Useful, tough and versatile

Features - 2016 UTV Guide

Utility vehicles have more uses than you might think.

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June 6, 2016
Catherine Meany
While UTVs can save crews time and energy on large properties, they can be just as advantageous to service smaller residential properties.
Photos courtesy of Classic Landscaping

There are few pieces of equipment as versatile as a utility task vehicle. For many contractors, UTVs are a gift that keeps on giving to their businesses, yielding a variety of uses and cost savings.

“Once you have one, you can’t be without one,” says Patrick Donovan, president of Classic Landscaping in Edison, New Jersey. “If you have a car with no air conditioning and you buy a car with air conditioning, you’ll never buy a car without A/C again. These are the same way.”

From moving stone to moving snow to moving mulch, Donovan says his five UTVs have improved his business productivity tenfold. With many sites being hundreds of acres in size, even tasks as simple as weed whacking can become long, laborious projects. By driving UTVs, his crews can get done in two hours what would have normally taken eight because they aren’t manually hauling material from point A to point B.

“It’s just so unproductive to wheelbarrow material around,” Donovan says. “We can move an awful lot of mulch in those Gators, and we’re not walking, we’re not pushing a wheelbarrow uphill or downhill, we’re not balancing the wheelbarrow and potentially losing material. If you’re not as tired, you get much more productivity and you’re moving a whole lot more material much faster.”

Hauling and more.

For Dan Thill, owner of Bladecutters Lawn and Landscaping in Gilbert, Arizona, a UTV is a useful tool on homeowners’ associations and commercial properties.

“It’s good for everything,” Thill says. “It’s a great tool. We have a hitch on it that we can tow a pull-behind aerator to do core aeration, we can pull a little trailer for scalping, we have a 25-gallon sprayer mounted onto it so we can do spot spraying of weeds. It gets pretty hot here in the summer and it really helps my guys to be able to get back to the truck quicker.”

UTVs are just as advantageous on smaller properties. For Joe Adam, co-owner of C&J Landscaping in Pennsylvania, the moderate size and 500-plus-pound hauling capacity of his Yamaha Rhino have proven to be critical for servicing residential properties in his area.

“We do a lot of small driveways for people – too small to fit a full-size truck with 8-foot plows,” Adam says. “A 6-foot plow on the UTV maneuvers around much easier because a lot of driveways are not perfectly straight.”

While Donovan says the most common use for UTVs among landscaping contractors tends to be mulching, he has found no shortage of ways to use them for environmental services.

“We do a lot of unusual types of work,” he says. “The environmental techs will often ask us if we can supply a driver and a vehicle for the day because the sites aren’t conducive to operating larger-sized vehicles.”

In one instance, the technicians were putting water into a well so they could test it with dye. They would normally do this working from the road with 5-gallon buckets, but with the use of the UTV, Donovan’s crew could put a 300-gallon sprayer on the back and drive the techs out directly into the woods or field.

Although UTVs can haul hundreds of pounds, they have a very light footprint on the grass, even less than a wheelbarrow.

“These tires are basically like a flotation tire – low pressure and a wide stance,” he says. “Even loaded, you can put 500 to 700 pounds in it and not tear up the turf.”

As far as UTV attachments, Classic Landscaping uses a broom, a brush mower, forks for lifting pallets and stone, buckets with teeth, smooth buckets and a snow pusher.

“You have to consider not only what your use is today, but once you buy one, you’re going to come up with so many other uses for it that you are not anticipating, Donovan says.”

Think ahead.

Adam and his wife originally bought their UTV for recreational use, but it ended up being useful for countless tasks in their business as well.

“You can do a lot of different jobs more quickly and easily with a UTV, even around your own home,” he says.

Donovan recommends finding a dealer that can determine all the different tasks possible with each model, and then consider buying two or three steps up from what you think you need.

“You’re probably better off overbuying, not in size, but in specifications,” he says. “Rather than buying a base model and having to get a second one, you might be better off buying one with more options and more capabilities, weight capacity, etc.

Price-wise, yes it is a variable. There’s no two ways about it, but there’s a variable in the amount of work that you’re going to get done, so it might be worth it to buy up rather than buying down.”

Utility vehicles can range from $15,000 to upwards of $50,000. But you don’t have to spend that kind of money. Contractors can buy used UTVs for less than $10,000, Donovan says.

“You have to consider not only what your use is today, but once you buy one, you’re going to come up with so many other uses for it that you are not anticipating.” Patrick Donovan, Classic Landscaping

“I don’t think it’s something that everyone would want to buy because the initial cost of them is high, but in the end you’re saving so much time,” he says.

Thill plans to purchase another one when he starts his second crew.

“I tried out about six different name brands and I got a good finance deal of 0 percent for 48 months,” he says. “I’d definitely shop around and try them out. They are a great tool for your arsenal; that’s for sure.”