By Shawn Hutchings

Have you ever tried buying a new piece of construction equipment and were overwhelmed with all the different specs and options? If you said yes, then you’re not alone!

My son is in the seal coating business and when he bought his first seal coat trailer, he came to me to help determine which one would be right for his business. We reviewed multiple manufactures and multiple configurations and looked over all the specs. The specs ranged from 300-gallon trailer mounted to 1200-gallon truck mounted units, from non-agitation units to hydraulic-agitation units, from 1-inch pumps to 3-inch pumps, there were so many specs to review and consider. But which one was right for his business?

To really dial in what specs meant the most to his operation and needs we first focused on what his expectation would be for the unit not only for the day it arrived in his yard but also three to five years after the unit was placed into service. The first part of this was easy as we knew what jobs he currently had lined up for the season but for projects three to five years down the road we had to guess. Choosing a unit spec’d too small could help with initial upfront cost but could really hurt your production ability and limit your future job options. Believe it or not buying based on upfront cost usually cost more in the long run. On the flip side something spec’d too big could have high upfront cost and can increase overall cost of operation for the smaller jobs he currently has lined up for the season thus cutting into his margins.

As we reached out to the vendors for help review for these seal coat unit specs it was surprising to me that most sales representatives lead their sales pitch with having the biggest tank or the biggest pump or literally anything bigger than their competition. They really weren’t focused on my son’s situation and what his needs were now or five years down the road.

With my background in municipal bids, most public works procurement departments review equipment to purchase this same way ….and it drives me nuts!

Now don’t get me wrong there are many public works directors that know equipment and have these spec written to really dial in equipment that they need but 75% of the time that’s not the case. It has gotten so bad that manufactures are playing the game as well, they’ll manufacture their machine to ‘out-spec’ the competition and not really understand the value of what the spec is doing for the end user to begin with. This is what’s called the ‘My Spec is Bigger than your Spec!’ approach!

Today, machinery is becoming more and more efficient and there isn’t a need to have the biggest engine or biggest pumps any longer, whether seal coat pump or hydraulic pump. The key to dialing in what will work best for your operation is to review the equipment from initial purchase through the whole time you plan on owning it. This approach will not only save you money but make you money on the job and won’t have the extra cost associated with the bigger spec you don’t really need in the first place.

After reviewing if the bigger spec is going to save or make you money by all means grab the unit with the bigger spec, but if its not needed save your money and buy what works for your application.

With regards to my son’s purchase, he finally decided on a 550-gallon trailer with hydraulic agitation that was under the 10,000 GVW to avoid the CDL requirements.

If you’re looking at purchasing new equipment or need help with specification on any type of equipment don’t hesitate to contact me at

Shawn Hutchings is a Territory Sales Manager with LeeBoy. He can be  reached at