setting up shop

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by MSL70, Apr 3, 2004.

  1. MSL70

    MSL70 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Hello everyone,
    Thank you in advance for your time and sharing your experience.
    I have 14 years experience in service relatied fields, and I am now entering the lawn care business.
    I hope this may be a fun question for you?
    I have $7,800.00 in cash and I do not want to borrow for the business in my first year. I have the small hand tools, i.e. shovels, rakes, pruning shears. I have an S10-Blazer with the Tahoe towing package.
    The company I work for now puts me incontact with the same business people that will make decisions on lawnscape services. Thus I will focus on mid-sized commercial accounts.
    If you lost everything but $7,800.00 and had to start over what specifically (manufacturer/model)would you buy?
    A few notes:
    I plan to offer mowing, pruning, edging, fertilizing, and mulching. Some residential accounts/ mostly commercial.
    My wife will work with me so consider that in equipment choices.
    I have bent the ears of anyone who will talk to me on maintenance how-to's (extension offices, botanical gardeners)
    I want a ZTR as an old injury would eventually give me problems with a WB even with the sulky.
    Again thank you for any advice you may have to offer
  2. charlies

    charlies LawnSite Senior Member
    from earth
    Messages: 587

    mid-sized commercial accounts often time necessitate the use of a commercial w/b. it's quite simple to pop the w/b up and over a curb. different story with a ztr. also many mid-sized commercial accounts have steep banks, swales, etc.

    if you're planning on doing mostly commercial accounts, get a good blower. you're going to need it. as far as the mower, get an exmark, deere, hustler, dixie chopper, the difference between most major brand ztr's is often times minute and a matter of preference. because of this, a good dealer in a good location may be an important factor in your decision.

    as far as size, just ballparking it, if you're doing mostly 1/2 acre plus, look into at least 54", i would prefer 60". if your doing many acres at a time, you might want a 72".

    big ztr's are expensive when they are new. don't be afraid to walk away from the dealership to get a price break. you can always walk back in the next day if he doesn't give in.
  3. MSL70

    MSL70 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Thank You so much for your advice. I tried to keep my question and histories short, so as not to take up too much of the forum members time.
    Your reply is very welcomed.
    I have been researching the care of lawns/landscape for over a year now but I cannot find proper advice on equipment brands of choice. As an example the largest dealer in my area (mostly flat turf) recommended not using a WB as they do not have the horse power to sufficiently pull a sulky, (his words not mine) and they would not last very long. I took that information as fact, but after finding this site and researching here I find a great deal of the pro's us WB's.
    Thank You again!
  4. charlies

    charlies LawnSite Senior Member
    from earth
    Messages: 587

    your dealer could not be more wrong. a cheaper belt drive w/b with not enough horsepower, may have trouble pulling a big man on a sulky, but w/b's were pulling big men around long before hydro's were put to use on w/b's.

    also, over a lifetime, a similarly maintained w/b will probably last longer that a ztr because there are more moving parts. it is quite typical for a w/b to have 3-5 or so less hp than a ztr.

    this is just my opinion, but her goes...

    to me, the ztr's are the gravy of the industry, but the w/b's are the bread and butter.
  5. BW4486

    BW4486 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    I agree with alot of what charlies said.

    like he said commercial properties have alot of curbs to go over so a walkbehind is a good choice. And consider that when buying your mower, make sure it has a deck that is easy to lift ( unlike a Dixie Chopper) some brands like scag and a few others have a pedal to push and it will lift & lock the deck in a loading position which makes hopping curbs & loading on trailer easier. I would also go with a 48" or " 50" instead of a 60" or 72" (But thats MY opinion). you will also need a 21" for those single strips of sod that commercials accts are notorious for

    Good Luck

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,534

    $7800.00 is not a lot of money if you want a ZTR. And I agree with the other posts about needing a W/B too. You did not say anything about a trailer. Do need one? For the handheld stuff I would buy new. Backpac blower and mid line trimmer will run 6 - 800. Most any brand will work as long as you stay out of Lowes or HD. ( on this site if you ask 10 people you will get 10 different answers) For occasional trimming any 21 will do but if you will allways be using it get a commerical unit. It will last forever. If you do not know about commerical mowers than read/ search lawnsite. Go to a few dealers and talk to them even if you are not going to buy new. You will at least know what to look for and they will tell you what is homeowner stuff. A lot of companys make ZTR's that are commerical for 5-6-7000+ and also some that are homeowners that run 3-4000 and look the same. They will not last. You can get started for less than 8k but with a ZTR it will take a little shopping. By the way starting in mid-size commercial is a hard thing to do. Most are looking for the bottom of the cost scale and that will leave you with a small profit margin. By the way about horse power, Exmark ( and I'm sure others) put a 23 HP on some of their W/B's and that will pull anybody. I have a Metro HP with only a 15HP and it pulls me just fine(195#). On the other hand they make a ZTR with only a 17 HP so you can get almost any thing you want. I think HP has a lot more to do with tall wet grass any way. If the blades slow down than the cut will suffer. On this site asking what brand is best is like asking what is the best flavor icecream. What most all will say though is the dealer will make all the differance. Stop and talk to other guys working in your area and ask them where they go . Lastly, about your wife working with you, I dont think any one brand would work any better than any other. If you get a ZTR than she will fight you to use that over the trimmer. Go to the dealers and test run everything. Some will weigh more than others and she might want less weight. Good luck with the venture.
  7. charlies

    charlies LawnSite Senior Member
    from earth
    Messages: 587

    if my wife and i were a crew, she would ride and i would trim. after a few hours time, anyone can run a ztr. trimming good and fast is an art.
  8. MSL70

    MSL70 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Thank You all for the replies.
    Since the start of this thread I have widened my search efforts to the surrounding cities and have found some potentially great vendors.
    What do you think of these prices on used ZTR's
    2002 Scag 61" Kohler command, 600hrs, bagger $5,500.00
    2003 Exmark 60", 23Kaw, 6hrs(demo), bagger $7,600.00
    I'm leaning towards the Scag, but is 2500hrs a realistic estimate of life expectancy?
    2000 Toro 36 WB, (not seen yet) $1,500.00

    I also found a few used Gravely's but the dealers said I wouldn't be happy with the quality of cut.(except the Gravely dealer)
    Is that True?

    What do you think about the Echo or Stihl multi-use trimmers? The ones that have interchangeable heads for edging and trimming. Due to my budget this is attractive but I'm concerned about the connection point failing?
    Is Solo brand a homeowners model? has Solo BP blower for $399.00, 705cfm, 235mph, 3.4hp, 52.6cc

    My wife and I certainly do appreciate the advice your offering. We understand this is a very buisy time of year for you.

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,534

    Echo - Stihl are both good. I think that Stihl might have an edge from what I have read on here. I have Echo and so far so good. They sell Echo at Home Depot but they are to small. Go to a commerical dealer. As far as the Multi tool- I have one as a back up that is left over from my homeowner days. It is a little heavy. I do not use it so I can't say about durability. For not too much more I would go with 2 separate ones but if money is really tight maybe start with the Multi, than move up. Or just start with a trimmer and get the edger later.
    Lazer seams High- New (04) 23-60 can be had for 7900 (Bagger??? UltraVac or just a bag?)
    Don't know anything about Scag. Yes 2500 with proper maintanence
    Is the WB Hydro or not
    That 23 HP might be a little small on the 60" deck Better to have more ponies on wet or thick grass. Hope this helps
  10. two_planks

    two_planks LawnSite Member
    Messages: 206

    I too looked into a multi head system (husqvarna and stihl). Its a cheaper route to go but I was concerned with the idea of the power head breaking down and being out so many tools while it was getting fixed. I'll probably buy one as a back up tool though.

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