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Plowing in light snow area of Portland Oregon, is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by eou_edu, Sep 3, 2013.

  1. eou_edu

    eou_edu Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    I live in Portland Oregon. Land of the pretty mild weather. Usually I describe our weather as 5 days a year of over 100 degrees, 5 days a year with snow on the ground and a lot of rain in between. So I'm sure everyone is immediately thinking, "why is he posting on a plow site when he only gets 5 days a year with snow?" That is a question I would like answered, "Is it worth it?" I have a 93 dodge cummins diesel and I'm trying to decide if I should get a plow. Yes we get very little snow but when we do it literally brings our city to it's knees! Nobody owns a private plow here and the amount of city and state plows is so small it's almost not worth mentioning. I believe the city of Portland Owns like 8 plows in a city of 600,000. On top of that nobody knows how to drive in the snow. Our snow is also super wet and rarely goes under 25 degrees. We will get years without any snow but about every 5 years there will be a big storm with a foot of snow that stays around for a week or two (we are due for one). When that happens the plows are non existent and life as we know it stops. Wal marts are closed in the middle of the day during christmas season, driving is illegal but nobody will bust you for it because they don't go out either, the news makes their own theme music for all day coverage of "snowmagedon", and it's tough to even buy gas (great benefit of Oregon, self serve is illegal). Personally I don't like the feeling of being trapped in my house, especially when I have a job I have to show up no matter the weather (firefighter). Even though the valley floor gets about 5 days of snow a year, the hills where all the million dollar homes are get more like 20 days of snow a year. My job is extremely flexible, I can take vacation 15 mins before I'm supposed to be there, I have a lot of time off, and a lot of free time for some side business ventures. This particular one is attractive to me because it's low risk and not a year round commitment.

    So finally back to my question. Would it be worth it for me to buy a used plow, store it on my property and get as much business as I can for when the snow hits just for a little side income? With no competition and no other options for many people I would think I could charge a premium price. Possibly even get a contract with the city? Is there anybody else out there living in light snow areas making money plowing?
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
  2. bhmjwp

    bhmjwp Senior Member
    from kcmo
    Messages: 309

    You may get answers all over the board. I live in Kansas city, not much more snow than your area many years. I have to price accordingly. When I put a bid together for a property, I have in mind a $125 per man-hour rate. Some will net me more, some a little less. Many in the snow belt will plow in a week what I do in a season. As such, may have a lower rate but much greater income. Residential starts at $50 and goes up from there. We include walks.
  3. BC Handyman

    BC Handyman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,943

    sure it's worth it, just dont go spending more $ then you can make, someone has to remove the snow those 5 days ;)
  4. eou_edu

    eou_edu Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    Cost benefit analysis. It's no coincidence 90% of small businesses fail in the first 2 years and also 90% of business fail to do an accurate cost benefit analysis. My best friend has a master degree from Harvard business school. He jokes the most important thing he learned from his Harvard education was to get out a pencil and piece of paper as step one when starting any kind of business. I tell him the irony of that is, if he would have done just that he could have saved $100,000 and two years out of his life to learn how to do that...............Cost benefit analysis, very important. Thanks for the feedback. I will be reading alot on here in the coming months, using the search feature and posting what I can't find.
  5. cja1987

    cja1987 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,407

    Sure, get a plow.

    You already have the truck so its not going to be a $40K+ proposition, you can probably manage a new one for $3,500 ish if you shop around, $5K if you take the first deal you can find in your area. In your case with little snow and a very small plow market, I'd plan on traveling to find a better deal on a plow. Its probably worth it. I've lived out west and its kind of weird, even in the big snow areas, it seems there are very few "personally owned plows" compared to the Northeast and Midwest. Kind of odd. They are also mostly on old trucks vs new trucks. What I'm getting at is I dont know what the used market is like out there for plows and you may need to travel a bit for one.

    New or used, its a "buy once, cry once" type expense as far as the initial investment goes. If you, again being in a low snow area, look at it simply as a good emergency preparedness tool first and a potential money maker second, you are on the right track, IMO. Back when I got into plowing, I simply did not want to shovel and did not want to be beholden to somebody elses schedule when it came to being able to get out or not in the big storms. I like being self dependent. You have even more of a reason to be able to get out because your job may be desperate for your help considering what a real crippling storm can do to your area.

    Unless you already own a related business like landscaping, property management, a large property that needs lots of maint, etc, DO NOT look at buying a plow as a get rich quick scheme and DO NOT even expect to make money off of it. If you have that mindset, everything else is gravy. If you get that 12"+ storm and nobody knows what to do and you happen to be 1 of 10 people that can come "save" everybody from being trapped inside for days, sky is the limit on what you can pull in for cash.

    You state yourself that you really dont have reliable enough snow for it to be a major business endeavor but it does have potential to pay dividends from time to time. Just come into it with the mindset that its an emergency/self reliability tool first, just like that little ATV that sits at my local FD but is rarely used (fairly urban area) fun second and might make you a bit of money third. Its in the "nice to have" category and worth its weight in gold should you really need it.