it.

    The advantage of the lawn tractor is that when it gets stuck you can pretty much pick it up and move it. And you can easily shovel it out or open a path for it. The disadvantage is when you want to do something else. We also had a plow company on call.

    But I'm older, the dog is much older and my daughter wants to come with me. And we needed a new truck anyway. So now I have a '99 Dodge/Cummins 2500 ext cab with a Fisher 7 1/2 foot plow. It takes a lot less time to plow the driveway, but we all ride in the truck with the radio and heater on (sometimes my wife even comes) having the time of our lives.

    The truck, by the way, was owned by a steel and cement contracting company and used for plowing contracts in the winter. It's true it does mean it was used pretty hard and it is not that attractive. Lots of dents and scrapes on the bed, but it is a really heavy duty thing and works just great. Only problem I've had is the AC doesn't work - engine, transmission, brakes, suspension all seem just fine. The advantage is it came with a really good plow and it cost $6,300 with 69,000 miles on it.

    I think you are on the right track and you've got all summer to find a nice vehicle. I'd pay less attention to brand and more to the condition of the vehicle. Just make sure you really are doing it because you will enjoy plowing - it'll never make financial sense.
     
  9. driveway_clear

    driveway_clear Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Great. I'm sure a used truck will need some work.

    The tractor is a possibility, but I don't know if it would get up the driveway. I'm with you on enjoying the snowstorm. I think a used truck may be the best solution. Keep the ideas flowing please! The posts are very helpful.
     
  10. Mick

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

    This is my idea of a tractor for plowing. It now has a rear blade, too.

    DSC01632.JPG
     
  11. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,992

    Great price on that truck, $6,300 for a Dodge Diesal with 69.000 miles, and a plow, WOW.

    you could make a profit selling the truck!
     
  12. DeereFarmer

    DeereFarmer PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,296

    Driveway Clear: This is what my tractor used to plow. I was amazed at how well it cleared the snow. I never thought that it would make it up the hill, but it did for the two years I used it. Never got stuck. Just wondering: would anyone tackle trying to plow this driveway with a truck? We tried to get a few companies to do it and nobody would even touch it for any amount of money. There used to be two big trees on either side of the turn which made it a lot harder to make the turn. All I know is that even with 4WD we never made it up.

    SMALL.JPG
     
  13. Mick

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

    I can't see anything special about that driveway. Seriously, any truck with 4wd would be fine on that. I can't see why anyone would turn that down. Go up staying to the left with the plow angled full right. Clear the area at the top. Then back down angled full left to finish pushing to clear the drive. Ten to 15 minutes with a coffee break. I've done steeper than that with a 1/2 ton Dodge and 7.5' plow with 14" of snow.
     
  14. DeereFarmer

    DeereFarmer PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,296

    The only real problem with it was that there was no place to put the snoe once you got up to the top because there was a stone wall that bordered the driveway. A guy tried to get up there once with a 2001 Chevy 2500 ans slid the whole way back down. Kind of embarassing that I could do it with a lawn tractor.
     
  15. Mick

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

    Then I'd say he needed a decent set of tires. As far as being embarassing that you could do it with a lawn tractor ... I'd say so - he should give up plowing. As for the stone wall ... if there was absolutely no other place to put it, then I'd backdrag from the garage and other sides and push it to the side as I went back down. There's plenty of space on either side, but especially on the right (as viewed going up). It looks like a place to push off on the left (as you're going up) about half way. My wife looked at it and said it looked like kind of wimpy - as driveways go.
     
  16. graycenphil

    graycenphil Member
    Messages: 82

    Quote: Great price on that truck, $6,300 for a Dodge Diesal with 69.000 miles, and a plow, WOW.
    you could make a profit selling the truck!


    Yes, I think it was a great price. But the bed is pretty rough - dented and scratched and drips of concrete. Plus the seats were torn and interior was pretty dirty. I think that just scared everybody off. I bought it in NYC; maybe buyers were looking for a fancy rig to drive tothe mall.

    Quote: The tractor is a possibility, but I don't know if it would get up the driveway.

    Probably not - In big snowstorms, I would plow down the driveway, drive back up then plow another path.
     
  17. LD4850

    LD4850 Member
    Messages: 64

    Well.... I'll through my $.02 in here too.

    I do have an old F150 with a plow on it that I keep JUST for doing my drive. No ins. no license, no nothing. It works GREAT!!! Most people don't have a place they can keep something like this though.

    The lawn tractor idea is fine for something small but you get awfully cold out there in a storm once you get older.
    Same goes for an ATV although those sure are a lot more fun to play with in the snow. Your kids would LOVE you if you went that route.
    The full size tractor would work (esp. if it was 4WD) but again.... That wind is COLD during a storm and they take a long time to get the job done.

    The BEST suggestion you have had so far is the Jeep. Get a CJ or whatever they call them now *WITH* a plow already on it. It will have PLENTY of power to do the job and is small enough to get into & out of tight places. The jeep keeps you out of the weather with a heater and lights & even a radio if you want. MUCH more comfortable plowing and will do a better job.
    Besides... drop the plow in the summer & jeeps can just be a LOT of fun.
    And yes.... you will eventually learn the best way to plow YOUR driveway. It won't happen the first time you try but will come.
    I know the job *I* do on mine, I couldn't pay someone else to do and I always have the plow handy for touch ups as I see the need.
     
  18. driveway_clear

    driveway_clear Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Nice pictures. My drive is shorter, steeper, and wider.

    No problems with the 150? A jeep is nice for fun. It would be good to have a truck to load up with mulch or wood.

    Thanks for the continued suggestions!
     
  19. tvpierce

    tvpierce Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 209

    You mention hauling stuff...
    The most useful tool a homeowner can own is a utility trailer. It loads an unloads easier than a pickup, you can haul it with anything (economy car, mini-van, truck), it's cheap (initial cost, reg/taxes, insurance), you don't have to worry about it starting/running, and you can keep it even if you sell your vehicle.

    If you are seriously worried about the steepness, then consider chains on all 4 wheels (regardless of what vehicle you choose). With all 4 wheels chained on my last Jeep, it was literally impossible to get lose traction -- it simply pushed piles of snow as far as I wanted to push them.

    jp
     
  20. Chris-R

    Chris-R Senior Member
    Messages: 321

    I agree with Mick regarding that driveway. Among the many commercial contracts I plow, there is a daycare center that has a driveway at least twice as bad as yours. An experienced plowtruck operator would have no problem with your driveway as Mick pointed out (he's experienced) wesport