Posted on: October 10, 2018 2:51 pm

Buying vs. Renting Winter Heavy Equipment

Summer’s over, and before you know it, colorful leaves will give way to drifts of snow.

Early autumn is the perfect time to evaluate your current fleet of winter equipment. Are some machines looking worn down? Will they be able to handle the scope of your winter work and contracts, or is there a chance they’ll give out on you halfway through January?

Snow management is an equipment-intensive field. As you examine your equipment, you might decide it would be best to replace a few machines. The next question is whether to rent or buy your new winter equipment — which one will work better for your business?

Keep reading for a comprehensive list of the advantages and disadvantages of leasing and purchasing heavy equipment so you can make the best choice for your company.

Winter Weather Equipment

Winter snow removal is vital for community functioning and infrastructure — your business is responsible for keeping the areas you serve safe through the long winter months. Because winter equipment is so crucial, it needs frequent replacement — as often as every one to three years. That ensures you have the best and most reliable equipment and that you won’t have a machine fail during the snowy season.

Here are some of the most popular pieces of heavy equipment in winter.

  • Skid steers — These versatile machines are popular choices for snow removal, and it’s easy to understand why — with a wide range of attachment options, skid steers can remove more snow in eight hours than a truck can in 20.
  • Compact wheel loaders Wheel loaders are a powerful and precise option for winter equipment, and they are well-suited for moving large amounts of ice and snow.
  • Backhoe loaders — Flexible, two-in-one machines, backhoe loaders are typically faster, taller and lighter than skid steers. Backhoe loaders are excellent choices when dealing with a lot of heavy and wet snow.

Types of Snow Work Attachments

But these machines aren’t automatically ready for heavy winter storms. Below are three types of snow work attachments to turn your machines into a winter-ready fleet.

  • Snow plows Snow plows are popular attachments because of their versatility. Often attached to skid steers, the blade of a snow plow pushes snow forward or out to the side. A plow attachment is ideal for clearing light snowfalls in straight stretches of pavements such as driveways or roads.
  • Snow pushes — Like snow plows, snow pushes shove snow forward or to the sides. The main difference is in the shape of the blade — a snow push is enclosed and shaped like an open box. Meant to transport snow instead of moving it to the side, a snow push traps and holds snow inside, and it works well in open spaces like parking lots.
  • Snow buckets — Often attached to wheel loaders, snow buckets are perfect for moving large amounts of slush and snow from paved areas.
  • Angle brooms — Best for light snows, angle broom attachments will quickly clear sidewalks, small driveways or parking lots.
  • Snowblower — Send snow flying with a snowblower attachment and easily remove snow from inconvenient spaces.

The exact machine and attachment you choose will depend on the scope of your company and needs. Consult with a dealership you trust — they can tell you more about the specifics of each piece of equipment and can often advise you in the best decision for your business.

Before You Decide: Factors to Consider

Once you have in mind what equipment and attachments you need to find or replace, take some time to consider the following factors of buying vs. renting winter heavy equipment. They will largely determine whether you should rent or buy — by evaluating your company’s needs before the first snow, you will be able to make the best choice for this winter season.

1. Current Financial Situation

Start by consulting with your accountant. Your financial situation significantly impacts the decision of whether to rent or purchase — the down payment for buying new equipment is almost always more expensive than the first installments on a lease. Does your company have the margin to afford new winter machines?

Your tax situation will also influence your choice. Some laws and regulations give tax advantages to different types of leases or assets, and these tax considerations could help you decide between renting and buying. Also, make sure to factor growth into your calculations — projecting for company growth is important to accurately determine the number of hours necessary in a lease.

Consider how long you will need your machines. Are you hoping to keep your equipment for a few winters, or do you want new machines every year? Over time, it is often more expensive to lease than to buy. The cost of rental payments adds up and can easily surpass the initial cost of the equipment — if you know you will need and use your winter equipment for a long period, it might make more financial sense to purchase instead of rent.

2. Type of Contracts

Consider the scope of your company. How many contracts do you manage, and do your clients depend on immediate and regular snow removal? The harshness of your climate will also factor in — do you serve an area that sees consistent, heavy snowfall? During a typical winter, do you experience sudden and unexpected storms that require emergency action on short notice? If you are renting equipment and storing it offsite, you might not have quick or flexible access to it, which could damage relationships with clients.

For contracts with many clients and harsh winter conditions, you need reliable equipment you can trust. You might need to frequently turn over machines, which would make the flexibility of renting an economical decision.

3. Length of Use

If your climate only sees snow for a couple of months out of the year, you might need your equipment a few times a season. In situations like this, renting would make more sense and would probably save money in the long run.

Alternately, if you are looking for a skid steer you’ll use year-round without a snowplow attachment, it might make more financial sense to buy.

Buying Winter Weather Equipment

If you are leaning toward buying new winter weather equipment, here are a few advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Advantages of Buying Winter Equipment

Advantages of Buying vs. Renting Equipment

Purchasing new machines comes with several benefits, including flexibility of use and long-term affordability. While there are many advantages to purchasing your equipment, below are a few of the most common.

  • Long-term affordability — In the long run, buying your equipment is a more economical choice — the initial cost of purchase is almost always less than the expense of long rental leases.
  • Sell when desired — When you own equipment, you can sell your machines at any point during your ownership and potentially get some return on your investment.
  • Ability to modify — If you buy, you can modify or upgrade your equipment to enhance performance.
  • Flexibility of use — Unlike with rental agreements, there are no hourly or usage limits on your equipment. You have the freedom to use your machines whenever and as often as you need.

When you are buying new equipment, look for machines that have a wide variety of uses beyond snow removal — this will help you get the most out of your investment.

Disadvantages of Buying Winter Equipment

Buying your equipment also comes with some negatives. Here are some of the disadvantages to keep in mind.

  • Higher initial investment — When you buy new equipment, the down payment will cost more than a rental payment, and your monthly installments might also cost more than lease payments.
  • Maintenance and repair — You will be responsible for all the maintenance and repairs of your machine, which quickly add up if your fleet sees heavy wear and tear during winter.
  • Insurance and storage — If you own your equipment, you will be responsible for all storage and insurance costs.

Like with any substantial investment, when you purchase heavy equipment, you take on many risks. In the end, you must decide if the benefits of buying outweigh the risks for your company.

Renting Winter Weather Equipment

Renting heavy equipment has surged in popularity, but before you decide, consider both its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Renting Winter Equipment

Leasing heavy equipment is inherently more flexible and less risky than buying, which makes it an attractive option for many businesses. Here are a few of the advantages of renting your winter equipment.

  • Lower initial investment — Rental agreements often come with a low down payment. Also, when you rent new equipment, the monthly payments are less than the installments that go along with buying a new machine.
  • Reduced repair costs — Rented equipment remains under the factory warranty, which reduces the amount you will have to pay for any repairs.
  • Easily upgrade — When you rent equipment, you can easily upgrade your fleet with new machines every few years. Renting also gives you the ability to test out new types of equipment or technologies without committing to a purchase.
  • Short-term use — For most regions of the world, snow is not a year-round occurrence — it only falls for a few months. If you don’t use your snow equipment for most of the year, renting might make more financial sense for your business.

Benefits of Renting Snow Removal Equipment

In the snow removal industry, equipment rental is a common choice for emergency situations or heavier-than-normal storms — when you need more equipment to clear an area quickly, renting is an easy solution.

Disadvantages of Renting Winter Equipment

But just like buying, renting new equipment comes with a few negatives. Below are some of the disadvantages associated that come with leasing your equipment instead of buying.

  • Usage limits — One of the biggest negatives to renting equipment is the limitations on hours and use. If you have a harsher-than-normal winter, your lease may not cover the additional hours required to clear the snow.
  • Additional charges — If you damage the machine or put excessive wear on the components, you could face extra charges at the end of your lease. Also, if you need to terminate your lease early, there is typically an associated fee.
  • Long-term expense — Over time, the cost of renting equipment is usually more than the cost of buying it outright. In the end, even though you have made a significant investment in the machine, you still won’t own the equipment.

Renting is less flexible than buying, and may end up costing you more than if you purchased a machine. But if you don’t use your equipment throughout the year, it might be the best choice for your company.

Buy vs. Rent Heavy Equipment in Winter: Which Is Better for Your Business?

Many factors influence your decision about renting or buying winter equipment, and every company’s situation is different.

For example, if you are a relatively small operation that services a few clients in your area, renting heavy equipment in winter might make more sense. This would allow you flexibility depending on your company’s growth — if you have an excellent season and see a lot of growth, you can easily rent additional equipment to meet the needs of your clients. Alternately, if you have a less profitable year, you could easily reduce your fleet size to match the lesser amount of work.

Renting also makes sense when you don’t need your equipment year-round — if you will only use your machines three months out of the year, renting might be a more financially viable option. When you rent, you also don’t have to pay for equipment storage locations or hire technicians to routinely assess your machines, which further cuts back on costs.

For businesses with a broader client base and more resources, buying heavy equipment in winter is smart — you have greater flexibility without usage limits, and you can manage your machines as you see fit. Buying is also a good choice if your company uses its equipment throughout the year. Because buying can ultimately be cheaper than renting, investing in some new machines could save money in the long term.

Benefits of Buying Equipment Rather than Renting

Should you buy or rent equipment in winter? Ultimately, there is no “right answer” to this question — it depends on your company’s specific situation and needs.

Buy and Rent Your Winter Equipment With Alban CAT

When you are re-evaluating your winter fleet, go with a dealership you can trust.

For more than 90 years, Alban CAT has faithfully served the mid-Atlantic region with exceptional service and the highest-quality products. We strive to set our employees and customers up for success, and we take pride in our reputation for providing powerful solutions for our clients. With a wide range of product offerings and dependable customer support, we will help you find what you need.

At Alban CAT, we stand for integrity and excellence, and our team is dedicated to exceeding expectations. Alban CAT is the best solution for your winter equipment needs — we offer rental solutions as well as new and used equipment, and we will work with you to determine which option best fits your company.

If you have any questions or are looking to rent or buy equipment, contact us or give us a call at 888-492-6337.

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