So you have a big lawn. You are tired of spending all weekend mowing your lawn. Someone suggested you should get a commercial mower so you can cut your time mowing.

Then you read the previous article on stand on mowers and realized this is the perfect mower for you. But how do you justify spending that much on a mower?

In this article I am going to compare the cost of purchasing and using a commercial mower against the cost and use of a residential riding lawn tractor.

** How long will a commercial mower last?**

Commercial Mowers are heavy duty mowing machines that if bought new should last you 1500 hours (run time) before they need to be replaced or need major (expensive) repairs. How long will that mower last you? What does that mean to you as a homeowner?

Example: Let’s say you live in the Midwest and it now takes you 6 hours to mow your lawn. By 6 hours I mean the time the mower is running, not the trimming time and cleanup. You typically mow your lawn 26 times a year.

If a typical new residential mower will last 500 hours before it needs to be replaced, how many years should it last? 6 hours a week, 26 mowing’s a year is 156 hours of run time a year. The average life of 500 hours divided by the time you mow each year (156 hours) your mower should last you 3 years.

*(Yes, I know your last Craftsman lasted you 15 years……. Figure out how many hours a week you mow your lawn times the average number of times you mow per year. Multiply that by the number of years it lasted. That will give you the number of hours it lasted)*

You buy a commercial zero-turn and you can now mow your lawn in 3 hours. If the new commercial zero turn mower will last 1500 hours before it needs to be replaced how many years should it last? 3 hours a week, 26 mowings a year, is 78 hours of run time a year. The average life of 1500 hours divided by the time you mow each year (78 hours) your mower should last you 19 years.

Can you live with the same mower for 19 years?

**I am going to use three mowers as examples: **

1. A 54 inch residential Yard Tractor like the YT 4500 Model 28990.

2. A 54 inch residential garden tractor GT 5000 Model 28947.

3. A 48 inch commercial stand on zero turn mower like the Toro Model 74568 Grand Stand.

Let’s assume the YT 4500 will last 500 hours, the GT 5000 will last 750 hours and the Toro 74568 will last 1200 hours. These numbers a very conservative but realistic for the different models. I’ll calculate the purchase cost per year, the maintenance costs, and fuel costs to develop a total cost per year to own each mower.

**Cost justifying a commercial mower.**

**Step One. Purchase cost per year **

1. The yard tractor (YT 4500) costs about $1999.99 on sale this year. Let’s assume the YT 4500 will last 500 hours. Using the 156 hours per year example from above that’s 3.2 years. Your cost will be $666 per year not including fuel and repair costs.

2. The garden lawn tractor (GT 5000) costs about $2699.99 on sale this year. Let’s assume the GT 5000 will last 750 hours. Using the 156 hours per year example from above thats 5 years. Your cost will be $540 per year not including fuel and repair costs.

3. The stand on Toro costs about $6999.99 this year. Let’s assume the Toro 74568 will last 1200 hours. Using the 78 hours per year example from above that’s 15 years. Your cost will be $466 per year not including fuel and repair costs.

You can use your own numbers for your own specific example. A typical residential zero turn will last 500 to 750 hours, a high end residential zero turn like the Craftsman PZT9000 Model 28875 will last 1000 hours and an commercial zero turn like the Exmark Laser Z will last 1500 hours.

So even though a commercial zero costs more to purchase, the cost per year to own one is less than a Yard Tractor or Garden Tractor for a homeowner.

**Step Two: Maintenance and fuel costs.**

The other main factor you need to analyze is the maintenance and fuel costs. I am going to assume here that you will be doing the repairs yourself.

**Maintenance** – oil, air, blades, belts:

1. The yard tractor (YT 4500). Oil change, oil filter, and air filter every 50 yours. Oil, filter, and air filter is about $40. At 156 hours a year you will need to change these three times. Cost per year $120. Most homeowners don’t sharpen and balance their blades so one set of blades $70. Belts every 150 hours cost $60. Total Cost for maintenance $250.

2. The garden lawn tractor (GT 5000). Oil change, oil filter, and air filter every 50 yours. Oil, filter, and air filter is about $40. At 156 hours a year you will need to change these three times. Cost per year $120. Most homeowners don’t sharpen and balance their blades so one set of blades $70. Belts every 150 hours cost $60. Total Cost for maintenance $250.

3. The commercial mower (Toro 74568). Oil Change and oil filter every 50 hours. ($20) At 78 hours a year you will change these two times. (Always change oil at the end of the season) Cost per year $40. Air filters (Donaldson Type) are larger and will last 100 hours or more on the commercial machines. Changed once. Cost per year $40. Commercial blades are two to three times heavier than residential blades and you will need to sharpen them once a year and replace them every three years if you mow three hours a week. Sharpening $15, one-third cost of replacement blades is $30. Belts ($100) every 200 hours. Cost per year $50. Total Cost for maintenance $175.

**Fuel**

1. The yard tractor (YT 4500): From my experience the 26 hp Kohler Courage uses 3/4 gallon per hour. 6 hours mowing time at ¾ gallon per hour is 4.5 gallons per mowing. 26 mowings a year equals 117 gallons per year. At $3.00 per gallon that’s $351 dollars per year for fuel.

2. The garden lawn tractor (GT 5000): From my experience the 26 hp Kohler Courage uses 3/4 gallon per hour. 6 hours mowing time at ¾ gallon per hour is 4.5 gallons per mowing. 26 mowings a year equals 117 gallons per year. At $3.00 per gallon that’s $351 dollars per year for fuel.

3. The commercial mower (Toro 74568): From my experience the 23 hp Kawasaki uses 3/4 gallon per hour. 3 hours mowing time at ¾ gallon per hour is 2.25 gallons per mowing. 26 mowings a year equals 58 gallons per year. At $3.00 per gallon that’s $174 dollars per year for fuel.

**Note:** After the 500, 750, and 1200 hours other maintenance items become factors into the costs. The Yard Tractors and Garden Tractors will need steering parts, spindle assemblies, pulleys and possibly a new deck housing. The Stand ons will need spindle bearings, pulleys and possibly drive motors and/or pumps.

**Total Cost Per Year Comparison:**

1. The yard tractor (YT 4500): Purchase price – $666 per year. Maintenance – $250. Fuel – $351. Total Cost: $1267 dollars a year.

2. The garden lawn tractor (GT 5000): Purchase price – $540 per year. Maintenance – $250. Fuel – $351. Total Cost: $1140 dollars a year.

3. The commercial mower (Toro 74568): Purchase price – $466 per year. Maintenance – $175. Fuel – $174. Total Cost: $ 815 dollars a year.

So is purchasing a commercial mower right for you? You can see that the cost per year of owning a commercial stand on is definitely less than owning a yard or garden tractor.

Of course your actual purchase price and costs will be different than the examples I gave in this article, but using the information here you can calculate your own example for the specific mower you are interested in. Using these examples you will be able to see if purchasing a commercial zero-turn mower is right for you.

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Bought a 1981 Allis Chalmers gardent tractor in 2004 for $800. Use it for mowing, rototilling, and snow plowing. 10 years later still going strong.

@ven, Old, slow and built like a tank. The Allis/Simplicity wasn’t known for a great cut, but the heavy old frame and transmission just last and last.

Hello,

Is not the bottom line the cost per hour? If so, what numbers do you come up with. Thanks

M Lewis Lytle, Tx

@Mike,

In this example I used the hours of use at the start of the article. You can take those numbers (156 or 78) hours per year or 500, 750, or 1500 average life of the mower.