Good equipment is important to a successful lawn care business. So let’s talk shop—and shopping.
Hey Clippers! Dave Tucker here again to talk about the equipment needed for a lawn care business. At the end of your busy season, it’s not uncommon to notice that your equipment is looking a little rundown. If you’re thinking about replacing your machinery or tools, I’d like to offer some advice.
There are lots of options out there for mowers, blowers, and trimmers. I’ve been in the lawn care business for years, so I can tell you everything you need to know about equipment. I want to help you spend your money wisely as your business grows.
Before we get into the weeds on the equipment needed for a lawn care business, here are a few rules of thumb:
- Lawn care equipment is a tool to help you make money. It’s not an asset, so don’t think of it like one. It depreciates over time because you use it.
- Purchase your lawn care equipment sustainably. I know of a family that got over excited and bought too much equipment too fast. Once those tempting “no payments due until next year!” offers expired, they couldn’t make enough money to cover that overhead. They wound up losing their house. Lesson learned: Only buy what you can afford.
- New is rarely better. As long as you’re a smart shopper, you can find excellent used equipment for half the price.
Buying a mower for your lawn care business
If you’re starting a lawn care business and wondering what to buy first, here’s my exact advice: Go to Craigslist and find a 36-inch walk-behind commercial lawn mower. You can find a used one for as little as $1500, which is less than half of what a new one would cost.
The most important thing to look for is a good engine. If at all possible, try to get a mower with a foreign-made motor. In my experience, they’re generally more reliable.
Another key difference to watch out for is belt drive versus hydro mowers. Hydro mowers run smoother and hold up better against wet grass and steep hills, but they’re more expensive. If a belt drive mower is a better financial choice for you right now, that’s just fine. Belt drive mowers were the only choice available back in the 1980s when I first started mowing lawns, and I built my whole business on them.
Start-up lawn care equipment needs, choices, and considerations
You may be tempted by the comfort and the “cool factor” of a sit-down mower. I don’t recommend it. They’re more expensive, can’t handle small corners and tight turns, and are a pain to repair and transport. If you ask me, it’s not worth it.
If you can afford it, I do recommend a stander mower! They’re more expensive than a walk-behind—around $5000 for a new one—but they’re great machines. You can also DIY a stander mower by installing a Velke onto your walk-behind mower. A Velke is a tiny wheeled platform for you to stand on that will pull you along behind your mower. Having been involved in their invention, I can personally vouch for their greatness.
I’d recommend a 36-inch stander mower with a Velke attachment and a 52-inch stander mower in an ideal world. With these two pieces of equipment, your crew is good to go.
Choosing trimmers and blowers
When it comes to trimmers and blowers, I don’t see any need to buy expensive commercial-grade equipment. Top-of-the-line trimmers and blowers from your local Home Depot or Lowe’s will do the job just fine. We buy new ones every year and just sell them at the end of the season. I recommend having two of each for every crew so they’ve got a backup if one breaks down.
Transportation: How to move all that lawn care equipment around town
Two mowers, two blowers, and two trimmers are a lot of equipment to lug around. Most lawn care businesses start with a trailer, and it’s easy to see why: They’re cheap and fast to set up. You can find a used one for less than $1000 or pay $1200 for a new one, hook it up to your truck, and get going.
That being said, trailers have their limitations. They can be tough to maneuver, they take up a lot of space in the street or the driveway, and they’re more likely to knock over someone’s mailbox. Trailers are fine when you’re getting started, but I recommend getting a cage as soon as you can afford it.
A cage goes on a pickup truck in place of the bed. It’s the most efficient transportation system you could possibly imagine for your lawn care business. You want a cage with a big beavertail and a gate so you can easily drive the mowers in and out of the cage.
A truck with a cage is much easier and less stressful to drive and park. I’ve seen used cages for as little as $950, but generally, you can expect to spend $3000 to $10,000. Be sure to shop around and get a few quotes.
Summing it up: What equipment does your lawn care business need?
After many years in the beautiful business, I stand by this advice on purchasing equipment for your lawn care crews. Shop smart, keep an eye out for quality equipment, and resist the temptation of fancy tools you don’t need. Keep those tips in mind, and you can put together a great starter kit with only the gear you need.