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Rules of thumb for estimating mowing contracts?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by sgbotsford, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    I'm bidding on a contract next spring on two local parks and a cemetary,
    Park 1: 5 acres, 200 trees, 300 feet of rail fence.
    Park 2: 7.5 acres, 2 buildings, 50 trees

    In our climate to keep it looking good, we need to mow on a more than weekly basis for 1.5 months of the year, (Mid May through June) then less frequently for the rest of the season (2-3 weeks for August through September, with a final mowing in October.

    Any of you have spread sheets or rules of thumb for estimating?

    E.g. Once I have some experience, I'd have a spread sheet that took into account:

    Travel time: XX minutes
    Area XX acreas
    Edges XX feet
    Trees XX trees

    And the calculations would work something like this:

    * There is going to be loading and unloading time, so travel time is really 40 + travel time, assuming a load/unload at each end.
    * The area divided by the mowing speed times the mowing width times a fudge factor gives you the mowing time. (There are some unit issues here too.) The fudge factor takes into account the overlapp on the strips.
    * Edges are those that require trimming.
    * Trees are are really edges about 8 feet long, but you probably end up spend as much time walking to the next one as you do trimming one.
    * But trees also add to the mowing time, because you have to go around each one, and there will be more overlap.

    So -- any tips for estimating jobs?
  2. wz2p7j

    wz2p7j LawnSite Member
    Messages: 50

    Park 1 - $20 / acre - spray the fence line about 3-4 times per year to keep trim costs down

    Park 2 - $20 / acre

    Cemetary - $35-50 / acre depending on headstone density

  3. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    Interesting. Does not seem in line with other estimates elsewhere on this site.

    The park with lots of trees I expect to take longer. Based on work on my tree farm, on flat open ground I can do 1.25 to 1.5 acres per hour (Grasshopper 721 with 61" deck)

    First order estimate -- between hills and trees, 1 acre per hour. So 5 hours simple mowing time.

    200 trees at 20 seconds each = about 3 hours trimming time.

    The place is a 15 minute drive. Adding load/unload time = 45 minutes. (This is the one that is really up in the air right now. Currently I have a flat bed, and rig load binders to keep the mower from shifting.)

    So first order calculation using wild ass guesses is 9 hours.

    Using your formula, I get $100/visit or about $11/hour. I'll make better money pumping gas.

    How do you arrive at $20/acre.
  4. xstatikplus

    xstatikplus LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 299

    What mowers are you running with where it takes you an hour to do one acre?
  5. LFD 1249

    LFD 1249 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    This is my first year in business so I'm still learning also. But I would figure my cost of doing business per hr. Also you should figure out how many acres per hour your mower can cut. These are things I wish I would have done when I started this spring before I even bid on anything. I mow a few 5ac properties and a 8 ac. Cementary. With about 350 headstones. Do yourself a favor and figure out those things before u bid. Use the search button. I'm glad I did.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    Grasshopper 721 with 60" deck, mowing on rough pasture with lots of pocket gopher hills. Cutting at 3.5" mower height, taking an average of a 2" cut.

    With a Deutz 6250 tractor pulling a John Deer MX-6 72" foot bushhog it takes the same time, but the grasshopper does a nicer job. The tractor will lean on the corners, so I have to remain in first gear high, or tear the sod with the outside edge of the mower on corners.

    At its best the GH does 5 mph = 7.5 feet per second. With a 5 foot deck, the effective strip averages about 4 feet, if I'm running at speed. So 30 square feet per second. 3600 seconds in an hour = about 100,000 square feet an hour. But with pasture, you aren't going to go at 5 mph. I probably do most of my mowing at 3 mph.

    The average for the main block of my tree farm also works out to about an acre an hour. It's around 8 acres and it takes about 4 afternoon sessions of 2 hours each to mow it all. Mind you almost half of that is edge. (Takes 3 strips to do an aisle.)

    Note, that I've not measured this with a wheel. Paced off the length and width, and did mental arithmetic, figuring 40,000 square feet per acre. I'm likely underestimating somewhat.

    These times also include stopping to move hoses out of the way, pick up litter, rocks, sticks, raking out the worst of the pocket gopher hills.
  7. LFD 1249

    LFD 1249 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    Park 1 & 2. $36 per acre

    Cemetary I agree with wz2p7j

    Those are off my costs u should figure your own. Everybody's are different. The last thing you want is to be in a contract that your are losing money or just breaking even.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  8. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    I think I'm going to do a clandestine mow job. According to the parks supervisor, they aren't giving it a final mow this fall, and it needs it. I can go there, treat it as if were a contract, and see how long it takes.

    For other newbies doing this -- might be a way to break in. First cut free. This will give you (me) experience to estimate the time it will take. I'm guessing it won't take me long to figure out my own rules of estimating.
  9. LFD 1249

    LFD 1249 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    Sounds like u know what your mowers can do. Now just need to figure out everything else. Fuel consumed per hr. amount of trimmer line required, equiptment repair and replacement cost I use round numbers( Ex, new mower $12000/ 2000 hr life span= $6 per hr replacement cost) truck/ trailer maint, insurance cost, and other consumables. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  10. LFD 1249

    LFD 1249 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    I won't do nothing for free unless its a client I already have and they want me to do something alittle xtra then I don't mind. But mowing it for free wont make you any money. But that's just how I do business now. I have some properties I bid way to low because I didn't know my true cost of mowing. They will get a price increase next season and if I don't get the contract then so be it. It feels better mowing a property knowing you are making money then mowing a property that you are losing money. Trust me.
    Posted via Mobile Device

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