Should you rent or buy a sod cutter?

Most lawn care business owners love equipment. But when does it make sense to buy a new piece of equipment rather than rent it? That is the question one landscaper was interested in knowing more about when he talked about his latest job on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. The job called for the use of a sod cutter but none of his other jobs needed one to perform.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have a customer asking about stripping sod. So on such a job my guess would be I would need to use a sod cutter. How do you calculate that into your quote? Should I rent the sod cutter and add the cost/hour + my hourly rate to figure the price or go out and buy one and some how figure a portion of that cost into the job price? Or what would be the best way?”

A second landscaper said “I charge $85.00 an hour for sod cutting. We use it almost every day to cut sods where we will be installing drains, then we lay it back down later. If you have to rent that piece of equipment, include a pick up and return fee as it is your time as well.

Almost 60 percent of all the excavation jobs we do involve installing drains. When I first got started performing such jobs I used an edger to cut the sod and then I had bought a manual sod lifter. Basically it takes three guys for this process and it’s very hard work. The average drain I install is about 200 feet in length so I am paying three guys for three to four hours worth of work to do it that way! Considering we do four on average a week it made sense to buy a unit and dramatically cut down the man hours needed to perform the job. Which allowed me to increase the profit potential of such jobs.

The other thing we use the sod cutter for is removing sod for flower gardens. It’s simply an easier and much faster method.

When pricing the sod cutters, I didn’t find them all that expensive. I bought mine through a local equipment dealer for around $3,800. It works very slick and I am happy I got it.

As for a standard lawn care company, the need would really depend on how often it would be used. I have no idea what the rental would be but unless you were using it two or three times a week, I don’t think it would be worth the investment.

If we are removing sod for a new lawn, we generally till it under. If it’s weed infested, we use the excavator with a special bucket, I can remove a 3,000 sq ft of lawn in about an hour.”

A third business owner added “I rented a sod cutter a few weeks back and after everything was said and done they charged me a minimum of 4 hours and also charged me a $15.00 fee for cleaning it afterwards. Something to remember next time. One trick I learned with equipment rentals, is how to get more time with a piece of equipment for the same price. To do so you should rent it on the weekend for a flat fee. This allows you to keep it all weekend long and not have to worry about an extra hour or two, but, you have to order it ahead of time, that’s the hard part. Otherwise its a good deal.

Something to consider when it comes to buying versus renting equipment is what you can reasonably rent, you do not have to store or maintain. These sod cutters can surely take a beating when they are working and maintaining them can be difficult when they are used in clay or a rocky yard.”

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