Self-propelled Sealcoating Units Provide Bottom-line Benefits

If your current sealcoating equipment is looking rough and worn out, it might be time to consider an upgrade. Many contractors typically begin their career using trailer-mounted sealcoating rigs, but one available upgrade to consider is the self-propelled sealcoating buggy. A self-propelled buggy is a ride-on sealcoating machine that applies material using a squeegee, a spray or both.

Before making the purchase, contractors have several considerations to make regarding the self-propelled buggies such as the initial cost, the size and available features.

The Time to Buy

With all of the equipment options available, the time to purchase a self-propelled buggy can depend on the contractor’s clientele. In most situations, self-propelled buggies are best suited for commercial projects or large driveways. “You can get into smaller parking lots with the squeegee machine,” says Eric Humphries, sales manager at Neal Manufacturing. “Spray bars are normally used on larger parking lots, but depending on conditions it can be very useful and a labor saver on smaller areas.”

The small size also enhances the unit’s maneuverability. “Some squeegee machines are equipped with an edging valve system that will enable you to release a small amount of material and come along side it being able to squeegee next to curbs and concrete bumpers,” says Keith King, president and owner of King Machinery. “Your machine is more maneuverable so you can do a lot of things in small, tight spaces.”

Randy Tattershall, sales manager at Rayner Equipment Systems, encourages contractors to look into purchasing a self-propelled buggy when they realize they can get a return on their investment. “If they are starting out it might be difficult to put the expense into a sealcoat buggy before they have developed their clientele,” he says. “We mostly see people who are already in the business and are looking to upgrade their equipment to something that will reduce labor costs, reduce maintenance costs and speed up production time.”

Norman Wilson, of N.I. Wilson Manufacturing, believes that a sealcoating buggy can be a good investment for a new contractor. “I think a sealcoating buggy would be a good investment, but it is about getting as much material out there as you can,” he says. “It’s the idea of price and what they are planning on doing in the future.”

Features to Consider

Self-propelled buggies have a variety of features contractors will want to consider from tanks to safety features.

Some suggested features are a round tank and two foot-controlled dump valves. “Round tanks give you full sweep agitation and allow the mounting of rubber wipers to sweep the tank clean as they rotate to keep the tank outlet clear,” says Steve Rapp, equipment division manager at SealMaster. “Another important feature would be having two foot-controlled dump valves to allow the material to come out a certain way when you get on a slope. This allows you to turn the lower valve off to keep from over-flooding the box.”

Safety is another issue contractors need to acknowledge when purchasing a self-propelled buggy. “A lot of machines don’t have brakes and rely on the hydrostatic breaking,” Tattershall says. “Contractors should insist on fail-safe brakes in addition to full hydrostatic braking to protect their employees as well as the general public.”

Another safety feature to have is an emergency stop system. “You should consider a safety device such as a seat pressure switch or a seat belt switch that will apply the brakes automatically if the operator is not in the proper location,” Tattershall says.

Horsepower is also a consideration that needs to be noted depending upon the location of the contractor. “At certain elevations applications become an issue when you get to the higher altitude,” King says. “The higher the altitude the more horsepower you lose. When you complete certain applications making sure you have enough horsepower is the primary thing.”

Rapp also encourages contractors to purchase a unit with a water capacity and misting nozzle. “What this does is sprays a fine mist of water over the front of the wheel, and it is used to wet the surface before the sealer hits it on hot days,” he says. “It helps control the shock of hitting the 100° F asphalt surface.”

Rear wheel drive is another feature contractors should consider. “A front wheel drive machine is terrible for trying to load onto a trailer because a lot of times the front wheel is wet,” Rapp says.

With a variety of sizes available, contractors will also want to purchase the most appropriate sized equipment. “The size of the buggy is often determined according to the workload,” Wilson says. “If you are doing big parking lots you might want to purchase a larger buggy.”

Wilson also says contractors might find an advantage in purchasing two smaller buggies. “It would be better to purchase two 300-gallon units because you can run them in tandem if you have a big job, or if you have two smaller jobs you can send one to each jobsite.”


Most buggies come with the option of being a dual-applicator using both squeegee and spray applications. Many suggest that contractors purchase a dual-applicator machine. “We want to be able to do a quality job, and we want to get the job done as soon as possible to be able to move on to the next job,” Tattershall says. “Sometimes we are told that a spray application is best for the job, but once on site you determine a squeegee application might be better for the first coat to give the customer the best end product.”

When a contractor has a machine with a dual-applicator, he has the flexibility of doing either spray or squeegee based on the pavement surface requirements. Smooth, open grade, coarse or chip seal surfaces all require different application techniques.

Squeegee machines often put down more material, but they can sometimes pull material off of the asphalt aggregate. A dual-applicator, on the other hand, can ensure a properly completed job. “The squeegee helps pack the material down in the cracks and crevices,” Humphries says. “With the squeegee it pulls the material off of the rock, and that is the point of spraying the second coat.”

Available Units

SealMaster makes a 300- and 575-gallon unit with a round tank and rubber wipers. The unit can be either squeegee or dual application with a hydraulic-driven dual diaphragm pump. The dual applicators come with a hand wand and a five-tip spray bar.

Neal Manufacturing makes a 350-gallon squeegee machine with a 38-hp Kubota diesel engine. The unit has rear wheel drive and comes with a 4-inch drop, two squeegees and a 100-gallon piston pumping system.

N.I. Wilson Manufacturing has several available units, but one of the biggest sellers is the model X1-300 gallon squeegee machine. It has dual rear wheel drive and features an 8-foot hydraulic angle squeegee, water tank and 4-inch material valve. N.I. Wilson also manufactures a 350- and 500-gallon units as well as a dual applicator.

Rayner Equipment Systems makes 300-, 400- and 500-gallon dual application buggies that are built entirely of T1 steel. Each model has full three wheel drive with fail-safe brakes, high load capacity torque hubs, a 42-hp turbocharged Kubota diesel engine and an ergonomic joystick/operator control system.

King Machinery manufactures a 325-gallon squeegee and dual applicator unit with a 38-hp Kubota engine. The unit has rear-wheel drive, power steering and an edging system.

Reduced Labor, Added Production, Added Revenue

A major benefit contractors will receive from purchasing a self-propelled buggy is the reduced number of crew members required on a project.

Although the price of a self-propelled buggy might be higher than other application machines, the cost saved on reduced labor can balance it out. “The machine costs more money than a standard spray unit, but if you look at the cost of having one extra man on the jobsite it will cost you far more than the difference between the two machines,” King says. “You don’t have to have four or five people working on an operation.”

Compared to the spray process that requires at least a three member crew – one with the truck, one to handle the hose, and one to spray – the self-propelled buggy can require only one crew member. “The buggy is a labor saver,” Humphries says. “With the squeegee machine you are essentially using one man. If you take the hand spray you would need a maximum of two people with the squeegee machine.”

Contractors can find an increase in productitvity as well.

“Using a high-performance machine can easily double or triple your production capabilities while providing for a smoother, more even appearing finished project” Tattershall says. “Customers often comment that they have had to re-think their project estimates with much higher production in mind.”