Should I repair my lawn mower or replace it?

Should you repair a lawn mower or replace it? That is an age old question and it gets you thinking. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we hear from a few business owners who have been through it all and figured out an ideal pathway to take. Consider each opinion before moving forwards with what you feel is the best path for you.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I’ve been in the mowing business now for three years, and every year I have set goals for myself to make that year. My first year was to get my foot in the door. Second year was to upgrade to a slightly better lawn mower or two (walk behinds) . My third year was to get a better truck, which I have done, and if the opportunity/need came up get a newer/new mower.

I’m running two 52″ walk behinds lawn mowers and I find I’m constantly fixing something. I like working on my equipment, but when it holds me up from getting my jobs done, it bugs me. I’ve added up the money I’ve spent repairing these lawn mowers and the time spent doing so, and I wonder if I’d be better to trade in these machines for new(er) models?

I’ve got easily $1,000 in each mower after having different issues come up…. and I’ve been basically milking some of these issues along more than I should have. I like having a walk behind, but this down time is for the birds. I’m not a huge fan of buying in the middle of the season but its getting frustrating fixing equipment ALL the time.

As far as down time goes, I’ve generally been able to fix most small issues that day or within 2 days, but I’m getting to the point now that I can’t keep doing it like this. I am all for being financially conservative, but good business to me is being productive.”

A second lawn care business owner responded “this is the third mowing season for me.
I don’t really count the first season, since it was mostly spent working for some real estate investors doing all sorts of things - not so much lawn related.

Aside from the first season when I used my 21″ push mower and burned up a line trimmer, forcing me to buy a commercial trimmer sooner than later, I’ve bought all of my equipment new starting last spring.

I don’t have a lot - just the basics, but I felt that it was more important to have equipment that I could rely on and not lose sleep worrying what I’d do if something went down.

I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to basic repairs, but I’m no mechanic either. Repairs are things I do when I have time. I’m willing to try to figure it out on my own when I can, but when relying on a piece of equipment for a living, I don’t have time to research how to repair it - it needs to be working NOW.

Unless you have the ability to quickly repair your own equipment, you need to have it serviced by your dealer. Even though my dealer pushes contractors to the front of the line for repairs, I could be without a broken trimmer for several days. Without a backup, or the ability to fix it myself overnight, I’m screwed. Since I can’t likely fix it QUICKLY myself and as a startup I didn’t have the funds for backups, I decided to go the new route.

Note that my new equipment was not purchased with cash but was purchased with a 0% interest credit card and paid off over 18 months.

Currently, only my recently purchased walk behind is the only thing being financed - again at 0% interest. (3 yrs)

So far so good. It costs a lot more this way, but I don’t regret it”

A third shared “my first mower was a 48″ walk behind commercial mower. I could only mow as fast as I could walk and after a while my knees started to give me problems. So I bought a brand new 52″ Z with a bagger set up. $8,500.00 plus tax. Life was so much better and just by doing that I was able to double the size of my business.

Except for summer help from time to time I was a one man show. I used that mower as my main work horse for about the first 5 or 6 years. I put a ton of hours on it. As with all things, they tend to get old and need a lot more attention and TLC. It got to the point where each year I was putting 2 or 3 thousand dollars a season into it just to keep it running ok. Never as good as new.

Then I bumped into a guy that had been in the business a lot longer than me and we got to talking. Of course he used to do the same thing I was doing but then he figured out a better way.

He would buy a brand new mower on credit. It would come with a three year bumper to bumper warranty. He would use it for the three years and sell it in the fourth year. He only bought the mower he wanted, a 52 or 60″ Z with a bagging system. Lets say it cost $10,000. After he used it for the three plus years, he would sell it for $6000 to $7,000. His payment on the mower was just one of the fixed costs and there would be almost no down time.

It made sense to me. So I adopted that method. I can tell you that it’s a lot of fun to buy a new mower and it feels good to let the old one go to a guy just starting out that is still figuring all this stuff out.

To sum it up, less head aches, less down time, when something does go wrong, it’s fixed for free. Cost is less than if you were to keep it until the wheels fell off. I Hope this helps a little.”

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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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