So you want to get started in the snow removal business but you’re not sure how to find the right snow plow?
Manufacturers make all the options dizzying, hoping you'll wander unprepared into a dealership and get sold more plow than you need.
That fancy V-plow with a touchscreen, hydraulic controller seems like it’s got all the bells and whistles (and the price tag to go with it).
Depending on the kind of work you do, you may not even want all those bells and whistles.
Figure out what you need to do for the jobs you can get. That’s what this post will help you do. You’ll feel confident you made an informed decision instead of a “go with your gut” decision.
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How to Find the Right Plow for Your Snow Removal Company
Let’s get down to brass tacks: picking a snow plow for your snow removal business isn’t as hard as forums and Facebook groups make it seem.
You only need three facts/decisions:
- How much weight can your truck carry on the front axle?
- What kind of plowing will you be doing (residential/commercial)?
- What trade-off are you willing to accept for the material the blade is made of?
Once you answer those three questions, you can go find the right snow plow for your business. Really, it’s that easy.
How Much Plow Can You Handle?
This is a pretty straightforward question. Find the Front Gross Axle Vehicle Weight Rating (FGAVWR) for your truck. You should be able to find it with a quick Google search or by consulting your owner’s manual.
In general, a standard pickup can carry a plow that’s 6’ to 7 ½’. A ½ ton pickup can carry 7’ to 7 ½’ and a ¾ or full-size pickup can carry a plow 7 ½’ to 8’.
Are you FULLY TRAINED on your software for snow season? Check our Guide to Getting Refreshed on Service Autopilot before the first flakes fall.
What Should Your Plow be Made of (Steel or Poly)?
Plows are made from three materials, each has strong pluses and drawbacks:
Stainless Steel - A Balance of Strength and Un-Stickiness
The tried-and-true plow material. Stainless has a finer finish than regular steel and is usually coated to help snow slough off more easily.
Stainless plows are generally more expensive, but they are less susceptible to rust and corrosion than a traditional steel plow.
Traditional Steel - The Budget-Friendly Option
Steel is strong, it pushes snow effectively. Traditional steel plows are more susceptible to collecting frozen snow than a stainless or poly plow. They are also more likely to succumb to rust and corrosion.
Their biggest strength is that they are moderately less expensive than stainless or poly.
You’re going to have to replace them more quickly (because of rust and corrosion). If the budget is not your primary concern, this is probably not the right snow plow for your business.
Poly Plows - Natural Un-Stickiness
Plastic? For a snow plow?
It’s not a joke. Poly plows are being made in droves. They’re slightly less expensive. They don’t have to be coated to slough off snow, they do it naturally.
Here’s the drawback:
Plastic is weaker than steel. Manufacturers overcome this material weakness by reinforcing the poly with intricate steel frames. These frames usually make the plow heavier than a similarly sized steel plow.
You’re weighing the added efficiency of snow not sticking to the plow against the fuel costs of a heavier plow. It’s approaching a wash (a plow covered in snow is also heavier than a dry plow).
What Blade Shape works Best in My Line of Work?
You have two options here: straight or V-plows.
If you’re doing mostly residential work, there’s almost no reason to buy a V-plow, unless you’re plowing a neighborhood with gargantuan circle drives. A straight-blade plow will easily clear driveways.
V-plows are designed for efficiently cutting through caked on snow in large areas. If you mostly do commercial work (parking lots, streets, etc.), you’ll want a V-plow.
The point of a V-plow is that it acts like a wedge and easily moves through those low, icy layers of snow on extended flat surfaces. They’re way more efficient than a straight-blade plow in that situation. You’ll also put less wear and tear on a V-plow in that situation that you would on a straight-blade.
Using a V-plow is typically more complicated than a straight-blade plow. You’ll have to learn to use it. Employees will need to be trained and there will be a learning curve. A straight-blade plow requires a few minutes of training but (forgive the pun) is straight-forward to use.
There’s finesse. You have to get a feel for with a V-plow.
Straight-blade plows are typically cheaper than V-plows because they are less complicated to produce. Depending on the kind of service you provide, you can determine the right snow plow blade-shape for your business.
Can You See the Road?
You should consider the lighting provided by your plow.
Many plows have attached work lights (similar to offroad lighting for 4x4s). This will help you see since your headlights will be obscured, most of the time, by the plow while you’re working.
If your plow doesn’t come with lighting, you should consider aftermarket lighting kits for your truck.
New or Used?
In our post about purchasing a truck for your snow removal company, I strongly cautioned owners against buying a truck+plow combo used. I recommended not buying a used vehicle from a business.
That’s true here as well.
The only time I’d buy a used plow is if it was privately-owned. You can purchase a small plow from someone who intended to plow their own drive, heck, you might get a customer out of that transaction.
Business owners abuse snow plows MORE than they abuse their trucks. Plows are left to soak in salt water and melting snow. They’re literally scraped against concrete and asphalt for hours on end. Hydraulic systems aren’t maintained properly and then they sit for months at a time.
In most cases, a used snow plow is going to be a broken snow plow in a week.
Aside from getting a plow that you know hasn’t been abused, purchasing new plows gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with a dealer.
You’ll need that dealer when something inevitably breaks during the snow season. People are busy during the season and a positive, existing relationship with a dealership can be a lifesaver in a pinch. It's more than just finding the right snow plow, you've got to get it from the right people.
Choosing the Right Snow Plow is Largely Dependent on Your Client-Base
As you read in the post, the right snow plow is largely dependent on what kind of properties you service.
Residential providers are better served by nimble, easy to use, less expensive straight-blade plows.
Commercial providers are usually better served by larger V-plows, which offer greater efficiency in their big, open service areas.
The plow material is usually limited by budget and which trade-off you’re interested in (snow sticking or weight reduction).