Making of a Landscape Truck

When buying a used truck, you never know what you’re going to get or what you’re going to end up with if the truck needs to be refitted for a new body. Beyond engine, transmission or other unknown issues, it’s always a crap shoot on whether you’ll end up with a reliable truck set up the way you had hoped no matter how many times you think it through. If you’ve every looked for a clean, low mileage, pre emission truck, you know how popular they are and how quick they sell. We needed another landscape truck. I do not have any confidence in any 2008-current model year diesel trucks. I know way too many people that have had problems with their relatively new trucks that have engines with the added emission requirements. From the stories I’ve heard from friends and acquaintances, those repairs run into the thousands of dollars. The amounts I typically hear are usually between $5000-$8000 when the emissions start to foul up right after warranties expire. Because of those stories, I was hoping to find a clean, low mileage truck that was built in 2007 or earlier. It took a while, but I finally found a truck that could fit the bill. A 2003 Isuzu with 5,600 miles, garaged since new and never driven in the snow. Problem was, it was a box truck and I was looking for a dump truck. The decision was made to buy the truck with a body I didn’t need, a generator I didn’t need and a light pole I didn’t need. The idea would be to build a truck that would work for us after beating out two local landscapers who were thinking on it and a guy who made a full price offer from Texas.

The new purchase. A one owner 2003 Isuzu FRR. 5,600 miles, garaged since new and never driven in snow.
The truck came with a barely used 35,000 watt generator
The truck also came with a 30′ telescoping light pole.
First step: The wiring gets disconnected and the body gets removed from the truck.
The body sits on blocks waiting for it’s new owner.
The body installed on its new home.
The new tool box and body installed.
Our first truck with coal chutes.

This body is a first on a couple fronts. First, it’s the first aluminum body in our fleet. I’m curious to see how we like this over the long haul. It wasn’t cheap and it will be much more complicated to repair aluminum if we damage the body at some point, but I liked the weight benefits aluminum provided over steel. Second, it will be the first body we own that doesn’t have fold down or removable sides. Instead, this body has a large side door. I’m curious to see if we miss the convenience of removable or fold down sides. The one thing I know we’ll like about this new body is the ability to cleanly carry small bulk material. Fold down sides and rack bodies aren’t the best at carrying small bulk materials. Currently, every time I load a truck with pea stone, I lay a tarp along the length of each side to try to prevent stone from slipping through the sides and bouncing all over the road. Third, this is the first body I’ve added coal shoots to. I’m hoping we can use these to pull mulch and compost through, right into wheelbarrows. We will see if this works and if guys like it enough to use it consistently. If you look closely, there is a small platform under each coal shoot and tie downs on each side that allows us to carry wheelbarrows off the back of the truck. Every truck we currently own, has some way to carry 2 wheelbarrows off the back of the truck. We don’t use them very often but occasionally, we’re glad we have that option.

Why do I do this? Why not just go buy a new truck at a dealership or find a used truck that fits the bill? First and foremost, I ended up with exactly what I wanted. It’s so hard to find a used truck that checks every box. Second, I ended up with a low mileage, pre-emission truck that should last the rest of my career. Third, I guess would be cost. My ultimate motivation is a pre-emission engine. That being said, if you can find the right truck and have enough patience, going this route will also be light on the wallet.

Below is what we have into the truck.

Purchase price. $26,000. The body, lift gate, electrical supplies, light pole, generator and winch was sold for $8,150.
Cab and chassis $17,850. Body, hoist and hitch. $22,300. Tool box $2900. Total cost $43,050

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Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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