Justifying Equipment Purchases

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by FrankenScagMachines, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    For the older/more experienced guys, I have a couple questions.
    There are certain pieces of equipment that I would like to have and definitely have use for, but the problem is that I’m not sure how you know when you need something enough to buy it. Or in other words, these pieces of equipment probably will not pay for themselves in the first calendar year of operation but they would sure add a lot of needed productivity and save a lot of time.
    Obviously I know that if you have more mowing equipment than you can haul (and you use it all) then you need to find a way to haul more of the equipment, such as a larger trailer. But what about things that you only use a small portion of the year, like leaf removal equipment for example- how do you justify a $2,000 leaf vacuum, $900 push blower, $2,000 vacuum collection systems for the mowers, and so forth? I always seem to find good deals on stuff, or I build my own things so it works out ok for me most of the time, but sometimes this isn’t an option.
    Like for example-
    I have discovered that in my area there is a good market for one time leaf cleanups, and I am one of only a couple people in this area that realize this market potential and have the equipment to handle it somewhat efficiently (thanks to Lawnsite). I was better equipped than any of the local guys, but it was not exactly an efficient set-up by many other standards. I was kept pretty busy most of the time and I like to stay solo with one helper max. So for this next leaf season I want to step it up and plan on doing much more work, therefore I need more efficiency. I would really like to have a push blower and a debris loader, and while the equipment would be paid for, it’s almost hard to justify spending that kind of money on it. I know of a 11hp Giant Vac loader for $650, but it will cost $180 to freight ship it. Push blowers seem to cost several hundred dollars for old used ones and new ones run close to a thousand dollars. It seems that two options for me are use mower and collector and dump in a box or on ground and suck up into box, or use a blower and suck up the piles. To go with the first option I feel I would need some sort of riding mower because with a walk behind you cannot use a large collector (I have my own version of a Trac Vac that holds more than side catchers but still not much on leaves). That’s a large purchase (rider). We used backpack blowers (45 cc) this past fall and they worked OK but if the leaves were wet we struggled especially in the flower beds. We also rented a 5hp Billy Goat push blower one day (didn’t have any larger in the store) and I realized that a good 8hp or larger push blower would really be the solution for cleanups on many properties. With the mower and collection system it made the machine wider, therefore harder to maneuver and you had to take off the discharge chute to get through gates and such. And it clogged a few times a day, and you had to stop and empty it constantly. It worked good, but slow going. With the blowers, even the backpack blowers, I feel we would be much more efficient if we had more powerful machines. I’d really like to have a 55cc+ b/p blower, 8hp+ push blower and 10hp+ leaf loader. These would work better for us in my estimation, be more versatile and go into smaller spots, steep inclines that mowers and baggers can’t handle, never clog or empty, etc.
    Then you have to have a way to haul the leaves and dispose of them. We can dump the leaves free at county recycling center so no trouble there. But there’s nothing to tie a chain or rope to in order to drag out a pallet to empty the box, so we had to empty by hand, taking around 15-20 minutes with a dry, fluffy load. Really want something like a load-handler or a dumping mechanism. But I am not going to put a box on my truck again for a few reasons. So I then need a larger trailer or another truck. Larger trailer would cost near a thousand dollars. I might already be getting a older truck to plow with if I get some commercial plowing contracts, so I could use that to put a box on. But then I haven’t decided if a plow truck is justifiable here because our weather is so unpredictable and you can go a whole winter with not a single plowable snow here in Indiana, or you can plow 8 times at 4” each, it’s just weird. There are other considerations under the plow truck thing too- like whether to get an old Bronco type truck (would then not be useable for leaf service), old full size truck, or a flatbed/dump bed truck, dually or non, etc. etc. so many options and things to consider. The dump bed would be great for mulching and dumping the leaves, etc. but once you get to that size of a truck the cost is a whole lot more and harder to find one 4x4, etc.
    So it’s hard to figure out what to do and how to coordinate these purchases. If I go with an older truck to plow with (keeping my current truck) then it needs to be purchased in time to build a leaf box on, although at the time I’m needing to build a leaf box I may not know yet if I want to plow or not.
    Does any of this make any sense/can anyone relate to this? Could anyone help or provide some insight/encouragement? I’m hoping to just be swamped with work and not worry about it and just be able to go and buy what I want and use it all and it pays for itself several times over but that might not happen. Often I get into the position of I have just enough work to need a piece of equipment but not enough work to justify buying it, and some things you can’t rent or it’s not practical to rent. Seems us part-timer's have more troubles with these issues than full time LCO's.

    Sorry that’s so long, just getting it off of my chest. Maybe I’m just whining again LOL. Any help appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  2. John Gamba

    John Gamba LawnSite Fanatic
    from ct
    Posts: 10,812

    Eric
    PB 650 or Redmax BP, 8HP Little wonder PB, Little wonder Leaf Loader.
    Or
    You can put an Accelerator bagger with Extension And Jrcos Transporter and TUB On your mower, No big box just high sides and a tarp, You will mulch up the leaves before putting them in the pick up bed. With the bigger accelerator set up you will have with the jrco to a total of 18 bushles.
    Load handler works well to get them out.
    John

    trnsptr3.jpg
     
  3. Kelly & Sons

    Kelly & Sons LawnSite Member
    Posts: 111

    I don't have to deal to much with leaf collections systems... but as far as other equipment... I like to have 3 of everything.. edgers, weed-eaters, blowers, mowers... that way if one or two go down, I am still up & running... other equipment I try and decide if it can make me money... for example... I just bought a Stihl pole saw... about $600.... I made that back in the first weekend of having it, by simply doing 2 "tree trimming" jobs... now every job that I do with it will be basically pure profit...
     
  4. John Gamba

    John Gamba LawnSite Fanatic
    from ct
    Posts: 10,812

    Well you can go onto there web for a better pic.
    John

    The bagger will not clog and is easy to take off and go threw a gate.

    xl-extender.jpg
     
  5. soonernation

    soonernation LawnSite Member
    from Okc OK
    Posts: 63

    Im not a senior member and cant answer questions about equipment quit yet, but, if your get a big tarp that you can buy at home depot(maybe11'x14')start at the front of your trailer or truck bed, with some that hangs down the outside, work down the front wall, cover the whole bed and then some hanging out the back so you can shut the back gate on it. Fill your truck or trailor with what ever. cover it all with another tarp or some chicken wire and throw some bricks or even weedeaters on the corners and in the middle to keep all the leaves from blowing away. Get 2 helpers to grab each corner of the tarp hanging over the front edge. Pull with all your might towars the back of the trailor. ONce you get 2-3 feet peeled back, you can hop in and start pushing it back with them. Have every push and pull on 3 and takes about 5 minutes to pull the entire load into a pile. I wish i could draw it for you. It works, I promise. Have a good day.
     
  6. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    John, that b/p, p/b and loader are just what I want. The Accelerator and Transporter combo wouldn’t be any better than my vac collection system I don’t think, still too wide and have to dump often.

    As for dumping in the truck bed on tarps, I did that at the end of the season when I got fed up with having a big box on the truck and took it off a few days before I was done with cleanups- decided I can’t hardly do without the box. Couple jobs, due to terrain or thickness of leaves, could only be done by blowing leaves into piles and tarping them out then sucking them up. To put them in the open truck bed would fill up in no time flat, when I used mower and bagger after taking box off I could only fit the debris from one job in the truck. Some of them I tarped out oceans of leaves and had to suck them up. Manually emptying the box isn’t such a big deal. But I have to have the box and a vac! I get asked to do all kinds of properties- some so small you can only get a 21” on it, in which case I use a blower, some too thick in which case I use a blower, some not so thick but larger so I use mower & bagger, and so on. I think the first things John listed are what I need, I know that it’s just hard to justify spending $2,500 (including a leaf box cost, and if all of it is used except maybe backpack blower) on machines only used one month out of the year. The b/p would get plenty of use in other times of the year and the push blower would get alittle use but the loader wouldn’t have any other use and so it’s hard to justify that type of machine even though I really need it.

    I wasn’t talking about just my leaf removal predicament, I meant just purchases in general. With mowers, trimmers, etc. it’s easy to tell when you have to go buy something bigger/better, but not everything is that obvious.
     
  7. PaulJ

    PaulJ LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,776

    To ad to Johns idea. Go over the leaves once or twice with your ocdc down first mulching them even finner. Then you can go a long ways before the cather fills up. I don't have the transporter but dump on smaller tarps that hold a couple caters full.
    To unload the truck I use a tarp on the bottom al the time. If it gets to the point that I won't be able to pull it out I add another tarp and another in layers. I do thes with grass all season long. (the tarps, not the mulching then baging)

    It's is hard to justify new equipment. I went through the same pains before I got my new mower but now I am glad I did. Even If I dodn't pick up more lawns to mow I will have more time for other types of work. Increasing productivity in one part of the buis. frees up time for other parts. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Pick out the ONE thing yuo want most in your operation. What do you tell yourself the "If i only had a ___" the most? And When you get that and are seeing results pick the nest thing.
     
  8. Lbilawncare

    Lbilawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,116

    Eric, what I have noticed is that for your size operation you are doing things pretty well. While it may seem inefficient to do things the way you are doing them, you just have to keep going. With a little diligence you will get to the point where you can justify the larger equipment to make things easier. When we started doing clean-ups we didn't have a walk-behind blower or a bagger. We have a walk-behind blower now and it doesn't get used, I don't think they are necessary. We used to blow piles out to the street with backpack blowers or onto a tarp to drag them to the street. We bought an 11hp Landscapers Supply Loader for $1200 and payed for it that season, after that it was a lot more profitable. We bought a hoist for our truck to dump the leaves, paid too much for it and learned from it. You're young, take risks, risk-takers make it. Just be sure you are aware of the consequences of risk.
     
  9. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Thanks Paul. If I have noticed anyone have the same problems I am it seems to have been you. From what I read of your posts you go through the same things I do. As for mulching first- if the lawn is thicker and I’ll be bagging with the mower then I will do that method, but sometimes if it’s wet it has just made the mess 3 times worse. Remember I’m talking about one time cleanups not weekly maintained properties. They’re thick and wet and messy. I’ve tried mulching them but when they are wet you only end up with heavier hoppers on the catcher, things like to clog easier, and the lawn never gets clean, it looks like a truck hauling gold fish flake food spilled on the lawn (lotsa little flakes of leaves all over) and they never come up! If it’s dry this works great but like I said I get all sizes and shapes of lawns with all kinds of messes. I also put one tarp in the bottom of my load so I could get the last bit out, but with a box and vac you can’t really layer like that too easy I found. The blower’s air force moves them around and you’d have to stop and open the box and climb in to situate it, makes a big mess, takes almost more time than emptying the box with a pitchfork :( that’s ok, again the big pain is getting leaves to and in the box. I’ll figure something out. Deals will come along, they always have I trust they will again.

    Lbi, thanks. What is your method if you don’t use push blowers? Do you want to sell yours? I didn’t realize new 11hp vac could be had for only $1200 (was that before or after shipping?) I’m sure I could pay for this stuff in the first season of use, or I wouldn’t buy it. But it’s kinda hard to shell out the money for stuff. With mowers I know they’ll get used so much that it’s well worth the investment, but leaf and snow removal requires you to own a lot of equipment that doesn’t get much use during a year’s time.
     
  10. soonernation

    soonernation LawnSite Member
    from Okc OK
    Posts: 63

    You guys are awesome! Just when I think I know a little bit, you know 50x more, I've got a lot to learn in this business. Thanks for all the help so far.
     

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