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View Full Version : Ready to buy a trencher - any advise?


TuffWork
07-22-2012, 10:27 PM
I've been doing repairs for quite a while, and I have only needed a trencher a few times. However, I'm getting alot of requests for installs and have managed to land three in a row. I start my first this week, and am willing to rent again for this one if need be. I'm going to need to buy one to be profitable long term, however.

I'm going to start my shopping for a trencher tomorrow. I'll report back sometime soon with my findings. However, I would like to know of any fair warnings one might have or recommendations before I go look and get an itchy trigger finger.

I'm really liking the idea of spending the extra money and getting a mini skid that can operate lots of different attachments. As that will help the landscaping part of my business as well. Am I wasting money when I could just get the trencher for cheaper?

Is a wheeled or a tracked model better in certain situations? Is there an industry wide preference for a dingo or a ditch witch? If I go with ditch witch what size model would best suit me?

I'm leaning toward the ditch witch because there is a dealer here and they can repair/ supply parts. The other thing I was thinking was whether it might be worth the risk to buy used? I bought my Walker used and it has been a great machine. However, most people who have these types of machines are companies and not owner/operator types. Meaning that the guy who is driving it is probably not the guy who owns it. Which is scary.

Enlighten me. Thanks.

TuffWork
07-22-2012, 10:28 PM
I just realized I put advise instead of advice. Sorry.

muddywater
07-22-2012, 11:12 PM
I have 3 track dingos and just bought a dw sk650. I like the sk650, probably going to buy another one next week and sell two dingos. I dont see how anyone can do landscaping without a dingo, they go out everyday on my jobs.

Definately go track units.

FIMCO-MEISTER
07-22-2012, 11:17 PM
Amarillo heavy clay? Do you get into rock? Amarillo is a great texas city. Hiked palo duro many a time. What have you previously rented?

TuffWork
07-23-2012, 12:00 AM
The sk650. I like it quite a bit. Although it was a pretty abused rental unit. I've used it as a bucket and a trencher.

We don't get into rock much. Unless you count the clay. Which can be almost as hard some times. You learn to use water occasionally to aid in digging. Whether it be for an irrigation repair or landscaping work.

I'm hoping this unit will allow me to move my landscaping to a larger scale, and allow me to make money on the installs. As renting a unit eats up alot of profit.

Side note: Having Palo Duro so close is pretty cool. I used to go there pretty often when I was younger.

FIMCO-MEISTER
07-23-2012, 12:25 AM
My first trencher 30 years ago was the case Davis trim line 10. Most had the DW 7 I believe it was called. Dedicated trenchers. Used it once twice a week at best. That dingo looks sweet. Drill posts. Haul stuff. Trench. Does it pull? Might use it to run new wire. I think early in your biz you need to look at versatility. Something that you use almost every day. Get big enough then you can buy equipment that performs specific tasks. Just my two cents.

koster_irrigation
07-23-2012, 03:37 PM
Start off with a walk behind unit like i did. unless you are rocking and rolling in the business and dont mind splurging on the dingo or sk-ditch witch.

ive had a tracked dingo
and a dw 3700 diesel ride on

TuffWork
07-23-2012, 09:13 PM
Well, although the sk650 is great it is a bit pricey for my taste. I'm thinking about getting a used sk350 with about 630 hours on it. It's from the dealer and I think I can get it with a bucket and trencher attachment for under $10k. Plus it comes with a 6 month warranty I believe. I plan on using it as a demo on wednesday before I make my final decision. I really do need a unit I can use for all sorts of things. Sometimes we do landscapes and fencing as well. Plus you can use a leveler attachment for sod etc. The dealer rents out attachments for $70 a day. That's much cheaper than renting a whole unit.

muddywater
07-23-2012, 09:17 PM
Well, although the sk650 is great it is a bit pricey for my taste. I'm thinking about getting a used sk350 with about 630 hours on it. It's from the dealer and I think I can get it with a bucket and trencher attachment for under $10k. Plus it comes with a 6 month warranty I believe. I plan on using it as a demo on wednesday before I make my final decision. I really do need a unit I can use for all sorts of things. Sometimes we do landscapes and fencing as well. Plus you can use a leveler attachment for sod etc. The dealer rents out attachments for $70 a day. That's much cheaper than renting a whole unit.

Yeah I bought both of mine used. I bought one sk650 for $7650 and the other for 10k but it came with a few attachments. I might want a little more horsepower than a sk350 in the long term.

tonydirks
07-23-2012, 11:26 PM
Personal preference: But we like the Boxer`s the best, just bought a brand new 427, its a sweet machine. I have never liked the narrow tracks on dingos and dw, but again, maybe thats just a personal preference.

TuffWork
07-24-2012, 12:15 AM
With the narrow tracks I can get through gates for minor things like running a new wire, or adding a drip line to an existing system, etc. The sk650 may have more power, but I really don't think I can afford a 650 as of yet. Keep in mind this is my first step moving from a mowing crew with some minor irrigation repair, landscaping, and tree work. To being a "real" landscape and irrigation company.

FIMCO-MEISTER
07-24-2012, 01:55 AM
Don't get fooled by that real tag. A single irrigation service guy doing 1500 hours of billing will make more than most real landscape and irrigation owners.
Posted via Mobile Device

allinearth
07-24-2012, 07:31 PM
Should be some used dingos or ditch witch sk's out there that could be had reasonably. You couldn't pay me to take one of those old 3 wheel walk behind. I had enough of those days. Fimco is right. Look at profit not size. I used to think like you until I "arrived" and quickly turned around to leave.

muddywater
07-24-2012, 10:37 PM
Don't get fooled by that real tag. A single irrigation service guy doing 1500 hours of billing will make more than most real landscape and irrigation owners.
Posted via Mobile Device

Well to me being diversified is key. The more services you can bill out for... the busiers you will stay. The whole idea is to bill out for as many man hours as possible. Keep the mowing crew for cash flow, do the landscaping and irrigation for gravy.

IMO, the more services you can do the more jobs you can land. Now I am not talking jack of all trades, but we do maintenance, natural stone work, water features, lighting, pouring concrete, irrigation install, irrigation repair, grading and skid steer work and we can stay very busy. Plus on a large job, it is a one stop shop where it gets to be a total painintheass dealing with subs and their schedules and getting them to the damn work right AND you are losing billable man hours.

I am big believer in doing everything yourself... at least in the sense that my employees do everything for me.

I am learning how to acid stain concrete as an alternative to pavers since most people already have patios and it half the price to pour concrete and stain than install pavers. Just trying to create another avenue to bill for man hours and possibly fill a niche.

And I just bought a vibratory plow since no one around here pulls pipe. I think it will make our production faster, but if my price is remotely close to someone trenching it in... who do you think they will go with?

muddywater
07-24-2012, 10:41 PM
Don't get fooled by that real tag. A single irrigation service guy doing 1500 hours of billing will make more than most real landscape and irrigation owners.
Posted via Mobile Device

And I would argue that a well run landscape/irrigation company could crush a guys net that was doing just 1500 hours of irrigation repair.

And the owner doesn't have to dig holes.

TuffWork
07-25-2012, 08:13 PM
Well to me being diversified is key. The more services you can bill out for... the busiers you will stay. The whole idea is to bill out for as many man hours as possible. Keep the mowing crew for cash flow, do the landscaping and irrigation for gravy.

Exactly. That's what I'm striving for. Last year I was almost all mowing. With some tree work and small landscaping. This year I'm doing more tree work, more landscaping, plus about twice the mowing, and have added irrigation. I'm doing well so far with irrigation. I plan on getting my pesticide app. lic. sometime before next season.

All that's not really here nor there. The subject here is the trencher. I demoed the sk350 today. The first one I picked up was a used unit that I was considering buying, but it had no power. I think the motor was about to go on it. So I took it back and he gave me a new unit to try out.

The new unit was pretty nice. It did the job, but it didn't do it well. It took me all day just to trench out two zones. (keep in mind we have hard packed clay, and last year was a drought) So I'm thinking that if I'm gonna spend this much money on something I might as well get what I really need, and I don't think a 350 is it. I'm gonna call the dealer in the morning and find out if he'll let me demo a 650 tomorrow. I'm hoping the 650 will be much faster with almost twice the power to the boom. If not I'm afraid these installs aren't going to be very profitable.

muddywater
07-25-2012, 11:04 PM
Let us know how you like the 650

TuffWork
07-28-2012, 11:20 PM
I liked the 650. It was much more of a machine than the 350. The 350 would only creep in the clay. However, the 650, while not lightning fast, was still almost twice as fast as the smaller one. If a person were to try and build a sprinkler installation "crew". You would almost have to have a 650 for this neck of the woods.

Which brings me to my dilemma. I'm not really doing installs all the time. So I don't really need a trencher all the time. I could probably afford a 350 if I really needed it, but I don't really think I can afford a 650 even if I found a good used unit (which I have). Also, if I were to buy a 350 now out of necessity I would just be irritated at myself later for not buying what I will really need in the long run. It comes down to the fact that I don't really really HAVE to have one yet. So I guess I'm gonna eat a few hundred dollars here and there for a while until I can really afford what I need. All in all I'm kinda disappointed, but I guess it's for the best.

muddywater
07-28-2012, 11:29 PM
I liked the 650. It was much more of a machine than the 350. The 350 would only creep in the clay. However, the 650, while not lightning fast, was still almost twice as fast as the smaller one. If a person were to try and build a sprinkler installation "crew". You would almost have to have a 650 for this neck of the woods.

Which brings me to my dilemma. I'm not really doing installs all the time. So I don't really need a trencher all the time. I could probably afford a 350 if I really needed it, but I don't really think I can afford a 650 even if I found a good used unit (which I have). Also, if I were to buy a 350 now out of necessity I would just be irritated at myself later for not buying what I will really need in the long run. It comes down to the fact that I don't really really HAVE to have one yet. So I guess I'm gonna eat a few hundred dollars here and there for a while until I can really afford what I need. All in all I'm kinda disappointed, but I guess it's for the best.

What about a ditch witch sk500? I have seen a few on craigslist. What is your budget? Also, I just bought 2 used ditch witch 650s and may sell my two of toro dingo diesel 525s if you are interested. I would say a 525 is maybe 5-10% less productive than a 650. They are little smaller, but have about the same hydraulic flow for an attachment. I just bought a vibe plow and will probably sell one of mini skid trenchers as well.

My first dingo I bought was a Toro Dingo tx425 with 400hrs for $5k about 7 years ago. It was one of the best purchases I have ever made. I think if you are patient and find a "steal", you can probably sell it and when you find what you really want you could sell it and break even and get what you really want. When I decided to replace that TX425 with a newer model, I sold it for $500 more than I paid for it and used it for 3-4 years.

TuffWork
07-29-2012, 12:10 PM
Well part of what's holding me back is that I don't have a whole lot of my own capital on hand at the moment. So, seems like I need to pay down some of my current debt and get some money of my own. Also, if I want to get a good deal waiting until winter might be my best bet. Furthermore, I've only done one install. I probably need to get a few more under my belt to decide whether I really think this is profitable. That's what I really learned from all this. I thought I was ready to buy a trencher, but now I realize I need to take a step back. Which is sometimes the right thing to do.

muddywater
07-29-2012, 08:33 PM
Well part of what's holding me back is that I don't have a whole lot of my own capital on hand at the moment. So, seems like I need to pay down some of my current debt and get some money of my own. Also, if I want to get a good deal waiting until winter might be my best bet. Furthermore, I've only done one install. I probably need to get a few more under my belt to decide whether I really think this is profitable. That's what I really learned from all this. I thought I was ready to buy a trencher, but now I realize I need to take a step back. Which is sometimes the right thing to do.

That is a good plan. Kinda what I did when I first started. Saved some cash and bought the dingo in the winter. Rented attachments until I found used ones at a good price. A couple winters ago, I bought a harley rake off craigslist for $500... the guy didn't know what he had!

I just bought the dw sk650 below off of ebay for $7650 a couple weeks ago, so the deals are out there. Bought another sk650 with 800hrs for 10k with a couple buckets and a dozier blade today.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&_trksid=p4340.l2557&hash=item2a200b6034&item=180926242868&nma=true&pt=Skid_Steel_Loaders&rt=nc&si=k2xKUFuEXBfjSveQSN74PjEtLW8%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc

TuffWork
07-31-2012, 09:46 PM
There are definitely deals to be had. I could jump off and finance one now. That would leave me just barely scraping by with enough work to afford it. However, if I wait and save up some money I can get the extra capital I need for cheaper, and will be able to get a used unit with a good price tag. The last issue to address is the difference between the 350 and 650: The price difference is really non existent when you look at the cost of ownership. The 350 is going to need a new motor every 1000 hours or so at the cost of about $2200. The 650 is $4k more than the 350 but has a turbo diesel that will run for up to 3000 hours problem free.

Mike Leary
07-31-2012, 10:57 PM
I'm suprised more of you guys don't use these for 1" sch 40 sites and laterals. We had two of them and they worked cool, with hardly any clean-up.

http://brownproducts.com

muddywater
08-01-2012, 07:12 AM
I'm suprised more of you guys don't use these for 1" sch 40 sites and laterals. We had two of them and they worked cool, with hardly any clean-up.

http://brownproducts.com

A dingo is 3x times faster than one of those. The belts constantly burn up. My buddy went through 3 belts using that type of trencher on his yard. The ground is just too hard for that machine here.