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Trying to start, could use some guidance.

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Paulup, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. Paulup

    Paulup LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 270

    Hello everyone.

    I'm new to the forums, so bare with me if i ask too many rookie questions, thats exactly what i am. I've spent the last few days reading as many threads as i could soak up before posting just to get my bearings.

    I'll start off with my experience. I mow my own lawn, my father's lawn, and hopefully i will be picking up a neighbor behind me. My father's job takes about an hour and a half, and pays 200 a month, and the neighbor would be about the same. I own my truck(2002 Tundra V8) and have unlimited access to a 6x10 open trailer with a ramp. I currently use my fathers POS John Deere lawn tractor, it cuts like crap and breaks bi-monthly. I own a cheap weed eater, it does the work but i spend more time working on it and keeping it running then i actually spend trimming. Currently I have no walk behind mower, but will pick something up as soon as i get going.

    Since I was a teenager, I've always wanted a Dixie Chopper. My best friends parents had one, and I used to cut their grass for free just so i could drive the thing. I've read many threads here, and various reviews elsewhere on the web, and the only truly negative thing anyone has to say about the DC is its high price. I've read here the Hustler makes a damn good zero turn, and their price is slightly less.

    Here is where I stand. I do not have the capital to go out and buy a good mower, and that John Deere is only going to guarantee that i never pick up a permanent client because the cut is garbage. I can go get a Hustler FasTrak 54 and afford the note just on the 200$ a month gig from my father. I figure just friends and family i can pick up 2-4 more yards in the next month or so, since the grass is starting to take off around here(Covington, La - 25 miles North of New Orleans) and we've had a 15% population increase since hurricane Katrina so there is an abundance of new businesses and homes that have gone up over the last few years.

    So my questions follow:

    Have a made a good mower selection? I know I cannot afford to go full commercial, it will just cost me too much money and I cannot risk that just starting out with no idea whether or not my business will succeed.

    Can anyone recommend a proven walk behind that isn't going to cost an arm and a leg? Most of the properties I am starting on are rural(large yards, 90% mowable with a riding mower, with the occasional fenced in pool) so a top end rig will not be necessary for a while.

    Who makes a good trimmer? I've been told Echo is a good place to start without spending an arm and a leg, is that true?

    Where is a good place to find the information I need to LEGALLY start my own business. I will not be insured/licensed to do lawn work for family members, but the second I move on to doing this "commercially" I want to make sure it is 100% legit. I'd like a good insurance company, possibly some rates I will be looking to pay, costs of licenses, etc. I will be a 1 man show for a while.

    Is 50 bucks an hour a fair rate if i do good work? I'm not a professional by any means, but I like my yard to look pristine, and would do the same work for my customers.

    What other services besides cutting, trimming, edging and trash clean-up should be included with my base fee? What are good rates for mulching and planting trees/shrubs?

    Any other tips/advice would be greatly appreciated. Currently I make about 60k a year + bonuses. I've got three growing boys that will need an education very soon, and a wife with a shopping obsession. I can put 2-3 full days a week into my business working solo, how much can I expect to make working 8am-5pm 2-3 days a week if i stay busy the whole time? I've read many of you write that you make good money as a part timer, which is exactly what I plan to do provided my current job holds strong.

    Thanks in advance, i'll be clicking the refresh button. :waving::drinkup:

  2. kubotab7200

    kubotab7200 LawnSite Member
    from Newkirk
    Messages: 80

    i started with a kubota b7200 tractor and a stihl weedeater, as far as trimmers, go with stihl u will have no regrets. a good walk behind mower is the lawnboy gold series with the 2 cycle engine those mowers last forever and u cant beat the power. there are so many zt's out there u just need to find one u like, i own a bad boy zt 50 and i love it. i also like the dixie chopper, ive used them and they r friggin bad assss. i plan on buying one next year so i can say i own a dixie chopper and a bad boy. they r great machines good luck make good decisions!!!!
  3. Paulup

    Paulup LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 270

    Thats why I'm asking here, you guys seem on top of your game. Anyone else have some advice for a newbie trying to start from scratch?
  4. stevenf

    stevenf LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,612

    I would agree with the echo. You can get a SRM-210 or SRM-230 from home depot without breaking the bank and there more then enough. My SRM-210 was used commercially for 8 years untill I bought it for $30.00. On its tenth year of heavy use and its still 4-5 pulls to start and runs like a champ.
  5. C&K

    C&K LawnSite Senior Member
    from East TN
    Messages: 295

    Depending on the size lawn you are mowing I would look into a 48 or 52" commercial walk behind. Around here you can get a exmark 48 or 52 TTHP for around the same or less than a fastrak. Floating deck, excellent cut and 100% commercial quality.

    Can't figure out why everyone feels like they have to sit on a mower to make money doing it.:confused:
  6. Paulup

    Paulup LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 270

    Thanks Stevenf, I'll go check em out.

    C&K, when i said rural properties, i mean 5acres or more for all of them. Looking in the mirror i know the best thing for me would be a walk behind, but when it hits 100 degrees and 95% humidity here come May/June, I won't make it.

    Thanks again, happy Easter ya'll.

    DLAWNS LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,780

    I feel you on the heat. I had a part time company down in Florida for a year. I cut all my lawns with a 36" Lesco belt drive. That was not fun. If you get a velky for your walk behind that will save you a lot of wasted energy. I believe they cost around $300. Hope that helps.
  8. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,220

    What happeded to me was, After running a few ad's passed out a few flyers.
    People of corse started calling, very few 1/4 acer lots. I quickly upgraded to a Exmark
    52", then I targeted larger areas and did'nt rty to get 1/4 acer lots....

    For this reason I belive that your clients are the ones who determain what type of equiptment you purchase.

    WITH this you also have control "a little" over jobs that you take. if your like me you dont want to refuse anyone.

    Good luck
  9. lawnbutch

    lawnbutch LawnSite Member
    from Colo.
    Messages: 177

    Paul-- Lets see if I can help you out here and by the way welcome to LawnSite!!

    What I would suggest is for you to check out the dealers in your area and see if you can decide which one or ones you want to do business with. Make a list of the products they carry, do you like the people that work their, what is their service dept. like so on and so on. Then you can start to pick the brands of products you want to use. When you are checking out the dealers ask if you can demo any of their trimmers, mowers, blowers, this can be a big help in deciding on the brands and models you choose to use. Don't buy cheap, buy quality Tier 3 300 hour tested 2-cycle products and stay away from the 4- cycle trimmers!!! I've been there done that, and Im going back to a true 2-cycle trimmer, probably a Kawasaki as that is what my dealer carries.

    As far as mowers go man you have a ton of them to choose from. We are going to demo a Wright Stander this spring and if we like them we will sell off our WB's. We currently use Ariens 21's on a daily bases because of the small size of a lot of our customer base. We plan to give the Toro 21 a try also.

    Legal info try;www.legalzone.com

    $50 to $60 per MAN hour is a good start if your area will pay that, I get $45 to $50 where Is at.

    Other services, I would add Core Aeration, shrub pruning and of course spring and fall clean-up, sprinkler repair.

    How much do you want to make??? How many hours can you devote to the business, how many accounts can you get?

    DON'T LOWBALL to get an account, price it high enough so you can make good money on it. Work smart!!

    I think I've said enough for now and I hope I've helped you out with my advice. I've been an LCO for several years and Im still learning. Good luck!!

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