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Hey everyone my name is Dan from New Jersey. Last year we had a really rough winter here and I vouched that i was retiring my shovel after the storms we had. I just purchased a Craftsman Professional 30" model 88830 snowblower from Sears. I know they aren't the best machines but I got a good deal so i went for it. I was wondering if anyone here uses their blowers to make a couple xtra bucks on the side. If so how much do you charge? Do you charge by the size of the area youre covering ie:( 1000 sq feet. 10x100) or do you charge by the hour? Do you have a minimum charge no matter what the size is? I figure i have a pretty decent sized machine that maybe id pick up a few clients for small residential snow removal. I'm unaware of how pricing goes with this type of service. Any input is appreciated! Hope to hear from you all soon!
 

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Hi Dan, and great question about what to charge. I don’t have an answer for you but I am interested in hearing from others on the subject as you are.

Of course the answers won’t do me any good as all of my snow removal time is taken up doing my own, and free jobs for relatives and friends. It would still be nice to know how much I am missing out on. :D
 

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Clearly the more snow the more you would have to charge for obvious reasons such as gas, strain on the machine etc... but I was guessing maybe there was a figure per lot/driveway/sidewalk etc...like a flat fee maybe of $35 or something....someone told me a standard hourly cost would be $45 an hour for the machine plus the man operating it. Again this would vary according to the snow accumulation i'd imagine...and some jobs might not even take an hour hence why i said maybe theres a $35 minimum? Size of the area would have to come into play as well...I believe plowing charges per pass/swipe. Think its around $100? Regardless of what plows charge im not interested in but i'm hoping someone out there has an industry standard of how to go about estimating these types of jobs.
 

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Around here, most people pay a "flat rate" for the whole season..
and almost always done by a person with a truck and a plow..
the contract usually says "we will plow anytime snow is more than 3 inches" or something like that..they wont plow for a dusting..

So snowblowing on the side?
im sure it can be done..but the problem is that once you start, your customers will *always* want and need their driveway cleared with *every* snowfall! (of more than 3", or whatever you specify) so once you start, you are locked in for the season..so you have to account for that. and, you will often have to clear their driveway very early in the morning! so they can get their car out to go to work..its quite a serious responsibility..

I just did a quick google check of some driveway plowing services in Rochester:

Snow Removal in Rochester, NY on Yahoo! Local

(replace "Rochester" with your city, and you should find local results for you)

hmmm..looks like no one places an actual rate on their webpage..probably because the price will vary by customer..size of driveway, etc..probably the only way to get a good idea of what people are charging is to call them and ask for an estimate! ;)

and another thing to consider..plowing with a truck is *much* faster than using a snowblower! but if you only have one to three customers, that probably wont be an issue..

Scot
 

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Blowing for $$

Dogless

I can't speak to snowblowing for $$ but I can speak a little on businesses on the side as I have one. Some of this is general while some I'm guessing would apply to a snowblowing business.

How far do you plan to range from your home base? Do you have a vehicle that can carry your blower and supplies? Seeing how most people I see doing lawnmowing etc are usually teens or below, I'm guessing you're in the same age range. If you use your parents truck or SUV, how happy will they be if you spill some gas or get some grease on it? If the streets are bad, do you have a way to get to the clients in the first place? How many clients do you think you can handle and how long might it take you? What if it blizzards and you have to go around multiple times to the clients at all times of the day and night? One other thing, some vehicle insurance will not cover you if a vehicle is used for business purposes without a special rider on it.

You have a new blower, that should be good. What if it breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm and parts are not immediately available? How will you get it into and out of a vehicle - ramps, trailer or what?

Have you priced out liability insurance? What if one of those nice little old ladies you blow out her drive and she comes back later claiming you scraped up her car while blowing the snow?

Have you checked out a business license or sales tax permit? Are you planning on reporting your income to the IRS (they don't take kindly if you don't and catch up with you).

Don't take anything I've said as a downer, rather to get you to think about the whole picture first. Better prepared and able to handle all that comes up rather than get a "Surprise Surprise" on something unanticipated.

Hope it all works out for you, good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #6
HCBPH, I appreciate all the questions! To answer a few. I'm not a teen. I'm in the construction/carpentry business and I drive a Ford F-150. I also have ramps to load/unload the blower. Your points about insurance and everything are valid and I see your points. I'd most likely be doing this for people who Ive already done work for on their houses and developed a good relationship with where I 99% wouldn't have to worry about getting sued if something went wrong. For me it would be strictly a side thing. It would be an under the table type gig for maybe a few people/accounts. I'm not looking to make it a business, just as a cushion if we get a big storm and I cant work like I did last year, I'd rather go make a few bucks rather than sit around. Plus eventually it would cover the cost of the machine itself which would be ideal. I mean I bought the blower for me. I have about 900 square feet of driveway at my house to clear and I do 2 parking spots in front of my house as well. Shoveling 12 + inches of that is back breaking. I guess I could base pricing on how much id be willing to spend on someone doing my house for me. But anyways I figured this would be a cool topic to discuss and get some ideas.
 

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Business

Dogless

Sounds like you have most covered already. If you're in construction/carpentry, might you somehow work this into your current liability insurance coverage? Same thing with workmans comp. If something happened to you while blowing a place, no matter which way it went, at least you would be covered in one form or another (like lawn business' that plow in the winter under the same business). Besides that, you can include expenses and depreciation of equipment to some degree.

Should I mention we had a close family friend on my wifes side that was an IRS Auditor for 30+ yrs in S.C. Before he passed away, he'd told us a few stories of people tax avoidance attempts and what they tried to do or cover. He also told me of what some of the consequences were when caught, ranging from minor to very major consequences. Not everyone gets caught but enough do to make it risky at best, and they know what to look for if they want to find it. May seem minor at the time but IMO it's not worth the risk.

My 2 cents
 

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Well if the IRS wants to audit me for snow blowing for a couple extra bucks than so be it. It's not even a concern in my mind at all. I bet now that I bought this blower we wont even see an inch of snow the whole winter. Aside from that I'd think the IRS has much more interest in real cash business' where they rip the government left and right..bartenders, waiters, barbers, strippers etc...Ive never met a bartender who claims taxes. If we get 1 snow storm and I snow blow 1 drive way and they wanna come tax me on $30. I'll invite them into my house with open arms. In my eyes the gov. can kiss my you know what if I decide to do this for a few buck$. They screw us every which way possible. I work all year and get taxed on my earnings...whenever I buy a product I get taxed again. Why would do I need to get taxed on products when you already taxed me on my pay checks?...If I have a bank account where I get interest on it, that's considered taxable income. If I buy a car, tax, If I buy a house, tax. If I sell a house I pay capital gains tax. If I win money in Atlantic City, tax. TAX TAX TAX TAX. The only things in Jersey they seem to not tax is clothes and water. I think you get my point! And thats a good idea about adding an additional insurance rider for liability, I'll have to look into that. I wonder if I can write this snow blower off on my taxes now. It is after all, a tool, right? Ha Ha
 

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I know you said this would be a side gig, but side gigs can and do grow into more than just a little extra. I would figure pricing on a lot by lot basis, figure how long it will take you to complete the job and figure cost on a preset hourly rate that you need to make. Figure your rate to cover, wear and tear on your machine, fuel, oil changes, transportation to and from and labor. Make sure your labor figure covers paying someone and still leaves money left for they boss (you) if this ends up growing.
 

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A simple rate schedule!

Sounds like you are looking for "non-contracted, as needed" business to maintain some cash flow during off-season slack time. You already have a customer base, how about:

$$$$ (you fill in the amount) per linear foot for an 8' wide driveway with a minimum charge. That is 4 passes with your machine. Base the per foot charge on inches of snow on the ground. Fifty cents a foot up to 6"; $0.75 a foot for 6-12" and so on. Price it including sidewalk and ice melter.

Here in Pittsburgh's South Hills area, the plow guys are pretty much servicing commercial contracts and won't touch driveways (damage to retaining walls, landscaping, etc.....) I think that is part of their insurance guidelines.

Snow removal is not a social program.....you will be surprised by the number of people who expect freebies! If my neighbors don't kick-up a case a beer i get snow blower amnesia. That may sound a little harsh but I'm not getting any younger.

Jb
 
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