Small Machines: Smart Choices for Rental Centers
Robert and Melodie Craft
Rental centers are adding to store profits by adding small Bobcat® loaders and excavators to their equipment lineup. These machines include the MT50, MT52 and MT55 mini track loaders, the 463 skid-steer loader and the 316 excavator.
They are ideal when the job is too big for shovels and wheelbarrows and the site is too small for bigger equipment. Each can fit through a gate. The 316 excavator can be equipped with three different widths of trenching buckets. The mini track loaders and the 463 can use a variety of interchangeable Bobcat attachments, such as an angle broom, auger, hydraulic breaker, landplane, pallet forks, snowblower, stump grinder and trencher.
These diesel-powered machines offer the speed, maneuverability and performance that contractors demand for construction, renovation and repair work and the ease of operation which appeals to homeowners working on weekend projects. Rental store owners and managers like the renowned Bobcat brand recognition, reliability, durability, ease of servicing and resale value.
A money-making duo
When it comes to small Bobcat equipment, Robert and Melodie Craft, who own C & M Rentals, Picayune, Miss., offer their contractor and homeowner customers a choice of an MT50 mini track loader, a 463 skid-steer loader and a 316 excavator. They’re part of a Bobcat fleet which includes three other excavators (328, 334 and 341), three skid-steer loaders (two 763 models and a 773) and a T300 compact track loader.
The MT50, which can be rented with a bucket, pallet forks or trencher, is used for a variety of jobs. “It’s been a big asset,” according to the Crafts. “Plumbers like it for home additions where they can’t get in with bigger skid-steer loaders. Landscapers like it because it doesn’t tear up lawns and homebuilders like it because they can work on concrete slabs without causing any damage.”
Homeowner uses range from installing shrubs and re-doing septic drainfields to cleaning out horse stalls.
463 skid-steer loader with breaker attachment
The Crafts added the 316 excavator in response to contractors and homeowners who wanted an excavator that could fit through narrow backyard gates. The undercarriage retracts for entry into tight spaces to as small as 32-in.-wide and expands to more than 35-in.-wide for increased digging and loading performance. “By using a 12-in. trenching bucket, customers can dig with minimal disturbance,” says Robert.
As he points out, the machines are designed for easy operation and service. “It doesn’t take long for new operators to become comfortable running the machines. Engine and components, such as hydraulic lines, are simple to service and repair.”
The Crafts are also well satisfied with the utilization rate of the two machines. “The return on investment is as good or better than our bigger equipment. In fact, because they don’t cost as much to buy and rent out a little more often than bigger machines, they’re more profitable.”
Success with the 463
Dan Bydalek, who manages Construction Rentals, Kearney, Neb., added a smaller machine to his Bobcat fleet in response to growing customer demand.
“We kept tabs of the number of contractors and homeowners asking for a small unit to use in confined spaces,” he recalls. Two years ago he purchased a 463 to complement his five other skid-steer loaders (763 and 773 models) and a 325 excavator.
It’s popular among contractors for grading and installing sidewalks. “It works real well in that application with a 44-in. bucket,” Bydalek says. “Homeowners like it because it’s user-friendly.”
The machine is rented for moving dirt, backfilling foundations and for cleaning out horse and cattle sheds, he reports.
“One customer rented it for a month to widen the existing basement of his house,” Bydalek says.
He’s satisfied with the 463’s rental activity. “The return on investment is about the same as our larger units,” he says.
Size makes 463s popular
Four 463 loaders are paying off for Tony Pugh. He owns Valley Rents and Ready-Mix, which operates two northern California stores—one in Roseville, another in Elk Grove.
463 skid-steer loader
Pugh rents the machines with either a smooth or tooth bucket. He bought the 463s three years ago to replace small walk-behind wheel loaders.
Although contractors rent the 463 for landscaping work, most customers use it around their homes for landscaping and other jobs such as digging ponds.
“The compact size is the big selling feature,” Pugh says. “It’s small enough to fit into a backyard and it’s user-friendly. Customers learn to operate it very quickly.”
He reports little downtime with the 463 loaders. “They’ve been good machines and are working out well,” Pugh says. “We’re very happy with them and would recommend them.”
Digging out a market niche
The Bobcat 316 excavator is giving Rick Borgoyne, who owns Norwin Rental Center, Irwin, Pa., an edge over his competitors.
“A small machine like this isn’t available at any other rental store in the area,” he says. “I’m going after contractors and homeowners who can’t get a larger excavator into a backyard or through a fence or gate. It offers the digging depth that contractors need. It’s compact enough to work in tight landscapes. And it’s easy to use.”
Borgoyne reports customers use the 316 with a 12-in. bucket for installing water, gas and drainage lines. Once he rented it for digging a decorative pond in a backyard. “The customer said it was perfect for the job.”
Maintenance requirements are simple, he adds: “Ten minutes on the wash pad and 30 minutes for oiling and greasing and the machine is ready to go back out on rental.
“I’ve been very pleased with the 316. It rents out very well.”
Loaders help lift revenues
The ability to switch attachments between the MT52 and two 463 loaders is paying off for Brothers’ Equipment Rentals, Ancaster, Ontario. Part of a fleet of Bobcat equipment, which includes nine other skid-steer loaders and excavators, the three machines can be rented with an auger, bucket, hydraulic breaker, dumping hopper, utility forks and pallet forks.
This combination of mini machines and compatible attachments gives customers—mostly contractors—more choices and helps boost store revenues, reports Tom Morelli. If a customer wants a 463, but none is available, the MT52 can do the same job with the added advantage of being a track machine, he explains.
Typically, homeowners and contractors rent the units for landscaping work, while farmers use them for cleaning out livestock barns. An enclosed, heated cab helps keep the 463 busy clearing snow in winter. The rubber tracks are an important feature of the MT52. “Unlike a wheel machine, it floats over soft, wet ground,” Morelli says.
Given a choice, he says, homeowners tend to choose the MT52. “They like its smaller size and better visibility. They feel more comfortable operating it.”
The performance of the MT52 and the 463s, plus the growing number of residential lots with limited access, have been good for business. “We’ve been very successful in renting the MT52 and 463s and are very happy with them,” Morelli says. “Since we’ve had both types of machines, we’re busier than ever.”
Two smart loader choices
A pair of small machines—a Bobcat 463 skid-steer loader and a MT52 mini track loader—are helping Grand Rental Station develop a niche in the market for equipment that homeowners and others can use efficiently in limited access jobsites.
Glen Holloway, manager of the Fairview Heights, Ill., business says his other Bobcat equipment (four 773 skid-steer loaders, a T190 compact track loader and two 331 excavators) are rented mostly by contractors. The 463 and MT52 appeal to those working around their homes as well as contractors challenged by confined work areas.
Holloway purchased the 463, his first small loader, four years ago from the Bobcat of St. Louis store in Fairview Heights. Many homeowners use it for landscaping work, while farmers sometimes rent it to clean out barns and stalls. Last fall, one contractor hoisted it to the top of a large retail building for a month long job of removing rock for a roof replacement project.
“The 463 serves my homeowner market well,” says Holloway. “It fits where other equipment cannot be used and can be transported with smaller pickup trucks. Homeowners find it less intimidating to operate than the larger loaders. It stays busy spring, summer and fall.”
MT52 mini track loader
Holloway bought the MT52 last year. He liked the turf-friendly features of the machine’s rubber tracks, the power and reliability of its diesel engine and the convenience of the ride-on platform.
“At least 95 percent of our customers use the platform,” he says.
Homeowners use it for moving dirt, rock and sand across a lawn to the backyard while contractors may use it for landscaping or installing fences, he reports.
The rental rates of the MT52 and the 463 are similar.
“Usage of the MT52 has far exceeded my original expectations,” Holloway says. Some of that reflects the machine’s ease of operation and transport. But he credits its labor-saving abilities as the main reason customers choose it.
“A homeowner can rent the machine for four hours to do the work it would take a day or longer to finish by hand,” he says. “Once customers learn how much time the MT52 saves them, we have no problem renting it.”