"[A ride-on] costs more than two walk-behinds, and a lot of people struggle with that," says Allen. While a walk-behind may cost $2,000 to $2,500, a ride-on trowel typically starts at $9,000 to $10,000.
"You do have a bit of a jump for the technology - the larger engines, the more robust gearbox, the control panel and all the different things that go into a ride-on," Allen admits. "It becomes more expensive."
Yet, clearly there are rewards for your investment. The labor savings alone can make up the cost difference. "When you take into account current labor rates, rider trowels can really pay for themselves even with their higher initial cost," says Mark Hein, territory manager, Superior Power Trowel Division of Husqvarna.
Allen agrees, adding, "Typically, [contractors are] paying for that machine - with labor savings - within six months of purchase."
How Crucial Is Comfort?
For walk-behinds, controllability is perhaps the biggest concern. "Basically, what we look for in a walk-behind is the ease of use," says Steve DeGraeve, George J. Shaw Construction. "How easy is it going to be for the finisher to run it?"
When you move up to ride-ons, the control levers themselves become the issue. "If you're riding them every day, and particularly when it's the same people, fatigue and comfort are definitely a factor for them," says Keith Ahal, Ahal Contracting. This is one reason his company switched from mechanical to joystick steering controls.
"We use riding trowels every day. The joystick-type steering is more expensive, but they are a little more operator friendly," he points out. "If we used these machines once in a while, then we'd go back to the stick steering because it just wouldn't be cost effective to spend the extra money."
"Joystick steering is going to cost you $2,000 to $4,000 more per machine, depending on the manufacturer," admits Jay Allen, Allen Engineering. "But for a lot of people who do this six or eight hours a day, it's a big deal."
Of course, comfort goes beyond controls. The type of seat, position of the armrests, location of the control panel, balance of the machine and even visibility to the slab can all play a role in how operators feel at the end of the day, and how productive they are while on the machine.
"It's really all about production," states Jim Lewis, Wacker Corp. "The longer an operator can use a trowel without fatigue, the more productive he or she will be."
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