8 Best ZTR’s Available Online For $4000-$6000 Updated: April 2017
If you are not sure what size or style of zero-turn mower is best for you please START HERE.
Please Note: This article is out of date. Check this new article out: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers
This is a very narrow list of highest quality mowers designed to give you the best possible cut and the best ride for your lawn. The problem today is there are too many zero-turn mowers to pick from. Dozens of manufactures each make a dizzying array of models in every size and price range imaginable. That makes finding the right mower for you an almost impossible task.
This list only focuses on high quality machines from trustworthy brands and retailers that have an excellent online reputation. That said, I have no problems recommending these zero turn mowers as the best the industry has available in this quality/price range.
Too many zero-turn mowers is an industry problem but that’s not the biggest problems. Problem 1. No one organization reviews and tests zero-turn mowers over $3000 and no one tests all the brands. Yes, Consumer Reports tests zero-turn mowers but they restrict themselves to the lower cost models designed to mow your “normal” suburban lawns. Mother Earth News has tried in the past but there are just too many to review and test. Problem 2. Today anyone with a computer and $5 a month can create a website and write-up an article called, “Top 10 zero-turn mowers” and list a group of zero-turn mowers sold on Amazon. Unfortunately for you and I that person writing the article may write well, but has no experience testing or even using zero-turn mowers. Yes, there are good mowers available on Amazon, but not the ones they are trying to sell.
These mowers are capable of mowing your lawn two to three times faster than your lawn tractor. Not only are they more agile but they also mow the grass evenly and well at much higher speeds. In fact these mowers mow fast enough that you really need the better seats and/or seat suspensions they offer to make mowing enjoyable. These mowers cut better and faster than the sub-$4000 machines because they all use deep domed decks combined with high blade tip speeds giving you superior lift and cut. I have carefully chosen the mowers on the list to give you the best cut you can get on a residential zero-turn mower. The mowers listed in this article are available to order right from your computer and the majority will be shipped to your local dealer where they will set the mower up, test it and deliver it to your home for free.
Enough babbling – here’s the list:
1. Toro TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE at The Home Depot
Last year Toro introduced the MyRide suspension on their commercial line and it was an instant hit. The MyRide fully suspends you, the operator from the normal bumps and jars associated with operating a zero-turn mower at high mowing speeds. This unique system lets you mow faster without the wear and tear on your body traditional zero-turns pummel you with. Like the Ariens above I highly recommend this mower. In fact it’s really a toss-up between the Timecutter HD and the Ariens Apex for quality of cut, heavy-duty design and long-term life. Features include:
- Maximizing comfort, it comes with the MyRIDE Suspension System — a suspended operator platform with adjustable rear shocks. The MyRIDE suspension system has features giving ultimate comfort and a 40% smoother ride, it includes three coil-over-shock adjustable assemblies supporting the operator platform and a deluxe, thickly padded 18 in high-back seat with arm rests. Large 22 in. Dia. rear tires to smoothly roll over rough terrain. It is equipped with an electric PTO and automatic parking brake for ease of operation.
- Grade 50 high-strength 10-Gauge steel mowing deck. 13 cutting positions between 1-1/2 in. and 4-1/2 in. height. Get a professional quality of cut by cutting better faster with a 18,644 fpm blade tip speed – same speed found on Toro commercial mowers
- A hitch comes standard. With its Smart Speed control system, you’ll have precise control and easy maneuvering with its Trim, Tow and Mow speed ranges making it the easiest to learn how to drive and the best for pulling attachments.
- Commercial-grade HG-ZT3100 transmissions.
- The Toro engine is designed and tuned specifically for this mower to maximize performance, The 24.5 HP 708cc Toro Commercial V-twin engine, the same engine found on some of Toro’s industry leading commercial zero turn mowers, features a double barrel carburetor and V-intake for increased power. Its self-cleaning air filter housing system increases the life of the air filter and the engine. No-tools quick-drain oil hose makes maintenance nearly effortless. So tough, it is backed by a 3-year/300 hour limited commercial warranty
- Ground speed of up to 8.5 MPH in Mow mode, 5.5 MPH in Tow mode and 4 MPH in trim mode
- Engine guard to protect your engine from damage
- Extra large 5 Gal. fuel tank ensures you have hours of mowing time on a single fill
- 3-year / 300 hour warranty
- Item usually ships within 7-10 business days, Toro’s white glove delivery service – Toro product will arrive set-up and ready to go providing you with peace of mind, our goal is your satisfaction, upon purchase, a certified Toro dealer will set-up the product and perform a multi-point inspection, arrange a time for delivery at your home, deliver the mower in person and review safety and operational information with you
TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE 48 in. Fab 22.5 HP V-Twin Up to 3.2 acres an hour. Also in CARB Version
TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE 54 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Up to 3.6 acres an hour.
TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE 60 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Up to 4 acres an hour
2. Toro TimeCutter HD at The Home Depot
The Timecutter HD has all the features and dependability of the Toro TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE listed above without the added cost of the full suspension operator’s platform. If you have a good residential lawn and just want a heavy-duty large area mowing machine this is a great choice.
TimeCutter HD 48 in. Fab 22.5 HP V-Twin: Up to 3.2 acres an hour.
TimeCutter HD 54 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin: Up to 3.6 acres an hour.
The remaining zero-turn mowers on this list are a little different from the first three. The best way for me to explain them is – if the Ariens Apex and Toro Timecutter HD were pickup trucks they would be heavy-duty one ton models. They are capable of doing anything you need them to do quickly and will last a long time. The rest of the mowers on this list would be 3/4 ton pickups. Still capable of performing the job but they don’t mow quite as fast and won’t handle really rough lawns quite as well. These mowers also have heavy-duty decks that are much stronger than the decks on your lawn tractor or residential ZTR. These still have the heavy-duty ZT-2800 transmissions that will handle hills and rougher lawns well. The rest of the mowers on this list are very good value mowers that don’t suffer the problems the under $3000 models typically have.
3. Ariens Apex at The Home Depot
You know the Ariens name for their legendary snow blowers but you may not know they also have one of the best lines of residential zero-turn mowers on the market. They don’t advertise as heavily as Deere or Cub Cadet and they don’t have the media hype Hustler gets but in fact, the Ariens Apex is arguably the heaviest duty residential zero-turn line and includes commercial features found on the Gravely commercial mowers. I highly recommend these mowers if you want the highest quality, most rugged design and best cut in this price range.
Key Features like:
- Commercial grade 10-Gauge welded deck that’s 5-1/2 in. in deep. It has a unique stepped, reinforced leading edge that provides the airflow needed to lift and cut even under tough mowing conditions. Self-adjusting deck belt tension maximizes belt life. Maintenance-free aluminum spindles reduce the bearing temperature for cooler operation.
- Easy and intuitive foot-operated deck lift system provides effortless adjustments between 15 cutting positions in 1/4 in. increments with a simple vertical pin selection
- Hydro-gear ZT-3100 commercial grade transaxles. 8 MPH forward and 4 MPH in reverse for efficient mowing. This mower will actually mow very well at 8 MPH.
- Industry leading frame design features large formed tubular frame rails and minimal welds to support the loads of the machine with unprecedented strength and stability.
- 22 in. rear and 13 in. front large tires provide superior traction and ride quality
- Adjustable high-back seat with padded armrests provides additional support and lessens fatigue during linger operating periods
- 5 Gal. fuel capacity to help minimize the need for refueling
- Includes 1-year limited commercial or 3-year limited consumer warranty
- For most shipping areas, Ariens offers white glove delivery service, zero-turn mower will be shipped to your local Ariens authorized servicing dealer for set-up and inspection prior to home delivery, inspection includes operator’s manual confirmation, set tire pressure, check fluid levels, test start unit and file warranty registration information. If an Ariens authorized dealer is not in your shipping area, zero-turn will ship unassembled, directly to you via regular truck delivery, to confirm white glove delivery availability prior to purchasing
- Ariens Apex 48 in. 23 HP Kohler 7000 Series Twin Zero-Turn Riding MowerModel# 991153 Up to 3.2 acres an hour. ZT3100 Drives
- Ariens Apex 52 in. 23 HP Kohler 7000 Series Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower Model# 991155 Up to 3.5 acres an hour. ZT3100 Drives
- Ariens Apex 60 in. 24 HP Kawasaki FR730 V Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower Model# 991151 Up to 4 acres an hour. ZT3100 Drives
- Ariens Apex 60 in. 25 HP Kohler 7000 Series Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower Model# 991157 Up to 4 acres an hour. ZT3100 Drives
4. Ariens IKON XL at The Home Depot
If you don’t need full-on almost commercial grade mower like the Ariens Apex but still want a heavy-duty mower the Ariens IKON XL is a great choice.
- 24 HP V-twin KOHLER 7000 series engine offers professional-grade features, durable components and consistent-cut technology for consistent power and a cleaner cut
- 52 in. 10-Gauge steel fabricated deck with 3 blades is durable and delivers a great cut
- Dial operated cutting height selector eliminates pins and levers to set your exact cutting height, foot operated deck lift with 13 cutting height positions in increments ranging from 1.5 in. to 4.5 in. for a customized cut
- Twin hydro-gear ZT-2800 transaxles provide increased torque and smooth operation
- Wide 20 inch rear tires deliver improved traction and a smoother ride
- Plush high back seat comes with standard padded armrests
- Rubber floor mat helps to isolate vibration while mowing
- Fully welded tubular steel frame with 3 in. x 1.5 in. frame rails welded, not bolted at every joint for extra strength and stability
- Commercial-style dual arm deck lift with a 4 point hanging system for superior deck stability and an even cut. This deck cuts more evenly than a 3 point lift.
- Standard receiver hitch mount for bagger attachment and tow-behind accessories
- Most shipping areas, Ariens offers white glove delivery service, zero-turn mower will be shipped to your local Ariens authorized servicing dealer for set-up and inspection prior to home delivery, inspection includes operator’s manual confirmation, set tire pressure, check fluid levels, test start unit and file warranty registration information. If an Ariens authorized dealer is not in your shipping area, zero-turn will ship unassembled, directly to you via regular truck delivery, to confirm white glove delivery availability prior to purchasing
Ariens IKON XL 42 in. 22 HP KOHLER 7000 Series Twin Model# 915226 Up to 2.2 acres an hour.
Ariens IKON XL 52 in. 24 HP KOHLER 7000 Series Twin Model# 915227 Up to 3.0 acres an hour.
Ariens IKON XL 60 in. 25 HP KOHLER 7000 Series Twin Model# 915228 Up to 3.5 acres an hour.
Ariens IKON XL 60 in. 24 HP Kawasaki FR730 V Twin Model# 915229 Up to 3.5 acres an hour.
5. John Deere Z535M at The Home Depot
John Deere has the name recognition as a popular brand but they have been struggling to have a competitive heavy-duty homeowner zero turn. The new 500 series is their latest large area homeowner zero-turn. It does have a few advantages over the other machines mentioned here. 1. It is lighter. If you always mow your lawn the same way every time it will keep the turf from developing grooves from the tire tracks. This is also useful if you ground is sandy or soft. 2. The Edge or Excel deep dome decks have a reputation for being some of the best side discharge decks for mowing quality.
For a smooth ride the 500 series zero-turn uses large rear wheels and springs under the rear of the set.
Note: Some of the information on Home Depot is different from the info as listed on deere.com and may be wrong. The info here is from deere.com
- Premium John Deere branded V-twin Cyclonic engine provides plenty of power and torque to handle the toughest mulching, mowing, and bagging conditions; the Cyclonic air-management system removes larger particles of dirt before they reach the air filter for reduced filter maintenance and longer engine life
- Tuff Torq® TZT7–D transmissions. (Slightly stronger than the ZT-2800) with 1 in. axles and large 22 in. drive tires enable mowing speeds up to 8.5 MPH
- For your biggest mowing jobs, the accel deep deck has a deep-deck design that lifts grass for a clean, even cut and a smooth underside to prevent grass buildup and evenly disperse clippings; cut heights range from 1 in. to 4 in., in 1/4 in. increments
- Comfortable 18 in. high-back seat with armrests can easily be adjusted in seat forward and rear with travel of 4 in. and 7 different positions, multiple position motion control levers and on-the-go tracking adjustment allows user to easily adjust from the seat when motion levers are out of alignment for comfort and convenience
- ZTrak mowers are designed with a heavy-duty formed and welded steel frame for strength and reliability, foot platform flips up for easy access to the top of mower deck for easy maintenance and cleaning
- White glove delivery within 7-14 days by a local John Deere dealer, at delivery the customer will be taught how to operate and maintain the mower. Hassle-free ownership – inspected, tested and supported: your local John Deere dealer will complete a thorough 10-point pre-delivery inspection on all new John Deere tractors and zero-turn mowers prior to sale
John Deere Z525E 54 in. 22 HP Dual Hydrostatic Model# BM25380 Up to 3.0 acres an hour.
John Deere Z535M 62 in. 25 HP Dual Hydrostatic Model# BG20947 Up to 3.5 acres an hour.
6. Craftsman Pro Series at Sears
Two big features of the Craftsman Pro mowers are the Consistent Cut Kohler V-Twin engines and the Smart Lawn app. The Consistent Cut Kohler responds to heavy loads quicker than conventional engines so the mowing/deck speed doesn’t slow down as much. This gives you a better, consistent cut no matter how thick your grass is. The Smart Lawn app helps you keep track of the maintenance needed to keep your mower running it’s best. It also has parts listings so you can order your parts and have them shipped right to your home. Finally, the Smart Lawn app shows you step by step procedures for performing the maintenance on you mower.
- The Craftsman Pro Series 48” 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Fabricated Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower gets the job done faster
- Dual HydroGear ZT-2800 hydrostatic transmissions make for a smooth ride and enhanced control
- Fabricated steel cutting deck features 15 adjustable cutting heights between 1.5″ and 4″ so you can get the perfect length for your grass
- User-friendly integrated lap bar brake lock makes starting and stopping your lawn mower easier
- 2 gauge wheels help to reduce lawn scalping and Turf Saver Tires help to prevent skidding
- 13″ front casters and a steel front axle make for enhanced durability over rough terrain
- Fuel tank can hold 3 gallons so you can fill up less frequently
- Seat back is 18″ high and features added supports to keep you comfortable throughout the job
- Ergonomically designed lap bars are easy to control and absorb vibrations during use
- Included cup holder allows you to bring your favorite beverage along for the ride
- Maintaining your lawn mower has never been easier with the Smart Lawn app for compatible smart devices
Craftsman Pro Series 48″ 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Fabricated Deck w/ Smart Lawn Bluetooth Technology Up to 3.0 acres an hour.
Craftsman Pro Series 54″ 25 HP V-Twin Kohler Fabricated Deck w/ Smart Lawn Bluetooth Technology Up to 3.2 acres an hour.
Craftsman Pro Series 60″ 25 HP V-Twin Kohler Fabricated Deck w/ Smart Lawn Bluetooth Technology Up to 3.5 acres an hour.
7. Cub Cadet Z-Force L and Cub Cadet Z-Force S at The Home Depot
Cub Cadet is unique in the heavy-duty residential area in that they offer steering wheel versions of their Z-Force zero turns. Steering wheel ZTR’s have three distinct advantages over their lap-bar counterparts. 1. They drive like your auto. No learning curve, no practicing so you don’t tear up your lawn. 2. They handle slopes better than the lap-bar models. With a lap-bar ZTR the downhill rear wheel is the only part of the mower holding it on a side slope. When you lose traction on that wheel the mower wants to slide down the hill. With a steering wheel version all four wheels help to hold the mower on a slope. The front steering wheels keep the mower on track and even the rear uphill tire has more traction than a lap-bar model helping to keep the mower on the hill.
The Z-Force mowers are gaining an excellent reputation for cut quality. The frame of the machine is very stiff which makes it cut excellent but it also makes the mower ride rougher than most. If you have an older, rough lawn or a lawn that used to be something else (like a pasture) You may want to look at the Toro TimeCutter HD with MyRide instead. Other than the ride I highly recommend the steering wheel version!
- KOHLER pro 7000 series V-Twin automatic OHV engine for reliable starting and exceptionally smooth operation
- Fabricated triple-blade cutting deck is rust resistant with triple guard e-coat protection and is designed for a superior cut and bagging performance while providing commercial-grade durability that supported by a 7-year deck shell warranty
- 18 in. high back seat with arm rests
- Mulching capability helps extend the mower’s functionality required (mulching blade sold separately)
- Cub Cadet signature cut smooth arc blades, cut overlap and deep dome deck provide flawless results
- Electronic fingertip blade engagement PTO allows for smooth operation of the deck or attachments
- 8-cutting positions let you select cutting heights ranging from 1 in. to 4 in.
- Dual hydro gear ZT 2800 heavy-duty transmission provides dual hydrostatic rear-wheel transmission for quick effortless zero-turn control that quickly leaves your lawn with a professional-quality finish
- 3-year/180-hour limited warranty for worry-free protection
- 2-position steering wheel design provides comfort with a simple operation
- Includes a cup holder and utility bin for your convenience
- SmartJet deck wash system provides high pressure water that cleans out grass and debris build-up under the deck
Cub Cadet Z-Force L 48 in. 24 HP Fabricated Deck KOHLER Pro V-Twin with Lap Bar Control Model# Z-Force L 48
Cub Cadet Z-Force L 48 in. 24 HP Fabricated Deck KOHLER Pro V-Twin with Lap Bar Control and CAMO Finish Model# Z-Force L 48 CAMO
Cub Cadet Z-Force L 54 in. 25 HP Fabricated Deck KOHLER Pro V-Twin with Lap Bar Control Model# Z-Force L 54
Cub Cadet Z-Force S 48 in. 24 HP Fabricated Deck KOHLER Pro V-Twin with Steering Wheel Control Model# Z-Force S 48
Cub Cadet Z-Force S 54 in. 25 HP Fabricated Deck KOHLER Pro V-Twin with Steering Wheel Control Model# Z-Force S 54
Cub Cadet Z-Force S 60 in. 25 HP Fabricated Deck KOHLER Pro V-Twin with Steering Wheel Control Model# Z-Force S 60
8. Husqvarna MZ61 61″ FAB Deck Z-Turn Mower 24hp V-Twin Kawasaki #967277502 at Amazon
The Husqvarna MZ series has been around for a few years now and they actually make quite a few models. The 61 inch Fabricated deck is the toughest of the bunch and cuts the best. It uses the ZT-3100 drives and I’ve sold many for new commercial operators because of the great price and the toughness of the mower.
Husqvarna MZ61 61″ FAB Deck Z-Turn Mower 24hp V-Twin Kawasaki #967277502 at Amazon
There are other models of the Husqvarna MZ available on Amazon with different engines including a 54 inch stamped deck and 52 inch fabricated deck.
Check out the other MZ models here
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I am looking for Ariens IKON X 52″ Zero turn Vs Husavarna Z254 54″ both with Kawasaki Engines. Can you please recommend one?
Hi Ainu, Ariens IKON X 52″
I’m looking to get my first ZTR and am looking at different options. I have an acre of relatively flat, well manicured grass so I don’t think I need anything that’s to heavy duty but I would like something that will hold up over time. I have dealers around me that sell scags, ariens, hustlers, ferris, and Deere. With roughly 4k to spend what do you think offers the most bang for the buck?
Hi Ross, all the brands you mentioned have good ZTR’s in the $4000 range but I suggest waiting until early March to get serious because most brands don’t announce their new residential mowers until then.
I am also in the market as well. Looking at the Cub Cadet, ariens, craftsman pro, and Deere. Deere 500 series and Ariens Ikon XL can be brought down to the price range of the craftsman and cub cadet via Lowes 10% coupon. I have a 1.8 acre lot. I really want the ariens (born and raised in WI) but I dont know if the 42″ ikon XL is big enough or if the 54″ is too much for the size of my lawn. Thoughts?
Also, what are your thoughts on Craftsman with all that is going on with the Sears bankruptcy? Avoid?
Hi Jonathan, I have no opinion about Sears Craftsman or Craftsman at Lowes at this time. That said, Cub Cadet is introducing a completely new line of ZTR’s this year so I would not buy from Lowes at this time.
I like the Ariens IKON XL a lot! Is the 52 inch too large? If you can get between all your landscape beds and other obstacles I’d go with the larger deck. The 52 cuts very well. Don’t be to fooled by the 10% off price at Lowes. Home Depot includes the free white glove delivery service where the mower is set up, tested and delivered ready to mow. Check it out here: Ariens IKON XL 52 in. 24 HP KOHLER 7000 Series Twin Gas Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Now that we’re in March, I’m seeing sales at my local dealers for Deere and Gravely. I mow about 2 acres flat grass and another 4 smaller properties (a total of another acre) I mow.
I’m considering the Deere Z540R 54″ or the Gravely ProTurn X series, 52″. Both Kawasaki engines. I love the Gravely rock solid build, but am not seeing many reviews of this new mower and worry I’m going over board?
Hi Robert, To be completely fair, the Deere Z540R 54 is comparable in price to the Gravely ZT HD. But I am confused – there is The Gravely ZT X, ZT XL and the Pro-Turn Z, ZX.
The Deere Z540R 55 and Gravely ZT are the residential models. The Pro-Turn is a commercial model.
Since these are all dealer only mowers you won’t find many written reviews. But, I would suggest searching youtube.
In reality, the Gravely ZT HD is a strong mower and will last you many years mowing 4-10 acres.
Any opinions on the Gravely or Bad Boy ZTR mowers?
Hi Susan, They both make good mowers but in both cases stay away from the cheapest models. Other than that it the model you pick really depends on how big your yard is, the slope and what type of grass you are mowing to get the best model for you.
I suggest talking to each dealer, let them tell you about what they can do for you and make your selection based on the dealer you like the best.
Thanks for the info Paul. I’m mowing about 2 1/2 acres with slight gradual slopes. I’ve read there have been issues with design on the Gravely when it comes to oil changes and the bad boy uses plastic spindles on the deck. Are you aware of these issues and is a 48″ deck good for my situation?
Hi Susan, Most mechanics use a suction system to change the oil nowadays. That way there is no oil spillage and environmental issues. They stick a hose down the oil fill hole and suck the oil out. That’s especially true with ZTR’s because with the wrap around chassis/frames they are all hard to drain the oil from the drain plug. Here is an example of the pump Oil Extractor Pump
No one uses plastic spindles. But, the person trying to talk you out of the Bad Boy may have stated plastic spindle covers. That’s not a bad thing because the covers just protect the belts from debris, sticks and you stepping on them. The plastic cover is easy to clean and won’t rust. Personally, I like the Ariens over the Bad Boy MZ. The Ariens is a well-built mower.
I have a 1 acre lot that I am currently mowing with a Simplicity Broadmoor 44″ deck. I’m looking to get to a zero turn and I’m torn between the Airens Ikon X52 (Home Depot) and a Simplicity Champion XT(52″) – different price ranges and machines. Can you comment on which you would go with an why? I do have a bad back so I need a ride that is not jarring. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Hi Brent, If you have a bad back the best ZTR right now for a one-acre lawn is the Toro TimeCutter MX5075 with MyRIDE . It completely isolates you from the mower so you don’t get that jar on your back other ZTR’s can give. That said,
The Simplicity Champion will give you a slightly better ride than the Ariens Ikon because it has the oscillating front axle.
Hello- I have 1acre of land to mow about 1/2 rough terrain, the other 1/2 is well manicured, slightly hilly. I am between the Liberty Z 48 and IKON X 42. I have a few questions.
1) If you buy a Ariens Ikon x 42 at a big box store v. dealer is there a difference? Such as buying a John Deere at big box v. dealer there are differences.
2) Should i get the Kohler Engine or Kawasaki on the IKON?
3) Does the IKON X have dual hydro’s or single?
4) Is the Liberty z 48 worth the extra $800, compared to the IKON X42 ? will it last longer for the avg. residential 1 cut per week? how many hours should i expect out of the IKON X v. Scag?
1. There are no differences between the box store and dealer IKON X 42 just like there are NO differences between a John Deere 100 series tractor, 300 or 500 series ZTR at the box store and a dealer. In fact, most of the time, when you order the Ariens – the local dealer receives it, sets it up and delivers it to you. (The white glove delivery)
2. Both are good engines. In my opinion, they are equal so I don’t think you should have to pay extra to get the Kawasaki.
3. All lap bar zero turns have two hydros. One for each wheel.
4. The Liberty Z does have heavier duty components than the IKON X 42. The Liberty Z compares directly to the Arens IKON XL 52.
Do the required maintenance and store the mower inside and the Ariens Ikon X will easily last 5-10 years. Do the same with the Liberty Z or the Ariens IKON XL and they will last longer.
Thank You for the response. very informative. unfortunately my dealer does not stock the XL only the Ikon-X.
the Ikon x scares me a bit due to not many reviews being out there, with that being the case am i better off with the Ikon X 42 or Scag liberty Z 48″ or even the 36″ scag ? Over the course of time do you think the $800 difference will pay for itself if i purchased the scag v. Ikon?
last question is are the 2800 hydro’s that much better than the standard ezt?
Hi Phil, First, never buy a zero-turn less than 42 inches. The smaller ones like the Scag 36 do not have good traction and you will tear up your lawn.
Looking back at your original post you stated you have rough, hilly terrain. If you want to buy a 48 inch or larger ZTR then the ZT2800 is a must. But the EZT is sized correctly for a 42 inch.
Finally, I’m not sure you would like the Liberty Z mowing a rough lawn. The front casters are small and you will get a lot of back and forth bounce mowing with it. In other words, it will be a rougher riding mower than the IKON X. Scag makes some great commercial machines but the Liberty Z is not one of them. I feel it’s overpriced for what you get.
Thank you very much. I ended up pulling the trigger on the Ikon X 42. Mower, with power bagger, weights etc, install/setup and delivery the dealer charged me $3900 out the door. Figured i would buy straight from dealer v. big box for service relationship in future (lets hope i dont need much). Anyways Your info helped me very much with my decision.
I will be back to give an update after my first few rides.
Hi Carl, the good thing about the John Deere Z540M is it mows well. If your son learns to mow at the proper height, trim correctly and pick up behind him – his customers will like the work he does.
But, be very aware it is a residential mower. That means it will require regular maintenance for it to last about 500 hours of total operation on multiple lawns. So here are some things to do:
1. Keep records. Hours of run time. When each item on the mower was serviced and /or replaced.
2. Change oil, oil filter and air filter every 50 hours. This residential mower does not have the high capacity filters of a commercial mower.
3. Learn to safely change and sharpen the blades. Sharpen blades every 20 hours or so. More if you have sandy soil and you mow low – less if you mow higher and have clay soil. Learn to sharpen the blades with a hand file. The edge of a residential mower blade is too easy to overheat and lose the temper using an electric grinder. You’ll be able to resharpen the blade 6-10 times before they need to be replaced.
4. Have at least one full set of extra blades.
5. Expect to replace the deck belt every 40-50 hours. Have one hanging in the garage just in case one breaks. It’s also not a bad idea to have an extra transmission drive belt. Learn how to change both.
6. Keep the mower clean. Keep the debris blown off the rear – inside the engine compartment, around the transmissions, on top of the deck. DO NOT clean the deck with a pressure washer. This mower has sealed bearings and a pressure washer will force water into those bearings and you’ll end up replacing them quickly. You can blow it off with his leaf blower and then hand wash it with a garden hose.
I don’t do prices on used stuff. The area of the country, etc. has a big influence on the price. I suggest Google – ing “Used John Deere Z540M” to get an idea if the price is good.
Thanks Paul for the advice on upkeep. We went over this morning and bought it so your upkeep advice will be handy to keep. Someone told us to use gator blades. Would you recommend this? We are outside of Roanoke, VA and have mostly clay soil and mow 3″-3.5″.
Hi Carl, Gator Blades are the best mulching blades on the market but they have a “dark side” you need to be aware of.
First, I’m talking about the true gator blades – not a rip-off that looks like them. True gator blades cut the grass, throw it up and then recut it many times using the teeth on the top wing of the blade. Those teeth are sharp when you get a new set of blades.
For gator blades to work correctly you have to have the mulching baffles inside the deck. If you just put gator blades on a side-discharge deck they will cut fine – but they will shred – not cut the grass thrown out the side discharge. Especially if the grass is long or tough you’ll end up with a shredded mess (looks like cotton balls) on the top of your lawn.
You need to cut your lawn high. 3-4 inches for bluegrass/fescue lawns. That’s 3-4 inches measured from the sharp edge of the blade to a hard surface like your garage floor. (The height markings on the lift handle are wrong) I cut my lawn at 3.5 to 4.5 inches.
If you have a lot of leaves in the fall Gator blades will make them disappear! With mulching baffles they will cut dry leaves so fine they are almost like dust. You will not have to bag your leaves.
And last – they don’t have a lot of throw so they don’t work well with a bagger.
Hi Paul, a friend of ours i selling a John Deere Z540M. My boy wants me to buy this ZTR for our yard and so he can mow several of the yards in our neighborhood. Did not know if this was a good mower or not. My father-in-law thinks we can get it for between 3,000 to 3,500. He believes it is about a year old. Would this be a good mower at a good price for my boy?
Paul, What is your view on Hustler Raptor flip-up deck mowers, I have a John Deer XL 277, but it hard to clean out deck as I am getting older. Are they worth the money?
Hi Jim, My understanding is the flip-up is just a Raptor with a flip up deck. So to me, that means you are paying $1600 for the flip-up feature. ($3399 for a Raptor Limited – $4999 for the flip-up deck.
Instead, I suggest looking at a Country Clipper Boulevard. Its a heavier duty machine and the flip up deck is built in. Country Clipper has been around since the beginning of zero-turns and it’s a very nice, dependable brand. The joystick control is unique and is great for older people with arthritis in the shoulders. They also have accessories to make is easy to get on and off. Use the “Find a Dealer” button to locate your nearest Country Clipper dealer.
Paul, How do you feel about the Gravely line? I’ve had a ZT HD48 and really loved it. I’m only putting about 60 hours a year on it. I’m looking at the ZT X42 based on past experience with the other model. I like the welded deck most of all but know the 42 won’t be quite as heavy as the 48 was. Thoughts good or bad?
Hi Jimmy, I like the new design. Ariens spent a lot of time going through the entire mower and updating it. The Ariens IKON X 42 in is one I’d pick for my one-acre yard. By the way, the Kawasaki and Kohler engines are the same price. Either engine is a good choice.
Great advice on this thread. I’m also looking at the Ariens IKON X-52 23HP (Kawasaki engine) for 3K w/o bagger or I found a used 2014 Kubota Kommander Z121S 48″ with 122 hours and bagger for $3,700 here locally (old guy owned it for his place). My yard is ~0.6 acres w/ stuff to maneuver around, on a bit of a grade. Price is a wash w/ the Ariens bagger….New or used…any issues you know of w/ these Kubotas…anything I should look out for?
Hi Jeff, You are not gaining anything with the Kubota. Same basic specs as the IKON-X. In addition that year Z121S has a bad reputation for throwing deck belts. Besides with the Ariens you get a three year warranty.
Now, you may also want to consider the Ariens IKON XL 52 in. It’s heavier duty than the two you are looking at and has stronger transmissions so they will last a long time on your slope. It’s still in this price range.
You can look at it here: IKON XL 52 in. 24 HP KOHLER 7000 Series Twin Gas Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Thanks Paul. Do you know if Deere dealers come off the MSRP? They have the $350 off green tag going on but wasn’t sure if they lower it before then.
BTW, the MZ54 was $4860 out the door. And it’s supposed to be new with the clearcut fab deck, 18 wide seat. Compared to 15 on the Deere. I favor the Deere as well but wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing.
Hi Rob, I’m not going to hold my breath on whether Husqvarna has designed a decent cutting deck – this time… In other words the deck is new we don’t have enough time on it yet to see if it’s as good as they claim.
Pricing – In general they do not come off retail. Deere usually pushes the sale prices to the dealers. Home Depot is sometimes $100 less and if you have an exact model you want to buy from the dealer they will sometimes match the price. Some dealers will offer the free setup and delivery like Home Depot has (White Glove Delivery) Others will give you some type of promotion like a string trimmer or coffee cup or cap.
In addition, most of the Deere dealers are now huge corporations with multiple locations so getting a “deal” from a salesman is getting hard to do. Even corporate discounts for municipalities and golf course are negotiated at the dealer corporation level or John Deere itself.
Thanks Paul. Dealer will do $4400 for the 535M and $3999 for the 525E. The M has the ELS engine and the E has the cyclonic. The M has a 18 inch seat vs 15 and also has 2 more years/180 more hrs for warranty. Do you have a preference on the engine? Which deal would you take? Thanks Paul
Hi Rob, ELS engines are advertised to give 50% more life than the cyclonic/Intek engines. The 535M feels like the way to go
Paul, making a decision tomorrow. Mowing around 2 acres all flat. You told me John Deere 525E 54in a few weeks back. It’s down to that or the Husqy MZ54 with 25HP Kohler. The Deere will be around $4300 and the Husqy @ $4900. Both come with a trimmer and blower but the Husqy trimmer is more quality. Both have service centers close by. What you think?
Hi Rob, The MZ54 is a pretty old design. $4900? Are you in Canada? The retail price of it is only $4699 U.S. and you can find it as low as $4100 if you look around a little. It’s a pretty rugged mower but the Deere will give you a much better cut. The Deere is a newer design.
If you want the best cut go with the Deere.
If you want “built like a tank” get the Husqvarna but offer them a lot less than they want.
Hi Matt, The Ariens IKON is my pick. Why? It is heavier built from the frame to the deck and transmissions.
The Courier’s suspension is great for you – the operator. It absorbs some of the bumps from a rough yard. But it is a full suspension system like the suspension on your car. What that means is the entire ZTR moves up and down with the bumps. So the deck also moves up and down. If your lawn is rough this can cause you to have a very rough cut on your lawn.
If you want a smooth ride, the Toro MyRide is the best way to go. It has an operator suspension platform that takes out the bumps for you but allows the ZTR itself to follow the ground contours, bumps, and dips. You’ll get a much better cut with it (or the Ariens)
Check out the MyRide here: Toro TimeCutter MX5075 with MyRIDE Suspension System 50 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin
Home Depot also offers the Ariens IKON. One advantage for buying from Home Depot is they offer the free Ariens White Glove Delivery. “In most shipping areas, Ariens offers white glove delivery service; zero-turn mower will be shipped to your local Ariens authorized servicing dealer for setup and inspection prior to home delivery; inspection includes operator’s manual confirmation, set tire pressure, check fluid levels, test start unit and file warranty registration information.”
Ariens IKON at Home Depot: Ariens IKON at Home Depot
Thanks for the reply Paul. I appreciate your opinion. The other option I have been weighing is to go with a used commercial grade zero turn and I am looking at the Exmark Lazer Z ct as well. Would this be better for the small hill and wetter spots that I need to cut? Or do you think the Ariens would still perform well enough for me?
Hi Matt, I would strongly suggest if you are a little nervous going with the IKON X to move up to the IKON XL or Apex instead of buying used. Ariens ZTRs come with a 3 year warranty.
Buying a used ZTR can be a nightmare. 1st, most used commercial equipment has been used commercially so it’s been used, abused and who know’s what. Most of the used stuff less than $5000 or so has more hours than you’d ever put on one and most of them have been traded in for a reason like they are starting to break down regularly. 2nd, buying parts for a commercial mower is EXPENSIVE. Blades are triple the cost, belts are double, major components like transmissions can easily cost $2000-$5000 for a repair. Unless you can do all the troubleshooting and repair yourself I strongly suggest not to buy used.
Hi Paul, Ok thanks for the input again on that. That is a good point about commercial machines being much more expensive to service and replace. Also, the one I was looking at only has 60 hours on the newer motor but 450 on the machine and is 14 years old. Maybe it is best to go with a new one.
Hi Matthew, No offense to the person trying to sell you the ExMark, but unless you could verify that the mower was owned by a residential customer who had 3 acres or less I would be very nervous believing that machine has a new engine but only 450 hours on the frame. Did the hour meter only have 3 digits? Knowing how long commercial mowers last I could believe 1450 or even 4500 hours on a 14-year-old machine. 450 hours over 14 years is only about 1.25 hours a week mowing time. (25 mows a year)
Paul, yeah I understand your point. I haven’t seen the hour meter myself but this is what I am being told and from the pictures I can tell the engine is newer but who knows how many hours on it. It is also a residential used machine. So, I guess with my yard description. Do you think I would see a benefit of the Ikon X over the G5100 craftsman that I have? As far as speed and I like the feel of a zero turn. Like I mentioned I have a very slight slope to flat lawn with one hill. It is slightly soft in the spring and winter but I can adjust and mow when the yard is dry. I appreciate your opinion ahead of time…I am having a tough time deciding which option to choose.
Hi Matthew, Compared to the G5100 the Ikon X will get done 30-50% faster. It will mow in a straight line about 20% faster than the Craftsman tractor but will mow around obstacles a lot faster.
ZTRs are not very good mowing soft ground. When I had the landscaping company I’d let those areas alone until they dried out later in the spring. It wasn’t worth the worry about getting stuck and tearing up the lawn.
Hi Paul, Thanks for all of your information it is very helpfule but I am still looking for some guidance. I have about .5-.75 acres and possible more in the future if I buy a couple more lots. The yard is a very gradual grade with one small steep grade. Also, in the spring and fall the bottom of the yard gets a bit slushy. I have the craftsman g5100 lawn tractor right now with 48″ deck but was looking into a zero turn to save some time, get around obstacles better, and overall pleasure of riding one over a garden tractor. I was looking at the Ariens IKON X 52″ 23HP at Lowes and looked at the simplicity courier 23hp 48″ deck. The Courier seems like a really nice mower and very well built. The Ariens doesn’t seem bad either but definitely lower end with the tires and no suspension. What are you thoughts? Which would you choose or should I keep what I have? Appreciate your help!
Hi Paul, thanks for the informative article and replies, I’ve probably spent the last 2-3 hours scouring over all the information.
Obviously I’m looking into a zero turn, I’ve recently moved onto a 1.25acre property that is relatively flat with the exception of a hill near the walkout basement doors. The two local dealers here that I’ve talked to mostly carry Cub Cadet and Husqvarna. For the Cubs I was looking at the Z-Force L (48in), but the sales guy probably said I could get by with the RZT LX (46in). And for the Husqvarnas I was looking at the MZ48 or the Z248F (with a Kohler).
My grass here seems to be a bit thicker than previous yards I’ve mowed, so I’m worried about getting a good cut, which is leaning me more towards the Z-force or MZ48. But at the same time, I’m worried this might be overkill.
Most of the reviews I have found seem to say the same positive and negative things for each mower. Is one better than the other in your mind? Or does it just come down to feel and preference?
Hi Adam, I’m in agreement with the dealer. The 46-inch RZT cuts very well and I think it will give you a better cut than the Z-Force. I don’t have a preference over the Kawasaki, Kohler or Honda engines offered. (the LX is the Kaw engine)
Be very careful mowing the slope by the walkout basement. In fact, I suggest only mowing DOWN the slope until you get used to the mower. Make sure there is nothing at the bottom of the slope that you can run into – or over. From there you can practice mowing down the slope at an angle. ZTR’s can be very finicky mowing slopes so you may never be able to mow up the slope at an angle – let alone mowing straight up the slope. If you decide on a bagger NEVER try to mow up the slope. (Yes, I’m a little paranoid about walkout basements. I tipped a ZTR over backwards on one of those slopes years ago)
Hi Stephen, I’m going to guess that she would like a lawn tractor style. I have two here that are rated very well and will be very dependable.
If she wants the best cut and has a lot of trees and other stuff to go around: Craftsman ProSeries 27042 46″ 24 HP 725cc Kohler Riding Mower with TurnTight Extreme® & Smart Lawn Technology
If she just has a “normal” lawn and wants the best cut: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series LT 46 in. 22 HP V-Twin Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine Lawn Tractor
Hello Paul, I went to look at the Toro HD at 2 different dealers. The first one had a Hustler SD 54″ with a 25 hp Kohler 700 series pro engine for $3949. The dealer thought that the Hustler was a better mower for less $. The other dealer thought that a Scag Liberty Z might be better a better option. What do you think about these two new options? Thanks, Stephen
Hi Stephen, Plain and simple – you get what you pay for with ZTRs.
You originally stated, “I have about 2 acres of mixed lawn/pasture, with a few sloped areas.” To me that meant you needed a heavy duty mower that would mow the lawn well and hold up to the rough pasture area. The Toro and the Ariens fit those needs well. They have the heavy frame to take the abuse of the pasture, larger front wheels so they don’t beat you up too bad, the right transmissions to last and decent engines.
Hustler actually does not have a ZTR that matches the Ariens and the Toro HD. The Raptor SD is their entry level mower with stronger transmissions. It also has a slightly heavier deck than the Raptor. So – when you go out and look for reviews all the reviews of the raptor apply. Mowing pasture I would be concerned with breaking the frame (after 5-8 years) The Hustler Fastrac is actually more comparable but it’s actually a heavier-duty (and more expensive) than the Toro HD and Ariens.
If you mowed your lawn with any of the ZTR’s we’ve discussed so far and then mowed it with the Liberty Z – you would hate it! The front wheels are too small for your application and it will ride like a semi truck on an Illinois highway. In my opinion, the Liberty Z is ONLY good for a nice, smooth suburban or city lawn.
Got it Paul. Thank for clarifying this for me. I appreciate your expertise. Best, Stephen
Hello Paul, reading along here. I need a new mower and I’m considering a zero turn. I have about 2 acres of mixed lawn/pasture, with a few sloped areas. I’m considering something in the 48-60 in size range . After reading your reviews, it seems like the Toro HD and Ariens Apex might be good choices. Your thoughts? Thanks, Stephen
Hi Stephen, You are right on track. Either one of those would make the perfect ZTR for 2 acres of rough land with a few slopes. Both have tough fabricated decks, decent engines, and the right transmissions. Unless you have a color preference I’d go to each dealer and buy from the one you trust the most. Feel free to ask any other questions.
Great Paul. Thank you. I do have a second question. My mother in-law is also in the market for a mower. she has about 3/4 of an acre of lawn around her home that’s pretty level terrain. We would like to keep her in about $2K range if possible, durability and low maintenance would be priority for her. Any suggestions? Thanks again, Stephen
hi Paul…Reading quite a few of these and hoping to get your opinion. have a few yards I do for myself and my elderly neighbors and having a tough choice between Gravely ZT-X 52 and ZTXL 52. There’s about a $1k difference. I’m leaning towards the XL, but wanted your opinion. Each yard is about an acre so about 2-3 acres total. All flat and trees around. I also use the mower to pull a 5×10 trailer around. My old RZT cub cadet did it all, but needed more in repairs than the thing is worth. It even hauled around a pair of jet skis a few times to move it (probably not best for the mower). Spoke with a GREAT dealer locally and he said I’m right on the cusp also. The XL will be a little faster, but he recommends the XL because of the 2800s rather than the EZTs. Either way, am I getting more than I need with the XL or do you think that’s the right way to go?
Hi Mike, Yes, The XL is worth the extra money and yes, if you are trying to make money with it YOU HAVE TO buy from a local dealer you trust.
You need the heavier transmissions for what you pull and you need the heavier ZTR for mowing 2-3 times what the X is designed for.
If you try and save by buying at a cheap cost from Wally World you will spend more than what you saved on repairs over the next few years. And….who is going to fix it for you? Whi is going to do the warranty work? WalMart does not have a service contract with your local dealer.
HI Paul, I have about 3/4 acres to cut and the majority of it is sloped at about 10-13 degrees. As I get older it is getting more and more difficult to cut with my push mower. Recently, I started looking into getting either a John Deere or Toro zero turn. Had a few people tell me that I might have to much of a slope for one of them. How do you feel about that?
I have 2 acres with quite a few trees and some incline around the house only, otherwise it’s basically flat. There is a very small area at the front of my lot that’s a bit rough, but otherwise it’s pretty smooth going everywhere else. I like both the steering wheel and lap bar and have tried them both, don’t really have a preference. I have another tractor I use for hauling so the ZTR that I want to buy is just for mowing only. From what I’ve read from you and others so far, is that I like the Ariens, Cub and Toro, and I’m looking at a 46-48″ deck (the MyRide is out of my price range though). The reason I think I may need something more heavy duty is because I can be a little bit rough on my tractor as I’ll just plow through areas sometimes (not tall grass, just trees, so it’s mostly me getting beaten up) and I have banged into things in the past. I just really want to speed up the process of cutting the lawn as it takes me quite a while with all the trees I have.
Hi Lee, if you don’t care a lap-bar ZTR is always 500-800 less than the steering wheel version. I prefer the Toro HD for all around price and heavy-duty. You can read a little more about it on my other site here: 8 Best $4000-$6000 Heavy-Duty Zero Turn Mowers For Homeowners
Thanks so much. I actually read your other site before posting here, that’s what convinced me to stick to Toro, Ariens or Cub. I’m just wondering if I may be going overboard with buying a heavy duty mower like that or if I should go for something less powerful.
Hi Lee, If you are planning on staying in the same spot I do suggest you go with the better machine because it will easily last over 10 year. If you don’t know how long you will stay at this location you may want to go with the cheaper machine in case you need to buy a different style when you move.
Your website has been so helpful! I think I’ve read every comment on every article!
Some neighbors and I are going in together to buy a new ZTD mower, to replace an old Kubota. We mow about 4 acres, total, and have $5,000 – $6,000 to spend.
Your review really got us interested in the Toro TImeCutter HD (probably without MyRIDE, as we mow flat lawns). But through our local Home Depot it will take 3 weeks to deliver! And we live in Florida, where it’s raining every day and the grass is growing 1″ while I’m typing. Plus there is no local Toro dealer for warranty parts/service, other than a small repair shop that’s sketchy. So we’ve about given up on the Toro.
However, I found an eXmark dealer running a promo on the eXmark Radius-E with a 48″ deck for $4,999. It has the OEM 24.5hp V Twin engine (model 708). Is this is same as the Toro engine? The specs look identical. The deck is different, obviously– but what do you think of the quality of these eXmark decks? Other differences: the Toro has the ZT3100 trans, while the eXmark only has the ZT2800. But the eXmark is a heavier machine, and it has a 4 year/500 hour warranty (rather than 3 for the Toro). In general, would you consider this a comparable machine to the Toro (without the MyRide)?
The other local option we’re considering is a Kubota Z411 with a 48″ deck, Kawasaki FS engine, ZT3400 trans, 4 year/500 warranty. But it’s $6,000 — instead of $5k for the eXmark.
How would you compare the two mowers? Do you think the Kubota is worth the extra cost?
As a fallback option, we’re considering your Ariens APEX, which would also take 3 weeks through Home Depot. But we can get it through Lowe’s in 3-5 days! Cost is $4,999 with the Kohler 7000 engine, ZT3100 tranny, and a 60″ deck (10 gauge).
We would really value your opinion
Hi Ben, Sorry, I’m having a hard time keeping up with the comments. It’s been very busy this month.
Personally, I’d pick the ExMark any day over the Kubota. The Radius E has a stellar reputation and the deck is very comparable to their commercial decks. You will like the way it cuts. It also mulches better than most other mid-priced mowers. Yes, Toro uses the same engines on both the ExMark and the Toro’s
The Kubota is not worth the extra money.
Dear Paul, thank for all the great advice and guidance. …very helpful. I have a question of my own…
I have approx 2 acres of bermuda sod, the yard is relatively flat (no steep slopes); however, the yard is bumpy and uneven for a perfectly manicured, fairway style look. there are a number of , dips and troughs across the yard–i suspect due to poor drainage.
I have a Kubota Z127S with 54″ deck and mulch kit. I’m cutting at 1.5″ to 1.75″, but regardless of how slow and careful i am, there are endless scalped areas, and I can never seem to achieve the perfectly smooth, all green, golf course look. Short of extensive top-dressing or even total regrading and sodding, i’m thinking I may have the wrong machine/deck for my yard. I’ve looked at Walker, though found the controls a bit cumbersome.
Which machines/deck(s) would you recommend as giving the smoothest and best possible cut…one that would help my type of yard look as close to golf course as possible?
Hi Ray, There are a few mowers with ground hugging decks. Simplicity tractors, Some John Deere tractors (some X300 and X500), The Toro 8000, ExMark Navigator, and the Walker. There is also the Acrease Pull behind with flotation kit but those are side discharge only.
The Simplicity and Deere tractors are considerably slower than the ZTR’s. The Toro/ExMark are bag or mulch. The Toro/ExMark use the same controls as the Walker.
Five hours using a Walker and you will never want to use a different type of control on a ZTR. It takes a little practice but once you get used to it it’s effortless and requires very little input to maneuver around obstacles and takes no effort to go in a straight line. Your shoulders won’t get sore from pushing on the levers and your arms won’t get sore from holding them up on the handles. Both your right and left arms are in a natural position and you can mow for hours without getting tired.
Thank you Paul.
i’m not too crazy about tractors and the Toro 8000 appears to be a complete private label of the walker. I was thinking…if I’m going to spend the $$$ for a mid-high level Walker, should I cut to the chase and consider mid-level / commercial grade reel mowers instead? I suspect reel mowers would give the best possible cut possible; though I’m not familiar with the down-sides of them. would you recommend this path? and if so, which reel mowers show I consider, giving the great cut and hopefully requiring the least maintenance. Thank you again for the guidance. -Ray.
Hi RayG, The Toro/ExMark is not made by Walker. There is enough demand that they have one of their own. 15 years ago Scag and Excel (Hustler) also had a model or two but they couldn’t compete in that area.
You want a fairway mower – not a greens mower. If that really interests you ask your local golf course if you can watch them mow with one. They mow early in the morning. You can also ask the grounds superintendent about what it takes to maintain one.
Minimum price for a for a fairway mower new is about $25,000. It’s been a while but if I remember right they mow no higher than 1.5 inches. You can find used ones on eBay and your regional Toro or Jacobson Turf Dealer for $5000-$10,000. 90% of the time the used ones need at a minimum a blade lapping and sharpening and many need new reels. Be aware getting the reels in shape is more than you want to pay and can easily cost as much as you paid for the used machine.
Don’t pay less than $5000 for one and above all DO NOT buy a John Deere. You will find a lot of used because the Deere’s are cheap to buy VERY expensive to repair and maintain. (the accountants love them – but not the people who have to use and repair them)
Thanks for the great website. Any experience with adding an aftermarket suspension seat to a ZTR? I’m about to buy an Ariens Apex and would love to have the option if the 2 acres at my new house turn out to be bumpier than I can stand.
Thanks – Matt
Ho Matt, Talk to your dealer. I believe there is an upgrade available.
I’ve had no luck just going to Tractor Supply or Northern Tool and adding one of their generic suspensions. They really are not designed for ZTR’s and don’t work that well on the Bucking motion a ZTR gives you.
If Ariens does not have anything other companies like Toro have seat upgrades or just the suspension that you can adapt.
Hi Paul. What are your thoughts of the Bad Boy ZT Elite 54″? Do the Bad Boys cut well? I like the Toro Time utter HD Myride, but the Bad Boy is less cost. Your thoughts are appreciated.
Kevin, The Bad Boy costs less for two reason. 1. It has no operator suspension. If you have a nice suburban lawn that’s fairly smooth not having a suspension seat is not a big deal. But if you want to mow at 6-8 mph a ZTR with a plain old seat can get tiring quickly. If you have a normal yard or an acreage your lawn is not that smooth and the suspension platform on the MyRide is worth every extra cent. 2. No one compares the cut of the different ZTR’s but: Toro has been in the ZTR business for decades longer than Bad Boy and they have spent more time getting the cut of their decks right than just about any other brand. If the specs say the Toro will cut at a certain speed, say 7 mph, you can be assured it will cut your weekly growth at that speed and it will look like a Marine Sargent’s high and tight flattop when you’re done.
G Day Paul,
all the way from down under Australia.
My wife (IT) and Me (Civil Engineer) have bought us a 28 acre undulating block with vineyards in it. Just at running the numbers form the last 6 months our biggest expense is the mowing cost. so we have decided to buy a mower and do that work ourself.
We have narrowed our choices to
1. TORO TITAN HD – 52″ (132.1 cm) Titan® HD 2000 Series (74461)
2. KUBOTA Z222-54 – ZG227-54 – 54″ Mower Deck/ Petrol Engine
They both retail at AUD $10,999.00 (Yes we pay way too much in Australia) and both the delers have been good and have been telling that their respective mowers are the best.
i am fairly ok with mechanical elements and i am confused which way to go
The Shaft drive, sounds as a better option.
The Engine is covered and the the way it has been designed less dirt and debris will get into the engine, which will give longivity of the engine.
However the changing the blades does not seam to be easy or safe.
Has got attachements that i can cary me wipper snipper (brush cutter as it is called in America) which will save time in me walking back and forth to do the works.
Bit concerned that the engine bay is opened, but it will be easy for me to service the engine.
The attachments for lifting the deck to replace and clean the blades is a clever idea.
The seat and the blades for both the mowers are very similar. what i your advice on this option. We appreciate you reading our query.
Hi Loki, That is a tough choice! The Kubota has a lot going for it but the shaft drive is actually not one of features I would choose. It’s dependable, but it’s extra parts. So when it does wear out it’s a lot of extra cost to replace a gear box. If you are mowing taller grass it’s also one more place for the grass to wrap around and bind up the system.
Dry grass hidden under a hood or engine shroud is one of the worst safety hazards with mowing grass. You forget to clean that area, the grass dries out, and it can over heat and catch fire.
I like the open engine on the Toro. Just make it a habit to blow off the mower with a leaf blower or air compressor every time you put it away for the night. I also like the equipment racks and the simple front lift system for working on the deck.
What do you think of the Hustler Fast Track? I have a Micro lawn cutting business ( 12 lawns) and I’m thinking I might not have enough machine. I have 350 hours on it. I sharpen blades every 20 hours. Oil change every 100 hours or less.
I don’t like doing slopes. I puckered up on one today. What kind of machine do you recommend for slopes. Do those stand on surfer type machines work better than a Zero turn. Or maybe a walk behind?
I know I asked about ten different questions here.
I also have a line on a Yazoo-Kees ZKHP52233 with 170 hours I might be able to barter for. What do you think of that mower? I did look at the Walker website and that machine intrigues me. It looks safer on slopes but I don’t know. I’m just trying to gain info and learn.
Hi CLT, Yazoo-Kees is dead (out of business) and they have not sold any new units since 2008ish. I believe Husqvarna bought the brand.
If you have parts manuals you may be able to get engine, drive, transmission parts through other dealers but any other part for the mower itself like frame, deck, etc. will be very hard – if not impossible to find.
Unless you can fabricate your own parts you may quickly end up with a $2500 paperweight.
Hi CLT, This blog is not intended for commercial operators but I’ll give you my experience.
I used zero-turns on slopes less than 15 degrees. I never used a zero-turn on a slope with a drop off or pond at the bottom.
I used 60 inch stand-on’s for slopes steeper than that (15-25 degrees), ditches and other areas that were unsafe for a zero-turn. A 60 inch stander won’t tip over – it just slides down the hill if the grass is slippery or or the slope is to steep. With experience if you get in trouble you just step off the machine and let it do it’s thing. The safeties will turn it off.
For slopes too steep for the stander and slopes with drop offs and ponds at the bottom I had a 36 inch Toro T-Bar walk behind. With the T-Bar steering you could control the mower with one hand. That allowed you to get out of the way if it started sliding or you could walk in a safer area when mowing.
Finally, I had about about 15 acres of steep, river bluff that one business wanted mowed. I owned a $35,000 Kut-Kwik SuperSlopeMaster for that.
I’m really stuck on the decision between the MZ61 with Kawasaki FR and the Ariens Apex with Kohler (those are the deals I’ve found..with Ariens being about $400 more out-the-door).
Are there any significant differences in performance between these two?
I’m a residential user cutting 4 acres using a 72″ finish mower right now. Some areas are rougher than a typical lawn as it was pasture previously, but I can cut at about 4.5 mph with my current setup. For that reason, I’d like something with more suspension (toro myride 60″) – but not sure its worth ~$1000+ more.
Hi BB, There is nothing like the ride of the Toro MyRide. Also, Commercial mowers have suspension seats to take a lot of the jar and bounce out of the ride. Neitheer the Apex or the MZ61 has that type of seat.
The MZ61 has never been noted for a good ride or cut. In addition there is not a whole lot you can do with the seat/seat suspension to make it ride better. It’s also a design that has been around for a long time.
The Ariens has a stronger deck and They have spent a lot of effort to give you the best cut possible. It is considerably heavier than the Husqvarna so that will help it give you a smoother ride.
What about the MZT61? Seems it can be had still $400 less than the timecutter hd myride 60. The MZT has the 3400 hydros, ROPS and 23″ rear tires too.
I also see Ariens has a suspension seat option you can add for around $200.
Just looking of for the best value and that Toro is 5799 with no discounts that I can find.
Hi BB, The MZT and PZ Husqvarna’s are their commercial zero-turns. Both are strong machine and will last a homeowner many, many years. They are outside the scope of this blog and no one is testing them to compare them to other brands. So, I have no clue how they cut.
Hey Paul, Stumbled across your article and really see you know your stuff. I guess I’d also like to pick your brain on good buy on a ZTM with assisted pick up. I was shooting for buying something this winter but I think my 2004 Dixon Speedster ZTR 15.5 Brigs & Stratton 15.5 hp Intek engine just gave up the ghost tonight. The cut width is 42″ and the blower/vacume unit adds another 8″ to the deck width, which is about as wide as I can go without changing door width on my shed. I mow about a 1 acre, relatively flat yard. My issue is leaf mulch and pickup in the fall. I cut down 40 pretty large trees in the last year but still have 15 big ones left. Still lots of leaves when I include those form my neighbors trees. Was never quite happy with the Dixon pick up (blew a lot of leaves out from under deck and clogged easily of leaves were damp). I’d really appreciate your suggestions since I now have to decide what to do (rebuilding the motor probably isn’t on the table since there were other engineering design issues I’m tired of dealing with when doing my own service). I live around Indianapolis so I probably have about any brand available. I’d like to stay around $4000 or less but would go a little higher if that’s what it takes to get a good unit. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
Hi Paul. Thanks for the reviews and good insight. I am thinking about a Simplicity 42″ Zero turn. I cannot seem to find out much in the way information like I can the Toro’s and the Husqvarnas. I have a small 1/3 to 1/2 acre yard and I help my neighbor with their yard from time to time. I will be paying around $3000 for the unit plus tax. Am I trying to get too much mower for my needs? And what might be a better choice, if any?
We are a lawn maintenance company and have about 30 yards that are weekly or bi-weekly. We made the mistake of purchasing a residential Craftsman lawn tractor less than two years ago and we’ve dumped too much money into it which has now become an expensive lawn ornament. We are being led by many sources to the zero turn mowers but are so confused we have no idea what would be best for us. Unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited funds and don’t want to go into debt if we don’t have to. We’ve looked at Cub Cadet L Series, Kubota Z100 Series, John Deere Z535M and Jonsered Z48F and Z42F (this was the least expensive of all but reviews and specs seemed to be pretty decent). We are wanting no less than 42″ and no more than 48″, want mulching kit ability and bagger with blower so we can mow in wet weather when needed. We live in a very remote area so ease of working on it would be a HUGE plus. Our budget is around $6000 but might go up a little if it meant getting a much better machine. Any direction would be greatly appreciated. I did check with another local landscaping company who is a much larger scale than us and he said he prefers Kubota, Toro, Walker and does not particularly like John Deere. We need to purchase one this week so I’m hoping to hear back from you soon.
Thank you 🙂
Hi Amy, I don’t consult for commercial mowing businesses because there is just too much that goes into finding the right equipment for your business, your area and the type of mowing you do. For example, I’d need to know where you are located, what types of lawns are you mowing, and if you are doing your own maintenance. I’d need to know if mulching is something you would like to do or something your clients require. I’d need to know if your clients will let you mow their properties correctly or if they have to “bird dog” what you do. I’d need to know if you know how to mow a lawn correctly and efficiently. Finally, are you making enough on each lawn to pay for your equipment, pay for the maintenance and make enough profit to grow. That said, I’ll give you a few general hints on finding the right machine.
Basically, you get what you pay for.
1. Any mower under 3000 dollars is designed to mow 40-50 hours a year and last maybe 7-10 years. Any mower under $1500 is designed to last half of that. That’s why your Craftsman didn’t last. You were mowing more in one year than the tractor was designed to mow in 10 years. It’s not the tractor’s fault at all. The Jonsered’s which are Husqvarna residential mowers painted red, will last no longer than the Craftsman.
2. Any mower in the $3000 to $6000 range is considered a high end residential. Most of the mowers like the Cub Cadet Z-Force, Kubota Z100 and John Deere Z535 will last a homeowner many, many years, but used as a commercial machine will again only last 2-4 years and will cost you a lot in maintenance and repairs.
3. So you need to decide what you are mowing, what quality of mowing service you offer and then go talk to the larger lawn mower dealers in your area. The actual brands don’t matter that much because there are over 40 different manufactures who make quality commercial mowers. It’s really more about the dealer and what he has to offer for service, parts and getting you repaired as quickly as possible. You have to figure out the correct mower for you and then budget or borrow the money to get it.
4. If you want to go commercial the smallest zero-turn mowers are 48 inches. The only exception is the Walker mowers and you can get a decent 42-44 inch with their machines.
5. Mulching is very limited to the type of grass, the height you are cutting at, if the grass is wet and a lot of factors that make don’t make it worthwhile for most commercial operators. Most commercial decks have an adjustable mulch plate so you can side discharge when the conditions won’t let you mulch. (Which is most of the time) There is nothing worse than leaving a green slime mess on a lawn someone is paying you to mow.
I’ll go through some brands for you to get you headed in the right direction.
John Deere commercial mowers are the 600 and 900 series. They start around $8500 and to bag and mulch you are over $10,000.
Kubota is selling a lot of machines to municipalities, etc. and they have good commercial machines also starting in the $8-10K range.
Toro/ExMark are the most popular commercial mowers. They are made in the same factory but the ExMark dealer tend to cater to the commercial operators like you more. You can get a good starter commercial machine in the $6000 range
Gravely, Wright, Scag, Hustler, Bob Cat are also other brands that make really, really good commercial mowers and they are all priced about the same as the ones I’v mentioned already.
Jonsered and Poulan Pro are residential brands of Husqvarna. Husqvarna is trying very hard to get into the commercial ZTR business with their P series but so far just can’t find their niche.
If you have a good local Walker dealer and you have a legitimate place to dump/deal with grass clippings a Walker is a great choice for the 30-100 lawn business. They are quick, tough as nails and leave the best cut in the industry. With a Walker you buy the mower, For example a Model C and then you change the decks depending on the lawns you are mowing. So, you would have a 42 inch deck for collection, a 48 inch for mulching and maybe a 48-60 inch side discharge for the larger lawns. A Walker mower in the right hands can reduce your trimming to just a few minutes per lawn. A Walker mower is the equipment that can turn your side business into a professional business and give you solid step up on all the competition. Yes, I like Walker mowers a lot.
Wow thank you for all of the information. We’ve been doing this as a business almost 4 years, we have several customers that request bagging so that varies. As far as mowing correctly and efficiently I’m sure there is always room for improvement…any tips on where I can find out more information on if we are doing it the best way possible? Most of our customers just let us do what we need to do and rely on us to do the best job possible. I’m willing to put more $$$ into a machine that is going to last. We live in a VERY remote area and the only local dealers carry John Deere, Kubota, Cub Cadet, the other dealers are 2-3 hours away. With that in mind we’re willing to travel if the machine is that much better.
The models you mentioned above that would last 2-4 years with a lot of repairs are the ones are dealers have been trying to direct us to…mainly the Kubota Z121SKH-48 and the John Deere Z535M. We are trying to make a decision by tomorrow but I’m feeling like we aren’t quite there yet as we need something that will last long term. It makes more sense to put more $$$ up front to get a longer lasting mower. We do have a Walker dealer about 1-1/2 hr away and he was telling us about the Walker S14 which would be the high end of what we could do financially.
We live in Enterprise, OR… I certainly appreciate all the time you’ve spent sending us in the right direction. With that being said and the information I’ve provided are there any other tips you could provide even though we are more commercial than residential?
PS I did speak with a large landscaping company here locally and he prefers Kubota, Walker, Toro but his machines are in the $8000-16,000 range.
Thank you again…hoping to hear back soon
PS Only two of our lawns are good sized, most of the others are on the medium to smallish size if that helps at all (probably about 25 total, half weekly and half every other week).
Hi Amy, I just don’t think a Walker S14 is enough mower for you. Over the next couple of years I suggest looking at a Model C as a second mower.
So, locally it’s really just as much about the dealer as the equipment. You want a dealer that wants this sale and then the next 20 sales from you. If a dealer listens to you and then makes a recommendation based on what you mow first that is a dealer I’d listen too. A dealer that recommends a mower on what you want to spend first (like the Husqvarna’s) I’d be cautious about listening to them because they may just be wanting to make a sale. It’s the dealer who says, “I don’t have anything for you in that price range” and then tells you why is the one I’d probably do business with. That said, I’d probably go with the Kubota. All around it’s somewhat better built and will last you longer. With all of these the critical part is the deck and deck lifts. Banging into stuff will bend, break and wear the deck/hangers out quickly. That will give you uneven cuts and additional expenses that really are not the mower’s fault.
I am looking to get a new mower with in the next week. I currently have a 12year old Toro Z420 that I mow about an acre with. It has worked fairly well mulching but it is under powered in the heavier grass and I want something a little bigger. I have looking at the Husqvarna Z-248 with the Vangaurd Commerical engine and the Toro SS5000 with the commercial engine. Which one would you recommend or should I look at another model> My budget is around $3000 and I will be mulching all the time, so I need a clean cut. Thanks
Hi Phil, The Husqvarna typically comes with the Briggs endurance engine. That is a residential model. Is the Z-248 you are looking at an older model? Anyway, The Toro cuts a lot better than the Husqvarna. The deck is stronger and the the frame is stronger. The Toro will also cut a mile or two faster and still do a good job. Oh, The Husqvarna does not mulch well.
Hi Paul. Based on your info I planned to buy the Ariens XL. Problem is that Home Depot is out of stock. My local dealer is as well. Is there a shortage?
Should I wait or simply change to the Toro Timecutter HD? MyRide doesn’t seem all that critical, given that we’ve been bouncing around on an old Ariens EZR 1440…
Hi Paul, Yes, Ariens/Gravely is having a very good year.
In reality, I like both the Toro HD and Ariens a lot. The new Toro HD has a lot going for it and they really focused on the homeowner this time. Heavy duty design and little optional features that make it a really nice mower like Jack stand for lifting the front, bucket carrier and trimmer carrier.
Great job with your sites and reviews. Extremely helpful. I’m trying to decide between Hustler Raptor SD/SDX and Husqvarna MS54s or it’s twin P54ZXT. I can’t find many reviews on any of these and was wondering if you had any thoughts on them or first hand experiences. Pros/cons/observations. Any thoughts on the Kawasaki vs Briggs Commercial Turf engine? I see plenty of info on the Kawasaki, but limited reviews on the Briggs.
I’m a homeowner with around an acre to mow. Looking to future proof this purchase a little. Slight incline in 1 part of the yard but nothing major. A few trees, a pool, a shed.
@DJ, I’m going to guess that you mean the Husqvarna MZ54s and the Poulan Pro P54ZXT.
Over the last 10 years I’ve recommended the Husqvarna/Poulan Pro to a lot of people and they have been a good unit but they are sorely outdated compared to the 2017 Huslter/Big Dog, Toro/ExMark and Ariens/Gravely residential ZTR’s. The Husqvarna/Poulan Pro has the better ZT3100 transmissions but the rest of the machine is sorely outdated.
The biggest problem is the deck. That deck was originally designed for a lawn tractors almost 20 years ago and it only mows well at 4 MPH. It will not mow well at the 5-7 mph you expect a ZTR to mow at. Secondly, it was never designed to mulch so with a mulching plug it gets a lot of blow-by from the right front. Under certain conditions you will get more grass clippings on you than back into the lawn.
The only real advantage the Husqvarna/Poulan Pro’s has anymore is it is lightweight and has large tire for tit’s weight. If you have very light sandy soil or many areas that stay wet it won’t sink in and leave ruts like the more heavy duty units.
The Husqvarna/Poulan Pro’s I looked at had the Briggs Endurance Pro – not a Briggs Commercial engine. The Briggs Endurance Pro is a residential engine just like the Kawasaki FR and Kohler 7000. They are equal with the Kohler being the latest design.
A Briggs Commercial engine will cost you four to five hundred dollars more than the mowers you are considering.
Excellent site with tons of great info. I’ve got a 3 acre yard, mostly smooth-ish with a few rougher areas, but nothing horrible. After doing some research, I was considering purchasing a Toro TimeCutter HD with the 48″ deck. When I went to the shop to look at them, the owner had a Toro Titan ZX6000 for $5500, just a few hundred more than the TimeCutter HD 48″. I can’t find much info on them, but the specs look fairly similar to the TimeCutter HD, other than the 60″ deck. Any advice on whether this particular mower is a good buy, specifically how the 25HP Kohler Confidant compares to the Toro engine that you seem to be a fan of on the Time Cutter HD. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
HI Kerry, The Titan is last year’s model. It’s a good mower but Toro never pushed it for residential use. The 60 inch Titan retails for $5999, the 2017 54 inch HD retails for $5399 and the 2017 48 inch MyRide TimeCutter for $5599. The 2017’s have a better ride and cut.
The Kohler Confidant is a commercial engine so it will last thousands of hours. The Toro engine is just as good. I know, I’m not helping because the choice is so narrow that there is no clear winner. If you want the latest get the Timecutter HD, If you want the best ride get the MyRide. If you want the big deck and a commercial engine get the Titan. You won’t go wrong either way.
I have 2 options at local dealers that both seem to be very reputable and responsive. The one has a cub cadet 48″ zforce L with kohler engine. The other has a gravely XL 42″ with kawasaki engine for about $300 more than the cub cadet. The gravely felt like it had a more comfortable seat (I only drove it on asphalt). Neither dealer really had a preference on motor but the kawa dealer stated it was noticeably quieter and he sold more so only stocked kawasaki motors. What are your thoughts on a 1.5 acre fairly open area. Any major difference. I felt like the gravely was more comfortable but not sure $300 is worth it (although I suspect the major price difference is for the motor which I know little about). Thanks
HI Brad, The Kaw dealer has not spent a lot of time with the Kohler 7000 engine. He is basing his experience on the older Kohler Courage engines.
The Gravely is hard to beat. If you mowed for 10 hours with both of them know you’d pick the Gravely.
So, are you saying the kawasaki and kohler are essentially similar in your book?
Hi Brad, Yes, in fact the Kohler 7000 series is proving itself to be a better engine than the Kawasaki. Kawasaki has gained a good reputation over the last 10 years with their commercial engines – the FJ and FS series. Dealers use that to tell you that the residential FR version is worth more money.
First off, the best site ever…..learning a ton.
We own 7 acres. 4 that are mowed with John Deere 3520 compact with 72″ mid mount.
Trees, house, borders, flower gardens, longer hill maybe 10-15degrees for about 150 ft by 100ft none of it being perfectly smooth, but some rather long runs as well.
Mowing now with 46″ Cub lawn tractor, ready to spend some money on a ZTR that will last.
Hear is what I’m leaning to:
Ariens Ikon X or XL or Apex
Or John Deere 500 series
From what I’ve read it looks like of this only the ariens XL or Apex have fully serviceable trans axles? As I want this machine to last and handle what we have. Longevity is important as I really don’t want to purchase again for a LONG time.
Could I please ask for your advice with this.
Today checked out the Toro HD with my ride 60″
I think I’m sold on this unit
Any thoughts from what I have told you so far
Hi Harold, You should have led with that one! It’s comparable to the APEX in every way and the ride is unbelievably smooth! It’s my number one pick for a residential ZTR this year. It mows well, rides fantastic and will last for years and years.
Thank you Paul for the advice. One more question, between the Apex/Gravely and Toro……would you say that the frame and front axle area are of equal quality and strength seeing the Toro appears to be bolted and the others welded?
@Harold, The is little or no difference between the two. When you get into this price range the frames will hold up to any beating your residential lawn with put it though – for years and years.
The Kohler 7000 and Toro engines are the best in the industry right now. The Kawasaki is an older design and I would not pay extra for a Kawasaki FR engine.
– The Ariens Ikon X has the homeowner EZT tranmissions so I don’t recommend it for you.
– The Ariens XL uses Hydro Gear ZT-2800 drives and the Deere uses Tuff Torq TZ17 drives. They are designed for the same high end residential application and torque. They would be adequate for your lawn and hold up well
– The Ariens Apex use the ZT-3100 drives and are Hydro Gears entry level commercial drives. It’s really a solid step up from the other three and worth the extra money. If you want the strongest and longest lasting of the 4 it’s the way to go. If your local Ariens dealer does not have one he may also have the equivalent Gravely ZT HD.
Todays drives may be serviceable but all of these are now using synthetic oil so you may never have to service one. In addition these all use individual oil reservoirs so you never have to worry about cross contamination if one goes bad. It’s still generally more cost effective to replace one that goes bad than to rebuild it.
I read too much. Now I am just confused and so bewildered I just want to go click “buy now” and be done with it so I can get out there and mow. I swear I can hear my grass mowing out the window as I research ZTM’s to death. Please help:
I have an acre and half of land. Two level yards, and a slight rolling field with an elevation gain of 8 feet overall. I only mulch when I mow. I have narrowed my search down to these machines. Which one should I buy?
Husqvarna z 248
I was going to buy the 54″ deck but your articles convinced me to buy a bit smaller for a better cut. Thank you. I have also decided not to buy online and will order from Lowe’s so I have a local dealer to work with should I run into problems. Thanks again for the wealth of information you provide and I look forward to your reply. Scott
Hi Scott, The Husqvarna z246 mulches the better than the 3-blade 48 inch. The Husqvarna z246 doesn’t have the push button ignition that everyone hates on the 246i. If you buy from Lowes you get a standard Briggs 20 HP. YOur local dealer will carry the better 23 HP Briggs Endurance or the 21.5 HP Kawasaski. You can also get the Kawasaki version here. Husqvarna Z246 21.5HP 726cc Kawasaki Engine 46 Z-Turn Mower #967324001
The 20 HP will handle most lawns ok. The 23 HP and the Kawasaki will handle thick grass and southern grasses better.
Thanks for the prompt reply Paul. Since my last post I have increased my budget and am now 48 hours away from purchasing my new mower. I have decided to spend even a bit more and order through my local feed store to buy local and have personal service as they are a cub cadet dealer. I have chosen the Cub Cadet Z Force SX 48KW (steering wheel and Kawasaki engine) for $4,500. Any last minute Thoughts? And thanks again for your interest and support on the plethora of mowers out there. And I thought shopping for car models was tough!
@Scott, The Kohler 7000 series engine is proving just as reliable as the Kawasaki so don’t pay extra just to get the Kaw.
Hi Paul– I’m trying to decide between Ariens Ikon XL (52″) and John Deere Z525E (54″) for my 2 acre lawn with mostly a slight grade but with a small area of 10 degree grade. Ariens seems like top of the line in the price range but I like the removable foot rest on the Deere for maintenance and I know of a snow plow option available for it but am unsure for the Ariens. Any significant difference in transmissions? What would be your preference? You have a really great site and are providing a valuable community service.
Joe in VT
First off, I’m thoroughly impressed with your site! This is amazing info, and I greatly appreciate all of it.
I’m in the market for a zero turn. I’ve spent the last 3 years mowing my 5-ish acre lawn with a 10+ year old Craftsman LT1200, and it finally gave out. We have a few trees, a small barn, a shed and a few gardens surrounded by rocks. There’s a lot of open straightaways, and a slight grade in the back (<10% grade, about 1/2 the yard). It used to take me about 2 – 2 1/2hrs to mow w/ the LT1200, and I mow weekly throughout the spring/summer/fall.
Lately I've been eyeing the Ariens Ikon X 52 w/ Kawi engine. I contacted my local dealer (who I trust), and they have one in stock, so I'm going to go check it out in the next couple of days. Seems like a great ZTR, although I'm a little concerned about the small tires rutting up the yard. I have also spent a little time w/ the Husqvaran Z254 w/ Kawi, which was decent although it felt a little slow, and a Cub Cadet RTZ-S 50 KW w/ Kohler, which I surprisingly liked the steering wheel, but thought the rest felt kinda cheap.
Anyway, my big question is do you think that the Ikon X 52 will be enough for my lawn? I would love to upgrade to the XL or even the Apex, but I'm trying to stay within the $3000 – $3500 range. However, I'm willing to spend more if you think the Ikon X isn't going to be enough for what I have to mow. The last thing I need is not spending another $1000 or so and running it into the ground sooner than I should.
Thoughts? Should I be considering another mower entirely? Thanks again!
Joe in VT
Thanks for the great response. Over the past week there’s been a few developments, and I’m curious what you think. I test drove the Ariens Ikon X 52, and didn’t really care for it. Overall it was fine, but the ride was a little rough, and I wanted something a little more than the EZT transmissions.
Therefore, I started looking for an Ariens XL 52, which my local dealer says he just can’t get. However, another dealer about 50 miles away from me has a Gravely XL 52 in stock for about $4k, which as I understand is almost the same machine as the Ariens XL. I think the upgraded tires and ZT-2800 transmission is just what I need.
Finally, my local dealer said that he does have one more option: he has a Gravely ZT HD (still crated) that he received in the fall of 2015, meaning that it’s a 2016 season machine. It has an even bigger ZT-3100 transmission, bigger tires and Kawi engine. I’m slightly concerned though, because this article makes it seem like there were quite a few improvements for the current year’s model which the one he has wouldn’t have (https://www.gravely.com/en-us/about/blog/article/10-26-2016/gravely-introduces-redesigned-zt-hd-zero-turn-mower?blogid=165). Anyway, he said that he would give that to me for about $4300.
Is the 2015/2016 Gravely ZT HD 52 worth it for about $300 more, or should I just keep with the current year Gravely XL 52?
Hi Joe in VT, My Ariens/Gravely contact is on vacation so I can’t get the answer from them this week. Buy, I think the ZT HD is the same mower as the 2017 model. I saw the prototypes in 2015 for the 2016 year and they are the same as the current models listed on the Gravely site. The only difference may be a different engine (EPA stuff)
The quick way to tell is ask the dealer to show you a few random part numbers from the one in the crate to the 2017 model – say the deck shell or frame. If the parts are the same it’s the same mower. If it is only $300 more is a great deal.
By the way ride of a ZTR is affected by two main factors. Weight and seat suspension. The larger ZTRs ride better because they are heavier so you don’t get as much bouncing over rough lawns. The more expensive ZTR’s have a better suspension under the seat. Usually starting in the $4000 range, depending on the brand, you start to get 2-3 inches of seat suspension travel and that make a huge difference in the ride. The ZT HD may also have an optional suspension seat if you are going to use it more than 4 hours a day.
Joe in VT
Hey Paul, Sounds great! I’ll definitely make sure to check out the part numbers, per your recommendation. However, if it turns out the mower isn’t the same (ie it’s ‘last generation’), do you think it’s still a good deal, or should I stick with the newer XL?
Hi Joe, I’m Sorry, I actually don’t know the answer. Before the fall of 2015 when they introduced the new models I completely ignored Gravely because they had nothing good that I was aware of for the homeowner.
In this case I’s have the dear show you what’s the same – not just take his word and go from there.
Joe in VT
So I finally broke down and bought the 2017 Gravely XL 52″ w/ the Kawi engine. The HD my dealer had was definitely a much older model, so I decided not to go with that.
However, the XL works great! I can see where I would have benefited to upgrading for the HD, but I was already over my initial budget, and needed to stop sometime. 🙂 I mowed once this weekend, and it took me about 1.5hrs, which is .5hrs – 1hrs less than it took with the old mower. Also, I’m hoping to get that time down even more, as it was kinda wet, so having to avoid certain spots slowed me down, and I’m I haven’t figured out the best mowing pattern just yet.
Thanks again Paul!
@Joe, You are very welcome!
Thanks for the great site with lots of info.
Looking to get my first ZTR with a mulching kit. Right now, it will be used on a regular lawn with less than 1/2 acre of grass, but I want a machine that will work well for a larger 1-3 acre property in the future.
I’ve narrowed down to the Craftsman Pro 48″ (model 27050) or the Gravely ZT-XL-42 (915202).
Specs/features and price seem to favor the Craftsman (larger front wheels, deck wash included, larger fuel tank, larger deck 48 vs 42, 8mph vs 7mph forward, Smartlawn Bluetooth, $250-$475 less depending on if I step up to the Gravely 915206 with the Kawa engine).
However, you have the Ariens Ikon XL/Gravely XL higher on the list than the Craftsman. In what ways is the Gravely XL-42 a better machine than the Craftsman Pro?
Hi Jay, A 48 inch may be the better size for you. If you are planning on 2 acres or more a 42 inch will take much longer to mow with than a 48-52. So you want to compare a 48 Craftsman Pro to the Ariens Ikon XL 52.
I do like the Craftsman Pro and would have no issues owning one for 1-3 acres. It will last many years. That said, The Ariens/Gravely is an overall heavier built machine. It also has a bunch of little features that sets it slightly above the Craftsman.
– 52 in. 10-Gauge steel fabricated deck. Craftsman is 11 gauge
– Dial operated cutting height selector eliminates pins and levers to set your exact cutting height, foot operated deck lift with 13 cutting height positions in increments ranging from 1.5 in. to 4.5 in. Craftsman is lever operated and max height is 4 inches.
– Plush high back seat with standard padded armrests offers maximum comfort. No armrest on the Craftsman Pro
– Rubber floor mat provides additional comfort and isolates vibration while mowing
– Fully welded tubular steel frame with 3 in. x 1.5 in. frame rails welded, not bolted at every joint for extra strength and stability
– Commercial-style dual arm deck lift with a 4 point hanging system for superior deck stability and an even cut. It’s a little stronger than the Craftsman Pro
– Standard receiver hitch mount for bagger attachment and tow-behind accessories. This is a new way to mount stuff to the ZTR. I like it a lot!
– Most shipping areas, Ariens offers white glove delivery service, zero-turn mower will be shipped to your local Ariens authorized servicing dealer for set-up and inspection prior to home delivery, inspection includes operator’s manual confirmation, set tire pressure, check fluid levels, test start unit and file warranty registration information. Disclaimer: if an Ariens authorized dealer is not in your shipping area, the product will ship mostly assembled directly to you via regular truck delivery, simple set-up instructions will be included with unit, to confirm white glove delivery availability in your area, call 888-927-4367 option #2 then option #6.
The Craftsman is taken out of the crate, assembled and delivered but not tested.
So there is no major differences but just a bunch of small things that allowed me to list it higher in my article.
I recently bought a house on 5 acres, and need a mower sooner rather than later. There are quite a few immature trees our here, but it is otherwise quite flat. I was thinking something with a 54″ deck might be more appropriate than a 60″ even for the larger size here, and have been thinking about something along the lines of the Toro Timecutter HD (75202) or John Deere Z535M. The local Deere dealer also has a used 2010 Z925A with 440 hours on it for about the same price as the other two.
For that sized acreage, would the move up to a used commercial unit make sense, or would the Toro or smaller John Deere be enough to get through the job in a reasonable time?
Hi Dave, Compared to the Toro or Z925 the The Z535 will be a rougher ride and slower.
I really don’t recommend a high priced used commercial mower. They can easily cost you $2000-$5000 for a repair. That one is 7 years old and although the hour meter shows 450 hours you really don’t know it’s history.
The Toro has a longer warranty https://www.toro.com/en/titan-hd
Thanks Paul. I took a look at the used one, but will most likely follow your advice there.
The Deere dealer has both the Z535M and Z540M in stock, and from his perspective the Kawa engine is a good value upgrade over the Briggs. I see you’ve recommended the Z535M, do you not feel the engine upgrade justifies the difference in price between the two models?
I also stopped at the Toro dealer today, to my surprise they only stock Toro’s push mowers and not their zero turns. They can order them in though. I drove a Gravely ZT HD 60 there and it was quite a nice machine, though getting a 54″ deck on that would be a few weeks out. The Apex (which I was told is essentially an orange version of the same machine) that you recommend would only be a week delay, as would one of the Toros. He’s going to get me some quotes on those mowers.
Going from a John Deere X500 to a zero turn. I currently cut about two acres twice a week. I’m in Tennessee so there are some “hills”. I did a little calculation this morning and it seems they are mostly in the 10 degree range but do get to 13 degrees for short periods.
After much research of YouTube, Google and dealers, I have narrowed the choices down to the Gravely ZT 60 HD and the Exmark Radius X-Series 60. I am leaning toward the Exmark because of the ZT3400 transmission, ROPS and seat suspension. I do pull a lawn spreader and spray tank.
Do you have any thoughts on these machines or can you offer alternatives. Any advice would be helpful.
Hi Jim, Tough choice. They are so close for two acres that it really boils down to which dealer do you like the best or trust the most to give you great service and information over the next 20 years.
That said, if everything else is equal I do like the lift kit on the ExMark for working under the deck 🙂
Thanks Paul. I do like the ExMark and the dealer.
Any idea where to find the price I should be asking for my 2013 John Deere X500 with 54″ cut and 250.4 hours on it? It’s always been stored indoors with a tarp over it and had scheduled maintenance. Thanks again, JimE
Hi Jim, Start with looking at the listing at TractorData.com. TractorData shows all the features and options that were available for your tractor. That way when you go to list your tractor you will have all the correct info for your listing.
Then there are a bunch of sites to figure out a price. You can look at different hours, different locations and get an idea of what you should sell it for.
Just Google “2013 John Deere X500 for sale” and sites like fastlane, Tractorhouse, IronSearch, machinerypete will pop up.
Craigslist is another site but be careful with it. Prices are all over the map and there are a lot of spammers trying to steal your tractor from you. NEVER take a check and don’t be afraid to go to a bank with the cash and have it checked for counterfeit before they take your mower. Don’t be afraid to ask the buyer to a ride to the bank with you. If they get insulted and try to bully you that is a red flag there is something not right…..
Thanks again Paul. That is some very helpful info. JimE
Paul, I have a half acre fairly level lawn with some trees. I have narrowed my selection down to a zero turn Toro 42″ model 4225 and Simplicity 42″ model ZT2800. The Toro is priced a little lower but what do you think is the better mower?
On the Toro time cutter HD MY Ride is that foot platform plastic or Metal?
Hi Shogan, Metal.
Bought the toro tc hd my ride just this week. 3 hours and a pleasure to mow! Don’t ever want to get on my old mower again! I was able to cut easily recently disturb ground that I did not like going over in a big tractor. I think this is the best ztr in this class and price if comfort matters.
hey there Shogan, i’m considering making the swap from a tractor to a ztr in particular, the toro time cutter my ride, either 48or 54” wondering if after mowing for a season you are still pleased with yours or have any subsequent comments on it? Rick Mc
Thank you for your insight.
I have a 4 acre lawn, slight grade, some trees. I’m looking to replace my old mower. I’m considering the Ariens Apex 60 in. 24 HP Kawasaki FR730 V Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower
and the Toro TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE 60 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Speed.
If you had to go with one of them, which would you choose? What’s your deciding factor(s)?
Also, I’m having a tough time finding the Apex available for purchase – currently unavailable at Home Depot, much more costly at a local shop and online it’s sold out on most sides I’ve checked. Any idea why I’m not able to readily find it available?
Hi Michelle, I’m not sure why Ariens is having problems getting the ZTRs ready for Home Depot to sell. It’s a logistics problem, not a problem with the mower. Because of that I’ve dropped it farther down the list of recommended mowers.
If you want the Apex there is a solution. Ariens is the homeowner side of Ariens – Gravely is the commercial side. There are a lot more Gravely dealers and I know they all carry the Gravely ZT HD. It’s the same mower – just painted red. You may also find your local Gravely dealer willing to match the Home Depot price.
I don’t discuss Gravely on this blog because they only sell through dealers.
Here is the Sales page https://www.gravely.com/en-us/zero-turn-mowers/gravely-zt-hd#features. You may use the dealer locator on the Gravely site to find your local dealer.
Thank you! Great feedback. I was able to find a reasonable Gravely dealer. One tried to sell me last year’s model (991110) at the same price as this years. But I did find one that had a 991166 with Kawasaki engine in stock at the same price as the Ariens I was looking at. Do you have any feedback on last year’s model 991110 vs this year’s 991166? The dealer believed the only difference is the newer model looked sleeker and had larger tires. Only a $100 price difference between the two!
HI Michelle, No offense to the dealer, of course I would like to get rid of my old stock first. But I’d spend the $100. Ariens has spent a lot of effort into making the 2017 the best mower available. It’s heavier duty and will last you a long, long time.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am looking at a ZTM and would like a side by side comparison of a Kubota Kommander PRO, Bad BoyZT Elite and Simplicity Cobalt.
I mow anywhere from 2 to 4 acres; mowing around pines trees on a monthly basis (4 acres), otherwise just flat mowing (approximately 2 acres) once a week during the growing season, a little less in the summer heat.
Had been thinking Bad Boy all along, but have seen some questonable reviews. Have used a Simplicity riding lawn mower, same one, for 25 years.
Thanks in advance for your advice. Sincerely, Janis
Hi Janis, I’m sorry, but I really don’t do side-by-side comparisons of dealer only equipment. I only have so much time and the internet available equipment keeps me way too busy as it is.
Total Landscape Care does some comparisons and Mother Eaarth News has an article that includes those models from a year ago.
Toro or Bad Boy?
4 acres to mow:
Bad Boy ZT elite 54″ Kohler Pro 7000
Bad Boy Maverick 54 747 Kohler Confidant
Toro TimeCutter HD 75212 54″
Toro Titan HD 74451 52″
Money not the main concern: best mow, good stripping, dependability, ride
I own 2 acres of lawn to cut, most is at about a 5 decree slope, and other parts hitting about 15 degrees. It is pretty wide open with some really thick, fast growing grass.
I currently own a Exmark LazerZ 60″. I had to replace the Kohler engine (Command Pro 25 – 24-522-318) on it last year. The hydraulics are questionable and I don’t want to deal with that as it will cost $2k just for motors and pumps. The 60″ deck is also a bit too large for my shed.
My mower mechanic suggested the Husky MZ-52 with a Kaw engine, as he thinks Kohlers are not as good.
Your lists suggests the Toro Timecutter Pro with a 54″ deck, which is in the same price range.
It sounds like you recommend the Toro over the Husky, correct? I am a fan of the 2″ bigger deck. You think the Toro engine is as good as the Kaw or Kohler? Honestly, I’ve always viewed Toro as a cheaper brand, along with the others. You having it ranked above the Husky makes me pause on the Husky….
Hi Scott, Yes, repairing a commercial ZTR gets really expensive fast. That’s why I never suggest someone buy a used machine.
I have to assume you mean Husqvarna MZ-52. Husky is a brand name owned by Tractor Supply.
A couple of things you need to know about the MZ-52. 1. The Kawasaki engine in it is the residential, FR grade. The engine your mechanic likes is the commercial, FS version. The new and improved Kohler for this quality level of mower is the Kohler Confidant. 2. The frame on the Toro is much stronger than the MZ. You have to get to the Husqvarna M-ZT 52 with the FS series Kaw to get the same quality. (About $5900)
The Timecutter Pro has a better ride, a better cutting deck and a deck that is a lot tougher. It will take a beating like your old ExMark. Finally, Toro designed their own engine and it is the best you can get right now in this price range of ZTR’s. Your mechanic may not have a lot of experience with this new engine but you’ll be glad you bought it over the Kaw.
Of the top 25 mower brands commercial owners rate ExMark #1, Toro #3 and Husqvarna #13. Toro has been around a long, long time and are the number one large area mower brand in the world. That quality and dedication filters all the way down to the commercial and residential mowers. Husqvarna is relatively very new to ZTR’s and they are still trying to make their mark. Husqvarna’s best mowers are not even sold in the U.S. (Husqvarna 500 series front rotary mowers)
Great info, thanks! I really appreciate your time!
I think I’ll go with the Toro!
You think the MyRide is worth the extra $500?
Also, I don’t typically purchase protection plans, but the Home Depot extended 3 year warranty sounds pretty good. Do you have an opinion on that plan?
Hi Scott, The MyRide is worth it if you want the smoothest ride. If you have driven ZTR’s before and you don’t really have an issue with the ride the HD does have a decent suspension seat – but it’s nothing like the myRide.
If you are mechanically inclined at all I don’t really recommend them. ON that Toro in particular I don’t expect anything to go wrong with it for many years. Sharpen the blades, change the oil/filters as suggested and it should run for a long, long time.
Paul we are looking at buying a ZTM to mow less than an acre basically flat yard. We live in the middle of 20 acres of woods so need a good bagging system . We were comparing a Toro verses a Ferris. Looking at a Titan HD 22 HP Kaw 52. Can you give me your opinion of these two brands.Thx u Diana
Hi Diana, The Toro Titan will give you fewer problems over the years. They have a better bagging system and the deck is made with a harder metal than the competitor’s.
Just so you know. You don’t need to spend the extra money on the Kaw motor. The Toro engine is a good motor and will last for you.
Hi Paul, I have two acres of lawn, mostly flat, with MANY trees (both maples and blue spruce types). I currently have a Scotts 25 hp 48″ cut. It is slow, and in my opinion, doesn’t cut nicely or evenly. Anyway, it is now almost 13 years old and I’ve gotten my money out of it, but it is now dead. It takes me about an hour and a half to mow my lawn with the rider above. I want a faster, more even cut lawn. I am also pressed for time to mow, so speed is important. I only have a few places in the area that sell different brands. I went to the local mower dealer who has been servicing my Scotts and found the Simplicity Zero turns. I really liked the 44″ Courier at $3400. Then I checked another place and they had Zero turns from Hustler, Airens, and Gravely. The only one I’ve ever heard of is Airens but I never thought of those in a high end mower (just what I thought going into this). It seems the more I look, the more I get confused as to what one I should purchase. Any advice or suggestions you can give me, I would certainly appreciate it! -Mike
Hi Michael, I agree – 10 years ago Ariens residential was just another brand. They focused on snow machines. But over the last 5 years they have dedicated to designing and selling some of the best residential ZTRs around. The Ikon, Ikon XL and Apex are at the top of the list for their price range. Ariens is the residential side – Gravely is the commercial brand of Ariens. Just so you know the Ariens Residential and Gravely machines are the same except for a different engine and paint color.
The same quality Ariens or Gravely costs about $300 less than the equivalent Simplicity. The Hustler Raptor is about the same. It costs a little less than a comparable Simplicity.
I have no problems with the Simplicity Courier. It’s a basic ZTR with a good deck and the standard engine and transmissions. It does have a lot more moving parts than the other machines and we’ll have to see how the suspension holds up over the years. Ferris originally designed that suspension and Briggs bought them a few years ago to get the technology.
Now, I do suggest that you go up to a 48-52 inch deck. The wider deck will allow you to mow around the Maple trees in one pass and you can get under the spruce easier without getting knocked off the mower. The cost will be a few hundred more but worth it over the years.
But, the most important thing is the dealer. If you like the dealer you have been working with – stick with them. There is not enough difference in these machines for you to go to a dealer you just don’t trust as well.
Hi Paul,WoW!! You really know your stuff. After 27 years of using a walk behind push mower,
Im ready to ride the meadows…I just purchased a Jonsered 42″…20HP…sit down mower. I have not heard to much about this brand. How good is this mower?? I heard they are made by Husqvarna would you know if this true? I have just under a 1/2 acre of grass to cut each week.
How good is Jonsered? Thank Paul……………..Rich
Hi Richard, I hope you got a great deal. Jonsered is one of the oldest names in Forestry, Lawn & Garden. It’s now owned by Husqvarna. Yes, It’s basically the same mower as a Poulan Pro and Husqvarna YT.
Hi Paul, Thanks for the detailed review and analysis. I’ll be purchasing from Home DePot so the reviewed options are perfect. Currently cannot decide between the TimeCutter MX4200 or Ariens IKON 42″. Somewhat concerned with the single cylinder on the Toro compared to the V-twin on the Ariens. I mow a flat 1 acre property with limited obstacles. I will use unit to drag aerator and spreader over property. Let me know your thoughts or if there are any other units that would be better suited. Thanks – Kurt
Yes paul my name is Brad. I am looking at mowing 2.5 acres and im trying to find a reliable zero turn without breaking the bank. I have been reviewing several different brands which you mention above. I was wondering if you have heard anything about the Spartan. Alot of people say they are awesome. I would like to see your comments. Thanks
Hi Brad, I wrote an introductory article on the Spartan here: Spartan Zero Turn Mowers – Good or Bad?.
With 2.5 acres there are heavy-duty mowers that cost less than the Spartan that will work well and last just as long. The Ariens Apex and Toro MyRide are two of my favorites. I have a list of the models I like here: 8 Best $4000-$6000 Heavy-Duty Zero Turn Mowers For Homeowners
A lot of good info on this site. However, I am looking at the Hustler Raptor flip-up. It is really exciting to see a mover use hydraulics to rotate its deck to a 90 degree upright position for cleaning and maintenance. This is about a $1200 add on as compared to the price of a Raptor SD. (54 inch). A mower lift and a cheap electric pressure washer will provide a similar cleaning solution for about $250. Still, I would pay the extra if I thought the lift system would hold up for the life of the mower. Hustler offers a 4 year 400 hour warranty. What are your thoughts on the Hustler mower and the flip-up system?
Hi Charlie, I have no problems with the Raptor as long as you as mowing relatively flat lawns. 54 inch deck and EZT transmissions have a habit of wearing out quickly on slopes.
$1200 is an awful price for a flip up deck. For example, the Country Clipper mowers include the flip up deck in all their machines. The BOULEVARD is $500 less, has stornger transmissions and is arguably a better mower. If you don’t know Country Clipper they have been around as long as Hustler and focus on the homeowner. You will really like the personalized service.
If you really don’t need the flip-up deck there are a lot of really heavy duty mowers in the $5000 price range: 8 Best $4000-$6000 Heavy-Duty Zero Turn Mowers For Homeowners
Thanks for the great article and reviews. I am wondering about Big Dog mowers.
HI Mike, Big Dog is a Hustler painted red. Many, many, many of the manufacturer’s own more than one name for their products. That way they can have more than one dealer in an area and the dealers don’t compete with each other. In most cases the products are exact duplicates – just painted a different color. Here are few examples.
Cub Cadet/Columbia/Troy-Bilt/Yard Machines. Troy-Bilt and Yard Machines do have different features than the Cub Cadet but use the same chassis.
There are also a few manufactures who build equipment for other brands but I won’t go into them here. You can see the full list of brands here: 2017 Who Makes What? – All Zero-Turn, Lawn And Garden Tractor Manufacturers.
Paul, thanks again for the helpful information.
I love your columns & reviews, thanks for all your knowledge! We just moved to an older house that probably has between 3 & r acres of grass, fairly flat, a couple “gentle” slopes. I have a feeling my old ’93 Toro Wheelhorse tractor will take too long to cut it, so am in the process of picking a Zero-Turn. Have been looking at Cubs, Huskies, Kubotas…..but was impressed bu the Toro Timecutters at our local dealer. I see from your reviews that you believe they are good machines, I’m just trying to make a decision which model…..I started out thinking I’d get the SS5000, but then thought I would upgrade to the MX5050, seemed more rugged, and nicer features. After reading your reviews, I’m considering bumping up to the HD with 54″ deck (not sure if I need the MyRIDE suspension). I know this is a judgement call, but if the cost isn’t an issue, would you say that the HD is that much better than the MX5050?
Thanks in advance!!
I forgot, what do you make of the new “Toro Brand” engines that are on these machines? Will they be as reliable as Kawasaki or Kohler?
Gary, Toro designed their own engines because they wanted more reliability than they were getting out of the Kawasaki FR, residential and the Kohler Courage Residential engines. That was 3 years ago.
Today I’ll rate the Toro and the new Kohler 7000 series as the most reliable. The Kaw has not been updated.
The Toro is turning out well enough that they are putting it on some commercial models.
Hi Gary, The easy way I explain it to myself is: The SS series is the 1/2 ton pickup. It does a good job with light loads and looking good. The MX series is the 3/4 ton. It hauls more stuff and will last longer. The HD series is the 1 ton. It will do anything you want as a homeowner and last a long, long time.
Thank you for the feedback and info.
Torn between the Deere 525 and the ariens ikon xl. Same price roughly but which would you suggest? Couple acres with slight hills is what I have.
Hi Brian, I have an article that lists the features of each here: 8 Best $4000-$6000 Heavy-Duty Zero Turn Mowers For Homeowners .
It’s really a tough call. I like the fabricated deck and the height adjustment on the Ariens. I also like the look of the Ariens. If you want to bag all year long the Ariens has an optional powered blower so it will throw green grass into the bagger really well.
The John Deere is lighter by almost 100 lbs. If you have a really soft, sandy lwn or areas that stay wet a long time that can be an advantage.
Deere’s are always known for great cutting decks but I know Ariens spent a lot of time engineering the deck on the XL so that it cuts really well.
If you buying through the Home Depot links on the review page above they both have the white glove delivery. If you are buying from a dealer I’d buy from the dealer I trust the best.
After looking at my front yard I’m estimating my hill is a 10 degree grade. What would be a good ztr to tackle this job. I’ve looked at the bad boy zt elit le 60 inch 747 Kohler engine but hat would be your recommendation for a slightly hilly yard.
Hi Stephen, going back to your original comment I see you only have an acre to mow. A 42-48 inch is plenty and will get it mowed in 30-45 minutes. But there are very few of the smaller ZTR’s that will handle hills well. That said, the Bad Boy you mentioned will get you the “biggest baddest ZTR on the block award.” You would never wear it out on your lawn.
I have an article that shows off some other heavy-duty ZTR’s you may like. 8 Best $4000-$6000 Heavy-Duty Zero Turn Mowers For Homeowners
I live on a hill probably 35 to 45 degree angle of my front yard. What would be the best ztr to tackle this job. I’ve looked at the bad boy zt elite 60. What would be your recommendation.
Hi Stephen, The steepest slope any of these mowers can mow is 15 degrees. If you get over that amount there is a lot of “pucker factor” involved with trying to keep the ZTR on the hill. Please check your slope. Most people can’t walk up a 30 degree slope.
Hi Mark. I need to stay under $3k for my mower and was curious of your opinion on 2 models in particular.
Toro Time cutter MX-4200-74766
Craftsman Item # 07127773000P Model # 27773
Hi Jamil, I really can’t state which one is best for you without knowing a little about what you plan to do with them. They are both good for flat lawns. 42 inches works well for one acre lawns. If you want the best possible cut the Toro is most likely the better. If you have a sandy lawn and want a nice lightweight machine the Craftsman is better. If you plan on pulling stuff like a cart and other attachments the Toro has the three speed switch so you don’t ruin your transmissions. The Toro deck is just as strong as the fab deck on the Craftsman. Sears Repair comes to your house to repair the mower. You have to haul your Toro someplace to get warranty work done.
Neither one will work on hills.
They have both been around for many years so they have all the bugs worked out of them.
Paul thanks for the response. My lot is pretty flat aside from the drainage ditch at the front. That said, I tilled everything up last spring so the terrain is a little bumpy (needs top dressing/leveled) but flat otherwise. I do plan to tow an aerator and maybe a small dump cart but that’s it. Hopefully that paints a better picture.
Hi Jamil, Either the TimeCutter MX4200 42 in. Fab 452cc Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Speed or the Craftsman 27773 will be a good choice.
I’ve been considering a zero turn for a couple of years and was glad to see an article like yours. A walk through the Deere dealer left me wondering if they really need all those models with slightly different features.
Now for my question and your advice. I have 2 acres with lots of trees and a neighboors fence on 2 sides. Its flat for the most part but does have a slope that makes a 32″ Ariens mower I have a challenge to keep straight. I also have a rental with between 3/4 and 1 acre with a fairly steep hill but doesn’t entail too much area. I’m thinking a 48″ mower would be fine but I saw your comment about trimming with a 60″ mower. I will have to trailer to the rental so size isn’t a constraint for transport.
My wife would mow but doesn’t like riders due to the roughness, so the Toro MyRide sounds interesting. Does it ride much better than the Ariens? Our yard and the rentals aren’t particularly smooth.
Hi Art, comparing the MyRide to the 32 inch Ariens is like: Riding in a Lexus down a newly blacktopped highway compared to riding in the passenger seat of a semi going down an Illinois Interstate.
In other words, you with the MyRide you will be able to mow 2-3 times faster than the 32 inch Ariens and it will still be twice as smooth.
Julie, Crook, CO 🙂 Thank you for your insight and help! We mow about 10 acres on our farm. We have been using a Toro 42″ for blue grass and buffalo grass and Husq 54″ for heavier mowing on the perimeter. We are ready to move to a commerical mower for the wear n tear of the heavier deck, blades, etc. Our mowing has a few flat areas but usually has some degree of slope ranging from 5+. Around here the Grasshoppers are getting a lot of chatter – especially because the ease of accessing the deck/blades which lifts to a 90* angle. What suggestions would you have for us? Appreciate it.
Hi Julie, It’s always fun for me to look at your area of the country on Google earth and see all the “crop circles” from the irrigation 🙂
Grasshopper’s are nice. I have no issues with the front deck models at all. Two other brands that make good zero-turns that have flip up decks are Country Clipper and Hustler. Be sure to check out the Country Clipper before you buy a Grasshopper. You may save a few thousand dollars.
It looks like your closest dealer is Roys Country Fair:
5553 Hwy 34
Yuma, CO 80759
Thanks for the excellent information you provided; I am coming off a GrassHopper 721D Front mount 6′ Deck- (Loved it) but I am in a different place and location now and do not want to spend that amount –
I now live in Kailua-Kona Hawaii – up on mountain 3400′ elevation – Steep Rocky and forest –
Have 15 acres and mow only 1 -1/2 acres of ground 3/4 acre of that being flat and the rest steep hilly – side of drive – trails – under and around trees – and hoping to add more trails in future
I would like to spend as little as possible , but by no means cheaply made –
$5000 or less would be nice –
I see you have recommended in recent replies;
Bad Boy Elite
Hustler Raptor SD
Ariens Max Zoom
Gravely Pro Turn
( Bullet proof and has to climb hills )(
We have Sears- Lowes- Home Depot – Plus a Farm& Garden I can order through
Could you provide in order of what you would get – add and.or delete any models –
Thank You again for the info;
Hi Doug, ZTR’s are not designed to mow hills steeper than 15 degrees. Personally I would get a small lawn tractor for the lawn and then get an ATV with a brush mower for the trails. A good brush mower like the Acrease Model MR44V would last years.
Robert, Pendleton, SC Paul, I have just purchased a home with a 3 acre lawn. I am considering a Hustler Raptor SD 60 inch ZTR and you have made some favorable comments; how would you compare the Kubota Kommander 123E model? It is smaller (48 inch). The prices I have been quoted are comparable, so the main reason I would go with the Raptor SD is the larger size. The lawn is basically level, with a slight grade near the house. Thank you.
Hi Robert, Compared to the Raptor SD I feel the Kubota is over-priced. The Raptor HD cuts extremely well and even. One thing you will like with a 60 over a 48 is it trims better. In other words the deck overhangs from the frame more so you can get under bushes and fences better. The extra overhang also allows you to mow around tress and other smaller obstacles easier.
The 123E is just another residential zero-turn. It has no features that set it above the rest of the mid-level residential ZTR’s. It has no discerning features that warrant the extra price.
Thanks Paul for your reply. I mow about 1/2 acre and have two areas that have some slope but not near 10 degrees. I easily mow these areas with either of my lawn tractors.
Hi Mark, Well, If you’ve had good luck with your Craftsman we might as well stay there. I have three for you to chose from.
Craftsman 25081. Fender controlled CVT. 19 hp Briggs Platinum. 42 inch deck. All your old blades and bagger will fit. Read my review here: Craftsman 25081 Review
Craftsman 20390. Foot controlled CVT. 22 hp Briggs V-Twin. 42 inch deck. All your old blades and bagger will fit. Read my review here: Craftsman 20390 Review
Craftsman 20442. Foot control hydro. 24 hp Kohler V-twin. 46 inch deck. Nothing you own will fit. Read my review here: Craftsman 20442 Review
My dad has a husq 2754GLS. Is my only option for a sunshade the OEM 531 30 83-22?
@Mark, Yes, you can get it for a good price here: Husqvarna 531308322 Universal Lawn Tractor Sun Shade
I guess the less expensive Craftsman sunshade for their Husq built tractors won’t work?
@Mark, This one will work, Deluxe Sun Shade for Tractors
I haven’t seen much mention of Kubota here, and new for this year is their Z122r.
It has a lot of the features I’m looking for including the Kaw. To mow less than 1-acre with no major sloping to deal with my chief concern is quality of cut. It’ll probably do fine unless there are issues that you may have heard with the Kommander series that sway people to a Hustler, BBoy or others? I am aware of the Fuel line getting cut by the belt drive issue, but I believe Kubota’s addressed the issue and is not a problem for this model.
I currently use a Toro z4200.
Hi Ryan, No I don’t talk about the Kubota’s much. The main reason is I really don’t discuss ZTR’s that you can’t buy on the internet. Kubota’s are only available through a dealer.
The main reason most people don’t look at the Z122R is the cost. When you put the specifications side by side with another similar ZTR the Kubota is $1300 more. The Hustler’s etc are much more budget friendly for most homeowners.
Mark, from Madison Heights, VA. I currently own a 1993 Murray B&S Vanguard Twin Cylinder with a broken transmission and a 1995 Craftsman B&S 15.5 single cylinder hydro transmission. I have been trying to decide on a new zero turn or a lawn tractor. My concern is the transmissions or either. I have read on your site the Hydro Gear 2100 or 2200 are rated for 900-1000 lbs. I also have the concern with the lawn tractors with the K46 transmission. I weigh over 300 pounds so the mower weight and my weight maybe more of a strain on the transmissions I mentioned. In trying to keep my budget around the $3000 range. What to do, what to do?
Hi Mark, Actually I would not be worried about the transmissions if you had these two lawn tractors last over 20 years. I need to ask a few questions before I can make a suggestion. How much are you mowing? Do you have slopes over 10 degrees? Do you tow a yard cart, etc?
Oregon Wisconsin, Looking at a Gravely ZT HD 60″ Fabricated Deck Series. We own 6 acres and mow about 3 or less acres. They have both Kawasaki and Kohler engines. Is it worth paying more for a Kawasaki. Do you recommend the Gravely brand mower versus Toro or Bad Boy?
Hi Dan, The Kawasaki they are using is the residential engine so there is no real advantage over the Kohler 7000 Pro. The Gravely ZT HD is a good mower that many commercial operators use. Other brands in this price range don’t give you a heavy duty of mower. So the answer is yes.
We had a dealer actually drop off a gravely zero turn HD 60 with a Kohler engine to use. I mowed part of the lawn for about 20 minutes and was very pleased. When my wife tried to mow the Kohler smart choke started but then just sputtered and would not power up. Dealer mentioned recall? Not impressed with Kohler engine. He then dropped off last years demo to use with Kawasaki with 92 hours. Not sure if saving a few bucks is worth it – looks a bit used. Then my wife briefly looked at bad boy 6000 ZT Elite with a Kawasaki. My wife likes the idea of the Hydraulic deck lift. But is it one more thing to need repair. Are these two mowers comparable. Same price. Getting more confused as we continue to look to replace our 12 year old john Deere tractor. Want to buy something solid, minimal repair. Willing to spend more on the front end to have something reliable, cut down our mowing time and give a nice cut. Thanks. Oregon, Wisconsin
@Dan, I really surprised at the problems you had with the Gravely. I never hear of issues with that model. But, the same goes for the Bad Boy ZT Elite.
Yes, the are equal in quality. Engines (Kawasaki) are the same, Transmissions are the same. I do have to admit the Bad Boy is “cooler” with the Plasma cut lettering. (I’ll bet your wife is a NASCAR fan and wants it for the rear spoiler 🙂
I believe the Bad Boy uses an electric lift. These lifts are pretty bulletproof and no a big deal if it does go bad 10 years from now.
Hi Paul, Which of these two would you recommend for 1 acre mostly flat with slight slopes? The bad Boy Elite 48″ ($4499) or the Hustler Raptor 48″ ($3800)? My main concern is to finish quickly with a good cut and also have a machine that will last. Thanks!
Hi Barry, Both will last. Hustler (Excel Industries) has been around a lot longer and will be around for many years to come. They actually introduced the first zero-turn mower.
Bad Boy is fairly new to the market and looks like it will last as a brand…..
Both cut well but I have the most experience with the Raptor and everyone likes the way it cuts.
Paul, thank you for your response. I have been driving my wife crazy looking at every mower under the sun. The bad boy dealer I have been talking to is Sparks, and I believe they service their equipment in Battle Lake, MN. I do not know where TSC works on their stuff.
I almost bought the BB ZT Elite, but after reading your comments about being serviced locally I have been leaning towards Husqvarna, sold and serviced by Acme Electric or Titan Machinery.
How do you think the MZ rates against the ZT Elite?
My buddy has the MZ 61, he says go big or regret it later. I read some comments from people with the 52″ who could do 4 acres in 30 minutes with the mzt 52. Not sure if the mz would be as fast, but do you think the possibly better cut with a 52″ wins over the extra cutting inches of the 61″?
Cory, 60 inch is a “sweet spot” for decks. For some reason almost all of the 60’s cut better than a 52 or 54 inch deck.
Spec-wise the Bad Boy Elite and the MZ are equal but I feel the Bad Boy is a little heavier built. I am basing that on the fact it is about 100 lbs heavier than the MZ. If the price is the same and you can live with the service I’d go with the Bad Boy. If the MZ is less money I would go with it for the local service. I know owners who don’t ever have problems with it mowing 25-30 hours a week.
The MZ is a step down from the MZT. It will mow well around 7-8 mph. With a 60 inch deck that works out to 4 acres an hour.
By the way for someone to mow 4 acres in 30 minutes with a 52 inch the mower would have to be traveling at over 17 mph! Not even a Wright Stander ZK mowing at 12 mph can mow that fast. You can see how much a mower will mow per hour here (Acreage Chart) No, the Dixie Chopper with the helicopter turbine doesn’t count….
I live in Pennsylvania. Our yard surrounding our house, has a hill with probably a good 30 degree slope in the front and probably a 15 degree in the back and sides. I realize 30 degrees is steep and a lot of people who haven’t seen it would argue it is that steep, but it is and it scares me to mow it with our ride mower. We have a New Holland 30 hp tractor with gel in the wheels to help keep the wheels on the ground. I’ll ride mow the back and sides, but I won’t the front. I push mow the front, but hate doing it. It takes probably a good hour and half to do it with a couple breaks in between. My husband sometimes will ride mow the front when I’m at work and I am afraid he is going to roll the tractor some day. He’s a bullhead! Anyhow, I was sifting through your forum for a good, relatively decent priced mower, that would be safe for steep hills, but only seen ones for the not as steep, maybe 15-20 degree slopes. What would you suggest for a steeper slope? Would a stand on be the safest?
Hi Heather, A stand on would be the safest if you can mow the hills across. A 60 inch would be the best choice because the wheel track is wider and they are stable. Zero-turns don’t do well mowing up and down. Stand-ons though are expensive – $8000 or more.
My favorite hill side mower is a Toro T-Bar walk-behind. These commercial mowers are very forgiving on hills and if you can stand on the hill they will mow it. The T-bar controls allows you to guide the mower with one hand. The belt drive model works just as well as the hydro models. A 36 or 48 inch will cut your mowing time by 3/4. Here is a link to them. Toro T-Bar Mowers
The only other mower that I would suggest is a Walker. These have a very low center of gravity but I would work with a dealer to see if they what they would recommend for you. Walker Mowers
Thank you for your suggestions Paul. I was wondering if you might suggest an automower as another alternative. I have never seen one in action, but Husqvarna claims their 330x can do a 45 degree slope. I’m doubtful. Do you have any experience with these?
Hi Heather, A robotic would be great and the 330x is one of the better machines but I was not aware that it is available here in the U.S. Personally I would believe 30 degrees but not 45. You really need tracks to mow on that steep of a grade.
Another brand that needs to come over here is the Ambrogio. They do have all-wheel drive models that will handle steep slopes.
Darn, I didn’t realize your couldn’t get them here. Well maybe in the near future. Thanks again for your input!
Hi paul, I have been searching the Internet trying to find the best ztr to buy for my needs. I will be mowing around five acres with a mildly sloped hill behind the house. I live in Mandan, Nd out in the country.
I have a Bad Boy dealer in the area, but it would have to be sent out of state to get serviced at their headquarters. I have been looking at the ZT elite, but have heard the positives of having a local service center, and the two year warranty seems alittle on the short side.
I have another dealer that sells and services husqvarna and Dixie Choppers. I have been looking at a Dixie Chopper Magnum, and they have been trying to sell me what I’m guessing is a last years model Silver eagle with a generac 27hp at a discounted price of $6800. The silver eagle is a little out of my price range and seems to be a lot more mower than I need.
I have heard the hype about the dixies but the only opinions I can seem to find come word for word off of their website. And the two I looked at seemed either set up poorly or have a badly designed deck lift system. I had to give it my all to move it up and down, compared to the ease of lifting husqvarnas spring assisted decks. On the plus side the four year bumper to bumper warranty can’t be beat.
Husqvarnas mz or mzt seem like good mowers but is the extra grand for the mzt worth it? And then there is Briggs vs Kawasaki. I have been primarily looking at 60-61″ decks, but from some of the reviews I’ve read on your site, a 52″ high end residential can cut 4+ acres in very little time, so I’m wondering what the positives and negatives are on owning a 52″ vs a 61″ are? I would like to stay around the $5000 mark but could move up a grand if it would be worth it in the long run.
I also found a place that just started the Arien Zoom Max, but they know very little about the machine.
I would appreciate any thoughts you or anyone else would have.
Hi Cory, If you want the longest warranty check out Big Dog mowers. The Alpha MP is a good choice for your lawn. FYI-These mowers are Hustler’s painted Red.
Your local dealer is
PJ’s Farm Supply
211 Main Street
Flasher, ND 58535
The MZT is Husqvarna’s low-end commercial mower. It is a lot heavier duty than the MZ series. The engine is rated in thousands of hours instead of hundreds of hours like the ones on the MZ series. Yes, They are worth the extra money-if you need a commercial mower.
If I understand your lawn though the MZ series is the better choice for you. It’s strong enough to last on your 5 acres for a long time.
Yes, there is a lot of hype over Dixie Chopper (and Kawasaki engines) The hype though is from the original owners. They made a great product when everyone else was still trying to figure ZTR’s out. Along the way everyone else caught up and passed them up with more rugged and dependable mowers. Today Dixie Chopper is owned by someone else and that reputation got left in the grass clippings along the way. I do like the Generac engine. I wish they would put more of these in mid-priced ZTR’s.
Curious that the Bad Boy has to be sent out. Is the dealer you mention Tractor Supply or Sparks? That is one problem with this industry. Many of these small brands are so anxious to sell product that they will let anyone sell them even though they don’t have a clue what to do if it breaks. (think Encore mowers) Expect 3-4 weeks minimum turn-around time on repairs if it has to be sent to Minneapolis.
Finally, I have no problems recommending the Ariens Max Zoom. It’s not the best looking mower but underneath that ugly skin it is a very dependable machine (it’s the same as the Gravely ZT HD) It has a lot of commercial features and will last you a long, long time.
I live in Hudson, N.H and just moved into a house with 3/4 of an acre yard. Going to treat myself to a Father’s Day gift, but I am stuck between a tractor and ZTR. I have a mostly level yard with a lawn, some mulched areas, several trees to go around as well that aren’t landscaped underneath. The tight turn tractors sound good but after reading all the reviews it seems like ZTRs are the way to go? In my yard I do have some dips here or there, so it’s not a smooth ride all the way, no big hills to tackle, but there is a gradual slope in one area which I can not tell you what the pitch is, how can I figure that out? I do not think a tractor or ztr would have an issue as I have seen people use both around here on bigger slopes, but I rather your expert opinion. I plan to mulch a lot but also bag due to travel for work if I can not cut quick enough, then with all the trees I want to chew up the leaves and dump them out in fall or else I am spending hours with a leaf blower! For attachments, nothing fancy, a “Dethatcher and Aerator” would be it, no snow removal or anything crazy. I read your reviews on all the tractors and ZTRs, to save money I would likely go to Sears. I am not sure about the Transmissions on the Tractors because some folks have had concerns about one or two models on the reviews, but then the same for the ZTRs, as well as the frame and if it’s going to be a bumpy ride in places then does that matter? I am not talking pot holes a foot deep, just the typical stuff.
Hi Pat, Here is a slope chart. .
It sounds like a ZTR or lawn tractor will do well on your yard. A 46 inch ZTR like the Craftsman 22 HP V-Twin Kohler 46” Zero Turn Riding Mower or a lawn tractor like the Craftsman Pro Series 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 46″ Turn Tight Extreme Riding Mower would be good choices for your yard.
Cool & thank you Sir! What would you personally choose, the ZTR or Tractor? What accessories should I order, if you can post the links I can buy from your links to help support your outstanding site!
Hi Pat, I strongly suggest going with the tractor. It drives like your car so there is no learning curve. Plus you can do other things with it as you decide to improve your new yard. Craftsman Pro Series 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 46″ Turn Tight Extreme Riding Mower
Hey Paul – I keep reading the reviews and I’m wondering if the ZTR is going to be worth the extra cost? It’s quicker, does it cut better than the Tractor?
I like both machines, I’m down to which will last longer, is easier to maintain, what extended warranty should I get, and can you tell me what pages to order the mower from and accessories? I need the nagger, aerator, and detacher.
Does the ZTR have a hitch already, and what’s better, the 2014 Craftsman ZTR 46″ or the 2015?
Hi Pat, There is no advantage for speed or long life going with the ZTR. Yes, they are “cooler” and can save time if you have a lot of obstacles to mow around compared to a conventional lawn tractor but…
When you compare the ZTR’s you mention to the Craftsman Pro Series 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 46″ Turn Tight Extreme Riding Mower just about all of the benefits go away. This Pro series has the same deck as the 2015 but Consumer Reports felt that this mower cut better. It side discharges, bags and mulches the best of all the tractors and ZTR’s. Only the $3200 X300 Deere does as well.
It is almost as agile as the ZTR. It will get around obstacles just as easily and with the 5 inch Turn Tight Extreme Steering will turn on the ends of the row just about as fast. If you are very a experienced operator a 46 inch ZTR may save you 5-10 minutes on your lawn. So when comparing this tractor to the ZTR’s it is not worth spending the extra money. Plus this tractor can do more stuff if you chose and you won’t have to worry about stuff like transmissions, tearing up your lawn because you are not experienced with a ZTR or having the front end of the ZTR come off the ground because the load in your bagger is too heavy.
Buy it here: Craftsman Pro Series 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 46″ Turn Tight Extreme Riding Mower.
42–46 In. Cut 2-Bin Bagger
46″ Mulch Kit
Rear Mount Dethatcher (24315):
40 in. Rear Mount Dethatcher
By the way: The 2015 ZTR does not come with a hitch. I’m not recommending the 2014 because even though it’s listed on Sears there are very few left and may not be available in your area.
I am going with the Tractor! Thank you. One quick thing even though I am ordering it. Were you referring to the ZTRs when you wrote that the deck was the same as the 2015? Your comment was:
“When you compare the ZTR’s you mention to the Craftsman Pro Series 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 46″ Turn Tight Extreme Riding Mower just about all of the benefits go away. This Pro series has the same deck as the 2015 but Consumer Reports felt that this mower cut better.”
@Pat, Yes, The Craftsman red ZTR’s use the same deck.
Hi Mark, I’m also a “stand-on” guy. If you are only going to collect the Toro is a good alternative. It also is a good alternative if your entire fleet is Toro or ExMark’s.
But if you intend to mulch or bag the Walker is the best choice. With a Walker you can have both a mulching deck, a bagging deck and even a side discharge deck for the large areas (or wet lawns)
What I like about the Walker is the aftermarket. I can set up a mower for bagging and then later on find a good used mulching deck.
Last year I purchased a Cub Cadet riding mower with the Kawasaki motor and 46″ cut from a dealer. I have seen a lot of complaints about the Cub Cadet especially the ones that have come from the box stores, I and was wondering if I should be concerned. I cut a 1 acre lot that is flat and have not yet had any issues with it other than the belt came off 1 time this year. My In-laws are thinking about getting a new riding mower and I offered to sell mine and upgrade to a zero turn Cub Cadet (because I already have the Cub Cadet credit card), but I don’t want to sell them a potential lemon. I would never hear the end of it. I am looking at the heavier duty models that are in the 4 to 5k range. What are your thoughts on the Cub Cadet zero turn, lap bar vs. steering wheel(tilt), size, should I look at other brands, and selling to my lawn mower to the in-laws?
Hi Steven, The Cub Cadet tractors made before 2015 were notorious for tearing up engine to deck belts. But it was not all of them. It was just a few that give the tractor it’s bad reputation and it happened right from the start. If you only had the belt come off once in a year I will say you have gotten one of the good ones and I would not be worried about owning a lemon.
The 46 inch Cub Cadet ZTR’s cut well. If a 46 inch is the right size for your lawn I suggest staying with that size.
If you have used a lap-bar ZTR before it is a little faster to use than the Steering wheel models. Many people like the new steering wheel models because it give them the agility of a ZTR without having to learn how to drive the lap-bar models. Either way you can save about 30% time over using your lawn tractor.
Thanks Paul, The belt has only come off 1 time so far in its second season of cutting so hopefully it is one of the better ones. Because I definitely don’t want to be that guy that sold a lemon to the in-laws. One of the reasons I was considering the steering wheel is because my 3 year old likes to ride with me and the lap bars would definitely make it more difficult to ride him. If it wasn’t for that I would go with the lap bars and save myself some money. As far as the cub cadet do you feel that they are good machines and reliable. The dealer seems to think the steering wheel is going to replace the lap bars when it comes to the residential side and some commercial as well.
Hi Steven, Yes, the Cub Cadet dealers are pushing the steering wheel models hard. The biggest advantage is not the steering wheel but the fact that they will hang on a side-hill a lot better than a conventional zero-turn.
Please don’t let your little one ride with you – especially when mowing. We have already had 6 kids killed or permanently disabled from being run over by a mower this year.
Hi Paul, great site for information, read through a few of your articles and really helped get my head around the different options out there. I just sold my ’96 Exmark Lazer Z (LZ-25KC60) 60″ zero turn and I’m in the market for a new mower. While the Lazer Z was a great mower the engine (Kohler Command 25hp) was starting deteriorate, minor repairs, etc. so it was time to let it go. I’d love to get into another Lazer Z but the price is just too high. I’m working with a Husqvarna dealer that’s close to my house and a great group of guys. I test drove the p-zt 60 and really like it but there are two engine options, a KAW FX 24.5hp or the Briggs Vanguard 26hp EFI. I’m also looking at the m-zt 61 with the Briggs 27hp but didn’t drive that one yet. I mow about 2-4 acres a week, with some varying grades and a few steep hills (20%). I’d be curious if you have any thoughts between these engines? The EFI is intriguing for the fuel efficiency but I worry if it will cause headaches down the road.
Thanks in advance.
Mount Airy, MD
Hi Brian, I like the EFI engines. They handle todays fuel a lot better than regular carburetors and can adapt if the fuel changes. Todays regular carbs are not adjustable and the only way to make them run correctly is to replace them if you have a problem. EFI has been around long enough that it never gives us any problems.
The Briggs Vanguard and the Kawasaki FX are both commercial engines and will give you 1500 hours or more of use. I don’t have a preference for either engine.
We have 3/4 of an acre. Heavy on the trees and landscaping, pretty flat, just some uneven spots here and there. I’m wondering if a 42 or 46 is better (no problems with gates or distance between trees) and specifically, which one. Overwhelmed looking at all the options (I’m the lady of the house).
Hi Mindi, I prefer a 46 inch if the right brand an model is available. The deck sticks out just a little more and it makes it easier to trim around things. I find I spend a lot less time using a string trimmer when I have a 46 inch.
My favorite tractor right now is the 46 inch Craftsman Pro. Consumer Reports really liked how well it mows, bags and mulches. As the “lady of the house” you will really like the 5 inch Turn Tight steering. It’s very easy, almost like having power steering. It has a good engine and is proving to be a very dependable mower. You can see it here: Pro Series 24 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 46″ Turn Tight Extreme Riding Mower. This tractor is built well and will last for you.
My second choice is the John Deere X240. This is a 42 inch dealer only tractor so you will have to go to a local dealer to see it. (John Deere does not make a 46 inch) It is also built well, steers easily and you will also like the cut.
I picked these two tractors for you because of their reputation, their quality and that you can easily get them serviced or repaired. Sears comes to you, the John Deere dealers also give you priority for repairs.
Feel free to ask any other questions.
So you would not recommend a ZTR at all? Thanks for your help!
Hi Mindi, I’m sorry, I didn’t look at what article you were commenting on. I spent the last 4 days visiting with my daughter down in Illinois and I’m not completely back mentally.
If you would like a zero-turn, again, I suggest a 46 inch over a 42. The deck sticks out farther so you can get under and around things easier so you will have less trimming.
If you don’t have any experience with zero-turns the Craftsman Pro tractor I suggested may still be the best choice. It will mow in a straight line just as fast as the residential 46 inch zero-turns and it won’t tear up your yard like a zero-turn in the hands of an experienced operator. You can do more with it later on like pull an aerator, roller, yard cart etc. This Craftsman Pro will save you about 30% in time over a conventional 42 inch lawn tractor like a Husqvarna or Ariens. That said,
The Craftsman 22 HP V-Twin Kohler 46” Zero Turn Riding Mower is a comparable mower. It mows very well, is very agile and gets good reviews for side discharge and mulching. It bags average. This zero-turn will save you about 40% in time over a conventional lawn tractor and will save you about 10% more in time over the Craftsman Pro tractor.
I cant tell you how helpful this site has been for me. I am moving to a new home with flat terrain and will be mowing 1-3 acres with very few trees. I think I like these 60 inch models: bad boy elite zt, cub cadet z force, hustler raptor sd and the craftsman pro and I can get these all locally. do you have any suggestions. they are all within $1000 of each other. this will be my first zero turn.
Hi John, You picked 4 good mowers and I have no problems recommending any of the four. So the one for you really comes down to service.
If you are not mechanically inclined, don’t like to work on your equipment or don’t have the time the Craftsman 20424 is the best choice. If you have any problems Sears Repair always comes to your home for the repair. They also have two additional service related items that can be very beneficial. First, Sears offers a 5 year Protection Plan that covers just about everything including wear and tear on the mower for less than $16 a month. Belts, tires, battery etc. are all covered. All you are responsible for are oil, filters and blades and secondly, Sears Repair offers a 25% discount on the parts and labor for those items.
For the other three mowers a local dealer is the best choice. If you are buying from TSC or Lowes and not a local dealer make sure your warranty repairs will be done by a local servicing dealer. Don’t buy from the retailer if they are using a 3rd party service center for repairs. The problem with the 3rd party is you have to bring the mower back to the store and then it gets shipped out to a regional repair center. The process takes a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks.
If you have any specific questions about the mowers feel free to ask.
What a great site Paul. I’m looking at new ztr’s with a 5k budget and local dealers for service work. I mow 1 1/2 acers up to twice a week and will probably mow up to 4 acres if we can’t get someone to hay it. It has some slopes and quite a few trees and a soft area in the spring time. I want a 2800 or bigger trans and don’t know if the kohler 7000 or kawi fr is a better engine. I want this to last 15-20 yrs and I can do my own maintenance. I’m stuck on what size deck, I’m thinking a 48″ but don’t know if I should go bigger. I currently am mowing with a 42″. I like the Bad Boy ZT Elite,Skag Freedom,Gravely HD and Husqvarna MZ52. I really think the Bad Boy has the best features for the buck. Your answer is greatly appreciated. Thanks again Dave
Thank you for your informative site. I have 1.25 acres with flat terrain with quite a few trees, several flower beds, etc. I am considering the Hustler Raptor 42 or the Cub Cadet RTZ-L 46, both have fabricated decks and are the same price. I like the 46 inch over the 42 inch due the being able to trim closer. My issue is I am replacing a Cub Cadet LT 1046 riding mower, which everthing has worked fine except the deck has been a nightmare. It appears the deck has been an issue for Cub Cadet because it has been redesigned multiple times. I have been plagued with uneven cuts and difficulty keeping the belt from slipping off. I have have made sure the belt is correct and have tried different sizes, but the issue appears to be the alignment of the pulleys to the drive pulley when the deck is lowered.
Can I be confidant that the Cub Cadet RTZ-L is a quality deck and I will not have issues or should I buy the Raptor? Or do you suggest me to look at other mowers?
Your recommendations would be appreaciated.
Hi Gordon, I know the deck belt issues on the 2014 and older Cub Cadet lawn tractors. I have heard of no issues with the Cub Cadet ZTR’s though. Cub Cadet’s fabricated decks cut well. If you still have a concern I suggest buying it from a dealer instead of a box store. The dealer can give you faster and more personalized service if you do have any issues with the machine.
Great site. Trying to decide on either Arians max zoom or craftsman pro , both 60 inch models and equally priced. Any suggestions
Hi Todd, If you have a good local Ariens dealer to buy from I’d pick that one. If you don’t and are planning on buying through Home Depot then I’d pick the Craftsman. Why?
Both the Max Zoom are equal in so many ways that they both will give you long life and very few issues over the years for 5-8 acres. So it then comes down to service and support.
– If you have a good local dealer that you like and trust that is always the best choice. Keep the money in your own town and support your local economy. A good dealer helps you with not only buying the mower but also helps you over the years. They can answer questions specific to your area. (You bought a ZTR here so I’ll give you great deal on a trim mower or string trimmer, etc.) By the way, the Gravely ZT HD is the same machine.
-If you don’t have a good dealer than Sears is the next logical choice. They have great financing available, great deals on either the mower or attachments, 24/7 parts ordering, 24/7 questions answering and they always come to your home to repair your ZTR. Just like your local dealer they offer discounted service and maintenance in the spring and fall for stuff not covered under warranty. In addition they have an optional protection plan that not only covers defects for up to 5 years but also cover trip charges to your home and most wear and tear items like belts, tires, batteries, etc. This is not an extended warranty because this plan covers a lot more than just defective parts.
Paul, Great source of information. I just moved into a new home that on 1.7 acres of land. The yard is mostly hills with some slopes at least 15 degrees. I currently am using a Toro Z4200 but am afraid the drive units are just not up to the hills, they tend to moan on the steep sections and the frontend seems light. My wife likes to mow but is uncomfortable trying to feather the lap bars on the slopes so I am looking at the new Steering Wheel mowers. I have been bouncing back and forth between the Toro SWX 5050 and the Cub Cadet Z-force SZ54. My major concerns are: drive unit strength, stability, and traction. I noticed in your 50-54” Heavy Duty list the Cub Cadet did not make the list, are there issues with the Cub. The larger size and width of the Cub makes me think that it would be more stable than the Toro, and the I was not able to determine what drives are used on the Toro. Which of the two mowers will hold up to the steep terrain better?
Any information and recommendations are greatly appreciated.
Hi David, I just missed putting the Cub Cadet on the list. With over 400 residential mowers it’s a hard list to keep accurate.
I don’t have the information I need to answer your question. I know the wheel base (width) of the Toro is wider than the 42 inch model and that makes it more stable than the SWX4050. I know the Cub Cadet website states the wheelbase is 43 inches. But I don’t know if the wheelbase (width) of the rear and front tire track is wider on the Toro or the Cub Cadet. I don’t have a SZ54 in my area to go measure.
Both ZTR’s use the ZT-2800 transmissions. They will work well on hills.
Both the Cub Cadet and the Toro do not require a front weight kit for the steering wheel models so the stability is better than the lap-bar models. The steering wheel units are proving to work very well mowing across slopes.
Hello Paul…thank you for this forum you’ve provided. I’ve learned a lot in the past two hours of doing some heavy research here and on branded websites. We are moving to a new (to us) home in a couple of months, with about 3 acres to mow. I typically mow twice a month, and currently use a Troy-Built riding mower for about 1 acre. We will be upgrading to a zero-turn once we move. The terrain in the new property is mower-friendly enough, with some trees and a shallow ditch alongside the road, across the front of the property. While the front yard has a slight grade, the back yard easily has a 15 degree grade, and represents just over half of the total mowing we’ll be doing (back vs. front yard). Based on your forum, and subsequent research done elsewhere on the web, I’ve narrowed my choices down to these two machines: the Max Zoom 60 in. 25 HP Kohler 7000 Series Pro V-Twin ZT3100 and the Bad Boy® 60 in. 747cc ZT Elite.
Most important features, not necessarily in this order: quality of cut, ease of use, comfort (wife wants to use as well), ability to handle grade of yard, and overall quality of product relative to history of maintenance and service. We’d like to get 8-10 years out of our purchase, based on 30-40 hours of use per year.
Both look great, have nice features, and good user feedback from Home Depot and TSC, respectively. I would just like your thoughts, and if there’s a reason you’d give the edge to one over the other. Thanks!
Hi Tony, One thing I like about the Ariens is if you buy through this link: Ariens Lawn Mowers Max Zoom 60 in. 25 HP Kohler 7000 Series Pro V-Twin ZT3100 Transaxles Zero-Turn Riding Mower 991087 the mower is set up and delivered by a local dealer. That way you know the mower is set up correctly and you get to meet the dealer so if you have any questions or issues you know where to go right away. They also give you a short training session on how to use it.
I’ll have to admit, the Bad Boy is a good looking mower. It has all the features of the Ariens and the price is very better. If I were looking at the two myself I would have a hard time not buying the Bad Boy. Tractor Supply has a great reputation for getting any issues you may have fixed right away. You can purchase the mower here and pick it up at your local store: Bad Boy ZT 60
Thanks Paul. Your feedback did solidify the decision I made last night to focus on the Bad Boy. I read through the comments of the Ariens on the Home Depot site. The reviews are fantastic, but the most consistent Con folks listed was the size of the rear wheels, and how they believe that the smaller size impacted the comfort of the ride for that mower (I assume that impacts ride comfort for any mower). They still loved the machine, but when a handful of folks make the same comment, I pay attention.
For me, if I’m on the fence between two mowers, as I was last night, and the cost/value is relative, that reason alone is good enough to nudge me over the fence to the Bad Boy.
So, my next question is, do you see a compelling reason to buy the CZT over the ZT? I’ve read the information on both, but your expertise might isolate some more intuitive reasons that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up.
@Tony, The biggest difference you will notice is the weight. The Bad Boy CZT Elite
weighs 100 lbs more and it will feel as stable as a rock on any slope. The ZT-3400 drives are noted to be very smooth so you won’t feel any jerkiness in the controls. Your wife will learn to drive this one faster than you will.
I feel the other Bad Boy is strong enough for your slopes but this one will feel more comfortable on them. This is a true commercial mower and you should never need to do anything to it other than change the oil, filters and sharpen the blades.
You better like the color because you will have this mower longer than 10 years.
What’s the difference between the Toro SWX 5050 and SW 5000
Hi Neil, There is quite a bit of difference. First, the transmissions in the SWX are quite a bit stronger. It will be able to handle any hills you have without burning out the transmissions over time. Second, the deck is a heavy duty fabricated deck. Toro’s fabricated decks are notoriously tough and this one will handle the beatings. It’s 10 ga. and as strong as any other $5000 mower deck out there. Finally, it has larger rear tires so it will ride a little better and have more traction.
Hi Paul, I have 8 acres in the Rocky Mountains, half are covered by 16 cabins and driveways. So I probably have about 4 acres to mow?
The land is relatively flat, there are several dozen trees spaced usually far from each other. I also need to get close to and around the cabins and decks.
I think I want a zero turn with a steering wheel, something I can learn to use quickly. I have never used any riding lawn mower. I also want something that I can leave out in the elements most of the year.
What would you recommend?
Hi Mike, That’s easy, The Toro SWX5050. You can see it and order it here: Toro Lawn Mowers TimeCutter SWX5050 50 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Park 74797C
I don’t recommend going with anything cheaper. This ZTR will handle the mowing well and if you hire someone to mow they can use it without destroying it.
The other option is the Cub Cadet Z-Force® SZ 54 KH. It’s also a good solid machine capable of years of abuse. It’s $1000 more than the Toro but it is a stronger, heavier duty machine and worth it if you want to spend the money.
If you leave your mower outside a good, breathable oiled canvas tarp will go a long way towards making your mower last.
I am looking for the best steering wheel zero turn radius mower. I returned my troy built. Cuts well but heard noises when turning steering. I have an acre of land.
Hi Neil, The Cub Cadet is the same mower painted Yellow. That leaves the Toro. We have been having great luck with it. You can read my review and watch the video here: 2015 Toro Zero-Turn Tractors | My Review
Hi Paul, my name is Curt from Tennessee. I am moving into a new home and want a new mower. It’s going to be about an acre and flat to a gradual slope. I am a long time John Deere loyalist but thinking about going the zero turn route and the Troy Bilt Mustang (46″ with steering wheel). Debating between that machine and the John Deere 48″ D160 (both of these are Lowe’s models).
My heart tells me John Deere, but my head says Troy Bilt for the zero turn. The zero turn will run me about $700 more, should I stick with my brand loyalty to John Deere or make the switch to the zero turn world? Interested in your opinion of John Deere and Troy Bilt quality (obviously both are box store options, so not high end). Thanks for your thoughts.
Hi Curt, Both machines mow about the same speed so other than going around tight obstacles with the Pivot they will both get you done about the same time. The Pivot has no rear hitch but with the D160 you can pull items like yard cart or an aerator.
The John Deere is serviced by a local dealer but make sure you understand how the Pivot is serviced. I have been hearing that in some areas of the country the Troy-Bilts are serviced at a repair center and that can sometimes be 100 miles away from where you live. You have to bring your mower to the store and then it gets shipped to the repair center.
The quality of the D160 is good. The only owners who have problems with it have steep hills to mow. The Pivot is too new to tell. The online reviews are very mixed. There are only 2 reviews so far and one of them had issues with the build quality. Personally, if you want a steering wheel ZTR look at the Cub Cadet Lawn Mowers RZT S 46 in. 23 HP V-Twin Dual Hydrostatic Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Steering Wheel Control RZT-S 46 instead.
Looking for a good ZTR that will cut at least 60 inches and will last for 15-20 years, is easy to maintain and lubricate. I have about 10 acres around my house that was originally a hay field and for the past 15 years I have been mowing with a batwing finish mower and tractor. Also about 2 acres around house that is more of a finished lawn which I now mow with a 54 inch Simplicity Legacy garden tractor. Have been looking at Simplicity Cobalt but wondered about Exmark models since many landscape contractors use these. Can you recommend any?
@Neal, The ExMark has over 50% of the commercial market for good reason. The Ultra Cut deck cuts the best. The Parker hydro drives are top of the line. The Lazer Z is pretty much the standard every other brand tries to match. The new available Kohler EFI engine is the best there is right now. It even has a fuel saver mode that can save you up to 40% in fuel use.
I’ve always been a little nervous recommending the CoBalt and it’s sister the Ferris. A lot of commercial owners state there are too many moving parts to break on the mower.
Dear Paul, I am crossed right now between the Husqvarna RZ254 54″ because of the new Kholer engine vs the Hustler Raptor v Twin 52″. The Hustler has the stamped deck and mow in reverse but I believe the Husqvarna the better engine and four deck wheels. Which would be better for light commercial and 3 acres? I don’t think I could go wrong wither one, Husqvarna is 200$ more for 2″. Planning on cutting some real estate yards to offset the farming costs and eventually down the road getting a 60. Thanks, Brad
@Brad, Both of those machines are designed for 30-40 hours of mowing a year and last 8-10 years. So if you are cutting a dozen lawns a month, you are putting more hours on them than a homeowner will in a year. So price your yards accordingly so that you can move up to a commercial in 3 years. Both units use residential engines – commercial engines have 4-5 times the life expectancy.
Did you know you can now get the Hustler with the Kohler engine also? The Hustler uses a fabricated deck and most owners really like the cut.
Hey, Paul Scott from Tennessee. I have 5 acres with one large hill and was considering a scag liberty Z 52″ mower would this be a good fit for my yard?
Hi Scott, Yes, the transmissions are heavy enough to last on the hill and the 52 inch deck on the Scag cuts well. You will be able to mow your yard in 2 hours or so. The wide rear tires will have more traction than most ZTR’s in that price range.
Did you know the optional chrome wheel covers add 2 mph to the look of the mower?
What’s the best fuel and or fuel treatment to put in this engine, and your thoughts on the Sears extended coverage?
Hi Paul, The engines are designed to run on 87 octane with 10% or less ethanol. I use the 87 fuel and I add 2 tablespoons of Sea Foam per gallon to my fuel. Sea Foam is a fuel stabilizer, a moisture absorber, a fuel system cleaner and an upper cylinder lube. I don’t have issues with my engines and even ones I have not started for 2 years fire right off. If you are using an ethanol blend I also suggest Stabil – Marine, Stabil Storage and Briggs & Stratton Advanced Fuel Treatment.
The Protection Plan is your choice.
Sears offers a 5 year protection plan. For a few dollars a month Sears will not only take care of any warranty issues at your home for free but also cover most wear and tear items on the mower. Wheels, battery, belts, almost everything that may wear out is covered. Even the seat. All parts, labor and trip charges are included in the Protection Plan. The only items that are not covered is mower blades, oil changes and filters, but Sears will give you a 25% discount on those parts. If you don’t want to work on the mower at all they also offer a discount for a tech to come out and replace the blades and oil change. (about 25%) Of course garage fires and hurricanes are not covered.
This is how good the Protection Plan is: I know a Craftsman owner who had an older Craftsman Pro and decided to buy the 5 year protection plan (their mower at the time was black with yellow trim). Four years later I was talking to them and they complained that the seat had cracked. I asked, “You bought the protection plan, didn’t you?” They said, “yes” I told them to call sears and have a tech come out and look at the tractor. They did and the tech said, “yes, under the protection plan I’ll get you a new seat.” They waited about 2 weeks and the tech got ahold of them. He said, “I’m sorry, I cant get you that seat anymore.” (They did not have it available in yellow) He then said, “Because I can’t get you the right seat and because you purchased the Protection Plan – You get a new tractor!”
I’m going to pull the trigger on the 2015 54 Koehler craftsman zero turn. It seems to me to be the best bang for the buck for my flat 1 acre yard. I see there is still no reviews yet on the Sears site, and you like the pro series from the article on your website, what’s the main differences besides red and yellow? I can’t seem to justify the price difference. Since they are delivering tomorrow I’m wondering what exactly is the Sears return policy….
Hi Paul, You made a good choice for your one acre yard. The Pro is a heavier machine and I would suggest it for 5 acres. The pro is overkill for 1 acre.
Sears return policy is 30 days.
I just picked up a snapper 550z 61″ deck and a Kawasaki 24hp motor. For $5199. I’ve found this to be a great value. Have you looked into this mower yet?? I really couldn’t find a better value
Hi Tim, Yes the 550Z is a good mower for residential use. Briggs put a residential motor on this one and lowered the price. You get a heavy-duty mower with an engine that will last the average homeowner 8-10 years. FR is Kawasaki’s residential line.
I just bought a troy mustang pivot 22 hp 46inch. Cuts like carpet. I was wondering about reliability of Troy-built Lawn mowers.
Hi Neil, it too late now! Just kidding. The Troy-Bilt Pivot is basically a Lowes version of the Cub Cadet RZT-S series. The Cub Cadet version cuts well and has had a good history for few repairs. I expect the Pivot to be just as good.
I’m totally new to Zero-turn mowers. I would like to get something in the medium to heavy duty range (mowing around 3 acres), but I need something that also has a snow plow attachment option and an engine and transmission that can handle the snow plowing (I live in Michigan). 4-6 inch snow falls are not uncommon here. Also needs to have snow chains available as an option, preferably rubber. My yard is fairly flat. At least 50in deck preferrably. What mower/s would you recommend for me??
Hi Don, There are no zero-turn mowers that plow snow. There is one company that makes a snow blade for a zero-turn but it will void the factory warranty of the mower. If you want to mow and plow snow you need a lawn/garden tractor.
Now Craftsman has two versions of garden tractors that will plow snow, mow your lawn and turn just about as well as a zero-turn. They have the tightest turning radius in the industry.
Go here to read about the Craftsman 20401: Craftsman 20401 Review
Go Here to read about the Craftsman Pro 20445: Craftsman Pro 20445 Review
Grasshopper makes a darn good mower and has snow blade and snow blower attachments as well as almost any other attachment you could dream of. I don’t know why they aren’t considered for your comparison.
Hi John, Grasshopper does make good mowers and they have a great line of front cut mowers. But right up in the first paragraph in this article I stated I limited this list to around $5000. Grasshopper mowers start around $6500 and go up to around $12,0000.
only saw one John deere they have a good local dealership what do you think of their machines
Hi Ken, I’ve been so busy answering questions this season that I have not gotten a chance to write any reviews of the 400 series. For many people the 400 series is a good choice. The decks cut well, the engine/drives are good quality, and the dealer support is the best.
Earl, Bear, DE
Hey Paul, which of these two would you give the nod. The Bad Boy Elite or the Hustler Raptor SD, both 60″? Mostly flat yard, with slight slopes but a little rough.
Hi Earl, That’s a tough choice and I don’t know which way to steer you. Excel has been around a long, long time and there is a lot of engineering history in the Hustler Raptor SD. It’s a good mower. But on the other hand Bad Boy is really working hard to become the ZTR of choice. Little things like the laser engraved logo’s show they are going above and beyond to make products that will last.
Mechanically they are so close that there is really no discerning differences. I would go spend a little time with the dealers and go with the brand from the dealer I trust the most.
Hi Paul, went to both dealers and they are both good dealers, so I am now back to square one. The Bad Boy ZT Elite is heavier so should I use that as an advantage. It also has a 3100 trans vs 2800 for the Hustler SD. Does either of those make one the better choice? Are their other factors I should use to select the one for me?
Hi Earl, The Bad Boy has the “WOW” factor and the larger trans. Need I say more?
I am stuck between picking a tractor or ZTR, can you help? I have about 3/4 of an acre to mow now and if/when I clear out more trees it might be an acre. Most of the land is flat, but it’s bumpy in areas, some trees with mulch around them and then just trees to cut around. I have 2 primary areas where there is a slope. I don’t know how big the slope is, but I do not see it being a BIG hill as it is fairly gradual and not that far from where the yard is flatter to the back where the slope starts and then if I go further I would hit a fence.
I want a solid machine and there are dealers for all the brands around. I am wondering if I would use a snowblower attachment on a tractor, right now I use an Ariens 28″ walk behind. I would like to possibly use the attachments for dethatching, aerating, bagging, and then I have read you like sweepers? What’s the benefit of the sweeper over the bagger? Do the tractors really last using a snowblower and would one like your recommended 23090 work ok or on one page someone asked about the “5500 Garden Tractor”? I do not plan to pull anything right now on a cart, but I guess that could change, so should I consider a bigger tractor? I do mulch, but I put it in a wheel barrow and just push it to where I need.
For the ZTRs are you recommending the Craftsman Pro or these models?
42″ 22hp V-Twin Briggs and Stratton Zero Turn Riding Mower – Non CA
46″ 22 HP V-Twin Series Zero-Turn Riding Mower Non CA
What size tractor or mower is going to be best? I do have a gate to get it through and I think the gate allows for about 50″ width when fully opened, but I will double check. Is it worth going to the 46 for a tractor or ztr or even 48?
Hi Bob, a 48 inch deck needs about 52 inches to get through a gate. A 46 inch deck can fit through a 48 inch gate.
The 46 inch Craftsman ZTR you found has been discontinued and is replaced with this model. 22 HP V-Twin Kohler 46” Zero Turn Riding Mower. It’s actually cheaper to buy than the discontinued model.
Also, This model 20418 cuts better than the 42 inch you selected.
Tractor mounted snow blowers. Unless you have 150 feet or more of driveway I always suggest a walk-behind. The snow blower makes the tractor long and it takes room to turn it around. (and store) You need the snow blower, weights and chains and on most tractors you will also need a rear weight box. I ussually suggest the garden tractor because it has larger front and rear wheels for better traction and steering. But garden tractors only come with a 54 inch deck.
Why I like a sweeper. A sweeper does a better job of picking up pine cones, gumballs and pine needles. It is also cleaner – you don;t get all that dust around your head when bagging leaves in the fall.
A sweeper will also pick up wet grass clippings better than a bagger.
I always mulch my leaves first (grind them up with the mower) and then pick them up so I can get a lot in the sweeper.
I don’t collect all the time so the sweeper is handy. I just hitch it up and go.
A bagger also changes the weigh distribution on a lawn tractor or ZTR. On a tractor it’s not that noticeable but on a ZTR the weight shift can be very dramatic – especially when the front wheels want to come off the ground going uphill.
All the other tasks you want to do can be done with this zero-turn.
I live in Vilonia AR. My house is built on a hill. I have about an acre of land. My yard is rugged. Iv looked at the bad boy 60 inch elite. How good are bad boy mowers Iv also looked at husqvarna zero turns too. I need atleast a 54inch to tackle my hill. What would you suggest.
Hi Stephen, Are you looking at this mower at TSC? Click on the picture to go to TSC. .
This mower is getting a very good reputation. It’s big, heavy and has large tires for plenty of traction. Bad Bay is a rapidly rising brand. Their mowers look good and they take the xtra time to make them not only pretty, but tough.
Hello Stephen. Saw your post. I’m also in Vilonia. What mower did you go with? I’m in the market and as you know, so many choices.
Hi Paul, I’m a city boy recently gone country. I live in Goodrich, MI and have about 5.6 acres of land. The terrain is mostly flat but has a few big hills and a fair amount of pines & shrubs. I have a budget of around 5k for a ZT. Any advice is much appreciated!
Hi Will, 5K will gives you a lot of options. There are many dealer only models that will work well. If I remember correctly your ground is fairly sandy so I suggest you look for a ZTR with larger tires and a 48-50 inch deck. (a 54 or 60 inch ZTR may be too heavy and will dig in and tear up your lawn)
The Craftsman Pro 24 HP V-Twin Kohler 48” Fabricated Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower is a good place to start with it’s 20X10 inch rear tires.
Another very good option for you is the Toro Lawn Mowers TimeCutter SWX5050 50 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Park 74797C. This is a zero-turn mower but the front wheels steer the mower. This really helps in poor soil to keep the mower from digging ruts in your lawn.
If you really want to go with a 60 inch take a look at the Bad Boy ZT Elite at Tractor Supply. It has the larger rear tires and a really great price. Click on the picture to see more.
Keep asking, I’ll keep answering
Hi Paul — Hoping you can provide some sound advice. My lot is roughly one acre and is poker flat. I’m interested in buying a new zero-turn machine and have narrowed my choices to either a Hustler Raptor SD 48 or Toro Time Cutter MX5050. A reputable local dealer sells both brands and has quoted me a price of $3700 for the Hustler and $3900 for the Toro. Both machines have similar specs, so there doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut distinction between the two. I’m interested in a machine that will hold up over time and which also yields a quality cut. Please give me your take as to the pros and cons of each, and which one you believe to be the better value.
Thanks ………. Pete
Hi Pete, There are really no pro or cons on each machine. Both are good strong machines from companies that have been in the ZTR business for over 30 years. Both Toro and Hustler make the best commercial mowers on the market and they take all that knowledge and put it into these two machines.
Both of the decks cut about the same. Both have welded frames. Both are made here in the Midwest, both have stellar parts networks. Both have a good resale value.
I would sit on each one and see which one feels the best. (some machines sit low and can be hard to get on and off) Try the deck lifts. How do you set the parking brake? Do they both come with a rear hitch? Do you like yellow or black? This is a tough choice – even for me.
My husband and I “think” we’ve narrowed our selections down to either the Bad Boy CZT Elite 6000 ($6000) or the Toro Titan ZX 6000 ($5600). The concerning factors are Bad Boy’s two year warranty or Toro’s three year, plus Bad Boy’s electric deck lift or Toro’s mechanical lift. Would you please give us your opinion on these issues and mowers. Thank you from Bradford, AR.
Hi Sandi, The Bad Boy is pretty! That bright orange paint and the name laser cut into the side and back really looks cool.
I have no issues on either one. Both cut like a Marine Corp barber. (fast and flat)
I would look at the dealers. Do you like one better than the other? (That’s a decision for you – not your husband.) Try the mechanical deck lift on the Toro. Is it easy to use. Why? Because I always go for simpler is better when it comes to mowers. Electric lifts wear out, electronics break. Can you adjust the handlebars so it easy for you to use?
Toro does not mess around with warranties. If it’s broke and covered, they fix it fast. Bad Boy also has a good reputation for warranty work but they are not as well established. It may take them and extra day to get your mower fixed.
Great site with good info. Buying a new house with 3.4 acres (about 2-2.5 actual grass to mow) and trying to decide on a mower. Considered the new Craftsman after reading your review, but also looking at Hustler Raptor SD60 and now considering the Ariens MaxZoom60. Heard that the Ariens is basically a Gravely with different decals and paint. ??? The Ariens has a better transmission than the other two (3100 vs 2800). But, from reviews it sounds like the Kawasaki (Hustler) may be better than the Kohler engine (Ariens and Craftsman). The Ariens deck is chain hung too. Is that a plus or no big deal?
Bottom line, is there any appreciable difference between the three? Should I be more concerned with getting good service after the purchase? The Hustler is a bit cheaper than the other two, but not significant. Never had the need for more than a 22″ pushmower, so a bit overwhelming with all the choices. At about 5K, I don’t want to make a bad choice.
Hi Tim, or is the Gravely an Ariens with different color paint……Ariens owns the Gravely name
Did you hear? You can now get the Hustler with a Kohler! Forget what you have heard and read about the Kawasaki being better. The new Kohler 7000 and Kohler Pro have changed the game. Kawasaki gets their reputation from the commercial engines – not the residential models like is in the Hustler.
The mowers are equal. Service after the sale is the biggest factor. I would go into the Ariens and Hustler dealers and let them give me their pitch. Not only the ZTR but service after the sale, spring tune-up specials, trip charges to get the mower if it breaks. Have them show you the prats department and service department. Are the employees wearing uniforms or laying in the dirt out back?
If you have major problem with the mower (blown engine or trans) do they have a loaner? As a residential owner do you get pushed back behind the commercial guys. Does the dealer have commercial units in stock?
Go with the mower from the dealer you trust the most. Let me know what you decide please.
Any tangible differences between the Ariens Zoom 42 (915159) and the Gravely ZT 42 (915178)? Obviously the ZT42 has a more powerful engine, but not sure of any other differences?
How would you stack either of these up against the similarly priced Toro SS4225?
After comparing the Gravely zt 42 vs the ss4225 this evening, I do have to say that the build quality of the Gravely appears better, especially in 4 point deck mounting system.
I’m not sure if the 3 blade design is superior to the 2 blade design of the Toro.
As always, thanks.
@Mark, I am not aware of any differences between the Gravely or the Ariens other than where it is sold.
I don’t have any experience with the 42 inch Ariens/Gravely. From what I know about decks I would expect it to mulch well, but it won’t bag well.
Toro’s decks have always cut well and mulched well.
After I wrote this I went and checked CR. They agree with my viewpoint. The Toro gets high marks for side discharge and mulching. The Ariens/Gravely get average marks for mulching and good for side discharge and bagging
I contacted Ariens and they confirmed the Zoom 42 and Gravley ZT 42 are identical. The Zoom 42 can be had at the same price point as the Toro SS4225.
Why do you consider the Zoom 42 a “light duty” mower while you consider the SS4225 a “medium duty” mower? The front end of the ZT42 felt heavier than the ss4225 based on a quick and dirty shrug test.
Advantages I see of the Zoom/Gravely:
1) the deck is solidly attached at 4 points, and includes a foot pedal deck lift assist.
2) includes wider tires with less rounding
3) construction feels more commercial, less residential
Advantages I see of the Toro:
1) better cutting performance under a wider range of conditions with a lesser number of blades
2) better looking “fit and finish”
Hi Mark, I mis-spoke the SS4225 is a light duty mower.
What makes one zero turn better suited for slopes than another?
If it were between the Gravely/Ariens 42″ and the Toro SS4225, which would you take?
Hi Mark, I would pick neither. A residential zero turn (basically any lap bar model under $3000) is too light for traction. In addition the ZT-2800 transmissions are designed for level lawns with less than 10 degree slopes.
If you want a small zero-turn that will handle slopes better take a look at the Toro Steering Wheel models.
If you would please read this article: Do you really need a zero-turn mower? 17 reasons why you may not want one.
And here is my review of the Toro Steering Wheel models;
Paul – great website and very helpful for someone looking for ZTR for the firs time. I live in Harrison, OH (west of Cincinnati) and I just purchased 5 acres (flat with natural dips here and there) I have a about 3 acres without trees and then 10 – 15 trees and landscaping beds to mow around as I get close to the house and pole barn. I am moving from a subdivision house so I know my Toro walk behind will not do the job. People have told me to get at least a 60 inch. Do you recommend buying new or used? I was hoping to stay around the $4000, but want to make the best choice. Don’t need the best mower, but also don’t want to buy something that will breakdown or need continuous work. thanks for your expert opinions.
Hi Knoop, With a good 48 inch ZTR you can mow those 5 acres in about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. A 60 will do it in about 2 hours or less. Don’t get over a 60 inch. The 72 inch decks are too large and all they do is scalp your lawn.
You can get a new Craftsman
Pro 24 HP V-Twin Kohler 48” Fabricated Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower is about $3899. The 54 inch version about $4299.
Other comparable mowers are about the same price.
Used mowers – like used cars can be a great deal or a great curse. If you are unfamiliar with the larger mowers and don’t know what to look for when checking used ones – I would suggest a new mower this time around. In ten years then you can go used.
Great site! I’ve recently started shopping for a new mower, and your site has been a wealth of information! I live in central Ohio, and my yard is a little over 1.5 acres with a number of obstacles to mow around (detached garage, swing set, trees, etc.). Most of the yard is fairly flat, but I do have a couple of gradual slopes and some of it is a little rough. I was initially looking at the Hustler Raptor and the Cub Cadet RZT L, but I’m wondering if I should spend the extra money on something like the Raptor SD, Cub Cadet Z-Force, or Craftsman Pro Series to get the stronger transmission. I was hoping to stay in the $3000 range, but I would rather buy something that’s going to last me for years. I’ve been using a 15 year old Craftsman LT 1750 for about the past 10 or 12 years. It has served me well, but I think it’s about time for an upgrade.
Thanks for your help!
Hi Scott, Yes, you should go for the heavier transmissions. The step up in transmissions also gives you a heavier machine so it will mow the slopes without slipping. You know I like the Craftsman Pro 24 HP V-Twin Kohler 48” Fabricated Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower. A 48 inch deck will be just right for 1.5 acres.