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Is there Estimating software available

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Chopper67, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. Chopper67

    Chopper67 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 18

    How does everyone estimate their jobs, I'm not in the biz just yet but I'm doing research for next season, I've been trying to read as much as I can here but I still hav'nt seen much on how everyone is pricing their jobs, do you measure the property with a measuring wheel, do you step it off, I've heard some people talking about how long you think you will be there to do the job, but if your new how do you know, and to try and factor in other business related things when you've never done this.... so is there some information or software that I can buy that will explain everything I will need to know about this business?
  2. Mo Green

    Mo Green LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,487

    There are quite a few booka on line that you can buy that can help you out. I found one at www.Lawncare-Business.com. I think it was about $35.00 or so. When I bought it, it came with free estimating software. I thing most guys try to make about $1.00 per minute, and most have a minimum charge. I think most guys won't take their equipment off of their trailer for under $35.00.
    If you go to Google and enter Starting a Lawn Care Business, you can find a few good books.
  3. Chopper67

    Chopper67 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 18

    I saw that one before, I think I saw it right before I found this forum, I could'nt remember which search engine I used or the key words that got me to the site, so I thought I would ask here on this forum to find out everyone's opinions, thanks....
  4. bushtrimmer

    bushtrimmer LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 351

    If you don't know how long it will take to cut an average yard you need some experience. Books won't tell you what you need. Get some experience cutting this year or hire someone who knows mowing to help you estimate and then run a crew or something. You gotta know what you're getting into first in my opinion.
  5. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,569

    Experience is the best guide. I have a wheel of course but rarely if ever use it anymore. I can look at a yard and tell you in minutes what i will maintain it for and that comes from that experience both good and bad in pricing. I will also tell you don't ever be a "scrub" and undercut or knowingly lowball anybody just to steal the business (as some do) but also don't let too high of a minimum price cost you business because plain and simple truth is some lawns just shouldn't cost $35 or $40 to cut and I think at that time it becomes a matter of if you want to cut for less than that. If you don't then instead of pricing stupid just pass on that lawn or price it as it should be.

    Example: I received a call from 2 residentials last week for service for next year. They are both in a subdivison that I do a lot of lawns in already a couple on the same street even. They were VERY plain smaller simple yards with no fences and little landscaping making them very easy and fast (10 mins) to cut and across the street from each other. I quoted the first one at $25 which is my personal minimum and was happy to do so. They accepted for next season. I figured that they were doing them themselves and had seen us doing others and called. I ask them and they said no that they were using another LCO but was not happy because he had been skipping cuts. Well I would NEVER knowingly take another LCO's business so I got his name from them and called him that evening and told him I had been ask for a price from his customers not knowling he maintained them until after the fact and ask if he wanted to requote them as I was lower than him. He was nice but said what I think are those fatal words.."Nope because I don't drop my gate for less that $37 and if I wanted them for less then I could have them". I hate to say it but $37 to cut these lawns was nothing short of robbery. I then ask how many accts he had and he proudly said 10..well now because of that thinking it will be 8 next year, I hate it but offered him the chance but that $37 cost him not me.

    The point is make sure your pricing is in line and that your minimum is also in line for the lawns you do.
  6. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    MMLawn, I agree with your thinking on small lawns. Some of my competitors are doing the same thing--holding to a minimum charge that is so out of line for the little lawns. I know we can't drive into a neighborhood for one $20 lawn, but I figure if I have 2 $20 lawns side-by-side, that counts as 1 stop.

    But let me tell you what I have found about use of the measuring wheel when giving estimates:

    I usually know what I am going to charge as soon as I have made a quick walk around the house. But if I have taken a measuring wheel with me and rolled it length and width at least, I seem to have more on-the-spot acceptance of my price. And use the calculator in front of the customer to figure something, anything, even if it's just the total square feet of the lot.

    I think in the customer's mind, use of a wheel just looks so professional, they start thinking along the line of "This guy knows what he is doing and is giving me a fair price for the job."

    Also, when I quote, I say "This is a $35 lawn." Not "I think I would charge $35 for this lawn."

    Finally, to give sort of an answer to Chopper, software and estimating formulas are helpful, but there are SO many variables from one lawn to the next, no software can possibly take all factors into consideration. If you could come up with a formula or software that covers every variable, the time to do the calculations would be way up there. You will just have to rely on trial and error, and learn from the mistakes until you get to the point of making good estimates (usually).

    KERRTURF LawnSite Member
    Messages: 129

    I would tend to agree with others that experience will be your best guide. I made a spreadsheet in Excel that I use to estimate with, but it is only used as a guidline after I take a quick look at the property. There are so many variables that it would be impossible to get an exact quote from any software. Things like ditches , intricate landscaping, and smoothness of the ground can add time to any job nery quickly. Remember when you are giving an estimate to take into consideration equipment cost. I have seen way to many people give estimates that are way to low when they don't consider that they have to replace thousands of dollars in equipment every so often. I know of one person that figures mowing only at $25 per hour, and he is using a Ventrac tractor to mow with ( a $12,000 dollar unit ). If he were to figure out how many hours that he can reasonably expect from the machine until it needs replaced he would find that he is working at little to no profit.
  8. Hawkeye5

    Hawkeye5 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 295

    Kerrturf is exactly correct. Many startup operators don't consider overhead, just labor. Not having run a business before they fail to factor these costs into the bid. They just seem to think that if they are asking $30 for a lawn that the whole $30 is profit. I guess it is the hourly wage comparison that misleads them, or they may not purchase insurance, spend any time maintaining equipment, and use homeowner grade equipment they already owned so they don't even consider replacement costs. I also use an excel spreadsheet as a guide, but it is only a guide to keep me from underbidding a particular property. When you don't charge enough, eventually the property suffers and your attitude is not good because you know your under-priced. BUT, using a price built upon costs alone may cause you to become uncompetitive. The trick is to find a balance between costs and the market price. That normally means becoming more efficient and keeping costs down. Route density and keeping drive time to a minimum is key. I don't drive more than 8 miles one way. It seems that all lawn care is local. The margins are too thin beyond a certain distance, for me the closer the better.

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