Lawncare and Landscape Professionals Speak Out

godjwood: “I am in the process of breaking down my entire company to figure out the costs of everything per hour.

“So far I have calculated out a mower (based it off a Wright stander) operation cost per hour, and two-cycle equipment cost per hour (tried to average out blowers, hedge trimmers, trimmers).

“I figured my operation cost for a Wright stander was $12 and change per hour and two-cycle equipment was $7 and change per hour. My model is to buy new equipment; sell before needs repairs, but take into account maintenance costs and time. I read someone else calculated $8 an hour for a mower, so I just wanted to run this stuff by you guys:

“Wright Mower:

“Purchase Price: $8,000

“Resale Price: $4,000

“Hours Used: 1,000

“Blades: $240; one new set per 250 hours

“Grease: $80 for one tube/25 hours

“Oil Changes: $230 for 2 quarts/50 hours plus $3.50 for oil filter

“Gas: $5,400; about 1.5 GPH

“Maintenance Labor: $2,400 for one hour per 25 hours at $60 an hour

“Cost Per Hour: $12.35

“Two-Cycle Equipment:

“Purchase Price: $500

“Resale Price: $250

“Hours Used: 700; 25 hours per week for seven months

“Two-Cycle Oil: $307.62; 1 gallon per 128 ounces in a gallon times 2.5 ounces per gallon mix times .5 gallons per hour times 700 hours used

“Gas: $1,260; .5 gallons an hour

“Maintenance Labor: $3,500; 5 minutes per hour

“Cost Per Hour: $7.60”

fastlane: ” How did you get the $60 an hour for maintenance? Was it done at a dealer?”

SouthSide Cutter: “Sounds high to me. Let’s say on the mower, if you put 800 hours on it, that’s $9,000. That would more than buy a new one with trade and servicing it for the 800 hours.”

larryinalabama: “Interesting post. I guess most of my hand-helds are inexpensive to operate. My Shindawia blower is over 10 years old and still operates fine. My Stihl combi is over three years and runs like it did new.

“Another way to look at is my blower is 10 years old and it cost me $400. Other than fuel, I have not spent a penny on it. It burns about 1 quart of fuel an hour.

“So that’s $40 per year (and shrinking as years pass); less than $4 per month; around 13 or 14 cents a day; maybe 4 to 5 cents per hour. Fuel and mix roughly $4 per gallon or $1 per quart. So the cost per hour of that unit is less than $1.25 per hour.

“My main mower is three years old at the cost of $4,000; that’s say $1,400 per year, or say $120 per month or $4 per day. I realize this is somewhat flawed because the mower doesn’t usually run on Sunday. It burns about half a gallon of fuel per hour; that’s $1.75, $1 per hour covers maintenance blades and repairs, at 600 hours I’ve not spent $600 maintaining the machine. I would say $5 per hour would cover the mower.

“My box truck is the biggest expense at 11 mpg. I usually burn $100 per week in fuel.

“No doubt lawn care is an expensive business to operate.”

djagusch: “Two-hundred-fifty hours for a set of blades is really high. I am averaging 45 to 50 hours per set before the lift portion wears away (sandy soils around my area). This was a wet year also. Two years ago I was happy with 40 to 45 hours before they are worn out.

“For maintenance labor, you may want to figure what your average cost of labor is if you have an employee do it instead of $60 per hour. Remember, you are figuring costs.

“What mower/engine combo runs .5 gallon an hour? You say it cost $4,000, so it’s not a 21-inch. My 48-inch walk-behind is .9 gallon an hour or so.”

MOturkey: “I’m a relatively small operator, and I realize everyone’s situation is slightly different, but other than with my first Z, which I used four seasons, I’ve been trading every two years, so I’m always in warranty. I average around 700 hours per machine during that time period. I think your depreciation is a bit optimistic, based on my observations. However, it may be possible a Wright has a higher resale, at least in your area of the country. It has been costing me an average of $6 to $7 per hour depreciation, based on two-year usage. If you put a few more hours on a machine in a year, those figures might drop slightly, but my dealer told me that 1,000 hours seems to be kind of a barrier, I guess like 100,000 miles is on a used vehicle. Most people in the market are looking for something with less hours, so I’m assuming that at over 1,000 hours, the price starts to go down.

“I also would have an issue with the maintenance figures, as I don’t see four hours labor per 100 hours, unless you include time changing blades, scraping the deck, etc., and surely you or an employee would take care of those things at a cost of far less than $60 per hour.

“Overall, though, I think your figures are very close on the mower, you just arrived at them in a different manner than I would have.

“Honestly, I think you are way high in the estimate on hand-helds, on average, but it is better to be too high than too low. Kudos to you for actually trying to figure all this out. Way too many ignore the costs until they realize the equipment is worn out and the bank account is empty.”

grassmasterswilson: “Your numbers look a little high, but my expense might be higher. What I did was fill everything up on Monday and keep up with my hours on the machine and gas used for the week. I did it for a few weeks and took an average. Mower might be close, but I think my two-cycle stuff was lower. Your maintenance numbers are high unless you take your stuff to the dealer every few months for a complete tune-up. A tube of grease should last a long time, but I don’t know how many zerks a Wright has. At $60 an hour, I assume that’s for a dealer, but you are figuring about one hour per week for maintenance. I think that’s high, at least at the beginning. As the mower ages it might be right if you include parts.

“Don’t forget insurance on your equipment. Good job for figuring in replacement cost.

“There is a guy up here who sells a profit CD that I bought a few years ago. It was pretty standard, but did have spreadsheets to enter in all the info and it would figure out your cost per hour for mowers, hand-helds, truck, etc.

“I looked back and my Hustler zero-turn was around $13 an hour, and my hand-helds (two trimmers, one edger and two blowers) came out to around $4 to $5 an hour. I’ve been lucky and my stuff has held up pretty well. Those numbers were a little old and not sure what gas price was used.”

mowyo: “You need to add in everything over a long time period for accuracy, but you are on the right track . My costs are $12 to $15 per hour with one part-time helper, and doing all my own shop maintenance and repair. I run everything until it’s worn completely out and not too sure this is the way too do it. It’s been a really bad year for tires, batteries, belts; insurance (homeowners) went up 40 percent last year; diesel and gas has more than doubled in the last three years.

“I see guys on here still mowing for $35 to $40 an hour and wonder how they make it.”

darryl gesner: “I’ve never tried to do a detailed calculation of my equipment costs per hour, but for figuring what to charge for different types of work I use $5 for hand-helds, $10 for the 48-inch hydro walkbehind, $15 for the 52-inch Z with rear bagger, $25 for the tractor with loader and York rake, and $30 for the tractor with loader and backhoe. This is just for estimating purposes, so I’d rather be on the high side.”

32vld: “A couple of thoughts. Usually mower prices go up over time, so shouldn’t replacement mower cost be higher than what you paid for your last one?

“Wouldn’t it be better to keep a mower past warranty?

“Depending on the cost and how many more seasons you would get, wouldn’t a $1,000 repair for a season be better than a $10,000 purchase?

“And, did you factor in cost for expansion. That number has to be decided on to the hourly costs.”

GMLC: “Very good points. Especially expansion, marketing, etc. I too keep my mowers for long periods of time, but I do understand why someone may trade before the value drops too much if you don’t do your own maintenance. Has anyone that buys new every year or two looked into a lease program? I wonder if the cost difference would be worth it? And if I’m not mistaken, the lease program includes maintenance!”

darryl gesner: “I don’t think marketing and expansion costs go into the equipment cost equation though.”

GMLC: “Darryl, you’re right. I was thinking of other things that go into overall costs like insurance, supplies, etc. It slipped my mind this was an equipment cost thread.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the lawn care and landscapeforum at www.lawnsite.com, which has been named one of 10 GreatMedia Sites by Media Business magazine and has been chosen as a winnerof the Most Engaged Media Brands for 2010 by min, a firm that tracksthe media industry. Visit them, and join in the discussions.