View Full Version : starting an excavation business
06-20-2006, 10:39 PM
good site...finding a lot of useful info...
i am a full time firefighter and have a very convienent schedule to start a small business...i plan on buying an excavator and get into the excavation business...i plan on focusing on smaller jobs, mostly residential etc...
my question to all is how comparable are all the compact excavators in the 3-4 ton catergory...I am trying to figure out if i should go with a Cat 303 or a Bobcat 331 or a Volvo EC30...any help would be appreciated...
06-20-2006, 10:51 PM
Welcome to the site! And above all, thanks for the line of work you're in. It's been a long-standing thought of mine that many civil officers -- firefighters, paramedics, and police officers, for instance -- are among those who deserve a tremendous amount of gratitude but who are least thanked regularly. :clapping:
As far as your situation goes, I'm curious as to what jobs you plan to do. Of the models you listed, I know the 303C CR is a zero-tail swing machine (stop me if that makes no sense). While the performance gap has narrowed somewhat, you may want to consider whether ZTS is really necessary. Furthermore, other requirements such as machine size, ground clearance, ground pressure, cab comforts (AC?), servicability, and dealer service (huge!) are all very important factors to consider. Forgive me for sounding patronizing, but it's important to try to evaluate everything before deciding on a machine first. Size the machine around the work you plan to do, rather than get a feel for a "general idea of the work you'll do" and then find that the machine is too big, or too small.
Then again, I should have mentioned that I'm an engineering student with no real experience getting a business going, so I'm sure the others here who have taken their 216 skid steer to a 312 excavator business can help, or those who have five pieces of Deere equipment, or who didn't like the 938 because it lacked power. In essence, there's a crazy amount of expertise here, so I'll only fill in when necessary (or if someone cracks a joke; they do that a lot).
Good luck in your search!
06-21-2006, 09:09 AM
or who didn't like the 938 because it lacked power. In essence, there's a crazy amount of expertise here, so I'll only fill in when necessary (or if someone cracks a joke; they do that a lot).
Hey...it wasn't the power..it had shirt loads of power....it was getting it to the ground..(mumble mumble steam from ears)
Anyways...excavators.....Kubota KX121-3 is also a solid performer for 4 tonnes. We are playing around with Yanmar at the moment but I have to do more research on them to comment. I really like the 303CR because its size and ZTS just make it such a damn handy machine. A good mate had a 302.5 and now has the 303 (2 years I think). I pinched it awhile back for a small job and some stumps, went very well. Do what Xing said...work out what your doing mostly...... 3-4 tonne??..... thats a 25% difference...You either have the room, in which case the bigger machine is better, or you don't so go the 3 tonne machine....in excavators...size sure does matter.
You maybe going at things a little backward. I would decide on what type of work you want to do (research your market and find out who does what you want to do and what areas of excavation are not covered or not covered well). Once you have an idea of what type of work you want to do you can select a machine that meets your job requirements. Makes much more sense than picking a machine then finding work for it. My personal criteria would be quick coupler, thumb, zero tail and unless my niche required it I would not go below a 7500 pound machine. Some other brands that build an excellent machine IHI NX35 has extendable stick as an option, great running excavators, CASE/Kobeleco, Takeuchi (zero tail not an option at the 7500 pound range until later this year). Hitachi/Deere make a nice 35 series machine.
06-22-2006, 12:04 AM
I would go CAT. The service we get here is awesome. Much better then Volvos and Bobcats. The only thing though is I have heard
is that Volvo eats a little less gas then other mini-exs. AC and cab is a must. With the 303 I don't think you can get AC, so you
may have to get a 304. Make sure you get a thumb it will save you alot of time and helps out alot. For a skid get a CAT because
of the joystick controls, get AC and Cab and also get forks & bucket right away. A CAT 304 and CAT 252B are the perfect couple
for hardscaping. If you want to do bigger stuff like foundations, drive ways, lot clearing. I would get a 314 or 315 ex coupled with
a 908 or 914G IT loader and a D4 or D5 dozer. For trucks get a Peterbilt 335(a roll-off body mounted on the 335 would be great if
you can afford it. Since you can change bodies instead of having several trucks.) or GMC 5500 dump for hardscaping. For bigger
excavation you will want a tandem dump.
06-22-2006, 12:04 AM
I agree with others, find out what work you want to do, then buy a machine around that. We dove into excavation this season as well and purchased our 312 and 277B specifically for the excavation division. So far, the machines are busy and we're making money, but I can't imagine buying the machine then thinking to myself "well, now what?"
06-22-2006, 12:17 AM
A CAT 430 backhoe would also work great for larger excavation, but not hardscaping/retainer walls.
06-22-2006, 12:35 AM
You do need some experience before you go out and buy a machine you might want to get a job with a landscaper or a excavation contractor that uses mini excavators. Most people that venture into the excavating business have experience in the business. To make a excavator pay for itself you are gonna have to make the business full time unless you buy a cheap used machine.
People think a mini excavator is easy to run and should be good at running it in a couple hours. It doesn't work that way it takes hours and hours of experience.
06-22-2006, 12:19 PM
thanks to all for the advice...
here is more info on my situation...my father works for a GC that builds homes in the boston area...they have several projects going on...he has spoke to the foreman about me starting an excavation company...and the foreman said he'd run it by the owner...my father thinks they will hire me...we will know within two weeks...
the GC is paying several subs 75/hour for operator and machine...mainly trench work for utilities...i would charge a lot less maybe 40 or 50/hr
i will rely on networking and marketing to get business...most of the firefighters on the job have their own contracting business and most i've spoke with said at one point or the other they would hire an excavator...mostly trench work small demo and small foundation work...
hope this helps...
06-22-2006, 01:08 PM
I too am a full time fire fighter. I run a skid steer and a mini-ex. Most of what I do is grading/seeding, and light backhoe work. As most have said, I would not buy any thing smaller than a 7000 to 8000 lbs mini-ex. As far as pricing your work...there is a reason the other contractors are charging $75.00 per hour. Your cost will be no different, if not higher due to the limited number of billable hours. Why do you want to work a second job? I do it to make money. If you are charging $40.00 per hour, you are wasting your time. You could work for someone else and make more money without the risk. It's a great part time business, but you need to know your cost in order to make money.
06-22-2006, 01:49 PM
I would just charge like $5-$10 less if you really want it. But nothing less then $55.
Ditto the above post. Why would you work for less money? If the market will bear $75.00 an hour than thats what you work for. There is no advantage into going into business to lowball the market. Once had equipment payments I am sure you would have figured that out yourself. We are just saving you from the surprise.
06-23-2006, 01:51 AM
Don't sell yourself out before you get off the ground, rising fuel prices and material costs are very apparent, I wouldn't be one dollar less than $70 an hour if the market is $75/hr.
I too am a full time fire fighter. I run a skid steer and a mini-ex. ... As far as pricing your work...there is a reason the other contractors are charging $75.00 per hour. Your cost will be no different, if not higher due to the limited number of billable hours. Why do you want to work a second job? I do it to make money. If you are charging $40.00 per hour, you are wasting your time. You could work for someone else and make more money without the risk. It's a great part time business, but you need to know your cost in order to make money. John
agreed, as one who doing it on a 'part-time' basis (I have other obligations and interests + school and 'retired') There is way too much risk and expense to do this for fun, tho I like having the equipment available to do my own property 'spiff and sell'; Working for the general public is not great. It is hard on your equip (rocks, cliffs, mud, (quicksand...see 'stroker' post last week...) getting paid is an issue, jumping through customer hoops (schedule, indecision, 're-decision') THEN jumping through the gov hoops, (taxation, permits, license, bond, regs) WHILE protecting your assets, health and well being... don't sell yourself too cheap. While I had a successful day yesterday, and sold 14 hrs (3 jobs) Today I was fixing stuff that I broke cause I was in a hurry; or due to 'mystery' boulders, cars, and steel posts while mowing in fields and brambles.
Find a niche that is profitable, and you enjoy, or there is likely a better way to spend your time. (and earn a buck)
06-27-2006, 07:30 AM
I agree that you won't make any money at $40-$50 and will end up hating what you do because you are just barely making the payments on the equipment and once you figure you actual cost and see that you are just breaking even you will finally see. It sounds like everyone is right that maybe $70.00 is a good price range to be in, but you will have to be good to get that. Most people don't want to pay for someone to learn how to operate there equipment on there time, so be ready before you head to a jobsite and make sure self look foolish. We had a 302.5 and upgraded to a 303 and then went to a Bobcat 430. THe cat mini ex was a really good machine but my service in this area got bad really bad fast.
06-27-2006, 10:19 AM
Well I'm fairly new to working in the excavating field.
If you've never used an excavator before than I would work with someone who has atleast for a little while. The biggest thing to learn is using the controls efficiently....but you can make the machine work unefficiently even if you can use the controls efficiently (make sense?)
I dig water lines and sewer lines all day every day. My boss charges by the foot, but we install the waterlines and sewer lines too. If you can get into doing everything.....starting with digging the ditch, dropping whatever needs to be in the ditch and then covering it....you'll make more.
Charging by the hour limits how much you can make in one day. If you buy a new machine......I guess you'll be paying between $500-$750+ a month on payments? I wouldnt charge less than $60/hour, but if you know they'll pay $75/hour it would be stupid not to ask for it.
06-27-2006, 11:40 AM
Well personally I would look at the bobcat 331. But you got to remember you are going to need a 3/4 ton diesel to tow it, plus a trailer. So your $40,000 331 is going to run another $5000 for the trailer plus $43,000 for the truck. So you are at $88,000 plus insurance, etc. So $50 an hour is going to take a hell of a long time to pay off. Because you are going to burn $10 in fuel an hour. etc. You need to figure your costs first before you jump in. This isn't the grass cutting business. Your are playing with the big boys now. :hammerhead:
06-27-2006, 09:40 PM
I found out also when i stared out you didnt have to be that cheap. I dont know your area but in mine when every else is busy and that happens probably every where you can get top dollar. People want things done right of way. And for being new, people also love to watch equiptment working , You can get paid to learn at times, they dont know why you moved that same pile of dirt 3 times. Dont get nervous either while they watch they dont know how to do it or they would rent one them self. Best of luck to you.
06-27-2006, 11:06 PM
You can get paid to learn at times, they dont know why you moved that same pile of dirt 3 times.
This is only true to an extent, never play your customers for fools otherwise you won't have any. My advice is to take your time at first and get paid to learn, but don't waste time. Most people aren't stupid, they can see what's going on.
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