There is no shortage of to-dos for landscape contractors preparing for a new season, especially when turning over leased or old equipment. Making the right decision for a business when it comes time to replace equipment in a mower fleet goes beyond simply comparing the sticker price of new units.
How much will a mower cost over the lifetime of the machine? What will this mower do for crew productivity? Are there any available incentives or rebates that can lower an equipment’s initial cost? These are just a few of the considerations a landscape contractor should be thinking about prior to purchase to ensure the right fit when the cutting season hits.
How will this mower affect crew productivity?
The first step to improving productivity is looking back at the year and determine a fleet’s strengths and weaknesses. Make sure the mower model being considered has features that fall in line with the type of maintenance work being performed. Features like cutting-deck size and mower type (zero-turn vs. wide-area walk behind vs. stand-on) all affect productivity.
Another consideration that can alter productivity is fuel type. Contractors running gasoline or diesel mower fleets may struggle with daily crew downtime spent refueling at gas stations. It may be worth considering commercial propane mowers to avoid these costly gas station pit stops.
Contractors using propane are more productive because the mowers don’t require trips to gas stations to be refilled. Propane is delivered to a landscaper’s business so mowers head out for the day with full propane cylinders. Replacement propane cylinders can be carried on trucks and trailers and exchanged on site so refueling takes seconds rather than requiring a trip offsite to refuel.
What is the mower’s total cost of operation?
Contractors shopping for a mower should remember a machine never really stops costing money until its operational life is complete. These ongoing costs add up over time and can be a financial burden for years when landscape contractors don’t consider their options prior to purchase. Fuel costs and maintenance requirements are two of the heftiest continued expenses that can sometimes be difficult to budget for, although some mower models and fuel types make that task easier.
Online resources like fuel calculators, one of which is at www.propane.com/commercial-landscape/calculator/ can help contractors determine the fuel that best benefits their operation.
Fuel prices can be difficult to forecast ahead of the season with gasoline and diesel, but propane allows landscape contractors to lock in annual fuel contracts. The contract with a local propane retailer helps insulate a contractor’s fleet from the whims of the oil market and its price fluctuations that can wreak havoc on a business’s bottom line. This structure also helps contractors budget better when they know exactly how much fuel — and its price — is being used well in advance each month.
Also, propane burns clean so contractors operating commercial propane mowers oftentimes report less unexpected maintenance related to engine wear and tear.
Are there financial incentives or manufacturer rebates for the mower?
An important question to ask when purchasing or trading in equipment is if there are any tools or resources available to reduce the cost of the preferred machine. Contractors likely speak to dealers about rebates through OEMs before committing to purchases, but don’t forget about fuel- or environmental-related incentives through the state or city.
For example, the Propane Education & Research Council’s Propane Mower Incentive Program offers $1,000 for each new propane mower purchased, or $500 for each qualified conversion kit. The incentive offsets the disparity between a propane mower model and its gasoline equivalent in most instances, so a landscaper doesn’t have to spend more if they determine propane is best for their operation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Jeremy Wishart. Wishart is director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at email@example.com.