Is it me or does every landscaper seem to be constantly buying new equipment?

There seems to be a constant arms race going on in the lawn care industry. New equipment, mowers, trimmers, blowers, saws, trucks, trailers all seem to constantly being replaced. But how cost effective are all those purchases? If you can save up to buy some new equipment, should you? Or should you hold off? That is what one lawn care business owner wanted to know when he wrote to the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

He wrote “is it me or am I missing something? Reading through the forums and looking around at my local competition, it seems like a lot of landscapers are continually replacing or upgrading their mowing equipment. I don’t have any built in opposition to that, however while it might be a pain to properly ,key word being properly, maintain equipment, to me it is cheaper than replacing it.

At what point do you decide to replace your mower. (Beside the obvious - ie it died) Is it just hours on the machine? Or is it like a car? I’ve seen the same make and model. One craps out at 90,000 miles and the other looks good at 190,000. One is used, the other maintained. Or is the lawn care industry just hard on equipment? Or do people just want ‘bigger and better’ - ‘faster and stronger’ - ‘new and improved?’

I have a hard tome buying the breakdown issue. For me that is more a lack of preventive maintenance rather than equipment failure. I worked in a service industry for over 20 years and we scheduled work to prevent breakdowns. It can be done and is (generally) cheaper than equipment replacement.

A couple of years ago, I basically gave away my truck. It had almost 300,000 miles on it and I could count the breakdowns on one hand and have fingers left over. But I didn’t wait for parts to fail before I replaced them. I scheduled not only service but maintenance, changing things because they were ‘due’ not because they broke. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that during the ‘off season’ of lawn care, I can basically rebuild any piece of equipment using the time that would have been used mowing.

But you guys have been there in this business longer than I have. What am I missing here? Is it easier to replace it than to maintain it? Or is it good marketing by companies that make us unsatisfied with our current equipment and want the new bright and shiny?”

A second lawn care business owner said “great question! I think there are many different reasons.

  • Businesses need the tax right off.
  • Appearance is a big deal (good equipment=good clientele, crappy equipment= well you get the point).
  • Some people don’t have any mechanical skills to do their own repairs, so in turn, choose to buy new instead of putting it in the shop all the time.
  • Down time on a equipment has to be the worst. If you don’t have back up, you’re going home and not mowing.
  • Some landscape companies just need new stuff to feel good, so whatever works.

These are just a few, and only my opinion”

A third added “first is growth. We are adding commercial equipment every week. I just added two post hole digger attachments for the tractors due to a big job this coming week. I advertised it in the paper Saturday and now have 9 requests.

Next is tax write off.

Appearance is everything to me. Well just about, it is key. I rarely keep any piece of equipment or tool more than two years and generally when I trade it in it looks mint so I get top dollar for it.

Repairs. We pound a desperate amount of hours on the equipment and items like the tractors work year round. I can’t afford down time and yes even with new equipment it does happen but not that often. I can fix pretty much anything myself however I like the warranty and the deal I have with my equipment dealer is if something breaks, they give me a replacement until it’s fixed.

In a two year span, chances are some feature has been added that can make the job better or faster. That pretty much covers it in my case.”

A fourth said “avoiding down time is my motive. What is the point in building a good clientele if you lose half of them because you couldn’t get there this week due to mechanical failure of your equipment?

Tax write off is misused and misunderstood. Too many people think as though something is free because it’s a write off. It’s not. Let’s say at the end of the year you end up in a 15% tax bracket. (paying 15% of your net). When you buy a $10,000, mower all that did was save you the taxes on that $10k you spent. So it’s more like getting a 15% discount on the product, not a free mower, you still spent $8,500 that would otherwise still be in your pocket.”

A fifth shared “I think many new lawn care business owners scrimp on their initial purchases of lawn care equipment. Though this is understandable, buying cheap residential equipment gets them into the business faster but it doesn’t last as long as more expensive commercial equipment.

A residential machine might only last 1 season before repairs and downtime make a new mower necessary. Personally, I prefer purchasing commercial equipment that will last a few years before breakdowns and downtime become serious issues.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success