Job Estimating

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by QC Lawn Services, Jun 24, 2004.

  1. QC Lawn Services

    QC Lawn Services LawnSite Member
    Messages: 63

    I would like to know how to best estimate a job; by sq ft or time? It seems that most people are getting between $25-35 for residential lawns, but what about estimating for larger jobs.

    TROTTMAN LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 397

    I know the bigger companies use sq. ft. to give a price. However, sq. ft. isn't a great way to do it in my opinion because slopes, trees, amount of edging and trimming all are very important aspects of how long it will take and how difficult and exhausting the lawn will be; none of these factors are taken into account by sq. ft. I am solo, so when I quote a lawn I walk throughout the entire lawn and take into account everything that I can see just with a walk-through. Then when I give the quote I come up with a price and if it seems high for the lawn I explain why.

    Time would be a better way if the customers are okay with it. I would advise not telling them you charge $60 an hour, but to tell them you will quote them when you are finished (for future cuts) after you know how long it will take you and how difficult it will be to cut.

    Also, weather or not you can get your mower through gates should effect the price of the lawn greatly.

    I gave a quote on a lawn the other day that was a great lawn. It was flat and the grass was very healthy, but the gates were small and my 48" had no chance of getting into the back unless I just ran the fence down (which was prolly possible hehe). I would normally charge $35 since it was a little far from my house, but I charged $45 since I would have to push mow it. I gave him my friends number and said he could prolly do it cheaper hahaha.
  3. Hawkeye5

    Hawkeye5 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 295

    QC, my opinion only, but it is not a question of sq. ft. OR time but sq. ft. AND time. In most cases sq. ft. + property characteristics = time. To somewhat simplify the process: You have to know how long it takes to mow x sq. ft. that is average for your area with your equipment. Develop a base cost per 10K sq. ft. that includes labor, operating costs and overhead. Once you know your costs per 10K sq. ft. add profit. Then modify that base cost for time required for each unique site. More than average # of obstacles to trim, ditches, difficulty, linear feet of edging, fences, etc. You end up with a flexible formula that covers your costs, profit, and recognizes differences in sites. I don't charge the same for each property, one 33,000 sq. ft. property may not be the same price as another 33,000 sq. ft. property. I often am asked "how much to mow my yard?" I tell people I don't know until I look at the property. While many will say that what we sell is time, pricing accurately is a bit more involved. New guys almost always seem to price based upon a set amount they WANT to make per hour, not what they NEED to make per hour. There may or may not be a relationship. This approach does require detailed record keeping and a way to measure time and area in order to provide an accurate means of developing operating, maintenance, replacement, office costs, overhead and profit on a sq. ft./time basis.
  4. txlawnking

    txlawnking LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,905

    Excellent post, Hawkeye, very informative, it's definatelly based on conditions as well as sq. ft. an hour. Qc, try this as well I got this from an LCO I worked for in Austin a couple years ago. Get a stop watch and a measuring wheel( my wife got me one for $13 it's as accurate as one I bought and returned that cost me $60). Then go to a park or other wide open area with your equip. Mark off a known area like 1/2 acre or something, then, mark off a given area of chain link w/ heavy growth and time your self.
    this will give you a standard for your local turf type etc. that you can adjust based on a specific property. This helped me immensely. Hope it helps.
  5. QC Lawn Services

    QC Lawn Services LawnSite Member
    Messages: 63

    The idea of developing a fixed cost per area is a really good way to have a better handle on incoming and outgoing expenses and to also make sure that you make your target goal per hour. Thank you both for your insight.
  6. jccordes2

    jccordes2 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 124

    Hawkeye and TX,

    what do you charge for a specific area, like 1 acre or 1/2 acre???
    what would you charge by sq.ft. ?
    just an example,
  7. Hawkeye5

    Hawkeye5 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 295

    jc, the whole point is to develop specific data for your operation. 'The Price' that works for me may not work for you. For instance, your insurance costs more or less, maybe you have a business loan and I don't, perhaps I advertise but you don't, you have uniforms and I don't, you use a 60" Z while I use a 48" walkbehind, gas costs less or more in your area, your truck gets better mileage than mine, my route is tighter than yours, my business software cost more than yours. The variations are almost endless and then you have to consider competition.
    Actually, I stratify my sq. ft. charge into four areas: <= 10K, 10 to 20K, 20 to 100K, and > 100K. The cost per 10K decreases as you move up the scale. To answer your question, for 1 flat open acre (43,560 sq. ft.), with no trim, edge or blow my price is $48 per week. For smaller properties I do have a $30 minimum. I have a excel worksheet another LCO developed and shared (I think on this board). I made modification for my costs. I develop my bid with a GPS (large area) measuring wheel (small area or linear ft.), and an old lap top on site, fill in the contract, and present the contract to the property owner.
  8. txlawnking

    txlawnking LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,905

    Again jc, Hawkeyes said it right, there are too many variables to just post an arbitrary # and say,"Just go with that". Right NOW, MY costs are relatively low mostly fuel, truck insurance, and the $322 a month for the note on my equip. I currently don't have payroll, contractor's ins. ( which I feel I REALLY need!!) or other expenses that more established guy's do. As I grow however, I factor rising costs, competition, etc. into the mix. May God richly bless your efforts.:D

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