When I started my business in high school, I had got a free Yard Man riding mower given to me from a family friend. I currently have 2 hydro Ferris 48 inch walk behinds. I haven’t yet acquired the funds to purchase a Z, which I see many other companies using. They cost around $6000.
I have started small and upgraded year after year. However, one word of advice I must emphasis is to BUY COMMERCIAL EQUIPMENT.
Commercial equipment can take a beating. Remember, homeowner machines are intended to be used for an hour or two once a week max. Right now my equipment is used about 20 hours per week. The engines on commercial mowers generally last several thousand hours which a Home Depot machine would not be able to handle. Besides the engine wear, the physical beating the machines have to endure is pretty intense. Being made of higher quality components and thicker steel they have no problem taking it. It is pretty hard to physically damage these things. I had one fall out of my trailer a few years ago while driving 25 mph and flip over and it was functionally undamaged.
I started out with a used Ford F150 which provided enough power to pull my trailer for several years. Chevy and Ford are the most reliable brands when looking for trucks, so I always get one or the other.
Although the F150 was sufficient, I chose to upgrade to an F250 as it has heavier suspension, more power, and is more built for that sort of work load. I also had intentions of adding a dumperbed which increases the weight and power needed.
A dumperbed costed me about $2500 new. It’s alot to pay, but it does make mulch jobs alot easier and definately comes in handy. If intending to bein the business for a long time I would recommend the investment in the beginning if you have the money. On the other hand if you cannot afford the luxury, it is not a necessity.
When I first started out, I simply used boards to load my lawn care equipment in and out of the back of the truck. However, when I got some money, I bought a single axle 12×8 foot trailer, brand new for $1300 after tax. You could probably find a used model for around $700.00. This length trailer gave me perfect room for two Toro 44″ walk behind mowers, as well as 2 trimmers, and a small 1×8 foot compartment up front for a gas can and supplies. However, my 48″ Ferris also fit on the trailer.
A trailer is essential because it makes loading and unloading your equipment a hell of a lot easier, leaves the bed of your truck empty for grass clippings and anything else, and looks more professional.
Most recently I bought an enclosed 12x8x6 foot trailer. I like the enclosed trailer. I think it has a much neater appearance, and provides a dry, safe place to store the equipment. It also provides a nice large surface that is perfect for a big vinyl lawn care logo. I used to have to cover my trailer every night with a tarp which was a pain in the ass, and this provided a solution for that as well as security for my equipment as I can lock it up.
To start out, I would recommend looking for a used commercial 44″ walk behind mower. Expect to pay around $1000 for a reliable machine a few years old. A new hydro machine will cost around $3500. I usually look at thewantadvertiser.com for used equipment which covers most of New England. I don’t personally have an opinion on the brand. Some people do. I personally have used Toro and Ferris and I have been happy with both.
I say a 44″ inch width because its neither too small nor too big. The downside of a smaller deck is that it’s just going to take longer to do the work. A larger deck, although faster, tends to bottom out on hilly terrain, and gives you trouble fitting through fence openings.
I now use hydro powered machines. Previously I had a belt drive. The main difference between hydro and belt is that a hydro machine can go in reverse, which ultimately makes the machine more maneuverable and faster to turn. They are, however, more expensive, heavier, and require more service.
Lawn Mower Sulky:
Now, another strong recommendation I have is to get a mower sulky. A sulky is essentially a stand on platform that goes behind the mower. Although A Sulky is a piece of equipment you don’ t know your missing until you have one. And only costing a few hundred dollars in my opinion it is definately worth it.
Not only is it easier since walking all day can get tiring, but you are able to cut much faster, and turn much faster. Most walk behind mowers are capable of cutting speeds of around 7 mph. If you walk, you are limited to your walking pace of maybe 3-4 mph. With a sulky you can cut full speed. Also, when turning with the machine, if you are walking you have to walk in a big circle to make the 180 degree turn. With a sulky you can turn on a dime.
I don’t have much to say for this section. I always have two trimmers with me, one for each man on the team. I paid $400 each for my Redmax trimmers. Again, remember to go commercial here. I would recommend a larger engine model as the work goes faster and it cuts easier, although a smaller engine will do.
A blower just to blow grass off the driveway and sidewalk is a necessity. I started out with a small handheld model which costs around $300. However, now also keep with me a large Redmax backpack blower which definately comes in handy. The small blower is lightweight and easy to grab for small cleanups. The backpack comes in handy for cleaning up built up thatch in the yard for lawns that I don’t bag. More on this in Running the Business.
In summary, in my opinion the minimum budget needed for lawn care equipment is as follows:
Truck: Ford F-150 $1000.00
Mower: Walk Behind $1000.00
Hand Blower: $300.00
Total Equipment Cost: $3400.00