Young pup, need help from older dogs

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by bartlc, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. bartlc

    bartlc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    This is my second post. The first one don't think it went through.

    Ive been mowing 6 yards for 3 years in my developement. Next year I am venturing outside the neighborhood boundaries with some advertizing. I got insured. Bought a JD 485 60" tractor. (WHAT AM I THINKING $$$$!!!!)

    My question is, what should I be charging if a yard takes me an hour from the time I arrive until the time I finish? Should I charge my neighbors less since they are my neighbors? I really cant afford any discounts after buying the Deere! Can any of you older dogs help this young pup?
  2. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,569

    The fact that it takes you an hour really isn't the biggest issue. I'm not familar with the JD Tractor you bought but if it is a Lawn Tractor type mower as I suspect it will take you a longer cutting time than a 60" Commerical ZTR will and probably even longer than a similar WB would even take because of the slower ground speed and the huge turning radius a lawn tractor takes. So what I am saying is I might be able to cut the same exact property with one of our ZTR's in 20 minutes say. To be correct and to get customesr what you will price by is the lawn's sq footage not only how long it takes you using that equipment. You need to see what others seem to be charging for similar props in your town.
  3. bartlc

    bartlc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    That's a problem. How do i find out? I tried talking to some guys but when I ask how a guy should charge they either change the subject or say that's up to you. They don't want to fess up. Is there a price guideline for squarefootage? How should I go about finding out? I don't want to rake a customer, but I don't want to be raked either.
  4. eXtreme Lawns XLS

    eXtreme Lawns XLS Banned
    Messages: 17

    It all depends on your O.H. Expenses ect we charge $5.00 per 1000 and only mow weed-eat and bag the grass( no desposial fees here .for basic services and $8.00 per 1000 total service ......2 men crews ....
  5. out4now

    out4now LawnSite Bronze Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 1,796

    You're already getting some good avice from the above post. I used to work at a school with a 60 inch JD 430 tractor so I can kinda feel for ya. I wouldn't panic that you bought the Deere. True it is slower than a ZTR but for a few seasons it will work just fine then you move into an Exmark or Scag or Bunton, whatever. There is a member on here called Flex-deck, he uses Deere, look up his machine with the search function. Don't laugh at it because it looks sorta strange. He gets really good productivity in wide areas. You may choose down the line to go the same route. The reason the guys you're talking to are giving seemingly worthless answers about pricing is because they want less competition and or they are telling the truth. What is it worth to you. You have to figure out what your costs are, how much trimming time, line, gas, insurance tool costs to get you there and haow fast you have to meet your liabilites. You'll be tempted to sell cheap(called lowballing) DON'T, so many guys come on here and regret that move. Everyone is different, some guys say a dollar a minute or 30 dollars an hour as a base, or so many cent's per square foot but what if your expenses are real high? Cuts in on profits. If you have trouble estimating size of property look at geting a measuring wheel and see if you can't call around and see if you can't a sq. ft. price. Most guys will say I'll give you an estimate blah, blah, not what you want. Lots of guys buy used equip on e-bay, through other guys leaving the business, newspaper or from each other on the board. Maintain the mower, it's your biggest liability. It's not really an asset when you consider it's value will drop and it will require cash to keep it running. Keep stuff greesed, oil changed, filters changed etc. Focus on costs and think worst case all the time that way if something does go wrong you're sorta prepared for it. Ask questions on here as well, you might get razed a little from time to time by some guys but I wouldn't sweat it. Track all your expenses as you work for awhile, write down start time end time, fuel used etc. and eventaully you'll get the hang of estimating. It'll be trial and error for a bit. Search old threads and you'll see guys that have lowballed and regretted it but learned from it too. You've got a computer and help is not far away now. Good luck hope my rambling helped. :waving:

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    Like out4now said, a lot of guys figure on around $1 a minute for mowing. Don't base your price on square footage, this fails to take into account trimming time, thickness of the grass, hills, sidewalk edging, etc. You may screw up a few estimates before you get the feel for it. After awhile your estimating skills will increase greatly.
  7. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,569

    But also again remember if you do this you will have to base that time on what it would take an LCO with Commerical Equip not a lawn tractor because if you don't your price will be so high that you won't get any jobs.
  8. bartlc

    bartlc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    Is there that much of a difference? Tractors have come along way too. My Deere clips along pretty good. And as for turns go, I can have this thing turned around pretty quick. There's no gears to fool with anymore. Just two floor peddles- forward & reverse. With all due respect to you all who have done this work for along time, is it that much time differece between a ZTR that a tractor? Are you saying that you guys who have ZTR's can mow the same yard as someone with a tractor in maybe 1/3 or even 1/2 the time? If that's the case, I bought the WRONG machine, and so did the other LCO in my area. Your thoughts.....
  9. seven-up

    seven-up LawnSite Member
    from la
    Messages: 108

    I would say that a ZTR reduces the time by at least a 1/4 of the time. Maybe 1/3. I wouldn't venture to say that it cut it in half though. Now, all of this depends on the layout of the area as well.... You have a whole slew of factors to consider. But in the end, a ZTR will reduce your cut time.

    Now, the "real" reason I bought my ZTR last year was to cut the mowing time. But in reality, I just like it because I can spin around in circles really fast. That's fun. And it pops wheelies to.

  10. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,569

    Side by side yes I know that with a 60" ZTR and you with your 60" lawn tractor that I could cut the same yard faster and I believe I could possibly cut it in as much as half the time maybe. But worse case as mentioned above 1/3 the time. So that is why I say that if you base your cut price on the lawn tractor time you won't get a lot of business because you as I said you'll be too high compared to other LCOs using ZTR or even WB's maybe.

    Now, yes you probably did make a choice with buying a lawn tractor that must LCO's would not have made. BUT you can certainly still use it and many do. so as they say, "dance with the one you brought". Just remember when pricing that it would not take most LCOs the time it will you and price based on that.

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