Riding Mower Help Needed

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Valdeselad
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Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:20 pm

Hi All,

I'm turning to the Boglehead experts once again. Our recently purchased home comes on a 2.7 acre lot and I need help with the purchase of a riding lawnmower. I have read some previous posts on this topic so I know there are some very knowledgeable folks that frequent these boards.

Some other specifics about our lot is that it's flat in the front and sides, while the back gently slopes away from the house. No major hills or anything. There are lots of trees in the back, probably at least 20 or 30 of various sizes.

As with other purchases, I value strong build quality and am willing to spend the extra money where it is worthwhile. Any brands that are particular favorites? Models? I looked at John Deere, and it gets confusing going from the 1 series to the 3,5, and 7...not sure what at the major differences between the different series.

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pennstater2005
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by pennstater2005 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:31 pm

How much money are you considering spending? Simplicity makes some very highly rated lawn and garden tractors as does John Deere. I personally have a Husqvarna with a Kawasaki engine that has been flawless now for 2 years. I bought the model with the Kawasaki engine because the reviews for the entry level Briggs&Stratton(Intek) and Kohler(Courage) were less than stellar. The biggest thing with any tractor you purchase will be proper maintenance to improve longevity.
“If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.” – Earl Wilson

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Ged
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Ged » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:34 pm

Deere X series. Given the size of your lot I'd be looking at the X500's.

Robust transmission and nice Kawasaki engines. For your lot I think the X300s might be a little light weight. The X700s are nice, but for what they cost you are starting to be in subcompact tractor range.

Don't mess with anything sold at big box stores. That stuff doesn't last.

There are other ok brands too, like Kubota, but I happen to like Deere better.

tomd37
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by tomd37 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:37 pm

I was going to say ask your mowing service for their comments, but you just bought this home. Did you have a mowing service at your previous home and, if so, are they still available to you? They usually buy quality machines for their business. As mentioned, stay away from box store "stuff".
Tom D.

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pennstater2005
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by pennstater2005 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:38 pm

Ged wrote:Deere X series. Given the size of your lot I'd be looking at the X500's.

Robust transmission and nice Kawasaki engines.

Don't mess with anything sold at big box stores. That stuff doesn't last.

There are other ok brands too, like Kubota, but I happen to like Deere better.
Most John Deere dealers sell the "D" or 100 series which are the same sold at Lowes, Home Depot, etc. They've got the John Deere logo and name but not the quality. They just don't compare in overall quality to the X series, or Z series if you are looking at zero turn mowers.
“If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.” – Earl Wilson

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:39 pm

pennstater2005 wrote:How much money are you considering spending? Simplicity makes some very highly rated lawn and garden tractors as does John Deere. I personally have a Husqvarna with a Kawasaki engine that has been flawless now for 2 years. I bought the model with the Kawasaki engine because the reviews for the entry level Briggs&Stratton(Intek) and Kohler(Courage) were less than stellar. The biggest thing with any tractor you purchase will be proper maintenance to improve longevity.
I don't have a specific $ amount in mind, I just know I'm willing to spend more than "entry level" to get a much better built product. On a nearly 3 acre lot, I think I need something that is built to last and with quality components.

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yatesd
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by yatesd » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:41 pm

The better mowers have heavier duty transmissions and more robust mower decks.

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:43 pm

Would it be advisable to consider a "zero turn" mower? What about the deck? 48" or 54"? Is the HP a direct indicator of how long it will take me to mow (i.e. more horsepower will move it that much faster)?

tomd37
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by tomd37 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:46 pm

Never had a riding mower, and with you not being a professional mower I would think you only want to go so fast and that speed would be impacted by the contours and obstacles in your yard, especially in the rear.
Tom D.

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pennstater2005
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by pennstater2005 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:49 pm

Valdeselad wrote:Would it be advisable to consider a "zero turn" mower? What about the deck? 48" or 54"? Is the HP a direct indicator of how long it will take me to mow (i.e. more horsepower will move it that much faster)?
You said you had 20-30 trees in the back of the property, yes? If there is grass around all those trees a zero turn would be a consideration to save time and your sanity :D Go to a dealer and sit on a bunch of them and get a feel for it. Do they let you test mowers? I'm not sure. Mine was delivered to my house in a crate.
“If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.” – Earl Wilson

Crow Hunter
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Crow Hunter » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:52 pm

If it is mostly flat with a lot of things to mow around go with a Zero Turn instead of a tractor style.

Unless you are planning on doing some time of gardening you will get done much faster with a Zero Turn mower than you will the tractor type and you will find it much easier to mow around things.

Look around and see what type of dealers there are around you locally. You will be much happier even if you do all your own work because you will be able to go by and get the part you need instead of having to order it and wait on it. Plus you can get the dealer to bring out a couple of different models to your house for you to actually try out on your own property and see what works best for you.

Don't buy anything at the big box stores you will regret it. Get a good quality mower and you will have less problems and less breakages over the long term. The big box store brands are really targeted at a small suburban yard and light duty. The rule of thumb I have heard is figure out what you think you need and get the next size up. :wink:

I could help you with the tractor style (after I had to do a bunch of research after trashing the hydrostatic transmission my big box store Husqvarna in 2 seasons), but I am not very well versed on the zero turn. If I did not have such a steep hill with a lake at the bottom I would have gone zero turn myself but the idea of skidding down an embankment into a lake turned me off of the zero turn. (They don't have as much traction or stability on steep slopes as a tractor style does).

I would lurk in some of the professional lawn mowing forums and you will be able to get a good idea of the better buys.

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:54 pm

Ged wrote:Deere X series. Given the size of your lot I'd be looking at the X500's.

Robust transmission and nice Kawasaki engines. For your lot I think the X300s might be a little light weight. The X700s are nice, but for what they cost you are starting to be in subcompact tractor range.

Don't mess with anything sold at big box stores. That stuff doesn't last.

There are other ok brands too, like Kubota, but I happen to like Deere better.
This is one of the more confusing parts to me. If I look at the X300 vs. the X500, what is the major difference? They both seem like major steps up from the 100 series, but I wouldn't want to spend the extra money for the 5 if it's not needed (there's at least $1000 difference I think, maybe more).

Crow Hunter
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Crow Hunter » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:58 pm

Valdeselad wrote:
Ged wrote:Deere X series. Given the size of your lot I'd be looking at the X500's.

Robust transmission and nice Kawasaki engines. For your lot I think the X300s might be a little light weight. The X700s are nice, but for what they cost you are starting to be in subcompact tractor range.

Don't mess with anything sold at big box stores. That stuff doesn't last.

There are other ok brands too, like Kubota, but I happen to like Deere better.
This is one of the more confusing parts to me. If I look at the X300 vs. the X500, what is the major difference? They both seem like major steps up from the 100 series, but I wouldn't want to spend the extra money for the 5 if it's not needed (there's at least $1000 difference I think, maybe more).
Hydrostatic transmission.

The X500 series has a much heavier duty hydrostatic transmission that is serviceable by the user. The X300 (with the exception of one of them) does not.

The user serviceable transmission is a very big benefit if you are stressing it (like I do) by going up and down hills and/or towing loads. It will degrade the fluid and eventually start wearing out the parts.

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:00 pm

Crow Hunter wrote:If it is mostly flat with a lot of things to mow around go with a Zero Turn instead of a tractor style.

Unless you are planning on doing some time of gardening you will get done much faster with a Zero Turn mower than you will the tractor type and you will find it much easier to mow around things.

Look around and see what type of dealers there are around you locally. You will be much happier even if you do all your own work because you will be able to go by and get the part you need instead of having to order it and wait on it. Plus you can get the dealer to bring out a couple of different models to your house for you to actually try out on your own property and see what works best for you.

Don't buy anything at the big box stores you will regret it. Get a good quality mower and you will have less problems and less breakages over the long term. The big box store brands are really targeted at a small suburban yard and light duty. The rule of thumb I have heard is figure out what you think you need and get the next size up. :wink:

I could help you with the tractor style (after I had to do a bunch of research after trashing the hydrostatic transmission my big box store Husqvarna in 2 seasons), but I am not very well versed on the zero turn. If I did not have such a steep hill with a lake at the bottom I would have gone zero turn myself but the idea of skidding down an embankment into a lake turned me off of the zero turn. (They don't have as much traction or stability on steep slopes as a tractor style does).

I would lurk in some of the professional lawn mowing forums and you will be able to get a good idea of the better buys.
Thanks @Crow Hunter...great information. I will be doing some gardening as well so perhaps I need the versatility (towing ability?) that a tractor style provides? One thing I should mention about the trees is that (1) they are mainly all in the backyard and (2) it is heavily shaded in the back and so the grass doesn't grow right up to the trunk nor is it thick (in the back). I don't think I would need to get "right up next to the tree" to have a successful cut in the back. The front and sides have only a couple of big trees, is flat, and is very thick St. Augustine.

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pennstater2005
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by pennstater2005 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:01 pm

Here is a nice, general comparison of some specs:

http://lawn-tractors.findthebest.com/co ... Deere-X300
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Bacchus01
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Bacchus01 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:03 pm

I would suggest a ZTR with at least 50" deck.

Get one with a newer Kohler 7000 it Confidant. I guarantee those engines are good.

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theduke
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by theduke » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:03 pm

I have 3.5 acres and bought a commercial model Snapper ZTR about 10 years ago. It has a Kawasaki engine and has a 48" heavy duty deck. This is a great lawn mower and I'm very happy with it.

edit to add. The ZTR reduced my mowing time almost in half.
Last edited by theduke on Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Crow Hunter
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Crow Hunter » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:07 pm

Valdeselad wrote:
Crow Hunter wrote:If it is mostly flat with a lot of things to mow around go with a Zero Turn instead of a tractor style.

Unless you are planning on doing some time of gardening you will get done much faster with a Zero Turn mower than you will the tractor type and you will find it much easier to mow around things.

Look around and see what type of dealers there are around you locally. You will be much happier even if you do all your own work because you will be able to go by and get the part you need instead of having to order it and wait on it. Plus you can get the dealer to bring out a couple of different models to your house for you to actually try out on your own property and see what works best for you.

Don't buy anything at the big box stores you will regret it. Get a good quality mower and you will have less problems and less breakages over the long term. The big box store brands are really targeted at a small suburban yard and light duty. The rule of thumb I have heard is figure out what you think you need and get the next size up. :wink:

I could help you with the tractor style (after I had to do a bunch of research after trashing the hydrostatic transmission my big box store Husqvarna in 2 seasons), but I am not very well versed on the zero turn. If I did not have such a steep hill with a lake at the bottom I would have gone zero turn myself but the idea of skidding down an embankment into a lake turned me off of the zero turn. (They don't have as much traction or stability on steep slopes as a tractor style does).

I would lurk in some of the professional lawn mowing forums and you will be able to get a good idea of the better buys.
Thanks @Crow Hunter...great information. I will be doing some gardening as well so perhaps I need the versatility (towing ability?) that a tractor style provides? One thing I should mention about the trees is that (1) they are mainly all in the backyard and (2) it is heavily shaded in the back and so the grass doesn't grow right up to the trunk nor is it thick (in the back). I don't think I would need to get "right up next to the tree" to have a successful cut in the back. The front and sides have only a couple of big trees, is flat, and is very thick St. Augustine.
Unless you are going to be using a wheel barrow and just mowing with the mower I would go tractor style. If you are potentially doing any type of ground engagement definitely step up the the X500 series (or maybe even bigger). It will be worth it to you I believe. You also might take a look at Kubota too for tractors style.

Here is another thread that I posted some of the info I learned when researching myself last year.

http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... 1&t=121998

ETA:

One other thing, if you do get the X500 and you are going to be towing stuff get the exhaust shield. It deflects the hot exhaust from being shot directly onto the grass on the mowers. Otherwise if you are running it with the throttle turned all the way up you will scorch spots in your yard.

I found that out the scorched spots in the yard way. :oops:

ETA2:

The Zero Turn will be WAY faster to do the same area versus a tractor but the tractor will be more useful if you are going to be pulling around wet mulch/dirt or doing any type of ground engagement (like a small plow or tiller). If I were only going to be doing a little bit of gardening, I would go with a zero turn as it will make seriously quick work of a yard and you will have more time for gardening by hand. :mrgreen:

jeff1949
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by jeff1949 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 11:08 pm

I've been farming since 1975 and have owned a number of medium sized tractors and farm equipment.

I think I know good equipment but on the other hand I am no lawn tractor expert.

That said I ended up buying this to mow our 3 acre lawn:

http://www.lowes.com/pd_521688-63311-96 ... =Husqvarna

I was able to obtain 10% off and they even threw in a 10 cubic ft. lawn cart.

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:29 am

Cut down on mowing, turn half of it into a meadow for the wildlife critters.

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:29 am

jeff1949 wrote:I've been farming since 1975 and have owned a number of medium sized tractors and farm equipment.

I think I know good equipment but on the other hand I am no lawn tractor expert.

That said I ended up buying this to mow our 3 acre lawn:

http://www.lowes.com/pd_521688-63311-96 ... =Husqvarna

I was able to obtain 10% off and they even threw in a 10 cubic ft. lawn cart.
Thanks @jeff1949...interesting perspective in that someone is supportive of the big box offerings.

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:32 am

Not sure if it's prudent to post external links, but this is an example of a used JD X300 that is fairly close to me. Would you guys steer clear of used equipment or is this something to consider? The price seems pretty good considering the low hours:

http://houston.craigslist.org/grd/4590635199.html

TRC
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by TRC » Sat Aug 02, 2014 5:37 am

Valdeselad wrote:Not sure if it's prudent to post external links, but this is an example of a used JD X300 that is fairly close to me. Would you guys steer clear of used equipment or is this something to consider? The price seems pretty good considering the low hours:

http://houston.craigslist.org/grd/4590635199.html
That's a great machine with very low hours. Likely still under JD warranty. If you can afford it, get the x300 series ove the 100. Much better machines. Heres's a great tractor forum that I frequent. http://www.mytractorforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=12

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yatesd
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by yatesd » Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:06 am

I just came from a 2 acre property with a 54" deck using a JD345. This worked great for 14 years and I just recently sold it to a friend for $2,000. This level tractor was great for me (power steering, hydraulic lift, water cooled Kawasaki engine, and heavy duty transmission), I even had to pull a car out of my yard once!

A traditional heavy duty tractor (JD, Kubota, Simplicity, etc.) is a great all-rounder. If you buy a heavy duty enough version it can be used with a snowblower, wagon, or rotatiller. That being said, be honest with yourself. If you will only use it for mowing, then a heavy duty zero turn will be better. Some major brands include Toro, Exmark, Snapper, JD, etc. I recommend doing a little research on lawnsite.com. Just make sure the deck and transmission is heavy duty enough.

One final note...I'm not against grass, but I also don't like grass across large expanses for no reason. If practical, consider naturalizing a portion of your property to cut down on mowing time.

Crow Hunter
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Crow Hunter » Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:43 am

jeff1949 wrote:I've been farming since 1975 and have owned a number of medium sized tractors and farm equipment.

I think I know good equipment but on the other hand I am no lawn tractor expert.

That said I ended up buying this to mow our 3 acre lawn:

http://www.lowes.com/pd_521688-63311-96 ... =Husqvarna

I was able to obtain 10% off and they even threw in a 10 cubic ft. lawn cart.
I actually got the mower that was one step over this unit but nearly identical for a similar deal.

If your yard is relatively flat and you aren't going to be putting undue wear on the hydro pulling stuff (or in my case going up and down an 18% grade for over an acre with a 200 lb man sitting on it :D ) it will most likely work fine for you for a long time.

Mine on the other hand, started having transmission problems at less than 100 hours of use. It would not pull up the hill after about 45 min or so of use and it got progressively worse to the point that it wouldn't even pull up the hill at all, I would have to get it pointed sideways on the hill and then creep over to the house and let it sit for a while and spray off the hydro to cool it down so I could finish the yard. If I could have serviced the transmission, it might have been okay.

A guy I work with bought it from me for $500 and he is still using it with no problems but he has a much smaller and flat yard he doesn't notice any type of transmission issue.

I kept the lawn cart though. :D

bubbadog
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by bubbadog » Sat Aug 02, 2014 9:17 am

I have owned both an Exmark (72 inch deck) and a Toro commercial (48 inch deck) mowers for the past 15 years maintaining my yard. Best decision I ever made. They cost a lot but are much better/heavier made than residential mowers. Brands such as Exmark/Toro/Skag/Kubota are all excellent machines. Nothing is better/faster for mowing, especially around trees/objects. They are pretty much just mowing machines and not good for much else. Well taken care of used units also seem to have a fairly strong resale value as well. I used the Exmark 72 from 1999 til 2013 and put about 1000 hrs on it. Bought new for $8300 and sold last year for $5000. I second the other posts to stay away from the Lowes/Home Depot mowers as they are not even close to the commercial brands I mentioned above. I think this is one situation when you truely do get what you pay for. Good luck with your purchase.

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smegal
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by smegal » Sat Aug 02, 2014 9:42 am

I have a mostly flat 8 acre acreage where 6 acres is pasture and ~2 acres is lawn. I bought a 48inch deck Husqvarna YTH23V48 with Briggs and Stratton engine 3 years ago and have ~100 hours on it from mowers direct for about $1,700. We cut the lawn often and mow the pasture down once per year in the fall when it is dead. I won't say you should get this over the x500 if you have hills, but I will say I have no regrets. Some things about this entry level machine and what I have found mowing in general:
1) when we ordered I had it shipped to my home from mowers direct. The crate is pretty significant, I used a sawsall to cut it away to get it out
2) whatever model you buy I like to read reviewer reviews about maintenance. Based on this for my motor I changed oil/filter after 5 hours and I checked my valve clearances at 100 hours. I am pretty good about maintenace, I keep the under deck clean and the deck/wheels lubricated
3) I found 48 inch deck to be perfect. I can fit in almost all my nooks in the lawn but when I mow the pasture, while a big job, 48 inch is reasonable.
4) the front tires on this thing are cheap. I have to fill them every time I mow as they have slow leaks, at some point I may put tubes in them
5) After I use mine I use a shopvac to clean it with blown air to keep my garage clean. My property is dusty and I clean the air filter every other use.
6) I bought the bagger but now I just use an aftermarket mulch kit (blades) and use those all the time. I now only use the bagger for the fall to pick up leaves.
7) I am careful with it (eg. don't reef on the steering wheel) but our property is uneven and it does get pretty rough use

I do like the idea that I only have only $1800 in this machine and if it lasts only 6 years I will probably just get another, but I expect to get at least 10 out of it. The ~4k I saved over the X500 maybe will maybe be ~8k by then. But bubbadog's point is well taken, resale value of a more expensive unit must be factored.

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victorb
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by victorb » Sat Aug 02, 2014 10:02 am

1.You have gotten some great advice, as usually from the Boglehead community, I am always impressed with that! If you are only cutting grass, the Zero Turn Radius(ZTR) mowers are great. All the commercial cutters in my area use them and they do a great job and they just fly across the yards. They are very efficient and cut well.
2. If you need to snowblow or do other chores, the heavy duty tractor route is the way to go. Deere is hard to beat for an overall line of products and they usually have very good service dealers.
3. Service: You didn't mention if you are good at doing your own maintenance or depend on a dealer. This could be a large factor in your decision making. A good dealer with good mechanics, service and parts can make your life so much easier.

Good Luck and enjoy your new property and new lawn mower!

Take care,

Vic

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:22 am

victorb wrote:1.You have gotten some great advice, as usually from the Boglehead community, I am always impressed with that!
Absolutely...could not agree more. I'm always amazed with both the knowledge and generosity of the Boglehead community.

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BL
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by BL » Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:27 am

Here is a new one on the market: Altoz (some or all are ZTR)
http://www.greenindustrypros.com/news/1 ... eexpo-2013

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Ged
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Ged » Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:28 am

Valdeselad wrote:Not sure if it's prudent to post external links, but this is an example of a used JD X300 that is fairly close to me. Would you guys steer clear of used equipment or is this something to consider? The price seems pretty good considering the low hours:

http://houston.craigslist.org/grd/4590635199.html
I think that's a fair price. The warranty may or may not be transferable. I'd guess not. Find a hill and see how well it goes up the hill. This particular model does not have a serviceable tranny so if there are any issues you are looking at a major bill.

Personally I have the X310, which has a serviceable tranny, on about an acre with about a dozen trees. It takes me 50 minutes or so. I put about 20 hours a year on it.

It seems to me this amount of hours since spring suggests the owner is going to go to a bigger tractor or ZTR. That's a lot of time on a tractor every weekend.

jackpullo997
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by jackpullo997 » Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:58 am

FOR JUST MOWING? $1499 new
http://www.homedepot.com/p/John-Deere-D ... /204780321

OR FOR HAULING?

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4nursebee
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by 4nursebee » Sun Aug 03, 2014 5:00 am

For my mower purchase I considered available service. I happened to buy from a dealer just a few miles from my house so service is very easy, they have actually done simple work here.

I went with commercial lines, not typical homeowner. But I wanted this to be the last mower I purchased.

Mine is a Hustler. You can do a search for them but be careful...
4nursebee

ralph124cf
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by ralph124cf » Sun Aug 03, 2014 1:23 pm

The crew that does my lawn all use stand on ZTRs, rather than the sit on type. They have a smaller footprint than the sit on ZTRs, and can get in more places.

Ralph

Myopic squirrel
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Myopic squirrel » Sun Aug 03, 2014 3:24 pm

FWIW - When we moved to a larger yard (1.5 acres) I went to the local Deere store, and happened to find a recently used 175. That was 25 years ago, and it's still going strong ("nothing runs like..."). If you have local dealers, you might want to check if any decent used models are available.

westie
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by westie » Sun Aug 03, 2014 3:34 pm

with all those trees, you'll need to buy the bagger. The fall is when mine gets a workout.

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Sun Aug 03, 2014 4:18 pm

westie wrote:with all those trees, you'll need to buy the bagger. The fall is when mine gets a workout.
@westie - great suggestion, glad you mentioned that

Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Sun Aug 03, 2014 4:18 pm

Myopic squirrel wrote:FWIW - When we moved to a larger yard (1.5 acres) I went to the local Deere store, and happened to find a recently used 175. That was 25 years ago, and it's still going strong ("nothing runs like..."). If you have local dealers, you might want to check if any decent used models are available.
@Myopic squirrel - good idea, I will look into that

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dratkinson
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by dratkinson » Sun Aug 03, 2014 5:48 pm

I prefer mulching to bagging, and I have a small lawn and fewer trees since several cut down.

But back when I had a bigger fall leaf problem, I quickly learned bagging requires doing something with bagged leaves. What? More work... that's what.

Realized by installing mulching plate and running over leaves 3-4 times, they were reduced in size until they were flakes smaller than a finger nail. Initially after mulching the lawn looked like it was covered in brown powder, but that quickly dispersed into the lawn after 2-3 rains.

I suppose you could bag while mowing and dump into a large compost pile for reuse later. But I'd avoid putting leaves into plastic bags for trash pickup, not for silly environmental reasons, but because it's too much extra work. Much easier to mulch leaves in place until they disappear into lawn.

After mulching, can also run over lawn with mower in discharge mode and use air discharge to herd mulched leaves across lawn to spread them out. Besides, it gives you more tractor-seat/play time: generally a good thing.
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Keep It Simple
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Keep It Simple » Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:29 am

Valdeselad wrote:Hi All,

As with other purchases, I value strong build quality and am willing to spend the extra money where it is worthwhile. Any brands that are particular favorites? Models? I looked at John Deere, and it gets confusing going from the 1 series to the 3,5, and 7...not sure what at the major differences between the different series.
Seeing as you are willing to spend more for quality, I would go with a Kubota as my number one choice by a mile. These are work horses and built to last for decades. I am actually surprised that more people haven't mentioned them. You will pay more for one, and you will get what you paid for.

Good luck!

K.I.S.

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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Allan » Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:53 am

We have 44 acres, 5 mowed with a riding mower and the balance with a large John Deere tractor. For the 5 acres we use have a John Deere riding mower and a Skagg zero turn with a 60" deck. The Skagg is unbelievable in terms of speed and ability to mow around trees, we use the John Deere in tight area the Skagg will not reach. I would recommend a Skagg zero turn.

Allan

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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Lacrocious » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:11 pm

I have to put my vote to Simplicity. While I don't have a huge lawn, I was given my grandparents Simplicity tractor. It is going on about 34 years old. It has had the occasional tune up and new blades. Other than that - it just works. I am sure the bigger ones will work well for your size yard. My only wish is a tighter turning radius - but I can't justify the money when I have a perfectly good tracter right now.

- L

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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by drjazz » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:59 pm

I have 5 acres of pasture and have used a Dixie Chopper with a 60" cut and mulching blades for 8 years (zero radius); the farm came with a Kubota tractor which I used at first but it was way slower (the Dixie will to 15mph on a straightaway....I hear that some people race them!) I've had no problems with it (but the dealer is only 5 minutes away which could be an issue depending on where you live)

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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by NHRATA01 » Thu Aug 07, 2014 7:33 am

At almost 3 acres and relatively flat, I would also suggest a zero turn. I can echo much of the earlier advice - avoid the cheap stuff at the big box stores and go for quality. On the low end you're probably looking at $3-$5K range, high end at $7K and up. While I don't think you need to go straight commercial, going "heavy residential/light commercial" is probably a good compromise.

The 3 major components of a ZTM to be aware of:

Engines, they each have better grades within a given manufacturer. But generally it goes Kawasaki > Kohler > Briggs

Hydraulic axles - you want the heaviest grade you can get in your budget, and ones that can be rebuilt (not non-serviceable). They're generally made by Hydro Gear. EZT is the throwaway grade in big box cheapos. ZT2100 is light duty residential. ZT2800 is more in the acreage range. ZT3100 is heavy duty residential/light commerical. ZT3400 and up, which is probably overkill for your application is commercial grade.

Deck - this is what will take a beating. Stamped low gauge is cheap and should be avoided. Stamped heavier gauge is better. Fully fabricated is more expensive but what's most ideal.

My house is roughly 2 acres, and when we moved to it in 2009 my father bought me a 46" Craftsman for $999 as a gift (and for which I'm grateful as times were lean after making a big purchase). But after 2 seasons the "optimistically rated" 21hp Briggs motor was smoking significantly at startup, and cutting the law took roughly 3 hours. The cut was not great and left large clumps. So last year I looked at ZTMs, started with a Deere Z400 series but after consulting with a dealer, settled on a Husqvarna 54" ZTM. Has a pro-series 25hp Kohler V-twin, 3100 axles and fabricated deck, cost $4600. My mow time was reduced to just over an hour, the cut looks much better, and the high speed blades disperse the clippings about as good as a mulching deck - and it chops the leaves up nicely in the fall.

Only other wisdom I'll say is the online forums are great for info, but be aware many of those guys are contractors so they'll steer you to a $10,000 Exmark which you realistically don't need. I remember a complaint about Kohler was something like "Well they only last 800 hours". Heck after 2 seasons I'll only be at 50 hours. So that means after 30 years, if these guys are right, I might need a rebuild whereas my great grandkids could still be using a top of the line Kawasaki when the worms eat me. I think I can live with that, lol.

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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by bubbadog » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:16 am

Another option which you may want to consider is to watch your local craigslist for a clean low hour commercial zero turn. I started looking late last summer for a new mower for my smaller property and found a 2yr old 200 hour commercial Toro ZTR that was owned by a homeowner (not used commercially). Mower retailed for $8500 and purchased for $4800 (no sales tax either). These machines are more of a mower than a typical homeowner would really ever need. Mine has a Kawasaki engine and properly maintained should probably last around 2000 hours. Admittedly, I will never come close to putting that many hours on the machine. The thing is, once you get used to mowing with these machines, it is hard to go back to a Home Depot/Lowes $1499 special. My Boglehead rationale was that if I moved or decided to sell the mower for whatever reason, the resale value of clean low hour machines is pretty good. I used my last commercial ZTR for 14 years( purchased new), put 1000 hours on it, and sold it for about 60% of its original purchase price. Good luck

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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:55 pm

OP here...just wanted to give an update.

I have narrowed my choices to the Gravely ZT HD48 and the Ariens MaxZoom48. I can buy the Ariens online for $4800 all in, while I would have to buy the Gravely locally for $5600 all in. The Gravely would cost me about $800 more but I would also be supporting a small local business by buying the Gravely and I know they would be very receptive if I have issues with the mower somewhere down the road.

Now the hard part. Ariens owns Gravely and from what I can tell these 2 mowers are identical in parts and build with the one difference being that the Ariens has a Kohler engine and the Gravely has a Kawasaki one. You can find folks online that prefer one over the other but I struggle to find a strong consensus either way with regards to the engine.

So, I put it to you dear Bogleheads,which would you choose? $4800 all in for Ariens or $5600 all in for the Gravely?

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pennstater2005
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by pennstater2005 » Mon Mar 02, 2015 6:30 pm

Which Kohler engine? I believe the Command is one of their better engines. The Courage is in most of the entry level models.
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Valdeselad
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Valdeselad » Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:00 pm

pennstater2005 wrote:Which Kohler engine? I believe the Command is one of their better engines. The Courage is in most of the entry level models.
It just says "23HP/725cc Kohler V-Twin OHV Engine"

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pennstater2005
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by pennstater2005 » Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:26 pm

Valdeselad wrote:
pennstater2005 wrote:Which Kohler engine? I believe the Command is one of their better engines. The Courage is in most of the entry level models.
It just says "23HP/725cc Kohler V-Twin OHV Engine"
I believe that is the Kohler Command Pro. This is a great forum (link below) to peruse using the search function. I looked here quite a bit before purchasing my Husqvarna with Kawasaki engine. This is a link involving a discussion of all the different levels of Kohler motors.

http://www.mytractorforum.com/showthread.php?t=216354

And another good thread comparing Kohler vs Kawasaki engines. I went with the Kawi based on reputation for low maintenance and longevity.

http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/gene ... ki-vs.html
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Re: Riding Mower Help Needed

Post by Kiter » Mon Mar 02, 2015 9:21 pm

Many models suggested that are good here,and I would agree to stay away from big box store models. Consider also with your trees will you be mulching or picking up leaves. A lot of my choice would be how well tended the lawn is to be. Walker is the brand most of choice for the estates in my area,access to under deck is good for blade work also.

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