Numerous Factors Influence Decision To Own Or Rent Track Trenchers

What’s right for your business and application?
July 2011, Vol. 66 No. 7

It’s a puzzle with a lot of pieces that can be challenging to put together into a crystal clear picture: To rent, buy or rent and then convert that rental into a purchase?

Savvy contractors have long used rentals to augment their fleets with equipment specifically suited to their projects and working conditions. They understand that their ability to procure the right machine at the right cost is key to keeping crews working efficiently and enhancing the bottom line.

Various factors influence the decision to rent, and some of those same inputs can also make purchasing attractive.

Contractors must consider the cost to buy or rent, the anticipated utilization of the equipment and the economics of it all. One piece of equipment that provides a good example of the rent, own or rent-then-purchase conundrum is a track trencher, a specialized machine that can rent at two to 2½-times the cost of renting a similar-sized excavator, but can boost overall production as well.

According to Vermeer Surface Mining Segment Manager Chris Lynch, the industry has witnessed a strong resurgence in the track trencher rental and retail market the past eight months due to rising crude oil and natural gas demand. But, before you rush out and rent a track trencher, there are a number of considerations.

“Most dealers will require at least a month rental, maybe two, on a track trencher because of the cost to mobilize that piece of equipment,” Lynch explained. “A contractor has to have plenty of work and be set up to put pipe in the ground as fast as the ditch is opened. If you only have 1,500 feet of pipe to install, then it may be more cost-effective to use an excavator.”

Production
Lynch notes that with a fleet of excavators, you may be used to putting in 1,300 to 1,600 feet of ditch per day, but with a trencher in those same conditions, you may get two to three times that production. You’ve got to have the work in front of you to justify the rental rate, regardless of how quickly you’re able to get the job done.

For Phoenix-based CSW Contractors, renting a track trencher made the most sense because of the short duration of their need.