Can You Run a Lawn Care Business Without a Trailer?
These days you see a lot of vehicles on the road pulling trailers packed with lawn care equipment. Pulling a trailer all day is hard work, and then you have to worry about parking or getting in and out of driveways. I have spent years towing a trailer, which is not always the best option.
How do you set up a van/truck for a Lawn Care Business with no Trailer? First, get wool bales for bagging the grass. Place the bagged grass behind the cab/driver’s seat. Have a weed eater, mower, and blower on the back of the vehicle for easy access. You will need to dump grass daily if you are working full days.
There are some good reasons you should use a trailer, but there are just as many reasons not to. It depends on the work you are doing in your business.
Sometimes you can tow a trailer for years when your bottom line could be much better if you swapped to a van or small truck.
The pros and cons of towing a trailer
You would need a trailer for a few reasons, and if you don’t do this kind of work, you could consider lighting your load and increasing your profit without one.
You need a trailer if…
You are doing a lot of tree work – If you are out doing this kind of work every other day, you will need a trailer. Short of mulching, there is nothing easier than stacking the trees in your trailer before chainsawing them to make more room.
If you run a two-person crew, you will need a trailer unless you have a large truck. A small truck or a van is just too much tight space for two people to work effectively. (believe me, I have tried)
If You cannot dump daily – If you are going to have grass sitting around, you are much better off using a trailer. One of the only things I miss about my old trailer is not being able to throw the clipping in the back as I worked.
Here are the benefits and issues that come with using a trailer as I see them.
The pros –
- More space.
- No need to bag the grass or transport it (a real-time saver).
- Fewer trips to the dump.
- Room for the dog on the back of the truck (optional). I have found from experience that labradors make the best lawn-mowing buddies. The customers love them, and they attract customers—a win-win.
The cons are –
- You will use more fuel.
- Hard to get into tighter driveways.
- You will need to pay to keep the trailer street legal and insured.
- A trailer is un-secure unless covered.
Now, If now you are wondering if a small truck or van might work. Read on.
How to set up a small truck or a van.
Whether you want a truck or van, the basic set-up of your passenger seat should include the following –
- Your clipboard and job sheet.
- Wet weather gear.
- Line trimmer cord and bump caps for your weed eater.
- A small Toolkit.
- Spare spark plugs and any quick-fix parts you need for your equipment.
- A first aid kit and some sunblock.
- A phone charging cord.
- A tire pump plugs into your cigarette lighter socket.
- I like to keep a small bin in there as well.
- And of course your lunch.
How you set up a van differs from something with a tray, such as a truck or a utility vehicle.
When using a small truck, I would recommend keeping your mower so it can be pulled directly off the back tray. This is going to mean that you will also have to unpack the mower to dump, but it will make it easier when you are working.
I have seen some vehicles with the mower behind the cab. This will make it easier to keep your gear out of the way when you dump, and it is also easier to secure. You will, of cause, need to have drop sides on your vehicle to do this.
I prefer vans for a lot of reasons, and they are set up a bit differently.
I had five vans on the road without trailers at one stage, and it worked well.
Firstly if looking at vans, make sure you get one with a long wheelbase, as this will make a huge difference. I would set the cab was pretty much the same as the truck.
I would keep the gas cans behind the driver’s seat on the floor. I would put the weed eater, mower, and blower right next to the gas cans running parallel to the front seats.
I prefer vans with a door on each side, but a one-door vehicle will still work. It does pay to put a wedge under the wheel of the mower when travelling, as I’ve had a few broken side windows when someone took a corner, and the mower handle has hit the window. I usually stack the wool bales of grass in the back of the van, and they get emptied every day.
Thinking about security
The other thing you will need to consider is security. A truck makes it a lot harder to keep your equipment secure. When you are busy mowing behind a house, your weed eater and blower are sitting there on the back of your truck and can be easy pickings for someone who feels they need your mower more than you.
I am not a big risk-taker, so would I run a chain to secure the equipment and the fuel. It can be a real pain unlocking your gear every time. With the smaller things like fuel cans, I sometimes wonder if it is worth it.
However, having said that I have had someone steal all my gas cans from a trailer. I did not notice until I went to gas up later that day. I then lost half a day and spent over $100 replacing everything, so do your sums on that one.
You could find yourself paying more for insurance with an exposed tray. If you have a $500 excess, taking out insurance on your small equipment may not even be worth taking out insurance. I tend not to bother with any piece of equipment that’s worth under $1000. I self-insure and save my premiums. If I ever have to fork out a few hundred dollars for a lost blower, I have probably saved that in premiums anyway.
A van is different. There is no need for chains and padlocks. If it has central locking, then you press the button as you walk away, and everything is secure. The premiums can also be cheaper depending on the kind of insurance you have.
I have lost equipment from trucks and trailers but never from a van.
The benefits of having a sole operator in a vehicle.
Now you might think you would prefer to have a trailer to have a sidekick or a two-person team.
Setting up like this can work well.
However, I have found that this doesn’t work for me.
When I was running lots of vans, I had sole operators in each vehicle. My decision to do this came down to simple economics.
I found if one person could do twelve lawns in a day, then having two people in the vehicle would get sixteen lawns done. When you consider running costs, wages, and employment costs, the second worker has just covered their pay. If I had had them in separate vehicles, they would have done 20 lawns. You do the math.
The other bonus with one van each was everybody looked after their van. Everything was how they wanted it. They could work through breaks to finish early. Another advantage is if someone broke a piece of equipment or a customer complained about something, they couldn’t blame the other guy. It encouraged more accountability.
Go with what suits you.
In closing, you have read the arguments, so you decide.
My thoughts lean towards not using trailers, but that is just my opinion at the end of the day.
The van may be my ideal setup for a push mower, but if you have your heart set on a trailer, by all means, buy one. I used a trailer for over 25 years and was quite happy, so I’m sure it will work for you if you decide to get one.
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