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How To Decide Between Paying for Snow Removal Or Doing It Yourself

When Does It Make Sense to Hire a Snow Removal Service?

Every homeowner knows that when winter hits, it’s just a matter of time before the first snow falls and the driveway will need to be cleared. 

For many people, they would have no problem shoveling their driveways themselves. But with busy schedules and a multitude of snow plow services available everywhere you turn, would it make more sense to hire this service out and save yourself the effort?

In this post, we’ll look at when it makes sense to hire a snow removal service versus doing the job yourself. 

Snow Removal Options

When it comes to clearing your driveway, there are basically four main options:

  1. Shovel the snow yourself
  2. Pay someone else to shovel the driveway
  3. Snow blow it yourself
  4. Hire a snow removal service (like a plow truck)

The size of your driveway will most likely determine which option you pick. For instance, people with smaller driveways will probably entertain options 1 and 2 and people with larger driveways will be more likely to choose between options 3 and 4. 

With that said, let’s break down each one and see what makes sense financially.

Shoveling Yourself vs Paying Someone Else to Do It

If you live in a suburban neighborhood with a modest-sized driveway, then chances are that a shovel will be all you need to clear the snow. Since you can buy a heavy-duty snow shovel for about $20 from just about anywhere that will last you for decades, we can pretty much dismiss this up-front cost from the analysis and just compare labor rates.

Do It Yourself

If we assume the value of your time is worth about $30 per hour (based on the fact that the average median income in the U.S. is $63,179), then we could estimate the cost of shoveling your driveway to be:

  • 30 minutes = $15
  • 60 minutes = $30

Hire Someone Else

By contrast, if you hire someone else (another adult or even a couple of kids) to shovel your driveway, it would cost anywhere between $25 and $50.

Analysis

With these figures, the analysis is fairly straight-forward: Financially, it does not make sense to hire someone else to shovel your driveway. Considering you could do the job for approximately half the rate that a contractor would charge, there doesn’t seem to be any point where it’s more economical to outsource this task.

Of course, there may be more important things to consider besides money …

When You Shouldn’t Clear Your Own Driveway

In an article from Harvard Health Publishing, every year about 100 people (mostly men) die during or just after shoveling snow. This was largely because snow shoveling can raise your heart rate and blood pressure more quickly than traditional exercise, which can be especially hard on people who might ordinarily be sedentary.

This is why if you’re not already particularly active or know your health is questionable, then it may not be worth the risk of bringing on a heart attack just to clear the snow. Instead, be honest with your situation and pay someone else who’s more physically capable to do all the strenuous work.

Snow Blowing vs Snow Removal Service

If you live someplace where you’ve got a larger than normal driveway or the snowfall is heavier and more frequent, then a little shovel just isn’t going to cut it. For a job like that, you’ve going to want to invest in a reputable, quality snowblower. On average, let’s assume this will cost you at least $1,000.

Do It Yourself

Similar to shoveling, since you will be doing this activity yourself, we’ll have to also factor in the value of your time. Again, if we use a base rate of $30 per hour,  

  • 30 minutes = $15
  • 60 minutes = $30

Hire Someone Else

Generally, for bigger jobs, most contractors who perform snow removal will do so using a truck with shovel attachment on the front. Again, we could estimate that a contractor will charge anywhere between $30 to $50 for this service.

Analysis

Since the initial investment of purchasing a snow blower is pretty substantial, the simplest way to compare these two options will be to find the break-even point. This will be a calculation to determine how many times we must pay for the snow removal service before it becomes financially better to do the job yourself.

Using the numbers in our examples, we can estimate a range of:

  • Smaller job = $1,000 / ($30 – $15) = 67 times
  • Bigger job = $1,000 / ($50 – $30) = 50 times

Because snowfall can vary from state to state, you can divide these figures by your own numbers to see how many years it will take to break-even. For example, if you expect you’ll need to clear snow roughly 10 times per year, then it will take approximately 5 to 6.7 years for you to snow blow your driveway before it pays for itself. Before then, it will be more economical to go with a professional snow removal service.

Again, just like the snow shoveling option, managing a snowblower can be a strenuous activity; especially if you’re older. If there are any doubts about the quality of your health, don’t put yourself at risk and instead hire out this service.

What to Check Before Hiring a Snow Removal Service

If you do decide to hire a snow removal service, be sure you’re working with a true professional by doing the following ahead of time:

  • What are their online ratings? Are all the reviews positive? Has anyone ever complained about the quality of their work?
  • What is the turnaround time? Will the contractor get to you within hours of the snowfall, or will you have to wait a day or two before they have time for you?
  • Will they also shovel hard to reach spots? Are they going to take care of the walk-way to your house or sidewalk, or just plow the main driveway? 
  • Are they insured? If they accidentally ruin something on your property, are they going to be able to pay you back for this mistake?

Summary

The decision of whether to hire out snow removal or not will depend on the size of your driveway, the amount of snowfall you receive, and the rates local contractors charge. Replace the numbers used in the analysis above with your own to see what makes sense financially. And don’t forget to take your health into consideration too.

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