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Things to Consider When Buying a Stump Cutter

Rayco RG55 Stump Cutter

For companies that are looking to take care of their customers’ stump removal requirements more efficiently and cost-effectively, or expand their service offerings, the most important consideration is equipment. To select the right stump cutter, you will first need to determine the types of jobs that will typically be your focus.

Will you be doing mostly residential or commerical lot clearing?
Will you be working for homeowners removing stumps in residential areas? Or will you be performing commercial lot clearing?

Generally, those seeking a stump cutter for land-clearing applications should look for a stump cutter with as much cutting performance as they can get within their budget. These machines tend to be large with powerful engines and are available as either towable or self-propelled machines. Features such as the ability to fit through a 36-inch gate is generally not important for these jobs.

When looking for a stump cutter to handle residential work, you will need to consider the area in which you will be operating. Specifically, are there more old and mature trees, which tend to have larger and harder stumps, or more ornamental trees, which tend to be smaller in size? This will inform your decision on the cutting width you want your stump cutter to have. The typical size of the yard where your services will be required should also factor into your decision. Those working in urban areas with high housing density and small yards will deal with limited access and tight spaces. In residential applications, you’re often dealing with large stumps that are difficult to reach due to obstacles such as sheds, steps, landscaping, fences, and gates. In these cases, you should consider a self-propelled machine that offers the capability of fitting through a 36-inch gate. Those working in more rural areas and larger subdivisions may have fewer challenges related to jobsite accessibility. Once you determine what your typical job will look like, you can begin to narrow your choices to the right combination of size, performance, and features to fit your needs and wallet.

How much horsepower is right for you?
A greater horsepower engine provides more power to the cutting head. As a general rule, you want to get as much cutting power as you can so long as it fits in your budget and on your job site. The more cutting power you have, the faster you will complete jobs. Most contractors prefer to get as much cutting power as possible while staying in the parameters of their price and job site space constraints.

Do you prefer tracks or tires?
When considering self-propelled machines, deciding between tracks and tires can be difficult. In most residential conditions tires offer the advantage of minimal turf damage and, with the addition of dual wheels, can offer just as much stability as tracks. Rubber tracks, on the other hand, can provide more traction for climbing hills and operating in snow and mud as well as offer more flotation on soft ground. Non-marking rubber tracks have the added advantage of eliminating black scuff marks on light-colored concrete.

Are you looking for a gas- or diesel-powered machine?
Tier 4 requirements on diesel engines have driven their cost much higher. Still, some people prefer diesel engines, especially if their trucks, chippers, and other equipment have diesel power. Having all of your equipment use the same fuel makes it easier on your crew for fill-ups. However, gasoline engines today have more fuel efficiency and better torque curves than older technology. Additionally, gasoline engines tend to be lighter in weight, making it easier to drive machines onto manicured lawns or soft ground conditions. Combined with the lower purchase price, this can make a gasoline-powered stump cutter an attractive option.

Do you prefer remote controls or manual controls?
When selecting the right stump cutter, controls play a key role. Controls are the user's interface to the machine, and the operator must be comfortable with the controls to be safe and efficient. Radio remote controls or manually operated hydraulic controls is generally a matter of operator preference, but care should be taken to compare control features and functionality between manufacturers.

How will you transport your stump cutter?
For customers selecting a self-propelled stump cutter, having the right trailer is critical. A custom stump cutter trailer can save an operator time and provide a higher level of safety when securing a machine to the trailer. A custom trailer is made to eliminate the need for chains and binders and instead uses heavy-duty pins to secure the machine.

How easy is the stump cutter to maintain?
Like any machine, a stump cutter requires routine maintenance to keep running optimally, and a machine that’s hard to maintain can affect your long-term satisfaction with the stump cutter you select. Even the toughest stump cutter will occasionally need repairs, and even a properly maintained stump cutter will require regular grease intervals, tooth changes, and periodic adjustment to components. A stump cutter designed for ease of maintenance can greatly reduce your downtime.

Do you have access to local dealer support and expertise?
Sure, you need a dealer to supply you with OEM parts and service. But if that’s all your relationship is, you could be missing out. A dealer who is involved in the industry and who understands your needs and the importance of reducing downtime can be a valuable part of your business model. Your dealer may share ideas that will improve your approach to business, whether with supplemental equipment or by keeping you abreast of new industry trends. Also, they can help you to understand your financing options and shepherd you through the process. Even if you purchase a used machine from a private seller, having a good relationship with a local dealer authorized by your stump cutter manufacturer can mean the difference between having a stranger to order a part from and having a teammate who’ll go the extra mile to get your equipment back up and running as quickly as possible.