Per bag leaf charge OR.......??

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Joel B., Jul 16, 2002.

  1. Joel B.

    Joel B. LawnSite Senior Member
    from MN
    Messages: 458

    I had posted a similar thread a while back and got a few responses so I thought I would try again for some more opinions.

    If the leaves are thick, I was thinking of charging double the mowing rate plus a pre-determined charge for every lawn bag (or mower bag) I fill up. If the leaves are not very deep, I would charge the normal mowing rate (since I wouldn't have to go over the leaves a few times to mulch them up) and then the per bag rate?


    Would it be better to charge one price for picking up all the leaves even though it might take more than one trip to get all the leaves?


    Give a separate estimate each time you come out in the fall depending on how many leaves are on the ground?

    I want to try to avoid the people who say to "just wait until all the leaves are down and come out once and charge me once".

    Here in MN if we wait too long and the leaves get buried by an early snow, the grass is in trouble.

    Thanks for any advice,

    Joel B.
  2. ipm

    ipm LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 264

    They are obviously not contract cust. What I would do is try to set them up on a weekly or bi-weekly leaf removal. I know how it is when they build up, they get wet and nasty. Tell cust. it is unhealthy for turf and ornamental plants, and it is they can ruin turf and shrubs.
  3. The Mowerdude

    The Mowerdude LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 372

    Joel: When I first got started in lawncare, I found that leaf removal was a natural "add on." But I faced the same dilema that you're now facing; how to charge. It's a tough nut to crack, but after several years of sticking with it I was able to come up with a workable solution. However I must say, that my solution works for me and many may not agree. But here's what I do. First of all, I realized that I could never make any real money with rakes and elbow grease. I had to come up with some equipment that could take care of heavy jobs in a reasonable amount of time. Customers don't call for easy jobs. They only call for help with the ones they can't handle. I was using zero turn riders (Great Dane Chariots) anyway so I bought a Peco vac system to vacumn the yards. The Peco holds about 12 bushels per load. When full I drive it to the street and dump it in a big pile. (don't panic) My helper has a huge backpack blower and he cleans out any areas that we can't get the Great Dane into. If the leaves are really thick, I start the first pass at about 5 - 6 inches and make successive passes untill I'm down to about 3 inches. Usually by that time the customer is thrilled and it looks like you gave the yard a bath. But now what to do about the pile at the street. Three years ago I bought a 16 foot trailer specifically with the idea of hauling leaves with it. I built up sides on it out of angle iron and plywood and used shade cloth from a landscape supply company to trap the leaves. On the back of the trailer I mounted a materials loader from Billy Goat. It gets too complicated to describe here but suffice it to say, it was the answer to a prayer. Now I had the ability to vacumn a customer's yard and do the haul off as well. I found that with a two man crew, the best way to charge and come out on it was to go by the hour. And sit down for this one, I charge $100 per hour for all the equipment, and the crew. That's how bulldozers, backhoes, bobcats and all sorts of other types of equipment charge. I tell the customer that I have to do it this way because there is simply no possible way to acurately estimate a leaf removal job. 1 inch of leaves looks just like 4 inches and there's no way to see the difference untill you're into the job and it's too late. I also point out that my system is very fast and as a result the end price is competitive with my competition but I offer the advantage of getting it done in a hurry. I invite the customer to my website (which is down right now) to look at the pictures of my machinery so that they can get an idea of what I'm talking about.

    I takes some salesmanship to pull this off, but I've cranked between $20,000 and $40,000 worth of leaf removal for the last 3 years in a row. If you have any more questions, email me.
  4. The Mowerdude

    The Mowerdude LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 372

    Oh, I forgot. The advantage of working by the hour also, allows you to handle those customers that want to wait until every last leaf is down. If a customer tells me that I say: "no problem." That's because I know that more leaves means more hours. It will work out exactly the same. Even if you don't have all the resources to work it the way I do, I would still try and figure out a fair hourly rate and stick with that. It's the only way you can cover your tail when you get into a job where there is a whole lot more than met the eye when you gave the estimate. It also has the advantage of not having to visit the customer's yard for an estimate and then another trip to do the work. You can quote your hourly rate on the phone. If the customer wants a flat price then ask how much they have budgeted and agree to kick butt on it until you reach that point. I tell them that I don't mind if they stand there with a stop watch. If you reach their spending limit and the job isn't done, you'll be in a far better position to estimate what it will take to finish. Also, if you've worked very hard the customer will be impressed with your values and in most cases they will go the extra money to finish. :) I wish you success.
  5. wxmn6

    wxmn6 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 163

    The pricing will vary greatly. It depends on what equipment you are using and your method of cleaning up. It depends on how wide your mower deck is when mulching and/or bagging, type of vac and bagging system, the size of your leaf loader, capacity of your leaf box, etc.

    The wider the mower deck is, the faster you can mulch and/or bag the leaves, which would increase productivity. The larger the capacity of your bagging system, the longer you can run before dumping, which would increases productivity. The type of vac system do play a role in productivity too - your vac system may just suck and throw the leaves into the bagger, or it may shread the leaves into smaller pieces, which takes less filling, which mean you can take longer runs and takes less trips to dump. The more powerful your leaf loader is, the faster it will load up the leaves and suck up wet leaves better, which would increases productivity. The larger your leaf box is, the more capacity you can fill it with leaves, meaning less trip to the dump, which would increases productivity.

    How do you set the base price? Try by starting at how much you would charge to rake or blow the leaves. Try and see how long it take you to complete a yard job and compare it to the time it take you to complete a similar yard job with better equipment. This is probably the easiest method to figure out the pricing. But do not forget to factor the cost for running your equipment. That should be included in the pricing.

    This is my idea/suggestion at this time. I have not tried this method yet but I am going to try and see what the number come up and then compare.
  6. beck

    beck LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 455

    My setup is similar to mowerdude's except replace the G.D. with a Dixie.

    I actually obtained a contract for an apartment complex through my leaf work. I trimmed their bushes earlier in the year and when leaf season arrived I dropped off some information on my leaf removal equipment and my rates. At first she(apartment manager) thought that the rates were high, but after she had the existing company do a partial clean-up and saw how long they were taking and how much money it was going to cost.
    She called me in and asked me if I could do the leaf clean-up because the boss was coming in to town.

    So we did, and they were impressed with both the equipment and its efficiency and sort of laughed at how the other company was doing it.

    I also send out a letter before leaf season explaining that leaf clean-ups will cost more than mowing because:
    1)more equipment (leaf vacs)
    2) more equipment maintenance (filters to change because of dust)
    3) more time
    4) disposal fees and time to dispose
  7. I used to charge by the job and it almost took my CPA to hit me in the head with a hammer to tell me it cost me money to do it.

    Even at 4 times the mowing some lawns I still lost money on.

    So I am glad some of you have read my posts on leaf removal like Mr. Beck has.

    $75 a man hour (not crew each person working) to remove leaves from the lawn and beds.

    At this price and the equipment I use very similar to becks I can do it much faster than any other way there is.

    Tha makes it more justifiable to charge what I charge, and am thinking of raising it to $100 a man hour.

    Each job that gets a complete removal has this on site at one time or another.

    ZTR with Peco vac

    back pack blower

    IHC 4900 with 16" dump bed and a tow behind Giant vac 3001 vac.

    Could be several blowers, vacs, and employees depending on prop size.

    All this entails of almost no manual moving of leaves.

    Leaf rake does not exsist, nor do we ever use them for leaf removal. Man "leaf rake" is still in my vocabulary:rolleyes: , but soon to vanish.
  8. Toroguy

    Toroguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,075

  9. crawdad

    crawdad LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,938

    I have a 5 foot leaf rake I built for the front of Scag walk-behind, works good, but I still hate to estimate prices. My hand rake is 3 feet wide. Also a Stihl br-400 backpak blower, a small 3 wheel blower, and a Billy goat vacuum for the smaller yards. Don't want to push that thing around a big yard when it's full. Wow. Why are we already talking about leaves? I dread leaves. Price'em high, get a helper, that's this years plan.
    This spring, I cleaned up a yard that had "been done in the fall." The previous guy had blown them into the corners of the property with a riding mower. Rain and snow through the winter had glued them to the ground. I vacuumed leaves 'til my freakin nose bled. And bagged them for trash pickup. What a filthy job. Worth it, I thought, as I got the yard as a steady lawn mowing customer. I was glad to get in the neighborhood, visible to many potential customers. After a few mows, the old gal tells me she couldn't afford me any more and was going back to the guy she had last year! After I had cleaned up his mess! If she calls for a cleanup, it won't be cheap, thats for sure.
    I price leaf removal high, and if they go with someone else, OK by me. I won't be bagging them any more, either.
  10. beck

    beck LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 455

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