I was reading through some posts in a lawn care group on Facebook and one conversation in particular was about cheap lawn mowing service.
I am always humored by complaints about “lowballer” lawn care guys who charge ridiculously low prices to cut grass, because I know from experience that these guys won’t be able to sustain those prices and stay in business. Basically, I don’t even worry about them, but this post got me thinking about the hidden costs of cheap lawn mowing service you may not realize.
Here’s the post in question:
Customer: Hi. This is [John]. How much would you charge to mow my yard?
Lawn Guy: My minimum is [$X], but I need to see your yard first before I can tell you for certain.
Customer: Well…the last guy did it for $20 and I haven’t heard from him in a month.
Lawn Guy: ………..
Customer: Can you match his price?
Lawn Guy: Probably not.
End Transcript [/box]
Presumably, the poster, who I do not personally know, is recounting a conversation he had with a prospective customer.
This simple post highlights some common misconceptions about lawn mowing service in general, and the general attitudes of customers and service providers toward cheap lawn mowing service.
All Lawn Mowing Services Are The Same
A common misconception, and a omplete and total myth. As you’ll see outlined below, the skill level, plant knowledge, and commitment to being a long-term legitimate business to it’s customers varies widely. There is so much more to lawn maintenance than just pushing a lawn mower.
All Customers Are Cheapskates
This is simply not true. A smart business owner will realize that everyone wants the best price for the value they are receiving. Given two affordable choices, most people will select the choice that provides the most value, not necessarily the cheapest. All else being the same (as far as the customer is concerned), the lowest price wins. It’s not the customers job to uncover a company’s value as and how they’re better than their competition. It’s a business’ job to display that value in an understandable manner to you.
Everyone Wants The Best Price
Duh. Every lawn mowing service provider knows that you want the cheapest price possible. Reputable companies also know that there is a very real floor to how much they can charge and still maintain enough profit to run their business and provide reliable service year after year. Those same companies have also learned that it’s better to turn down “cheap” business than pay the customer for the opportunity to mow their lawn. How does that happen?
Simple. Once a service provider accounts for labor, repair, fuel, overhead, liability insurance, works comp insurance, licensing, and all the other small details that go into running a real business, the minimum price to perform the work is going to be higher than your handyman neighbor who just wants some spare cash.
Where Can You Find Cheap Lawn Mowing Service?
There are a three main places you’re likely to find cheap lawn mowing service:
1) Neighborhood kids will mow for cheap
2) Neighborhood handymen will usually mow for cheap
3) New startup companies that don’t understand their costs will almost always do it for cheap.
And all of these guys are legitimate people who do not likely have the overhead of a professional lawn maintenance company and may be able to provide lawn mowing service inexpensively.
But there are risks.
Why Can Some Folks Provide Cheap Lawn Mowing Service?
As I mentioned before, a legitimate lawn maintenance company has overhead costs that your neighborhood “lawn guy” doesn’t have, such as:
Used to protect you if they damage your property. Lawn mowers and trimmers are dangerous machines that cause property damage throughout the country every year. Accidents are more common in inexperienced hands.
Most lawn maintenance companies have professional equipment designed for commercial use. Inexpensive “homeowner” grade mowers are designed to be used much less frequently and for less hours per day than commercial grade equipment. A good commercial mower can easily cost between $7,000 and $15,000.
Lawn equipment breaks down. A lot. And one of the main reasons a cheap lawn guy will quit on you without warning is because he can’t afford to maintain his equipment. For starters, he’s probably using low quality equipment that is more prone to breaking, and then he’s not charging enough from his customers to be able to maintain or replace that equipment. As soon as it breaks down, he disappears. If I was a betting man, I’d guess that’s what happened to our friendly customer up there.
While mowing seems like easy work, there is a level of expertise that is developed among lawn technicians and the industry is competitive. It’s not uncommon for a lawn technician to be making $12, $15, $18, and depending on his leadership skills, over $20/hr plus benefits or he may find another company to work for. This drives up the costs of professional lawn care.
Why Should You Choose Professional Lawn Mowing Over Cheap Lawn Mowing Service
Lawn mowing service is definitely one of those areas you get what you pay for. The biggest benefit to paying for quality lawn mowing service is reliability and consistency.
You want your lawn mowed every week without fail. A good lawn company can deliver that. Before I started Lawnshavers, I was taking care of a few lawns for friends. Then my appendix burst unexpectedly and I was stuck in the hospital for more than two weeks.
Do you think my friends just let their grass grow while I was gone? Of course not! They couldn’t.
With a professional operation, there will almost always be someone there to pick up the slack and get the work done.
What happens when your uninsured lawn guy accidentally backs his zero turn mower into your $6,000 air conditioner. He’s only charging $20 a cut. If he had to replace your air conditioner it would take him 300 yards to pay for that repair. A highly skilled two main team may cut 100 lawns in a week. Do you think your guy even has 100 lawns to cut? Chances are he has 6 or 7. Maybe 10. Do you think he can afford that repair out of pocket? Do you think he’s going to pay for your air conditioner before he feeds his family? Obviously that won’t happen. So you’re left to fix it yourself and take him to court. He’ll take his chances you won’t sue him.
In any case, with all the problems that come with cheap lawn care, you’re always left holding the bag. You pay for their mistakes, and you pay when you have to spend unnecessary time and take an unknown risk in finding an entirely new lawn service provider. Plus, when you do find a professional service provider to help you out, they generally charge you more than a weekly maintenance fee to get your lawn back into manageable condition. You lose all around simply because your last lawn guy was unprofessional.
How To Choose A Professional Lawn Maintenance Company
The first step to choosing a good lawn mowing service instead of a cheap lawn mowing service is to stop making your decision based on price alone. Instead compare total service offerings and seek the most value.
A few value items to look for are:
1) Insurance – this should be obvious by now, but you’ll be surprised how many lawn companies don’t have liability insurance. $1,000,000 should be the minimum policy.
2) Service Packages – What else can your lawn maintenance guy do that your handyman neighbor couldn’t do. Do they trim shrubs that he didn’t, do they take care of leaves, but he didn’t? Chances are a professional operation can provide you with more services than a cheaper alternative. How much easier is it to just call up someone you already trust than worry about finding someone new.
3) Better Referrals – Your professional lawn maintenance company will know good fertilization companies, tree trimming companies, pool companies, pest control companies, etc and probably who to avoid as well.
4) Service Guarantees – Do they guarantee their work? Some do, some don’t.
5) Reliability – Lawn companies are notoriously unreliable. But some maintain strict scheduling a routes to insure consistent service.
6) Credit Cards – Does your lawn company offer you the convenience of paying by card? Chances are it’s a pain to go to the bank for cash or to remember to leave out a check.
7) Communication – Goes with reliability, but do they tell you when your schedule is affected by a weather delay or when they’ll make up service.
8) Fence Gates – Do they check fence gates to make sure they’re shut before they leave?
9) Legal Employees & Background Checks – Are their workers legal and speak Enlish? Often the answer to both questions is no. Shouldn’t you have the ability to speak with someone working on your property? Have they been background checked for past history of burglary, theft, violet crime or any other significant risks.
A few other questions you may think to ask are:
Do you offer fertilization and weed control?
Small and medium sized operations may not, and that’s ok. Larger operations probably do. What you don’t want is a small operation trying to do both mowing and fertilization and providing bad service at one or the other. You can learn more about why this can be an issue in this post about different types of lawn care service.
Do you sharpen mower blades daily?
Dirty and dull mower blades cause grass to rip instead of cut cleanly. Ripped grass will look yellowed and is more susceptible to disease. Professional lawn maintenance crews will have fresh blades every day.
How often do you switch mowing direction?
Every service is the correct answer. This prevents heavy lawn equipment from leaving ruts in your yard.
What is your policy for broken sprinkler heads?
If a lawn mowing company breaks your sprinkler heads, they should fix it. They are inexpensive and easy to replace.
As you can see, there are many more services and value propositions to consider than just price. Not everyone performs the same services for the same price or provides the proper amount of protection for you and your property.
So, when your cheap lawn guy flakes out on you, and you’re griping through the process of finding a replacement, consider spending a few extra dollars per week (it’s usually not much). Your sanity, grass, and shrubs will all be better for it.
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