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View Full Version : Why do companies cut a lawn with 21" mowers


swing blade
06-26-2003, 11:59 PM
Ok, I have a question that has been bothering me for weeks. I am from Cincinnati where there is Bluegrass and Fescue. When I worked up there I always mulched or side discharged the lawns with a walk behind or ztr. I never cut a lawn with a 21" mower. I am now working in Oklahoma City for the year while I am in college and the companies out here use nothing but 21" mowers. I understand that most walk behinds and ztr will not fit through the small gates out here, and I know that there is a big difference in price when initally buying these mowers, but since time = money, wouldn't it be more profitable to use a bigger mower, and if needed spend a little $$$ to widen the homeowners gate??? I mean you would re-coup it in the long run for the gate. Or is there other reasons as to why these companies are using 21" mowers

The very confused

Swing Blade:confused:

tiedeman
06-27-2003, 12:28 AM
there are some companies here that use almost only 21" mowers as well. It confuses me too as why don't these companies go out buy larger mowers to cut down on production time, then they can cut back on employees, and thus increase their net profit.

T.E.
06-27-2003, 12:29 AM
Interesting post but, did you ever stop to think that maybe the customer is requesting 21" mowers? I have lawns that pay to have them cut with a 21" mower.Just because the property owner wants it done with a small mower. Also some lawns are so small that even a 36"WB I'm turning so much that the lawn looks better with a small mower. Though I will eventually weed all of these out. :)

tiedeman
06-27-2003, 12:34 AM
we are lucky enough that we only put up with one customer that wants a 21" mower for their back yard. We were mowing it with a 32" mower, but she didn't like the result. So she requested using a 21" mower instead, so of course the price went up and she blew up because of the price increase. So i had to explain it to her that I make money off from time, not from just one particular lawn. So when my time is dragged down because I have to use a 21" mower I have to increase my price to cover for the lost time.

HarryD
06-27-2003, 12:36 AM
There is a company in my town that has used 21" mowers since day one. Been 30 years or more. they also don't use trimmers either they use curved hand sickles :dizzy: he has some pretty nice accounts. Some of the old school people like the way the 21"ers cut and don't want the big Z's on there lawns

GroundKprs
06-27-2003, 12:53 AM
On smaller urban lots, you cannot match the appearance of a 21" cut with any larger deck. All I do is 21", and am constantly turning down business. One time, even had owner of a 5 acre site, half of it lawn, ask me if I could do his that way. When I tried to discourage him by stating a price 3 times what he was paying and pleading time constraints, his reply was, "Well can you do it next year, then?"

Bigger machines are more productive, therefore more work can be done. But you price for what you are running, be it 21", 36", 52", or whatever. One can make a living with any size machine, as long as you can find the clients that appreciate the work you do. Doesn't matter how many you lawns you can cut a week, it matters most to me what you net after the expenses of the week, LOL.

Runner
06-27-2003, 12:58 AM
Why do co.'s mow with 21" mowers? Why don't you ask THIS guy?
http://www.e-mowing.com/emowabout%20us.htm

grshppr
06-27-2003, 02:29 AM
A large majority of our lawns are small urban lots too, and a 21" mower is simply faster. You couldn't go around all the obstacles/trees etc. with a 36" or larger. We have always used mainly 21" and it has worked good for us. Of course if it is bigger that 1/3 acre or so we'll use a lager mower.

SWD
06-27-2003, 07:49 AM
I don't use only 21" mowers, but on several accounts, they are the ones that provide the quality of cut I demand.
I have used equipment from 36" to 60" in various parts of this account and was never happy with the results. The funny thing is the homeowner was.
However, a trademark of the service I provide, the best possible work performed. Due to the uniqeness of this property, the 21" mowers worked best.
Interestingly enough, when I looked at the account service log times, it was not appreciably different between the 36" vs the two 21". The handtrimming time dropped greatly with the 21", with the resultant rise in quality appearance.

polecat63
06-27-2003, 08:07 AM
32" is the smallest I own. I had 21" mowers in my shop for the last three years collecting dust. Finally got rid of them this year. Most people don't want to pay the price to use them and quite frankly I don't like teh way a lawn looks after using them. Just my opinion guys.

David Haggerty
06-27-2003, 08:27 AM
An LCO located 17 miles from me bought a Toro 580-D too.
Some may think the competition would hurt me, but I believe that it can only help. It should be easier to "sell" a 16 1/2' cut mower to potential customers if other people are using them also.

If you can convince people to pay the extra man hours for a 21" mower why not? It's all in the value the customer percieves he is getting.

There are better alternatives to achieving the contoured mowing cut than using a labor intensive hand machine.

bushwoods1
06-27-2003, 08:30 AM
When I first started, I had one that I needed a 21" for. Now the smallest machine I carry is a 32". I won't do lawns that need a 21". As a one man show, it just cuts into my time to much, and is a loss of money for me.

bushwoods1
06-27-2003, 08:32 AM
Originally posted by Runner
Why do co.'s mow with 21" mowers? Why don't you ask THIS guy?
http://www.e-mowing.com/emowabout%20us.htm

Interseting idea this guy has here.

JimLewis
06-27-2003, 02:07 PM
A large majority of our lawns are small urban lots too, and a 21" mower is simply faster. You couldn't go around all the obstacles/trees etc. with a 36" or larger. We have always used mainly 21" and it has worked good for us.

Ditto here. Normal lot size around here is 6,000 - 8,000 sq. ft. Normal turf area front & back is 1,500 - 3,000 sq. ft. We do a few even less than 1,000 sq. ft. total.

No matter how you cut it - anything bigger than a 21" mower isn't going to save you all that much time on most of our yards. And more often than not, a larger mower wouldn't even be able to fit into the odd corners and shapes of many of the lawns we do.

Out of 170 landscapes we manage, I'd like to have a larger mower for maybe 3 of them. That's it. And it's not worth spending an additional $2-4K on a big mower just so we can use it on a few houses.

There are other reasons too. How damp the ground is make a difference because bigger, heavier mowers create bigger, deeper ruts in damp soil (like we have here in OR). Not that Commercial Hondas are all that light. But probably a little lighter. Also, the bigger wheels, when slippery, cause bigger slide marks. And since we mow here often in damp or rainy weather, that doesn't fly real well.

Gravely_Man
06-27-2003, 02:44 PM
As pointed out you can make money with a 21" mower but people have to be willing to pay for it. Most of the places I mow are wide open so bigger is much better for me.


Gravely_Man

MTR
06-27-2003, 03:00 PM
If they want to use 2 or 3 21ers on each property to do the job that is fine, but not me anymore, not in this life. I have been through with 21" for almost a year last season, and it hurted everything, time, money, knees, angle and joints, dehydration.
The 36" with sulky or 36" Stander is the most effective for residential lawn in Florida here also 48" is second choice if you don't have those high-end gated fancy community with tons of gated pooled backyards which are so popular here.

ULTIMATE LAWN
06-27-2003, 07:13 PM
Easier to train employees & less chance of property & or personal damage.

I have a few 4-8 k res. routes with one a one man crews running 21"'s out of the back of compact p/u's. Very low overhead & easy to train. I don't letter these trucks & they are generally beaters so most peolpe probably think they're just solo scrubs. LOL!

swing blade
06-27-2003, 09:39 PM
thank you very much for the info. Keeping with the origional question I still want all of you to answer this: The current company I am with sends a crew of 3 to cut a lawn thats 1/4 to 1/3 acre. 2 mow with 21" honda and one trims and edges. then someone blows off the drives etc... Now in Cincinnati where I started working in the lawn biz we ran a 2 man crew using a 36" walk behind or a 72" ztr if it was big enough. One used the big machine while the other took a small cheap 21" mower and went 1 pass around all the driveway, sidewalks, patios, decks and house. Then he started trimming and edging. And eventually someone blew off the drives etc...

In cincinnati with the big mowers that took very little time, I can't remember how much but it was fast. Here in Oklahoma with the 21" mowers it takes 3 guys close to 30 min depending on # of trees and stuff to trim around.

Is it cheaper to run 2 men and a big machine or 3 men and small ones???

I understand that some clients want there lawns done with a 21" mower, but this company has close to 450 accounts where about 50% are residential. We do big apartment complexes, wharehouses, car lots, churches, parks and many other wide open areas but we STILL use a 21" mower on them.
The reason I ask these questions is that i am thinking of starting up a co. myself and i am trying to figure out wether I should go big or go small on equipment.

geogunn
06-28-2003, 12:04 AM
but that is OK.

if you can make a living with a 21 in. mower then SUPERDUPER for you.

I happen to enjoy running equipment such as my lesco 48 and I'd be in hog heaven if I had a LAZER or other big ZTR, but I don't yet.

if I had to make a living running a 21 in. push mower I think I'd look into book keeping or something else.

GEO

Just Turned Pro
06-28-2003, 01:05 AM
But all I use are 21" s. Here are a few reasons why I do this.
My area sounds very similar to Jim's, except in some areas the lots are as small as 4500 square feet. That does not leave much room for turf. On most of my yards (the ones where a larger mower will fit) I would not save much time by upgrading to a 36. Plus, the lots around here are generally not wide open, flat lots like many of you post pictures of. They are usually irregular and contoured with odd shaped turf areas. Mowers larger than a 21 won't leave a good cut on these yards.

I'll admit that I do get jealous when I see the pictures that some of you post showing 1 acre lots with beautiful 60" wide stripes, but around here, those properties are few and far between. However, within about a ten minute radius of my home, there are upwards of 20,000 homes built on lots that are a 1/4 acre or smaller. Line up several of these small lots on a street or in a neighborhood and you have a very tight, profitable route.

Sure, if I bought larger mowers, I could take on larger projects.... but why, based on what I read on here, I get the same amount of money to service a small lot with around 2000 square feet of turf that you guys with larger mowers get for lots with 10,000+ square feet of turf. The same amount of money, same amount of time, less equipment costs, works for me.

$$$! I look at upgrading every year, but around here a good 36" hydro will run around $5000 (tax and accessories). Add to that cost of a basic landscape trailer $2500 (open top, built in trimmer racks, storage box, etc). That comes to about $7500 to save a "little" time. It just isn't worth it. Yes, I do work out of the back of my truck...I know what that sounds like.

Again, I know this doesn't work everywhere and for everyone, but you ( and many others over the past couple of years ) asked.

GroundKprs
06-28-2003, 09:25 AM
Ahh, it's so funny to watch the tostesterone rage on this site. :blob3: Bigger is always better, LOL. I serviced one property for 10 years - about $2K/year - that you could not have even put a 36" mower on with a helicopter, LOL. (Funnier yet, that was the summer home of the guy who helped introduce the Wheel Horse tractor over 50 years ago.)

To answer the specific questions posed by swing blade:

Yes, you could widen the gates as you suggest, but then the gate is ready for a lowballer, too. Better get a 2-3 year commitment before working on the gate.

If there are NO companies using wbs or ztrs on properties in your locale, expect to get resistance from clients on larger machines. Would probably be better to use 21s for a year or two, then introduce a larger machine on properties where you have the confidence of the clients. If you want to start with only big machines, expect to take a long time - years - to be accepted in an area where they are new to clients.

Tx Firefighter
06-28-2003, 10:19 AM
Originally posted by Just Turned Pro
But all I use are 21" s. Here are a few reasons why I do this.
My area sounds very similar to Jim's, except in some areas the lots are as small as 4500 square feet. That does not leave much room for turf. On most of my yards (the ones where a larger mower will fit) I would not save much time by upgrading to a 36. Plus, the lots around here are generally not wide open, flat lots like many of you post pictures of. They are usually irregular and contoured with odd shaped turf areas. Mowers larger than a 21 won't leave a good cut on these yards.

I'll admit that I do get jealous when I see the pictures that some of you post showing 1 acre lots with beautiful 60" wide stripes, but around here, those properties are few and far between. However, within about a ten minute radius of my home, there are upwards of 20,000 homes built on lots that are a 1/4 acre or smaller. Line up several of these small lots on a street or in a neighborhood and you have a very tight, profitable route.

Sure, if I bought larger mowers, I could take on larger projects.... but why, based on what I read on here, I get the same amount of money to service a small lot with around 2000 square feet of turf that you guys with larger mowers get for lots with 10,000+ square feet of turf. The same amount of money, same amount of time, less equipment costs, works for me.

$$$! I look at upgrading every year, but around here a good 36" hydro will run around $5000 (tax and accessories). Add to that cost of a basic landscape trailer $2500 (open top, built in trimmer racks, storage box, etc). That comes to about $7500 to save a "little" time. It just isn't worth it. Yes, I do work out of the back of my truck...I know what that sounds like.

Again, I know this doesn't work everywhere and for everyone, but you ( and many others over the past couple of years ) asked.

Dude, I don't know what type of 21 mower you have. I have a Toro Proline commercial with 2 cycle Suzuki. There ain't no way I'd lift that thing into the truck by myself all day:dizzy:

My back would be toast before lunch every day.

gardenpro
06-28-2003, 03:32 PM
Why 21? For one you don't need a trailer for it.

mottster
06-28-2003, 04:54 PM
I've been mowing by myself for 6 years now...since i was 12. now that i can drive i just take a couple 2x10 ramps to put my JD jx75 in the back of my s-10. I wanna upgrade to a 36 w/b and even THAT could fit in my truck. theres 38 inches between wheel wells in my 85 s-10....now i'm sure guys with full size trucks would have no problem getting the w/b in their trucks along with trimmers blowers and and even a 21" mower in a long bed truck.

not really all that big deal to me to spend $50 on ramp materials. those metal ramp tops u can get at homedepot are what i use and its no problem. but if i would get a sulky it would potentially be a lot easier to get a small 5x10 trailer or somethin like that. even if you didn't want to pay for trimmer racks and even a hinged ramp on the back. put the trimmers in the back of your truck with bungy cords to keep em from rolling around. some 5' lengths of wooden ramps would still work just fine. besides if you have a place where you can just park your trailer with it loaded and everything it would be alot quicker in the morning to get out and to work. so you have more time to mow more yards.

as for the mowing differences between 21" and larger mowers. 21" offer contour mowing. but depending on the type of lawn that could be a bad thing...if there are rough spots or pot holes you can scalp the yard as you could just go over the holes in a larger mower. it just depends on your yards. at work we use anywhere from 21" snapper mowers to a 60" husqvarna. Our main force is 20hp walkers with either 42 or 48" decks. We put all our smaller gated homes together so we just run the 42s on those. and we put the ones with even smaller gates that we have to run the 21s on throughout the week. we always have a walker and a push mower on each trailer. two men crew... so if there's a small backyard one guy mows front with walker while second mows back...front gets done faster so that guy starts edging and trimming...if second guy gets done too late to help trimming he gets on a blower and gets that done...then first guy packs up trailer. some yards the customers want their entire yard mowed with 21s due to fine grass or just their wants. on those days we have two crews go through and do each of those. two mow...two edge and trim...easy as cake.

larger accounts have walker, husqvarna and push mower. it is also how you position your accounts throughout the week.

nelbuts
06-28-2003, 08:43 PM
21" is this a new thing?:D

ULTIMATE LAWN
06-28-2003, 10:09 PM
Occasionally a 21" will be faster on smaller props, especially if your larger WB's are belt drives.

LAWNGODFATHER
06-28-2003, 10:46 PM
Originally posted by ULTIMATE LAWN
Occasionally a 21" will be faster on smaller props, especially if your larger WB's are belt drives. Baloney!!!!!!!!!!

Belt drive's are not slower than a 21".

Maybe you should learn how to use them first.

If it wont fit, it don't need to be on it.

brucec32
06-28-2003, 11:09 PM
Originally posted by bushwoods1
Interseting idea this guy has here.

Is this a spoof website?

geogunn
06-29-2003, 02:41 AM
thank you LGF!

I gotta weigh in on this one.

Originally posted by ULTIMATE LAWN
Occasionally a 21" will be faster on smaller props, especially if your larger WB's are belt drives.

if you show me where this is true...

#1...I'll cut it with the trimmer... or possibly...

#2...I won't do a damn thing but keep driving!

yee criminy:eek:

GEO

edrenckh
06-29-2003, 09:43 AM
I sent an email to Justice Lawns in May of 2002 (last year). That is the same company that e-mowing.com. They had at that time over 1,000 lawns and a fleet (10 or so) of small pick-up trucks.

Their response...

===
Large Mowers generate complaints, we use no trailers, & mow nothing larger than 11,000 sq. ft. including the buildings. The 21 inch Toro 2 cycle does not require oil changes, so only 1 fuel mixture aboard, & they are tough. Parts are interchangeable because they never change.



Thanks,

Mike at the Office
===

edrenckh
06-29-2003, 10:01 AM
Definitely no spoof.....

Here is their main web page (http://www.justmowit.com/)

They have a pretty good system. Started out with one lawn ~6yrs ago. Old pick up truck. Probably a 'scrub' then.

mtdman
06-29-2003, 10:36 AM
I agree with all the comments here about the small mower pros. Some folks want the small mowers, some people have small yards, gates, etc. I can't imagine paying to widen someone's gate! I have more than my share of areas I do with a 21, and I wish I didn't. I am always looking to get rid of them, and won't take any new lawns with gates/smaller areas, or folks that request the small mowers. They serve their purpose, but I don't like that purpose and wish I didn't need a 21.

On a side note, I cannot understand why someone would fence in a yard and not put a larger gate on the fence. Some of those gates are tiny! Come awhn already!

:D

edrenckh
06-29-2003, 01:34 PM
A reponse from justmowing.com...

I asked them why they do not post their numbers. How many of you folks are this big? 32-37 yards per day for a 3 man crew. And all with 21" mowers!

====
Didnít want customers to think we are to big is the reason for the numbers dis appearing. We changed the name in an effort to keep the phone from ringing so much for landscaping, flowers, decks, bush trimming etc. The mowing is profitable because we can schedule tight, resulting in 160-185 yards per 5 day week per 3 man crew.

We are now at 1200 customers, 100 emowing.com
====

Mark P
06-29-2003, 07:57 PM
Last Febuary I and my Wife flew out to southern Cal, was there 8 days and saw many mowing crews, not one trailor, all 21's in the back of pickups, mostley hispanic This was in the richer Ontario area........Was hard for me to believe, seems like theres 10 trailors in every subdivision im working..........I will say there work was very good.......Marks Mowing Service

brucec32
06-30-2003, 10:57 PM
Originally posted by jimlewis
Ditto here. Normal lot size around here is 6,000 - 8,000 sq. ft. Normal turf area front & back is 1,500 - 3,000 sq. ft. We do a few even less than 1,000 sq. ft. total.

No matter how you cut it - anything bigger than a 21" mower isn't going to save you all that much time on most of our yards. And more often than not, a larger mower wouldn't even be able to fit into the odd corners and shapes of many of the lawns we do.

Out of 170 landscapes we manage, I'd like to have a larger mower for maybe 3 of them. That's it. And it's not worth spending an additional $2-4K on a big mower just so we can use it on a few houses.

There are other reasons too. How damp the ground is make a difference because bigger, heavier mowers create bigger, deeper ruts in damp soil (like we have here in OR). Not that Commercial Hondas are all that light. But probably a little lighter. Also, the bigger wheels, when slippery, cause bigger slide marks. And since we mow here often in damp or rainy weather, that doesn't fly real well.

Jim forgot to mention one thing. He's usually not the one pushing the 21" mower all day. He has employees for that. So his fatigue isn't a factor. If you're an owner/operator, you might prefer a rider or wb with sulky.