View Full Version : Geography and Income

12-12-2001, 07:31 PM
I'm interested in finding out what other LCO's charge per maintenance man-hour in different parts of the country. Especially those with not more that 3 full time employees, because that way we'd all have similar overhead.

My interest on this was piqued a few weeks ago when someone gave me feedback on this board that my normal $30/man hour was way low. Granted, it's usually higher... but I wouldn't think that this is "way low". Let's hear what other small time guys charge in different areas. A good idea might be to include the average value of the properties you service, too. My average residential is around a $200,000 house.


12-12-2001, 07:36 PM
Forget the country-focus on the AREA. Things can vary so much within zip codes even. So why have a set $/hr amount based on area alone? I set mine by the area and by the type of job it is. I'll clean gutters off season for $20.00/hr, but if I'm doing any heavy landscaping, I want $50.00.

12-12-2001, 07:47 PM
Matt's right

In the sevral zip code I do some of my prices go up higher.

Min. hourly charge $45 a man hour, truck/guy, any more than a few simple hand tools and it's more.

Size of LCO or the amount of empl. does not matter.

Charge accrodingly.

12-12-2001, 07:47 PM
We try for 75$ a hour there's 4 of us it's a family run biz

12-12-2001, 08:04 PM
I'm a solo op and right now I shoot for $42/hour mowing, $60/hour trimming/hauling.

12-12-2001, 08:12 PM
i try to avg $ 28.00 per man hour . more is nice sometimes i do much better . if i have land fill fees then i add them in .

12-12-2001, 09:24 PM

12-12-2001, 10:13 PM
Hey Jeff, just curious. Your signature. Is that supposed to say loaded from bear or loaded from beer?

12-12-2001, 10:39 PM
Going out on a limb here, but that signature could mean:

The business world is different. There are bears there. My bottom-line message is that if you're going to go into the workplace, figure out the deal. Learn it's about fighting bears.

Billi Lee: Loaded for bear


I pasted straight from here: http://www.cnn.com/2001/CAREER/trends/03/21/billilee/

Of course, it very well may mean otherwise. ;)

12-12-2001, 11:41 PM
$35 regardless of the location although I would charge more if there was traveling time but I generally wont take jobs out of a certain area.

odin00- Is that $75 per man hour doing lawn maint. or is that landscape construction or spraying or what? If you are getting $75 for mowing that is excellent.

12-13-2001, 12:17 AM
$35/hr 42 dixon and 48 WB 45-$50 with 62 ferris around $30 for labor

12-13-2001, 12:31 AM
Thats for cleanups and landscaping the materials are not included
Also on cleanups we charge takeing the debree off
Mowing depends on what area you are in. some areas we get that some we dont

lost mountain
12-13-2001, 12:33 AM
For us, maintenance averages $40-$45 per man hour regardless of neighborhood.
Home values currently average $350-400,000

Check this out: I put in a bid 2 months ago for full maintenance to this homeowner. They had also gotten 2 other bids from 2 other landscapers and damn if we weren't all exactly $155 per month/ year round! (but we got the contract :D )

Here's another: I put in a bid recently on an industrial building site install job. We are bidding against 2 other companies (large landscape companies). All of the bids were within $1000 of each other (on a $20,000 job!). (still don't have an answer back on that one)

I personally don't think $40 per man hour is really enough. You have to work with high efficiency brute force to make any money with that rate but I don't think the market will bare much more than that unless it's really upscale highend horticultural work.
You've got to factor in workman's comp, supplies, taxes, insurance, wear and tear, and on and on.


12-13-2001, 12:57 AM
I try to maintain a hourly rate of $50 / hr for maint. Some properties I am not able to get that. I can live with $30 / hr. (and still profit) If it goes below that, I raise the price or drop them.

I am solo

12-13-2001, 04:58 AM
Way down here your looking at $30 per hour or $60 per hour sitting on a Walker,We try to quote by the job,rather than per hour,usually more profitable that way.

12-13-2001, 08:42 AM
Prices will vary a great deal from contractor to contractor, neighborhood, and even from lawn to lawn in the same neighborhood. It can be hard to sell client A at $35/wk and next door client B gets theirs for $25, even when that's how much it should cost.

I manage $40+ for regular maintenance, but can't seem to get people to go with more than $25 on leaf removal. If I can find a way to do this more efficiently, it will get better.

12-13-2001, 08:50 AM
I shoot for 50.00 per hour. I have 1 employee, but am going to return to solo soon. Maybe in the high growth season I will hire another helper.

12-13-2001, 08:54 AM
I'm anywhere from 20.00 t 50.00.

Averaging 35.00 - planning on getting more efficient to bring it up, especially on leaf removal.

12-13-2001, 10:23 AM
Are the numbers being tossed out here based on, on the job time or is it the average return for all hours worked in a day?

12-13-2001, 11:19 AM
Originally posted by lost mountain
I personally don't think $40 per man hour is really enough

Thank you, Mark!

I've been doing a lot of job costing lately, more than my way-too-much usual, and I've come to the same conclusion. Not 6 months ago, I thought getting $36/hour on the job was aplenty, but I simply hadn't factored in all of life.

My wife stopped working, our choice, about 3 months ago and I set out to figure what we'd have to make to run this business as a family thing so she could stay home in office support. I've been pricing retirement plans, health insurances, total taxes, costs of living, etc. 'til my eyes were blue. Here's my conclusion:

We need at least $6000/month (solo!) to cover us. Much higher if we want some nicer amenities of life.

Let's break that down:

$6000/4 weeks in a month = $1500
$1500/$40/hour = 37.5 hours solo
37.5/7 workable hours/day = 5.36 days in the field

7 workable hours in a 9 hour day (8-5). One hour for lunch, 1/2 hour drive time during the day, 1/2 hour for two potty breaks as needed.

Okay, 5 1/3 hours in the field and 2/3 of a day working maintenance. That leaves me Sunday to enjoy the fruits of my labors (or catch up what has fallen behind!) before it all starts over again. Where's my life?

I'm a quality of life kind of guy. Work hard, play hard. It's just better for the soul. So, ideally, I should spend 4 days in the field with one full week day for make up & maintenance. 28 workable hours in four days:

$1500/$28 = $53.60/hour

This is what I need to cover our full expenses and live our current lifestyle w/o forgetting about living a life and things like medical coverage, retirement, etc. My current rates are right around $42/hour. Not there yet.

I need to build my schedule around my current figures right now, with an eye on how I need to increase my rates, consolidate my areas, and make a commitment to the long run. In a few short years, I need to go from 3-4 days @ $42/hour to 4-5 days @ $50/hour or more.

It's doable but, as Mark said, $40/hour simply isn't enough.

12-13-2001, 11:49 AM
Several years ago one of the trade mags did a mail-in survey on pricing in different aspects of the green industry - maintenance, applications, install. The lowest geographic areas were CA and the South. Highest was the midwest, just a little higher than East Coast. Prices were also tracked by highest to lowest in each region. There was a spread even in each region, but this was probably attributed to lack of knowledge of proper pricing on the low end, and quality of work on the high end. I can't find the article, but I think region to region variations were up to 30-40%.

In respect to variations in just your local market, of course that will exist because urban areas tend to become segregated by economic affluence, or lack thereof.

Comparison of my prices to the prices in NY, CA, FL, etc. is not a valid condition.

The most important variable for anyone in any area is the value the individual client places on your service. It does take time to present yourself to the public as a dependable, quality operation, if that is what you wish to achieve. This is a given in any business, but especially true in the service industry.

12-13-2001, 02:39 PM
This might get sticky, but what about minimums factored into hourly rates? I'm a solo op and can do a cluster of four yards in 1 hour at $28 a yard. Do I make $112/hr? I wish!!! I do my neighbors yard up the road for $28 and it takes me a solid hour with a push mower. I guess my point is different accounts will get different $/hour.

Lawns and Mower

lost mountain
12-13-2001, 03:21 PM
It is sticky and that gets back to what HBFOXJr
asked about everyone's method of calculation. The rate I mentioned is per mowing visit and doesn't take into account an annualized net rate (which is far more telling). When estimating a potential account I base pricing on turf sq. footage, amount of shrubs and size, supplies and how long it's going to take for each type of job on the site.
And I am solo on maintenance right now as I'm just getting started (not on install though). So solo is one thing but with a crew I believe that past experience shows that "the sum is greater than (not equal to) the parts" : 4 guys with the right overlap and equipment assignment are MORE than 4 times faster than solo. Agree? So is the hourly rate increasing with 4 men? What about after a loaded labor rate (workmens comp, insurance, more wear and tear, etc.)???

And Re: solo...If I do solo again I'll run myself out of this buisiness a second time! I don't mind getting it started but it's too much work for one guy and it does take a long time on a property. How do you solo guys do it?

12-13-2001, 03:37 PM
Each route produces different #'s ranging from $45 to $90 US. Mowing production & profit is higer on the smaller, grouped props.

12-13-2001, 04:04 PM
lost mountain- I don't agree that 4 workers work more than 4 times faster than a solo lco. There's alot of factors involved. Your drivetime cost increases (4 employees on the clock while stuck in traffic) Employees aren't in the same rush to get things done as a solo op is. And what about lost time in training new employees? I used to have 2 employees and all we used were push mowers. Went to a WB Toro and 1 employee. Had 100 accts at this time. Finally unloaded half of the accts to my last employee and got to pick the cream of the crop in regard to the other 50 accts. I've picked up some new accts, raised my prices and making more than when I had 100 accts. I love being solo and wouldn't ever think about going back to a crew of workers.

Lawns and Mower

12-13-2001, 06:57 PM
Smaller crews and really 1-2 are the most efficient. There is no overlapping of duties and no waiting for 1,2-5 minutes while the other guy finishes one last solo chore.

Although the capital costs of equipment are not as heavily used with 1 guy as 3 or 4, equipment costs are not impacted heavily. Here's why. Any piece of equipment only has so many useable hours in it and will require X$ of maintenance work per 100 hrs. So whether you use an $8,000 ZTR 300 hrs/yr or 600hr/yr the per hour operating costs are the same.

Cash flow at purchase is the problem. The more you hours you use and bill the quicker you recover the investment even though the ownership costs per hour used remain the same.

There should not be the big swings in hourly production $. You guys need to factor in all of your working hours in a day like maintaining equipment and travel time. I always spread the prep time over the production time first. Divide the hourly costs for a 9 hr day by the number of hours you spend on the road driving and working, 8-8.5 for example. If your costs for labor, overhead, profit and equipment are $35/hr/man for 9 hrs, the 8 useable hrs are worth $39.38. If you then say I have have 10 min drive time between jobs your show up charge is $6.56 AND THEN you charge $39.38/hr on the job. If you drive 45 minutes to a job the show up charge is $29.53 plus OJT.

You start pricing your self out of the stuff you shouldn't drive to and make your prices favorable on the closer stuff unless it is one large job you spend hours at.

lost mountain
12-13-2001, 08:06 PM
"I don't agree that 4 workers work more than 4 times faster than a solo lco. There's alot of factors involved. Your drivetime cost increases "

that's a good point...I mean onsite with skilled, concientious maintenance people that 4=more than 4X1. I think there's an exponential factor.

."I love being solo "

Listen I understand the thinking and I love the solitude and the peace of mind out there but I don't know how in the hell I can do 50 accounts by myself and defintely not a hundred. Can I do 20 properties a day by myself? Who am I Superman? Hell no. I want to run the buisiness not do all the work everyday. But I do understand keeping it simple and only having to depend on oneself.

I just started this company in August, but up until 3 years ago I ran a pretty much solo gig for 5 years and I'm going to make a lot more money now if I get some help. It's just like installation: we did an $11,000 job 2 weeks ago. My design - all plants and shrubs...I made a killing (fair pricing too).
If I had been alone it would have been: 1) impossible 2) taken me 3-4 weeks to complete. Instead I had 3 workers out there. My profit was only $600+ less but it would have been a lot less than that if I had been out there for 3 weeks alone (which would've never happened).

12-14-2001, 02:13 PM
lost mountain- I agree that having some help for larger jobs is in order. Profit margin goes up, work gets done quicker and you're not worn out trying to do it all yourself. When I land large jobs I have a couple college students that will work at the drop of a hat. When I said I love being solo I was referring to the lawn care aspect of my business. I've been in business for 15 years so my mowing division is like a well greased machine. I'm spoiled on which accounts I'll take on and drop 1 or 2 lousy accounts each year. And yes, I have mowed 20 yards in 1 day not including my own at the end of the day. Just happened to be one of those days when 10 dayer clusters fell on the same day as weekly clusters. One reason why I've remained solo is that I'm very anal and like things done right. I know I'm straying from forum topic but I guess labor (# of employees) factors into $/hr

Lawns and Mower

12-16-2001, 11:41 PM

12-17-2001, 08:22 AM
On residential accounts that I bid I usually average somewhere in the $50.00+ an hour range. On one time projects or commercial I bid it at a flat $60.00 an hour. I've been pretty succesful lately bidding at this amount. The residential thing is pretty much limited to the market around here. 35.00 for a typical yard and 45.00 for a corner lot. If I average out my time, even at 35.00 I still make the 50.00+ I'm looking for..........on average.

Used to have 2 or 3 helping me, found out I'm faster and better than all of the help I've had. Solo sounds good right now, maybe later I'll do something else.

12-17-2001, 11:09 AM
I couldn't do it solo for long, either. I need one good helper to edge beds and walks, weed and blow while I sit my lazy butt on the Walker. :D

I think 2 is a good number for residential though. 3 or 4 people and there's more inefficiencies.

I agree with Homer, we're always going to be faster and better that our help, cause we're more committed. I don't know about everyone else, but I never expect the same performance from an employee that I expect from myself, cause it's never happened yet. If I had those kind of expectations, I'd be one demanding (ineffective) boss.

lawrence stone
12-17-2001, 11:50 AM
Originally posted by HOMER
On residential accounts that I bid I usually average somewhere in the $50.00+ an hour range. On one time projects or commercial I bid it at a flat $60.00 an hour. I've been pretty succesful lately bidding at this amount. The residential thing is pretty much limited to the market around here. 35.00 for a typical yard and 45.00 for a corner lot. If I average out my time, even at 35.00 I still make the 50.00+ I'm looking for..........on average.

What do I have to do to make you see the light?

You need an indoor and outdoor pesticide license.

This will put your per hour gross up to a more respectful $75-100.

All you need is an electric spreader ($350) and some can sprayers.

Do I have to stop by next month in my van and give you a motivational speech?

Are you near Dothan?

Samurai WeedWacker
12-17-2001, 12:46 PM
GrndKeepers but I recall it being only a few months ago. It said per-hour rates vary from the low teens in southern California to $35-$40 in prime industrial areas.

In this small University town I get $20-$40 per man-hour for lawn work, more for fertilizing and pesticide work.

12-17-2001, 12:50 PM
Originally posted by Samurai WeedWacker
from the low teens in southern California

This rate doesn't seem possible for a professional LCO. After costs, even with the most basic of equipment, the operator would be making less than minimum wage...

12-17-2001, 01:55 PM
Hello everyone!

It's great to read through these very important posts in regard to "average" $/production hour.......good stuff!

I am at a stage in my business life that it is starting to look very attractive to cut my business down from 3 (2 man-myself excluded/I took care of chemical lawn care)maintenance crews to 2(1 sub contracted and 1 for me w/2 select employees).

One crew will go to a very loyal sole-proprietor so I can use him a as a sub-contractor.
I have learned that I would rather deal with firm % to retain off of jobs(commission) than deal with the uncertainty of employees and their production!
I would much rather deal with a independent business person that has the same ideals as me.
The other crew and jobs that I retain will be the cream of my crop....all projects that generate $40/hr+.

Anyone else going through kind of a cut-back to put growth on hold for instant gratification(high profits)! I found it very difficult to retain decent profit margins with 20% yearly growth!

I think my only issue is personal EGO...... no more running my business, I will have to now physically produce also.



12-17-2001, 02:00 PM
In response to Matthew, how can you possibly clean gutters for $20 an hr. and make a profit? No matter where you're at, that's dirt cheap brother! Russ

12-17-2001, 04:07 PM
Yes I am Stone, about 25 minutes away.

Yes I need motivation!

Yes I need a tutor!

I have the study material here...........as I did last year. I'll blow the dust off it when you get here.

12-17-2001, 10:16 PM
All my estimates are based on $50 per hour mowing, $60 per hour everything else.:blob4:

David Gretzmier
12-18-2001, 01:15 AM
My brother had the luck of my experience before he got into the lawn care business. he bid much of his work based on using push mowers and riders, then z's. so many of us now bid our jobs based on z's and for get we used to make 25 bucks an hour on our first rider. that lush step up to 60 bucks an hour when we converted to z's was quickly absorbed by our bidding strategy's based on how fast we now mowed.

my bro is a solo operator and averages 22-2400 per week by keeping his bidding simple. he watches and writes down every minute and works every minute. if he isn't making AT LEAST a dollar a minute working he raisies the price or drops the new client after 3 mowings. no charge for travel unless excessive.he uses all modern equipment and works about 50 hours per week in the summer, 25 in the fall and 5-10 in the winter. Leaves are the same rate with a huge dual 55 gallon track vack on the z.

he lives well.

we range from 35 to 100 depending on the equipment we use. Dave g