Do you love the beauty of freshly falling snow turning your yard into a winter wonderland, yet find your appreciation quickly goes cold at the thought of actually going outside to clear it? If this sounds familiar, you’ll probably warm up to the idea of investing in a snow removal service to handle the job.
Enjoying the snow from inside is one thing. Going outside in the cold to shovel or snow blow several inches, or even feet, of snow, is another. When you don’t want to handle your own snow removal, have health concerns (that make snow shoveling risky), have other responsibilities that conflict with this job, or just don’t like freezing outside in bitter temperatures, it’s well worth it to hire a professional who has the tools and expertise to clear the snow in the most efficient manner.
Determining Your Snow Removal Needs
When you decide to contract out the responsibility of removing your snow to someone else, the first step in the process is determining what you need to have done, how you want it done, and who will be best equipped to handle the task.
For instance, are you looking for someone to shovel your walkways by hand, or do you prefer to contract with a professional plowing service to clear your driveway every time the snow piles up? If you need someone to handle small shoveling projects, such as clearing your front steps and walkways or shoveling out your car, you may be able to find a high school or college student who wants to make a few bucks to do the job. Larger jobs, like clearing your entire driveway, will usually be best handled by a service that comes equipped with the tools and expertise to remove snow from larger areas of ground.
Many snow removal companies will come out to look at your property and your logistics in order to determine your needs and come up with a pricing structure. Some companies will charge a flat rate for snow removal throughout the winter, while others will charge different rates per visit, based on how large the snowstorm is and how much snow needs to be removed. In the latter scenario, the price will ultimately come down to exactly how long it takes to do the job. This means the deeper the snow, the higher the cost.
When comparing different plowing quotes, it’s important to know that some companies include salting and sanding your driveway and walkways, while others charge extra for these options. That’s why you need to know what’s included up front so you can make a reasonable comparison between companies. You’ll also want to clarify exactly what areas will be cleared, where the snow will be placed (since you don’t want the snow from your driveway to be dumped right on to the path to your door), whether snow banks will be removed, and how thick a snow cover will remain on your driveway when the job is done.
There are a variety of other needs you’ll also want to consider when shopping for a snow removal service. For instance, do you need your garage entryway cleared so you can get cars in and out? If so, be sure to specify this to be sure the plow doesn’t push your snow against the door. You should also ask what happens if the snow plow needs to do your driveway twice during a major snow storm. Will this be billed as a second charge? Finally, some snow removal companies add extra charges for fuel and their workers. You’ll want to know this up front so you can budget for all of the costs involved.
Some snow removal companies prefer to work informally only making oral agreements, but in general it can be a good idea to try to get a formal seasonal contract so you know exactly what to expect and what you’re spending. This also means that you’ll have a commitment from your plowing company to put you on their roster for each storm. Otherwise if you don’t have a contract, you may find it hard to get someone to come out when you need a plow. It can also work to your advantage to contract with a company for the season because you may be able to get a better deal on the price.
An annual plowing contracts typically works by the vendor giving you a set number of visits for the season, then will charge extra if additional plowing jobs (beyond those specified in the contract) are needed. This means that a very snowy winter can end up costing you much more than you expect.
If you have a vacation home where you only live part-time, you might also be able to negotiate a lower rate if you can have your property plowed last after the more time-sensitive jobs. When you are flexible about plowing timing, you can also check with your public works department and find out if they do any residential plowing. Some will do it for a low rate once the streets are cleared. If you don’t need to travel on snowy days, this can be an appealing option.
How To Find A Service
When shopping for a snow removal service, you can ask neighbors for recommendations, look for ads in your local newspaper, and check bulletin boards at local merchants. You can also do a search online or look on Craigslist , or through searchable website directories, such as those offered through Service Magic , Home Blue and Winter is Here . Be sure to ask for references from any company that you’re considering, and also check that they are licensed and insured in case any damage occurs during plowing. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure that no complaints have been filed.
Plowing And Other Costs
What you can expect to spend on snow removal will depend on the size of your driveway, how deep the snow is and the amount of time it takes to complete the job. You’ll get the best price on snow plowing if you contract with a company for the season. The cost for snow plowing an average-size driveway per storm can cost between $25 and $75. You can expect that the plow should be able to clear the driveway of up to about a foot of snow in a pass or two. If snow is deeper or the storm lasts for an extended period of time, the plow may need to come back to clear the driveway a second time. This will usually mean you’ll need to pay twice.
The longer your driveway and the more severe the conditions, the more you can expect to spend on the plowing. For very deep snow, an extremely long driveway ,or hiring a plow last minute to get the job done can all bring the price up to $100 or more for a one-time clearing.
If you hire the snow removal service to also clear your walkways in addition to the driveway, this can add another $10 to $25 or more on to the snow plowing cost. If you hire an individual separately to shovel or snow blow your walkway, sidewalks, and steps, you can figure that this will cost between $25 and $75 an hour. It can take several hours to clear deep snow manually if the size of the area to be cleared is large. The amount of work involved can also vary from storm to storm depending on how heavy or frozen the snow is, so this can affect the cost.
It will probably cost between $25 and $100 a visit to plow most driveways and walkways, steps will be an additional charge.
Weighing The Costs
If you’re not sure that you want to invest in the cost of hiring a professional to handle your snow removal and are considering doing it yourself instead, keep in mind you might be putting yourself at risk for suffering from a snow-related injury, which puts thousands of people out of commission each winter. This can also cost you money in hospital bills and lost wages. That’s why many people feel that hiring a snowplow can end up being well worth the expense.
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2013