The Secret To Selling Your Used Lawn Tractor or Commercial Mower – What To Do and What To Charge

From Maria, So I am looking to sell my 2011 Bad Boy 50″ CZT.  Has 130 hours on it. One owner. My question is how do you depreciate a mower of this nature. I have heard several different ways. Some sites say take $10-$12 off for ever year, and deduct it from the price you paid for it. Some have a specific formula. Do you have any recommendations to do this. I spent a small fortune on it, and know I will never get even close to that now. But want to be fair, and want it to sell so I don’t have two mowers taking up space. Thanks for any help you can give. Have enjoyed your website, and thank you for getting back to my last post so quickly!  I almost missed it!! LOL!

Maria,  For many years I bought used commercial lawn equipment, restored them and then resold them. Here are my “secrets” for getting the best money for your used item.

You can get the true value of your mower if you spend some time cleaning and getting it ready to sell before you list it. The more you do on this list the better chance you will have of getting the best price for your mower.

People today want bright and shiny. They assume if the item looks good, it is good mechanically. The better you can make it look the more you will get out of your mower.

Let me repeat: People today want bright and shiny. If you don’t take the time to clean it up and do at least a few of these suggestions you will not get the true value out of your mower. (I have a $25,000 mower sitting in the backyard right now I paid only $75 on an auction because the owner was unwilling to clean it up before the sale.)

Step One. Cleaning it. 

What you need.

  • Air Compressor with blowing nozzle or vacuum to clean grass off the mower and oily junk from around the engine.
  • Small stiff brush to help you get the nooks and crannys around clean the deck, frame and engine.

Take as much time as you need to blow off all the debris from the mower. Remove the engine hood and belt covers if so equipped. If you don’t have an air compressor you can use a shop-vac but I suggest not using your house vacuum. The dirt around the engine will be an oily mess. Use the stiff brush to loosen grass and oily dirt. Get as much off as you can. I usually clean it, take a break and then look over it one more time. I always miss a spot or two. If you use an air compressor you are going to get dirty so wear a cap to keep the filth out of your hair.

Step Two. Washing it.

What you need.

  • Two to Four cans of Scrubbing Bubbles
  • Rain suit, goggles or face shield
  • Pressure Washer or Take it to a Car Wash.

Yes, Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner.  It’s my first secret weapon for getting a mower ready to sell.  It works better than any engine cleaner on the market. IT WILL NOT HURT THE PAINT, ELECTRICAL OR OTHER COMPONENTS. Spray down every area that has dirt or grease on it. Spray down the entire engine and especially the little nooks and cranny’s around the base. Now here’s the second secret. Let the Scrubbing Bubbles set for at least 12 hours.

After the Scrubbing Bubbles have had a chance to work clean the entire mower with a pressure washer. Wear a rain suit and goggles because the dirt will spray everywhere.  If you or your neighbor don’t have one, load the mower up on a trailer and take it to a quarter car wash.  Remember when you are done cleaning the mower to look around and clean the back end of your car or pickup and the walls of the Car Wash. (If you clean the walls when you are done the car wash will let you come back again:)

Step Three. Making it look good.

What you need.

  • Good car wax or MINWAX Helmsman Spar Urethane – Gloss
  • Rough Scotch-Brite Pad
  • Touch up paint. Black Gloss Rustoleum if the frame is black, and another can for the color of the deck.
  • Sandpaper to clean the rubbed side of the deck.
  • Putty knife

The mower is now clean and you can start getting it ready to sell. If the mower is only a couple of years old and kept inside the paint, plastic and fiberglass may still look good with only a  wax job but most of the time the paint has faded, the fiberglass hood and cowls have oxidized and the deck and frame have scratches.

If the fiberglass and plastic have faded or oxidized you can use the MINWAX spar urethane to restore the finish. Take the part off the mower, cover the work area with plastic and spray it in even coats.Take your time and get the whole piece “wet.”  The spar urethane is very forgiving and doesn’t run easily.  I have tried other brands. I have tried clear enamels and the spar varnish works the best. The nozzle on the spray can gives you a very even coat, the urethane bonds well and never peels off. (I have a golf course mower I used the MINWAX on 10 years ago and it still looks like new. Don’t forget the engine cowl. Yes, spray right over the decals and stickers.

Use the putty knife and sandpaper to clean areas of the frame that are scratched or where the paint has peeled. Most of the commercial manufactures use a powder coat painting process and if they don’t get the metal perfectly clean the paint will start to peel after a few years.  Touch up those area with a matching spray paint. (Farm Stores like Tractor Supply, Fleet Farm or Farm & Fleet have a good selection of spray paints for this. Home centers like menards also are a good place to look.)

Sand the rubbed areas of the deck. The side opposite the discharge always is scratched and usually the front bottom rub rail. Sand those areas smooth and then paint them. Paint just the areas you sanded works but you can also mask off the entire side and paint it uniformly if you want.

If you want to get the most out of the mower, remove the deck, turn it over, remove the blades and clean the underside. Use a scraper (putty knife) and sandpaper to completely clean it. Then paint the underside in a matching color as the top of the deck or use a light colored paint. I use Rustoleum for this.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but again clean and shiny really helps the resale value.

Step Four. The little details to get the most money

What you need. 

  • Oil and Filter For Oil Change
  • Air Cleaner
  • Foaming Tire Cleaner
  • New Blades
  • Oil To Lubricate Linkages.
  • Grease gun.
  • Owner’s manual and any repair receipts

Ok, It’s now looking good. Change the oil and filter. Clean oil says you took care of the machine.

Change the air cleaner. Look under the cover and clean any dirt out of that area. If you have to, take it in the house and use dish detergent to clean any oily build up inside the cover.

Spray down the tires with foaming tire cleaner. A clean, shiny tire makes the rest of the machine look good.

Install new blades. If the old ones are not too damaged, sharpen them and include them with the sale (customers appreciate the “extras”)

Try all the controls and lubricate the linkages as needed to make everything work smoothly.

Grease all the grease zerks. Leave a little spot of grease on top of each zerk. (It shows you took care of your mower and that the mower is ready to mow)

Put the manual and repair tickets in a zip-lock bag and zip-tie it to the mower.

Step Five. Selling it.

What you need.

  • Good Camera – Cloudy Day or the last hour before sunset.
  • Patience.  Be Patient

Camera – Cell Phone pictures are not going to cut it here. Use a good camera and take the pictures in light that does not cause glare. A cloudy day or the last hour before sunset works best for me.  Take pictures of all four sides then go around and take perspective pictures of all four corners. Take at least two pictures in each position just in case one is blurry.

Lift the hood and take pictures of both sides of the engine, the drive pumps, the battery compartment. Take close up pictures of the seat and controls. If there is a defect like a rip in the seat take pictures of those. Again take at least two pictures in each position.

Pick the best 8 or 10 pictures and save them in a folder for the next step.

Patience – From here on set your patience meter to high.  If you want to get the most out of your mower you must create an attitude of “I don’t care if I sell it” in your own mind and project that to the prospective buyer. Depending  on where you list it, what the market demand is right now and other factors you may sell your mower in 3 hours, 3 days, 3 months or 3 years. Don’t be surprised if you have many people show up just to argue with you, berate you or try to buy it for less than half of what you are asking.

How much to charge.

 Price – Review the Buy It Now prices on eBay. Do searches on Google. Talk to you dealer to find the price you should charge. You want the starting price low enough to get people interested yet high enough so they can “jew” or negotiate you down to a price that makes them feel good about the sale.

Figure out what you have to get out of it. Do NOT ask this amount. That’s the minimum amount you want in your hand after all the negotiating is done.

If you followed all these steps and the item is only 2 years old or so, I would start at 10 to 20% less than what you paid for it. If the mower is always sold at retail at the dealer and never discounted ask 10% less than that price.  (I actually saw a 2 year old Craftsman YT3000 sell on Craigslist last week for $100 more than the current sale price for a new one at Sears)

Be patient. You may not get any interest for a few weeks.

Where to sell

There are many ways to sell your mower and I am only going to discuss four.

Craigslist – I am not going to go into the details of selling on Craigslist. Depending on your area it can be a good experience or a nightmare. NEVER take a check!  If they insist on a check take them to their bank and have the teller cash the check right there. If they won’t do this, there is something fishy and refuse to sell the item to them. NEVER let the mower leave your property without all the money in your hand.

Do you know someone who lives on a high traffic street? Put it in their yard. Don’t let the owner of the property sell it for you. Use your phone number and set up a time when you can demo the mower with the buyer yourself.

Dealer where you bought it. The dealer where you bought it may be willing to consign the mower. Expect to pay a healthy commission. Try to get it put out front in an area where all the traffic to the business passes by.

Competing dealer. many competing dealers like to have their competitors product sitting around. Again expect to pay a healthy commission and have it placed up front where customers can see it.


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