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  • How many started with a lawn tractor?

    Hello everyone, I would like to know how many of you started with a lawn tractor or still use one? I know alot of people do not have the budget to buy a walk behind or ZT Mower so I was just wandering how many started this way and how long it took to upgrade thier mower. Thanks for your time.

  • #2
    Hello everyone, I would like to know how many of you started with a lawn tractor or still use one? I know alot of people do not have the budget to buy a walk behind or ZT Mower so I was just wandering how many started this way and how long it took to upgrade thier mower. Thanks for your time.
    I started with both, but my tractors are the X500 and the X749 which is four wheel drive and all wheel steer. It really depends on the terrain and what you have to get around, where I live and the clients we have I am going to trade the 997 ZTR back in, in April and get another X749 as we paid over $16,000 for the ZTR and it only has 43 hours of use after one season yet the X500 which started the season at the same time has close to 500 hours on it plus a tractor allows you to offer more services. We picked the X749 up in September and it already has 160 hours on it so it was plain to me I had to switch up some gear.

    The 749 has a PTO and three point hitch, I have ordered two three point hitch 40 gallon sprayers as spraying Organics is a major part of our lawn care income, plus they will run tillers, landscape rakes, leaf collectors, a box blade, a rear blade, snow blower, basically you name it. Up side is it's a diesel, costs about $1.05 an hour to run, the X500 which is gas is closer to $4.60 an hour. I understand they are expensive but if you are in it for the log haul and you have the work, they pay for themselves in less than a season.
    Andy
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

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    • #3
      I started with both, but my tractors are the X500 and the X749 which is four wheel drive and all wheel steer.
      Andy,

      How do these tractors compare with average lawn tractors as far as cutting speed and width?

      Do they look physically comparable in size?

      I would think many of us just have no idea as to what the differences are even beyond the 3 pt hitch and the 4 wheel drive.
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      • #4
        Andy,

        How do these tractors compare with average lawn tractors as far as cutting speed and width?

        Do they look physically comparable in size?

        I would think many of us just have no idea as to what the differences are even beyond the 3 pt hitch and the 4 wheel drive.
        They don't really compare at all, the big box store units are built for a home owner who may put three hours a week on, the X series is one serious tractor, it is meant to run 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week and do it without issue at all.

        The transmissions are totally different, they have cast front and rear ends, it's almost like comparing a Chevette to a Corvette.

        I guess the issue is cost as they are not cheap, I believe my X749 which I ordered loaded including what they call the comfort seat, basically you can go over very, very rough terrain and it feels like you are riding on air, was around $21,000.

        Now you could get an X300 which is a great little tractor at a fraction of the cost but it will be limited compared to the bigger units, the X series is considered commercial garden tractors and they do a beautiful job mowing, the ones at the big box are lawn tractors, probably built with a much shorter life, not really sure as they would never make it through a summer with what we do.

        As far as speed, the ZTR would beat it in a race no question however they are not slow either, the X series is faster and you can put a 66" Deck on if you want to and the 7 Iron Deck is considered one of the best in the industry.
        Andy
        Halifax, Nova Scotia

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        • #5
          Very interesting.

          So when a guy is just getting started and all he has is a consumer model lawn tractor, I guess the question that might be really important is, can you start with it or should you?

          Would it be better to go with that or even a used beat up commercial walk behind.

          In the past when we saw Justin start with his consumer tractor, after using it for a season or two, he was able to scale up to a ztr.

          From the conversation, if I remember it correctly, he said he could have grown his business a lot faster early on if he had purchased a ztr from the start instead of using the lawn tractor that just seemed to take forever to get the lawns mowed.

          I believe in starting with what you have, but I think it is also to point out where you are really going to be holding yourself back from growth if you do certain things.
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          • #6
            If mowing, trimming and blowing were all I was going to do and cash was tight, I would go to Home Depot and but the consumer Deere ZTR, if you maintain it and lets say you get 50 customers, it will last you a couple of years.

            Or if you want to offer maybe spraying buy a LA series Deere maybe a LA145 which is high end residential, it will probably last you three or four years, not pushing Deere it's just that I know their products very well. Then upgrade to a good commercial unit when you have the cash, if you don't have the cash for goodness sake don't go head over heals into debt to buy high end gear, you can get started with basic equipment.

            Don't even consider beat up equipment if you want the upper end clients, I know they care what's on their property as my upper end clients tell me one reason I was hired is our appearance and the quality of the machines.

            Remember I told you we picked up that one private community on the ocean with 7 homes, bout 10 acres, I took every piece of machinery to that site even the excavators and parked them in plane view of the road as we had thousand of dollars worth of work to do here.

            Today I went to visit a client and stopped by a coffee shop on the way home, I was wearing a company Columbia winter jacket, a fellow came over and said are you the guy that owns the company that had all that John Deere equipment on Indian Point Road up on the hill??? I said yes, he asked to sit and I said sure. Long story short he moved here in the late fall and he is from a community up this same road, I want the whole road, it's all rich people, the road is about 2 miles long and must have 30 of these communities, all have their own small marina, it is really something to see and if you don't have a few million you won't be living on this road.

            Anyhow as I have said before, get the business then get the equipment, I do it all the time, just make sure you have the cash or some type of financing in place. If it won't pay for itself in 6 months, I don't buy it, that is just a personal rule of thumb.
            Andy
            Halifax, Nova Scotia

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            • #7
              Anyhow as I have said before, get the business then get the equipment, I do it all the time, just make sure you have the cash or some type of financing in place. If it won't pay for itself in 6 months, I don't buy it, that is just a personal rule of thumb.
              I think this is a very important point many newer lawn care business owners fail to realize.

              There are those that tend to think when you buy the equipment, the customers will follow. As if there is some kind of magical signal going out to everyone that says you have a brand new ztr in your garage.

              It's a mental game that some play on themselves. They want to think they are doing something to improve their business, so they go out and buy something. Buying something is very easy to do. Just hand over the cash.

              Finding customers can be tough. This takes time, skill and networks.

              As Andy said, it's important to find the business first.
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              • #8
                I think this is a very important point many newer lawn care business owners fail to realize.

                As Andy said, it's important to find the business first.
                Thanks but to be honest I made the same mistake in February/March and bought a lot of gear that seen very little to no use as my market in my head was not the market out there, Deere treated me excellent and I received pretty much full price on everything on trade for what I really needed.

                We all need the basics but I would even go so far as to suggest getting the clients now, do the research to see what equipment is the best for you, pick a brand that will give you top drawer service, personally I don't care what color it is, I run Deere as they treat me like gold and will even lend me equipment for big jobs, they just give me demo units, all new and some pretty nice stuff, they even deliver and pick it up, how many companies would do that today?

                But with the exception of excavators, your equipment should be able to pay for itself during our up season in 6 to 9 months. I did buy another excavator late in the season, I had no choice as I didn't have one big enough for this job that was worth big bucks so I financed part of the $78,000 cost and decided since they were offering zero financing I would add a 20 foot trailer which allows me to haul an excavator and a loader saving me hundreds per month in fuel, travel and maintenance, at the same time and another big wood chipper that hasn't even been used yet.

                Now did I brake my own rule of thumb as I can't start work until maybe April except for a demolition job I am doing now on a house that burnt, the answer is no. We have 31 excavation and or wood chipping jobs ready tomorrow if we were not buried in snow, the profit from these jobs alone will pay for the gear and I received a deal as it as such a big purchase, late in the year so it was a win win for both of us.

                But guys and gals, advertise whatever, make sure you are insured for it, last thing we need is someone loosing everything because some stupid fine print said if you do this you aren't covered, just call and say I am thinking about offering......... would I be covered if something happened? Gives you peace of mind.

                And while advertising a service just have the equipment you think you need lined up, aside from these great forums, the Internet is the world best library, you can quickly find out if something you want to buy is worth buying and that alone will save you a lot as we can't afford down time in our busy season.
                Andy
                Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                • #9
                  But with the exception of excavators, your equipment should be able to pay for itself during our up season in 6 to 9 months.
                  For the beginner just getting started, can you tell us a little about what this means?

                  Say for instance you want to buy a $10,000 mower.

                  Does this mean you should be able to make $10,000 in 6 to 9 months of it's purchase?
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                  • #10
                    For the beginner just getting started, can you tell us a little about what this means?

                    Say for instance you want to buy a $10,000 mower.

                    Does this mean you should be able to make $10,000 in 6 to 9 months of it's purchase?
                    If in my case I wanted a $10,000 mower it would be because I had enough new business or current business where the equipment I have was putting in too many hours and that machine could generate me $10,000 in gross profit in 6 to 9 months, now we all have expenses but I don't factor that in when looking at the machine so it could very well be that the machine needs a year to generate $10,000 in net revenue.

                    Some equipment doesn't generate direct revenue but could save us time, maintenance and money, say for example it takes me an hour a day to load my landscape trailer with mowers, blowers, trimmers etc. and an hour to unload at the end of the day, maybe I should be looking at cargo trailer that I could leave my gear in and it would also maybe free up my garage and give me a work area on down days if you have them.

                    For a $10,000 piece I like it to be multi purpose, in my case it should be able to do something other than mow, maybe pull a roller, pull a sprayer etc. there are exceptions once again, my chippers run $21,000 and all they can do is chip wood, that's fine but they better be generating their keep or I would simply trade it on something that would see more use and generate more revenue. I currently have three of these chippers due to workload, two did it last year but we were having trouble keeping up, the third chipper I had last year required a tractor to run it, it didn't make sense $$$ wise to tie up a tractor on a chipping job, I did for a few but that is why I bought a third tow chipper, I can simply drop it off with an ATV attached to it and the guys are good to go.

                    Now the ATV's (I have three) have been paid for for some time and were used when both the kids were home but are all in mint condition, two still look like they came home from the dealership and they don't have many hours. I can pull a tow chipper and ATV on two of the trailers we own at the same time, try to avoid making multiple trips, I did in 2009 and it was honestly a very big mistake on my part, gas, time, milage etc. many excavation jobs required two or three trips, that is very expensive.

                    I consider the life of the equipment in my case for most of it to be 3 to 5 years and what I mean by that is it is no where near worn out but I know from research that it will give me max trade in value. Once again there are exceptions, chainsaws, Blowers, trimmers, push mowers, sprayers.....small stuff like this, run her until she drops or it starts to look bad.

                    Trailers and vehicles are different in my case, a trailer should last me 10 to 15 years as I keep them painted and undercoated and my trucks should be good for 5 years but if they still look good and are not costing a fortune in maintenance I will push them to 8 but I doubt that will happen, our average vehicle packed 24,680k last year ( that's about 14,000 miles) at 80 to 90 thousand miles no matter what it would be traded, I have been around long enough to know by that time because of what she does, she is probably going to be pretty much beat.

                    Lease VS Buy.....that is a tough one, I only leased one piece of equipment and it's an excavator, semi annual payments with a $1.00 buy out in five years. Folks watch the buy out, that will tell you if it's better to finance or lease. There is a reason I leased and it had everything to do with tax in my case for last year.

                    The advantage of a lease where I am has everything to do with tax in my case however I do know for a fact it's easier for a new company to get a lease on a vehicle as most banks here will not finance in the first year however a dealership would probably lease you the equipment. I know for example John Deere has an excellent leasing or financing program, you can even get your trailers from them and the prices, at least here are excellent and the quality can't be beat, they have their trailers made by a third party to their specs, one place is in Florida (cargo trailers) and the othes are made in Ontario.

                    Take time to settle and get some cash and retained earnings, what I am saying here is don't grow to fast or things can and in my banking experience generally do blow up in your face. In my case I am not adding any equipment this year even if the business comes up but that is my case, I have enough gear if max'd out could generate around $900,000 gross, I don't want to become a business manager sitting behind a desk, when we get to that point I will find someone to manage the company as I want to be out in the field working on equipment because I have spent all my business life behind a desk and I have had a taste of the working outside until you drop and love it.

                    In 2011 we will add a 3 ton dump truck, yes we could use one this year but I want everything paid off this year and some cash or retained earnings, I have a number in my head that relates to my company and if it were to hit that number earlier in this year, say August then yes I may have to change my mind and buy whatever is needed.

                    Keep in mind I analyze everything and I have 25+ years of business experience from banking, audit, regional tax officer, regional accounting officer, Corporate Financing, Marketing, CFO, COO, CEO......so I pull on all this experience which is why I believe we did so well in our first year, I have learned a lot over the years, especially from other people, maybe business owners, maybe employees we hired, it has saved this company thousands and thousands of dollars to get where it is today.
                    Andy
                    Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the info.

                      Just wanted to say thanks for the input, I found this fourm a few months ago and have been reading and studying and have even put a few ideas that I found to work.

                      As far as the tractor, I have a tractor that I completely rebuilt beginning of last summer that I am planning to start with atleast for a couple of months and then purchase a walk behind. Right now I have been using my tractor for many things pushing snow off driveways that started as just my driveway and a neighbor but ended up doing the neighborhood all but 3 houses. And in the spring I have a tiller for the back and a plow for gardens. I also have several other attachments that I have used and plan expanding to customers this year too. I am wanting the business to pay for the new walkbehind. I also believe that you first should have the customers then the equipment. Even though we are melting the last of the 10+ inches of snow I have been working looking for bargains and just making contacts and getting things and ideas in line so when it does get warmer I am going to hit the ground running and have a little bit of head start.

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                      • #12
                        Just wanted to say thanks for the input, I found this fourm a few months ago and have been reading and studying and have even put a few ideas that I found to work.

                        As far as the tractor, I have a tractor that I completely rebuilt beginning of last summer that I am planning to start with atleast for a couple of months and then purchase a walk behind. Right now I have been using my tractor for many things pushing snow off driveways that started as just my driveway and a neighbor but ended up doing the neighborhood all but 3 houses. And in the spring I have a tiller for the back and a plow for gardens. I also have several other attachments that I have used and plan expanding to customers this year too. I am wanting the business to pay for the new walkbehind. I also believe that you first should have the customers then the equipment. Even though we are melting the last of the 10+ inches of snow I have been working looking for bargains and just making contacts and getting things and ideas in line so when it does get warmer I am going to hit the ground running and have a little bit of head start.
                        Great Idea, what tractor do you have? May be able to offer some suggestions on attachments that we found really paid off and ones that were not so great.
                        Andy
                        Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                        • #13
                          Anyhow as I have said before, get the business then get the equipment, I do it all the time, just make sure you have the cash or some type of financing in place. If it won't pay for itself in 6 months, I don't buy it, that is just a personal rule of thumb.
                          So say for instance a new lawn care business owner wanted to buy a $10,000 ztr.

                          Say he was able to mow 10 lawns a day at $30 a piece = $300 a day

                          $300 a day x 5 days = $1,500 a week

                          $1,500 a week x 4 weeks = $6,000 a month

                          $6,000 a month x 6 months = $36,000

                          If a business owner would come to you with these figures, would you approve or deny the purchase?

                          Also, why is it that it should pay for itself in 6 months? Can you gives us a little theory behind that?
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                          • #14
                            Old tractor

                            My old tractor is a Yanmar performance, it was built by murray many moons ago. The funny story about my tractor is I bought a couple of years ago just to pull a plow and tiller in my garden. When I bought it it was all complete but the deck had some issues. I used the tractor for the plow and tiller and it ran great and if it could get the traction could pull a house,,, But last year was messing around and looking at the deck and was not all that bad so I completely rebuilt it and tried it a few times and it mowed as good as it ran so I used it full time last summer for yards and garden and now this winter plowing drives.

                            Next snow season I am going to buy a Gas golf cart and put a big block in it along with a lift kit and mount a blade to it. I was asked by 4 businesses this year if I could plow snow. As they do not have but a few parking spaces and a huge and wide sidewalk the golf cart is what I came up with. I can plow snow and salt all at the same time and never lift a shovel. I can stay in the enclosure plug in the heater and drive to my jobs. Since I am a small town and know several people I should be able to keep very busy close to home.

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                            • #15
                              So say for instance a new lawn care business owner wanted to buy a $10,000 ztr.

                              Say he was able to mow 10 lawns a day at $30 a piece = $300 a day

                              $300 a day x 5 days = $1,500 a week

                              $1,500 a week x 4 weeks = $6,000 a month

                              $6,000 a month x 6 months = $36,000

                              If a business owner would come to you with these figures, would you approve or deny the purchase?

                              Also, why is it that it should pay for itself in 6 months? Can you gives us a little theory behind that?
                              As a banker? No question done deal here is your cheque (it's how we spell check in Canada...lol)

                              I use 6 months because some of my gear is pretty expensive so I have to give it some time to pay for itself.

                              Maybe I will buy another pressure washer, the ones we use are around $900.00, now that thing can pay for itself in a week but if it's a spare and I keep spares of way too many pieces of equipment, I have to give it some time.

                              For example I have 7 Stihl Professional chain saws, do I really need 7, heck no but every crew (3) that is cutting trees has a spare saw as stuff happens and I don't want them calling me saying we need a saw and it happened a couple of times last summer where they flooded a saw and used the backup, but even the backup's are new plus I keep one at home for emergency and what I mean by that is sometimes a crew may need three saws going and that happened a couple of times but that would be a big crew, each guy running a saw needs three guys as helpers, one stacking the wood and two to three chipping. And some clients want the wood split which is fine as we have bearcat splitters, just means another person. I have had up to 11 guys at one site, now that is extreme and they were there for almost two weeks and we are going back this spring for another two weeks.

                              That customer has serious downfall and 11 guys a day with all the equipment is not cheap so that is what they could afford last year. However the guys split enough wood to heat their house for two years in two weeks so the client saved probably $3,200. there, and I remind clients of this, keep them thinking.
                              Andy
                              Halifax, Nova Scotia

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