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Looking for used vehicle suggestions to start a bussiness

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Larrysplow, Aug 26, 2006.

  1. Larrysplow

    Larrysplow Junior Member
    from NE Ohio
    Messages: 10

    I'm semi-retired and looking to supplement my income by doing residential plowing.
    I was thinking the best approach to break into my area is to do local high volume residential plowing.

    I was thinking the best approach would be to buy two used smaller vehicles that could plow in case one breaks down or in case of a heavy storm and I need another driver to handle the work.

    The second vehicle would also be my wifes transportation so I was thinking about a small suv for her and a small p/u for the majority of the plowing for me.

    I was hoping to get both vehicles for less than $25,000 - $30,000 plus the cost of the plows.

    Do you guys think this is a reasonable idea?

    Any suggestions on the type and year of vehicles that should be within this price range?
  2. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 9,883

    Larrysplow ,That is close to what I did.
    Two trucks one 01,2500 for her and one 98,2500 for me.
    and and older truck for back up.

    If you plan on doing "high volume residential plowing"
    you may want a 3/4 ton truck to take the abuse of plowing, less chance you will need that back up truck.
    Having the wifes vehicle as a back up can have it's problems too.
    She will not like it when you take her truck to plow with after you just broke yours.

    It's your first year plowing so, how do you plan on getting these customers?
    how many is "high volume"?

    What are your rates? no low-balling!!!!!!
  3. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,257

    I think you could buy a good used 2500 and a used Tahoe. If you were to buy a brand new plow7'6" for the 2500 and buy all the truck side stuff for the Tahoe. This way if the truck brakes you could put the plow on the Tahoe and you are up and running. Now this would not help you in the storm as you don't have 2 plows. If you really want 2 plows I would buy one new and one used. Buy the used one first and then get the same make new. This way if the new one brakes you can put it on your truck while it is being fixed.
  4. Larrysplow

    Larrysplow Junior Member
    from NE Ohio
    Messages: 10

    Is a 2500 a Chevy Diesel ?

    Is it a 3/4 ton or 1/2 ton?

    Does Ford ,GMC, or Dodge have a equivalent model?

    Will it fit 22' long garage ?

    All the driveways in my neighborhood are a lot like mine and last year I got estimates varying form $215 to $325. Of course I paid $215. It took the guy about 2 minutes to plow my driveway. 90% of the houses have garages on the side of the house so the snow can be piled at the end of the drive instead of being required to be pulled back to the street.

    So I thought I would charge about $215 or $15/ push and assume I could easily do about 10-12 of these drives per hour. I'm hoping that since I am their neighbor a lot of them will give me their business. I was going to advertise in the neighborhood newsletter and put flyers in mail boxes.

    I need to look into commercial vehicle and plowing insurance. I'm hoping it's not that expensive. I was thinking it would cost me about an additional $1,000 to $1500 over my regular auto insurance.

    Does it make sense to do this just for plowing (i.e. without landscaping)?

    Does all of this seem reasonable? Is there anything major I'm not considering?

    I appreciate any comments or suggestions.

  5. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 9,883

    Be it chev or Dodge a 2500 is the designation for a 3/4 ton be it a gasser or oil burner.
    ford uses F250 for their 3/4 ton.

    A Dodge2500 club cab, short box is around 18" long giving you room enough to fit it in your garage with a plow attached.

    As for your local plow service being able to plow your drive in 2 minutes. It looks like easy money to you as your drinking your coffee, all nice and warm in your house. I mean he makes it look so easy after all. Sure it's not rocket science as some would put it, but it does take some time and practice to become proficient at it. So, it will take a person with little to no experience allot longer, I mean a lot longer to do the same job.

    ""I'm hoping that since I am their neighbor a lot of them will give me their business. I was going to advertise in the neighborhood newsletter and put flyer's in mail boxes""

    If their your neighbors and I wanted their business. I would go and pound on their doors and hand them the flier in person. Other wise, it is easer to stick with the service they have. Make it personal!!

    ""So I thought I would charge about $215 or $15/ push ""
    15 bucks a push for 15 pushes a year for $215.

    what is your trigger depth?
    where do you live where you would have 15 or more plow-able snow events a year?

    So your going to low-ball the composition. I think you are low-balling your self. 15 bucks a push? How do you make any money at that rate. Even with NO overhead how can you survive? My minnum rate is $40 if I even touch a residential drive and it has to be close to my route and only take me 10minn or less

    One more question for now. Who is going to fix and maintain your equipment?
    You can plow in the winter ( I don't think it will work very well in the summer) and do what ever you want to do in the summer :D
    Just some things to think about.:waving:
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2006
  6. murray83

    murray83 Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    3/4 tons - ford are F-250's and with chevy/gmc and dodge are 2500's and those models come in gas or diesel its your choice.

    driveways in my area are $20-$25 (canadian) on average.pricing is different for every small town and big city in north america so everyone on here will tell you different numbers same with insurance everyone is different (experience,age,type of lots you aim to plow)

    plenty of people on here just plow snow other are landscapers and do construction since their big time of the year is april-october.some just do it for extra cash.

    pricing is what you make of it you can charge buy the inch,per push or by the hour with a set minimum its all up to how you best like to do it,maybe for the first year per hour is best and see how you time things and how many snow events you get then set up the next year useing per push or by the inch.
  7. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 9,883

    What you ever do NEVER, I mean NEVER charge by the HOUR!!!! NEVER.

    Your Just shooting your self in the foot before the first snow flake flys.

    Example your new at this so you bid a job for $50hr the first year and it takes you 1&1/2hr to do the job on average,(a loss)&( they did not pay more!! because it took you longer!!) Now the next year it only takes you a 1/2 hr to
    45 minutes because you learned how to plow the lot efficiently or spent money on better equipment which allowed you to be more productive.
    Are you really going to take a pay cut ???

    Your the contractor you bid on the job at X amount.
    You only use an hr# (figure) to figure out how much it is going to cost you to pay your employees to do the job...
  8. murray83

    murray83 Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    i'm only offering this advise to him for the first year as i posted.

    if he screws up here and there at first it won't break him,use the first year as a learning experience the second year he can then go out and charge per push or by the inch as i also posted.
  9. Mick

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

    Just about anything you can change or adjust as you go, EXCEPT the trucks and equipment - make sure to get that right from the start or it can cost you dearly. Best bet is to get at least one good 2500 (3/4 ton) or 3500 (one ton). Get the most plow you can afford from the beginning. Don't worry so much about pricing - you can change that each year as you learn. If your doing residentials - avoid crew cab since they're longer and harder to maneuver. I have only regular cabs.

    Don't depend on neighbors- I've only had a couple of neighbors and each one for only a year or so. The other thing about neighbors - they will think you'll "do them a favor" BECAUSE they're neighbors. I'd really prefer not having the neighbors as customers.
  10. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 9,883

    Ok. here is a number we can all agree on. ( maybe? lol)

    For this lets take the amount of 25k for the vehicles.
    We don't know if this includes the plows or not, what about a tailgate salt shaker?

    Back to what I'm trying to say is at $15 a push, 25k for vehicles.

    Comes to1666.6667 pushes at $15 to just pay for the vehicles....

    murray83: I hear ya, you need to get paid too but the owner gets paid last..lol
    It is just easer to collect a salary from your business ,seance you are the owner/operator

    And Mick always has some very helpful incite in to the business too. you can learn a lot from his posts...

    I'm just trying to get him to step back and look at the big picture, there is a little more to it than showing up in the A.M. and pushing some white stuff up into a pile out back:waving:
  11. murray83

    murray83 Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    i totally understand where your comming from SnoFarmer.

    like i said ask 50 users on this forum about insurance and pricing and you'll get 50 different answers markets vary from one city to another and gets even worse when you get different countries involved.

    agreed that neighbours can be trouble last person i need to be ticking off is the person living next door to me.

    just how old are the trucks your looking to possibly buy? i know a 1990-98 gm 3/4 ton can be bought for under 7 grand,also for your wifes truck do you prefer 4 doors or 2?also try to avoid buying a truck with a plow already installed,you don't know how the previous owner used it and what problems come with that price tag.

    if you can buy a plow try to see if you can get a deal by sales or deals on last years model,for an example my area a brand new fisher 7.6 installed is around $5000 canadian.
  12. Larrysplow

    Larrysplow Junior Member
    from NE Ohio
    Messages: 10

    All of you guys are a lot of help and I really appreciate the great advice.

    I'm actually a Civil Engineer by trade (for the past 20 years) who is sick of working in that difficult industry. I was very fortunate recently to make a bunch in the real estate market. I'm looking for ways to supplement my income so I won't have to go back and work for someone else.

    Many, many years ago when I was a teenager (16-18) I worked for my fathers small company. During the summer time I drove one of his 8 ton asphalt dump trucks for his paving company. During the winter I drove the same trucks to plow a 2 acre parking lot for a shopping plaza. Based on my past experience, although many years ago, I feel I can become as proficient as the next guy at plowing drives.

    The reason I want to charge about $215 or $15/ push is because that is the cheapest the local competition is charging for drives like ours.

    I feel that if I try to charge more I may not be able to get enough work. I thought the trigger depth should be 2".

    The average annual snowfall is 50 inches in my county. Although the last couple of winters have been extremely mild with less than 20" each year.

    Regarding the vehicles, Am I smarter to put all the money into a newer single vehicle (ie 3/4 ton)? My wife already has a newer car. Even if the plowing business doesn't work out I need a truck to pull my boat.

    I welcome all opinions.
  13. Mick

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

    Also - as far as having somebody to drive your truck in some cases - be careful. If someone drives your truck, you will need to have it set up with your insurance company in advance. This usually means that person will be an employee. You will need to pay Workman's Compensation. Better idea is to find someone reliable who has their own truck and plow you could call on when needed - called a "subcontractor". Having someone drive your truck without being designated as an employee is playing with fire. All that person has to do is get in an accident or claim an injury and you could lose everything you own. At best, you'll face a $10,000 fine and pay estimated Workman Comp payments. Yes, it happened to someone right here in Augusta, Maine. The contractor had to sell all his equipment, go out of business and is unable to get liability insurance for any other business. The case was relayed to me by the insurance agent I work with. The contractor had liability insurance, but not "listed employees". He needed someone to help out on a one-time basis and called a "friend". The friend got hurt and put in a WC claim. Contractor said he was a subcontractor using his own vehicle. Friend said he "thought" he was an employee and WC judge upheld his claim for WC. Bottom line - use contracts with all subs which spell out exactly the duties and expectations of each party.
  14. Banksy

    Banksy PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,113

    I think spending $25000 on equipment to start a small seasonal business may be too much. What if you don't like it or worse, not get enough customers? Why not go find two decent used trucks for $5000 each and see how it goes for the first year? Then sell one next spring and buy a better truck to replace it after you have made your money back or close to it. With the way winters have been over the past years it seems to be such a gamble. But hey, what the hell do I know? I have not plowed in five years, since I have been down here.
  15. ottguy

    ottguy Junior Member
    from canada
    Messages: 3

    Tractors vs Trucks ???

    Around here some contractors are using leased tractors and blowers for residential work.

    They target sub divisions so the laneways are close togeather.

    My son's friend works for one of these guys during the winter one tractor can do 30-45 laneway a snowfall . This contarctor has 300 lanes I'm told .
  16. chironorm

    chironorm Junior Member
    Messages: 12

    I've got a '99 Dodge 2500 set up with 8' Fisher plow and extras for plowing that I am selling. Give me a call at (609) 743-1496 if interested. -Mike
  17. scuba875

    scuba875 Senior Member
    Messages: 250


    I was in this position 2 years ago and I decided to start out as a subcontractor. I had plowed when I was younger but always in someone else’s vehicle. I own a business that is not related to this industry but is seasonal (mostly summer work). I was going to go out and get my own customers as well. A few people on here suggested that I start out as a sub. After 2 years of plowing, I am happy just subcontracting.

    Here is why

    As a sub I get paid well, the people I work for are great people, and their checks never bounce. I get a call, I show up, do my job and I get paid. It’s a win win situation.

    I get paid as much as I charge for a service call in the summer with none of the headaches that go with owning a business. I don't have to worry about advertising, customers, chasing money or any of the other number of things that I am sure most of the guys on here could expand on.

    This is just a supplement to my main income so for me being a sub works well. You may want to open your own business and that’s great but I personally think a year or two as a sub would be a great way to get started as well as give you an idea of the possible pit falls you may face. Either way I wish you the best of luck.
  18. Gicon

    Gicon Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 989

    Larry, I might suggest one decent truck, especially if you want to spend $25K. You can probably get a nice decent truck for between 17-22k, especially if you do your shopping. I was in your same spot, 5 years ago. Now I am up to 5 residential trucks. I personally would NEVER EVER go back to a gas engine, so I would heavily suggest a Diesel. And why go with a 3/4ton. Few dollars more, and you get yourself a nice 1 Ton. I personally like fords, but Chevy puts out a nice truck too. I would only get one truck though. The trucks just dont fall apart, especially if you spend the kind of money your talking about. Your going to get something a couple of years old and if your lucky you might get a nice deal on something still under factory warranty. Try to get as much work as you think you can handle without biting off more than you can chew. I am not from Ohio, but I am positive there are move driveways in your town, than there are plow guys. Dont sell yourself short. Get paid for the service you provide. Good luck to you.