Why an aerator can be a profitable addition to your business

February 2, 2023 -  By
Aerators offer lawn care pros an additional revenue stream and strong return on investment. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Aerators offer lawn care pros an additional revenue stream and strong return on investment. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Aeration isn’t a service offered by every lawn care or landscaping company, but for many, it’s a reliable source of income, says Gary Sorensen, agronomic sales manager for SiteOne Landscape Supply.

“It’s a very good profit center,” he says, “Once you get a return on your investment on that aerator, the cost of operation is very low, and you can generate a solid stream of revenue by aerifying lawns.”

Aeration improves turf health by relieving compaction and allowing oxygen to get into the turf. Experts say the primary aeration window is in the spring, between April and June.

Sorensen, Brandon King, product manager at Billy Goat and Jeb Fregm, sales and marketing manager for Earth & Turf Products, share what professionals who want to get in on the aerification game need to know about today’s aerators.

What’s right for you?

There are two main options for landscape professionals looking to add an aerator to their stable of lawn care services: drum and reciprocating.

The drum aerator is a tried-and-true aeration method, says Sorensen. Drum aerators commonly come in pull-behind and walk-behind options and are simple to use, and have a fixed hole pattern.

“It’s a big drum that rotates with aerifying tines spaced out on it,” he says. “Depending on how close those tines are in relationship to the drum, that’s the pattern of holes you’ll get.”

Sorensen says drum aerators are a solid choice for pros who primarily manage smaller residential lawns.

“What it really comes down to is the economics of the business model,” says Sorensen. “If I’m a relatively new landscaper, and maybe it’s just myself and two employees, I may opt to buy a walk-behind drum aerator because the cost of entry is significantly less; we’re talking between $3,000 and $5,000. Whereas you’re at $10,000 up to $15,000 to get into a ride-on unit.”

Reciprocating aerators — commonly seen on golf courses — offer a more varied approach to aeration. Unlike its drum counterpart, tines aren’t in a fixed pattern.

“The first benefit is variable aeration density,” he says. “If I go slower, the holes get closer together, so I start to affect a much larger portion of the soil. Denser aeration can help with drought resistance and, really, it amplifies and makes the benefits of aeration more prevalent in the turf.”

Companies like Earth & Turf Products offer aerator attachments for other machines. The company will release its aerator attachment for its stand-on 415SP topdresser in spring 2023.

“Our main focus in adding the option to our stand-on unit is to make the most of every moment spent,” says Fregm. “Users can aerate, overseed and topdress in the same pass without taking multiple passes, with multiple machines and multiple operators.”

How about renting?

King says aerators — specifically the drum variety— are a popular rental option for professionals. There are several factors contractors should keep in mind as they ponder buying or renting a machine, he says.

“If I’m a contractor who wants to explore adding aeration, my first course of action might be to rent (an aerator),” he says. “I can pick up a few accounts that want to add on aeration. But after a few years, the availability of renting the machine can come into question.”

King says because aerators are such a popular rental, it might make more sense for pros to purchase a machine right off the bat, especially if they are confident that customers will be receptive to aeration services.

“If you go to a rental place in the fall and request an aerator, there’s a good chance they’re all checked out,” he says. “So it becomes kind of a struggle to find a renter who has availability. So, there’s definitely a cost of protecting your business; you may want to buy one to do that.”

Rob DiFranco

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

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