Employed skid steer operators make between $30,000 and $40,000 a year depending on location. The average hourly rate is $17.
As an independent contractor, however, you could charge much more for skid steer work. Some skid steer owners charge as much as $100 per hour just to clear snow or brush. Of course, you are the one catering for fuel and maintenance costs. So the $100/hour will get whittled down once you factor in these costs.
In this post, we look at some of the ways you can make money with a skid steer and how much you can expect to make.
What You'll Learn Today
Easiest Option Is To Get a Job
A decent used skid steer will cost you at least $15,0000 with new ones costing $20,000 and above.
If you are not ready to shell out that much money or take out financing, getting a job is an easier alternative.
Search for skid steer or Bobcat operator jobs near you. Contractors, landscaping companies, construction companies, and public works contractors are always on the lookout for equipment operators.
You’ll need to receive training before operating a skid steers. Some employers provide this training while others may require that you come in already an experienced operator.
The biggest advantage of being employed as a skid steer operator is that you don’t have to bother looking for contractor jobs yourself. You also don’t have to worry about maintenance or fuel costs since you don’t own the skid steer.
On the downside, there’s a ceiling in regards to how much you can earn. The average hourly pay in most states is $17. The average annual pay doesn’t go above $40,000-$45,000 even for experienced skid steer operators.
When you first begin working, you could earn as little as $20,000.
Another downside is that you don’t have as much control over your working hours.
You Can Earn More As An Independent Operator
Going the independent route is challenging and expensive. But if you play your cards right and keep a close eye on the numbers, you could earn more money.
There is more variation when it comes to how much you can charge for skid steer work as an independent operator.
The final figure will depend on the type of work, ground conditions, and whether you own the machine or note. The average range we’ve seen independent operator reporting is between $50 and $150.
Some independent operators don’t buy or rent skid steers. Instead, they get hired by farmers, home owners or contractors with skid steers who don’t have the time or skills to operate it.
You can also get hired by companies that rent out heavy equipment. Some of their customers want a skid steer along with a qualified operator.
In such a situation, the average you can earn as an operator is about $50 an hour. It can be higher for difficult jobs such as excavating a basement.
The main challenge with going this route is that jobs are not guaranteed. You’ll have to do some work marketing yourself and hunting down jobs. And once that job ends, you have to find another.
But once you establish yourself and develop contacts, you’ll probably find yourself having to turn down some jobs because of how busy you are. You’ll also be able to increase your rates.
On the upside, you can work as little or as much as you want, and you are not responsible for maintaining or fueling the skid steer. More money without the headaches of owning heavy equipment.
Buying or Renting a Skid Steer
The other option if you want to work as an independent operator is to rent or buy a skid steer, then look for jobs you can do with it.
The advantage of doing this is that you can interact directly with clients, and charge whatever you think is fair. There’s no intermediary.
Operators with their own skid steers can charge as much as $150 an hour and can negotiate daily rates of $500 – $1,000.
You also get to choose which jobs you want to do. You can decide to focus on small jobs like plowing snow and clearing brushes, construction jobs like excavation and grading, or farm jobs such as mulching and tilling.
Picking a niche can actually be good for business. You get known for particular skills, and you can charge more for your services.
The biggest downside is cost.
Renting a skid steer is better than buying, since there isn’t a high upfront cost. Renting a skid steer costs about $50-$100 per hour, $150-$500 for the day, and $600-$1,200 for a week. You might get even more favourable rates if you rent monthly.
You have to factor in the cost of renting as well as fuel when deciding how much to charge customers.
Renting might cost you a lot in the beginning when jobs are scarce and you can only rent a skid steer for a few hours or a day when you get a job. But when you start getting more work, you can reduce your costs by renting on a weekly or monthly basis.
Buying a new skid steer, on the other hand, could easily cost you $30,000 or more if you want a capable and reliable model. A used one starts at about $15,000.
On top of that, you have to account for fuel and maintenance costs.
You may also need to buy a trailer and truck that can transport the skid steer to work sites. You’ll need a hefty investment to get started, and it’ll take some time to recoup your money.
Track Your Numbers to Break Even
With both renting and buying a skid steer, the most important thing is to track your numbers.
Write down everything in spreadsheets or accounting software. Note the initial cost of setting up your business including the cost of the skid steer, attachments, and transport trailer. If you financed your purchase, note the down payment and monthly payments.
If you are renting, track how much you pay each time you hire a skid steer.
Also, track how much you spend on fuel and overall maintenance such as oil, grease, replacement parts and so on.
The good thing is that skid steers, especially the reliable brands like Bobcat, Cat and Case, are very low maintenance. Apart from regular servicing and a flat tire now and then, almost nothing goes wrong. So maintenance is not that expensive.
On the other side of the column, track your income. This lets you estimate how long it’ll take to break even or recoup your investment.
Over time, tracking these numbers lets you monitor the health of your business. You can also play around with the numbers to see whether you need to charge more or if you can charge less to attract more customers while staying afloat.