How Much Does Lawn Care Business Start-Up Cost?
The typical range for lawn care business start-up cost is between $5,000 to $8,000, with the average being around $6,900. The exact cost can vary based on the business owner’s access to existing equipment, location, and business management tools.
- The typical cost range to start up a lawn care business runs between $5,000 and $8,000.
- Start-up costs for a lawn care business will include a business license, taxes, insurance, equipment, and operating supplies.
- The benefits of owning a lawn care business (as opposed to joining an established company) include the ability to start small, high revenue potential, repeat customer opportunities, and the potential to cross-sell services.
Many lawn care professionals dream of starting their own business and being their own boss. Before jumping into business ownership, however, enterprising lawn care professionals may want to consider lawn care business start-up costs for their new venture. While the typical range of start-up costs for lawn care companies is between $5,000 to $8,000, the average cost can vary quite a bit.
Factors including the location of the business, the owner’s access to lawn care equipment, and ongoing operating expenses can affect the average start-up costs of a lawn care business. Some lawn care businesses can get started for as little as around $500. On the other hand, someone wanting to jump into starting a full-service lawn care and landscaping business may spend $50,000 or more.
Factors in Calculating Lawn Care Business Start-Up Cost
Some lawn care and landscaping business owners assume most of their costs are directly related to their lawn care services, such as buying the best lawn mowers or the best backpack leaf blowers for their business. However, there are other costs to consider before starting a business. In addition to the cost of lawn care equipment, lawn care businesses usually have business expenses such as:
- Business license
- Equipment and operating supplies
Depending on local regulations and requirements, lawn care businesses may have to register for a business license with their state or local municipality. Even if a lawn care and landscaping company owner lives in an area without business license requirements, they will likely still want to register their business formally.
Many lawn care and landscaping businesses register as a limited liability company, or LLC, to help separate the owner’s personal assets from those owned by the company. Owner-operated businesses could also get started by registering their business name as a fictitious name or “doing business as” (DBA). The cost for a business license typically ranges between $50 and $100, depending on the location of the business.
When a lawn care professional works for a company as an employee, their employer takes their taxes directly from their paycheck. Once the worker moves to business ownership, they’ll have to pay taxes to the government on their own. Paying taxes as a business owner could include both employee and employer portions of state and federal taxes, such as FICA taxes, which include Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits. Additionally, lawn care business owners may have to collect sales tax from their clients after completing a job. Those in lawn care industries such as lawn mowing services and landscaping businesses may want to contact their state tax division to learn more about tax requirements for lawn care businesses.
The lawn care and landscaping industry involves a lot of risks—from the unexpected breakdown of expensive lawn mowers to employee injuries on the job. Lawn care business owners will want to purchase insurance from a top small business insurance provider (such as Thimble) to help lower their risk of financial fallout if an accident happens. Common commercial insurance policies for a lawn care and landscaping company include:
- General liability insurance: A general liability insurance policy helps protect business owners from the cost of repairing damages and defending themselves if they’re found liable for an accident. For example, if an employee of a lawn care business accidentally damages a homeowner’s sprinkler system while mowing, the business owner’s general liability insurance policy will help cover the cost of repairing the sprinkler system.
- Business property insurance: Property damage or business property insurance helps a business owner protect the items that the business owns. This is an important insurance policy for landscaping and lawn care companies, since these businesses often own expensive lawn care tools and equipment. If a covered accident damages or destroys property belonging to the business, business property insurance helps cover the cost of replacing the damaged equipment.
- Workers’ compensation: Workers’ compensation insurance is often a legal requirement for lawn care businesses with employees. This type of coverage helps pay for medical and legal costs if an employee is hurt while on the job. For instance, a lawn care employee learning how to use a leaf blower accidentally blows wood chips into a co-worker’s eye. The injured employee requires surgery and extensive time off from work while they recover. A workers’ compensation policy can help the employer cover the cost of the injured employee’s medical treatment and pay lost wages.
- Commercial auto insurance: Almost all lawn care companies use company vehicles to transport materials and employees to jobsites. While general liability and property damage insurance help cover the business owner when their team is working on a job, these policies may not cover the business equipment or liability while the vehicles are on the road to a jobsite. Commercial auto insurance works like personal car insurance to help protect the business owner in the event a company-owned vehicle is involved in an accident. This policy can provide liability coverage to protect the business owner in the event of a lawsuit, and it can also pay to repair damage to the vehicle.
Equipment and Materials
One of the biggest initial costs of starting a lawn care business is securing lawn care and landscaping equipment. Equipment costs for lawn care and landscaping services can vary greatly depending on how much the business owner wants to initially invest in the business.
For example, buying used equipment, such as the best leaf blowers or the best string trimmers, can help the business owner save money while getting their business off the ground. However, new equipment may be more reliable and less likely to break down than used equipment, though the cost to purchase the equipment will be higher.
Additionally, lawn care company owners will probably want to factor in the cost of landscaping materials when pricing lawn care service costs. Materials such as mulch, potting soil, and fertilizer can eat into a company’s profit margins, as they have to be repurchased with use.
Additional Costs and Considerations
New lawn care businesses often have costs that may go unnoticed when the business is getting started. These additional costs can affect the average profit margin of the business and could be big expenses for the business over time. Some additional expenses and considerations for those looking to start a lawn care business include:
- Choosing whether to provide services to residential or commercial clients;
- Selecting the right business software;
- Setting up business operations and processes;
- Calculating fuel costs;
- Covering the cost of marketing materials and strategies; and
- Planning for equipment maintenance and storage.
Residential vs. Commercial
A big factor in lawn care business start-up costs is identifying potential clients and establishing a client base. Would-be business owners may want to ask themselves several questions about their business, including who their ideal client is. Generally, lawn care companies cater to either residential or commercial customers. Residential lawn care businesses tend to have fewer start-up costs than commercial operations, with the average cost of starting a residential operation averaging $6,900 compared to $75,000 for a commercial lawn care business. However, a commercial lawn care business often has a higher earning potential since it can charge higher fees for commercial jobs.
For example, the cost of lawn mowing services can vary greatly between residential and commercial bids. Mowing a small residential lawn requires less fuel, takes less time to complete, and generally causes less wear and tear on the mowers than a large commercial property, such as a corporate campus. In addition, commercial clients often have larger landscaping and lawn care budgets than residential clients.
While much of a lawn care business takes place outside using physical labor, lawn care companies still generally want to invest in business software. The best lawn care scheduling software can help a landscaping business run smoothly.
For instance, many lawn care businesses use accounting software to help manage customer accounts, invoices, and payments. An accounting platform can also make tax time easier for the business owner by letting them upload receipts for business expenses and automatically tally business revenue. Other types of software let lawn care clients schedule services online, helping the business owner spend less time on the phone setting appointments and more time completing jobs. The cost for software could range from one-time licensing fees to annual subscriptions costing $30 to $50 per month. Lawn care businesses may also be able to save money on business software by using free software tools.
Lawn care business owners often have to rely on themselves for the management of their business. This includes managing operations related to the non-physical aspects of the job. Lawn care businesses generally require a dedicated office space, computer, and business phone line to provide customers with a professional experience. In addition, having a dedicated office and phone line or email address can help the business owner stay organized when managing the day-to-day aspects of the business. Depending on the owner’s situation, it may be necessary to rent an office space and pay for business phone lines. On the other hand, some lawn care company owners have space in their homes to set up an office and use telecommunication software to manage business calls on their personal phones.
There are two types of fuel costs a landscaping and lawn care company may need to consider—auto fuel costs and equipment fuel expenses. Auto fuel costs will vary depending on the location of the lawn care business, how far employees have to travel to get to the jobsite, and what type of equipment the business uses. For example, a lawn care company that uses heavy commercial lawn care equipment and requires a larger truck to pull its equipment trailer will likely use more fuel than a smaller lawn care operation that carries all its equipment in the bed of a truck. In addition, a business that covers a larger geographic area will generally have more drive time than a business serving a limited local area, leading to potentially higher fuel costs.
Along with vehicle fuel costs, most lawn care businesses use gas-powered tools and equipment to serve clients. Lawn care business owners often have to factor in fuel costs for lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers, and leaf blowers when calculating business costs.
A business needs clients to be successful, and a robust marketing plan is often essential to gaining clients. Lawn care businesses can use marketing to help customers find their business. There are almost endless types of marketing tools for every size and budget a business might have, whether it’s handing out flyers to community members to building a custom mobile app for scheduling appointments.
Regardless of budget, many lawn care businesses use a combination of an online presence, word-of-mouth marketing, and local marketing efforts to get their business in front of potential clients. The cost for these efforts can range from nearly nothing to thousands of dollars. A tech-savvy lawn care business owner, for example, might be able to quickly create a functional website and add their business to social media platforms for little expense in order for their business to show up when a potential client searches for “lawn mowing services near me.” Someone with less technical experience might instead use testimonials and referrals from past clients to help spread the word about their work in the community they serve.
Equipment Storage and Maintenance
When creating a lawn care business, the owner will want to consider what they’ll do with their equipment when it’s not in use. For example, if a company offers lawn aeration services using a large—and expensive—commercial lawn aerator, the owner generally must store this equipment when it’s not in use. Some lawn care company owners have large workshops or a garage on their property in which they can store their equipment. If not, they may have to rent a warehouse or storage space for equipment downtime. Depending on the location of the business, storage units could cost several hundreds of dollars per month.
In addition to storage, equipment will likely need regular maintenance to keep it running and in good shape. The types of tools a lawn care company uses will often affect the company’s maintenance costs. A business that uses large, expensive commercial machines may have to hire a mechanic to help maintain its equipment. On the other hand, enterprising owners might learn how to work on small engines so they can maintain their equipment on their own.
Lawn Care Business Start-Up Cost by Type of Equipment
Lawn care equipment is one of the biggest start-up costs for a lawn care company. However, not all lawn care and landscaping businesses need all types of lawn care equipment. It’s common for lawn care business owners to start their business with only a few essential tools. As the business grows, the business owner will likely invest in more equipment or higher-quality items. Common lawn care equipment necessary for starting one of the best landscaping companies includes the following.
- Lawn mowers
- String trimmers
- Leaf blowers
- Transportation vehicles
The vast majority of lawn care companies offer lawn mowing services to clients. Some business owners even start off only offering lawn mowing, eventually adding more services like landscaping once they establish their business. A lawn mower for a lawn care business can be a big expense, with commercial lawn mowers costing thousands of dollars. On the other hand, some lawn care businesses can get by with a push mower to start, which will cost significantly less.
However, lawn care businesses may want to start with two mid-grade lawn mowers from one of the best lawn mower brands to tackle a variety of lawn projects. The cost for each mower will likely be between $500 and $1,000 depending on the brand, age, and use of the product. By purchasing two mowers, the owner helps lower the risk of losing business if one of the mowers isn’t working.
Even businesses offering only lawn mowing services will likely need to invest in a string trimmer. String trimmers help lawn care workers trim grass and weeds in tight spaces or near objects such as trees and signposts.
Because string trimmers are an essential item for a lawn care business, it may be a good idea for business owners to invest in a commercial model. Investing in a commercial-grade trimmer instead of a smaller residential model usually makes more financial sense for a lawn care company in the long run, as a commercial trimmer will be capable of handling bigger jobs and will likely be more durable. Lawn care company owners can generally expect to pay around $100 to $500 or more for a high-quality string trimmer.
Like string trimmers, leaf blowers are often an essential piece of equipment necessary to start one of the best lawn care services. Leaf blowers help clean up a jobsite before and after mowing so the client is left with a beautifully maintained yard. For example, a lawn care professional might use a leaf blower to clean up grass clippings from the patio of a customer’s home. While this could potentially be done using a handheld rake, a good leaf blower will reduce the time it takes to complete a job.
New business owners can choose from a small residential-size leaf blower or invest in a heavy-duty commercial backpack leaf blower. Handheld leaf blowers generally cost less than a backpack leaf blower model, but lawn care business owners may need to to spend around $100 to buy one new.
A lawn care company often needs at least one pickup truck or delivery-style van to operate. Most lawn care companies need to haul equipment such as mowers and leaf blowers, as well as materials such as mulch or fertilizer, to clients’ homes and businesses. A larger vehicle is often necessary to transport equipment to and from the jobsite.
Many lawn care businesses use pickup trucks to haul their employees and equipment. A smaller operation may be able to use a single pickup truck to haul all of its equipment without the need for additional trailers. However, larger operations will likely need more than one vehicle to be able to handle multiple jobsites at the same time. Many new lawn care business owners opt for a used truck when they first start their business. Even if it’s used, however, a pickup truck in good working condition will likely cost the business owner over $10,000.
The bed of a pickup truck may be all a lawn care business owner needs to haul their equipment when first getting started. However, businesses that plan to offer more than basic services or want to jump in with multiple employees from the start will likely need to invest in a trailer as well as a truck.
Trailers range in size and capacity, which will affect the cost of the trailer. For example, a lawn care business owner might choose a small open-air cargo trailer with just enough space for a lawn mower. A smaller trailer like this generally costs much less than a large enclosed trailer. However, the enclosed trailer can serve as secure storage when the equipment is not in use, giving it multiple uses.
Depending on the services the lawn care business offers, the owner may need much more equipment than a mower, leaf blower, truck, and trailer. Common lawn equipment includes seed and fertilizer spreaders and sprayers, edging tools, and hedge trimmers. Additionally, most lawn care professionals like to have hand tools—such as hammers and screwdrivers—available in case adjustments need to be made to equipment on the jobsite.
The cost of non-tool equipment can also affect the start-up costs of a lawn care business. Equipment such as containers for gas and chemicals, for example, allows these materials to be kept on hand while allowing the business to buy them in bulk and store them at their headquarters. Employees or even the business owner themselves will likely want to have personal protective equipment, including earplugs and protective eyewear, to stay safe from the loud noises and sharp blades of lawn care equipment. While many of these costs are low individually, the total cost to the business can add up.
Owning a Small Lawn Care Business vs. Working For a Large Lawn Care Business
Starting a lawn care business can offer the owner a lot of benefits, despite the potential for high start-up costs. Many lawn care workers dream of being their own boss, and starting a lawn care business is the key to making that happen. Once established, a lawn care and landscaping company offers the owner high earning potential and the freedom to run their business how they see fit.
Ability to Start Small
While it may cost thousands of dollars to start a multi-employee commercial lawn care business, it’s not a requirement. Most lawn care businesses can get off the ground with just a few hundred dollars invested. For example, a lawn care business owner might start their business by offering limited services within a limited location radius.
As the business grows and the owner has more revenue to invest in the company, they can expand their offerings. For instance, after offering only mowing services for the first couple of years of business, a business owner may bring in enough money to offer additional services, such as aeration or landscaping maintenance services.
Repeat Customer Opportunities
After a new lawn care business owner gets their first several customers, it becomes easier to maintain steady revenue. Many lawn care clients hire lawn care companies because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of maintaining their yard on their own. If the lawn care company does a good job, the client will likely continue to hire them for the ongoing maintenance of their property, such as signing up for biweekly lawn mowing services.
Those ongoing customer arrangements can lead to additional business opportunities as well. A satisfied client who uses a lawn care business for yard maintenance is more likely to choose landscaping services, for example, from a company with whom they already have a relationship.
High Revenue Potential
With dedication and hustle, a lawn care business owner can make a lot of money. Many landscaping businesses bring in around $130,000 per year per employee in revenue, as landscaping costs average $3,415 per customer. Depending on the business expenses, this could leave a lot of money as profit. The more lean an operation, the higher the profits will be after subtracting expenses, including employee wages, taxes, insurance, and equipment costs.
In addition, the owner of a lawn care company puts their earning potential into their own hands when they start their own business. Much of the business owner’s salary is dependent upon their ability to manage the business, sell services, and provide an excellent customer experience.
Potential to Cross-Sell Services
There are many different lawn care and landscaping services a business can offer clients, many of which work hand in hand to provide a full-service lawn and landscaping management experience. It’s common for lawn care companies to upsell and cross-sell products and services to their customers.
For example, lawn care and landscaping is often a seasonal business. When grass goes dormant for the winter months and ice and snow start to arrive, many lawn care businesses pivot to winter services. A lawn care company that offers lawn mowing in the summer and snow removal in the winter can cross-sell these services when new clients sign up for one or the other.
How to Save Money on Lawn Care Business Start-Up Cost
Between equipment costs, business insurance, and employee wages, starting a lawn care business might seem cost-prohibitive to some lawn care professionals. Luckily, there are several ways to reduce the start-up costs of a lawn care and landscaping business, including the following.
- Look for deals. Buy used equipment instead of new and look for equipment bundles to further reduce the cost of mowers, leaf blowers, and other tools.
- Start small. Keep service offerings limited at the start; this requires less equipment and lets the company master one service at a time.
- Skip the employees. Start as a one-person operation to lower labor costs, including wages and insurance.
- Use what you have. Use existing equipment, such as a personal truck or trailer, rather than buying new (or used) vehicles and trailers specifically for the business.
- Get out the word. Invest time in low-cost marketing and sales efforts, like handing out flyers or creating a free online business profile, to get the word out about the business.
Questions to Ask About Lawn Care Business Start-Up
There are a number of questions any business owner may want to ask before starting a business, including potential lawn care business owners. These questions can help the would-be business owner get a better idea of their personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the viability of their business idea. A few questions a lawn care professional may want to ask themselves before starting their landscaping business include the following.
- Do I understand the potential risks of starting a lawn care business, and am I ready to invest my time and money despite those risks?
- Should I start a lawn care company from the ground up, or would it make more sense for me to become part of a franchise operation?
- What are my best qualities as a business owner, and how can I put them to work to help improve my business and increase my revenue?
- What are my worst qualities as a business owner, and how can I overcome them to provide the support and service my business needs?
The cost of starting a lawn care business can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in initial investments. Before a lawn care professional starts their own business, it’s recommended that they understand the business model, the lawn care industry, and the potential costs and revenue of their business. These common questions can help lawn care professionals decide whether starting their own business is the right choice for their situation.
Q. How much do most lawn care companies charge?
The cost of lawn care services can vary greatly based on location, scope of service, and type of service (such as residential services versus commercial lawn care services). The average cost for lawn mowing services is $77 per job, while the average cost for lawn aeration and seeding is $132 and $1,500, respectively.
Q. Which state has the most lawn care companies?
The three states with the most lawn care companies are Florida with over 60,000 businesses, California with over 53,000 businesses, and New York with over 44,000 businesses.
Q. How long does it take to mow a lawn?
There are three factors that affect how long it takes to mow a lawn: the size of the lawn, the size of the mower, and the mowing speed. For example, mowing an acre of lawn with a push mower will take longer than mowing a quarter-acre lawn with a riding lawn mower. In general, it takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours to mow an average-size lawn.
Q. How many hours do lawn mowers last?
An average-quality riding lawn mower generally lasts between 500 to 700 hours. However, other factors can play a role in the longevity of a mower. For instance, a mower that regularly has to mow over rough terrain or wet grass may wear down faster than one used exclusively on even, dry grass surfaces. Additionally, proper maintenance of the machine can help extend the life of a mower.
Q. How often should you cut your lawn?
The general recommendation is that most lawns be cut every 4 to 10 days, but weather, climate, and season will play big roles in the exact range. Lawn care companies work with their clients to create lawn mowing schedules that take these factors into account. For example, a lawn may need to be mowed more frequently in the rainy part of summer and may need fewer mowings in the dry fall months.
Q. How do I calculate profit margin for a lawn care business?
The profit margin of a lawn care business is the ratio of profits earned by the business compared to earned revenue. In order to run a successful lawn care business, it’s recommended that business owners aim for a 50 percent to 55 percent profit margin.
To calculate profit margin, the business owner first needs to determine the cost for providing the service. For example, if the owner has two employees mowing a lawn for 1 hour, and the employees are paid $15 per hour, it will cost $30 in wages for the job. In addition, the owner will need to calculate the fuel costs of the job—in this example, fuel will cost $5, making the total cost to mow the lawn $35. To reach a 50 percent profit margin, the business owner will double the cost of the job to reach $70, and that will be the amount they charge the customer for mowing their lawn.
Q. What is the most profitable part of landscaping?
While lawn mowing is one of the most common parts of landscaping services, it’s often one of the least profitable. However, lawn mowing services are a good place for a lawn care business to start so they can upsell and cross-sell customers on additional, more profitable services such as lawn spraying, fertilizing and overseeding, or landscape maintenance.
Q. When should I aerate my lawn?
Lawn aeration times can depend on the grass that’s being grown in the lawn as well as the type of soil. Cool-season grasses often require aeration in the spring or fall, while warm-season grasses may need aeration in the summer months. Likewise, grass growing on heavy, clay-like soil or lawns that experience high traffic may require more frequent aeration services than lawns that are growing well or have sandy soil.