Whether you handle your own snow plowing or offer professional snow removal services, like us, knowing what to look for when buying snow removal gear is very important. It’s an investment and should be treated as such. To help you discern what you really need to know about buying a snow plow, we have assembled some rudimentary guidelines.
Get a Good Quality Snow Plow and Get to Know Your Dealer
Unlike getting a key cut at the local hardware store, your snow plow purchase is likely to be just the first interaction you have with your snow plow dealer. After purchase, there are other matters to be addressed, such as installation and setup. This means you should also inquire as to whether these services are part of the price or will require additional funds. Even after these processes, having your dealer’s card in your wallet is probably a good idea. You’ll eventually need parts, repairs, or even basic information regarding your snow plow. Your dealer is often your first resource when that time comes.
Your Plowing Needs and Budget
After you have located a dealer with whom you feel comfortable, it’s time to decide just what size of snow plow you will require and which is the best snow plow for your budget.
If you are looking at a snow plow for your own home use (and maybe a neighbor or two), you should be fine with a straight blade that measure 7′ or 7’6″. In the current market, this size snow plow will run you about $3,000-$4,500. Naturally, the exact prices will hinge on the particular size and model of snow plow you choose. If you have an ATV or UTV, you can sometimes find a straight-blade or V-blade snow plow for $200-$3,000. These are a good option for home or camp, as they offer pretty much the same capability you would get from snow plowing with a small truck. Just be sure to ask if the mounting kit comes with the snow plow or if that is an additional purchase.
If you are considering commercial snow plowing, you will want to start look at snow plows that are 8′ and longer. This is because commercial snow plowing involves removing larger areas of snow more quickly than you would in a simple driveway. In addition, a V-plow should be an option for you if you are thinking of going commercial. The V-plow offers a greater number of blade positions, which gives you greater flexibility and improves time efficiencies. commercial snow plows can vary quite a bit in cost. You’ll find that $6,000 is a common price for new V-blades. Straight blades will run you a little bit less.
Straight Blades versus V-blades
To get right to the point, both snow plows are more than able the do a good job. Straight blades remain the more popular choice, likely because they are easier on the wallet. As mentioned above, though, a V-plow offers a multitude of positions that make it much more flexible than a straight blade. So, in that respect, you certainly get what you pay for. For instance, when it’s in the “scoop” position,” a V-plow stacks snow in a way you just can’t do with a straight blade plow. Further, cutting through frozen snow is much easier with the V-plow. The point of the V slices through the ice like a knife, because the force of the truck can be put behind a single point of ice, rather than an 8″+ swath of ice.
Material: Poly versus Mild Steel versus Stainless Steel
In short, when it comes to commercial work, all three of these material will work just fine. That said, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s start with poly first, which is the slickest of the three. No matter how thick and wet the snow may be, it just won’t cake up and stick to a poly blade. Poly also stands up well to not only corrosion, but everyday scratches and dents. For these reason, we see a lot of professionals switching over to poly blades. Contrary to popular belief, though, poly is not lighter than steel. The truth is that most poly plows weigh in heavier than their steel counterparts because they require a reinforced steel framework to rest behind the poly moldboard.
Stainless steel blades are not as slick as poly blades, but they are still a little slicker than mild steel blades. Furthermore, even though stainless steel blades are corrosion resistant, they are prone to scratches and dents. When you hit stones—and you will hit stones—you’ll start to collect dings on a stainless steel snow plow blade. After a few season, the accumulation of dings could make your blade look a little weathered. Depending on the severity, it might even begin to effect performance.
At the moment, mild steel is the industry standard for snow plows and has been for decades. A layer of zinc powder is used to treat these steel snow plows. In time, though, rusting will eventually occur. That said, mild steel snow plows are still remarkably rigid, durable, and valuable.
Ease of Use
In Michigan, it is not uncommon to see snowfall six months of the year. For this reason, you will need to be able to hook up your plow in a variety of different winter conditions, including cold, sleet, snow, ice, and dark. Keep this in mind when you are looking for a snow plow. Different snow plow manufacturers will have different attachment systems. Each system will tout its ease of use as a unique selling point. You want one that will attach to your truck quickly, as sometimes storms roll in fast and you needed to get hitched up and going right away.
Control and Lighting Systems
Quite simply, it is very important to be able to see what you are plowing. Whether you are in the thick of a storm or just plowing at night, your visibility can be compromised by a variety of winter conditions. An efficient lighting system you can count on, such as a high-output, dual-burning system, is an integral part of a solid plow offering. You will also need to consider the mounting system. A dual-stud system is regularly offered among many manufacturers. It is common, though, for these dual-stud designs to loosen up and move around. You can imagine how frustrating this is when you are in the midst of plowing. A better alternative is a two-piece clamp system, which simply does a superior job at keeping the headlights locked into place.
Another critical component of a good plow system is the controller. Because the controller is the main point of contact you have with the plow, it is important that you find one that is easy to use. You don’t want to be fighting with your controller when the snow is flying. Each manufacturer will offer the usual joystick or touchpad controller with a keypad to position the snow plow just the way you want it. You’ll find, though, that some controllers can have as many as 8 buttons. This can be cumbersome for drivers with larger hands, as well as for beginners. As mentioned several times already, ease of use is paramount. For that reason, you’ll want to find a controller with fewer (and larger) buttons, unless you are already comfortable with a more involved controller.
What is your Plow Vehicle?
Another very important factor in choosing the right snow plow for you is deciding which vehicle you will be using for plowing. Every vehicle has what’s known as a Front Gross Axle Weight Rating (FGAWR). The FGAWR is the available weight capacity for the front of your vehicle. You need to know this number because you cannot go beyond that number when you add a plow to the front of your truck. As you would expect, the larger the plow, the heavier the plow will be.
If you are doing commercial snow removal, you’ll likely be using a blade that is 8′ or longer. For a snow plow that size, you will need 3/4-ton truck, at least, whose FGAWR can take the weight of larger plows. Again, don’t just assume a truck that size has the necessary FGAWR for the plow you want; check first. If you are looking for a plow for personal snow removal, a 1/2-ton truck should be okay for your needs. Of course, a plow on your ATV or UTV can also clear your driveway quite well.
A good first step for discerning this information is to turn to the web. Many manufacturers have selector tools that will take your truck’s information and recommend plows for your consideration.
New or Used?
We all like to have nice, new things. Sometimes, though, buying something new, when there is a viable used option available, isn’t always practical. This is especially true if you are watching pennies for the holidays or if you are trying to parlay your plowing work into a business opportunity. For this reason, a lot of snow plow dealers also offer high-quality used snow plows. As mentioned at the top of this post, this is one of those instances when having a solid relationship with your dealer is important. The dealer will know the history of the plow. They will be sure that the model in which you are interested has been inspected and any necessary repairs have taken place. When you are eyeballing a used snow plow, you’ll want to look for obvious damage beyond the basic cosmetic wear of scratches and chipped paint. Bigger issues can include:
While we could easily go on about other facets of buying a snow plow, this list should get you started on the right foot.
If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!