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to plow or not too plow, that is the question?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by dmk395, Oct 2, 2000.

  1. dmk395

    dmk395 Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    I own a small landscaping business, of which I feel I could get 20 residential driveways to plow in the winter by just making a few phone calls. WHile massachusetts winters seem to be sporadic, is it really worth getting into the plow business? I figure i need a 4 wheel drive truck with a plow, anything else? How much should I expect to pay for something "entry level"?
  2. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    Ok, this is what ya have to have.

    4X4 truck, for most applications 3/4 ton or larger.
    Time for paper work ( sounds like you have that)

    Ok New 3/4 ton with a plow, anywhere from $ 24,000 on up.

    Now used cost, very from location to location. I don't know if you want to trade your current truck (which sounds like it can't plow) for one that can, thats up to you.

    You can make money plowing, however your first year won't be your most sucessfull, it will take time to learn the whole business and way to plow. If you could get 30 or 40 driveways, then i think you could do allright, i would stay away from commercial the first year.

    Then you have to decide if you want to charge per push, how many times you plow, which is decided by the number of snow storm ( you will get more customers this way). If you get very little snow, per push may not make you much money However it is easier to manage less customers. So if you charge XXX.XX per season to keep the drive clear, you know how much you will make from the start of the season. However it is harder to sell a yearly contract to a residential customer. Only if you have lets say 25 residential customers at lets say 6K a year ( these numbers are just hyp ). It is easier to manage 25 accounts, than to manage 40. If you can make 6K with 40 accounts per push, or make 6K with 25 accounts per season, which way would you go?

    Other than that go back as far as ya can in the forum, and read the old post. To help you decide if you want to plow or not. Just remember if you start plow, you will be stuck in mass all winter, no trips to away (at least long distance, 2 week trips)

  3. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    And, after the first year you will either love it, or hate it. No in between.

    You can make money at it, and Geoff's assessment of what it will take is accurate.
  4. slplow

    slplow PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 594

    dmk,I also live in MA. Check out the want ad or truck trader and spend what you can afford. It is worth it in MA, but like John Allin say's you gotta like it to do it and plowing on holiday's is a must if it snows on them. I have plowed on Thanksgiving three times, no x-mas' yet but who knows it would suck but the money would be a nice present to me and my wife. 20 residentials is a good start. I always on a big snow storm you get people pulling you over to plow them out. We still get to go away in the winter but always a chance of being cancelled or coming home early. Has not happened so far, but we don't go away too often or for too long. If you are going to give it a try, you want to get your truck and accounts as soon as possible. Good Luck.
  5. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    We often plow on Christmas and New Years day.... it's tough on family. And if you're doing residentials, Christmas morning is a must. People treat you nice on Christmas morning when you're plowing, but it isn't as nice as being home with the wife and kids......
  6. diggerman

    diggerman Senior Member
    from Ames
    Messages: 700

    Just to add to what has been said so far,if plowing is not something that you have been doing it is hard to understand that snow is something people allow no excuses for.They want their snow done, even if you have to push your truck,teach a homeless peson to drive,run around licking flakes out of the air, they want their snow gone.If you like to ski,go and see outlaws for christmas in far off places,or even just RELAX on a snowy night, don't even get started,snow WILL become a hassle.I told a guy today that snow is something you do all the way or not at all.But if you are willing to make those sacrifices it can be profitable and even,yes,fun,that right "it not just a job its an adventure."
  7. iowastorm

    iowastorm Senior Member
    Messages: 358

    dmk395: Here's something you might want to consider. The other guys might think I'm nuts, but for your first year, if you do get 20 drives, consider buying a couple of good two stage snowblowers and hire a second person to help you. Most homeowners prefer snow removal by a snowblower because they do a much cleaner job and there are no snow piles or damage to the grass from a plow. I know some companies here that do residential snow removal with nothing but snowblowers. In fact, a couple of good two stage snowblowers will knock down a driveway in less time that you'd think. This route will get you going and with much less investment. Here's a very rough estimate:

    Two 2 stage snowblowers: $1,800.00

    Used truck: $10,000.00 or more
    Boss V plow: $4,300.00 plus tax
    used truck w/ plow: $6,000 or much more

    Think about it this way: if you spent the first year w/ snowblowers, as you expand into larger jobs or commercial work,you'll always need them for doing sidewalks in future. Oh well, just a different perspective.
  8. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Well.... when I first started reading iowastorm's message, the word 'nuts' did come to mind. But... when you think about it - it might not be so far fetched Capital outlay is low, productivity might not be as great, but the return on investment would be much higher than the truck route. When I started out (on my own) doing residentials with a brand new Ford Bronco and a brand new Valk plow (yeah... a Valk - don't think they make them any more)I fell in love with the work. If I had not loved it, I'd have been a bit put out by the expenditure I made to get into it.

    The snowblower idea isn't as far fetched as most of us on this forum might be inclined to think right away.

    Might invest in a good snowsuit though.....
  9. snow

    snow PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 1,002

    valk plows are still around

    my friend actually sells valk, and they do a lot of parts contracts for blades and stuff for the Connecticut Dot.

    i think their site is<a href="http://www.valkmfg.com"> valkplows</a> or something.


    [Edited by snow on 10-04-2000 at 01:39 AM]
  10. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    That Valk plow was really a good plow for what I was doing. Well built, rugged. I liked it. At one point I owned 6 of them. Then the local dealer stopped handling them and that was that.
  11. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Yup. You were right.


    Just went there.

    Nice to know. It was a good plow.
  12. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Well the snow blower idea sounds good on paper,but he still doesnt have a 4x4 to drive it around, and if he starts after the raods are plowed, well 20 drives will take waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to long.
    He could start with a used truck in the 5 K range, hook up with a larger contractor and sub for him till 5 am and then get cut loose to start his residential route. He will fill in alot more time, get experience in commercial work, and find out what all nighters are all about.
    Then he will really know if he loves or hates it.
  13. Aspen Snow

    Aspen Snow Senior Member
    Messages: 148

    I agree with Dino, I would start out with a truck and a plow, or at least a ATV with a plow. If you are going to get into it, you might as well start of right. Snowblower are to slow for driveways, but great on sidewalks.
  14. diggerman

    diggerman Senior Member
    from Ames
    Messages: 700

    I like Iowastorms idea of the snow blowers if 20 residential is all you will do.But if you want and need experiance and are willing to make that initial investment Dino's got a good idea as well.At this point you need to decide how you think snow fits you.For one season a couple of snow blowers are cheap and a two wheel drive pickup with chains and weight might get you around or that second guy you are talking about hiring, make sure he has a 4x4 and pay him to use it for the first year.All are option depends on where you see yourself heading,none of us have to make any sacrifices but tapping on some keys on our computers.Hey for all I know you have one leg and snow blowers are not an option.
  15. Alan

    Alan PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    Valk plows

    I saw a pair of NOS Valk plows at S. A. McLeans up in Limerick, Maine. 10', nice rollover moldboards, electric lift and manual angle. Each one had some sort of QD mounting frame with it.
  16. JCurtis

    JCurtis Banned
    Messages: 862

    You can definitely make money plowing snow.... if you do it the right way.

    you have to do a good job at a reasonable price and above all else... be reliable.

    I stepped out of snow removal for a couple of years, and actually had old customers call me and beg me to get back into it. And I recommended the guy who took over the accounts. I knew he was reliable. needless to say I am back in it and loving every minute of it.

    Good Luck in adding snow removalto your business. it can be a very profitable profit center if you do it right.
  17. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    We have plowed on Thanksgiving and New Years before, however we have never plowed on X-Mas Day, we have finished up early X-mas evening though. I guess we have just been very lucky so far. However the guys know the day is comming here they have to plow on a holiday, when it happens we will be out there plowing. Its all part of the biz.

  18. diggerman

    diggerman Senior Member
    from Ames
    Messages: 700

    I've done the christmas day thing once,not fun but the wife understands,she has a nice new house I gotta work to pay for it.
  19. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    When we plowed on thanksgiving, my Dad was still running the Company totaly, Now he only runs part of it. Also the operation was only about 20 pieces of snow removel equipment compared to the current 34 (these numbers include everything).

    So my dad, pissed my mom off good the day before, he said plan on cooking for like 60 people tommorrow, and we are eating at the shop. Well when we got done plowing, around 8 PM that night, all the guys and their families had thanksgiving together. I don't know who Mom called in to do all the cooking, but there was no way she did it by herself.