Based on my personal experiences, I have formed a few opinions about proper fencing equipment, available labor, and selling something when we get done with it. My opinions are fact in my world, but I don't expect that they will be fact for everyone.
My first few drivers were center mast, 3 point mount Shavers. Then, I had a couple center mast on skid steers. The skid steer setup was much better, but this was still before the internet was full of useful, easily mined information. I eventually made my way to a skid steer mounted driver with side shift, and the world seemed better.........until our economy healed up and nobody wanted to sit in the seat for $20 an hour. Working alone, and wanting to avoid the dangers of climbing in and out of the skid steer 300 times a day, I did the wise thing and disconnected all of the safety switches and wired a pair of aluminum poles to the pilot controls for easy access from the front of the machine. (Aluminum was for safety.....In a pinch, they should fold up, right?)
Now, I'm not sure if the internet was just getting to the point where it had the information I was looking for, or if I had just finally learned how to access what I was looking for, but when I had the notion of a one man fencing machine and Googled it, my prayers had been answered......sort of. I couldn't afford any of the machines I'd found, and definitely not without trying one first. Since none of the manufacturers I spoke with had a machine in the states, and I figured it'd cost $10k to visit the UK (not true by the way....it's cheap) I decided to "build" my own in the same fashion that Johnny Cash builds cars. One piece at a time.
With what we had in the budget, I bought a Vector Model 4, and attempted to use it on a skid steer while we put some savings back in the bank for a track dumper. It was way too big for even the biggest of skid steers, so it went on the tractor for a while. We kept chipping away at our contracts, and later that year I found a Yanmar C50R1, with a crane ;-), that I could get delivered right from Japan for the bargain price of $13,500. Yes, it was a little rougher than I wanted, and I had to brush up on my Japanese, but it was in the budget. I had about $1,500 left in the kitty, so that was the budget to make them fit together. Long story short, 48 hours after we unloaded the Yanmar, I was driving a post in the dark with a machine that I could single hand from the ground. I slept most of the next day, and then put her right to work. The very first place I took it was a sopping wet Creekside that you couldn't even walk across without losing a boot. I was a bit nervous, but right across we went, and never looked back. That machine paid for it's self in less than 2 months, and when help no showed, it wasn't near as big a deal. Now, our skid steer can spend it's time keeping me in posts, clearing ahead of the driver, stringing wire, packing the welding rig, etc, etc, while I drive posts.
The difference in American post drivers vs what I'll call European or NZ drivers is night and day. I have had the opportunity to try most of them out, and there is no contest. Having a post cap is the simplest concept, but hasn't caught on here. The goofy little spring loaded "post holder" that looks like a bow roller from a boat trailer just doesn't cut it. One of the side effects of a purpose built fencing rig is the uptick in new business. Potential customers take notice when a man cares enough about his craft to invest in the future. Profit margin is the most enjoyable side effect. We recently had the need for a profitability statement from our accountant, and in the 12 months following the implementation of our tracked driver,(been 5 years now) our net profitability went up just a hair over 18%. Those kinds of real benefits need to be figured into the equation.
With regard to versatility and resale value......About a year ago, I was riding around the hills of the UK with Si Gibbs, on our way to meet John Morgan on the top of the coldest hill in all of Wales. Between the three of us, there was a good mix of working alone, and having a crew, as well as quite a bit of hands on experience with different drivers. Si had an EVO 1 on order that was soon to be delivered, so that was the major topic of discussion on our drive.(I finally did confess to him that I'd had my hands on his new machine the day before.) Now, Si is just a youngster compared to me, but he has it figured out enough to know that once he hung a driver on the back of his tractor that he bought so he could be more versatile........plowing, mowing, etc........it never came off the 3 point. If you are only going to use a machine for one thing, it's versatility is irrelevant, and paying a man to sit in the seat will more than pay for a single hand machine. I have never heard of anyone who made the swap and regretted it. As far as resale goes, I am not the guy to ask. When we buy something, it's usually worth scrap price when I get done with it. We run the trucks past 300K miles, and equipment even farther. I'm good about maintenance, but there is still a useful lifespan for everything, post drivers included. I'm sure that there are some that get a lifetime out of a driver, but I'm never going to be one of them. I am, however, in the market for an immediately available, lightly used tracked driver that is somewhere east of the Pacific and west of the Atlantic.
I'm getting long winded here, but my Dad said something a while back that made sense of it all. "We are in the technology business." Longer rolls of net, tracked drivers, Gripples, HT wire, fixed knot with increased stake spacing vs yesterdays hinge joint, suitable knots for modern wire, unrollers, stretchers, and the list goes on. Is it possible to build a good fence without all of this? Absolutely. Is it possible to keep the impatient customers of the short on laborers modern world happy without all of this? Getting less likely every day.
Don't take any of this as the gospel, as it's just the opinion of a less than intelligent fencer who, if forced to go back to his old ways of doing things, would find a new line of work.