How to Start a Profitable Snow Plowing Business: Strategies & Tips

How to Start a Snow Plowing Business

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In the right areas of the U.S., someone with a plow hitch on the front of their pickup truck or tractor is a busy person these days and if they’ve done their planning right, sitting on a lot of extra cash right now. In fact, starting a snow plowing business in the right location can give seasonal outdoor contractors a way of expanding their brand and keeping busy during the winter.

Also importantly, snow plowing is a $19 billion a year industry! And it’s a scalable business, too. It can be just a means of adding a few extra bucks to the coffers or something much bigger than that.

Entrepreneurs with a pickup and snow plow on the front can pick up residential clients and stay busy the day of or after a storm. Other contractors could chase bigger plow contracts, like at a shopping center.

Guide to Starting a Snow Plowing Business

This table is a quick preview of the steps to starting this business for easy reference:

Determine the ViabilityAssess snowfall frequency in your area to ensure sufficient demand for a snow plowing business. Invest in equipment based on the potential workload.
Decide Whether to Go Big or Go Home(s)Start small with residential plowing or expand to larger contracts for commercial properties based on available resources and ambitions.
Get The Right LicenseUnderstand and comply with local licensing and regulatory requirements for your snow plowing business.
Compile an Equipment ChecklistTake inventory of your current equipment and invest in backup equipment to ensure you're prepared for snow removal jobs.
Find an Emergency BackupDevelop a contingency plan to handle unexpected situations, ensuring you can fulfill customer commitments even in emergencies.
Advertise Locally -- For FreeLeverage free local advertising platforms like Google My Business, Yext, Facebook, and Craigslist to attract customers without significant costs.
Price It RightDetermine competitive pricing by considering materials, equipment, and supply costs, while ensuring profitability for your services.
Establish Clear Service OffersClearly define your services and pricing structure, enabling customers to understand what you offer and what to expect from your business.
Find Good InsuranceObtain liability coverage to protect your business against accidents and claims, providing added security for your operations.
Arrange for Payments and Offer ChoicesSet up convenient payment options, including cash, credit cards, and mobile payments, to accommodate customer preferences.
Develop an Off-Season PlanUtilize the off-season to maintain equipment, secure deals on winter supplies, and prepare for upcoming contracts.

snow plowing business

Here’s a plan outline for starting a snow plowing business.

Determine the Viability

Before starting a snow plowing business, assess the viability based on your location’s snowfall. Frequent, significant snowfall is necessary to justify the investment in plows and equipment. Research local climate history and consider the competition to gauge market saturation.

Evaluate potential customer bases, like residential versus commercial areas, as they have different needs. If snowfall is limited to just a few months, think about off-season services you can offer to maintain steady income. This assessment is crucial in deciding whether a snow plowing business is feasible in your area.

Decide Whether to Go Big or Go Home(s)

No matter how ambitious you are, if you’ve only got one or two capable plow trucks, you should stick to securing work in residential neighborhoods. Plow-ready trucks, some shovels and a healthy budget for rock salt and ice melt are all you need to get started.

Contractor companies with multiple trucks are likely to be more ready to handle jobs like clearing the parking lots of shopping centers and office complexes. These jobs are typically awarded by contract ahead of the snowy season.

Get The Right License

Finding out about the licensing and regulations you’ll need to follow is critical. Normally these businesses are licensed. You can check with your city or town or even follow this link to the SBA’s local assistance page.

snow plowing business

Compile an Equipment Checklist

Before you start looking for plow work, take stock of your current equipment and supplies. Determine what you’ll need to complete just one residential driveway or one storefront or small store parking lot.

Then take a look at the truck. If it’s not equipped for plowing, you’ll need to make an investment. Find out what the cost of backup equipment will be.

snow plowing business - equipment checklist

Then do a status check on all equipment and supplies after every job to ensure you’re ready for the next snowfall.

Find an Emergency Backup

This is one area where you don’t want to anger your customer. Nothing is worse than dealing with irate snowbound customers suffering from cabin fever.

If, for any reason, you’re unable to commit to a customer you acquire — due to equipment malfunction, injury or illness — you need to be able to deliver your services. Fail to show up to plow out one person’s house, and you’ll never work there again.

Advertise Locally — For Free

snow plowing business - advertising

Before you develop any advertising budget, take advantage of all the free local ads and online services. Consider the rise in popularity of “near me” searches. Set up a Google My Business account for your snow plow business. Do the same on sites like Yext, too. Don’t forget about Facebook and Craigslist, especially for local businesses.

Offer your first few customers a break if they help spread the word about your new venture. This is one service where someone asks someone they know who does it for them.

Business cards can be tacked up on community bulletin boards, too.

snow plowing business

Price It Right

Not only do you need to find a good target market, you need to charge the right price.

Consider that list of materials, equipment and supplies and what they cost. Shop around for bulk pricing and where you can get the best deals on everything.

Establish Clear Service Offers

snow plowing business - shoveling snow from sidewalk

Your business can range from shoveling a sidewalk to plowing an entire parking lot. Be clear in your pricing structure what customers can expect and when they can expect them.

Find Good Insurance

Having comprehensive liability insurance is crucial for any snow plowing business, big or small. This covers potential incidents like accidental falls in a parking lot. Installing safety features like rear-mounted cameras can help reduce insurance premiums.

In addition to liability, consider vehicle insurance to protect against accidents, theft, or vandalism. Worker’s compensation is also important if you have employees, covering work-related injuries and being often legally required.

Regularly review and adjust your insurance as your business evolves. Working with an insurance agent who understands your business’s unique needs ensures you have appropriate coverage, helping to avoid financial and legal issues.

Arrange for Payments and Offer Choices

snow plowing business - payment method

The most important part of your snow plow business will be getting paid for your work. Have a process in place for accepting cash payments. You’ll likely get a lot of those.

Look into accepting credit cards and mobile payments, too. It offers convenience to your customers and helps you keep track of payments without worry of misplacing cash payments you get while you’re busy plowing.

Develop an Off-Season Plan

Once snow is out of the forecast doesn’t mean your plowing business should end. Use the downtime to maintain and fix any broken equipment. Have a maintenance plan for keeping your equipment in top condition until the next winter rolls around.

Look for deals on winter supplies after the season is over. And most importantly, start securing work for the first snow of the next winter season.

Scaling Up: Expanding Your Snow Plowing Business

snow plowing business

In the right snow-prone areas of the U.S., a snow plowing business can be a lucrative venture, providing seasonal outdoor contractors with a means to expand their brand and keep busy during the winter. With the snow plowing industry accounting for a significant $19 billion annually, entrepreneurs equipped with a pickup and snow plow can cater to residential clients or aim for larger contracts, such as clearing shopping center parking lots.

Here’s a guide to the main takeaways for starting a snow plowing business:

  • Determine the Viability: Assess the snowfall frequency in your area to ensure there is enough demand to support a snow plowing business. Investing in plows and equipment requires sufficient snow to make the venture financially viable.
  • Decide Whether to Go Big or Go Home(s): Start with one or two plow trucks to secure work in residential neighborhoods. For contractors with multiple trucks, consider pursuing bigger contracts for clearing commercial parking lots and office complexes.
  • Get The Right License: Ensure compliance with licensing and regulations for your snow plowing business. Check with local authorities or the Small Business Administration for guidance.
  • Compile an Equipment Checklist: Take stock of your current equipment and supplies, and invest in backup equipment if necessary. Regularly check the status of all equipment to stay prepared for the next snowfall.
  • Find an Emergency Backup: Establish a contingency plan for unforeseen circumstances that may prevent you from fulfilling customer commitments. Having a backup plan ensures your customers remain satisfied and helps build a reliable reputation.
  • Advertise Locally — For Free: Take advantage of free local advertising platforms such as Google My Business, Yext, Facebook, and Craigslist. Encourage your first customers to spread the word about your services to attract new clients.
  • Price It Right: Determine the appropriate pricing for your services by considering the cost of materials, equipment, and supplies. Shop around for bulk pricing to optimize your expenses.
  • Establish Clear Service Offers: Clearly define your service offerings and pricing structure, ensuring customers know what to expect and when to expect it.
  • Find Good Insurance: Protect your business with liability coverage, which is essential to safeguard against potential accidents and claims.
  • Arrange for Payments and Offer Choices: Set up a convenient payment process for customers, including options for cash, credit cards, and mobile payments.
  • Develop an Off-Season Plan: Use the off-season to maintain and repair equipment, secure deals on winter supplies, and start securing contracts for the upcoming snowfall.

Scaling up your snow plowing business can lead to significant growth and increased profitability. By following this guide and leveraging the demand for snow removal services in the right areas, you can create a successful and sustainable venture that thrives during the winter months. With proper planning, efficient operations, and excellent customer service, your snow plowing business can become a valuable asset for your entrepreneurial journey.

The Takeaways

Here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind when starting and scaling up a snow plowing business in snow-prone areas of the U.S.

  • Careful planning and location assessment are critical prerequisites for starting and scaling up a snow plowing business in snow-prone areas of the U.S. By understanding the frequency of snowfall and investing in suitable equipment, you can set your business up for success and growth.
  • Compliance with local licensing and regulations is essential for ensuring smooth operations. Additionally, offering clear service packages with competitive pricing helps build trust with customers and keeps them satisfied.
  • To scale up your snow plowing business, focus on establishing a reputable brand through excellent customer service and make the most of free local advertising platforms. Being prepared for emergencies and providing multiple payment options enhances your business’s reliability and customer satisfaction.
  • During the off-season, utilize downtime to maintain equipment, secure cost-effective deals on winter supplies, and secure contracts for the upcoming snowfall. By adopting efficient operations and investing in the right insurance, you can minimize risks and build a robust and sustainable business.
  • Ultimately, the success of your snow plowing venture depends not only on the demand for snow removal services but also on consistently providing high-quality and reliable solutions to customers. With dedication and a customer-centric approach, your snow plowing business can thrive and become a valuable asset in the seasonal outdoor services industry.

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.