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Few questions -- New

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by jermana232, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Over the winter I'm looking to prepare for my first season of lawn care. I've been doing research for hours each night and I'm hoping to get a few questions answered that I haven't been able to find answers for.

    1. I plan on doing residential yards and would like to purchase commercial equipment. From what I've read I was wanting to get a 36" mower but that would mean I would need to buy a trailer as well. What size trailer would I need and around how much could I expect to pay for one (used)? I would keep trimmer and other equipment in the bed of my truck.

    2. Should I buy a used 36" WB to start with? Mower+trailer+trimmer/edger+insurance+various items looks like it's going to add up to 2k if not more. I really want to go for this and I've got the drive to do it and work hard... But part of me doubts this. I am willing to put in a hard days work everyday. Do you honestly think it is a wise decision for me to invest in this equipment right off? I am on a somewhat tight budget but nothing too crazy. Do you think I would struggle to make my 2k investment back? I suppose if worse came to worse I could take any accounts possible and work like crazy to at least get my investment back.

    3. How should I get paid? Should I only accept payment beforehand monthly? I was thinking that at the last cutting of the month I would just leave a bill for them at their house rather then sending out a bunch of bills by mail at the end of each month. Please let me know your advice.

    4. Generally, what am I looking to pay right off to become legal and insured?

    Right now you're probably thinking this guy has no clue. Well.... True. If anyone has ANY advice at all on how I could get started next season with say 1k investment as opposed to the 2k I mentioned earlier. That would take a lot more stress off and hopefully keep my urges to low ball just to make some money non-existent.

    Everyone had to start somewhere.... Right?
  2. ralph02813

    ralph02813 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Charlestown, RI
    Messages: 1,041

    jermana -
    First try doing a key work search on the list serve - there are opions everywhere having said that, here is my two cents - I am assuming you have customers lined up.
    1.) my 36 goes in the back of my truck, I built ramps, put a ramp kit on 2 x 8 x 9 also used angle iron on the bottom edge just bolted in the side of the 2 x8 so it could flex, I have no problems get it on and off, and the $1,800 for a trailer is in my pocket - though it will probably leave my pocket this spring - I have the cash to buy it.
    2.) it depends on you normal size yard, I have a 36 ferris wb and I love it - I would be new, look for some dealer financing - if its new, you got two years with just regular maintanence.
    3.) Payment is all about relationship I bill all my accounts accept one who leaves a check thumb tacked under the doorbell - I always ask myself what will I do if the check isn't there. In my invoicing I always put a lot of detail, I treat it like a mini conversation, I am using quickbooks, it $10 a month on line, I enter my charges daily, it prints out nice invoices at the end of the month - all my invoices are due upon receipt.
    4.) Go on line to see what your State requires of licensing and start looking also for insurance companies that do small business insurance as well as home owners, and vehicle sometimes you get a better price.

    Most of all do two things first go on line to sba download the business plan template it write one, then the marketing plan and right one it is most important to HOW MUCH you need to charge to MAKE money - that means paying for all your expenses and the putting money in your retirement and in your anxious pocket - a hint is, if you are not saving for retirement, you are not making enough money.
  3. clc000

    clc000 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    1) You can find a used trailer on CL for less than $1k. For a 36" mower you can get away with a 5'x8' tilt or landscape trailer.

    2) You should definitely invest in commercial equipment if you're going to do this full time. Used equipment can be found on CL or Ebay at a pretty good discount off of retail. Just keep in mind that used equipment will require more maintenance and repairs, but if you're handy you can do most of this yourself.

    3) Seeing as your just starting out, I would try to get as tight of payment terms as possible, i.e. when you complete the work. This will help with your cash flow early on. In other words, if you don't have a whole lot of cash you don't want to wait a month and a half to get paid. Prepaying would be ideal, but few customers are willing to do that, particularly with a contractor they don't have experience with.

    4) Call your municipal government or visit their website to find out what kind of licensing requirements you need to fulfill. Call a few insurance agencies to price out liability insurance, they should be more than willing to help. I can't say for sure how much it will cost as it varies widely by area, but I can't imagine it would cost any more than a few hundred dollars for licenses and depending on how much coverage you want maybe four or five hundred a year for insurance.
  4. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Here's kind of my dilemma right now... I have 5k in the bank right now with no real equipment. I could either buy a brand new 36" WB for 2.5k-3k and probably have little maintenance and have the right tool for the job, then buy a commercial blower and trimmer around $300 a piece(?), and a used trailer for $500(?) and work with my semi-reliable truck. That would leave me with probably under 1k of spare cash which would not be ideal unless I would be able to rack up accounts in a short time which from what I've read is mostly impossible.

    Option #2. I would keep my out for a used 36" WB for the next month or two and hopefully find one for 1k give or take, and then buy the rest of the equipment stated above. So I would be saving 1.5k-2k which would give me some room financially speaking. But I have no knowledge when it comes to mowers. I can work on trucks so I'm sure I could change belts and what not on the mower but I would not be able to tell how reliable this mower is before buying it used. Also, I know no one in the biz, so that would be a gamble.

    Option #3.... Go out with my families cheap 21" push mower and weed whacker, then buy a cheap used blower. Fit it all in the back of my truck so I would not need to purchase a trailer. Work my tail off this season with cheap junk to get a feel for it and gain some accounts...

    I would love to have the right quality equipment in option #1 but with limited cash it seems very risky with no accounts lined up. I would not feel very good buying a used mower for 1k because I really have no knowledge about them. #3. Looks very unprofessional and very high schooler looking for extra cash. 21" will probably to me twice as long and cheap tools will give me cheap results... But would only have to spend a few hundred compared to several thousand (75%+ of my money)
  5. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Thank you both for your advice
  6. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,133

    Jermana it is hard to advise not knowing lots of particulars about you, your area, etc.

    One of the biggest considerations is the customers, if you got them, you can make any of the above options work.

    Option one is not a good idea, because you do not have the customers to make the purchase worth it, and you sound far too uncertain.

    You said it about option #2, it takes knowledge and experience to know a good deal on a used walkbehind. There are cheap used machines available, heck, I have one available if you are interested. Many of them will produce a good cut, but they are difficult to operate and maintain. But if you have any success this is where you will want to go in the future, so start doing your homework now.

    I suggest you go with option three and find out if you are up to the challenge of working for yourself, by yourself and producing a lot of work. If you can get customers and can do the work, you will soon find yourself doing all of the above, buying new, buying used, repairing, etc.

    Good luck!
  7. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

  8. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,133

    I have a 42" Jacobsen, w/ 13 hp kawasaki that has a slow oil leek. I put i on CL in Oct. and did not get the 600. I asked for. I am sure I will sell it come spring.

    The two adds you showed, the troy built is not a commercial mower, but may be a good machine for the price. 8 hp is not going to be a fast machine. The Toro was a very good machine, but is old so it all depends on the condition.

    Hydraulic drive mowers are much easier to use but cost much more, they are worth the added expense if you have a lot of lawns to mow.

    You might visit the shops in your area and ask them what used equipment that they have for sale and see if you can try them out. Most dealers have some used equipment but do not advertise them because they want to sell the new machines, so you have to ask. Dealers sell used equipment at too high prices, but you can start to learn about what is available and learn about the differences. Also, you can ask at the shops about equipment and how to inspect and what to look for.

    Do a search here at lawn site there may be some good threads about how to shop for a used mower.
  9. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,133

    Have you looked at the free equipment and parts marketplace here on lawnsite?
    You can get a good idea of what equipment should cost!

    What town are you located in?
  10. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    No, to be honest I did not even see that. I'll go check it out now. I live in De Soto, IL now but I'm right near Carbondale and go there for college.

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