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View Full Version : Just starting... do I really need a truck?


JonM
12-24-2004, 09:56 PM
I've been cutting a 5 or 6 lawns for people in my area the past few years, and have decided that I want to become a legitimate company this coming season. This past summer I purchased a 5x8 trailer, Exmark metro 36, an echo bp blower, and an echo trimmer... now here is my question. This past season I towed the trailer behind my mother's volvo cross country station wagon... everybodies gotta start somewhere, right? What I'm wondering is if I go legit., will people take me seriously even if I dont have a truck? What would you recommend? Can anyone speak from experience? Im planning on getting 20 or so decent sized mowing accounts, and the ones I have so far all want me to bag the clippings. I have a fairly limited budget, but if I need a truck, then I would try to find the funds... Thanks.

Jon

i_plant_art
12-24-2004, 10:48 PM
the way i see it is the vehicle you drive doesnt have anything to do with the quality or performance of your work. how you get there should not be the issue its whether or not you show when you say you will. now if someone doesnt want you to work for them b/c they dont take you seriously b/c of the type of vehicle you drive then they are not the people that you want to work for in the first place b/c they are missing the big picture. (your quality and performance) thats how i see it. like you said we al have to start somewhere and that is the hostest straigh up truth. now after you mow for a while and put back some $ then look into getting a tyruck b/c eventually you will come to find that you will need and want one for ther jobs such as mulching, carrying rock, sod etc etc. good luck to ya man and dont worry about what people think everyone always has their own opinion.

Soupy
12-25-2004, 04:06 AM
Double post, sorry.

Soupy
12-25-2004, 04:07 AM
I think first impressions is very important when it comes to landing jobs. So yes, I think you need a truck. Rich people don't want the neighbors seeing a station wagon pulling a trailer in front of their house.

Do you absolutely need a truck? No, but you will lose jobs using the station wagon. It sucks, but it is the truth.

earthwerks unlimited
12-25-2004, 05:40 PM
I'll take it one step further than "just needing a truck". I showed up in new, fairly expensive truck and the first thing my potential client says is," Oh boy a new truck---now I know you're gonna charge me too much". So I asked him, " Would you rather I pulled up in a smoke-belching station wagon dripping oil on your driveway?" "Well, no", he says. "'K, then", I said. Gave him his quote and he was happy and I got the work. Some people don't care what you drive--most do as they want to see that you aren't pocketing the (their??) money (as if!). I get a lot of blue-collar autoworkers for the Big Three who I hate working for. They feel they have the right to know how much exactly you are pocketing. Once I break the costs down that they are "making more than me" (they're not) they feel like they have one up on you. Go figure.

Smitty58
12-25-2004, 05:53 PM
I would say if you are going "legit" you need a truck. It does'nt have to be a $40,000 decked out model ,just clean and dependable. I have got jobs solely on my equipment appearance (truck/trailer). Someone wrote here that your truck is your most important tool ,and I would agree. Then for a small investment you can add vinyl lettering or magnetic signs ,you'll be surprised how much business you will get from that alone.

Mo Green
12-25-2004, 11:38 PM
First impressions are very important. Just have something that looks clean and professional. That doesn't necessarily mean new and expensive. Most of the time a person's work quality is reflected in how one presents oneself.

Team Gopher
12-27-2004, 09:10 AM
Hi JonM,

Make the best of what you have now. Keep your expenses low. As you grow you can upgrade your equipment.

John P.
12-27-2004, 10:03 PM
GET THE TRUCK!!!!!!! thats all i can say if you are just getting into the business full time or just more serilously getting into it, you start mowing lanws then you will be asked to mulch properties, then they want trees and it goes on and on you need the truck to do jobs like that. yeah you could put materail in your tailer but i can tell you right now your not going to be able to pull enough materails with a staion wagon to make any sense. get a truck

hockeygoalie
12-28-2004, 09:12 AM
I started out pulling my trailer with a jeep cherokee. I could not afford to have a truck yet. I did need one. Customers wanted mulch, cut up and haul off fallen trees, ect... I got one when I could afford it. I grew the business and now I bought another, a 2005 chevy 2500hd. I think each piece of potential equipment needs to be evaluated on what you need to make more money vs. what can you afford. I have added more equipment and now I am getting an enclosed trailer. I think you will know the time when you really "need" a truck.

boxoffire
12-28-2004, 09:42 PM
How many accounts approx did you have lined up hockeygoalie, when you took the plunge for the first truck and what kind did you get? I am just starting and have a 93 Jeep Grand Cherokee so I can relate. Just pulling a small 5X8 utitlity trailer (Carry-On) 2000 lbs. I'm itching to get a truck with deals going on now and wonder how it would work out if I buy before tax year end now. But I have no accounts really lined up for 05 so I feel I should wait. If I go out and buy a truck (new) for my business only, how much will I get back from gov't in a few months? Always wondered about this.

Soupy
12-28-2004, 10:04 PM
How many accounts approx did you have lined up hockeygoalie, when you took the plunge for the first truck and what kind did you get? I am just starting and have a 93 Jeep Grand Cherokee so I can relate. Just pulling a small 5X8 utitlity trailer (Carry-On) 2000 lbs. I'm itching to get a truck with deals going on now and wonder how it would work out if I buy before tax year end now. But I have no accounts really lined up for 05 so I feel I should wait. If I go out and buy a truck (new) for my business only, how much will I get back from gov't in a few months? Always wondered about this.

Trade the jeep for a truck. There are lawn cutters and lawn care companies. Which one do you want to be?

Southwest Lawns
12-28-2004, 10:44 PM
I haven't purchased a truck yet. Instead I decided to focus on researching and purchasing a mower that does an outstanding job on residential properties.

I think this has worked out for me. The customers that I have know that I am only cutting part-time... In fact, the letter that I send with my bids lets them know that I will only be accepting 25 customers this season (and tells them the reason for this is I emphasize quality). I only started with 3 regular customers when I started my business in November and now I have twelve ( I know its a small start...but for a guy who only wants 25 accounts total I figure I'm 1/2 way there for spring)....

My point is I decided that I would stay small and purchase equipment as needed while emphasizing quality work with the few customers that I have. I am also focusing on targeting only a section of my city and slowly increasing the density of the customers that I have in a particular area. That way I can pull up in my car in an area knock out 4 yards and move to the next area. My business approach is a lot different from some of the lco's on the forum but I have the leisure to take it slower than most and develop a repuatation that I hope will take my company to the next level.... (whatever that may be).

To answer the question....
Do you need a truck (I don't believe you do)
Do customers want you to have a truck (I believe they care about the quality of your work and not what vehicle you arrive at the site in... although I wouldn't show up in a junker)
Is having a truck what makes a lco look professional (customer care shows professionalism)... However having your a truck and trailer can give you an edge as for as advertising is concerned (if you want to get your customers that way)..

Take it slow and grow....
Keep down your overhead and your stress....


My 2 cents...
Aaron

Lux Lawn
12-29-2004, 11:44 AM
The first season I started I used a Blazer only because it was a lease I could not get out of and it was tough but I think you need a truck and it will be a lot easier for you and you will look back and say "thats the best thing I did was get rid of the car and get the truck".

hockeygoalie
12-29-2004, 01:29 PM
Box,
I pulled a small trailer with a walkbehind and stihl trimmer for 1st year. I tried to get jobs next to each other to limit driving. Then, I landed 1 large contract for 36 expensive homes jammed on a 3 acre lot in town. I still could not use anything other than a walk-behind due to the trees and small yards. I did not upgrade anything at the time, and just saved the money. I got 2 more big contracts the next off season and they required a 6' ZTR to be efficient. So, then i upgraded to a truck and enclosed trailer, a 6' Scag, and a JD 48"WB, another trimmer, and a Redmax BP. These were big accounts.... they take me most of the day each. I got another trimmer and blower for a back up or for a friend of mine when i get behind. I dont advertise anymore and pulled my company out of the phone book. I keep my residentials from the beginning, but Iam not looking for more. I just work for builders and realestate agents. I have never been screwed over by an agent or builder.
I would not tell anyone to get a truck because it looks good... or makes you professional.....I get equipment when i need it, not to look good. Iam in the business to provide for my family. I dont care what others really think. I got into the business because Iam an airline pilot that got laid off. You have to do what you have to do to get by.

boxoffire
12-29-2004, 03:43 PM
Congrats hockey, on your success. Good advice from all and thanks.

Gautreaux's LNG
12-29-2004, 04:22 PM
Your SERVICE will make your business grow NOT your truck. When your quality of service provides you the money to buy the truck then buy the truck!

But when you get there having a "work" truck will be great! I see so many guys pulling lawn trailers with a brand new trucks with 22" rims and all this, even seen a Navigator loaded out pulling one! Get a WORK only truck and put some lettering on it when money allows you thank yourself!

Michael11
12-30-2004, 02:01 PM
Hockeygoalie:.......... send me an email...I also am a pilot looking to get into lawn care and leave the industry. fritsche@chaska.net

pgiambat
12-31-2004, 09:35 AM
JonM,
I would get a truck. It allows you carry more stuff, grass clippings for a start or other smaller equipment.

I ran a 21" Toro out of the back of my Toyota hatchback for 2 years (Beautifully Pathetic) but always did a great job and treated my customers right. I still have 90% of them still.

I got a 36" SCAG in the late fall one year and spent the winter looking for a truck. I picked up an F-150 (great deal, nothing fancy) standard cab w/ 8' bed and put some ramp ends on the end of some 8' 2x8's and rolled the 36" up into the back of my truck with the trimmer and blower and other stuff around the sides. I also made some 2" high sides for the bedrails (spent good time on them, no hoopty here). The sides give me 2" x 6" of advertising space.

I'll sum this up... My truck looks nice, I'm clean cut, I keep my equipment clean and running, I treat my customers great. I keep the minimal amount of equipment with me (tools, gas & other essentials) and I stick & move, stick & move. I MAKE money when my mower is cutting. I'm glad I got the truck, I would suggest it... BUT whatever you do... keep it efficient and do a great job!

PALawnGuy461
01-05-2005, 05:37 AM
I'm new in business myself, but I'vebeen working for a lawn care company for 6 years. Beleive me,a truck will become essential to you as you start picking up customers. They will want mulch and other things that you just can't haul in a station wagon. I got my '78 Ford for $500. It's not fancy and new, but it gets the job done. My advise is find something like that, old & cheap, to get you going. Then as you start to bring in more money, you can look into something nicer, that's my plan. Good luck to you!

newbomb
01-05-2005, 10:05 PM
First a reliable work truck 3/4 ton in good repair will allow you to do much more. You should plan this into your growth plan.

This summer I would concentrate on growing your lawns from 6 to 20+. If the wagon is working for now, focus on your mowing equipment. You should be able to get 20 new customers that will only need mowing, easily. Work hard, save your money and buy a truck next spring as a reward for your hard work. When you get the truck you can expand your services. As the others have said, buy a reliable work truck not a pimp mobile. P.S. it doesn't have to be new!!!

fishinman22487
01-05-2005, 10:13 PM
Save your money during the spring and buy a small pickup. A V6 would tow your equipment fine. I have an S10 with a 4 X 8 trailer and a Exmark 36 Viking. Good luck!! :)

JonM
01-07-2005, 10:16 PM
First off, I would like to thank everyone for their replies and insight. I find this website is an extremely valuable resource for all aspects of the green industry. I realize I'm young, however, I don't want to get off on the wrong foot.

The replies given to my original question brought up numerous points that I never even considered. For the first few years, I would focus strictly on mowing, edging, trimming and the clean up associated with it due to the time restraints of being a full time college student. I realize a truck is an almost essential tool in this industry, so I was wondering the efficiency of using a pick up for fall cleanups or hauling mulch, why not a 1-ton dump? For the next few years I will focus on mowing, going to start small, but eventually I would like to hire an employee or two, and do mowing on a much larger scale, mulching, spring and fall cleanups, and plowing. I realize owning your own business is everyones dream, and I would like to do it right the first time.

This won't be happening in the near future, but maybe in two years or so... I would like some input so I could make some more goals to work towards. Thanks again for all your replies and input.

earthwerks unlimited
01-08-2005, 08:29 AM
When you say a 1-ton dump do you mean something like a dually, 3-yard landscape truck (low-sided dump)? If yes then that throws a wrench into the equation and the train-of-thought can go several ways:
1. You limit the usefulness of the dump truck to basically "hauling and heavy towing" in the sense it wouldn't be cost effective to keep it on the road (for example even license plates here in Michigan for my Dodge Ram cost me $491 a year since I'm commercial and my GCWR is over 10,001 lb.--versus $120 if I were not), then there is maint. and fuel costs to consider---not to mention 2 extra tires to replace when they wear out---and bigger brake$.
2. BUT if you plan on expanding then that is a good choice for a second vehicle. But what if it doesn't take off like you planned? Can you sell it and not take a big loss?
3. If you bought a nice 3/4 ton pickup AND a heavy-duty (12,000 GVW) dump trailer now you have an unbeatable combination. You could sell the used pickup at any time later, or even upgrade to a newer one. Then use the dump trailer behind any truck including the dump. Or sell it---but once you have one you won't want to let it go.
4. Storage/parking is another issue---can you park a dump truck where you live (on the street, yard etc.) without being hassled by Code Enforcement? With a pickup you could get magnetic signs and take them off when needed.
5.Insuring the dump will likely be cheaper too as they fuigure you won't be on the road as much versus using the pickup for shopping. My 5-yd dump costs me $600 a year and the Ram $1200. They figure I won't use it for more than 5 months a year due to winter, and they are right.