I am still amazed at the 80 dollar clean up number, we run a 4 man crew 2 owners and 2 employees and if we make less than a grand in a day we feel like total failures.
This time of year is always fun to see 2 aspects of this trade getting ignored as we all speak as if we lived in the same place.
First is the money it costs to outfit yourself, some of us bit the bullet and have high end toys that make this go a lot easier. But many if not most can't afford or justify the upfront costs. The 2 big items are ground blowers which can cost a few hundred to 10,000 or so and leaf loaders which can cost a few thousand to 20-30,000. The trucks you already own the mowers you own the back packs you own same with the trailers. But those 2 items cost a small fortune and have very little use in the rest of the year. Seriously were talking 6-8 weeks a year total usage. It's not like a ztr that mows for 30 weeks and gets to help in the clean ups so we get close to 40 weeks use a year from them. That's easy to spend money on but vacs and blowers is much harder.
I did a quick inventory the other day when I was doing a clean up and realized I had 173,000 in trucks and equipment with me. Now its not worth that any more all things depreciate but that's what I paid and it was quite an eye opener. But in the clean up only category we had only about 16,000 the rest gets used year round.
The second thing is location and if your not in New England no offense but you don't know what leaf season is really like. Some people get away with mulching that won't work to well here. Some speak of bagging with the mower and doing the clean up that way
yea right. I am not emptying my trac vac 50-200 times to do a clean up here. Here we have two options blow it into the woods it its available and if not blow it to the street or driveway and suck it all up. Iv had a single yard produce 400 cubic yards of leaves to be sucked up before. Many guys here do not get that from all their clean ups combined.
So I could give the original poster my set up and advise him but he doesn't live near me and we have very different prices and expectations here. And I do not know if hes willing to perhaps go a fall season with out making any money because he planed long term and got a truck loader. What I can tell him is a vac with a 12 inch intake will massively cut your time over hand loading. I can tell him the right ground blower and a leaf plow can shave off hours per clean up. But none of that does you any good if you cannot justify the purchase.