starting an excavation business

Discussion in 'Heavy Equipment & Pavement' started by bobbyg18, Jun 20, 2006.

  1. bobbyg18

    bobbyg18 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    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...
  2. Tigerotor77W

    Tigerotor77W LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Germany
    Messages: 1,892

    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!
  3. Squizzy246B

    Squizzy246B LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 837 wasn't the had shirt loads of 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 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 excavators...size sure does matter.
  4. ksss

    ksss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,168

    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.
  5. jazak

    jazak LawnSite Senior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 843

    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.
  6. Scag48

    Scag48 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,067

    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?"
  7. jazak

    jazak LawnSite Senior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 843

    A CAT 430 backhoe would also work great for larger excavation, but not hardscaping/retainer walls.
  8. Gravel Rat

    Gravel Rat LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,544

    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.
  9. bobbyg18

    bobbyg18 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    thanks to all for the advice...

    here is more info on 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 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...
  10. lx665

    lx665 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 147

    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.


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