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New To Snow Removal

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by keepinitgreen, Oct 30, 2008.

  1. keepinitgreen

    keepinitgreen Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    I'm new to the business and don't really know where to get started. I own a successful lawn care company that has plenty of insurance and a great name locally. I live in northwest PA in the lake Erie region so there is plenty of business and money to be made. I would like to start small and build from there so my main thing is residential work. I've never plowed before so i'd like to stick with a snow thrower for now and not spend 20k on equipment that I don't know how to use. Any help would be appreciated as for what I should look into buying as well as what services and pricing I should go with. I usually get about 50/hr with lawn care for residential jobs and about 40 for my commercial crew. I already have three residential customers with plenty more interested. Majority of driveways in town are smaller and can easily be done with a large snow thrower in 10-15 minutes. Like I said any help would be much appreciated so let me know what you think.

    Josh Anthony
    Keepin' It Green
  2. BlackIrish

    BlackIrish Senior Member
    Messages: 902

    Research the competition and find out what they offer and charge in YOUR area. The job is usually worth what the other guy,the competition, is willing to do it for, no one's gonna pay you more $$ cause your cute.
    Concentrate on a small area, get a small cabbed tractor w/blower that you can drive to all your sites. Use the tractor in the summer, now you can bid larger sites in the summer cause you got the tractor.
    My $0.02
  3. keepinitgreen

    keepinitgreen Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    Awesome thanks for the reply... I have a z-radius commercial toro mower and they don't make any blower attachments for it. However I was just checking on some sites and I found a company that makes a blade attachments for mowers. Since I already spent ten grand on my mower i'd like to be able to use it if possible. I've never heard of this but obviously lawns are my thing, but they do make 5ft blades and I figure if it's something that will work then I should save money and go that route. Not to mention that I could take on bigger residential jobs with something like that. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.

    Keepin' It Green
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  4. Mick

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

    My opinion is don't try plowing on any scale beyond your own driveway with a lawn mower. You're in the Erie area which gets a significant amount of snow.Try your own driveway one winter and you'll find out why - Experience is a great teacher. At some point, you'll be calling for help.
  5. keepinitgreen

    keepinitgreen Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    Understandable i'm just throwing out ideas should have thought that through being this is PA and four wheel drive is a must. I'm thinking a tractor is my best bet for now but what's your opinion on four-wheelers? The plus I get out of them is that it won't go to waste and it's something I can use during the summer. The problem I have is that I bought my truck when I lived in Nevada so it's obviously two wheel drive not to mention no experience in plowing. Like you said experience is a great teacher but i'm not comfortable in putting my name on something I have no clue on doing. I'm alright giving it a shot with a smaller vehicle like a tractor or four-wheeler but a truck is out of the question or now.
  6. Mick

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

    I've never used (or even ridden) a four wheeler but a tractor is simply too slow for doing any travel from site to site. I've actually thought about putting a plow on my tractor for some private roads, but I'd have to transport with a trailer. By the time I bought the plow for the tractor and a trailer; then the extra time involved with loading, unloading and slower plowing, it wasn't worth it.
  7. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    Another thought for you. Better check with your insurance to make sure it covers snow removal.
  8. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    Welcome to Plowsite,

    For speed on the smaller driveways with lighter snow you might want to consider the Toros single stage with the quick shoot that cleans down to the pavement.

    My biggest issue is how to price a small driveway here with 1" to 3" of snow. For a minimal event and a regular customer I'd almost rather charge less say $15 for 8-12 minutes of work on a small drive and walkway with no deicer. I'd rather have the "preferred client" [regular customer but no contract] be more inclined to call me so there is less melt and refreeze issues when a bigger storm rolls through. A $15 min probably wont fly with a bigger more cumbersome machine. The amount of time off loading and reloading a bigger 2 stage machine you could be more than halfway done with a Toro.
  9. red07gsxr

    red07gsxr Senior Member
    from meriden
    Messages: 256

    15 dollars....thats why people dont want to pay to get there driveways done. i dont move my truck for less then 35 per push on a driveway.
  10. bribrius

    bribrius PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,609

    i think you just noticed part of the problem with competing in snow removal.
  11. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    If you saw the driveway I'm talking about for $15 for removal of 1" to 3" of snow I think any reasonable person would understand. A full size truck and a small car would barely fit side to side. 25' x 30' if that.
    I will never be able to compete with a snow plow push for $35 on a bigger or longer driveway. I would start to fall behind the $1+ a minute rule I try to match or beat. My focus is only small paved driveways and walks. Down to the pavement, damage free, no scars or scraps on the concrete. I have already turned down several potential clients because the area is too large, gravel etc. I give them my card and say I will most likely have a blade on my truck next winter and I can do their driveway for $25 to $45 at that time. I'm also able to up sell my spring services, customer contact etc.

    Maybe I'm missing something here and I should shoot for a solid $2 a minute?

    My business model in Lawncare is to focus strictly on smaller lawns. I'm applying to same model to snow removal.

    Bigger lawns require a bigger mower than my Quick 36 thus a bigger trailer for my bigger ZTR and a bigger truck which I don't have nor do I want to buy.

    It's not really competition IMO - more like scope of service. I simply can not compete on longer bigger driveways. And I can not compete on bigger lawns when the big boys with 60"+ ZTR mowers are charging $1+ a minute.

    If I get a "Cold Call" from someone I never heard from before and they want me to make a special trip then yes $35 is appropriate for even a tiny area. It's called a call out fee minimum. Price may go up depending on what I see.
  12. jason9696

    jason9696 Junior Member
    from Vermont
    Messages: 16

    Coming from lawncare myself, I can understand your thought process. I am a one man crew during the summer with a 54" ZTR and sometimes cannot compete on big jobs that require a few 60" ZTR's. But, I don't mind, because it seems to me that I am more profitable doing 12 small lawns, than 3 or 4 large lawns.
  13. mercer_me

    mercer_me PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,372

    If you have an ATV you should look into getting a plow for it. They work great. And you can get a 60'' plow for less than $600. A 400cc or bigger with a 60'' plow would work great. ATVs will plow 6'' of lite snow and 4'' of heavy snow with no probablems.
  14. d8on27@msn.com

    d8on27@msn.com Junior Member
    from iowa
    Messages: 21

    I copy/pasted this from another thread I responded to. If you get heavy lake effect snow this may not apply?

    We do 50+ residential city driveways and walks, snowblowers only. Average is two car driveway, interior small sidewalk and stoop for $30. Price up or down accordingly. My wife and I do 4+ an hour on a tight route. I did it by myself once last year and did around 3 an hour. We use the big 20-21" single stage Toro's, 3650 or the new 421Q. Snapper and Honda also make good models. Lift them in and out of the back of the truck. They run $800 new but you can find used ones in great shape.

    25 accounts is a decent number for a two man crew, I'd feel pretty comfortable doing 18 or so myself. You can get these done in 6 hours or so and not be overwelmed. After 6 or so hours everything will be soaked and heavy, and you'll start to get tired.

    Plan on making two trips for bigger snow events. We double charge at 6 inches and run the route twice.
    On those big events nobody's working or going to school so you should be able to find some help pretty easily.

    This is easy, low overhead, good paying work. Tweak everything to make things easier and better paying for you. It's also a great service for your clients and these folks will absolutely love you for it. One of our clients sent our contract back this year wrote a note on it saying "You guys are the freaking bomb!' on it. I love it and have a lot of fun. I mean who dosen't like playing in the snow?
  15. lilweeds

    lilweeds PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,178

    If you want an education in snow go visit Jerre in Erie. Nice guy, best dealer, and know alot about the snow in your area.