sensible or senseless purchase?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Envy Lawn Service, Jul 27, 2003.


What's your opinion?

  1. Sensible purchase

    9 vote(s)
  2. Senseless purchase

    6 vote(s)
  3. kinda depends

    7 vote(s)
  4. too soon to be planning

    4 vote(s)
  1. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062

    I wanted to run this idea by a panel of my piers to see what you all think. I have been considering picking up another ZTR to complement my 48" ZTR. Specifically I have been thinking about something in the 60" class.

    Now here are a few random thoughts and reason why I have been thinking about it.

    The first reason is I would like to target some larger, more open accounts w/ less trimming, edging and blowing. The reasoning behind that is of course same/more money with less physical effort. I have some accounts right now where those tasks take more time than the mowing.

    The second reason is that it would add more variety and versatility to my business. That would make more opportunity available to me.

    The third reason is productivity. At any location I could use the 60" productively, surely I could get at least a 25% increase in productivity. That would increase my earnings by 25% per hour when I could use it instead of the 48".

    The fourth is that I could recoup the purchase price within 500-600 operational hours. In that calculation I'm only considering the 25% increase in earnings per hour over what I would get w/ the 48" Z. I believe that's a good conservative projection. But that is quite a long recovery period, respectfully, in comparison to what it would be like in contrast, to say the recovery period for the initial investment in the 48" Z.

    The fifth reason is it would split the hours between two machines rather than placing the full workload on one machine.

    However, considering I am a solo operation, I'm not 100% sure I'm looking a this idea objectively from the proper perspective. I'm not sure rather this is a sensible or senseless idea, since after all I am solo and can only use one machine at a time.

    Please vote!!! Also if you have something to add, please do, reguardless of rather it's a pro or a con. I'm sure others have been faced with a similar situation. Please share your experience too. It's always refreshing to me to see a fresh, new angle on things from someone else's perspective.
  2. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    Envy... I was leaning toward voting for "sensible" ...that is until I read you were solo. As you said one of those mowers is going to be idle 100% of the time. THats allot of money to spend for 12 inches of productivity gains and for accounts that you don't already have. I too was in a quandry about buying a small walkbehind to go with my Z that will be used only maybe 8 hours a week but I could then park the 21". Thanks to my wife outlining all the pros of buying it(one of the major ones was saving my old body on a couple of very difficult properties) I did buy it. But like you, it will sit idle allot. ( I won't let my landscape guys run mowers unless its a wide open commercial account)

    Do you believe you can get these new and larger accounts? If so, maybe then it makes dollars and sense. I'm sure the mower gurus here on LS will give you good points of view....sorry to waffle on you but it's a hard call to make ...which is why you posted this huh
  3. geogunn

    geogunn LawnSite Gold Member
    from TN
    Posts: 3,010

    envy--I vote sensless. but it you just plain want it I'll change my vote to "kind of".;)

    here's have a 48 but want to expand your market...more mowing, less other stuff and a 60 would fill the bill.

    however, you can seek those larger props and use the 48 and you got half what you are after. more mowing and less other stuff--automatically.

    take this advice with a grain of salt from a guy that doesn't even have a ZTR yet!:eek:

  4. But the two do seem awfully close in size and capability to one another.

    I see mowers as having 3 classes.

    trimmer; 19" to 32" maybe even 36"

    intermediate; including most of the big WB & riders

    Wide area mowers; include the big bat wings and the super wide flex decks like the 84" & 96" articulating decks.

    I like to keep one of each on the trailer all the time.

    Your choices seem to be bunched in the middle of the middle class. You could expand your capabilities better with a more diversified selection.

  5. GLAN

    GLAN Banned
    Posts: 1,647

    60" riders are expensive

    Your purchasing with the hopes of going after those accounts where the 60" will suite you well?

    Get the accounts first.
  6. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,501

    Agreed...btw, do you have a WB and how big is it?
  7. Barkleymut

    Barkleymut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,117

    Envy- I went through the same kind of decision earlier this year. I have a Dixie that is 4 years old and starting to show her age. Every dealer around here sux so I have to work on my equip. myself. Of course in the middle of the season I can't just take off a full day to fix up a mower. So I purchased an Exmark Z so I will hopefully always have one mower running perfectly. I justified the purchase further because eventually both of these machines will wear out. And I plan on being in this biz at least that long. So I would have to buy another Z anyways. Now I have two and therefore I am that much more productive. Plus I don't have to clean the Dixie after doing some of the big nasty properties that I maintain. It's all up to you. But for me I am very confident I made the correct decision. Also noticed that you have a trailer that couldn't hold both Z's- it sure would bite if you had to drive 20 miles to pick up the backup and then 20 miles back to finish the job. Also do you have room to store it? Good luck.
  8. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    Funny, I have been toying with the idea of doing the same thing, having two ZTR's for a solo operation. Why? For most of the same reasons you stated, plus a couple more.

    First, it would mean that I would always have a ZTR available as a backup if one goes down, and not have to worry about getting a loaner or renting one. Plus it's nice not to have to sweat it if your mower needs some work and you can't afford to spare it so you can put it in the shop. It's also nice not to have to worry about when it'll be back.

    Second, it would eliminate having to use a walk behind at all unless the weather was just so wet I had to at times. So it means that long term, I can continue to do what I enjoy and remain a solo operation longer and not be forced into hiring employees if I don't want to. Compare the cost of having to "retire" a year or two earlier because you're more worn out, vs. the cost of a 2nd major unit.

    As for the costs involved, I'm not sure everyone understands how to figure out what owning a mower really costs. We usually just assume it's the payments or cash outlay involved. But that's not correct. Sometimes having extra equipment sounds more expensive than it really is. You need to break it down into the various elements. The elements involved are:

    1. Interest or cost of funds. The money you have tied up in it. NOT the payment, just the interest, that you pay each year, on average. In the current borrowing environment, this can be very low if you're savvy. For example, a Home Equity Line of Credit can be had for about 3.75% now. Factor in tax savings from the deductibility of that and your borrowing cost might be more like 2.5%. That's $250/year average on a nice $10,000 mower.

    2. Depreciation: What the mower loses in value over time, basically purchase price minus salvage value divided by number of years of use. But since this is related primarily to use in the long term, it shouldn't be too much more than that of a single mower. If your single unit lasts 5 years, your two mowers should, theoretically, last you 10 years. It will be higher than a single mower, though. Just guessing, you might fork out another $500/year in depreciation to have the two units vs. one.

    3. Maintenance: A non factor, since it's directly related to use and you wont' be using the two mowers any more than you'd be using a single one.

    4. Fuel: See above

    5. Insurance: Negligible difference

    6. Ad valorem taxes: May or may not apply, but again minimal.

    So in this example we're looking at maybe $750/year in added costs. That's less than an hour's income a week for most of us. I'm guessing the bigger mower would save many times that. Remember, with bigger decks also sometimes comes deeper decks, faster ground speeds, and more power, which may raise your productivity beyond that of mere deck width.

    Do not make the mistake of considering "payments" to be the same as costs. They're not. Part of your payment is paying down principle on an asset, in which you will have value when you're done paying the payments. (After 4 years of use my Lazer Z HP was worth 57% of what I paid for it) Thinking only in terms of cash-flow is often necessary if you're struggling. But it can lead to poor long term decision-making. I waited a couple of years too long before I got my first ZTR, thinking I couldn't "afford to". Wrong. I put too much wear on my knees riding a velke and had no idea how much more productive it would be.

    Now all this goes out the window if you buy a new mower, use it 5 months, then sell it, since your depreciation costs go way up then. So doing this is an important long term decision.

    But let's face it. Being able to take on any lawn with the best most efficient mower available will more than pay for itself when you properly value your own labor at its true cost. Knock even 20% off your total mowing time and you'll break even pretty fast. Ideally, I would have a 44" and a 60" ZTR, to handle a wider variety of properties(gates) , but 48" is pretty close to 44".

    Finally, some of you guys with crews need to remember that it's quite different comparing labor savings of a $30/hour business owner and that of your $10/hour employee. With employees, this strategy may not pay off, since the payback period is 3 times longer. But if you truely value your time, I don't see the downside to it as long as you get the right equipment and keep it.
  9. MTR

    MTR LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,280

    Ditto, get the accounts FIRST, they dictate everything, no business no machine.
    There are so many LCO that have ten of thousand dollar worth of spanking Ztr and equipments but they mostly park in garage or trailer and barely get used, meanwhile a lot of beaten up 36" & 48" WB guys are cutting both left and right 24/7, is this sounding familiar to you? I think cost effective is weighing too.
    Anyway, your business, go with what you 60" first and then go after business ?
    Best regards,
  10. Lawn Tek

    Lawn Tek LawnSite Senior Member
    from u s a
    Posts: 457

    Go for it , I hate 20 minute jobs , Go for the bigger stuff , eventually you will hardly ever walk behind any mower , the you can sell the little mowers

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