Lawn care, DIY or hire?

Have you ever wondered what it actually cost to maintain your lawn?  Perhaps you have a log and some actual figures.  Did you log you time?  Did you include all the extras?  Annual flowers, mulch, transporting/truck, perhaps equipment rental, fertilizer, etc    Most people that take care of their own lawn do so either because they enjoy doing it themselves or to save from hiring it out.  This article is some food for thought.

Lets break down the numbers.  I’ll use a lawn size of 10k, which is roughly average for a small subdivision lot.  It can be mowed with a 21″ mower.  You’ll also need a couple more power tools and hand tools.  What’s the cost of some basic lawn equipment.  I’ll estimate if you where a new homeowner and you went to Lowe’s or home Depot you could spend a good $1,000 for a 21″ mower, electric weed trimmer, edger, hedge trimmer, and a few hand tools.  This is on the low end.  If you maintain your equipment you should get at least seven years service from your power tools.  Depreciated over seven years works out to $142 a year for equipment.DIY

Time, what is it worth.  If you have it and enjoy doing lawn work then this  formula might be somewhat extraneous.  However, if your working, have a family, and want a manicured lawn then your time can be quantified.  Not only does it take time but experience and additional equipment.

Cost to hire a contractor.  Here in Tennessee an average size subdivision lawn will cost around $40.00 per visit.  That’s to mow, trim, edge and blow off drive and walkways.  Considering 32 mowings per year that works out to $1,280.  Another $200 for some tree pruning and hedge trimming a couple times during the season.  $350.00 for five cubic yards mulch.  $275 for five fertilizer applications.  Altogether that adds up to $2,105 for the season.  For this article I deleted fall clean up, irrigation, aeration/overseeding, cost of fuel and any heavy landscape work.

Back to the value of your time.  As a lawn and landscape vender I spend approximately 31.5 man hours on site per season per client.  Not including fall clean up, irrigation or heavy landscape work.  Unless you have commercial equipment and a truck it will take you twice as long to manicure your lawn.  Plus some additional time traveling to get mulch and fertilizer.  I would estimate on average a DIY would spend in the neighborhood of 65 hours per season to maintain a manicured lawn.

Now that we have some numbers to crunch lets do a little math.  To hire a contractor will cost you around $2,105 per season for basic service.   Lets say according to your profession you earn around $25 an hour.  Which works out to $52,000 per year.  Therefore, if you spend 65 hours on your lawn at $25 an hour that’s equal to $1,625 per season.  Plus the $142 for equipment depreciation, five cubic yards mulch which retails for about $175,  fertilizer for around $130, and fuel for equipment and travel $55.  That adds up to $2,127 per growing season.DIYmulch

Now that we have some basic numbers where do we stand.  Taking on the responsibility of maintaining your lawn yourself will save you money if you have the time. However, if your time is at a premium you’ll be lucky to break even over paying a contractor.   Don’t forget that you’ll need to service your equipment.  Sharpen the blade, replace spark plug, air filter, prep for off season storage, and storage itself.

In closing, these numbers are just to give a general idea of the cost of basic lawn upkeep. For most of us time is at a premium juggling a career, family and other activities.  So hiring a reliable contractor to maintain your lawn is just a part of home ownership.   A nice manicured lawn which adds curb appeal is an investment.

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