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My Residntial Dilemma

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Allagash, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. Allagash

    Allagash Senior Member
    Messages: 159

    I stick to doing residential accounts only and I've been picking them up pretty good so far this year. I've gotten 12 so far and have been averaging 3 or 4 new ones per week lately. I'm pretty picky about what I take on also. If it's too tight or too steep of an incline with the chance of sliding into a tree or busy street, I tell them that I'm not their guy and take a pass. I also don't lowball and have been quoting in the $40 to $60 range. If they don't like my prices, I keep marketing myself until I find customers that do. I'd rather do less for more money. Back to my question...

    I'm trying to put together some type of contract for my accounts as I've been quoteing(sp?) them a price to come at the end of the storm to plow them out. I recently got to thinking that this is fine for up to 6" or so, but anything over that will really slow me down. What if we get 12" or a blizzard like last year with 24 to 30 inches in my area? I'd be hosed doing a 100' driveway at the storms end with 2 feet of snow on the ground. I've got a pretty beefy truck, but I can only imagine it would take way more time to do all of my accounts at the end of the storm with anything more than 6", let alone a blizzard.

    How do you resdential guys deal with this? Do you charge per visit and make multiple visits to the account as the snow falls like the commercial guys do? If so, how do you break it down inch wise?

    Or do you plow once at the end of the storm and just charge more for the job based on a snowfall amount in inches? If so, how do you break it down pricewise vs inches?
  2. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    When i did res. my contracts were for unlimited plowing from nov.1 to apr. 30th. if it snowed start with #1 go to the last then start over if it kept snowing until i was done but i charged a good price for this. Other way is to offer so many plows for the season then so much per plow after that.Just make sure its all written down for ex. if you plow 5 times in 24hrs its 5 times not 1 storm.
  3. Mick

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

    Exactly what you're describing is what makes this the best pricing structure: Decide what you want for pushing the least amount of snow you and the customer agree will be pushed - called the "trigger". Let's say our trigger is 3". That means I won't plow until it reaches 3". If you want me to plow at less than that, you're welcome to call me. Now, you have a couple of decisions to make: First the range of depths you will plow for the same money. So let's say 3" also. So, my depth range will look something like this:

    3" to 6"
    over 6" to 9"
    over 9" to 12"
    over 12"

    This should take care of most storms in your area. But you also want to protect yourself for that occasional big storm, so you'll have what's called a "storm clause". Something like: "Amount billed will be based on total amount of snowfall per storm not to exceed any 24 hour period. In other words, if a storm lasted more than 24 hours, I expect that I would be pushing periodically throughout that 24 hours. 24 hours after the start of the storm would start a new billing cycle. "

    Second, you need to decide what how you want to structure the pricing for each range. Let's say you've decided you want to charge $30 for the 3" to 6"
    range. Your pricing structure might look like this:
    3" to 6" - $30
    over 6" to 9" -$45
    over 9" to 12" -$60
    over 12" - $60 plus $1 an inch over 12".

    Now, in my opinion, the best part of something like this structuring is that it allows me to use my judgement as to when to plow. In the case of a light, fluffy snow, I might be fine pushing 14" of snow. In the case of a wet, heavy snow, I might want to push every 3" to 4". It doesn't matter to the customer, as long as you know their habits and meet their expectations. For instance, my customers are used to driving in deep snow. They don't care if the snow piles up, as long as they can get out when they want. Only one needs to be pushed out before 6:00AM. Another is on vacation and just wants it to look like someone is there. A couple others are retired and don't care when they get plowed out. And so on. But the point is, I use my judgement and they pay the same whether I'm there once or 20 times per storm. They don't care, they are simply paying to have the snow "gone".

    Another thing you need to agree on is what happens if there are several small snowfalls. One year we got four or five 1" and 2" snowfalls, one after the other with no thawing between them. Most people wanted me to push somewhere in there, but one guy didn't, saying that there wasn't 3" in any one snowfall. Then he and his wife driving on it created a rutted, frozen mess. I didn't plow there after that first year.

    I also have other methods, one of which I charge a set amount for pushing so much snow for the season, but this is usually for commercial accounts. Let's say your area annual average is 100" of snow. So what I do is show them that the average for the area of 100" and offer to plow 10% over that for a set price - say $500 (110" for $500). Then charge for over the 110" - say $25 an inch over 110".

    I also have one this year that I charged one price to push anything that fell this year (over 3"), but it was twice what I usually make on an account per year. The reason for that was that the drive there was the biggest part, not pushing the snow once I got there. That only amounts to a couple minutes. But I drive almost three miles each way just to get to it.
  4. plowman777

    plowman777 Senior Member
    Messages: 227

    i rarely go out twice in one storm..seems like double work to me ..only in the blizzards..say 16" or more will i go twice..and they pay about double for that.

    i charge based on how long it takes me to do the driveway...varying by $5-20 sometimes..most people are fine with this.

    so an 8" strom is regular, i could charge 45-50...if its 14"..and it takes 17 minutes instead of 10...i charge say $65.00...i try not to go under $3.00 minute for plowtime no matter what..bidding/working i am shooting for $5.00 minute
  5. TLS

    TLS PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    I break it down similar to Mick.

    2"-4" = $XX.xx
    5"-7" = $XX.xx
    8"-10"= $XXX.xx
    11" & UP Snowfall priced according to storm.

    But for most of my residentials (don't have many), I just charge what I charge. Not many question my pricing.

    When residentials call these days, I quote the price verbally......Say...$50 and inform them that it's for a "normal" snowfall. Anything over 10" is priced per the storm. I also indicate that the quoted price includes what I can do with the truck. I don't get out to shovel. If it's a REAL NICE account, I'll still quote the "truck only price" but if I get the feeling they want FULL service, and they ask for it, I add $20-30 on top for hand work.

    I also find it easier to mail out my residential bills. This way there is no complaining about price to my face. With mailed bills, I've never had someone call me with a question of price on their bill.
  6. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    Just to be clear- Mick's system is by the inch- not by the plow.

    My trigger is 3 inches (or when the city goes out) and I plow from customer A through the route, if there's anought to plow again I start over and bill for each plow pass- as was said 5 plows is 5 plows therefore 5 billings. I will not push more than 6" per pass unless it's my fault (by the time I got to some friday it had stopped snowing- 12 inches to push)

    Why should I charge less for the 9 inch storm per pass- 6 inches pass 1 and 3 inches pass 2- why be paied less to plow the second time- it's the same amount of work to plow the second 6 inchs as it is the 1st 6 inchs (sometimes more work on the second pass!)

    Why do I plow multiple times per storm- because it's exponentially more work on the truck pushing 8 inches of snow than 3 inches of snow, alot lot more work and abuse means less life on my truck so I don't push when it's done unless it's my fault or the storm is 5 inches or less. No need to abuse the truck trying to push a foot of snow and only getting paid for a single pass.
  7. TLS

    TLS PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    Well, for me, depth of snow on a residential really isn't THAT much harder. Most are still only 4-5 pushes, and a quick clean up around the mailbox.

    Heck during our bigger snows (blizzards, etc) it wasn't uncommon for me to get to a house a day after the snow to plow a new customer out. So plowing with a storm isn't always possible.

    If we get say, an 8" storm. In the beginning of the year I quote the customer $50 to plow. I will wait until it stops (or close to it), go out and plow it once and done. They would be pretty upset if that $50 turned into $100 because I came out and plowed it twice.
  8. Gusco

    Gusco Senior Member
    Messages: 117

    I bid residentials like this:

    I account for how much time i think it will take me.

    Take into account the stress on truck (Steep inclines etc.)

    I give them a rate for a 3,4,5?" trigger and tell them i will be out every measure of that amount to plow at the same charge.

    some ask "why cant you do it all at once after the storm." I ask them "Would you rather shovel 4 inches 3 times or 12 inches at once?" They usually say 4 inches a couple times. And i reply so does my truck. If you want me to wait until after the storm to clear it in one shot it will cost more.

    In esssence either way it is figured one shot or multiple i make my cash. But its easier to push less a few times than to push a blizzard at once.

    With the exception of one customer who insists i do it once after the storm. 300 foot two pass drivewith a steep incline. i charge 200 each time. Takes me about 1/2 hour but puts a beating on the truck. pitted packed dirt gravel with water runnoff ditches running across the drive. I hate doing it but for the price i like it
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2005
  9. Allagash

    Allagash Senior Member
    Messages: 159

    Thanks guys for all the replys. Mick and TLS, I'm going to create a contract based on your recommendations. The one price per season regardless of how many snow events method will not fly in this area.
  10. Skyhawk

    Skyhawk Junior Member
    Messages: 22

    We do driveways at every 2 inches. So if we get 4 inches of snow... we do the driveway twice. and the walk to the house after the storm usually on the second time were there.
  11. Mick

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

    How can you plow every two inches if it's snowing at even an inch an hour? That would mean you have a two-hour route. You plow the driveway but not the walk to the driveway when the driveway is actually a part of what you plow? That would seem that you're gouging me as a customer. Around here, I don't have anybody who pays to have two inches of snow plowed, anyway.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2005
  12. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    I do! I have a couple of customers with a 2 inch trigger. Depends on what your individual customers want. Seniors are more prone to needing a lower trigger.
  13. Mick

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

    I wish. I have several retired people. A couple have 4x4 Blazers and really do go anywhere. They're usually gone when I get there so at least I don't have vehicles to contend with. They're the worst for wanting a bigger trigger. l just insist on a 3" trigger.

    The one I had with the least tolerance for snow was a young couple in their 20s.
  14. Skyhawk

    Skyhawk Junior Member
    Messages: 22

    In my area this is the common way to plow residential drives. Ive been doing it this way for many years and have never had a problem. Everyone I know in the business does the same around here. and Yes each truck does have a 2 hour route. I have several trucks running. I must be doing something right if im adding another truck every year. Your working in poor conditions at all hours of the night, driving a 30,000 plus truck w/ plow with fuel and insurance costs. I dont know why u would plow and shovel 4+ inches after a storm... Too much work on the back and the truck.... U cant be doing too well doing it that way.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2005
  15. Mick

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

    I guess that just shows how every region is different. I plow the same way as everybody else around here. I think I'm doing well. I know if I tried to plow every two inches, I wouldn't be doing any plowing at all. Except maybe my own.
  16. TLS

    TLS PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    2hr route??? :dizzy:

    Just my salting route is 2hrs if I service all clients.

    On an average 6-8" storm, I wait till it just about stops, go out, plow all, come home, sleep.

    Once and done.
  17. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    I just remembered you're in Maine- that explains thi.
    Old timers in maine know about the weather, the "young kids" haven;t learned about it yet- possible college students from somewhere else.

    Any senior that weather's winter in that state knows what they're doing.

    I have some acreage in the north west up there.
  18. Allagash

    Allagash Senior Member
    Messages: 159

    Whereabouts? Are you a hunter?
  19. Kramer

    Kramer Senior Member
    Messages: 386

    You said you have 3 trucks running--each with a 2 hr route. That sounds like you have extra equipment/crews to me. Do you find it efficient ?? They must make a load of cash in that 2 hr route.
    Are the routes close together, or are they spilt up by miles apart??--that would support having 3 trucks running if the routes were far apart..but to me, if they're fairly close to each other, then 2 trucks at a 3 hr route each sounds a little more cost effective... just wondering! :D
  20. Skyhawk

    Skyhawk Junior Member
    Messages: 22

    Our residential routes are very tight in some large subdivisions. Some of the driveways are 6 or 7 in a row. I try not to take jobs too far out of my routes.. so each truck services 1-2 subdivisions and i have other trucks on our commercial jobs
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2005