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Making Profits Mini Excavator.

Discussion in 'Compact Excavators' started by Kenskip1, Sep 16, 2020.

  1. Kenskip1

    Kenskip1 Well-Known Member

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    OK Well I guess the title spills the beans!A while back I had the notion to do some work with a mini excavator.Well, it seems like everyone rained on my charcoal. Anyway the idea about doing something like that notion is still alive in my hippocampus.. I stumbled across this video. He leaves a lot of questions, like insurance,business license and the like.Myself I will be the only one working. Sort of a one man band.However he makes several valid points. There is monies to be made, and you do not require a huge machine to complete some of these tasks.Anyway I just thought that I would run this up the flagpole and get some opinions. Thanks,Ken

     
  2. code54

    code54 Well-Known Member

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    Around here I noticed people are charging $40 an Hr for mini Ex work. For that, I wont even start mine let alone haul it somewhere....
     
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  3. mitch504

    mitch504 Senior Member

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    I only watched a few minutes of this video, but he says right at the start that he has put about 200 hrs on his machine. So, he has the equivalent of about a month's experience.
     
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  4. Steve Frazier

    Steve Frazier Founder Staff Member

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    It would be interesting to look at his books after a couple years and see if he's actually making money
     
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  5. KSSS

    KSSS Senior Member

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    Kenship1, there are countless years of experience running a dirt business here. The things brought up in your initial post reflected those things to consider. It is America (more less) and you can certainly buy a machine and get in the game. If you think you can make money doing it, then move from your hippocampus to your fingers and get started (writing checks is where you begin). You might kill it, or you may not, that too is 'Merica.
     
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  6. PeterG

    PeterG Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Landscape Construction, General Contractor
    Location:
    Seattle WA, United States
    My suggestion is to start off real small. Begin with $20,000 cash! No loan. Purchase a used 3500 lb mini excavator with a thumb and a few buckets to start, and a used car trailer. This is an excellent machine to do trenching with, light stump pulling, grading, wall footings, drainage etc. That size machine is easy to tow, easy to store, sips diesel, and isn't a big deal. Keep your day job. Do small jobs from there. Then get a used dump trailer, mini skidsteer etc. You should have half day min of $400-$600. Don't buy new. Don't get a loan over $20,000. Don't add equipment until the each item is paid off. To make real money, start doing jobs where the work is not just excavator work. In another words, you install the drain system, the retainer wall, the sod, etc.
     
  7. Kenskip1

    Kenskip1 Well-Known Member

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    Peter, I have plans to purchase a new (cash) mini. I have been to John Deere 17G, a Bobcat E20,a Case CX17, and am going to look at a Yanmar VIO17 hopefully next week. I have been to trailer dealer and found one. I am going to tow all this with my F150.Hopefully all this will happen buy mid November.
    I had intention of purchasing a used John Deere 35. However I am not going to spend 30K for a truck to haul this thing.So thats what my plans are.I will start small doing small jobs. Getting used to the machine. Then I may move to a small dump trailer.And yes a thumb will be installed. Thank you all for your wisdom and comments. I have yet to talk to insurance companies.Ken
     
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  8. suladas

    suladas Senior Member

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    I think the biggest reason for buying a certain size machine should be what will have the most work available. There is a fairly limited scope of work for a 2 ton machine, and in that small of size it's a lot more jobs where people contemplate doing it by hand, or renting a machine themselves, even if it doesn't save them anything or costs them more. If you can keep it busy there is money to be made for sure.

    I rent a 2 ton machine 3-4 times a year for foundation repairs and they pay extremely well. That is definitely an area to consider getting into.
     
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  9. Kenskip1

    Kenskip1 Well-Known Member

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    Suladus This specific task has been brought to my attention on several occasions.There are really many jobs for a small excavator.Septic lines,power lines buried,asphalt driveway removal,culverts replacement,small drainage ditches,foundations footings,buried propane tanks,and the list goes on.Thank you for your information.
     
  10. Steve Frazier

    Steve Frazier Founder Staff Member

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    If you put a business plan together and figure out what your rate must be to make a profit, you should be successful if there is business to be had in your area. I didn't hear any of that in the video, it sounded to me like he was just winging it which prompted my skepticism. Your business plan must include a genuine work ethic to produce quality work as well. There's money to be made without an extremely huge investment.
     
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  11. PeterG

    PeterG Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Landscape Construction, General Contractor
    Location:
    Seattle WA, United States
    One reason to go small used, is if the business isn't going well, you can likely sell the machine for what you bought it for. Many people forget that you need a lot of other equipment. It's best to to have some of the following equipment priced out. Chain binders and ties downs. Heavy duty ratchet straps. Orange cones. Street broom, shovel and other hand tool selection in a job box, assorted other hand tools such as a Zip level. You should also get a plate compactor, pipe rack for your truck, and a full lithium battery set. You don't where you live and if you can store lot's of equipment on your property, or if the houses you work on are large lots spread out, or newer subdivision, with narrow fence gate access. I agree big machines are nice. I have three sizes of machines. My first concern when a customer calls, is what is the access like. This is followed by what damage will my machine cause. One different concept to go with is, bag the trailer and the F150. Purchase a used truck such as a Non CDL F650 landscape dump truck. The small machine can go right up ramps and be moved around that way. The bad deal on a dump trailer is they weigh so much empty. Is your F150 diesel? Although I have a 1990 International 4900 dump truck (38,000 GVW) with high lift gate, I also just got a 2007 Kenworth T800 with drop down axle. I plan to have a high lift gate installed on it, and then get 14' long aluminum equipment ramps. I can load the truck just fine with my two bigger excavators and track loader, but I would love to be able to move dirt into the truck with my mini skidsteer (toro Dingo), and move gravel out without dumping etc.
     
  12. KSSS

    KSSS Senior Member

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    Just my opinion but I think your starting a little small on excavators. Some of those projects you listed are not suited for that small of a machine. Example sewer lines easily will go past your dig depth. Propane tanks excavation are 5' deep, which can be dug with a 17 sized machine but it will take forever. Foundations will also take forever. You have to price your time. Your picking your machine based on a what you can pull with a 1/2 ton Ford, I think a better way to look at is what size machine will maximize my investment. I think you were correct on the 35 sized machine. They can be transported by a 1 ton pickup and you have enough dig depth and strength to dig water and some sewers, foundations and so forth. They are strong enough to pull concrete. There are a lot of jobs that size of machine can bring to you that a 17 cant and you cant rent those little machines for next to nothing for the jobs that you couldnt get a 35 into. Don't forget about some of the items you will need like a laser, plate compactor, demo saw, and so forth. Personally, I wouldn't lay cash out on the excavator upfront. Get the right excavator, make payments until you have everything that you need to operate. You will need cash to run on as well. Spend some money on getting a pickup you can actually work out of.
     
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  13. Kenskip1

    Kenskip1 Well-Known Member

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    KSSS, I will agree with you on a larger machine however,I would require a 1 ton truck to tow this with.Have you priced a used F250 lately? 30K is a ballpark figure around this neck of the country for something used. I have viewed many youtube videos of a small machine digging culverts,digging septic lines,and the list goes on. Also my budget has it's limitations.Suppose I purchase a 28K truck and the transmission quits? This could cost another 3k minimum. I am going to do these projects at my leisure, not full time. A used machine? Can anyone tell me that the machine was just serviced? Oh yea, I took care of it just last month. Really? Show me the receipt for the oil filter exc.You get my meaning. I could have bought something used a couple of years ago.However,I have heard of several auction purchases that quit within a few weeks work.One in particular was a Cat skid steer. Low oil pressure.required a complete rebuild. It had 1830 hours on it.I will NOT purchase a piece of equipment from a auction.In closing let me say that around here from time to time we get some very violent weather.A mini excavator and a trailer could be a winning ticket cleaning up trees and limbs after a storm. My F150 is payed for. I own it. It get regular maintenance buy me. I change the transmission fluid and filter every 40K miles. I have pulled a trailer with 4 5 and a half foot round bales and the truck did not even flinch. Yes I am jumping around a bit here.Today was a bad day.Wifes 2003 Windstar battery died, my cell phone went through the wash.And to top it off I get to have three scans done monday morning at the hospital.CT of my chest, scan for gallbladder, and a renal scan.Could I be in a better mood?Thanks for listening, Ken
     
  14. suladas

    suladas Senior Member

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    I think KSSS was just making some good points about what a good direction is and I agree 100%. Can you do all those things you listed with a 1.7 ton machine? Yes. Can you actually make money doing them all? No. If there is let's say 8' access for a retaining wall, a 6 ton machine would dig probably 5 times as fast as a 1.7 ton machine, and I charge mine out at $100/hr. So for you to compete, you'd have to charge $20/hr for the same job. I think that's the point KSSS is trying to get across. A 3.5 ton machine is a LOT more machine then a 1.7 ton. The jobs the 1.7 will shine on are really tight access jobs. The other thing is, once there is much frost in the ground a 1.7 ton machine is pretty much useless and will be parked for the winter unless you have inside work.

    As far as truck price, I bought a 09 Dodge Ram 5500 diesel with 110k miles on it for $16k this spring and other then changing fluids haven't put a penny into it nor had any issues. You could find a decent used gas 2500 for under $10k. I bought my mini ex and CTL from auction and both have treated me well. There is some lemons there for sure, but not all bad. I would highly caution against buying a brand new machine getting into the industry when you could buy a good used one for like half. When you're starting out chances are it's going to take some time to build up a customer base and get work and the machine may not work as much as you hope.
     
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  15. Kenskip1

    Kenskip1 Well-Known Member

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    Missouri
    Here are a couple of sites that use a mini excavator.



     
  16. mitch504

    mitch504 Senior Member

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    It's not what they will do, it's how long does it take. If it's a hobby, who cares? If you come to dig my stump, all I care about is what does it cost, and do you do a good job. If it takes you twice as long, you can't charge but half what the other guy makes, per hour. If it's something ONLY a micro-mini can do, then you can charge enough to make it worthwhile.
     
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  17. KSSS

    KSSS Senior Member

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    Idaho
    I am not trying **** in your corn flakes. Look at it this way. If you think 80% of your jobs can only be accessed with a 17 than your buying the right machine. If 80% of your jobs can be accessed with a 35 size, you bought the wrong machine. I had a CX17 on rent years ago for a couple weeks, handy little machine for digging lines into large pool where nothing else would fit. After its little stint, it was gone, because it is not cost effective to dig with it, when larger machines can do it faster. I have also had a 35 sized machine (IHI 35J). Did a ton of work with that machine, and learned the value of a mini ex. Went up to a 6 ton machine in 04 and that is where I stayed. Maybe this is the way to make the point if you have not done this already, go rent a 17. Go out somewhere are dig a utility trench a 100 feet long, dig footings for an average sized shop or garage. Then do the same with a 35 sized machine. If that doesn't convince you, nothing will.


    I know what used trucks cost and I know what new trucks cost. I am just finishing up a flat bed that I put on a '20 Chevy 3500 CC 4X4 DRW I bought last week. I replaced the one I bought new in 06. They are expensive but it is the cost of doing business. It doesn't matter how good your half ton is, still has the towing capacity of a half ton. You do realize that you will be operating commercially? DOT doesn't care that you carry round bales with your half ton. They just want you legal when your pulling commercially. You will find yourself having to rent machines, perhaps bigger than the 17 machine. If you cant haul it yourself, your going to have to pay someone to haul it. It hasn't been mentioned yet, but you find yourself having to buy or rent a SSL or CTL at times. There are not a lot of mini ex only jobs in my experience.

    I will say this again, if your picking a 17 because its all you can haul, not on the work that can be done with it, your making a mistake. You simply wont be able to compete and to do so you will be working for free or less than free. You make good points at what this stuff costs. That was the point brought across before, it takes money to get into this and it takes money to keep it going. Good used pickups can be found. The chance of having to put money into something (used pickup or excavator) is a sure thing. That is why you need to make money at this. Spending 5 times longer to get projects done, isn't going to be making money, you will be wasting your time and the customers time.

    Either way, good luck.
     
  18. mitch504

    mitch504 Senior Member

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    A year and a half ago I bought a 3500 GMC with a 6.5 diesel. I have about $3500 in it. I looked for a while before I found that deal, but it's been a great truck. If you are worried about down time, buy 2. That's what I did, this was supposed to be a backup for my F-Super Duty, but I like it better.
     
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  19. LT-x7

    LT-x7 Senior Member

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    Under normal circumstances I wouldn't consider buying anything smaller than a 35 class machine. The only way I would think about smaller is if I had a line on real specific work where a larger machine simply would not fit. For my operation even a 35 is too small 90% of the time.
    Personally in your shoes I would keep the 1/2 ton & buy an older 3/4-1 ton to work out of.
     
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