fbpx

Lawn Care: DIY vs. Professional

Big Savings With DIY Lawn Care

Introduction

Lawn Care DIY vs. DIFM
  • Save

If you’ve ever seen a lawn care company at your neighbor’s house and wondered why they’re hiring that service out or how they can afford it, then you’re not alone. The initial assumption for most people is that mowing your own lawn is always a cheaper way to go.

Why do they think that way? For the simple fact that you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you. In fact, according to popular media outlets like CNBC, skipping a lawn mowing service is a commonly suggested money-saving tip that could save you up to $1,200 a year.

While that might seem like an obvious way to keep your budget in check, performing your own lawn care may not always be the best idea for all households. Logically speaking, the bigger your lawn is, the more extensive (and expensive) the equipment you’ll need will be. With some high-end zero-turn lawn mowers costing as much as $8,000, that’s a high barrier-to-entry expense that you might easily use to justify leaving it to the pros instead.

Furthermore, if you’re a working professional and it would mean giving up overtime or sacrificing time for other activities to mow the grass and trim the weeds, then you may be perfectly justified hiring out this activity. It comes down to a question of what you want to spend your time doing.

We know how valuable good lawn care is, as it is commonly mentioned in factors improving the resale value of a house. In this post, we’ll explore whether or not it’s worth it to mow your own lawn by analyzing three lawn sizes – small, medium, and large – and digging into the variables that you’ll need to consider. By the end, you’ll be able to substitute these figures with your numbers to tailor this exercise to your own situation.

How to Determine If It’s Worth Paying for Lawn Care

To answer the question of do it yourself (DIY) versus do it for me (DIFM), we’ll need to perform something called a break-even analysis. In business, it’s fairly common to find the break-even point (BEP) by calculating how many units of something you need to sell in order for your business to “break-even” and start making a profit. 

Likewise, you can make the same calculation for services you’re considering too. In our case, because of the upfront costs of purchasing a lawnmower and string trimmer, it will at first seem like it’s cheaper to hire a lawn service. But then as time goes on, every year that you do this service yourself, you should be effectively saving money. Therefore, our goal will be to see how many years we need to do this before we break-even and it becomes cheaper to mow your own lawn.

Assumptions

To keep this analysis straight-forward, we’ll assume that:

  1. You live in an area where your lawn requires maintenance 24 weeks (roughly 6 months) out of the year.
  2. You mow your lawn once per week.
  3. Even though the market is starting to introduce more electric lawnmowers and string trimmers, we’ll assume you’re using standard gasoline-powered products. 
  4. Gasoline will cost $2 per gallon.
  5. Because we’ll assume you’ll be mowing the lawn yourself, we’ll need to determine what your time is worth. The easiest assumption is to simply take what you earn at your job and use that as your labor rate. Since the average median income in the U.S. is $63,179, we’ll use a standard hourly rate of $30.37 for each analysis. 

Lawn Care: Small (City Lot)

  • Save

The first analysis we’ll perform is for someone with a relatively small lot. Loosely speaking, most people refer to these as “city lots”, although that’s generally a lot that’s one-fifth of an acre. If you live in a suburban neighborhood where your yard is slightly bigger (up to one-third), then this calculation would still apply.

Up-Front Costs

  • Mower. For lawns of this size, a regular push-mower will do the job just fine. We’ll say the average price of a push mower is roughly $300.
  • String Trimmer. When you don’t have a lot of yard or weeds to take care of, a budget-level string trimmer will work okay. You can find these at big-box stores for about $100.
  • Total costs = $400

Annual Recurring Costs

  • Fuel. If we assume you fill a 2-gallon gasoline can once per month for 6 months, then this will work out to $24 per year.
  • Maintenance. One of the nice things about push mowers is that they are relatively easy to service. Usually, this includes simple tasks like changing the oil, sharpening the blade, and replacing filters. Assume $50 per year.
  • Labor. If we assume it will take you an average time of 30 minutes to mow the lawn and occasionally weed-whack, then this works out to $364 per year for your time.
  • Total costs = $438

Commercial Cost

Break-Even Point

Given these assumptions, we can calculate the BEP to be:

Upfront Capital Cost / Annual savings of DIY vs. DIFM

Annual Savings of DIY vs. DIFM = Commercial Cost less DIY Cost 

$400 / ($720 – $438) = 1.4 years

This means that after 1.4 years of mowing your lawn, the amount of money you’ve saved by not hiring a professional service would have effectively paid for the initial investment to buy your equipment. Going forward, you’ll only continue to save money as you maintain the lawn yourself. So, after 1.4 years you start saving $282/year. 

Lawn Care: Medium (Less Than 1 Acre)

  • Save

For our second analysis, we’ll look at someone who has a yard big enough to require a riding lawnmower. This is generally in the range of one-third to a full acre of land.

Up-Front Costs

  • Mower. Riding mowers come in all shapes and sizes. They’re sold everywhere from big-box stores to specialty lawn care shops, and the cost will depend on what kind of features you’re interested in the machine having. For this example, we’ll assume you’ll spend $2,000 on a riding mower.
  • String Trimmer. If you’re working with a yard that’s up to one acre in size, then you’ll want to purchase a higher-end string trimmer. Let’s assume a cost of $200.
  • Total costs = $2,200

Annual Recurring Costs

  • Fuel. If we assume you fill a 2-gallon gasoline can twice per month for 6 months, then this will work out to $48 per year.
  • Maintenance. Because of the size and complexity of riding mowers, you can expect the service to be more involved than it would be with a standard push-mower. Although you can perform many of the tasks required yourself, it may be best to have it professionally serviced. For this, we’ll assume a cost of $300 per year.
  • Labor. If we assume it will take you an average time of 60 minutes to mow the lawn and weed-whack, then this works out to $729 per year of your time. 
  • Total costs = $1,077

Commercial Cost

  • Cost per mowing. For yards up to one acre in size, you can expect that a professional lawn care service would charge roughly $80 per visit. That works out to a cost of $1,920 per year.

Break-Even Point

Given these assumptions, we can calculate the BEP to be:

Upfront Capital Cost / Annual savings of DIY vs. DIFM

Annual Savings of DIY vs. DIFM = Commercial Cost less DIY Cost 

$2,200 / ($1,920 – $1,077) = 2.6 years

As you might expect from the higher cost of the mower, it will take a little longer to recoup your investment. However, 2.6 years is not a very long time to wait; especially if you plan to live in your house for the long-term. Also, after 2.6 years you start saving $843/year.

Lawn Care: Large (More Than 1 Acre)

Lawn Care Large Lawn
  • Save

For a third analysis, we’ll look at someone who has a relatively larger yard that would require the size and speed of a zero-turn lawnmower. This is generally anyone with an acre of grass or more.

Up-Front Costs

  • Mower. Similar to riding mowers, zero-turn mowers can get carried away in price depending on the brand and features. Some high-end brands like Exmark could cost you as much as $8,000 brand new. However, you will have no problem finding more modestly priced models like Cub Cadet or Toro for approximately $3,500.
  • String Trimmer. Again, we’ll assume you’ll purchase a decent higher-end string trimmer for $200.
  • Total costs = $3,700

Annual Recurring Costs

  • Fuel. Because of the larger fuel tank and longer run time, we’ll assume that you will fill a 5-gallon gasoline can once per month for 6 months for a total of $60 per year.
  • Maintenance. Similar to riding mowers, you could attempt to service them yourself. However, it would be best to have it professionally serviced. Again, we’ll assume a cost of $300 per year.
  • Labor. Due to the larger size, let’s assume it will take you an average time of 2 hours to mow the lawn and weed-whack. That equates to $1,458 per year.
  • Total costs = $1,818

Commercial Cost

  • Cost per mowing. For lawns that are one acre or larger, you can expect to pay approximately $150 per service. That works out to a total cost of $3,600 per year.

Break-Even Point

Given these assumptions, we can calculate the BEP to be:

Upfront Capital Cost / Annual savings of DIY vs. DIFM

Annual Savings of DIY vs. DIFM = Commercial Cost less DIY Cost 

$3,700 / ($3,600 – $1,818) = 2.1 years

Though the up-front costs are much greater to purchase the equipment you’ll need to maintain a yard of this size, the cost of hiring this service is also relatively more as well. Again, for most homeowners, waiting 2.1 years to recoup their investment is not a very long time to wait before DIY starts to pay dividends of $1,782/year.

Is It Ever Cheaper to Pay Someone Else to Mow Your Lawn?

Amazingly, in each of our analyses, it worked out that doing it yourself triumphed over paying someone else to mow your lawn in less than 3 years of activity. But is that really always the case?

Though there were several variables you could change in this mathematical model, the one with the greatest influence would be the labor rate. To put it simply: The more you perceive your time to be worth, the more it makes sense to pay someone else to maintain your lawn.

For example, let’s say you’re a high-earning professional or entrepreneur and making over $120,000 per year. For simplicity, that’s a labor rate of approximately $60 per hour. In that case, then the BEP for each of our cases would be:

  • Small lawn = – 5.4 years
  • Medium lawn = 16.7 years
  • Large lawn = 10.3 years

Interesting! For the small lawn case, the BEP is negative because the increased labor rate would have driven your recurring costs to exceed the commercial cost of paying someone else. Therefore, under these assumptions, it would never pay to do it yourself and would therefore always be cheaper to hire this service out.

Similarly, with the medium and large lawn cases, the increased labor rate drove the recurring costs to be so high that there would only be a small savings between DIY and paying someone else. That’s why it now takes almost 17 years before you could ever break even.

How You Value Your Time

Keep in mind that your labor rate doesn’t necessarily have to be directly related to how much you earn at your job. In reality, this number should be considered as your perceived value of time.

For instance, if you have a hobby or something you love doing, and you wouldn’t even trade $1,000 per hour to give up your time for these things, then that’s a very high perceived value. Along the same lines, a lot of people who work hard all week long and look forward to the weekends to relax, spend time with the family, and go have fun. If you’d rather not invest your time in routine tasks like mowing the lawn, then this is a personal judgment that you’ll have to make for yourself. 

The Bottom Line – Should Lawn Care be DIY or Should You Hire Someone?

After crunching the numbers, we demonstrated how in all three cases (small, medium, and large-sized lawns) it would mathematically only take a handful of years to be effectively cheaper for you to maintain your lawn yourself versus hiring someone else to do it for you. 

Because everyone’s situation is unique, I encourage you to run the same calculation for yourself and replace the numbers with ones that best characterize you. Even though this exercise was mainly meant to be a financial analysis, the decision will ultimately be a personal decision about how would best like to spend your time and the perceived value you place on it.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap