Can I make money with my Tractor?

We get lots of questions concerning the possibility of using a sub-compact tractor like a Deere 1-series, or a Kubota BX to do custom project work for others. Usually, folks are saying that they aren’t really interested in doing this full-time, rather they want to “make some money on the side” in order to make the payments on their new toy.

In this article, we will investigate some questions which you should work through before you decide to go with this approach.

Will you make enough money to make it worthwhile?

Many projects (like tilling) are viewed as relatively simply jobs by most folks. They reason that they can buy a tiller for ~$500 or rent one for $50 or so to till their garden. They won’t be willing or able to pay a huge amount to have their garden tilled.

More broadly, the “rental equipment” market has a huge influence on the pricing. Most folks that we help are DIY type folks. They are evaluating our services against renting the equipment themselves.

Also, loading/unloading and transport take lots of time. Adding all of this together contributes to a relatively low hourly rate for your work.

Do You Have Sufficient Experience?

Using your tractor on personal projects around your property can be incredibly fun and rewarding. You can go at your own pace, learning as you go without severe time or financial commitments to finishing the project.

Working for hire is different. The client expects that you already know what you are doing. They expect that you will make the correct (optimal) decision for each situation you encounter.
They expect the project to be done right, and to be done efficiently.

Christy and I both grew up on farms, doing the type of work we do now on a daily basis during all of those growing up years. I can’t say how long it would take to gain that same experience starting from scratch, nor can we readily share all of that experience with you via YouTube. Much of it must be learned by making mistakes, or trial and error. There just isn’t much room for error on a customer’s site.

It is important for you, and for the rest of the tractor community for you to have the appropriate experience before considering doing work for hire.

Do you have the right equipment for the job?

I’ve often commented that a sub-compact tractor is a wonderful compromise. It will do MANY different things well. That is a tremendous advantage for the property owner. You can buy one piece of equipment and handle many different types of projects. However, when doing work for hire, the sub-compact tractor might not be as fast, or as optimal for the job as some other piece of equipment. A good example of this is the backhoe. A Mini-excavator is a much better digger than a sub-compact backhoe. No worries for home projects, but when doing work for hire, are you really being fair to the client by making them pay high rates for less than optimal equipment?

More directly, do you have a trailer? Do you have a suitable tow vehicle? If you don’t need these for your own projects, this additional cost will make it even harder for you to make a profit on your work.

Are you prepared for the business aspects?

There are several more questions which I will ask, but not answer in this article. You will need to think about them for yourself.

  • Are you appropriately insured?
  • How will you handle a situation where a customer is unsatisfied?
  • Do you really have the time to do the work, especially on the customer’s schedule?
  • Will you be able to keep this going, or is this simply a way to justify the expense of a tractor to the finance committee?

Summary

Like lots of other scenarios, at first this seems like ‘easy money’. It seems like the perfect answer, providing a way for you to get your long desired new toy. However, the old saying “there is no such thing as a free lunch” definitely applies here.

Enjoy the video associated with this article:

12 Comments

  1. Interesting points, Tim. One question, have you set a distance you are willing to travel for jobs?

    • I do not have a set distance. Many variables. The main one is “how much work do I have lined up right now”. We are fairly picky about our jobs. We don’t take everything that comes along.

  2. Outstanding article Tim !! Very well written .. I was a Teamster heavy equipment operator all my life (no retired) so there’s not a piece of equipment I can’t operate or job I can’t figure out how to do..however because of many of the points you pointed out , I do gardens for ppl ( the older folks) in my neighborhood for free.. snow removal and bottom plowing and tilling.. because for the reasons stated and knowing that every move the machine makes it has to be purposefully done and by that standard its is hard to calculate wear and tear fuel etc.. and still make a profit . So I just do it for the fun of it..figured it will pay off when it’s my time to meet the good lord .. and have my good deeds for others when it is the time to be measured … so that’s my ramblings of a old man .. enjoyed your artical and video as always thank you !!!

  3. Great write up. Takes into account a lot of the aspects of doing such a thing. It would be pretty easy to get yourself in trouble doing this. Thanks for the information as always.

  4. Reply doesn’t seem to work

  5. I must have messed up last time, Tim I was wondering if you charge per job, or by the hour ? And could you share by giving an example of how much you charge ? Thanks in advance

    • Chris, I manually approve these comments, so this is why you might not see your replies immediately. I don’t discuss our pricing, as I am not confident in our approach.

  6. WOW! Well said Tim! The reality is far more complicated than the fantasy.

  7. Love your videos! I have a Kubota L3400 with several attachments, including a backhoe. I dug around a basement wall for a friend so he could install some drain tile. Way too big of a job for my equipment! Got it done, but a bigger hoe would have taken 1/2 the time. A good learning experience, you need to know the limitations of your machine!

    • Yea, I turned down a job digging right by a basement wall for that same situation. I just didn’t see how Johnny would be able to get the spoils far enough from the trench to make it work. This is one task that a mini-ex would work MUCH better. Thanks for your comment!

  8. I am so disappointed to see a commercial on your channel to IMPEACH are president, please tell me you don’t agree with this commercial

    • Really???? I do not agree with this advertisement. I would say that the ads are generated based on each individual’s viewing history and habits. I have no (or very little) control over the pre-roll ads. The only control I have is to reject gambling ads, etc…which I have done.

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