Some of the information contractors need to be aware of when buying sealcoating equipment—whether for the first time or for upgrading—is basic to just about any equipment purchase. But because of the work sealcoating equipment does and the material it handles there are some special considerations.
As with every piece of equipment, it’s essential contractors understand why they are buying equipment and what that particular piece of equipment is expected to do for them. Is it going to enable you to add a second crew? Take on large commercial jobs? Add a new service to your business?
“What’s your objective as a sealcoater?” asks John Capretz, vice president at Equipt Mfg. “Are you a college kid looking for some summer income or are you someone looking for a fulltime job or to develop a business? How much effort are you going to be putting in? If you’re doing huge jobs or if you’re marketing for commercial work you’ll want a higher-capacity machine. If you’re doing driveways you can get by with a small capacity piece of equipment.”
Harold Neal, president of the resurrected Neal Manufacturing, Villa Ricca, GA, agrees.
“The most important thing contractors need to consider – and many first-time buyers don’t think about this – is what you want to accomplish in sealcoating down the road,” Neal says. “Do you want to make a fast buck in a short time? Do you want to develop a long-term business? There is equipment out there for both of those goals but it’s not necessarily the same equipment.
How size matters
Manufacturers almost universally agree that too many contractors buy too small a machine, especially for their first piece of sealcoating equipment. That happens because smaller tanks are less expensive and give a contractor an opportunity to dip his toe into the sealcoating market without making a big commitment. But size does offer flexibility, which can mean the difference between profitable and money-losing jobs and making it or breaking it in the sealcoating business.
“Most people wish they’d purchased the next size up machine,” says Steve Rapp, SealMaster equipment division manager. “After one season most people find they’ve outgrown that first machine they bought. Most buy the 300-gallon unit because its price is really good, but most also find they should have moved to the 550 gallon at least.”
Brent Loutzenhiser, Seal-Rite, says limiting the size of equipment you buy limits the size and amount of work you can do.
“It’s hard enough to get any business going and make it successful, and I hate to see people set themselves up to fail,” Loutzenhiser says. “If you limit the size of your equipment you limit the size and number of the jobs you can do. There are people who make a successful business out of sealcoating driveways, but what do you do if you’re sealcoating a driveway and the homeowner wants you to sealcoat the parking lot of his business? You might start out planning to only do residential driveways, but may find the demand for larger jobs changes your plans.
“It’s often hard to convince contractors, especially first-time buyers, that you just can’t have too much sealer and that’s something that contractors really need to realize,” he says. “Sealer doesn’t go bad, so having sealer sit for a month in your tank won’t hurt anything, it will only save you trips to the sealer provider.”
Determining the optimum tank size
Manufacturers say contractors generally think they know how much money they need to spend on a sealcoating unit—and sometimes they are right. Loutzenhiser says, for example, that many contractors come in thinking they only want to spend around $5,000 for the equipment they need. But when a manufacturer starts crunching the numbers with the contractor the size of tank needed often changes.