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New Guy Needs Help Choosing Truck, Plow

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Chip Hedrick, Feb 18, 2004.

  1. Chip Hedrick

    Chip Hedrick Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    I live on an unpaved, private road in south central Maine. There are 5 other houses on the road and a couple of neighbors pitch in to do the plowing. The road is fairly wide, probably 1/3 mi long, and goes up a slight hill. My wife and I decided to buy a plow and used 4x4 truck for next season to help plow the road and to keep our driveways clear (we both have AWD Subarus for our day-to-day transportation).

    Here are some conclusions that I have come to and some questions that I have. I welcome your input.

    1) I assume a 1/2 ton, 4x4, V8 truck will more than get the job done. Should I rule out entirely compact, 4x4, V6 trucks?

    2) Must I get a truck with an auto tranny? I'm partial to manuals.

    3) How much benefit is it to mave a truck with a factory installed snow plow package (I'm thinking primarily of the wiring)?

    4) Should I stay away from used trucks that already have a plow on them? I thinking that's an indication that the frame/tranny already has a lot of wear on them. On the other hand, I could probably save a lot over buying a new plow.

    5) What size plow should I look for? I want to avoid anything way too big or way too small.

    6) Should I purchase a steel or synthetic plow?

    7) How much can I expect to pay for a new plow set up (installed, not including the truck)?

    8) If I buy a used truck with 90,000 - 140,000 mi how long can I expect it to hold up? I'm thinking of buying at a State surplus vehicle auction (they currently have a lot of Dodges, some Chevys/GMCs, only a few Fords). I suspect the vehicles have been used hard, but have been well maintained. I don't expect to drive the truck more than 5,000mi/yr, but I'd like to keep it for a while (10 +/- years). I also plan to do some light-moderate towing in the non-winter months (18-19 ft power boat).

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. JElmWin

    JElmWin Senior Member
    Messages: 232

    Hello Chip :waving: and welcome,
    First a few more questions. Does your right of way/road need to be salted/sanded? How much, how deep and approximately how often would you be plowing? You're from "Down East" so I take it you get hit by the occasional NorEaster. Also what's you're budget? Try using the "search" feature for a head start.
    Good Luck
  3. JElmWin

    JElmWin Senior Member
    Messages: 232

    I didn't see that you're offline so I'll just go ahead and give you my 2cents.
    First, pardon my grammar as I've worked a long day and am a bit fatigued.
    Check out the "personal use plowing" section as your question has been discussed here almost daily.
    The best advice I can give you is to have a reputable mechanic check out everything before buying privately. 1/2 ton and smaller are OK if the previous owner didn't abuse but generally those trucks aren't designed for the abuse of plowing & towing. Most 3/4 tons are.
    Diesels are your best bet for lower maintenance. You probably will see diesels at auction. They're engines are designed for longer mileage without overhaul. Of course diesels are more $$$.
    I'm sure you're going to get the usual debates on manufacturers for both truck and equipment.
    7.5' or 8' plow should be fine.
    Make sure the truck has a "snow prep. package". This is usually a heavy duty alternator, HD battery, skid plating also make sure you have a transmission cooler if you're towing.
    A simple test for an automatic tranny is to pull the (trans.) dipstick out and smell it. It shouldn't have a "burnt" smell to it. Also the fluid should have a pinkish tint.
    New plows run between 3-5K.
    Something to consider; Older plow setups take a little longer to remove than new. You might decide to leave the plow on through the winter.
    It sounds like you should be able to find a decent used setup for under $15K.
    Again, Good luck!;)
  4. Chip Hedrick

    Chip Hedrick Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    Thanks for the replies.

    As far as snow fall, it varies from year to year. Usually, we have several storms a year with 1' or more. Christmas Day '02 we got 2'. In late February or early to mid March we usually get some storms with 4-6" of heavy, wet snow, the type that will made a snowblower virtually useless.

    As for sanding/salting, salting shouldn't be necessary. The bottom 50' or so of the road needs sanding so you don't skid from the private road onto a busy state road. But that can probably be handled by some sand in the bed and a shovel or a very small spreader.

    As far as budget, I can't stomach $15k. $10k total for truck, plow, and any necessary repairs/upgrades would be about the MOST I could justify. So let's say $5-6k for a truck, $3-3.5k for a plow, and $500 to $1,500k for tires, repairs to the truck, etc. This would be a vehicle that would problably only see 5,000 mi of use per year (and only a tiny portion of that (50-60 mi?) would be plowing.
  5. elite1

    elite1 Senior Member
    Messages: 187

    you might be able to find a good truck, that will take the beating for 5-6k. Be very carefull- remember, if it breaks,most likely you will not find a plow guy to help you out, most routes are full, and if they do squeeze you in, 2-3x the normal price. Just be sure that it is a good truck/plow and that you are better off doing it your self.

    Keep in mind plowing is expensive, insurance(both truck and liablity), parts for a plow are very expensive, maintance(fluid,filter), your gas, your truck that will need fixing, all these things cost $$

    If you can swing it get at least a 3/4 ton, 1/2 don't last long for the $

    Like most of us 1 account turns in to 2 and your long drive/road will expand even if you don't plan on it.
  6. Chip Hedrick

    Chip Hedrick Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    True, a late model 3/4 ton would be ideal, but I can't justify the cost (this will be our 3rd vehicle and we have 4 more years of payments on my wife’s car).

    If I could find a clean, older ¾ ton for the right price, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. I suspect there are 4 times as many used ½ tons for sale. I suspect people around here hold onto their 3/4s until they die or are on their last gasps of life or if they sell them sooner they want top dollar.

    A couple of neighbors already do the plowing pro bono. I’m just trying to pull my weight and make sure the road is always open. I’m not taking a job away from anyone, and I doubt the neighbors would want to hire a contractor to do it.

    This is a rural area where every 2nd or 3rd household has a plow vehicle, primarily for its own use. If someone wants to make money plowing, there is plenty of opportunity in the suburbs of Portland just south of here or in the Cities of Lewiston and Auburn just to the north.
  7. UpstateDzlGuy

    UpstateDzlGuy Senior Member
    Messages: 121

    My truck below may be available, but it may be out of your price.
  8. MickiRig1

    MickiRig1 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,617

    If at all possible stay away from old plow trucks. Unless you can do the wrenching on it, the thing may eat you alive. That's why my truck got the name"The Big Red Drain". I spent $850 on parts and tires in it right after I bought it. If you have "trucktrader magazine around where you live, start buying one a week and go through it. See the prices, options, brands etc. When spring hits a lot of 4x4's hit the market. People who want to sell them hold on to them at least till spring / no more snow. There are books available on plowing. Read postings on this site, there is a wealth of information here. Just also be advised that " I just want to plow my drive" is how a lot of people get hooked on plowing. Pretty soon you start looking for other places "to plow".You Watch the weather channel for an hour, reading radar at a glance, elbowing the wife and saying look dear here comes a Nor-easter.
  9. cuttingchris

    cuttingchris Junior Member
    Messages: 10

    try a jeep with a plow that would probly be cheaper and work pretty well for all your doing
  10. Robhollar

    Robhollar Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    I dont agree, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Id be looking at a used plow truck. The amount of plowing your going to be doing doesnt justify spend alot of money on a truck and plow. I think you could find a find truck after the season is over. Even if your truck did break down you still have other neighbors who could pick up the slack till you was back on the road again. For 10 g's I bet your could pic up a used Mpr and put a plow on it. Just my 2 cents...Rob
  11. wolfie

    wolfie Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    I wouldn't spend $10,000 on a truck for that application... I'd look for an old solid plow truck for $2500-$3000 and use it until it dies even if it only lasted 2-3 years you'd still have $6000 left to buy the next one... you can find good trucks in that price range... even 3/4 ton trucks and that's what I'd look for. A half ton wouldn't do as good a job in the deep snow... and I'm sure that even if it doesn't happen often that you can get some real big storms up north... I've had plenty of 3 and 4 foot deep storms over the years and I don't live in Maine.
  12. Robhollar

    Robhollar Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    How does it help a truck to go though the snow if its a 3/4 ton or a 1 ton , verses a 1/2 ton? I know it would prob last longer and take a bigger beating but i fail to see how a truck with a heaver suspension is going to go though the snow any easier.
  13. JElmWin

    JElmWin Senior Member
    Messages: 232

    Like I stated previously, 3/4T are designed to take a beating 1/2T aren't. There may have been less of a difference 2 generations ago. However newer 1/2T (mid 90's+) are designed more for comfort and ride and less for durability. I just bought my first 3/4 but previously my family and I plowed with nothing but 1/2's. My dad plowed with a W100 Sno-Fiter (my signature).
    This isn't another argument about who makes the best truck and why. This is about someone who is looking for a decent vehicle to plow AND TOW with. If Chip goes and buys a used 1/2 odds are better that he will have more problems than a 3/4. Especial if the 1/2 has already been used for plowing/towing.
    When I first started plowing everyone told me 1/2's aren't worth the trouble and to get a 3/4. In the end the 1/2 wasn't worth the money I might have saved but ultimately lost.
    You had it right the first time Rob. Research is always key to a smart buying decision.
    Now that I'm done lecturing I see wolfie's post. There may be no difference is loose granular but for packed powder I'd take the 3/4 anyday.;)
  14. JElmWin

    JElmWin Senior Member
    Messages: 232

  15. Robhollar

    Robhollar Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    John i dont disagree with you, but what i was getting at is a 1/2 ton truck will push as much as a 3/4 or 1 ton truck. I said they will hold up much better but Wolfie said: "A half ton wouldn't do as good a job in the deep snow... "How is that? Thats is my only question. But I will say it again I dont dispute a 3/4 ton truck is better suited for plowing. It simply wont do a beeter job just because is a 3/4 ton truck...Rob
  16. wolfie

    wolfie Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    It's simple... biger truck = more weight = more push. I've pushed 3 and 4 foot snow events with a half ton a 3/4 ton and a bulldozer.. guess which ones pushed the best and in which order...
  17. snowbiter

    snowbiter Member
    Messages: 68

    If your dead set on a 1/2 ton just make sure you get a
    lighter duty plow or should I say something that doesn,t
    weight alot. All of the plow MFGs make light plows and
    the thing that doesn't make sense to many of us is that
    if your buying a new one its almost gona cost the same
    as a heavy duty plow.I had a 1/2 ton---never again!
    About a month or so ago I saw a guy drive buy my house
    with a older F150 (wish I had a camera) and it had an
    eight foot fisher heavyduty plow on the front. I did a double
    take and was like Whaaa???--the front fenders were about
    a 1/2 inch of the tires---the plow was at max raised height
    about 3 inches of the ground---he went to a neighbors
    house droped something off and came back down the road
    so I looked again--I could see the front tires were starting
    to buckle outward--kinda reminded me of the old cartoons
    when the horses front legs sliped from under them.
    Anyways just don't be that guy! Good Luck!
  18. Robhollar

    Robhollar Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    No disrespect but bull hockey. You have to many variables. Put IDENTICAL trucks with the exception one being a half ton and the other being a three quarter ton truck side by side, set up the same and they will plow the same.

    Now your trying to apply what our needs as commercial plowers and a guy how only needs to plow out his driveway, thats a big difference in my book. And to put out a general statement as a bigger truck will plow better is an incorrect broad statement. My feeling that a guy who isn't going to be out plowing a bunch of drives and or lots isn't going to have the same needs as the guys who are. I know plenty of guys who do a fine job with half ton trucks. Sure they might not last as long but was that the question here. From the sounds of it, Chip's biggest concern after he buys this truck will be keeping it from rusting out from sitting...Rob
  19. wolfie

    wolfie Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    I'm not saying anymore... you can't argure with a moron.
  20. Chip Hedrick

    Chip Hedrick Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    Thanks for the input. Apparently there's no consensus regarding whether a 1/2 ton will suit my needs or whether I need to step up to a 3/4 ton.

    I have plently of time to look for a truck for next season. I'm not dead set on either a 1/2 or 3/4. I'll buy the cleanest truck I can find that's within my budget. If it's a 3/4, I'll be thrilled.

    Now what about steel vs. synthetic plows???