I have been in business for 22 years. 16 of those years doing hardscaping. And the last 4 years venturing more and more into a speciality excavating field. I spend about 16 hours a week on an excavator. And you know what? I don't own one. I rent. I have no plans to buy an excavator until 2014, and when I do - it will be used, and I will pay cash.
You really have to have alotta work and you have to know you will always have alotta work to reasonably justify buying an excavator. That is - if you're gonna make payments. I have a buddy that owns a small excavating company, does strictly commercial and government work. He has about 35 pieces of equipment ranging from dump trucks, dozers, loaders, end dumps, rollers, backhoes, etc. But he does not own an excavator. He says "each job always requires a different size excavator, if you own one it's either too small or too large". He says it's cheaper to rent by the month, and I agree.
This is the order that a new scaper should acquire equipment:
1) rubber tire skid steer. if you need tracks - use the add on tracks.
2) after you have built the business and are self sufficient financially - then next you buy a tracked skid steer, used in conjunction with the rubber tire machine.
3) After the tracked machine is paid for - you then buy a compact utility tractor. Great for the small jobs where a skid steer is too heavy and will incurr more turf damage than the job is worth. Our compact tractor is 35 hp with industrial tires, and I love it. Does virtually NO damage to the lawns.
4) After all that - then maybe buy an excavator. Nothing wrong with a used machine. All they are is an engine and a giant hydraulic pump. And a million hoses. As long as it wasnt used in a rental fleet - it'll probably do you well.
5) I'm not a believe in buying a walk behind skid steer. My operation has no use to own one. If we need one - we'll rent.
"It's You vs. You"
"People Throw Rocks At Things That Shine"
My Equipment Brag List:
-1 CAT hat
-16 pairs of Hanes socks (the Heavy Duty model), many with holes.
-12 pairs of underwear, ranging from Joe Boxers to Jockey, many are in need of replacement. (no more photo requests please)
-hundreds of t-shirts. Some w/ grease stains, some torn & tattered.
-7 pairs of jeans, ranging from Levis to Polo to GAP. 1/2 of them have holes in 'em.
-1 pair of old worn out Nike shoes.