Discussion in 'Heavy Equipment & Pavement' started by dloucks, Apr 10, 2007.

  1. dloucks

    dloucks LawnSite Member
    Messages: 13

    hello all, great site.

    I work 3 days a week (weekends) serving in a managerial role for a large corp. I have two children who will be starting school soon, and I will find myself with Monday-Thursday off every week.

    I'd like to do something with my off time to earn some money, possibly create some tax benefits, without taking on another job where I have to punch somebody elses clock.

    I've run equipment in the past, however most of it being LP fork lifts and electric reach trucks and pallet skids.

    I have several thousand dollars worth of work that I want to do on my land, and most of it will require the use of a skid steer and possibly an excavator (I have neither).

    So....enough about me now to my question. Are there any formal training courses that a person can take to accelerate the learning curve on a skid steer or an excavator (or mini). If not how practicle will it be for me to rent equipment for my own personal work and gain experience for more commercial work?

    Is anyone out there currently doing this for a living that is "self taught" in that you didn't have seat-time with someone else, or under an employer before you started? Since I have so much work to do on my land, (5 acres of my own to maintain, and another 180 of my father in laws that I can always use a equipment work) would I be better off buying a VERY used skid to practice on and purchase a better one when it comes time to go commercial?

    Lots of questions I now, any help appreciated.

    NEUSWEDE LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 1,147

    That would be my suggestion. The only real way to learn is by doing. I am sure there are classes but I think they would be a waste. Sounds like you have the time and the jobs to learn on. If if have questions about the machine or how to use certain things on the machine call the dealer and ask them.

    Maybe go to a local dealer and demo a machine and have him show you the ins and outs, that is what they are paid for.
  3. RockSet N' Grade

    RockSet N' Grade LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,454

    I'm self taught........always run my own gig since I was a kid. With that said, I have to say I have had many mentors and still seek them out every day. I don't need to reinvent the wheel. I ask countless questions, I read everything I can get my hands on, I watch "smooth operators" to see if I can get in their heads and their flow and then go up and ask them questions. Then I try to apply some of that to my self and hope that I can improve a bit each day. I am a guy that learns by doing......
  4. tallrick

    tallrick LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 682

    That's how I learned. I always had an interest in equipment, and the first time I saw a skid steer I wanted to try one out. The opportunity never presented itself, but the chance to get a Bobcat with no engine came up, and after finding a suitable engine and making repairs, I had my first skid steer. Yes it was free, but a lot of work, and parts as well as months of work. I was finishing college and had some free time so why not? That machine paid for itself moving dirt, and cleaning up after hurricane Andrew. If you can find a used up skid steer cheap, go for it. If you're not mechanically inclined but have some money to invest, get a good quality used machine. You'll need a good mechanic or experienced owner to help you choose your machine, though. Eventually I ended up doing side jobs repairing equipment and even casting and machining parts, getting more and more experience with skid steers, dozers and trenchers.

    If you're a sensible person, you can figure out how to run any machine. FInding an experienced operator is ideal, but if you're in an area where you can't hurt anyone and have plenty of time, you can get the feel of any skid loader in a day or two. Larger machines like dozers take a bit more time, and a crawler loader may be one of the trickiest to become proficient at. Some of the best operators I have met learned the trade on their own, os don't be afraid to try. One thing I found helpful was to sit down at a place with a view of a road being built, or a construction/demolition site and see how different operators do it. When you get in the machine try and view it from the air, and see what you are trying to do. Also be aware of the possible dangers while operating or servicing any machine. Never become too comfortable with any machine, they don't care if something goes wrong, you're the one who is in charge.
  5. AWJ Services

    AWJ Services LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Ga
    Messages: 4,280

    When I first bought my place I needed something too help maintain the place .
    I went the used route first and regretted every step of it.
    I eventually just purchased a new piece of equipment too replace it and that lead too my buisness now.
    I recomend too buy new or very low hours always.
    I prefer too work in the equipment than too work on it.
    I will also add too someone who has never used a skid steer the foot pedals it will make the learning curve tougher.
  6. RockSet N' Grade

    RockSet N' Grade LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,454

    I have bought new (later in the game) and used (in the beginning). I've never been smart enough or lucky enough to get a good used machine mechanically......I always end up putting more hard cash into the thing (not counting down time and frustration) than it was actually worth. I lean to real low hour machines or new machines. If you have wiggle room (extra money) the new machine will allow you more operating time in the seat vs. learning how to fix these critters.....My arms get tired and sore from years of abuse and just life in general, so for me, pilot controls are the only operating system I can tolerate in a skid.
  7. dozerman21

    dozerman21 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,171

    Unless you're good at turning wrenches, and are mechanically inclined, I wouldn't buy an older, high hour machine.

    There's a lot of nice 500-1000 hour skids out there for sale. I wouldn't suggest renting if you're certain that you want to own a machine at some point. Renting gets expensive quick.

    I prefer to buy new, or real low hour too, but I would not recommend this route for you. Buying new requires regular work, and you need to have the skills too. I don't know your financial situation, but if you're starting school, I'm guessing you won't want that new machine payment every month? That is, unless your better half's job allows you to have some play money!:)

    I would recommend hands or pilot controls. IMO, much easier to learn, and easier on your body.

    My family's been in excavating for 50+ years, so I grew up around equipment. I was running (or at least moving:) ) equipment before I was in high school. It comes to a point where you just have to have the seat time to learn how to operate. Just remember, you're always learning. Listen to the older guys as they are wise, and just try to be smart with the machine. Efficiency will come with time, and you have the ground to learn. Good Luck!
  8. dloucks

    dloucks LawnSite Member
    Messages: 13

    Dozerman21.... Hopefully my school days are well behind me.

    I'm in a very unique position, that I really need to take advantage of while it lasts.

    1. I work only 3 days a week....Friday Saturday and Sunday. This would allow me to run my equipment 4 Weekdays every week.
    2. My job pays pretty well, and doesn't "take alot out of me". I don't NEED the income off the equipment to live, it only needs to pay for itself while I get some seat time.
    3. I have a lump sum of 10-12k dollars coming this fall, which would be a great down-payment on a piece of equipment (new or used) however I hate to wait until August or September to buy the equipment as it's potential for earning will be decreased in the winter, as well as my prosepect for seat time.

    So, the biggest thing I have going for me is that I can work this 4 days a week (between practicing in the equipment and actually working) and not really have to worry about if I'm making enough to put the food on the table, as long as I pay for the equipment.
  9. dloucks

    dloucks LawnSite Member
    Messages: 13

    Listening to everyone's advice I think this is what I am going to do...

    Last year my wife traded in our truck on a newer car, and I took over her car. This week or next I am going to trade in her car for an older truck and an equipment trailer (ill use it for my mower this summer). I'll do landscaping and work with some local contractors until my stock pay-out comes. In the meantime I won't need the income from the landscaping or construction work, and I can pay off the truck and equipment trailer. Once I get the stock check I'll already have my truck and trailer and i can purchase a new or very low hours unit. Any money I make landscaping, mowing and in construction after the truck is paid off I can hopefully rathole to make payments on the equipment until it starts paying for itself.

    This will give me a newer piece of equipment with pilot controls and a warranty....

    The bank would give me a loan today on the truck, trailer and equipment, and I could purchase brand new in all three...however I just don't feel comfortable taking on that much debt, as I kinda enjoy my standard of living as it is right now.
  10. dozerman21

    dozerman21 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,171

    Woops! I guess I misread your first post. Kids in school is a little cheaper than going to college.:)

    It sounds like you've got your plan laid out. If you can afford the machine with your current job, and without having to make money with the machine until your ready, you'll be set.

    Before you take on any jobs, make sure you have all your insurance, plates, liscence, etc... I wouldn't drop that bucket until you do, it's not worth the consequences if something goes wrong.

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