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Snow Removal this winter - Plow or no plow?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Shepard at FPC, Oct 4, 2015.

  1. Shepard at FPC

    Shepard at FPC Member
    Messages: 39


    Just going to give a brief summary of where I'm coming from and then ask some advice.

    First off, I'm 16 yrs old. I've been doing some level of mowing, leaf blowing, and snow blowing, since I was 11 yrs old. I've never really had much help (my dad has helped me when I get into trouble but that's probably accounted for about 2 hrs over 5 years), and so I have always been contained into one little neighborhood. Hence, I only have between 12-15 customers who have me do a lot of their outdoor work.

    As of this past July, I got my drivers license. So I now have the potential for a lot of expansion, however, I have been very busy lately, primarily with school but anyways, I haven't done much yet by means of expansion.

    Basically, I don't have a TON of extra time, but I really feel it's important I have some type of job all year round that I can make decent money in when I'm working and also that I can learn from. I am a business minded person so working for myself is most appealing and seems to be what I'd be likely to have the most potential in (at this point at least).

    So this winter I'd really like to be doing some level of snow removal. I'd love to be doing snow plowing, however insurance is ridiculous and nearly impossible to get at age 16.

    I'd like some input on what you guys would recommend I do to clear driveways (and sidewalks probably). I have a 1997 4x4 F-150, a 6x12 trailer, and a pretty new 24" Ariens snow blower. I'd love to just throw a plow on the F-150 (the truck's hardly worth $1800 anyways, I'm not too worried if I beat it up, although I'd be as gentle on it as is possible) and see how many accounts I can get, but for one that would be an unreliable setup and two, from what I've read online, I think it's too risky because if I hit something and somebody gets sue happy I'm afraid it'd bypass me and go to my parents, who have a little bit more to lose than I do. I really should get some insurance for my business in general, but if I do it's a whole different level of insurance when you're just doing snow blowing.

    So what do you think the highest money making/least risk avenue would be for me? I have some money to invest in other equipment...I've thought about a garden tractor and snow blower before...I actually have an old John Deere 318 and snow blower that would be an excellent setup but it needs a LOT of work before it's going to do anything, I don't foresee myself taking the time to rebuild it anytime soon.

    Any thoughts on anything from what equipment to use, to marketing, to dangers of no insurance or insurance options, would be much appreciated.

    As far as school schedule, I've always been homeschooled until this year and this year I'm taking all college classes...so class times are kind of all over, but generally I am out of class in time to get out and blow snow before people get home from work, and of course early in the morning before they leave for work.

    Thanks! Sorry for the long post...I can never keep a post short enough.

  2. ScubaSteve728

    ScubaSteve728 Senior Member
    Messages: 499

    Shepard see if someone will hire you in your area learn some of the business first. They will probably have you doing sidewalks which isn't too bad and is decent money. You may even be able to use their snowblowers and put them in your truck and they may pay you more. Then you can learn the business and when you feel like it split off and get a real truck and insurance then pickup accounts. Or if you like your boss you can work up through the company if you like.
    When I was 16 I plowed driveways with my ATV and now I have a truck and work for a company that does commercial property maintenance and management.
  3. Shepard at FPC

    Shepard at FPC Member
    Messages: 39

    I've thought about doing that. I might look into several of the local companies and see what's available as far as work, what they're looking for etc. I've definitely been told before that it's a good idea to work for a company for a while, both to learn the business and also to make some money while waiting to be old enough to go out (legally) on my own. :) And yes, if it's a good company I could probably build a reputation within the company and work my way up the line. Thank you for the response. I will certainly think about doing that.

    The ATV sounds fun too. ;-)


  4. Dogplow Dodge

    Dogplow Dodge PlowSite Veteran
    from NJ
    Messages: 3,699


    I remember you being here in Dec 14. Good to see you back.


    You're misunderstanding the "snow insurance" issue. Snow general liability policy isn't for damage caused by plowing trucks. It has to do with people slipping and falling as a result of you "clearing snow". Your auto policy, when in a business name, covers damages caused to personal property. The GL policy is for "slip and fall". So, with you wanting to clear snow by..

    Using a shovel
    using your new Ariens blower
    Using a snow plow on a truck
    Using your hands and feet
    Using a big spoon, eating the snow, and leaving a cleared walkway for your customer.

    You open yourself to liability from the injuries to the person who falls on one of your cleared properties.

    It doesn't matter how you move the snow. it's the act of clearing snow for others to traverse across. The degree to which you are liable is based upon the state you live in. Some states have rules which regulate liability for residential properties making it difficult to sue the person clearing the snow. Others, are the opposite. It's up to you to talk to your local insurance carrier, lawyer, or other sources to determine this. As stated previously, it would be to your benefit to work for someone else first, getting your feet wet and learning from them, then, go out on your own. Not required... just recommended.


    here, in NJ, it's better to do residential due to the laws in place which are designed to curtail the lawsuits against snow contractors on residential properties. Once you cross the boundary into commercial properties, it's a whole new ballgame.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  5. Shepard at FPC

    Shepard at FPC Member
    Messages: 39

    Thank you,

    That makes a lot of sense. I live in Michigan. I'll look into the laws up here regarding slip'n'fall. And thanks for bringing that thread from December back up, I need to read through that again.

    There does certainly seem to be a theme of people with experience saying I should work with somebody first so I will definitely take that into account. I really appreciate your input (both now and back in December). :)

  6. Shepard at FPC

    Shepard at FPC Member
    Messages: 39

    I just did some VERY brief online research regarding slip'n'fall in Michigan. It looks like Michigan isn't terrible, and the law takes into account that Michigan has winter, hence hazardous situations. However, there is still a lot at stake and it is very risky to not have insurance, as you said.

    I might shop around a little and see if there is any way of getting insurance that covers slip'n'fall, and if not then I will strongly consider finding a company to work for for a year or two.

    Thanks again,

  7. JustJeff

    JustJeff 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,478

    I'm not one to suggest not getting insurance at all. However, considering your situation I'd use a snowblower for residential customers and not worry about insurance. You'll have a hard/impossible time working for someone else at the age of 16 (for plowing) as most insurance companies require you to be at least 21 years of age, and companies do as well. Use your snowblower, stay small, do residential accounts and save your money. A few years from now you'll have some money saved up and be in a good position do start your own plowing business.
  8. jhall22guitar

    jhall22guitar PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,056

    Child labor laws may also prevent you from working certain hours, which for some snow contractors may mean you can't work a lot of the time for them, especially for overnight storms if they have guys out 24/7 during storms.

    Best of luck to you!
  9. FredG

    FredG PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,379

    I agree with all the above post, I admire your ambition at 16.but you maybe going to fast which won't help you. You said you had a little money to invest. See if you can find a 4x4 Toro with cozy cab and blower or similar Do a little research in your area and find a municipality auctions.

    They usually announce any issues with the machine. You can stay small and not really worry about liability's and cover more jobs and stay warm doing it. I don't know in your state but you only need a reflective triangle to drive down the road here. Plowing with the truck you can learn later. It's not that difficult when you know how to angle your blade and know where to put the snow.
  10. f150skidoo

    f150skidoo Member
    Messages: 46

    While all other that posters are providing great info but HarleyJeff has hit the nail on the head. All you should be doing is snow blowing drive ways for you neighbors/existing customers for cash and not worry about insurance. I admire you ambition for being a teenager, especially since there people out there a lot older then you that just wanna keep on sucking their moms tits for the rest off their lives. A little word of wisdom i was quit similar to you when i was your age. I would come home from school then go work a a large local grocery store until 10pm most days after school and also work 8 hours both Saturday and Sunday. My part time job was a lot closer to a full time job since i worked around 30h+hrs a week. I had a lot to show for my work like buying a brand new snowmobile when i was 16, when i was 18 I bought my used pickup outright in cash. The only thing i really regret was i had no time to play sports in high school, my friends would call me that there having a party and i couldn't go since i was working that evening then opening the next morning. Just remember you are just 16 and you have the rest of your life to work, your teenage years will go past a lot faster then you think.
  11. Dogplow Dodge

    Dogplow Dodge PlowSite Veteran
    from NJ
    Messages: 3,699

    Buy a bunch of shear pins if this is your pathway....

    Good to have.

    I also "pre visit" the locals who I know are too stupid to remove their newspapers before it snows. Lordy, lordy, that can put a damper on things.
  12. JMHConstruction

    JMHConstruction PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,722

    I, like most, suggest to stay small. Without trying to sound mean or that I don't support you awesome attitude at 16, without being out of school and having 100% dedication to your snow removal it's not worth investing (at this exact point in time) a large sum of money. Use what you have and capitalize on that. I would just keep your neighbors and friends that know how hard you work and want your business already. When someone hurts themselves they won't care about your age, and even if you can get insurance, it will take away all your profit. Stay small, save your money, do only friends who won't be sue happy. Good luck! Stick with it for a while and learn everything you can, then once you go full time you'll be way ahead of most guys in their first year of business.
  13. BUFF

    BUFF PlowSite Fanatic
    from FR NoCo
    Messages: 9,063

    I give you kudos for having ambition and goals at a such a early stage in your life.
    However I have a problem with the idea of you not being insured if you're seeking work from people other than family friends and neighbors like you had mentioned.
    I have even more of problem with the guys that have suggested you fly under the radar and don't worry about insurance until your older and can afford it.
    It's human nature to rationalize behavior or choices they know that are wrong. By choosing not to get insured now sets a precedence in you mind that if I don't need it now why should I worry about getting it later. You've obviously given insurance some thought and know it's needed.
    So do the right thing is you want to expand, if that's not in the cards stay in your neighborhood or get on a sidewalk crew and work your way up.

    FWIW you should have no problem getting a job with a company given your experience you've acquired over the past 4-5yrs working in your neighborhood.
  14. JustJeff

    JustJeff 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,478

    So, if the neighborhood kid is mowing lawns for extra money he should have insurance as well?
  15. BUFF

    BUFF PlowSite Fanatic
    from FR NoCo
    Messages: 9,063

    No that's not what I was implying, family friends/neighbors should understand its a kid looking to make some pocket money or funds to by a vehicle when it's time. Once out of the neighborhood where there is no "personal" tie he'd be looked at as business and subject to all the joys/exposure that a business faces.

    What I was saying was when you become accustom to operating in a "gray area" your decision making process becomes subjective and no long-term good comes from that.
    Look at it like birth control, you may get away with not using it once or a hundred times but there will be a day when someone calls you dad unless you're shooting blanks.
  16. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 9,883

    Depends on the neighborhood,
    What happens when his mower pitches a rock or a dog bone threw a window,
    Into the side of a Cadillac ghost, or off a kids head?
    Who pays when the kid slips and cuts off his foot of the neighbors kids foot?

    Who's going to pay?
    The kids prarents.
    So it might not be a bad idea to have a cheap umbrella policy on the kid
    If your not willing to pay out of pocket for a bad situation.

    It's a role of the dice is it not?
  17. JustJeff

    JustJeff 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,478

    I think the point is probably mute. I don't believe a 16 year old can even get insurance, can they? Don't you have to be a legal adult?
  18. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 9,883

    His parents can as they are responsible for his damages.
  19. FredG

    FredG PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,379

    I don't think anybody was implying insurance is not vital. The young man knows about insurance. Everybody was just trying to tell him at his age stay small and in his hood. Harley already posted he is not one to suggest no liability's.
  20. FredG

    FredG PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,379

    I agree it is a role of the dice, The young mans parents will be responsible. He will have to police the area and make sure there is no rocks and bones etc. before mowing.

    His parents would have to get a small policy for him. He probably has no credit history or work history. The insurance would over ride his earnings if he could get some. I would think I would close one eye to insurance at this point and be safe. As teenagers we all made money without insurance.