Do you really need a zero-turn mower? 17 reasons why you may not want one.

 If you don’t know how to drive a small zero-turn your lawn may end up looking like wild hogs played soccer on your lawn.

Do you need a zero-turn mower?

Update 2018: Over 500,000 people have read this article over the last 3 years and it’s time to update it. There have been some significant changes including new zero-turns with steering wheels! Feel free to tell all your friends.

In this article on zero-turn mowers I am going to:

  • Help you determine if a Zero-Turn is what you need.
  • Help you determine if a residential zero-turn is what you need.
  • Help you determine if a landowner zero-turn is what you need.
  • Tell you the real truth about saving time with a zero-turn.

I like zero-turns! I have owned many over years from a 30 inch Dixon to a $45,000 Kut-Kwick Super Slope Master. They are fun and enjoyable to use.

But they are not for every yard. Please read this entire article to see if a zero-turn mower is for you!

The “Landscape” has changed in the last three years and there are now new zero-turns on the market that eliminate most of the problems with residential zero-turns.  The Toro Zero-Turn Timecutter, Craftsman Steering Wheel Zero Turns, and Cub Cadet Four-Wheel Steer Zero-Turn Riders use a steering wheel instead of lap-bars to steer the mower.  This allows the ZTR to turn better, follow slopes better and reduces the load on the EZT transmissions. In addition, they are very easy to use and don’t have the learning curve associated with lap-bar zero-turn mowers. In fact, they are as easy to drive as your car or SUV. You may read my review of the Toro Zero-Turn Tractor here.  

Is a Zero-Turn what you need?

Everyone has been trying to tell you that a zero-turn mower is what you need to mow your lawn. The advertising tells you that you can mow your lawn in half the time. The dealers tell you they have the best zero-turn mower. But zero-turns or a brand from your local dealer may not be the best answer you. Why? Because you have to learn how to drive one so you can mow your lawn without tearing it up. Many versions especially the inexpensive, homeowner models do not work on slopes, ditches or hills. They are designed to mow healthy, flat lawns and little else. If you work them too hard the drive systems may fail prematurely. They are more expensive than lawn tractors to buy and they can be more expensive to repair. A 42-inch residential zero-turn that uses the same deck as your $1500 lawn tractor is $2300 or more.  A good estate (landowner) zero-turn that will actually cut your mowing time in half is anywhere from $3000 to $7,000. So, let’s go through the facts and fiction about zero-turns.

Zero turns are made for one purpose only, mowing grass. They mow quickly and will save you time trimming around obstacles. They are NOT designed to pull things. Yes, some have a hitch and you can pull a small yard cart or spreader but you will destroy the transmissions in them if you try to pull loads of dirt, firewood or a leaf vacuum.  Most are not balanced properly for baggers and require expensive counterweights in the front.

Am I an Expert at Zero-Turns?

Yes and No. I was one of the first commercial lawn care businesses in the Chicago area to start using zero-turns back in the early 90’s.  By 1994 I was using crews of 2 people with zero-turns to do more work than my competitors were doing with crews of 7 using conventional Toro Groundsmasters and commercial walk-behind mowers. I have owned zero-turns as small as a Dixon 30 inch and as large as the $45,000 (Kut-Kwik SuperSlopemaster.)

superslopemaster

Kut-Kwik Superslopemaster

I have hundreds of hours actually driving zero-turn mowers. I am particularly fond of stand-on models. Many of the problems with zero-turns that I will caution you about I have experienced myself. I’ve have had them slide down slopes and into ponds. I have knocked the decks completely off from hitting obstacles too hard. I have owned a few that I would NEVER recommend to anyone and a few that are the best mowers on the market. Currently: I sold the lawn care business a while back and moved to Wisconsin but I still use zero-turns on my own yard. Here is a collage of mowers I have owned over the years: Mowers I have Owned

I am not an engineer, but I can talk the physics and practical reasons why zero-turns act the way they do. I’ve known many of the original engineers over the years (for example, Dane Scag) and we have spent many hours discussing the fine points of mowers. For example, a 2-inch shift in where the engine is located on a residential zero-turn means a 50% difference in traction, steering and digging up your yard. I can explain why the original Dixon ZTR was one of the best residential zero-turns and why it’s no longer made.

The real truth about saving time with a zero-turn. 

The general advertising states you can cut your mowing time in half using a zero turn mower instead of a traditional riding lawn tractor. That is partially true.

– The maneuverability of zero turn mowers allows you to easily mow around trees, flower beds and other obstacles in your yard more easily than a riding lawn tractor. Not having to back up and go forward or making multiple circles around a bush does save time. Compared to a conventional lawn tractor like a Poulan Pro or John Deere, this can save you a lot of time. Compared to a Craftsman Yard Tractor with the Turn Tight steering this is not a big time saver.

Grasshopper Front

Front Mount Zero-Turn

John Deere 48

Mid Mount Zero Turn

-There are two styles of residential zero-turn mowers, mid-mount, and front mount. With mid-mount zero turn mowers, the deck sits under the mower, like a lawn tractor. They are the most common but they do not eliminate trimming. In fact, they leave just as much grass to trim as your conventional lawn tractor.   Front Mount zero turn mowers, where the deck sticks out the front of the unit do trim better than your old lawn tractor. They will get under fences, under bushes and around poles easier than mid-mount ZTR’s.

-Residential zero-turn mowers typically use the same decks as lawn tractors. What that means is they don’t mow any faster in a straight line as a good yard tractor. The time savings comes from their ability to turn around faster and make tighter turns when trimming. Many landowner and commercial zero turn mowers (over $4000) are designed to cut grass faster than traditional lawn tractors so your straight line mowing speed is improved. You have to move up to these higher priced units to see any significant time savings. For example, a typical lawn tractor cuts at a speed of 3-4 mph. A residential zero-turn will cut about 3-5. If you spend the extra money to buy a landowner grade though you can increase your mowing speed to 5-8 mph. NOTE: Just because a mower is advertised to go a certain speed it does not mean it will mow well at that speed. For example, a Craftsman GT6000 Garden Tractor will go 8 mph but it will only mow well about 4 mph. A general rule of thumb: If the zero-turn has a stamped deck it will only mow well at 3-5 mph. If the zero-turn costs over $4500 it will mow well at 5-8 mph. These mid-priced zero-turns usually have 48 to 60 inches decks. The larger decks and higher ground speeds get the job done faster. (Brands are welcome to comment on their actual mowing speed at the end of this article)

Front mount snow thrower

Zero turn attachments

– So where does the advertised time savings really happen? Once you learn how to turn your new zero-turn without making holes in your lawn you can “zero-turn” on the ends of your long open areas. When you get to the end of your yard and turn around to make the next pass, you can literally spin 180 degrees and come right back without having to back up and cut the strips of grass you would miss when making the turn with a lawn tractor. No more three-point turns.

Three point turn

Three point turn

When you are just mowing large areas back and forth even the residential zero-turns save time on the ends this way. There are also advanced techniques like the “reverse-zero turn-forward” maneuver that will cut seconds out of each turn-around. Over a full day of mowing, those seconds can really add up.

In summary, Residential mid-mount zero-turns do not cut better than lawn tractors.  Mid-mount zero-turns do not trim better than lawn tractors. The main reason you see commercial lawn service companies using mid-mount zero turn mowers is they can fit more mid-mount ZTR’s on a trailer than you can the front-mount types. Landowner and commercial mid-mount zero-turns cut faster than lawn tractors and that is where the real time savings happens.

 

Time Savings – Residential Example:

I’ll use my lawn as an example. I have a one-acre flat lawn with over 40 trees, and other landscape features to mow around:

  • Using a 22-inch walk-behind it takes me about 3 1/2 hours to mow and trim.
  • With a conventional 42-inch lawn tractor I can cut that down to 1 1/2 hours. About 20 minutes of that is trimming.
  • With a 38 inch Husqvarna Articulated Front Deck Rider I can mow the lawn in 1 hour. About 5 minutes for trimming.
  • With a 42 inch mid-mount residential zero-turn I can mow my yard in less than 1 hour. About 15 minutes of that is trimming!

Time Savings – Commercial Example:

Walker cemetary1

Front Deck Mower

Cemeteries have a lot of trimming. A typical job that requires 40 man-hours using conventional lawn tractors can be reduced to 25 man-hours with commercial mid-mount ZTR’s.  The main time savings is mowing speed and maneuverability. Trimming takes about the same amount of time. By switching to front-mount ZTR’s that original 40-hour job can be reduced to 15 hours. Both mowing time and trimming time is reduced.

 

Is a residential zero-turn really what you need?

 

Husqvarna 30 inch

Husqvarna 30 inch

Limitations for all small residential zero-turns. 

Small zero-turns can be fun and can save you time mowing your yard but they may not be the best choice for you. There are thousands of you who will read this and decide a small zero-turn is best for you, but you may also decide a small zero-turn is not the best choice.  For example, an entry level Craftsman Zero Turn is a good dependable Zero-Turn but half the reviews I read are negative? Why? Because the owner did not understand the limitations of a residential zero turn, not because the machine is bad. If those reviewers had purchased any other brand they would say the same things about them.

Mother Earth News is another good example.  They compared the $2400 Craftsman against zero-turn mowers costing $6000 to $17,000 and then rated it poorly without explaining the differences. (They did not rate any other small residential zero-turns)

Consumer Reports also wants you to be very clear about the limitations of small zero-turns and specifically cautions about using a zero-turn on slopes.

A Lawn or Yard Tractor with a tight turning radius will maneuver almost as well for most of us. For homeowners with slopes, a Craftsman Pro Series Yard Tractor is a better choice.

The Limitations:

1. If you have never owned a zero-turn there is a learning curve. They are easy to use and will save you time, but it will take you a couple of mowings to get the most out of your mower. Be very careful when you first start so you don’t slam the deck into trees, foundations, rock walls, etc. Practice going around objects closely with something that will not damage the mower before you go out and mow your yard.  Take the plastic garbage can, a 5-gallon bucket or a bale of hay and practice trimming around them at first. If you think you are getting good, lay a bag of dog food, a sack of flour or sugar on the ground and see if you can mow around it without ripping it open. Learn to keep the zero-turns rear wheels moving when practicing these maneuvers. Letting the inside wheel stop when turning will tear up your lawn.

After you master the art of driving one there are advanced driving techniques like the reverse zero-turn that will decrease your mowing time even more. These techniques are easy to learn.

The Toro Zero-Turn Timecutter, Craftsman Steering Wheel Zero Turns, and Cub Cadet Four-Wheel Steer Zero-Turn Riders use a steering wheel instead of lap-bars to steer the mower. These mowers are similar to residential zero turns but use a steering wheel and steerable front wheels instead of lap-bars.  They have been around long enough now that I can give them a resounding thumb’s up if you want a zero-turn but are afraid you won’t like the lap-bar steering.

Small residential zero-turns are built with the same parts and engineering design (durability) as your lawn tractor. They will last you years if taken care of but they will only take as much abuse as your old lawn tractor. What that means is while you are learning to drive one it is very easy to damage a small zero-turn. They are designed to go quickly and easily around things but they are not designed to bang into trees, foundations, birdbaths, curbs, rocks, tree roots, etc. Landowner zero-turns are tougher, but not bulletproof. Commercial zero-turns, on the other hand, are designed for multiple operators and can take a lot more abuse. Some landowner and all commercial decks have rub bars on the edges, heavy, heavy lift linkages and heavy duty frames. Commercial mowers can take a hit against a foundation but your new residential zero-turn can’t.  

2. Small zero-turns ride rough. On your typical mole infested lawn most women have to wear a sports bra to be comfortable driving one. You need a zero-turn that weighs over 700 lbs before they start to smooth out (the Craftsman 20424 is 900 lbs.) Even then, many of the higher weight, higher cost zero-turns also mow faster so the ride gets rougher again. I was so happy when my landscape company was successful enough that I could buy ExMark Zero Turns with a suspension seat. The air ride seat was a $600 option and I gladly paid it! More and more brands are now offering suspension seats and suspension platforms that smooth out the ride. The Toro MyRide is one of the best.

Note: It’s actually pretty common for people’s hands to go numb on a ZTR. You are not used to holding your arms out and having the weight of your arms resting on your fingers. That’s why many come standard with armrests. Try wearing wrist braces and do some strength exercises for your wrists and fingers. You can buy medical wrist braces at your pharmacy or sports braces at the sporting goods store. They both will work for you. Squeeze a tennis ball for a few weeks.

3. Small zero-turns that are weighted so they won’t pop wheelies going uphill, but will easily get stuck in sand, mud puddles and loose soil. If there is no turf, the front casters of a small zero-turn will plow into the soil and get stuck.

4. Small zero-turns that will turn well in loose soil usually won’t go up a hill without the front wheels coming off the ground. If you can lift the front end of your zero-turn by yourself don’t try mowing up a hill with it.

5. Small zero-turns will not turn going downhill. With wet turf, drought-dry turf, and even good turf, the rear wheels can’t always get enough traction to turn the unit when it’s pointed downhill. Slow down before you go down the hill or mow the hill diagonally going down. When mowing with a small zero-turn across a slope they have a tendency to slide down the slope.  This can be very embarrassing when you slide into the pond and very deadly when you slide off the lawn and over a landscape wall. NEVER, I repeat never mow a slope with a pond or drop-off at the bottom of the slope. Even the most expensive ZTR’s can lose traction and slide down the slope. Plan on using a walk-behind mower or creating a nature area for those types of slopes.

Steering wheel ZTR’s are better for slopes. They will turn as well or better than your lawn tractor. They also handle slopes better than lawn tractors because both rear wheels are driven all the time. In other words they don’t use a differential.

6. Small zero-turns may tip over backwards going uphill. A good rule of thumb is to try backing up the hill with your zero-turn. If the rear wheels lose traction and start to spin the slope is too steep to mow up. If you have a walkout basement mow the slope diagonally – going downhill! Yes, it takes more time, but it is safer.

7. Small zero-turns are delivered with too much air in the tires. Read the manual and adjust the air pressure to 12 lbs or so.

8. Small zero-turns push hard when the engine is not running. The transmission release lever may be in front of the transmission instead of on the rear frame like your yard tractor. There are two release levers. Even with the transmissions released they can still be hard to move. I find that tying a piece of rope to the front of the zero-turn and pulling it is easier than trying to push it around.

9. Small zero-turns will tear up your lawn. The least expensive ones have rounded tries and tend to dig into your turf easily. Wider, flat tires work the best.

10. Small zero-turns do not have good traction. The turning traction is all on the rear wheels. They can be hard to turn on dry grass or wet grass.

11. Many retailers and most dealers have a 30 day return policy. You have a very short window to decide if you bought the right mower.

12. Many economy small zero-turn mowers do not mow in reverse. They will zero-turn (pull one lever back to rotate one tire in reverse while the other tire goes forward) but the deck shuts off when you pull both levers back. I don’t recommend disabling this feature.

13. Small zero-turn mowers will tear up and scratch anything behind them. I have a hitch on my Dixon ZTR and my wife has had it stuck in the chain link fence around the dog yard dozens of time. Look for a zero-turn with a rounded rear frame. Also don’t buy a small zero-turn where the engine sticks out farther than the rear frame. If you get too close and hit something with the rear you can easily damage your engine.

14. Residential zero-turn mowers should not be used to pull anything over 200 lbs. Most zero turn mowers under $3000 use Hydro-Gear EZT  transmissions are not designed to pull a yard cart full of dirt, a sweeper full of green grass or especially a leaf vac.  That is why most of the cheaper models do not come with a rear hitch.  The transmissions are designed to give you years of use mowing your yard but they will burn out quickly if you try to pull loads like a yard cart filled with dirt or a leaf vac. If a dealer tries to tell you his zero-turn can pull a leaf vac and the mower is priced under $3000 ask him to include a lifetime warranty on the transmissions. If you would like a more detailed explanation just ask in the comments below.

15. Be very careful if the zero-turn only has great reviews. There should be reviews where people bought the wrong machine and didn’t like it or didn’t understand how to use it. If the unit only has great reviews I would suspect there are paid reviewers writing the reviews.

16. Zero-turns are finish cut mowers, not field/pasture mowers. Even the $5000 to $14,000 commercial models are designed to mow your lawns beautifully but they don’t work well on grass/weeds over 6 inches. The long grass can wrap around the components underneath (spindles) and ruin the bearing or cause enough drag to burn out the deck belts.  They don’t like stumps, rocks, dirt mounds or ant hills any better than your lawn tractor. If you want to mow the pasture when the grass is over 6 inches you will have to mow the same area at least twice. I will always suggest a rough cut mower like the Acrease rough cut or a “Bush Hog” brush mower.

Note. This is critical information when deciding on what type of lawn mower to buy: All zero-turn mowers are designed to mow lawns. They are designed to mow weekly or bi-weekly growth. They are NOT designed to mow pastures, timber, fields, and paddocks. They are NOT designed to mow grass/weeds 12 inches to 6 feet tall. Mowing grass over 12 inches can/will damage deck spindles, belts, tires and bearings on even the most expensive ZTR’s.

Pastures, fields, paddocks, and timber with grass and brush taller than 12 inches require a rotary cutter (bush hog) or rough cut mower. Yes, I know many of the mid-priced ZTR’s appear heavy duty enough but please don’t blame the mower or the brand when your mower requires $500 worth of repairs because you needed to mow your horse pasture.

17. NEVER, I repeat never mow a slope with a pond or drop-off at the bottom of the slope. Even the most expensive ZTR’s can lose traction and slide down the slope. Plan on a walk-behind mower or nature area for those types of slopes.

How do you actually drive a zero-turn?

If you have never driven a zero-turn before they do take some practice. If you don’t learn to drive it properly you will tear large divots out of your lawn. Why? Zero-turn mowers do not have a differential and it is up to you to keep the wheels moving when making a turn. If you allow one wheel to stop during the turn it skids and digs a hole in your lawn.  This divoting is made worse on the cheaper residential zero-turns that have cheap rounded tires installed. Lawn tractors have a differential that allows that allows one rear wheel to travel at a different speed on a turn. In other words, it allows the inside wheel on a turn to slow down, but continue to roll so it does not tear up your lawn. Depending on you and the zero-turn you are using it can take 5 minutes to 5 hours to become proficient.

Here is a video of how a differential works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F40ZBDAG8-o

How exactly does a zero turn mower save you time compared to a lawn tractor?

Here is a newer article to help you: The Best Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide – The best ZTR for you is not that hard to figure out..

Is this enough information? Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below.

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Max Soetermans
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Max Soetermans

Paul: I’m in the market for a new mower. I’ve used my Father-in-law’s John Deere X380 tractor and like it very much compared to the entry-level Cub Cadet I was using. I went to my local John Deere dealer to have a look and see if they were offering any specials and he also showed me a Z535R zero-turn unit. John Deere has no reviews on their web-site for these machines. Other than his word, i don’t really have much info on this model. Based on reading your article here, it seems that the Z535R falls into the “estate” mower… Read more »

Derek
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Derek

Paul, I just bought a house with 3 acres of wide open yard and am looking to purchase my first zero turn. The property is mostly flat or gentle slope with maybe a dozen trees. I was hoping you could help guide me in the right direction as I don’t want to spend more then necessary but also am a believer in buy once cry once. The most inexpensive mower mower I looked at was the Cub Cadet Z-Force 54″ L/LX (about $3,900) but the sales rep recommended the Exmark Radius E Series 54″ for around $1,200 more. He claimed… Read more »

Bernadette Puissant
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Bernadette Puissant

Hi! I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles, but I’m still stumped on which mower to get! We have about 3.5 acres some obstacles and a few small inclines. We want a bagger system as well. What would you recommend? We were looking at the Bad boy brand and I was wondering what you’ve heard about them. The main reason is we have two locations near us who sell them and recommend them highly, but I haven’t been able to find much on them. Also with that much property, trees and kids I won’t have time to pick up every stick,… Read more »

Matt w
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Matt w

Looking at a Gravely ZTR X 42. I have a 47” gate to get through. I like it because of the fabricated deck, and the added power of the 24 hp Kohler engine. I can get one on sale right now for $2900. Is there a better option for me at that price? Do you have a better suggestion at that price point. I only have half acre to mow, but I’m just getting sick of pushing it. I’ve never owned a zero turn, but I do have a lot of trees and a swingset, and a fire pit. I… Read more »

Duane Pelerine
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Duane Pelerine

Thank you! This is a great article Paul, After owning ZTRs Big and small for a couple of years, I can relate to your content. I wish someone would have laid it all out for me a few years back. You’re a very good writer.

JakeD
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JakeD

Hello Paul. Thanks for the great write-up. We are moving outside of the town and for the first time I will have more than 0.3 acres to mow. So, I am gonna need to upgrade from my walk behind. New house sits on 2 acres. House is a walkout so front yard is generally flat both sides and back are daily slope. Generally just an open grass lot, not too much to mow around. I would like to buy something that is user friendly so my wife and kids can learn to mow. Perusing the local used selection, I see… Read more »

farmgirl
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farmgirl

Thanks so much for the information! I currently am cutting grass every 5 days, but will move to once a week in the next month or two. I cut from early April through November and always bag the clippings due to dogs and foot traffic in my house. I am not really interested in the attachments that come with the mowers with the exception of the bagger (and an automated one would be ideal!). I understand that the Toro My Ride would be the best option for comfort and price, but I think it is a deal breaker that it’s… Read more »

farmgirl
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farmgirl

Hi Paul, I would like to know if you have any opinions or info on a 48″ zero turn with a rear discharge and bagger capability. We have a farm and mow around 3 acres/week with several tight spots due to landscaping, etc. I have found a walker (which is not to be good on hills) and a Toro 8000. We are wanting 24 HP with a welded deck. Any thoughts are much appreciated!

Wayne W.
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Wayne W.

Hi Paul, have read many of your reviews and articles. I recently bought a Hustler Raptor 42 but am now having buyer’s remorse. The machine is fine but I found that sometimes my hands start to numb, I have tried to loosen my grip and have now lowered the bars and also hold the bars lower while it seems better it’s still somewhat uncomfortable. Another aspect of my regret is first I feel I have thrown good money out on a machine I purchased mainly due to the fabricated deck not available on lawn tractors for the most part. I… Read more »

Mark
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Paul, I have 2.5 acres that has a lot of trees (and therefore a lot of sticks, pinecones, leaves, etc.) with a couple of minor slopes. I’m trying to determine whether a zero turn is right for me, and if so, whether I need a high end residential or need to step up to a commercial grade.

Rob
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Rob

Paul, your responses to the comments below are the most informative on the web regarding ZTR specifically (thanks for that!). Your suggestion – Husqy Z554 or JD Z915E? Both dealers are local and price is similar. Or is there another machine that you would recommend for maybe a lower price? Will be mowing 1.5 acres, all flat with a few trees. Residential so every other week.

Tim
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Tim

Hi Paul, I have a neck injury and my small JD lawn tractor rides rough enough to hurt me. I have read that zero turns ride better if you lower the tire pressure. Can you provide some guidance?

andy
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andy

Hi Paul, Great article thank you. I’m a mowing contractor with clients who have varied requirements in terms of quality and quantity and as such I have a few different mowers etc. I’m looking at a ztr and am interested in the Dixons from what you have said/implied. Is the following scenario realistic at all given they are close in price: A brand new JD ZTrak Z335 42 vs a 2008 Dixon Ram 44 wth 1900 hrs, 25hp B&S twin. I know the JD is a residential machine but it may only get used for 5 – 8 hrs per… Read more »

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[…] 2. Do you really need a zero-turn mower? […]

Mick
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Mick

Hi Paul. Great article. I have recetly purchase a large acreagehorse stud. I have access to a tractor and rotary cutter for the most difficult pastures. Around the home there is about 4- 5 acres of lawn that has some steep swails and hills (mostly gentle flats however) looking at a cub with 4w steer. What is the deal with wheel motors as opposed to standard hydros. Can these zero turn riders be used to tow more like a leaf vac? Cant cut the area around the house with the tractor as it is quite sandy and the tractor ag… Read more »

Justin Peterson
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Justin Peterson

Not sure if this thread is still active but I started a little lawn service and recently bid some big commercial contracts at where I thought I could be competitive and low and behold I was just awarded my first big contract worth 54,000 a year for the next 2 years. I know I need bigger equipment for the job. I see a ton of guys hate on residential ZTR’s… I know I want a ZTR. This contract will eventually take my business to the next level and at some point I’ll be buying 20,000 mowers that will run 10… Read more »

ray
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ray

I would love your advise. I just bought a house on 6 acres of lawn. I am torn between a compact tractor like the BX series in Kubota vs a zero turn. I dont want to spend all weekend cutting it… it is mostly flat. what do you think?

Mike Zimmerman
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Mike Zimmerman

I recently replaced my 19-year-old John Deere LX176 with a new Toro 48″ MyRide Time Cutter ZT for my 1 acre property and I absolutely HATE my new Toro. With nearly 10 hours of run time I still can not trim around any obstacle without tearing up turf nor can I cut as close to the obstacle as I could with my JD resulting in more time spent with the string trimmer. Furthermore any 90 or 180 degree turn results in massive divots in my yard as I have found no way to keep the inside tire turning. This has… Read more »

Chris Shoffner
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Chris Shoffner

Hi Paul, Thank you for writing this article. I wish I had read it before I bought my z-turn. I have perhaps done a few things wrong, and would appreciate your comment. I have a 2016 52″ Gravely ZT HD with the 23.5 HP Kawasaki FR691V engine and the Hydro-Gear 3100 transmission. I did not know you shouldn’t use them to pull much of anything. I put the correct hitch on my machine, and used it many times to pull this little 42″ Brinly dethatcher. That $79.00 dethatcher did a great job on wire grass in my pasture. This was… Read more »

Chris S
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Chris S

Paul Thank you so much for writing this very informative article. As comprehensive as the article is I am now undecided on what I should purchase and would like your advise and product/make/model suggestions. I currently own a 1996 38″ cut murray tractor with a 12.5 hp briggs and stratton engine. My property is about 60 ft wide x 340 ft long that is relatively flat with one mound where a tree was removed(20ft diameter) and the grass is mixed sometimes kicking up dust. I have 8 trees, 1 snowball bush, a neighbors metal fence, a driveway of about 10… Read more »

Dean Ousterhout
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Dean Ousterhout

Hello Paul,

Thanks for the excellent writeup. WE are buying 7.5 acres that has mostly been used as pasture. About 20% is under trees with no grass. It has a 25% grade and in a couple swales it is steeper.

My wife wants to have some “wild meadow” areas with natural area plants that will probably get to several feet high.

The rest will probably never get above the 6-12 inch height you mention.

I have been looking at a Kubota ZD326 60″ diesel ZTR, used, and wondered your thoughts on how that might do?

Josh
Guest
Josh

Hi. Was looking into using a zero turn for something other than grass. Removing the deck and running the mower to haul a tank of and supports close to 1000 lbs of liquid with a spray bar designed off the hitch. If I place the tank over the engine and add weight supports to the front, do you think there is a zero turn out there ready for my needs? The ability to turn on the dime is the most important factor really, any other suggestions are welcome. Thanks

Gary
Guest
Gary

Paul, I have a Troy-Bilt 42″ Zero Turn mower I got at Lowes 5 years ago. For the most part it has worked fine. Lawn is mostly flat with a few trees and one slight incline in the front yard. One day after a cut the yard I noticed it was running rough. When I looked at the engine, I noticed the bed was cracked and two of the bolts were gone. I replaced the bolts with ones from Lowes and put a flat metal bar across the engine bed where it was cracked and bolted in in. It worked… Read more »

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Paul,

wondered what your thoughts are between a Gravely ZTHD 60 and the ferris is700z for 3-5 acres of regular mowing, (not a typical residential lawn) and some occasional field / path mowing or brush hog entire area and then mainten the height with the ztr….? Not sure I am justified in stepping up is all?

Chris
Guest
Chris

I am looking for a zero turn that will hopefully have the capability of adding a plow or bin to pull behind for <6-8" of snow and to move logs from one spot to another for splitting. I have looked at Toro but not sure what the best models would be. I am open to other models within a normal man's budget for a 1 acre property. Hope you can give some advice.

Dan Mikel
Guest
Dan Mikel

Looking for a recommendation on a 60″ ZTR. I have a 1971 Yazoo 14 hp Commercial mower (front deck, tricycle) that was a forerunner of the ZTR currently it is on life support in the shop. I have been borrowing my buddy’s 60″ XMark or his Gravely 60″. They are great mowers but they are very expensive commercial units that I don’t feel like investing that much money into for a sometimes weekly chore. I have looked at 60″ models of Toro, Country Clipper, Bad Boy, & Hustler – All seem reasonable for what I want to do and have… Read more »

Lee
Guest
Lee

Hi Paul I live near Winnipeg in Canada on 2 acres of land (all flat except the ditch). There’s quite a few trees around the front, sides and especially very back of the yard, with a few trees dispersed throughout the middle of the yard. It takes me about 4 hours+ to mow the yard because I’m always going back and forth around the trees. I have a Craftsman LTX 1000 riding mower which is ok, but am looking to get a ZTR or something that can cut some of that time out of mowing. I’ve looked and rode the… Read more »

David Gardner
Guest
David Gardner

Hi Paul, A really useful/informative article. I`m looking at a zero turn instead of a domestic tractor mower since I have less time to maintain a big tricky lawn. It needs a bit of grunt for when the grass has been neglected for a couple of weeks and to get around a lot of trees etc. I was offered a used 2003 Ariens 994301 stand up. It has a 19hp kawasaki engine, and either a 30″ or 34″ deck. I`m in the UK and can find no information on this machine even to confirm the cutting width. Talking 2-3 acres… Read more »

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Paul I have one more question. I have been reading a lot about ZTR’s and came across an article that claimed Hustler Turf sells a ‘lesser’ product to Lowes and Home Depot. I want to purchase the Hustler SDx 54′ with a Kawasaki 23 hp, unless it is inferior to the one I purchase at the Hustler Dealer.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

I have a question regarding ZTR’s. I have 5 acres and I mow about 4 of it. I am thinking of buying the Hustler SDx 54 with the Kawi and ZT 2800. I like it over all. I read a little about the Husqvarna MZ54s which you recommend. I like fact that the husq has a 5 gallon tank and ZT3100. I don’t like the stamped deck and the BS engine. Every site recommends the Kawi over the BS. What do you recommend or advise? I am a homeowner not a commercial landscaper. Loading...

Paula Boucher
Guest
Paula Boucher

Hi Paul I have 3/4 acre. My husband is 70 and I am 65. He has incurable blood disease that takes his strength and Im just a bag of arthritis. He fights me every second trying to help, but I have managed to cut the grass a few times and now we cut it together. I desperately want to buy a rider that will reduce our load, but Hubby refuses to help me because he wants to be the strong man he always was and hates me having to do things that he feels is his job. We have a… Read more »

Gary Sisk
Guest

Hi Paul, A great article and the first I have seen that was obviously written by someone who truly understands mowers and who has used them. I am a retired facilities director 30+ years for school districts so have had huge acreage to mow every day and because I was always short handed I helped the guys mow many days. If buyers pay attention to your article they should have a great mower and mowing experience. I first used zero turn mowers in the early 90’s and used many sizes from 42″ up to 12′ and many manufacturers and can… Read more »

Brad
Guest
Brad

Hey Paul, Appreciate you sharing some knowledge here. I am building a house on 3 acres. Not flat but nothing crazy as far as hills go. Not a tree on the land at all. I really like the 50″ toro with the steering wheel that you recommended to someone else. Curious though if it can handle pushing some snow. Would I tear it up doing that? I’d prefer a wheel over the levers. Trying to stay under $3,000 but I can go up a bit if I need to. May go look at a Simplicity built, Massey Ferguson 2924D this… Read more »

Jason
Guest
Jason

Hi Paul. For the past three years I’ve been mowing our yard with a 30″ push mower (Yard Machines). After dropping comments here and there for quite a while, I finally have the green light to get a riding mower. I am on a tight budget though, so it’ll have to be used. I found a Cub Cadet Z-Force 44 for sale that doesn’t start. I’m confident it’s the solenoid. Even if it’s not, I believe in my abilities to get it running. I have negotiated the price down to $500 as is. My yard is modest in size at… Read more »

Nikki
Guest
Nikki

Hi Paul, I have been pouring over articles about zero-turn mowers. I have always had riding mowers and am looking into getting a another mower. I’m altogether not sure whether I should get another riding mower or if I should go with a zero-turn mower. Let’s pretend I am your wife (so that “caring” will be a factor in your help) and I am the one who will be cutting the grass. What mower and type would you suggest I look into purchasing? Here are some details on my property: I have about 1 acre of ground. It is smooth… Read more »

Trent
Guest
Trent

Hi Paul, First, thank you for all of the effort you put into this site. It’s proven extremely helpful and very informative! I’ve narrowed my search down to the Hustler Raptor Limited 52″ deck because Hustler states the Raptor is good for slopes up to 15deg. (I have a septic mound that slopes from 12-15deg.) However, my only concern is the EZT transmissions. I know Hustler says it’s safe on 15deg slopes but would I wear out the transmissions prematurely? The Huster SD has the ZT2800 transmissions but costs an extra $600 ($3,799). It has the Kohler 7000 engine and… Read more »

Leo
Guest
Leo

Hi Paul, I had been looking into Husqvarna ZTRs (specifically the Z246 or Z254) but have been reading that Husqvarna may not be the most reliable brand. What are your thoughts on this? I don’t want to spend $2.5-$3.5k to have the mower in the shop all the time. I see you’ve been recommending the Toro SWX5000. Would I be getting a highly quality machine going with this mower instead? Is the model 74795 worth the extra $400 over the 74790? My property has a small slope of about 12-15deg before it turns to my neighbor’s property if that matters.… Read more »

David Gruenberg
Guest
David Gruenberg

Thanks for taking the time to run this site. I’m trying to figure out what kind of mower to buy. I have about 3 acres near Eugene Oregon with some small slope. The grass gets long as I can’t keep up with my push mower. There are some pot holes, lots of small trees, paths, fencing and edging. No ponds of walls. I was thinking a standing mower like the Hustler Super S 48″ would allow for the hills, close quarters and still be fast on the open areas. It more expensive than my fallback, the Hustler Raptor or Raptor… Read more »

Chad
Guest
Chad

Ok, I have a 1 acre yard. About half of it is a gentle slope (approximately 15 degrees). For 13 years I have used a John Deere GX345 and felt very secure sideways, at an angle, or up and down. It now has transmission issues (250 hours) and I am not sure if it is worth putting a bunch of money into. Since mine broke, my friend has been mowing it with his Ferris 600 or Gravely stand on, both up and down or sideways. Everywhere I go, they are trying to sell me a zero turn. They, as well… Read more »

Trent
Guest
Trent

My riding mower recently died after almost 20 years and I was looking to purchase a Husqvarna Z254 with the Kawasaki engine for my acre lot (was hoping to keep it under $3,500 w/the bagger.) My only concern is our septic mound which was added about 5 yrs ago and has a slope ranging from 10-14deg. The rest of the lawn is relatively flat with a very gradual slope in the back. Do you think this mower would be a good choice? I’ve read about transmission issues on steep slopes but I’m not sure if this would be considered “steep.”… Read more »

Russell
Guest
Russell

Howdy!
Thanks for all the advice!
I have a new home and about 2.5 access of a lot that sat for 4 years and is all weeds.

I’m on a budget and just looking to make things easy on me for years time, as I’d rather be in the garden than mowing.

Would you recommend a riding tractor meet or a ztr for non commercial use and which models still available for your recommendation attempting to keep at $2k and below.

Thanks

dan
Guest
dan

HI- I have a bad right leg (from ms) so I need something that I won’t need to use it on. I have had an stx-38 and now an L100, but it’s slowing down, time to go! I have about a 300×100 yard. I have some large trees, with a lot of leaves that I mulch up. I have been considering the Deere z335 as I love the idea of a switch to go from mulch to blowing. But I would like a 36″. I am thinking of a 36″ or 42″ deck (I have a small 48″ garage door… Read more »

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Hi Paul, Interesting and candid article. What are your thoughts about a used commercial “out front mower” such as a John Deere 1445 for residential use? I’ve run a couple of zeros (limited use on commercial and high end residential types) and personally prefer the stability and familiarity of a tractor type. I use a JD 455 60″ tractor type now but will be building our new home on a larger property with more trees to mow under/around and slight slopes, nothing over 5%. About 3 acres worth of lawn with some old field terraces I do plan to level… Read more »

jim owen
Guest
jim owen

Hi Paul,

I’m building a new home on two acres. It is wide open now but I will plant some trees. I want to buy a mower that will last a long time. I’m looking at the Hustler Fastrak (54″ or 60″), the Gravely Pro Turn (52″ or 60″). Are these comparable machines? Would you prefer one over the other? What is the comparable ExMark mower to these two.

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

Any advice appreciated: I currently own a 2013 Craftsman GT6000 garden tractor, I mow about 2.5 acres of mostly open grass (though I am planting more trees). I love everything about the tractor except it’s steering is horrible, very loose and tows the wheels in and out. I acquired a 2008 Toro Z5000 Timecutter zero turn with a blown motor. I probably can’t afford to keep both, so I am debating selling the Craftsman and converting the Toro to an electric motor. If I knew that the Toro was going to be better for mowing (timewise) I would have no… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’m a small landscaper, mostly gated areas but wanted to get a zero turn for my yard and a couple others. was looking at the 48 in toro commercial. either Kawasaki engine or v-twin?

Bert
Guest
Bert

Paul, I am building my landscape company on the side. I work for a bigger company monday-thursday and do work for myself on fridays and saturdays. I am in the market for a used ZTR mower and found one in my budget. it is a 2014 craftsman 54″ ZTR model Z6600. it has 80 hrs on it. they are asking $2200. I’m thinking I can get it for $2000. I live in Asheville, NC and deal with a lot of hills and slopes in yards as we are in the Appalachian mtns. I only have 7 full time yards now… Read more »

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