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Truck vs. skid steer, let the debate begin

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by WilliamOak, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. WilliamOak

    WilliamOak PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,986

    Here is my dillema, and keep in mind I have quite some time to think this over and consider all the options, I am looking to really expand into snow removal next year as a sub contractor most likely and here is what I have come up with:

    -I have a landscape company, maintenance being my bread and butter, I also do some installation and renovation work. I am looking for what avenue you all would persue if put in my situation. Keep in mind I also go to school full time 3 hours away from home and school is top priority. I currently have my CCSB duarmax that I drive there and back and tow my 18' enclosed regularly on weekends (spring and fall) and during the summer. Obviously, I would like the highest ROI possible and would probably be looking at spending $15k or so once it is all said and done.

    1. Buy a rclb gasser 3/4-1 ton pickup and outfit it with a plow and spreader (V box or tailgate) and have someone drive it and sub it out so it can go out every event. I would never drive it really since it wouldn't be fair to expect someone to only plow when I'm not home. It would/could also tow my enclosed or equipment trailer loaded with mulch, plants sod etc. in the summer.
    It would seem that I'd be looking in the '03-'05 range conservatively with roughly $10k being spent on a no thrills work truck and give or take $5k to outfit it (lights, spreader, plow, misc repairs) (not exceeding $15k again)
    I know some will say "why not just plow with the dmax? Reason for that is why spend the $2k-$3k and only make $ when it happens to snow on weekends or during my winter break which last year it did but this year has been dismal for that type of timing. It does not seem smart to invest that kind of $ and crossing my fingers it snows when I'm home.

    2. Buy a skid steer. $15k could get me a pretty decent machine and with forks and a bucket I can tackle most anything suring the summer months. This would be a huge asset for landscaping not only saving in rental costs, but the yard I'm looking to park at also has another landscaper I am good friends with who plans on building bins for mulch, dirt, debris etc. So I would be able to load mulch where I park. Not to mention how much more installation, grading, etc work I could take on. In my eyes upkeep and overall cost on a machine would be much less than a truck. I would outfit it with an 8' pusher or plow and once again put an operator in it and sub for someone. OR really push snow services in my town and drive the skid around town doing a large amount of driveways every storm. Based on common hourly rates and average snowfall totals it would not take a whole lot of time to recoup the cost of the machine based solely on winter work.
    I already have a 16' + 2' dovetail equipment trailer with 5200lb axles that I use for mulch currently that would be perfectly suited for hauling a skid + bucket and other attachments so no need to buy a trailer either.

    I realize nobody knows the true ins and outs of my operation besides me but generalizing the situation and applying your knowledge and personal experience would help greatly with my decision. At this point in time the skid steer seems like a much better investment but in no way am I dead set on either.

    Some may ask why even spend the $? Reason being is while in school I am trying to put as much into the business as possible while still banking a good amount of funds. I also have very few expenses besides beer and food lol. I am trying to put myself and my operation in a position to go full time once out of school with very little, if any large expenses if I decide to do so.

    I'd rather sell it all and buy up real estate but wheres the fun in that payup :salute: lol

    NICHOLS LANDSCA PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,286

    What would your guy use to pull the skid? Your best bet would be a truck. I'd say it sounds like a headache, you will have to find someone to trust enough to give keys to your truck and a gas card. You not being around to keep an eye on things.
  3. WilliamOak

    WilliamOak PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,986

    Skid would be a lot machine, if I can aquire a bunch of accounts in my town it would be driven from account to account.
    Finding someone I trust to run a truck vs a skid would be another issue, but equally challenging for either option so I left it out.
  4. Skid steer is very useful n has potential to bring in more money because it is very useful in many situation big and small storms alike. With the skid steer you can rent it out for the winter months not having to worry about someone taking advantage of the use of the gas cards and abuse of your truck. Plus the skid steer can be used to grow your landscape company as well as be hired by other companies in need of the skidder with an operator.
  5. WilliamOak

    WilliamOak PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,986

    Exactly, I see much more potential revenue coming from a skid rather than a truck. And much more diverse cash flow considering what all can be done with these machines.

    Messages: 16

    SKID......no truck can match a skid they can push and stack more snow than a truck could ever in most cases. but a snow bucket is a must and i dont know if would trust anyone else in my skid with a snow bucket except my father lol....just my .02 hope that helps
  7. Surfdunn

    Surfdunn Member
    Messages: 43

    I would wait till you get out of school before you make a decision like that. Snow plowing has a lot more liability then a lawn company. Buying any piece of equipment being a truck, a plow or skidsteer and then renting it to someone is always risky business. Look at your rental cost for the last year and see if its profitable to buy that piece of equipment.I know your looking ahead but you gotta get the work first before you buy anything.

    Messages: 16

    surf i would agree but to rent a skid with out a snow bucket is like a pickup with a shovel attached to the front lol if you get what i mean so iwould acquaite that into the cost.
  9. got-h2o

    got-h2o 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,439

    I think a Bobcat 843 would suit you perfectly. I recommend buying one asap.......infact I know of one and the seller is a real pimp.
  10. erkoehler

    erkoehler PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,252

    I'd get a second truck. Having the second truck will allow you to expand your crew in the summer as well. Running two crews all summer can be just as profitable as that skid, and you already know what it takes to do the maintenance end of the summer business.

    For winter, when first starting out it is going to be tough to get accounts right off the bat where you can utilize a skid. Having a second truck will let you bid on a ton of lots in our area, and if you land a major sized lot then you can rent a skid for the winter or sub the skid work out. Remember, you'll still need trucks on a lot that you own the account on even w/ the skid. Trucks will need to come in to salt and also help to windrow light snows for the skid to push w/ a box.

    It is my opinion also that you'll put a subbed out truck to work for more hours than you will a skid. Salting is a huge part of that.

    I had this same decision in fall of 2010, and I went with a second truck. At this point, I'm very happy with my decision.
  11. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    I vote skid. You will open doors & opportunities for your co. that 5 trucks wouldnt do for it.

  12. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,468

  13. Mark13

    Mark13 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,719

    I thought it was done snowing this winter and forever? :D
  14. WilliamOak

    WilliamOak PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,986

    I wasn't really considering a snow bucket, more going the route of a pusher. I would think a skid would be a bit more "indestructible" so to speak as far as banging it around goes than a truck, and parking it in a nice wide open lot would hopefully aleviate some of that difficulty, but that is all dependent on the work that would come for it.

    I dont plan on renting m equipment, rather putting an operator in the machine, my rental cost will never really be more than it would cost to buy it as I don't actively pursue jobs requiring a machine like that currently. I'm always looking to expand comfortably and even if I make a few thousand with it in the summer and a few thousand in the winter (which seems very conservative from what I have gathered) its not long before that machine has paid for itself rather than that $ going out the window in rentals. I also don;t want to turn this into a rental debate at this point.

    I know quite a few guys with skids that only have a regular low pro/material bucket, forks and a pusher and do quite well for themselves. for regular plowing operations would a pusher not substitute for a snow bucket?

    Heard hes a homo

    That is it right there. The main draw to a skid for me is diversity of cash flow. I cant dig a base for a patio, grade a yard, stack snow or load materials with a truck, but I also can not send off a mowing trailer towed by a skid lol

    in a perfect world I would have been able to keep my dodge and bought a skid and ran both this winter and just driven the old car to school, but that just didn't work out.
  15. WilliamOak

    WilliamOak PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,986

    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  16. erkoehler

    erkoehler PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,252

    I wouldn't count on much snow hauling or relocation in this area. We just don't get the amount of snow required for it. It really isn't even something that should be factored in to your decision.

    If we get enough snow to consider hauling/relocating then there will be plenty of meat on the bone to rent the equipment for those 1-2 opportunities in ten years.
  17. WilliamOak

    WilliamOak PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,986

    to be honest that was the only additional income I could throw my hands around for a skid during the winter besides plowing. I'm sure there's other means however I'd like not to count on that.

    Maybe a $12k skid and a $5k truck bringing me down to '99-'02 (i.e. my old dodge! lol) with a plow and spreader. I spend a bit more but it brings the best of both worlds, just go down south to get a truck thats never seen salt and find a older skid but even $10k still gets you a solid skid from what I've seen come up and what people I know have bought.

    ^^edit: on seond thought that might be a little too ambitious and I would like to not over extend myself like that lol
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  18. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    I would get a nice 2 speed skid, and just sub that out. I even had a guy last year make me an offer that he would use my operator, but he would pay him direct, he offered to put fuel in the machine, and to do any repairs....so basically he offered me an hourly rate for the machine, my choice of operator...and had I taken the deal, I would have had to drive it up to his lot, park it, train 1 or :2 operators for it...and then he would do all the rest. His price was a little low but considering that I got to pick the operator,(rather than this being just a rental agreement ) and he would fuel and do all the rest of the work...it wasn't too bad.
  19. NoFearDeere

    NoFearDeere PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,709

    Personally, buy a cheap plow truck and push snow. When your done with school then buy a skiddy. No doubt they will run circles around a truck in snow, but everything has its place.
  20. jomama45

    jomama45 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,172

    Here's my thoughts, they're free, so take them for what their worth.......

    I plowed as a sub with a truck for about 8 years. I quit for a few years because it was interfering with my normal business activities, and more importantly, it messed up my employee's schedules when it snowed. At the end of every year, I'd find myself saying "this is the last year, I'm done with this crap". Yet every year, I'd have a hard time saying no to the guys I plowed for, mostly because they were friends, and partially because it's hard to urn potential profit away in the winter months. The fact is, at the end of those years, after all the repairs, maintanence, etc... to the truck and plow, it just wasn't worthwhile to me.

    Fast forward a few years, and my brother's gettign fairly big into snow removal. He offer's me a route with one of my skids, which just happens to be very close to an investment property we just bought, which we need to take care of the snow removal one way or the other anyways.

    - I take additional coverage out for snowplowing again, which is less than it was when I ran a truck.

    - With all things figured in (I used to get reimbursed for fuel, not any more) I got a 45% raise to plow with the skid vs. what I got paid with the truck.

    - The skid doesn't break or show much wear at all from snow work if you use your head. What's considered abuse to a pick-up truck is light work for a piece of construction equipment.

    - I have a nice tight, dedicated route due to the skid. Always the same lots every storm.

    - I can do a far better job with the skid, as you can see the blade clearly in front of you, and I get far closer to objects on the first try, and you have less damage. Just less frustration all together.

    You still need to justify a skid in the summer months though. I personally thinks it's a lot easier to do than a truck though. The suggestion to "just add another crew" isn't nearly as simple as it may sound. Another truck, another trailer, alot more equipment, more employees, far more overhead all together. All that just to mow more lawns, that you're only mowing to get your foot in the door for the better paying work anyways? From what I understand, there really isn't a ton of profit to be made in mowing, so I personally can't understand sticking more money into it if you want to be doing more on the hardscape side. Good luck.