Can you give me a per-year cost estimate per 3/4 ton plow truck?

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
So far we've done residential with shovels, blowers, and lawn tractors w blowers on the front. Now I'm trying to learn how to estimate yearly equipment costs for plow trucks, but I have no idea how many years I'll be able to get out of a good setup, or how much a good plow rig costs to buy, or how much in maintenance it will consume every year.
Can anyone please shed some light on this?

If I call an RV center, they tell me a nice plow and setup will be $9-12k. Which I think is crazy and has to be way too expensive. I can set up a good lawn mowing rig for that much, including the truck. And it will make 2-3x more revenue per year than a plow truck, but at a lower margin.

If a plow setup costs $12k and works for maybe 10 years, it makes more sense to clear snow with a compact ag tractor and rear mounted blower because it's more efficient and will last longer. Or to get 2 more lawn tractors with cabs and blowers, and focus extra $$$ on marketing to a 1 mile radius.

But I'm not a good person to make this call because I don't know how long a truck and plow will last if we take good care of it.

Is anybody willing to estimate about how much you spend per year to keep a 3/4 ton truck and plow (let's say a high quality straight blade) running well and in service? Figure it's a used truck bought 4-5 years old. If you think it's better to buy brand new, please let me know why. Include the initial investment in the truck, and the whole rig, lights, etc.
How many years of reliable work you can get out of that truck?
As for the amount of work... Say you're going out 12-15x per year, for 5-6 hours each. I'm in SE Michigan. Residential drives. 6 mile max radius for service area. Be generous and assume nobody has a big accident or crashes into anything.
Don't factor in the car insurance or gas or workers comp insurance or insurance on a loan.
Any help with this would be great. Thank you!
 

EWSplow

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
Milwaukee
I'll take a cracked at it.
Used high mileage truck $8000. (Will probably need some work)
Used plow $4000 (if you're lucky you might find a wire harness and mount).
The truck should last 5, maybe 6 years before it gets too ratty. So, $2000 / year.
Annual maintenance $2000.
Looks like you could get by on $4000 / year.
 

Kvston

Senior Member
You are asking a broad question and the wrong one for your circumstance.
1. debating a truck vs a garden tractor?
2. cost is related to age of truck/ hours used/gross revenue per hour used/depreciation/ salt/etc.

The real question is what can a truck do for your revenue wise that the current step cant? I.E. what can it generate and is that amount worth the investment/ risk?

when we focused on residential our numbers in a rural area was $200/hour per truck/driver. Couldn’t do the route better/cheaper with anything else. Too spread out-etc.

now we are looking into loaders and skidsteers on our commercial routes due to density and cost of ownership.

figure out what you CAN do numbers wise with and without the new rig. There is a baseline to start from. Then look at the purchase price and expected sale price. Subtract one from the other and weigh it against the revenue generated and risks.

a ton more goes into it but if you are asking the question “should I throw money at this upgrade”…. Just my two cents.
 

Randall Ave

PlowSite Fanatic
A used truck 4-5 years old, estimated cost $30,000.00. here used truck prices are insane. Throw in some extras, lights, backpack, whatever. Plow cost, depending on what you want, 6000.- 8500. Yearly maintenance should be $1500.00 for an average, when it hits 8-9 years old, it will jump up every year.
 
OP
J

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
I'll take a cracked at it.
Used high mileage truck $8000. (Will probably need some work)
Used plow $4000 (if you're lucky you might find a wire harness and mount).
The truck should last 5, maybe 6 years before it gets too ratty. So, $2000 / year.
Annual maintenance $2000.
Looks like you could get by on $4000 / year.
Thank you!
 
OP
J

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
You are asking a broad question and the wrong one for your circumstance.
1. debating a truck vs a garden tractor?
2. cost is related to age of truck/ hours used/gross revenue per hour used/depreciation/ salt/etc.

The real question is what can a truck do for your revenue wise that the current step cant? I.E. what can it generate and is that amount worth the investment/ risk?

when we focused on residential our numbers in a rural area was $200/hour per truck/driver. Couldn’t do the route better/cheaper with anything else. Too spread out-etc.

now we are looking into loaders and skidsteers on our commercial routes due to density and cost of ownership.

figure out what you CAN do numbers wise with and without the new rig. There is a baseline to start from. Then look at the purchase price and expected sale price. Subtract one from the other and weigh it against the revenue generated and risks.

a ton more goes into it but if you are asking the question “should I throw money at this upgrade”…. Just my two cents.
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks! Yeah route density will have a lot to do with it. When I break down the per-hour numbers assuming average snow, it falls between 175-250 per truck hour. With a separate, slower crew for walks. If I assume a truck can do 15 drives an hour. I'm guessing that would have to be a pretty tight route. We'd probably have to drop prices to get that tight of a run.
I saw someone on here post last year that they get about $60-70 per hour for plowing. Is it safe to assume that's a subcontract situation where the guy has his own truck and insurance?

If we are at $150 revenue per truck-hour, I don't see how we could pay a driver more than $40-45 per hour.

new question: Does anybody offer drivers a flat rate monthly that stays the same no matter how much or how little it snows?
[forgive me for doing a lot of guessing and assuming here. This can and will get me into trouble, I know, which is why I'm doing it in June]
 
OP
J

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
A used truck 4-5 years old, estimated cost $30,000.00. here used truck prices are insane. Throw in some extras, lights, backpack, whatever. Plow cost, depending on what you want, 6000.- 8500. Yearly maintenance should be $1500.00 for an average, when it hits 8-9 years old, it will jump up every year.
Thank you that helps a lot. Yes it looks like bigger trucks are pricey here too. I can't find anything in the 250/2500 class less than 10 years old for less than at least $12-14k. And that's if it's creeping up on 150-200k miles.

We would be financing at least part of that truck purchase too.

If I spent $5000 on marketing and was willing to sell the full season of coverage for about $150-200, I could probably get an insanely tight route. Around here $150 is 3 weeks of lawn mowing for the suburban homeowner.
If everything were within about 1-3 sq miles I could do it all with one Deere 3 series 4wd tractor with an inverted snow thrower.

Those are financed at 0% for 72mos, so about $6-7k per year for a brand new tractor. Not counting the implements. I can get a lot of summer use out of the trucks, but going to tractor service sounds almost as affordable as using quality plow trucks -- even with the mild snow we get here.
 
OP
J

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
I'll take a cracked at it.
Used high mileage truck $8000. (Will probably need some work)
Used plow $4000 (if you're lucky you might find a wire harness and mount).
The truck should last 5, maybe 6 years before it gets too ratty. So, $2000 / year.
Annual maintenance $2000.
Looks like you could get by on $4000 / year.
How many inches per year do you guys get in Milwaukee? I haven't been there in a long while, but that's a cool city.
 
OP
J

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
Around 44 inches annually.

Spend the $5000 on equipment. If you're good to what you do, your services will sell themselves.
I agree. In-season the phone calls can almost become annoying because I only have capacity to take on 10-20% more work at that point. Prices go up, phone calls are mostly wasted time unless someone is a snowbird.

But I want to sell it to 50+ houses in a 200-home HOA, right now, in the summer and early fall when nobody is even thinking of snow yet. That will take some EDDM and adwords and fbAds. And for sure door to door. Cost of acquisition in early mowing season is maybe $7-15 per weekly mowing client this year. In previous years when we were unknown it was $20-30.
For this, in warm weather, it might take $40-80 per client to sell snow service in a narrowly defined area. But in the end it has a number. It always boils down to a number. I just want to know what the cost number is on the other side. : )
 

Kinport

Senior Member
Location
Powell Wyoming
If I call an RV center, they tell me a nice plow and setup will be $9-12k. Which I think is crazy and has to be way too expensive.

When you order a kill dozer online.View attachment 216641

you could ask @LapeerLandscape what he paid for his RV set up

in all seriousness, those prices seem a tad steep. I thought it was closer to 7-8 for a new plow when we were looking last year. Not sure what all they are including in the “set up”.

A 4 year old used truck like you mentioned is probably going to be 30-40k. Assuming it’s not beat to snot already I’d bet you’ll be $1-2k/yr in maintenance with the occasional $4k year for big ticket items like engine or transmission.

As far as cost per year, how long do you plan to keep the truck? If you keep the rust out of it there’s no reason it can’t plow 10-20 years (most of my rigs are 15-20 years old). Or you can keep it just long enough to realize the tax benefits and sell it off, or you can keep it a couple years and sell it before incurring any major maintenance issues and go buy something newer then rinse and repeat.

If you and your guys are willing to drive something a little older, then I think @EWSplow numbers are very close.
 

EWSplow

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
Milwaukee
you could ask @LapeerLandscape what he paid for his RV set up

in all seriousness, those prices seem a tad steep. I thought it was closer to 7-8 for a new plow when we were looking last year. Not sure what all they are including in the “set up”.

A 4 year old used truck like you mentioned is probably going to be 30-40k. Assuming it’s not beat to snot already I’d bet you’ll be $1-2k/yr in maintenance with the occasional $4k year for big ticket items like engine or transmission.

As far as cost per year, how long do you plan to keep the truck? If you keep the rust out of it there’s no reason it can’t plow 10-20 years (most of my rigs are 15-20 years old). Or you can keep it just long enough to realize the tax benefits and sell it off, or you can keep it a couple years and sell it before incurring any major maintenance issues and go buy something newer then rinse and repeat.

If you and your guys are willing to drive something a little older, then I think @EWSplow numbers are very close.
I guess I missed the 4 year old truck.
I was referring to something 10- 15 years old.
Nice, clean 10 year old trucks with medium mileage (around 100,000 - 150,000) are probably in the $20,000 range.
 

Kvston

Senior Member
We did the whole old truck rodeo for years. Works well if you have a shop and mechanic plus good backup rigs and maybe also a good local mechanic For us we decided the new truck route is best. Less downtime, matches our business marketing better, etc.

When you run the numbers make sure to compare in service probability and real-time cost of downtime to the cost of ownership and resale. For us with mostly pay per instance contracts, the cost of downtime is prohibitive.

Last season with winter storm Gail we made an extra $10k by removing and moving snow at locations not properly serviced by others who’s rigs were down.
 

NYH1

PlowSite Veteran
I can't really help on the used truck prices. I do know a lot of "used" things have gone up quite a bit from the covid crap. Used snowmobiles and ATV's that cost $1000 to $1500 pre-covid are now $1500 to $2000 plus. Other used products like vehicles are probably even worse.

I'm sure used plows have gone up too. I have no idea how much new plow prices have gone up. Back in Nov. 2015 I paid $6334 out the door for my new Fisher 8' 6" Xtreme V and Timbrens, both installed. Again, just to give you an idea.

Try as many different dealer as you can. Just remember though, paying a low price is good, but good dealer support is even better. Even if you don't need any service work done cause you do your own service work, you're gonna new parts at some point.

Good luck, NYH1.
 
OP
J

jato

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
I can't really help on the used truck prices. I do know a lot of "used" things have gone up quite a bit from the covid crap. Used snowmobiles and ATV's that cost $1000 to $1500 pre-covid are now $1500 to $2000 plus. Other used products like vehicles are probably even worse.

I'm sure used plows have gone up too. I have no idea how much new plow prices have gone up. Back in Nov. 2015 I paid $6334 out the door for my new Fisher 8' 6" Xtreme V and Timbrens, both installed. Again, just to give you an idea.

Try as many different dealer as you can. Just remember though, paying a low price is good, but good dealer support is even better. Even if you don't need any service work done cause you do your own service work, you're gonna new parts at some point.

Good luck, NYH1.
Thank you! Yes I need to shop around
 

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