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Toolcat for residentials, multiple questions

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by mnlefty, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. mnlefty

    mnlefty Senior Member
    Messages: 963

    Ok guys, here's the setup: I fear giving out too much info in case the competition reads here but I've got enough questions that need answers.

    I bought a lawn care company this spring. We mow approximately 130+ accounts in an affluent suburb. Our mowing routes have great density for maximum efficiency. The previous owner has never been interested in plowing, to the point where he referred customers to a plow company who is not a lawn competitor... he didn't want the hassles of subbing it out, just handed them off, approx 90-100 of our customers are using this plow service. Well, I want that business. I do have plow experience from another company, but all commercial, mostly office and warehouse space. However, I don't want to be just another plow company. We are a high end lawn service, and our customers will expect a high end snow service as well... which leads me to my thought that I don't want to plow at all. I would rather use a blower, or a blower/pull plow combo similar to what Jon Geer had to leave cleaner finished edges and the big one that would be a true selling feature to these neighborhoods, no piles at the end of the drive. Doing this for the same price as the plow guys, or even at a premium will get customers in my service area.

    I really really would like to go with the tractor and inverted blower setup so popular with our friends to the north, but going into it year one, its hard to justify the investment when I'd prefer to start and grow at a more comfortable pace... trust me I am fearful and cautious of "biting off more than I can chew". I don't know that I could obtain or if I even want the 100 customers or so to make a unit like that make sense right now. However I just got quoted for a monthly rental of a Toolcat at $850/month, provide your own attachments... When I run the numbers with that it seems feasable to turn a decent profit with 40-50 customers, and if I can get more and handle more then all the better. If I can grow the business I'll certainly buy my own equipment, but this easier to start slower with less up front investment. So here are some of the first questions on my mind...

    -Is there a way to put an Ebling or Daniels pull plow on the back of the Toolcat without fabrication to the machine? Obviously I'm not going to be doing fab work on a rented machine.

    -Will a properly set up blower get as clean of a scrape as a plow? Urathane edges? Cleaner edges and no piles won't work if I can't clear down to the pavement as well as a plow.

    -Which blower for the front, Bobcat, Erskine, other? What size is ideal?

    -How many accounts could I reasonably expect to service with this type of setup given this information? Our lawn routes currently are 6-7 different neighborhoods averaging 15-20 accounts per neighborhood with less than 1 mile of travel within the specific area and .5-3 miles between areas. Drives are a mix of shorter 2 and 3 car drives all the way up to circled fronts with side facing garages.

    I firmly believe my area is prime for a service like Neige and others to dominate the market. Like I said earlier, if you can provide a cleaner finish than the plow guys, specifically no piles at the end of the drive, and then when the neighbor asks about it and you tell them you can do it for the same price as their plow guy... payuppayup The area is affluent enough to believe you get what you pay for and they are willing to pay. So, just looking for answers, advice, input of any kind is appreciated.
  2. BlackIrish

    BlackIrish Senior Member
    Messages: 888

    I have both, road speed is good for the traveling you'll do.
    Curtis pull plow on my toolcat mounts in the receiver, scrapes to pavement better than inverted blower due to down pressure.
    If you want to offer great service it seems to me that you'll need 2 of something.
  3. Triple L

    Triple L PlowSite Fanatic
    from Canada
    Messages: 5,972

    If your going to eventually go to a tractor set up, why not just but the blower now and do it right, and just rent a tractor... instead of rent a toolcrap, buy the blower and backblade, then sell all that and then buy a tractor and blower... Its just as easy to rent a tractor as it is to rent a toolcrap...

    A 2000 lbs inverted blower has just as much weight on the cutting edge as a 500 lbs back blade with down pressure IMO...
  4. Bird21

    Bird21 Senior Member
    Messages: 532

    we do 125 Residentials in high end neighborhoods here in Illinois. We use 2 New Holland ls180 with two speed options. Outfitted with Snow Wolf 9' plows. The machines are parked at one homeowners home who gets free service for parking the machines there. The guys drive there clean the drive park their cars and away they go. They start in opposite areas and meet in the middle, they drive all over within a 2-4 mile square area. I only other this to lawn clients, well lets just say we have a waiting list. We are maxed out at 125 accounts in this area we could handle more but I want to ensure everyone gets done in time to go to work. We do a superior job to plows trucks and much quicker, we stake all drives with our own color stakes so the guys don't miss any. We change the colors each year cause some wiseguy homeowner stakeed his drive in our color to pull a fast one, didn't work.

    Each Fall the homeowner get a contract where they can draw a diagram for snow placement, outline special requests, and list possible hidden obstacles. The operators then stake the drives, make diagrams and note any problem areas that they want to remind themselves of. Really the piles are the least of the homeowners concern, just get then out in the morning. The operators have a binder with them in the machine, homes are listed in order and any special requests are highlighted. I have narrowed this down to a no brainer, same two guys and the same homes give or take since 2000. Every 5 hours a truck with a tranfer tank fuels them up ..... NO Downtime!!! The trucks also all have spare tires, hoses, pins, and misc. parts to keep them going.

    Oh I forgot paver drives are done with a seperate truck with a ploy blade.

    Buy a skid get a Wolf and go to town, and charge a premium. We do.

    Once the snow season is done we rake the pile areas, blow the drives, pick up trash, and remove the stakes all part of the service.

    Then you can use the skid in the summer for scape work.
  5. Martinson9

    Martinson9 Senior Member
    Messages: 204

    Is anyone using a blower attachment on suburban sized residential driveways? If it's such a great idea (seems like a good one) you'd think you would see someone doing it. I never have. We also have a skid with an 8 ft snow wolf with wings.
  6. plowatnight

    plowatnight Senior Member
    from Mn
    Messages: 305


    I do TH homeowners in Rochester, I have about 27K in a boomer tc34. Blade front blower rear. A friend has a skid w/ the blower and loves it, thinking of getting another. Point is the toolcat will be great, the 5610 (I think) Has a 3pt rear instead of a dumpbox. this would be perfect w/ a 7-8' backblade w/ wings and a 60" blower on the front (60" so you can pick up the public walk w/ the same machine. Northern has a really slick fast coupler to quickly unhook the 3pt attatchment if you need to skinny for the walks. Buy the machine now while the money is cheap and the deductions are good, If you don't have the setup, you can't go hound the work. Just my opinion
  7. plowatnight

    plowatnight Senior Member
    from Mn
    Messages: 305


    I also have several high end single resi. The blower is the cats a$$ because single resi. in small city lots HATE the snow plow and love the blower.
  8. d8on27@msn.com

    d8on27@msn.com Junior Member
    from iowa
    Messages: 21

    What are you guys using for the walks and steps?
  9. Neige

    Neige Sponsor
    Messages: 2,194

    I tried a toolcat last year, I must say it was fun. I only got to use it in a small snow fall, and I found I could do half the drives than with a ag tractor. If you are going to drag the snow out and then blow it, thats twice the work then blowing it right away. The best part with the tool cat, you can have a passenger, and carry some equipment in the back. So if you intend shovel walks, you can have the passenger do that while your doing the drive. This will defiantly cut down on the amount of drives you can do in an hours time. I personally will tell you go for the ag right away. Like triple said renting should be around the same price. The blower will cost about the same as a plow + hy flow blower for the toolcat. The tractor has better road speed, double the efficiency, built stronger, and can handle larger snow falls without slowing down much. If by chance you get 100 clients you will be able to handle it with 1 tractor, good luck with a toolcat. I know one thing for sure, once you start blowing those drives, they will never go back to being plowed.
  10. Neige

    Neige Sponsor
    Messages: 2,194

    Hey Black, the new SHoule inversed snow blower will scrape better than any plow even with down pressure. It weighs way more and the cutting edge is set an an angle like on a plow, not flat like on the others.

  11. mnlefty

    mnlefty Senior Member
    Messages: 963

    Is that a brand new offering from them, I couldn't find the inverse on their website?

    Neige- I know you run primarily pronovost blowers, do they have steel cutting edges or the tyvar or whatever that is pronovost advertises? Any trouble with paver driveways?

    BlackIrish- I can't tell from your pictures, what brand of inversed blowers are you running?

    Have either of you ever run the Erskine inversed blower? Erskine is only about 2 hours from me... It is starting to make sense that I should just get started this way... it's just going to take a bit more legwork to get going this year yet. A bit more of a process to locate and purchase a blower (bobcat dealers are everywhere here for the skid mount). More research and calling to find the best deal on a tractor rental. Finding a place to store the tractor for the season. My shop is 10-12 miles from our service area, the toolcat could be easily trailered then unload and go... not as easy for the tractor.

    A bit more work and maybe a bit more investment to get started the right way, but it does make sense to skip the intermediate step. I too thought about a shoveler with me in the toolcat, but every minute I have to wait for him without the auger spinning is wasted time... I think I'm best off either way on my own with the shovelers in their own rig.
  12. Neige

    Neige Sponsor
    Messages: 2,194

    I really think you are going about it the right way. If you ever what to chat, you can always call me at 514.622.9283

    RIVERVIEW7 Member
    Messages: 53

    The toolcat is a great machine i have one i send my guys out with it has a 8 foot western plow on the front and a salter in the bed with some shovels. The machine great and its quick enough on the roads to go from one side of town to the other without any one following it. also the four way steer is a great option

    IDOCTORTREES Senior Member
    from MONTANA
    Messages: 787

    Put a bb and a sb on it ----Its all you need. I have 3
  15. gd8boltman

    gd8boltman Senior Member
    Messages: 324


    where did you get a toolcat rental for $850.00 per month? I am in the market to rent on for the season and the lowest quote I have gotten is $1750.00 and add your own attachments. If you could give me a name I will reserve one for myself if they have another one aside from the one your looking at.

  16. hoskm01

    hoskm01 Senior Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 475

    Yeah, 850 is a screamin good deal. Id ship that across country for that price.
  17. Mr.Markus

    Mr.Markus PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,105

    At one of our farm shows a few years back there was a blower that utilized a hydraulic back on it that converted from back blower to pull blower on the fly. (blew backing in and then blew pulling out) quite slick... wish I'd picked up the info cause I can't find it again.
  18. Neige

    Neige Sponsor
    Messages: 2,194

    There are 2 manufactures one is Pronovost with the PXPL http://www.pronovost.qc.ca/pxpla.html
    The other one I will need to do some research give me the rest of the day. Could be that they are no longer manufactured.:drinkup:
  19. Mr.Markus

    Mr.Markus PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,105

    Thanks Paul, I've been looking for that for quite some time...Do you have any of these? I'd love to hear an opinion on how well they work.
  20. Neige

    Neige Sponsor
    Messages: 2,194

    I have seen them in action, they work very well put are very pricey. I will send you a price tomorrow. I don't use them because the inversed blowers I have to a great job.