Adjust Text Size

Cut Your Own Grass or Use a Lawn Service?

Written by Nickel - 43 Comments

Given that our new house has a much bigger lawn than our old one did, we need to figure out how we’re going to handle lawncare. The lawn is big enough that we’re not willing to cut it with our walk-behind mower (which is a bummer, because we bought a nice one a year or two ago). That leaves us with two options: (1) buy a lawn tractor, or (2) hire a lawn service.

We’ve gone out and priced decent lawn tractors, and it looks like that route would set us back around $1500. In terms of hiring a lawn service, the first (and only, so far) quote that we’ve received has been for $50/cutting (includes trimming and cleanup with a blower). We’re waiting on a few more estimates, but I’m trying to figure out the tipping point.

On the one hand, we’d save money in the long term with a lawn tractor — given the above numbers, the break even point (ignoring maintenance, time spent mowing, and gas) is right around 30 mowings. That works out to about two years, after which we’d come out ahead.

On the other hand, it’s a much bigger upfront investment (though we can easily handle it as a cash transaction), and we’d also have to house it — when you think about how much real estate costs these days, you begin to realize that floor space (even in a garage) isn’t free. So… Does anyone have any thoughts on the issue? If so, please leave a comment.

For more information on moving, check out my Roadmap for a Successful Relocation.

Published on June 9th, 2006
Modified on April 16th, 2008 - 43 Comments
Filed under: House & Home

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Related articles...

» Money Poll #15: Lawn Mowing
» Lawn Mowing Poll Results
» Our John Deere Model 125 Lawn Tractor
» Cut Costs (and Buy a Plasma TV)
» Carnivals – Week of 06/12/06
» From the Archives (June 3rd – June 9th)
» Four Places Where You Can Save Water at Home
» Money Saving Tip: Live Next Door to Someone Who’s Moving

Was this article useful? Please sign up to receive our content via e-mail:

You will receive only the daily updates, and can unsubscribe at anytime.

43 Responses to “Cut Your Own Grass or Use a Lawn Service?”

  1. 1
    Hazzard Says:

    No question for me. I would LOVE to have a riding lawnmower. My lawn is too small to justify one. I also enjoy the immediate satisfaction of how good the lawn looks right after I’ve mowed it. I’d never pay anyone to do it.

    I think you should get the mower. You’ll come out waaaay ahead in the long run (since you’ve already stated you’d break even in two years)

    Pay my airfare and I’ll even come mow it for you. :)

  2. 2
    Blaine Moore Says:

    I’m a big fan of push mowers. Just think how much exercise you’ll be getting! I say save your money and use what you’ve got. I’ll wager I am the odd duck though in the likely responses you’ll get.

    That being said, which way you go will depend upon where you live. If you get a lot of snow, I’d get a tractor that you can attach a plow to. If you don’t, I’d probably go with the lawn service. You can probably get a better price than $50/mow by signing an seasonal/annual agreement or some such. You might even get lawn treatments and fertilizer that way.

  3. 3
    Terri W. Says:

    Our lawn is an acre and we’re here in Texas, and hello, it’s summer! We pay 75 dollars for an off-duty firefighter who cuts lawns on the side to come out about once every week and a half or two weeks to cut and trim and otherwise keep things nice. Even on his stand-up, chariot-style [very fast!] riding mower, it takes over an hour to get it all done.

    It’s been near 100 degrees and very humid lately, and it is very, very worth it to not do it ourselves.

  4. 4
    mbhunter Says:

    Are your new neighbors friendly? Could you barter with them for use of theirs? Could you go halvsies on the purchase of a new one with one of them?

  5. 5
    Matt Says:

    My fiancee is allergic to grass clippings and I get violently ill after more than 10 minutes exposure to sunlight, so we’ll be going with a lawn service once we get a house. But obviously not primarily for financial reasons.

    While it’s certainly possible to compute the cost of that space in your garage, the lack of granularity in real estate and the sunk cost rule make it rather nonsensical to do so. Rather than asking whether the riding mower is worth whatever made-up number you’d compute for its monthly storage cost, consider the (very real) question of opportunity cost. That is, do you have anything _else_ that you’d otherwise be using that space for, if you didn’t get the riding mower, and if so, how much do you want to put the space to that use?

  6. 6
    Hal Says:

    We had this same question last year when we moved into our first house. We ended up deciding that the cost of purchasing and maintaining a lawnmower, weedeater, etc., the hassle of storing it, paying for the gas to run it, and my time in doing the work were too much to justify not using a lawn service. We have a dependable service that charges us $20 for our 1/5 acre (including edging, trimming, cleanup). Very happy that all I have to do to maintain our yard is write a check for $20 and tape it to the back door every two weeks.

  7. 7
    Penny Says:

    I used to cut the grass in my own small yard and it would take about 30-40 minutes. After getting married, my husband insisted on getting rid of my still new mower and hiring a lawn service so that we could do other things with our time. Now that I’m no longer married, I’m once again contemplating getting a mower. I did switch lawn services and went from paying $100 per month to $50.

  8. 8
    Daytonscott Says:

    Mow less lawn. Add landscaped areas, plant additional trees, or just let it grow in the corners…if your neighbors can stand it. Goal: make it small enough to mow with the walkbehind mower. Also reduces air pollution (by mowing less), provides diversity for wildlife habitat, provides a visual buffer between you and your neighbors, and can even reduce heating and cooling costs.

  9. 9
    nickel Says:

    Matt: I agree on the sunk cost issue, and wasn’t trying to come up with an exact cost — just noting that storing big things takes up valuable space.

    Daytonscott: We already have a lot of non-grass areas (proportionally) and can’t easily add more.

  10. 10
    FMF Says:

    $50? Ouch!

    We cut our own (I have an old — 12 year old — lawn mowner with no power assist) and I count it as part of my exercise routine. ;-)

    However, our neighbor has a service I’m considering. It’s only $10 a cut and it takes the guy 20 minutes or so (he has a big machine). For $10, you really can’t go wrong.

    Can you?

  11. 11
    nickel Says:

    No, for ten bucks you really can’t go wrong. How large is your lawn, and how long does it take you to mow it yourself? We also have a non-power-assisted walk behind, and it would take me hours to get through our new lawn (it used to take me 1-1.5 hours at our old house, but it was good exercise).

  12. 12
    Mike Says:

    What is your time worth? I pay $40 to get mine mowed and let the tractor sit in the garage. I would rather spend $40 and have the time to do something else where I can make more money.

  13. 13
    nickel Says:

    One thing to keep in mind when it comes to spending what would otherwise be mowing time earning money with other endeavors is tax efficiency. If I choose skip the mowing in order to earn more money, I have to make substantially more than $40 to break even. Given that my side work is self-employment, I pay upwards of 40% in taxes (income + self-employment). So to break even on a $40 lawn bill, I’d have to earn close to $70. Just something to keep in mind.

  14. 14
    Jennifer Says:

    I have a bad back and a lot of other things that need done. I also hate mowing the grass and have a lot of allergies and after mowing my eyes burn and I sneeze and have a runny nose. How much do you like mowing? I hate it but some people enjoy it. If you really love to mow the grass buy the tractor and have fun! But if you are like me and hate mowing the lawn service wins hands down! Keep in mind you will have to do maintenance on the tractor (oil changes and such) and that is more time out of your life.

  15. 15
    bob Says:

    I am going through this exact same thing with my property. The question for me was what type of tractor to get. They range from 3k to 10k, depending on who you talk to. I am leaning toward a lawn service for the following reasons:

    1.Time saved to do other things (Weekends free)
    2.the cost of buying a tractor that only lasts a couple of years would be a penny wise pound foolish scenerio.
    3.A strong possibility we could only be at the property for 5 years or less

  16. 16
    erf Says:

    if you think your lawn service is too high; you should consider what it cost for anyone with a skilled trade to come to your house to service anything. plumbers, electricans, appliance repair, ect. the list could go on and the guy cutting your lawn is doing the most labor intense job of them all. he is also paying about 50% of what he charges in taxes & maintaince cost. i am a lawn care prof. i once gave a guy a price of 75.00 to cut his overgrown lawn (4 summer weeks worth) & he said he could rent a pushmower for less. i dont think he considered that it would take him most of the day. to do half the quality job we would have done. things like string trimming garden edging clean up & to haul off all clippings. my point is if you consider all of a lawn services cost you will see they are a really good value for the service.

  17. 17
    geek Says:

    After 25 years I am switching to a lawn service. I like mowing my lawn but hate having to mow it.

    I don’t care what lawn mower or tractor you buy, that is not the end of the expense. Sharpening and replacing blades, filters, and if you have a repair after 2 or 3 years, not a trivial expense.

    If you can find a reasonably priced lawn service, that has a lot of charm. Keep an old lawn mower around if you get the urge.

  18. 18
    Kay Says:

    We hired a lawn service which also does the work for couple of houses in same street. So for 1/2 acre of land, we pay 35$ per lawn mowing and 45$ per application for all fertilisers and stuff. Its so relaxing to come home after work and see your lawn well cut and clean.

  19. 19
    Brian Says:

    I think it matters on what you would use the time for and if you like riding the mower. I used to own a lawn mowing service with a ZTR mower and it was fun to play with. I would go as fast as possible backward and shove the levers forward and pop wheelies. Not the most cost effective thing to do but it was fun. LOL

  20. 20
    Matt Says:

    I don’t think you should consider cost at all. You already know that you will eventually break even.

    I found this site, because I had just finished bagging 40 large trash bags of oak leaves and yard trimmings from the fall. Yeahhh. 40 bags my friend. 40.

    I think you should consider your health, your back, your hard work, your time and your skill level. I am exhausted after mowing, it takes up a few hours to mow, trim, leaf blow and fertilize. Even with gloves I find that my hands can get raw, my back starts to hurt, I feet dirty for that entire day, and the trimmings never seem to look as cleaned up as the pros can make them look. it actually affects your entire life. I’m not joking. I have had a farmers tan (I look like I’m perpetually dirty when I’m at the beach) ever since 2.5 years ago.

    The only reason to consider doing it yourself, other than the obvious fact that it saves you in the long run (so does making your own home with your own hands), is how does it make you feel when you do it? I only do it because I find it therapeutic. But forget this. 2.5 years of it, and I am giving in.

    And by the way, 1500 for mower, 100 for blower, 100 for weed trimmer, 150 for edger, 10 for gloves, 15 for 1 pack of large bags, 10 for rake, 15 for janitors broom, gas for each item (1 gallon every mow and trim), hedge trimmer and pruning shears, not to mention aerating shoes, fertilizer and bug spray, paper towels, a ladder and gas can. Over $2000. And most of it will need to be serviced or purchased multiple times over the course of two years. Only your mower and a ladder will be ok, but you will have to buy new air and fuel filters for it, $8. And it may even need service.

    Try 2000 to start. Then extra items. And usable items total over $300 over the course of two years, and cost that much every recuring 2 years thereafter. That’s a long time to assume your gloves will last, your rake will, your items dont need servicing, etc. Plus 2 years of gas?? Thats 104 weeks. 2 years of weed trimmer wire?? $20. I am sure you will purchase some carborator cleaner for all of your items. $5. How about Some 2 cycle oil and regular oil for 2 years for all of your items? $20.

  21. 21
    Alex Says:

    hey, I think you should definately go with the lawn service. Stop being such a cheap person. I doubt that you are struggling, If you have enough grass for it to cost 50 bucks to take care of your living alright. Think about the time you will waste the time and effort you will use to take it out and put it back away. Clean it and repair it. And help out a small company. give another hard working guy a chance to make that extra 50 bucks every other week.!

  22. 22
    shane Says:

    i agree with alex, don’t be so cheap. Your lucky enough to at least own a house(lots of ppl will never get the opportunity to own any house).You stated you can afford a mower and have the space, so are you just too lazy too ride it or looking for some guy to do it for next to nothing. It’s frustrating to watch how ppl, especially those with a bit more money in there pocket, are so greedy and cheap. Small mowing operators work hard to compete with larger mow franchises often doing a better job and being expected to break their backs and sweat away for an hour or more for $20. People need to wake up and realise the value that there local lawn mowers and gardeners provide, or eventually you’llfind nobody with half a clue will want to do that job anymore and you’ll all have to suffer and do it yourselves, which won’t be fun considering the size of some peoples properties. Those old gardeners and mowers may then seek new proffessions in areas where ppl with big houses and land are happy to spend.

  23. 23
    John Says:

    You should be cheap and never let any of these lawn guys get even one dime of your extra money. Force them to find a job at McDonalds. I hate working class people like this who want to overcharge you and get that piece of the easy life that they have not earned. I want them broke and angry so I can get my lawn mowed for 10 dollars. Which is an amount where they are earning 1 dollar per mow. Then what I do is complain about every single thing they do to make them feel worthless and waste their time. It’s awesome and joyous for me because no one makes a profit from me. That’s my mission.

  24. 24
    John Says:

    No lawn care guy deserves a profit. Your mission in life is to avoid anyone making a profit form you. That’s your purpose. You must be as ruthless as possible with these people. Sue them if they do any type of damage whatsoever to any part of your property. My hatred for fake business people like lawn care services cannot be understated. The dregs of society who deserve NO PROFIT. My mission in life is to actually make mowing my lawn a money losing situation for them. If they quote me 30 dollars I quote them 9 dollars. if they quote me 15 dollars I quote them 5 dollars. All they represent to me is a cost. They are not people. You must be the most ruthless human being with the lowest lifeforms so that they never succeed and compete with you later. That’s vitally important. Eliminate all threats.

  25. 25
    Big V Says:

    Yeah, hire the lawn guy. If you can afford a big lawn and a big mower, then you have plenty of cash, so why spend your time doing heavy work? The point of having money is to make your life easier, right?

  26. 26
    Anthony R Says:

    I’m going thru the very same debate right now. Have always cut my 1/4 acrea lawn with my self-propelled mower and enjoyed it. Then last year started having major health problems with my breathing. So I hired a guy to do it at $35 every couple weeks. He does a great job and to me that’s not a lot of money considering the price of his equipment, gas, etc. Now this year I’ve been pricing tractors, especially the John Deeres, which would definitely save $ over the long run, but then I would have to trim (which I hate), store the thing in my garage, and maintain it, not to mention my time. So I’m thinking now the best way to go is the lawn service, figuring it’s maybe $300 more a year at most with a lot less headaches. Maybe every now & then cut my front lawn, which is easier, with my self-propelled.

  27. 27
    Gina B. Says:

    Hey John (#23 & 24)…how old are you? 90?! Dude, you couldn’t live without the working class…I challenge you to try…your “mission”….paaaleeeze!

  28. 28
    sean c Says:

    look 23 and 24. yall r some sick bastards. dude i own a lawn care business and i deal will yall jerks everyday. i get people that want a $75 yard cut for 20 bucks everyday. why dont yall rich bastards quit giving us guys that have to slave and sweat all day in the baking sun to earn a dang living. its not our fault u were born rich you greedy bastard pay ur dues or go slave in your own yard. oh yea u live on a estate were u have to cut it every week. sorry you bought that 2 acres and r a cheap bastard. get out the a/c see what it feels like. quit putting lotion on ur hands and get some calisis. dang guys nowadays are being girls. dude if you want the service pay for it dont call us out for free look arounds and then wanna low ball us.

  29. 29
    Chris Says:

    Wow john (23,24) Your a douche… Its people like you that need to be taken out back of my yard and shot in the face… You are what is known as a scammer… I am sure your that douche that also goes to a restaurant and drops your own hair in your food to get it for free… People that cut lawns for a living or on the side do it because there is a demand for it… I work 18 hour days ( Tile installer) most times and I don’t get much of a chance to cut my own grass… I can tell you one thing you should NEVER try to screw someone over for working to do something you don’t want to or don’t have time to do… Do me a favor john get brave enough to post your addy on here and I will gladly come cut your grass for 9 dollars…. I am going to do it with your ass but it will get done you stupid prick….

  30. 30
    Hum Dec Says:

    John!!! are you for hire??? I’ll give you $10.26 to mow my lawn. You have a profit of $1.26 over your original quote! It’s too hot and humid for me to do it. Besides, I don’t want to risk braking my lawn mower in this weahter, buy gas and oil, clean all that grass off my equipment… My yard is 200′ x 100′ but I’ll give you a free can of soda!

  31. 31
    M Hopson Says:

    I think it is important do-it-yourself homeowners are honest about expenses and “labor.” My husband does ours. But he leaves it to his “wife” to pick up all the yard debris, trim shrubs and palms, etc. We spent $4,500 on a riding mower. We spend $600 or more per year for fertilizer. Plus there’s been new edgers, blowers, weedeaters over the years. Then the griping about “his back” after the work … and he didn’t even do the prep work! So you can think you are “saving” money, but if you can afford it, hire it done!

  32. 32
    Dave Says:

    Seems to me that only really matters to who ever yard it is, and what they want to do, But Chris you are the man!!

  33. 33
    Johnny Says:

    I would use a lawn service most of them do a great job and they are tryin to make a living to nothin better than being able to leave a 50 dollar check under the mat and comming home to ur grass already cut

  34. 34
    Andy Says:

    At 62, I’m contemplating with you, mainly because I’m getting older and my self-propelled takes almost an hour to finish the job. Many of my neighbors already use professional services. However, I find their “macho-machines” rudely intrusive, considerably more powerful and noisy than are needed for suburban neighborhood lawns. They park bulky trailer conveyances on the nearby streets, while their non-English speaking blower and trimmer guys noise themselves on and off-streets twixt and tween residencies, often during dinner hours. I suppose this is considered good advertisement of their “mowing prowess” as it were. Nevertheless, I had to post a sign in Spanish to stop them from over-cutting my border Ivy in clear view of registered boundary monuments. I guess they’re not from these parts? Anyway, I’m wondering if anyone has ever seen a lawn service advertise their quietness, or their subtle respect and sensitivity for the neighborhood among their attributes. In the end, I suppose I’m still too comfortable with my own manhood to vicariously assert a lawn service in my place. So, I’ll probably decide to purchase an appropriately sized riding mower and peacefully sweat it out for as long as I am able, with money” being the least of cost considerations.

  35. 35
    joe Says:

    lol this thread is 6 years old… just sayin

  36. 36
    Nycholas Says:

    Ther are many more things in having your own lawn tractor. you cannot forget the costly repairs and the price of gas going up. If you are lucky I bet you can lawn care service that dose a good job. i figure a lawn care sevice will cost, you said $50 a time for 30 mowings that is $1500 a year there but its more like 20 times that you will mow you lawn which is only $1000 a year. On the other hand owning you mower will cost you $1500 up front then gas and repairs and other up keep. The repair and up keep can be a major headache especially if you have now way of getting it to a repair shop. then when you want a vacation you will have to mow the dreaded lawn when you get home from your vaction. There are many benifits to a lawn care service so i would go with them and this i comeing from someone with a lawn care service.

  37. 37
    Jessie Says:

    I’m still in middle school and I mow my family’s lawn (for free!)and I have recently started doing the same for my neighbors, but charging anywhere from $15-$30. Sence most people in my area are living on a low income I sometimes charge 10 and rarely go over 20. I enjoy doing yard work and take pleasure in it! We use to use a lawn buisness but ever sence we got a new push mower and some tools I have taken a great intrest in it. With that being said, It’s a good way to make money and I hope people dont grow an intrest like I did, because then they wouldn’t need me! lol

  38. 38
    Kevin Says:

    I don’t know if I am missing something. After buying our first house, I looked for a ride-on tractor to cut the lawn. The cost of the tractor is around $1700 + a bagger ( $350 ) + extended warranty ( $350 ) + $200 every year for tune-up. If I hire someone to do the job every two weeks ( $40 x 2 = $80 per month ). The season ( From May to October would cost $80 x 5 months = $400 ). So if you do the math: $400 ( cost of service ) – $200 ( annual maintenance/tuneup + gas ) = $200 ……That means it would take about 10 years to break even with the cost of tractor + bagger + warranty ( $2400 )!!! and at that point, I would probably need a new tractor !! Am I missing something ?!!! Please give your input. It was mentioned in one post that a tractor pays for itself in 2 years. I just don’t see that according to my calculation. Please advise!

  39. 39
    Hum Dec Says:

    Kevin:
    $40.00 to do your lawn? Sounds awesome!
    I never ever buy extended warranties, I didn’t get a bagger (I mulch and spread), I do my own tune-ups, they are easy and fun. My lawn mower is only 3 years old but my neighbor has had his for 12.
    My house is in a lot 200 x 200 feet. Who is going to do 40,000 SF for $40.00? Not only that, but in our neighborhood we do it every week. Some people 3 times every 2 weeks. To me it would be more than $100.00 per week to hire someone, no way dude.
    I also have a nice tractor wagon to move landscape stuff, I enjoy it. My kids love riding on it.
    95% of the neighbors in my subdivision have a riding lawn mower.

  40. 40
    Ames Says:

    Uhm… I hope people with a stick up their ass realize John is just being comic or as the term goes “shittin’ u”. I appreciated his comment… Because it wasn’t real.

  41. 41
    Luke Says:

    Mixed feelings on this one. My yard is about 1/3 of an acre and when I first purchased the house I used a walk-behind self-propelled mower to cut it. Not fun.

    After some time I hired a service to do it. It was nice at first seeing the lawn cut without me touching it but it can be really tough to find a good service that’s reasonably priced. Some of the issues you may deal with: lawn being cut when it’s too wet thus leaving tire tracks and ruts behind, damage to property from careless mowers (we lost a birdhouse and a potted plant), mowers showing up every week even in the middle of a drought or not enough when it really needs cut, etc.

    One final thing that I found a bit frustrating was the irregular times they would show up at. They came at 8am on a Sunday morning on a couple occasions and that’s just not cool for myself or my neighbors. I also was sitting at home on a conference call for work and they showed up and the noise was an issue- obviously this is not their fault but it’s just that you never know when they might be out.

    All these things happened with various cutters and I really really am a laid back guy. I do not obsess over this stuff. It’s just hard to ignore when the grass looks like straw because it’s been 95 for 3 weeks with no rain and your landscaper comes out anyway.

    I paid about $45 which was in the middle of quotes I received and after 3 years of this I’m now probably going to buy a tractor if possible. I also like the idea that a tractor can do other things like even some minor snow plowing with a plow attachment.

    I’ve probably paid about $3500 for lawn care in the last few years in cutting alone and I’m not sure it was worth it.

    Lastly, although a mower involves much more care and time it also allows you to sell it when you’re done with it or if you’ve decided to go back to a service.

    Lawncare services are kind of a mixed bag. It also depends on who is actually doing the cutting. The few times the owner cut our lawn it was awesome but some of his guys were like gorillas with power tools.

  42. 42
    spray tan solution suppliers Says:

    Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog site?
    The account aided me a appropriate deal.
    I were tiny bit familiar of this your broadcast provided vivid transparent
    concept

  43. 43
    lawn mower repair edmonton Says:

    What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute &
    assist different users like its aided me. Great job.

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer...
Because rates and offers from advertisers shown on this website change frequently, please visit referenced sites for current information. This website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise.

FiveCentNickel User Survey