Help Deciding on Equipment

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Sam's Mowing, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,268

    Your are tackling a very large task starting from scratch and obtaining your equipment and your customers. I have no problem purchasing equipment new, however, when you are just starting, I don't think it's too terribly smart to be purchasing your large ticket items new at your stage in your business. $10k+ for a new ztr is a huge expense when you have zero income (yes I know, you will be getting customers soon...blah, blah, blah). There is absolutely nothing wrong with purchasing used machines when you are just starting out, its a great way to keep start up costs down but still get equipment that can be used for a pretty good amount of time. A used $4000-$5000 lawn mower can last you a couple seasons, especially while you are just starting out. Finding a used trailer, that is half the cost of a new one, will do just good as a new one for significantly less money.

    You need to understand that you are only 16 years old, don't have a truck yet, no trailer yet, no mower yet and no customers lined up for next season. That is a TON of money to spend on equipment. I don't care that you have plenty of money saved up from working summer jobs over the last few years, it is STUPID to spend all your money on all this equipment and still having to be making monthly payments for your nice new equipment.

    When I started out, I didn't have all this nice new equipment. I bought myself a used ztr in cash for something like $5000 and used it for 3 seasons and then sold it when I upgraded mowers (to a new mower) for $2500. If I remember correctly my first trailer cost $600-$800, used that for 3-4 seasons and then upgraded to a new custom built trailer. My first truck cost me $2200, put about $3500 into repairs for it and it was ready to go, used that for 5 years then bought a slightly used truck for a rather significant amount of money. I have since added a second mower (bought new) and multiple attachments and handhelds in that same time. Never once have I had to finance things (I saved up my money from summer work over the years growing up).

    I'm not saying you need to follow exactly in my footsteps, I just want to point out that you can be quite successful and purchase many of your initial pieces of equipment used and then upgrading to new equipment when the funds are more available and you can actually justify spending larger amounts of money. Yes, financing maybe necessary but I live by the philosophy of "save your money, pay with cash". To this day I have never financed anything...

    I would highly suggest you rethink your spending plans and look at ways that you can save money, especially while you are just starting. Do you have advertising plans? Doorhangers, flyers, business cards...anything to help you get customers. Have you planned out your insurance needs for your business? What about billing and record keeping, have you purchased a program to do that (like Quickbooks) or do plan on doing that by hand and just do it on paper? How about enough cash reserves should you need money for repairs to your truck, fuel for everything and miscellaneous supplies (like oil, filters, belts, etc)?

    I really don't want to sound mean or like I'm trying to bring you down, but I think you are wanting to spend way too much money when you are just starting out. I think you need to revisit some things and make sure you plan well for your first year or two in business.
  2. orangemower

    orangemower LawnSite Silver Member
    from pa
    Messages: 2,768

    He already has half the money saved. I say go for it. Getting a used mower to start a business could leave you standing with a broken piece of equipment. If he gets a new mower I'd be willing to bet he takes good care of it and it will last him for way more years then a used piece.
  3. smitty's lawncare

    smitty's lawncare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 165

    all i gotta say is best of luck buddy! ya got to remember that that financing will be hanging over your head for a long time until you are well established. plus in todays world, depending on where you live its hard to start that big. i started mowing when i was 13 with a 22" toro, a broom and a homelite weedeater. i just now bought a scag 36" and i feel like im walking in high cotton..but i also have 30 loyal customers where i can use my new mower not trying to discourage you, but start small and work your way up, and once again, good luck!
  4. Mikegyver

    Mikegyver LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,803

    I am recently out of highschool and into this full time so I know where you are, it seems like just yesterday I started out at 15/16. The last thing you want is to have that kind of debt. Even if you have a lot of cash save are turning a liquid asset into something that could possibly be hard to get rid of. I would start with a hydro walkbehind at best, that way you might be able to turn a profit the first year. You really should look at getting a good used piece of equipment like a commercial machine used by a homeowner with low hours, I see these all the time. Then you can spend more money on a truck or just save it for a rainy day.
    And skip the stihl stuff, I have a lot of handhelds and that stihl equipment is a total waste of money. I'd get an echo/shindaiwa/or redmax trimmer and a handheld blower.
    Good luck, PM me if you have any questions, I'd love to help.
  5. dutchacres

    dutchacres LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    Do not finance anything starting out. Overhead will kill you and it will eat up all your profits. I would do what others on here have said. Buy a nice used walkbehind and a little trailer you can pull behind your truck. A hydro walkbehind will allow you to mow all minds of accounts from small strip malls to bigger commercial properties. When I started out 12 years ago I had a Ford Ranger and I bought a new 5x10 open tilt trailer. I had a John Deere LX188 48" mower and that is what I used the first year. The next year after I had saved up the cash I upgraded to a Toro 52" ZTR. There are so many people that go so far in over there head right away and they are trapped or stressed because the payment is due and they don't have the income to pay it. Check Craigslist for a nice mower. I have seen a lot of nice stuff on there with very low hours and would last several years yet and cost a lot less than a new piece. Trust me I made the mistake of financing stuff and it sucked and got me in serious trouble. Now I run on if I want something I pay cash or I don't buy it. Dave Ramsey is a good person to listen to and I live by what he teaches. Just be smart and invest that money don't blow it all on a something that drops in price as soon as you load it on a trailer.
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  6. SRT8

    SRT8 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from CA
    Messages: 1,318

    I have a 61" Cheetah with a mulching kit and a stripping kit.

    Buying new is always good but you can always find good deals on used.
    I just recently bought a Scag Freedom Z with only 8 hours for $2500 on Craigslist. I also purchased a 36" Scag walk behind hydro for $1500 on craigslist and it was also in great shape. There are a lot of companies that go out of business and are forced to sell off their equipment, keep your eyes open for it and take advantage of it.
  7. orangemower

    orangemower LawnSite Silver Member
    from pa
    Messages: 2,768

    Just because you had problems doesn't mean everyone will have them. If he did his homework, there's no reason he couldn't finance and still make a profit. It's definitely hard and most small businesses take 5 years to grow enough to sustain a income through the entire year. I'm about there now. I've grown considerably this season and have a 12 month income generated. I could sit back and do nothing all winter and not deal with snow removal but the money is even better when it snows. :)
  8. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    Most new business' fail because of having to much debt.

    You then need to realize that most LCO's started out without spending any where near the money you are going to. And you are not spending wisely.

    You bought a closed 7 x10 trailer.

    Open trailer is less money, if you read here most people recommend a 6/7x12 trailer. That extra 2' length makes a big difference. And open saves money.

    Then you put a down payment on a trailer? Either you buy it or you don't. What is stopping you from pulling the trigger, money, no truck?

    Right now you have more free hours during the week then you have work.
    This means you can make do with a pickup, and two wood ramps, and your 21" mower. Then get a that br 600, line trimmer, a stick edger, sthil hs45 hedge trimmer.

    Now you have all that money behind you to expand smartly.

    Come the spring you may want to get that 7x12 open trailer to haul debri's doing spring clean ups. And you will be ready for when you add larger mowers.

    Then once you hit your 10th customer you add a 36" WB to increase your capacity and you will get through most gates so you won't have to do the back yards with the 21" mower. And you should be able to get that mower into the pickup bed.

    Once you paid off the 36"WB and get yourself up to 15 accounts you look to get that 48" to a 60" mower to increase your productivity. You then keep the 36" for the tight spots and small gates.

    Then you set aside the cash to buy equipment. Equipment that is paid off can never be repossessed. Debt free is the only way to weather the economic down turns. There will always be good times and bad times to come.
  9. CLS LLC

    CLS LLC LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 487

    I'm going to disagree with virtually every other person who posted here. At 19 I purchased all my equipment and financed it without a single customer. All I had was drive and a plan. I did already have a truck and a small trailer. My finance program was 3.9 percent with no payments for the first 6 months and then payments were $200 a month after that. I did have a part time job during my first year to cover my personal living expenses, but being 16, you have the benefit of not really having any personal living expenses. In that first year I did $22,000 in sales, didn't make any profit due in part to all the expenses of starting and new business, but also due to spending $8500 in advertising, BUT I set myself up for success for the following years. Would I do it all the same, not necessarily, would I recommend financing equipment, definitely. You have to watch your money, and play your cards right, but if you saved up thousands of dollars at 16 years old, I don't think you'll have any problems.

    I do highly recommend getting quickbooks and sticking with it. The cost of the program will be offset by lower accountant bills when tax time comes.

    As for Cheetah vs IS2000. I am a huge advocate of reducing the number of moving parts to decrease equipment down time. That is why I chose a fixed deck Wright Stander. You won't find a ride on ZTR with less moving parts than a fixed deck Stander. That being said given the choice between Cheetah and IS2000, I'd take the Cheetah hands down. Better yet, find a Wright dealer in your area.
  10. GreenBlade

    GreenBlade LawnSite Member
    Messages: 216

    You really need to look at finding something better to start off with. I am 15 years old. Been in business for 2years now & this was an amazing year for me.

    I started off with a 36" John Deere LT155. My grandfather had actually bought it for me so no debt there. End of that year my dad bought a 50" cub cadet rzt he found barely used at over half of the sell price. Mowed with that all last season & even the majority of this season. I picked up 10 new clients this season. So I recently upgraded to a 52" TigerCat SS. I chose this because of its compact size. I have alot of lawns that are really too big for a WB, but too small for something like a TT or Cheetah. I financed this mower, but its a great rate & I'm still making a well profit. Don't get ahead of yourself. You want all these nice to things, like everyone, but you have to work & make sure it's the right time. I say find a nice used WB or freedom Z or even both. Open trailer. Truck. Most importantly, ADVERTISING. You have to get customers to maintain profit & get to where you want to be. You want to make money don't you?
    Goodluck though man, PM me sometime. I would like go know how you are doing. I like to keep in touch with people about my age in this business.
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