I've assembled 5 ways to help you make a more apples-to-apples comparison when selecting a professional mowing service.
A reputable lawn service provider should have insurance in place for general liability, automobile, and (in many cases) workers' compensation. In Michigan, there is no formal licensing requirement for mowing lawns, but licensing is required for fertilizer companies. This information should be readily furnished upon request.
2. What service have you been quoted, EXACTLY?
Does your quote include sidewalk edging? Does your quote include trimming and cleanup? Some companies include these items in their standard service while others have them as a costly add-on. Be sure you know exactly what is being quoted!
3. Manicured vs. Single Pass mowing
Another important distinction is understanding the difference between a "manicured lawn" service and a "single pass" service. Manicured service provides a higher level of finish quality than single pass, and requires considerably more time, skill, and experience to complete. Depending on lawn conditions, manicured service may require multiple cuts to get the desired result.
4. Mowing seasons are not created equal - Determine the "Price Per Cut"
With no standardization industry-wide, one company's full season may not be the same as another company's full season. For example, one company may quote "full season" as 30 cuts, while another may quote as 26 cuts. It really depends on how the company builds the quote. An easy way to identify which service is offering the best deal is to determine the "Price Per Cut," or how much it costs per service.
Be careful though... if conditions require 30 cuts in a season opposed to 26 cuts, you may be charged extra for those additional services - leading to unexpected costs.
5. Equipment Matters
Don't be afraid to ask about the type of equipment your service will use on your property. Most professional mowing services use heavy duty, commercial grade equipment. These machines make a huge difference in speed of service and more importantly, quality of cut. These professional grade machines cost thousands of dollars and are designed to produce a superior lawn appearance. The quality and completeness of cut produced by a commercial mower is unrivaled by a standard 'big box' lawn tractor.
Many of these items add substantial cost to a reputable company's operating costs. There is value in doing it the right way, so keep that in mind when comparing your lawn service quotes this season.