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Residential plowing questions...

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by TSG, Nov 23, 2003.

  1. TSG

    TSG Member
    Messages: 76

    Hello everyone.

    Let me start by saying that up until this point I have not offered snow plowing services...

    I have been approached by several of my lawn care clients asking if I will be snow plowing. My answer was and still is.. "I'm not sure?" I have told them that if I do plow that I would need a commitment from them... not "can I call you when the big one hits type plowing service?" I explained to them that a commitment meant that I would need about a $100 deposit (3 pushes worth) and there would be a 3" minimum visit. I am finding that most will not commit to this. They only want someone to plow if it's say 12 inches or more.

    Any advice on how to get them to commit? Do you guys ask for a deposit? Is a non refundable deposit out of the question?

    Thanks for any help.
  2. CPSS

    CPSS Senior Member
    Messages: 334

    You could start out with charging them per push. Have them sign a contract, show up at 3" and plow them, send them a bill. They might be more willing to give you a try this way rather than giving you $100 for an unproven service. Next year when they have been happy with your plowing, you can then solicit the annual contract price.
  3. Eyesell

    Eyesell 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,107


    I plowed for my brother in law several years ago and now have decided to start back into it myself as a "newby", but most his customers were charged by the length of there driveway with a 2" trigger and he never got any complaints. If the drive was I think 25' one price, over 25' another price ( examples only ) but this is the formula I am using. Anyway, good luck, let us know what ya decide. :waving:
  4. J HIsch

    J HIsch Member
    Messages: 66

    Plowing residental

    We charge the same for residental as we do commercial

    60.00 per drive... period when it snows we dont have time to play the pricing game with people. They want out or they dont.
  5. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    A little off-subject but based on my experiences over the years I'd bag Carrol County residentials and invest in two things... the drive time to Potomac, MD. and a Haines reverse index. I plowed there in the 90's and my last recollection was after 5 straight days had checks flying out of the truck and did not care... Go see the guys at Potomac Amoco at River and Falls Road. The residents call there as a sort of clearinghouse to get their driveways and streets plowed... too important to wait on the county, and will pay what it takes to get it done... residential mecca.
  6. mjandrew

    mjandrew Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    I always treat residentials as fill-ins for my routes, or when I am finished with my commerical routes. They don't want to pay alot, and they never want to see me unless there is at least 4" on there driveway.

    You may just want to sub the work out and take a percent for you time and effort?

    Gaithersburg, MD
  7. jiriki87

    jiriki87 Member
    Messages: 63

    You guys are killing me on the pricing you ask for. In Steamboat Springs, CO I get underbid and out bid with my 2000 F-350, Boss 8.2 V nose, my 91' F-250 with a 8 foot Western and my 2003 Cat 262, with Blizzard 810SS plow on it. I have residentails that start at 10 dollars and go up to 40 dollars per plowing event- 4 inches of snow. The 40 dollar drive is rougly 1/4 mile long and uphill most of the time. Towards the end of the winter I'll have piles up to the mirrors on my F-350 going down the driveway. If I plow these accounts effiecently I can make close to 70-75 dollars per hour.
    Supply and demand for overall snow fall. I'll plow 20-30 times this year if it's a good year.
    Anyways I used to live beside UVA in Virginia and now that it doesn't snow that often I know people charge upwards of 100 dollars to plow out residental drives. Someone came to a friends house last year in VA attempting to plow 8 inches of snow. It took the guy 45 minutes to clear one path down a 300 ft long driveway. I would make about 5 bucks out in colorado if I plowed like that.

    F-350 with studs, and chains with 800 lbs weight, diesel, in low on my 6 speed will push a ***** load of snow. When you look in front of the truck and see snow 8 feet in front of you in the v position, that's some plowing.

    Well just my two cents worth, hope the plowing in VA and MD go well this season.

  8. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    Residential work is tough on equipment and short on return. It helps to give a little "value added" services like getting close to the garage and a little shovel work on the walks. I am a commercial GC and I do my major customers driveways (after the commercial work) at no charge. I find that the goodwill is worth more than the $40. Another tip: Network with other local plow contractors and help each other out. I pulled a competitor off a lump of snow last year, he offered me $100, didn't take it, he put a commercial account my way and has called me to update his new cell # if I ever need help.

    As for Steamboat Springs, Co, your competition is a trust fund kid looking for something to do so he can justify his existance to his parental units. Tough to compete. I'm sure Vail and Beaver Creek suffer from the same syndrome.
  9. Fredeboy

    Fredeboy Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    i see some guys pricing $40 some $60 a driveway and so on and so forth. how do you break the storm up. do you go every three inches or every four inches. residential pricing seems so confusing. i'm trying to find the best way myself. i too have my landscape accounts and now they want me to do their driveways. someone help. :)
  10. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    No matter how you $ your work, it's easier on your equipment to plow every 3-6 inches. If you wait until the storm is over and you have 10", you are more likely to do some major damage or get stuck and then do some damage trying to rock it out.
  11. dmontgomery

    dmontgomery PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,238

    I get $25 for single width driveway 25' long......it just goes up from there.....

    I don't do many though.......just 3 today.......

  12. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation Senior Member
    Messages: 413

    I see some of these low prices for residential drives and dont quite understand why people charge so little. We have a minimum charge for a service call of $75.00. For anything , especially snowplowing. Call the maytag man out to repair an appliance, call a plumber, call a HVAC serviceman . You are going to pay $ 75.00 for the initial visit. Now they are using hand tools , to me a truck wih a plow becomes equipment. We sell a service , we come to their home in some of the worst conditions , late at night, work with fatigue , to clear snow. Another way to put it is disaster relief. For 10 bucks , 30 bucks , I dont think so. When you start figuring what you are making also figure in the time to prep the trucks, repair the equipment, take the plows back off, wash off the salt, etc. The fastest way to make a new truck old is to plow snow with it. We get stopped all the time to do driveways , the customer offers us 20 bucks, I look at the driveway ask him how long it will take him to shovel it , the adverage response is 4 hours. I ask them if 4 hours of THEIR time is worth 20 bucks or 75.00 I get a contract signed 3 out of 4 times. I got into snowplowing in 1981 the minumim charge was $ 50.00 . Parking lots I was getting 100.00 per push at 3 in are now $ 350.00 plus salt. I am aware pricing varies as to location but I know that a new plow is about the same price where ever you go.
  13. BLinindoll

    BLinindoll Junior Member
    Messages: 17

    Wow, Mdirrigation, you don't have a problem with lowballers? Looks like your makin the payup
  14. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation Senior Member
    Messages: 413

    I realy dont have a problem with competition, theres no way a business can compete with a guy plowing for beer money. Snowplowing is part of my business and wih normal buiness expenses , I just cant see sending a $ 20.00 an hour man out in a $20,000.00 truck with a $3000.00 plow and a $ 1500.00 salt spreader for an adverage of 25.00 per driveway.
  15. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    Matt is right. Don't worry about the low ballers because they will eventually let the customer down. Sell your service not a single push on a driveway. Sell the fact that your equipment is fresh or that you have back up equipment. What does it cost the customer if you don't get the snow cleared? Or if they shovel the driveway and it takes 4 hours AND they pull a muscle or throw their back out or have the big one? $75 is a gift if presented to the customer favorably.
  16. dmontgomery

    dmontgomery PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,238

    If the "lowballer" comments were directed at me..... thats fine, I'm sure you feel better now....

    As far as the service I provide...the only reason I have a plow is because I own apartments and I am not about to pay what you "non-lowballers" want to plow it...

    Secondly, I only offer the service to my lawn customers, who already know I am a fulltime Firefighter/Paramedic with an odd work schedule. Therefore...they know I will handle they work.....it may just be a little later than a fulltime plow operator....

    Thirdly.....it took me all of 20 minutes to do the 3 drives I did the other morning...... I am pretty happy with $225.00 per hour. Especially since I was not counting on the money and I don't need it to feed my kids.

    Finally.....there are very few doing residential snow removal in my area......I think because for the last 10 years before last year we got very little.

    oh yeah....

    I am licensed, insured (GL policy) and an LLC......

    DRM Ventures, Ltd
  17. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    My apologies on the lowballing. I forgot that this was a residential topic. I'm more concerned w/ my commercial office and industrial work that starts at 2 acre lots and goes over ten acre lots, with sidewalks, steps, firescapes. I'm with you on the residential work. I take care of older folks in my neighborhood and charge along the same lines as above for "normal" driveways.
  18. edshipp19

    edshipp19 Senior Member
    Messages: 147

    I grew up in Potomac and can honestly say there is lots of money to be made there. Now i live in McLean VA, and its the same thing. Back in highschool i can remember doing drives during the big storm in 97 in my old blazer and getting $300 for a 200ft u-shaped drive. I wouldn't never even consider plowing for some of the rates you guys talk about.
  19. dmontgomery

    dmontgomery PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,238

    I understand all you guys with the big overhead, etc..... But those of us with very little overhead can offer a service to people who won't or can't afford to pay 2 or 3 times what I charge. None of my customers that I plow live in houses worth more than $150K...

    I will never get into commercial plowing.....just because of my work schedule, and the equipment requirements....I have a small vehicle and plow that are suited to small jobs.

    I also look at the plowing as a customer service benefit for my lawn customers who pay me very well during lawn season.

    I would be very surprised if I was hurting anyone business by running mine.

    DRM Ventures, Ltd.
  20. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    To the fella that used to live in Potomac

    I used to run Potomac Amoco. If I were to tell the stories from that place, the rest of these guys would think I was b.s.ing.
    A couple of my regular plowing custs:

    Sugar Ray Leonard
    Maria Shriver/Arnold Shwartznegger
    Ted Allbritton (ABC)
    Ted Koppel
    Hugh Sidey ( Time Magazine)
    Wonder Woman (Forgot her real name)
    Oliver North
    Reagan's Vice President
    etc. etc.

    Best residential on the planet, (L.A. don't snow)

    I hope you weren't one of those kids that mommy and daddy kept the credit card in our care 'cause they didn't trust their own kid... (literally hundreds of parents did that)

    My minimum on a residential in Potomac was 350.00 and had a whole legal tablet (using every other line per) filled every time it snowed- PLUS couldn't service those because of the flag downs, literally getting 5-10 of those for every one of the folks on the list. Avenel was the best-- all doctors, lawyers, small/gig business owners. I think some of these driveway equivalents are getting plowed for five bucks (at least from one poster)... like I said, no one's gonna beleive me, but it is what it is.

    I disagree about the McLean thing-- only because a) those folks have more sense of normalcy, + more options . They only get smeared, not raped.