Hustler Raptor 52 in. Zero-Turn Mowers – Are They Really That Different?
Is this mower the best for you? In this review I will go over the features, strengths and weaknesses of this zero turn mower and compare it to the brands you are familiar with.
I never heard of Hustler Mowers!
There is a reason why Cub Cadet, Craftsman and Toro are all household names. You see their names every time you walk into a home improvement center, hardware store or your local Sears. You probably have never heard of the dozen or so other brands that make heavy duty commercial mowers. Well, one company is out to change that.
Introducing the Hustler Raptor and Raptor SD by Excel Industries. Three high quality mowers now at a homeowner price. You may have never heard of this brand but I’m here today to tell you that if you want a zero-turn mower this is one first brand you should consider.
The first zero-turn mower to be patented was by Excel Industries in the early 60’s and they have been making the Hustler line of zero turn mowers ever since. Over the years they have focused mainly on industrial and heavy duty commercial versions. You may not have noticed the brand but if you ever saw a yellow mower at an airport or other large industrial area it probably was a Hustler. Don’t worry about service and parts. The mowers will be serviced through their 1600 dealers.
They don’t make lawn tractors so they don’t put lightweight stamped lawn tractor decks on their Raptor zero-turns. All the decks are fabricated, welded decks. They make zero-turn mowers that are all but indestructible up to 100 inches wide and up to 12 mph mowing speed. They took what they know from years of industrial mowing and made very rugged, dependable zero-turns at a price homeowners can afford.
Raptor 52 in. Zero-Turn Mower Home Depot Model: 933077
Manufactured By: Excel Industries
Item Number: 204612929
See All Buying Options Here: Hustler Lawn Mower. Dealer Locator
Street Price: $2999.99
Hustler calls this a Residential Zero-Turn. It has more features than a yard tractor but less pulling power than the G5500 garden tractor.
Compare it to: 54 inch Craftsman Model 20414, or the John Deere Lawn Mowers Z425 54 in. 22 HP Hydrostatic Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower BM24656
Quick Summary Review
- Kawasaki Premium V-Twin engine
- Top Speed 6.5 mph!
- Heavy duty fabricated deck and frame. 4.5 inch cutting height!
- Low Seat Height.
- Patented Automatic Park Brake System.
- Heavy Duty Front Caster Forks
- Disperses clippings evenly in side-discharge mode.
- Mulches well, leaves fine clippings with little or no clumps.
- Optional engine guard .
- Maximum mowing area per hour (acres): 3.0 acres at 5 MPH
- Recommended for moderate slopes? Yes, Moderate slopes
- Excels in mowing around obstacles? Yes
- Will Mow In Reverse? Yes
- This is a heavy duty residential zero-turn but it still has the EZT transmissions that all the residential’s have. You will not be able to pull heavy loads like a leaf vac.
My Full Review:
The Raptor is Hustler’s entry-level zero-turn mower and you can buy one for less than $3000. It features a fabricated deck that cuts just as well as the stamped decks on the other residential machines. Overall it is a well built mower for the price. The Hustler Raptor is designed and built by the manufacture with the most zero-turn experience, Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas
HydroGear EZT Transmissions, Mowing Speed 6.5 mph, Patented automatic Parking Brake, 52″ Cutting Width, 1.5″-4.5″ Cutting Height
23HP- FR691V Kawasaki V-Twin. Kawasaki Premium V-Twin engines offer durability, dependability, and the power you need to get the job done. Many owners prefer the Kawasaki over the Briggs and Kohler engines. Because of the way Kaw rates their engine, 23 hp is plenty for this zero-turn.
Heavy Duty Welded Steel Deck
The heavy duty welded steel deck offers superior strength and durability. Owners like the cut and tell me it cuts as well as a fabricated deck. It has welded in wear strips that keep the sides of the deck from getting dented. It is the strongest deck you can buy in this price range. Even though this is a fabricated deck it side-discharges so well that you do not need and aux blower for a bagger.
Heavy Duty Fabricated Frame
8ga, 1/8 in, .120 welded steel tube frame.
Hustler’s heavy duty fabricated frames are the best in the category. Hustler took everything they know about building heavy duty commercial machines and used that knowledge to make a tough chassis. I see no problems with cracking of flexing over time. The front caster forks
are built-up 1/4 in steel with a tall 11in x 4in front caster tire.
2014 0003 low-center-gravity
Low Seat Height
The low center of gravity makes this zero-turn more comfortable to use on hills and slopes. It is one of the few zero-turns in this price range that will handles 15 degree slopes well. Watch the video below:
Patented Automatic Park Brake System
A simple, convenient and patented system that automatically engages the parking brake when you open the steering levers. It just works and keeps the mower from wandering around when parked on a slope.
Hustler Mowers are available through the 1600 local dealers. If you need financing Sheffield Financial is the only lender Hustler uses and they have 0% financing programs with zero down for qualified buyers. They also have rates that start at 3.99% and go up from there depending on credit score. Sheffield Financial has been great to work with. You can apply online as well as in the dealer’s store. Many new owners come in and walk out in less than 30 minutes with a new mower and nothing out of their pocket. You can find you nearest dealer here: HustlerTurf Find A Dealer
If you live near Grand Junction, CO check out Duffys Outdoor Power Equipment
Bought my Raptor in May of 2015. The only problem so far has been a bolt working itself of off deck but loc-tite fixed that.
In short, I’m shocked to read so many negative reviews and sorry to know so many people are having trouble with this mower.
This is the first ZTR I’ve owned and I don’t plan to ever go back to a standard tractor. No comparison in my opinion. The Raptor I’ve owned has served me well.
Take care everyone
I have a 52 in hustler raptor I’ve had nothing but problems with the deck where the idler pulley is connected to the deck.The deck actually bends which throws the allighment off and it eats belts I’ve had it in the shop a few times and all that accomplished was them beating it straight and costing me money. Is there a recall or something like that on these decks if not there sure should be from what I’ve read in the reviews.
Hi Doug, The industry only does safety “recalls” but they do have dealer service bulletins that are sent out if there is a recognized problem with a mower component. I don’t have access to dealer bulletins. There may be a reinforcement plate that they can bolt onto the deck to strengthen it in that area. If your mower is out of warranty you can always make your own plate to bolt into that area. (A 6″X6″ 1/4 inch plate should do the trick)
I have a Hustler raptor 52 in zero turn it was leaving the grass height on the middle blade, took it to our hustler dealer he welded something that was weak back and put new blades on it came home still leaves high grass with the middle blade took back they put a new belt ion it, worked fine but still leaves a higher grass in the middle make the yard not looking very neat. I paid both times, Now I was mowing and it stopped I could start it and the blades would engage but it won’t go forward or reverse what has happen now. I really liked the zero turn tho. .
I have a raptor 52, after watching one of the videos I saw on this site I replaced the drive belt on my mower, watched the video again after completing procedure.
started fine engaged blade fine mower does move side to side but using the right hand lever, it will not engage for forward or reverse, any advise
Hi Carl, Was it working before you changed the belt? If it was then you do not have the belt routed correctly. I suggest talking to your Hustler dealer and get the belt routing diagram from them.
Hi Fred, I suggest going to your dealer and asking them to print out the parts diagram. There is nothing online that I am aware of.
Hi Fred, Blue Loctite is my friend.
I bought a Hustler Raptor 5/17/2017. I cut my grass 3 times, then the drive belt came off. I replaced it 3 times and each time it came off.
Hi Larry, There is something – a tension spring disconnected, loose bolt in an idler arm, or you got some debris like a stick stuck in the belt drive path. Ask your dealer to take a look at it. Once you find the problem you won’t have any more issues.
we just bought two raptor 52 zero turns this past may- we live in florida and have 10 acres – we had a cub cadet and a toro both from 2003 – same machine just different colors – after 3 mower decks and many blades and belts over the past 14 years they finally have given up the ghost – they served us well – we went to the store and were sold on the raptor 52 because the deck was going to far outlast the deck on the cub and toro because it is fabricated and heavier duty – we had the raptors for two weeks and the rain started here in florida – when it rains you must mow the grass twice a week – the first time out my wife said her mower was making a strange noise – i listened to it and sure enough it was – i took the cover off and saw that the pulley on the spindle was worried out to about a two inch hole and that is what made the racket – told the dealer and they came and picked it up and said they had to replace the pulley, spacer and spindle and returned it in just one week – said it was a factory defect and everything was now in good shape – tried it out and it is just about as good as it can possibly be – now just two weeks later my mower has exactly the same problem – just called the dealer and they are picking it up on this monday 3 july – they can not understand how two mowers have the exact same problem within such a short period of time especially since they have never had this kind of a problem in the past – for some reason the pulleys are breaking in the center and after they break the mower stats making a racket and stops cutting the grass – in 14 years i have never had this king of a problem on the cub and the toro and they were used almost weekly for at least 9 to 10 months out of the year on our ten acres – i am 76 and my wife is 73 and we have mowed our property by ourselves – we figured we would get a couple of new mowers and we would have no problems for the rest of our lives and all of a sudden two identical breakdowns in less than a month at the wrong time of the year since now we have to cut the grass twice a week just to keep up with it – when the mowers are running they are fantastic but why are the pulleys failing – when they fail it also ruins the spindle and the spacer – we have not even used 10 gallons of gas total in both mowers combined yet
Hi Fran, Actually, I am not surprised when two identical mowers have the same identical problem. They could easily been made on the same day with the same batch of parts. I have a feeling that either Excel (the company that makes the Hustler) got a bad batch of drive pulleys from the sub-contractor, the pulleys were installed wrong, the nut was not torqued properly that holds the pulley on or the assembler was given the wrong pulley to install.
Stuff like this happens with all the manufactures. Remember how bad cars were put together back in the 70’s and 80’s? But please realize that Hustler is one of the better companies, They have one of the best reputations in the industry for their quality control. I confident that this is a once-in-a-great while problem. I would be very surprised if anything else happens with your mowers – ever.
tim c. esq
Fran, same mower purchased, same defect in 30 days. I am looking for a new mower. This mower part failed because of its design and manufacture. An idiot could have told them this would fail and will continue doing so until they redesign the part with a brass insert. It is a pulley with a soft aluminum center. Selling this unit with this defect, now known to the manufacturer, is fraud. No insert. No Mower after 20 hrs of use. Class action time. Want to sue with me?
I was wondering if it is possible to mow off a curb with one of the front wheels and the other 3 wheels grounded? Like on a median.
Hi Shawn. That front corner will dip but if you are mowing high enough (over 3.5 inches) and the frame of the ZTR is stiff enough you may be able to swing around with one wheel off the curb. Other wise mow up to the end, turn your deck off, make your turn and the then restart the deck
My lawn has mower tracks in he lawn from a previous owner an I would like to use a lawn roller to flatten it out to make it smooth. I have a Hustler Raptor with a 52 inch deck . Should I use that mower to pull a 36 inch lawn roller . Any suggestion on using my mower would help. Thank Dave.
Hi Dave, A 36 inch roller filled with water is OK to use. If it’s filled with sand or cement I suggest pulling it with something else (an ATV, etc)
If you need help using your new mower YouTube is a great resource. Search “How to use a zero-turn mower” for example.
Here is a good safety video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaooqW0GJkc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Car5vamdGzE
Hey thanks Paul, I was worried that in may not do that job because me friend who has a cub cadet said his mower would not pull that much weight. Thanks Again .Dave.
charles nicholas nasello
Dear Sir I bought a raptor in May of 2016 I have had problems with my mower after Les than 18hrs. After that was fixed my mower started scalping sections of my yard while mowing the rest of my yard perfectly. my question is why is this happening from a new mower.
@charles, get it back to the dealer and have them fix it.
Dan Duncan Sept. 22, 2016
I have a Hustler Raptor model 934794 purchased in August. There is excessive vibration and noise from the PTO clutch while it is engaged. can you suggest a solution?
Hi Dan, Yes, take it back to your dealer. There is no reason why the troubleshooting and that part will not be under warranty. The dealer you purchased it from will be glad to help.
I’m trying to find out how to replace the drive belt on Hustler Raptor 52″ deck, Model #933077.
Hi Elise, Is the procedure in your manual? Here is a youtube video that will help:
This video shows the deck belt. I need to change the drive belt.
Hi Elise, You can search youtube for other videos. If the procedure is not in your manual Hustler may feel it is too difficult for most people to perform and should be done by a dealer. Most of the time if you need to replace a trans or engine-deck belt there is something else wrong that caused the belt to fail. A dealer can find the other issues so the belt will last years.
If there is nothing on youtube I suggest talking to your local Hustler dealer.
I can’t find anything on youtube. It broke because I was cutting in high weeds and vines that got tangled in the mower. It is broken. I have a new belt. There is no place that I know of near me in a small town to bring it to and I have no way of bringing it anywhere anyway.
I have had this mower for a little over a year, and just recently it doesn’t have the same power it had when I bought it. I push the levers forward and it won’t move for a couple of seconds. It’s almost as if it slipping. I looked in the manual, and it mentioned something of steering linkage. What exactly does that refer to?
Hi Ben, your mower has a good defects warranty – use it. Get with your dealer and they can troubleshoot and repair it quickly. I’m no mechanic but it sounds like the engine-transmissions belt or belt tensioners. A stick stuck in the idler pulley can also cause this. I doubt that it is a linkage adjustment – your mower is too new.
You say the Hustlers are great except for pulling loads. I’ve been pulling a converted fold out camper trailer filled with yard trash behind my John Deere 225 Zero turn for five years. Doesn’t the J.D. have the same transmission as the Hustler ?…and more to the point I see the Hustler has a hole in the frame for a trailer hitch which tells me the mfr. must have intended some towing. Is there a weight limit ?..On the J.D. I had to weld a hitch.
@Wilson, Plain and simple – you were lucky. The EZT2200 transmissions have a gross vehicle weight of 900 lbs. The mower weighs 522 lbs. You weigh (How much?) The rest is the weight of the trailer and what you put in it. That is straight weight and no tolerance. If you pull/tow/carry more an that you have an increased chance of the drives failing.
Do what you want – just don’t blame the equipment. You can’t imagine how many people pull a leaf vac with 1000 lbs of wet grass or 500-600 lb loads if dirt/garbage and then blame the ZTR when it fails.
Hi Fred, Your local dealer should be able to get that fixed for you. Give them a call and they will tell you how they want to proceed.
Steering is in proper place. It just turns over and over but won’t start and there is only a red button for engaging the blades and that is disengaged and still won’t start.
@Todd, Leave it set overnight. If it starts in the morning, it fuel related and probably vapor locked. Call you dealer and have them fix it then. This is fairly common for new engines of all brands and the dealer should be able to fix it right away.
Just finished mowing. Took a shower, came back out to put it in the garage and it won’t start. I just bought it 4 hours ago!!
It won’t turn over or the engine won’t run?
Check you safeties. Make sure both steering levers are all the way open. Make sure the big yellow button for the deck PTO is off.
If that doesn’t work loosen the fuel cap 1/2 turn.
Fianlly, let it set overnight. If it starts in the morning it’s a vapor-lock issue. If it doesn’t start call your dealer.
Great to find this site. I have a RTZ 42″ Cub Cadet. I have no problems with the mower but have an issue with the height of which it mows. Any suggestions on how to raise the level to 4 inches? We live in the Nashville area and mowing it on the highest level still seems to cut to low. Would bigger tires work or would you suggest getting a different mower. Frustrated owner..
Hi Chris, Put the mower on a flat level surface like your garage floor. Lift the discharge chute up and measure from the sharp edge of the mower blade to the ground. If it’s above 3 1/2 inches or so that is about all you will get. If it’s less then check to make sure there is not a bent deck hanger or lift bar.
If that’s not it – I don’t know. Have a dealer look at it.
I have never purchased a zero turn mower before (or a tractor). I have 1.5 acres that we just built a house on, and just seeded the lawn about 2 wks ago. I will need to begin mowing over the next 2-3wks. Fairly flat overall, and I expect it to be pretty smooth. Besides the landscaping around the house, there are only a couple trees in the yard.
I went to a local dealer and tested a 48″ John Deere Z535M (They only offer JD and ExMark). I was told by a neighbor who mows professionally to look at the Hustlers as well. In reading through these posts, you seem to recommend the Hustler Raptor SD pretty highly. There is a large Hustler dealer in town as well (they offer John Deere as well). Both seem to have similar specs, weights, warranties, and both dealers in town seem to be well respected.
Can you compare the 2 options mentioned above and make your recommendation. Pricing seems about the same for both units. Or if you think there is a better fit based on my circumstances I will take your advice.
I don’t want to go above 4k mark. Property is in the Columbus OH area.
Lots of great info, thanks for taking the time to answer all of the questions.
Hi David, Your neighbor is right, there are many good ZTR’s in the $3500 to $5000 range. A 48 to 50 inch deck is a good size.
The John Deere Z535M is outside your budget and both the Hustler and the ExMark will last just as long. It really boils down to which dealer do you like the best – the Hustler or the ExMark.
Thanks for the info. I was quoted $3999 for the JD Z535M 48″ on Friday, and JD will be offering a $250 off in a couple weeks, so it would be around $3750. It looks like the Hustler Raptor SD 48″ is around that $3600-3800 range as well. Trying to decide between the 2 units considering price is virtually the same. Price being the same, do you lean one way or the other?
Hi David, That’s a good price on the Deere. Stamped decks cut better, fabricated decks will take more abuse. The Deere has a stamped deck, the Hustler fab deck. Is your goal to have the best lawn in the neighborhood or to let the teenagers do lawn mower races with your ZTR?
Well I have a 5 yr old boy, so I think I have a few years until the races begin! So I would be shooting for the better cut I guess. Reading your last post I am leaning towards the Deere to get the better cut. The ZTR shouldn’t take much abuse at all, unless my wife gets a hold of it! Sounds like either way i’ll be getting a really nice mower.
Thanks again for your help.
@Dave, My wife broke the hitch off the ZTR the first month she mowed with it. She kept getting too close to a chain link fence and getting the hitch stuck in the wire.
Hi Paul, I live in upstate NY and mow about 2 acres that is a little rough. I’m looking at the hustler flip up and the hustler SD. The SD has bigger wheels on it that should give a smoother ride but I kinda like how easy it looks to clean the flip up. Which one would be better?
Hi Steve, Sorry, I’m running a little behind this week.
Well, What is more important? Having an easy to clean flip up deck or a smoother ride. If the deck is the most important you can always add the front flex forks to take some of the jar out.
I recently purchased and installed the flex forks for this model and it has helped. It won’t take all the jar out, but it does make mowing a rough yard much more tolerable.
Hi Levi, Thank you! Yes, Flex forks, like the suspension on the Simplicity ZTR’s will take some of the jar out but will not give you a smooth ride. You really have to get into the $8000 plus machines before you can get good suspension seats or suspension operator platforms.
That’s one of the reasons I always liked stand on zero turns myself. Standing up is a lot easier on your back and you can use your knees to absorb the rough lawns.
Ive looked at the John Deere Z355e 48″, and now the Hustler Raptor 52″. I have about 2 acres to mow and its fairly flat. Any preference between these? Or suggestions to look at that are around the 3,000 mark?
Hi Derek, The Z355 is new so we don’t have any experience with it. The Hustler has been doing a good job for the last few years. So I would have to pick the Raptor
Great information and insight Paul! I truly appreciate your time and feedback! The dealer is actually bringing it over tonight, so my wife can try it out. I have to get the final ok from her. 🙂
Thank again! And if you are ever in the area wanting to hunt or just passing through and want to check out the mower, let me know.
Paul, I would appreciate your opinion. I have 5 acres of native grass in San Antonio, Texas. The terrain is flat but it is a little rough (bumpy). I currently use a John Deere L110 42″ and it takes a long time. I initially looked at the Hustler Raptor 52″ but the seat seemed uncomfortable and the control arms barely clear my knees (I’m 6″4″). Can I replace the seat with a more comfy one? I went to my local dealer and am also considering either the Hustler Raptor SD 54″or the Scag Liberty Z 52″. I don’t have many trees so I want a mower that will cut fast in high grass without having to make two passes. Be honest with me and let me know if I need something like the Hustler Fast Trak or Scag Freedom Z. However, I am trying to stay in the $4,000 to $4,500 price range but if I need to spend more, I will. Thank you.
Hi Bruce the Raptor SD is a good step up from the base Raptor. If the lap bar is too low have the dealer install the “Steering Lever Extension Kit.” Hustler also offer flex forks that will take some of the jar out of the front. Don’t be afraid to get the 60 inch, mow higher than you normally would and just fly with it.
Now, be aware that zero-turn mowers are not designed to cut high grass. They are lawn mowers – not brush cutters. Anything over 9 inches or so and you will have to mow it twice. But once you get used to it you will be able to mow your 5 acres in about an hour and 20 minutes.
Thanks Paul. I went to the dealer today at got the 60″ Raptor SD. I didn’t realize that it had an upgraded seat that is much more comfortable. I appreciate your help.
Thank you Paul for your response and information! I do not have internet at the farm, so that is why it took me awhile to reply……Actually I was leaning towards the Gravely, because of the dealer and from what I had read online it seemed to be one of the better mowers. Now my last question is this, is it worth spending $200 more on the Kawasaki engine instead of the Kohler engine?
Again, I appreciate your insight and taking the time to reply!
Hi Paul, Not anymore. The new Kohler 7000 engine is equal to the Kawasaki.
Can’t say I do much fishing as I am usually kept busy on the farm, teaching, coaching, reffing, and trying to keep my 2 daughters in line. But I have eaten plenty of fish given to my from people I let hunt on my land………..True-value did open a new store at a new location. It is very nice.
Interesting that you are from Iowa as well and Clinton is only a few hours down the river. It is also a pretty area from what I know. Small world………Again, thank you for your time and feedback. I appreciate it!
@Paul, Yes, it is a very small world. At my age I’ve found many time when that “6 degrees of separation” is a lot fewer than six.
Didn’t mean to come across as being impatient. I was just confused as to why my question was not showing up. Never made a comment or question on-line before, so was not sure how it worked or if I did something wrong……….I appreciate the feedback and you taking the time to reply.
I live in McGregor. Small town in the northeast part of Iowa and right next to the Mississippi River. Was your town nearby?
Hi Paul, I know McGregor well. Some of the best Walleye and Bass fishing in the world! I was just reading this morning that Nelson True Value in Prairie du Chien just opened a huge new store.
I grew up near Clinton and my brother and sister still live there. I’ll get your question answered this afternoon.
Was my post too long? I posted a question yesterday morning and now I do not see my post. First time user, so just curious if I did something wrong. Thanks!
Paul from Iowa
Hi Paul, I state right above the comment box “THIS SITE IS MY HOBBY SO PLEASE BE PATIENT. IT MAY TAKE 24 HOURS FOR ME TO RESPOND.” I get over 20,000 people a day and many people are asking questions right now so it’s actually taking more than 24 hours to respond. You comment won’t show until I respond to it.
By the way, I grew up in Iowa – what town are you from?
I am from Iowa and have a 2-3 acre farm yard. My farm yard has several grain bins, buildings, and trees to mow around in addition to our main yard where the kids play. The terrain is smooth in places, but can be rough around the grain bins where tractors or wagons might have gone along with some gravel in the yard from the road we live next to. My yard is mostly flat with a few slopes along the road and an old ‘pump’ hill.
My dilemma is what type of zero-turn mower to purchase with a budget of about $4300-$5000 (prefer to be closer to $4500). Based upon where I live I have narrowed my options down to a Hustler Raptor, Hustler Raptor SD, Gravely ZT HD, Gravely ZT XL, Simplicity Courier, or a Simplicity Champion. I did consider a Hustler Raptor Flip-up but decided it was a little too high in price. Do you have any suggestions on which one I should consider purchasing more than the others and why?
Thank you for your time!! And you have a great name by the way!
Hi Paul, Of the six you list the Gravely ZT XL is the latest and best of the bunch. Ariens/Gravely spent a lot of time listening to their residential customers and designing a new ZTR. It’s a very heavy duty machine and I am really impressed how well it cuts.
I am confident it will handle your tractor ruts for years and a 52 inch will mow the rest of your yard in about an hour.
If you don’t really like the Gravely dealer the Raptor SD is the second choice.
No mater what the specifications say, the Simplicity’s are not even close.
Paul, I just want to thank you for answering the many questions I have thrown at you the last couple of weeks. The information has really helped me to make an informed decision on what mower to buy to suit my wants and needs. Running across your web site helped me to look at things differently than I would have otherwise. I went back and forth on whether to get a Dixie Chopper 48″ Zee 2 or the Toro 5050. The fact that you told me that both were good machines and would work for my needs made me feel better about making my decision.
I decided to go with the Dixie Chopper. A couple of reasons why, that may sound kind of crazy but that’s just me I guess. The seat on the DC sat better to me, as well as the DC has a manual parking brake as where the Toro has an automatic electric parking brake. I feel that is just something else to tear up. The DC seems to be simpler with easier access to components to clean and grease. I just wanted a strong durable machine that will last several years if taken care of properly. The dealer told me that the DC had bigger hydraulic pumps than the Toro. Is that correct? This dealer sales both Toro and Dixie Chopper and the machines were the same price so I don’t know why he would try to push one over the other. Either way, the recommendation from you that both were good machines helped me to go with the machine that felt best to me.
Hi Scott, You are very welcome.
The Zee 2 uses ZT2800 drives and 20X8 rear wheels. The MX5050 uses ZT2800 drives and 20X8 rear wheels. To further explain the Zee 2 does not use separate pumps. Just like the Toro they are integrated into the drives (transmissions)
To further paint your dealer into a corner there are 3 variations of the ZT2800 drives. They all use the same internal pump and motor. The only difference is the internal gear ratio. The ratios do not change any of the performance data for the drives. They all have the same output torque, top speed and gross vehicle weight ability.
The retail price has nothing to do with the profits he makes off of the units. He may have a better deal from Jacobson(the company that owns Dixie Chopper), he may have a shorter window to pay the DC off before he has to start paying interest. He may have better incentives from Jacobson if he sells a certain number of mowers. He may just like his Jacobson rep better than the Toro Rep. You would have to get him drunk to learn the real reason why he pushed one over the other.
Thanks Paul, in actuality the 50″ Toro is the same price as the Dixie Chopper 48″ at this dealer anyway. Not questioning you in anyway because I know you know what you are talking about, but I have some questions about the statement of the Toro being much more heavy duty. The salesman was telling me that the DC deck is mounted at four points where the Toro is mounted at three points. The DC is made of 10 gauge tube steel. I like the fact that on the DC you can lift up the floor pan and have easy access to the pulleys to clean them or what not. I’m sure I am missing the boat on what makes the Toro more heavy duty, so can you please explain the difference? I sat on both of them and I really liked the way the seat felt on the DC, but I want the sturdiest and most heavy duty at the price of $4300 drive out. The Toro has a good high back seat as well, but the DC just felt better at the time.
Hi Scott, Sorry, that’s what I get for trying to remember everything. You asked about the Zee 2, not the Zee. The Zee 2 is comparable to the Toro MX5050. I will say if you go into the Toro dealer he will have a list of the features that make his better. For example, he will state the MX5050 also has a 10 gauge deck, but it has a rolled bull nose edge which makes it stronger than a flat edge on the Dixie. He will also state the Toro has been making ZTR’s for a long time and the one you are looking at has the technology of some of the largest mowers in the industry behind it. In other words, go with your gut. They are both good machines.
I understand. I sent you a question earlier about what your thoughts were on a Toro 5050 Time Cutter and Dixie Chopper Zee 2. I really like the Dixie Chopper with the 54″ deck but they also have the 48″ deck. I probably wouldn’t notice much difference in my yard of 1.75 acres, would I? Toro has a 24hp Kohler and the DC has a 23hp Kohler. Which would you recommend the most?
Hi Scott, if you have a good local dealer than the Dixie Chopper is am option. Dixie is now owned by one of the largest lawn mower manufactures so hopefully they won’t have the financial problems they had in the past.
That said, the Toro is a much heavier duty machine. It costs more than the Zee, but I think it’s worth the extra money.
Thanks Paul, I appreciate your response and answers. I like the fact that you give straight forward and honest answers, that’s why I keep asking so many. Hope you get your mower repaired so you don’t get in any trouble with the wife.
Hi Scott, You are welcome. Keep the questions coming. If I would have changed the battery pack out last fall when I got it there would not be such an “emergency” today:)
Hello Paul. I’m in the market for a new mower (or two). I have 14 acres or which I mow 5 to 6 as “lawn” and the most of the rest as “pasture” with a Ford 2000 and a brush-hog (the remainder of the property is wooded). The property is basically flat with a creek running through the front that gives it a little slope in that area but nothing severe. This is old farm land and even after 30 years of not being plowed, it is still not really smooth (at least not golf course smooth but for a country yard I would call it smooth. At present I have two lawn tractors, both from John Deere (48 and 54 inch cut). I ride one and my wife the other and it takes us 4-6 hours to mow depending on how thick the grass is. Both of the lawn tractors beat (both are over 9 years old) so one thought is to replace then with a 60-inch zero turn. We have looked at the local equipment dealers and have the following options on the table: Hustler Fastrak SD (60-in cut, 24 hp), Ferris IS2100Z (61-in cut with either a 26 or 28 hp Briggs engine), Ferris IS3200 Z (6-in deck, 32 hp Briggs or 37 hp or Kawasaki engine) or a Cub Cadet Tank (60-in deck and I think the engine was 26 hp). The Hustler is the least expensive at $7200, the Ferris 2100 is about $9600 with the 26 hp engine, the 3200 is $11.5K with the 32 hp engine and the Tank is $10K. Just looking for your insight on which machine you think is the best option for my property and which is the best value. Thanks!
Hi Allen, Of the 4 you mentioned I would look at the Fastrak. I like that mower, it’s tough and you can add optional front flex caster to take a little bounce out.
I actually feel you will shake the Ferris mowers apart in a few years mowing a country yard.
I have a feeling you also have an ExMark dealer in your area. The ExMark Lazer Z is also in your price range and is one tough mower. Either the Hustler or the ExMark should cut your mowing time down to 2 hours or less.
Thanks, Paul. That is very helpful. Yes, “country yard” is a good way to describe my place.
Hey Paul,,,I have a fairly rough 2 acres of yard with some minor slopage here and there . I am considering a Hustler Raptor 52″ …..would you please give me your opinion on this particular machine. thank you.
I asked you the same question yesterday but didn’t give you details like you asked so this is my corrected version. Thanks again.
Hi Michael, Thank you, The nice thing about the Raptor is there is an option set of front forks for it that you can install to take some of the bounce out of a rough lawn. The Raptor will handle the lawn but with it rough you may not be able to mow at full speed. The Raptor cuts well, and will last a long time on two acres.
One thing I want to tell you – and it has not reflection on the Raptor itself. Rough lawns are really hard on ZTR’s. So I suggest every year cleaning the machine well and then inspect all the frame corners and weld joints for cracking. If you remember to do this and you find a crack the warranty will handle it. After that you can have the crack welded and gusseted.
Hello Paul I am in the market for a Zero Turn and I am looking at the Hustler,
but my Budget line is about $3200.00. I was upset when I heard Hustler no longer
has the Kawasaki, they removed them from the Residential mowers.
The Hustler Raptor is around $2,999.00 but looks small from what I see. I have 2 acres and the 52 inch
would fit me fine. I don’t want to go to the Raptor SD at $3,999.00 that exceeds my budget. Did notice that Raptor has a Model called the Raptor Limited it is around $3300 and has a large Kohler 7000 Engine 24 HP. The front wheels are larger and larger in the back, it comes with a rear engine guard which is nice , was also looking at the TORO S5000 Time Cutter at $2,999.00 but don’t feel TORO can sit with the Hustler, please advise ?
Hi Phillip, To be honest the real difference between the Toro and the Hustler is which one has the best the dealer and service network in your area. In reality all of the $3000ish zero-turn mowers are that way. In other words a Toro SS500 or SS5425 will last just as long as the Raptor or Raptor Limited – and so will the Big Dog, Country Clipper, Bad Boy, Craftsman Pro, Ariens IKON, Gravely ZT and so on. Every single one is built with the best components for that price range.
But…If you don’t have a good local dealer to work with you will not like the mower over time.
That said, I would always recommend a zero-turn with larger tires. The larger tires ride better, don’t dig into poor turf as quickly and don’t sink into soft ground as much. A 52 inch zero-turn with you on it and a tank of gas is close to 1000 lbs so the larger tires is always better.
I happened to run across this site. I have a 2002 Fastrac Z, 52″ with twin 6 gal. tanks, I purchased new. I had three engine choices and paid extra for the Honda 18 hp, I cut 2 acres every two weeks. This year, I had the belts replaced and new tires for the first time. I change my blades every year, use only Castrol syntec oil, clean my air filter and prefilter and changed my plugs three times. This is all it has ever needed. I am 67 years old, never had a mower as good as a Hustler, too bad they don’t come with a Honda engine any longer.
Thanks, I have been looking a while, but now that the deck on my troy bilt has broken in two I will be looking a whole lot more seriously. There is a BOB-CAT dealer in Watkinsville, Ga. and they look to be pretty good. I’ll let you know.
Paul I have a 4 acre area that I cut. There are many tress and in some areas roost exposed. The ground is rough in spots, and uneven. I had a Toro 72 in groundmaster that worked great. I am considering the 52 in Hustler Raptor as a replacement. Is this a good choice or would you recommend a different model?
Hi Fred, Coming off a Groundsmaster you will not be happy with the Raptor. It will feel too light and flimsy. If you want to stay owth Hustler look at the Raptor HD or even the Fastrak. They are heavier machines, have strong transmissions and will mow faster than the Raptor (or your Groundmaster)
Paul, what do you know about Bob-Cat brand mowers, SCAG, Bad Boy mowers, Kubota? I have 1.75 acres of pretty much flat ground to mow. Back yard is a little rough from where the subdivision was a row crop field previously. I have had a troy-bilt 50 inch with a 23hp briggs & stratton for the last 10 years. The mower cut really good, but I have destroyed the deck. I am looking to purchase a new mower with a fabricated deck. Can I get a good mower that will last me longer than 10 years for around $5,000? Hustler has a new mower that the deck will flip up for easy access to the blades and cleaning, what do you know about it? Is it reliable and sturdy? Also, are the Bad Boy mowers sold at Tractor Supply the same quality as one at a dealer?
Hi Scott, there are around 30 brands that most of us have never heard of. Most of them are designed for commercial operators or large rural properties. Most of them are great mowers for a homeowner. If you are spending $5000 at a local dealer you can be pretty confident that you will get a mower that will last nowdays.
– The Bad Boy mower at TSC is listed separately on the Bad Boy site. I have not had the chance to see what is different between the TSC models and the dealer versions
– Yes, Hustler does have a new flip-up deck. It adds about $1500 to the cost of the Raptor HD. I feel the Country Clipper BOULEVARD is a better deal. Check them out here and use the dealer locator to find a dealer near you: Country Clipper.
– Every one of the brands has realized that homeowners are now willing to pay more for a zero-turn so commercial brands like SCAG, Big Dog, Hustler and Bob-Cat have added lower priced mowers. Even Kubota who historically has been very high-priced, is jumping into the $4-5000 mix.
– The ExMark Pioneer is another good choice in that price range.
Take a look around your area to see what dealers are nearby and then I can help you narrow down your choices.
Paul, there are dealers for Husquvarna, Scag, Bob-Cat, Toro, Dixie Chopper, Kubota, Country Clipper, Hustler, Ex Mark, Snapper, Grass Hopper, John Deere, plus Tractor Supply(Bad Boy, Cub Cadet), Lowe’s, Home Depot and Sears in and around Athens, Ga.
Also, does anyone make a lawn tractor with a fabricated deck?
Hi Scott, both Cub Cadet and Husqvarna have dealer only fabricated deck tractors. Cub Cadet has a 46 and 54. Husqvarna has a 48 and 52. Remember stamped decks generally cut, mulch and bag better. Fabricated decks are tougher if you have teenagers or other people that like to bang decks into stuff.
I was looking at the Sears tractor mowers today. I have been dead set on getting a fabricated deck mower but now you have me second guessing that, plus financially I don’t need to spend $5000 for a mower. Over the years (24) I have worn out a Lowe’s tractor mower, Husquvarna tractor mower and now a Troy Bilt zero turn. All of them have been deck issues, the motors and operation of the mower were fine just the deck bending, breaking and in the instance of the Troy-Bilt breaking in two. The Lowe’s and Husquvarna were used in a yard with two big oak trees with large roots sticking out of the ground. I hit those a time or two. Ha, ha. So, I guess I am the one that is rough on the decks. Lol!!! I looked at the Craftman’s tight turn tractor 54″ around $2600. Good, bad or indifference? I have 1.75 acres to cut, mostly flat, used to be a row crop field so a little rough in the back yard.
Hi Scott, Sorry, I’m trying to get a new battery pack in installed in my hybrid lawn tractor and get it ready to mow. The wife says it’s time to go out and do my own lawn 🙂
Ok, I don’t like the Craftsman Pro Series for $2600. The Craftsman Pro Series 54″ 26 HP V-Twin Kohler Riding Mower with Turn Tight® Extreme model 20444 has too large of a deck for the small wheels and lawn tractor transmission. Pushing that big of deck around the yard will burn out the K46 lawn tractor transmissions in a few years. In addition the small 20 inch tires will not let you raise the deck up over 3 1/2 inches or so. That means you will be destroying that deck in no time.
Now there is a Craftsman Pro Series that will work for you. 1. The Craftsman Pro Series 50″ 26 HP V-Twin Kohler Garden Tractor with Turn Tight® Extreme Model 20443 has larger tires and a heavy duty transmission. The larger tires allow the deck to raise up higher so it will go over your tree roots better. (I suggest mowing at 3.5 to 4 inches, then you won’t hit so much stuff) The larger tires also give you more traction so you won’t get stuck as often as the smaller tires. Plus the garden tractor transmission is strong and will hold up for years. Finally the 50 inch deck won’t get caught on stuff as easily as a 54 inch deck.
The other tractor I suggest is the Cub Cadet XT2 GX54″ GARDEN TRACTOR WITH FABRICATED DECK. This is a dealer only tractor and has a heavy duty fabricated deck, large tires and a garden tractor trans.
Paul, I ran across a Z-Beast offered at Home Depot. Have you heard of them? What is your opinion of them? They come with a subaru engine.
Scott, please don’t buy it. The company that makes that mower threatened to sue me because I wrote down what I thought of the mower. I can’t believe Home Depot still offers it.
The first article explains who makes it. The second forum explains why you don’t want it.
I am just starting my search for a zero turn mower. I have about 3 acres to mow, with some slight slopes and hills. The steepest hill is about 15%. I have some wide open spots and other places in the yard with trees and some landscaping to go around. What mowers will deliver me the best value for cut, life, acreage, hills? I was thinking a 50-60in deck. My budget is between 4000-6500.
Hi Jeff, There are dozens of good zero-turns in that price range. For example, I like the new Arien IKON XL a lot. It’s a very nice, heavy duty mower. Toro, ExMark, Country Clipper are few more.
I suggest looking at a few name brands that you like and then checking to see if there are good local dealers in your area. You can then ask me about the brand. I suggest going into a couple of the dealers and listen to what they offer. In that price range the dealers will give you support you could never get with a cheaper product.
will jumping the hustler battery off my car battery hurt the hustler battery?
Hi Chuck, You will not hurt the battery if you follow the same procedure that you use when you jump another car.
First I would like to say thank you for your excellent blog. I recently purchased a house on a 1.1 acre lot and I need to buy a mower. The lot is well manicured with a few trees and approximately a 5 degree slope from front to back. I like the idea of a zero turn because I believe that it would greatly reduce the amount of time I spend mowing. That being said I would like to limit my purchase price to around $3000.00 and I would like to be able to pull a few light attachments like a detacher, an aerator, and a broadcast spreader. I am trying to decide between a ZT hustler Raptor or a Craftsman Pro Series Lawn tractor. I’m still trying to decide between the 42” and 52” Raptor and I am looking at the 46” Craftsman. I would like your opinion on the amount of time saved with the Raptor over the Craftsman and if you think that the Raptor could handle the attachments.
Hi Mike, The Raptor’s will handle the attachments you want to use. Comparing the 52 inch Raptor to a conventional 46 inch tractor the time savings will be about half but the Craftsman Pro is not a conventional lawn tractor. Because it has the 5 inch turn-tight steering it will turn almost as well and as easily as a zero-turn. It also cuts very well. That said,
This is how I see the three.
The 42 inch Raptor will be the slowest. Yes, in theory it is more agile than the Craftsman Pro 46 but it won’t get the job done any faster for two reasons. First, the deck overhang. The rear wheels are pretty even to the edge of the deck. This means the smallest circle you can cut around in one pass is about 40 inches. So you will still have to make more than one pass around trees, etc. The overhang of the deck to the rear wheels on the Craftsman 46 inch is better so it will trim around a smaller diameter item. Second, the 42 inch is fairly light so it will not have a lot of traction when zero-turning. When turning you will have to go slow so that you don’t tear up the turf.
The 46 inch Craftsman Pro has the tight turning radius. It doesn’t tear up the turf in a turn so you can turn it as tight as you want. It’s as good as a zero-turn in most cases. It also mows about the same speed as the Raptors so it may actually get the job done faster than the 42 inch ZTR. I would guess the Craftsman Pro can trim around a 24 inch circle. Check this article out if you don’t understand. Reference Walker Mowers Trimming
The 52 inch Raptor has a decent deck overhang. I haven’t measured it exactly but it should trim around a 16-18 inch circle. The extra cutting width, smaller trimming circle and maybe 1MPH better mowing speed should trim about 20% off your mowing. On your property that will save you about 15 minutes per mow.
Great information Paul! Thank you!
Paul, I live in Wayland MA and have a 1.5 acre, mostly flat lot, of which about 1 acre is lawn with plenty of obstacles, trees, beds, walls, etc. The ground is rough in spots. It takes me about 2 hours with my 21in, 10yr old Honda walk-behind mulching at the highest speed and it’s time I upgrade to a ZTR. I’m working with a budget of $3,000. I’ve narrowed it down to either the Toro ss4225 as the value option, Toro ss5000 or Hustler Raptor 42 or 52 in. There is a local Hustler dealer nearby. My main considerations are quality of cut, mulching & bagging ability, sturdiness/longevity, ability to pull aerator, dethatcher and dump cart (nothing too heavy) a handful of times a year, ease of maintenance and value. I don’t think I need more than a 42in mower but the larger models are only a couple hundred more dollars and if they perform better overall than I’m not opposed to spending the extra money for a better value. That said, am I crazy to think a 2 blade system has advantages over 3 blade systems in certain applications? I think they all have the same EZT transmission so I assume they will all have the same pulling ability. The Hustler seems extremely solid but I’m a little concerned about it not having a wash out port (how do you clean under the deck without jacking it up???). Do they all have the same ease with which to change oil, air filter and other basic maintenance? Thank you in advance for your response.
Hi Adam, Using a deck wash is very over-rated. Cleaning the underside of the deck is really needed just once a year. On your 1.5 acres I would remove the deck once a year, change the blades and clean it then.
One of the nice features of the Toro is they have a lever that you change for mowing or pulling stuff. This lever limits the forward speed and keeps the transmissions from over heating and burning out. You can do the same thing with the Hustler models – just remember to only push the lap-bars half-way.
I really don’t have a preference for any of the models you selected. I do like the 42 inch Hustler. It is very well built.
Hi Donna, You never have to apologize on this blog.
Going slow never hurts a zero-turn mower. The transmissions actually stay cooler and will last longer.
You didn’t tell me what size yard you have, what type of slopes and how rough your yard is so I’ll just be generic in my answer to you.
The FastTrak HD is a heavier-duty mower. It will last longer than the FastTrak. Being heavier it will also handle slopes better (more traction) and in general it will be easier to use. (The controls will be a little smoother to use.) The biggest improvement is the engine. The FastTrak uses a residential grade engine and is good for 400-600 hours. The FastTrak HD uses a commercial grade engine that is rated for 1200-1500 hours.
I know you don’t need this but the FastTrak HD also mows faster 🙂
Do you need the HD model? I would really have to know more about your property to really give you my final answer. The FastTrak is a nice heavy duty mower that will last you many years.
Hi Donna, It does not hurt the mower or blades to mow wet grass but there are a few things to consider:
If you are using a mulch kit the wet grass clippings will be turned to green soup and that will be left on your lawn. It doesn’t look good and could kill the grass if there is too much.
Mowing in the mud compacts the soil. That could cause problems with the grass growing and you lawn would end up looking spotty.
Extra tall, wet grass – over 12 inches could get wrapped around the underside of the deck and cause the belts to burn out.
The main thing to worry about is traction and sliding on slopes. If it to wet you could slide down your slope and tip over.
Hi Donna, There is little difference between the FastTrak and FastTrak HD. The only real difference is the quality of the engine. I consider both of them high-end residential or low-end commercial capable of mowing 10-20 lawns a week. (10-15 hours) If you go to the up to the XONE or XONEi then you get into the true commercial mowers and they are able to handle 20-30 hours of mowing a week.
The XONEi is a bargain commercial mower. It comes with only one engine type and a good quality transmission. This is probably your best choice if you are looking for a strong mower at a good price.
The XONE series offers more engine selections and a slightly stronger transmission than the i series. If you are very particular about the engines you use this model gives you a tough mower and the engine you specifically want.
Hi Donna, the Hustler website states it uses a Kawasaki engine but I suggest you verify that at your local dealer. I am not a Hustler dealer.
Hi Donna, I removed the comment about the engine speed because it was just confusing this discussion. The engine throttle should always be high, up, etc. The mower does not cut well when the engine is not running at full throttle.
Hi Donna, Yes, the engine speed determines how fast the mower blades spin so you want them to spin fast enough to cut the grass well. The dealer is correct though – if you are going real slow then the blades should cut at half throttle. Just watch the quality of cut. If it looks like the mower is not lifting the grass and cutting it cleanly, speed up the engine.
Are you having problems with the mower being jerky when the throttle is in the fast position? If you do rest your arms on the armrest – it will help. If you don’t have armrests talk to the dealer about installing a seat with them.
Hi Paul I was looking into buying a zero turn mower . I was looking at the Hustler raptor 52 in . I was also looking at Hustler raptor SD ,but in the 48 in . Not sure what to get ,can you help me ? I have a buget of no more than 4000.00 . I live in South Texas and have about 3 acres to cut mostly flat land. Or maybe there is other mower I should get.
Hi Joseph, Hustler is a good choice. I would always go with the HD over the Raptor if given a choice. The entire mower is heavier and will last longer. In addition, I expect the HD to mow faster than the Raptor so you can actually get done mowing your lawn faster with the smaller deck.
Hi Donna, The Hustler mowers are all dealer models and they are limited to a set price range by Hustler. I don’t have that information.
David S Boyd
As a Hustler dealer here in Colorado, I would suggest the purchase of the Raptor Super Duty. Heavier hydro’s, better front tires and front axle, much better value for your money all the way around.
THANK YOU for ur help , Iam going with the Raptor super duty
Paul, picked up the Stout yesterday and cut my 3 acres with hills…. took a while to get used to it, having never used one. This mower is MOST EXCELLENT!!! Holds the hills like you said, even while I was finishing up in a light sprinkle of rain!! Shaved 2 hrs off my work time, and that’s even with spending time getting used to it. I just wanted to thank you for your time and patience in helping out an old coot who knew nothing about mowers!!! Johnny
@Johnny, You are very welcome…From one old coot to another.
Paul, what’s your thoughts on Husqvarna’s MZ52, as compared to the Hustler Fastrak?? Would the MZ handle slopes as well as the Fastrak? I ask because I can get the MZ for about $1000 less than the Fastrak. Please advise. Thanks. Johnny
@Johnny, Prices for the zero-turns are very competitive. $1000 less in price is $1000 less in quality. Although I recommend the Husqvarna MZ for small commercial operators it is not the same quality as the Fastrak or Fastrak SD.
The Fastrak is quite a bit heavier and will hold slopes better.
ok….thanks again for your expertise
I hate to keep bothering you, but how about the Craftsman Pro 48″ (model 20420)??? its an 800 lb unit but doesn’t have as wide drive tires as the Fastrak…. you gave it high marks in your review …..
Hi Johnny, Keep asking – I’ll keep answering 🙂 The Craftsman Pro has the heavier transmissions so it will handle hills. It has a very good cutting deck and mows at 6-7 mph. I don’t have any problems recommending it for lawns up to 5 acres.
To go along with your “dollar less in price equals dollar less in quality” philosophy, the Craftsman Pro is about $700 less than the Big Dog Stout (made by the Hustler people. So do you think it’s worth $700 for what most folks believe to be a more solidly built mower? Do u think the Pro is comparable to the Stout??
Hi Johnny, Big Dog and Hustler are exactly the same mower just painted a different color. So what applies to the Fastrak applies to the Stout.
Here is where it get confusing because it’s not only just about price. The Stout has a different engine – some say better – I say equal. The Stout has little added features like a side bumper on the deck for my wife. The Big Dog is a dealer only mower. You will pay more for a dealer only mower – especially if it’s green so that dealer can be around next year when you need parts and want to buy other stuff from him because his SERVICE was so good.
The Craftsman has retail pricing. Instead of making a few hundred off of each mower like a dealer, retail works on the total sale – item plus attachments and accessories – minus overhead. They can charge less for the initial machine and make up for it later on with the total sale – attachments, accessories, maintenance parts, extended plans, credit card and service.
Retailers will give you a better deal up front and then let someone else in another division, in another state, service it, and answer questions. You’ll pay a little more at a dealer but you can go back and talk to the same knowledgeable person you bought your mower from two years from now – because he/she probably owns the store.
So you feel that the MTD-built Craftsman is as reliable, and will perform as well as, the Excel-built Stout?
Hi Johnny, Reliability is based on how you take care of the mower. All mowers need maintenance and always remember some of the parts are spinning at 200 MPH! You know what happens when you hit anything at 200 MPH.
I know a few guys who can wreck a $10,000 mower in two years. I know other guys who make a $750 Yard Machines last 20.
I can make the Craftsman last just as long the the Stout. Regular oil changes, change the filters, blow the tops of the transmissions clean, don’t hit sticks larger than one inch, pick the deck up to go over tree roots, don’t hit rocks, walk your property before you mow to find hidden obstructions, clean the underside of the deck when you sharpen the the blades and once a year inspect all the moving parts. If I’m cutting grass longer than 6 inches check every few hours to make sure no grass is wrapping around the spindles. Replace bearing and idler pulleys as needed. Grease all the grease jerks every 50 hours. Belts do wear out so get a second set of belts and keep them around. Store it inside or under a breathable tarp.
Yes I understand that regular maintenance and care when using is the key to machinery life expectancy. But I’m sure you will agree that some items are just built better than others. So I guess what I’m asking is do you believe the craftsman is built as well as the fastrak/stout and if not is it in your mind worth $700 more for the Fastrak or Stout or is the difference so minimal that its worth the $700 savings to go with the craftsman?? Thanks
@Johnny, if you have the extra $700 to spend go with the Fastrak or Stout. You get one on one dealer support and the company that has been making zero-turns the longest to back the dealer up. You can walk into the dealer and get your questions answered right away.
Ok. Paul, I again thank u for your time and patience with me. All of this is new to me and you have been a really big help. Johnny
Paul, I ve about decided on the Stout but I ran across a couple more. What is ur thoughts on the Scag Freedom Z 52 or the Ferris IS600?? I’m awaiting quotes from dealers but from what I see they may be in my ballpark. They good on slopes also??? Johnny
Hi Johnny, I don’t know enough about the Freedom Z to make an opinion. I do have a few readers who have the IS600 and they are telling me it’s not that great on long (6-10 inch) grass. No one has ever stated it works well on slopes. I’d stick with the Stout.
Ok. Stout it is!! Thanks again
David S Boyd
Spending the extra for the Fastrak is well worth the return you will receive with a higher quality mower. Not to mention that you will be creating a relationship with a LOCAL dealer that will prove very useful for other needs that arise as well.
Statesville, nc – Paul, my grandson has a lawn service company and we are looking to purchase another zero turn mower. Everything I read about the Raptor SD sounds good but it is showing as a residential mower, not a commercial one. Do you think the SD would be a good pick? And does it have the attachments – larger bagger, etc., like some of the larger more expensive mowers? Tks for your time.
Hi Jim, Strength and engine life are the biggest things to think about when looking to mow commercially.
While the Raptor SD looks heavy duty compared to the under $3000 crowd, it is still designed to mow 50-to-100 hours a year and last 8-to 10 years. (That’s my basic definition of residential lifetime) So the residential grade engine should go 800 hours without a problem, the frame should hold up and not crack for 800-1000 hours. The deck supports, bearings, etc should give the homeowner 8 yo 10 years without too many repairs.
But most commercial operators put that much time on their machine every 2 to 3 weeks. So if you are mowing 30 hours a week you will put a “lifetime” of use on that Raptor SD in one years time. You may get lucky and it will go that year or the next but by the 3rd year you will be out looking for another $5000 mower.
On the other hand, most commercial engines will easily go 2200 to 2500 hours without any serious overhaul. The commercial mower itself, for example an ExMark Lazer Z, will give you another 2000 hours more after you replace the engine. So per hours of use you would be buying three or the high end residential mowers like the Raptor SD in the time it would take you to wear out a true commercial mower.
If you want to stick with Hustler start your search by looking at the X-ONEi. You can read about it here: Hustler X-ONEi.
What type of mowing are you doing? Mainly residential or mainly commercial businesses? If you are doing mainly residential there is another alternative that’s better suited to smaller lawns but has the reliability of the commercial units. Feel free to ask more questions.
Paul, he is doing residential mowing and presently has a 60″ ZTR Bob Cat. He really likes the lift up deck.
I have compared the Raptor SD and the Fastrak SD and except for being a little faster, holds more fuel and some one gage heavier there is almost no difference in the machines – a very big difference in price, however.
You mentioned another better suited machine for small yards?
Tks for your time – jb
Hi Jim, If you are mowing residential I highly recommend you use 48 inch decks. When you go to 60 inches many homeowners will complain the mowers are too big and they tear up the lawn. They will unless you mow differently every time you are on the property. (You can use 60 on 2 acre or larger lawn)
If you want the best possible cut – a cut that your customers will rave about and tell their friends I suggest going to Walker Mowers. These zero-turn mowers are some of the strongest built, but they are built to excel at residential work. A big advantage is you can buy different decks for the same “tractor” so you can bag one day, mulch the next and side discharge the large lawns.
A great starting tractor is the Model C or Model T and a 42 or 48 inch deck. You can add a S56 deck for large open areas that don’t require bagging. Fill out the form on their website and your local dealer will set up a demo to show you why this is the best mower for commercial operators mowing residential properties.
I recently purchased a Hustler Raptor SD – 48″ deck to replace a really poor quality riding mower that wasn’t up to mowing my new yard. The portion that I mow is about 1.25 acres. All of it is on a slope, though most of it on a negligible grade. However, I have a significant grade along the front of the property where there is drainage ditch and culvert.
I used to mow this quite easily with my small – cheap riding mower. I would just mow across the slope.
One thing I didn’t see coming with the new zero-turn is that it is essentially uncontrollable on any significant slope. After having experienced the problem first-hand. I now find this is a very common – though not universal – problem.
Apparently different models with different weight, weight distribution, tires, etc. are effected to different degrees, but I can tell you the 48″ Raptor SD is simply dangerous on anything other than flat ground.
It is very well made with great components and specifications and workmanship.
Having said that, I am extremely disappointed with this traction problem.
My dealer is researching potential remedies. Sadly, I think the remedy is to buy a mower that has front wheel steering. I suspect even the zero-turns with steering wheels would work just fine.
If you have ANY suggestions (aside from buying another mower – I already have that one) I would really appreciate hearing them.
Hi Paul, For some unknown reason your comment got dumped into the spam folder. I just found it.
One question for you. Does the ZTR loose traction on the uphill side or does the transmissions not have enough power to hold it on the hill? Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to improve the side-hill performance of that machine.
The steering wheel ZTR’s, especially the Toro Lawn Mowers TimeCutter SWX5050 50 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Park 74797 have been doing very well. We have a bunch out now and they are doing really, really well on hills.
Another alternative is the Cub Cadet Z-FORCE® SZ SERIES or better.
Please stay away from the under $4000 Steering wheel ZTR’s. They may handle the hill ok but I am concerned about the longevity of the transmissions on slopes.
Hello I just bought a Hustler Raptor SD it has 2.5hrs on it and the Deck has a lot of vibration it sounds like the bearings are bad it sounds loud and bad and the clutch has a slapping noise in it to. Can someone help me on this problem. Bonaire GA
Hi John, If you bought it from a dealer take it back and have his mechanic inspect the deck.
Bad bearing usually don’t cause a vibration. Bad bearings make a grinding noise and when really bad screech.
Vibration usually means something is loose, bent or there is something wrapped around a blade. A throw rug will cause one to really vibrate.
If you can raise the front of the machine to look at the three blades all at once. You don’t have to raise it much – the front wheels on a 4X4 is enough. Out in the field I straddled the mower across the bottom of a ditch. Make sure the engine won’t start and block the wheels so it won’t roll on you. Grab a flashlight and a school ruler or straight board about 12 inches long.
Look at all 3 blades. Do they look the same? Is one tipped up or down? Is there anything wrapped around the spindle – above the blade?
Now take a blade and spin it with your hand. Spin it until the blade next to it are close together. Are the tips of the blades about the same height (even across) use that ruler if it helps you check. Check the third blade and match it to the center. If one or more don’t line up a blade is most likely bent. Hard telling what the previous owner hit.
When you spun the blade did you feel a grinding or did the blade spin without any noise? Grinding would be a bearing. Try all three blades, they should feel the same way.
Good so far? grab each blade end with a hand and wiggle it up and down – from side to side. Does the blade move at all? It shouldn’t check the blade bolt and spindle mounting bolts.
Does anyone want to help John with things to check on the top of the deck?
All three spindles should be perpendicular to the top of the deck.
Paul/David, how does the Husqvarna MZ52 with the Kawasaki engine compare to the Hustler Fastrak, in your opinion??? I can get one of these for about $1000 less than the Hustler .. Personally I’d rather get the Fastrak, but the boss is buying now, not me!!! Let me know what you think…. thanks again guys, you’ve been very helpful!!
Not sure I posted correctly the first time, sorry if I duplicated effort!!!
Paul, I’m glad I stumbled on your blog here…a wealth of information… I have about 2.5 to 3 acres with a decent stretch of hills (maybe 400′ long, 20′ to the top) that range mostly from 13 to 20 degrees, but there are a few spots that run 20 to 23. I’m currently using a 8 yr old Husqvarna YTH2042 that gets up these slopes in pretty good shape. I also have a 10 yr old Craftsman 15.5 hp tractor that does pretty good also. I’m wanting to speed things up and I have 3 units in mind. First is Husqvarna RZ46i that I can get for about $900 under retail ($1700) from Lowes. it’s a return that the person didn’t like, so would still have the factory warranty Second is the Craftsman 48″ tight turn 20391 that I can get for around $1800 online with all of the discounts. Lastly is a 1 yr old Hustler Raptor 52″ cut with about 50 hrs on it for $2200. I would think it would still have some warranty on it, but I know you kind of steer away used zero turns. What’s your opinion on these 3???
Hi Johnny, Sorry, I was trying to work outside this morning. The Craftsman 20391 is the best choice. I know the transmission will handle it. I’m very nervous about suggesting a ZTR on hills. ZTR’s have traction issues and both of the models you are looking at have the EZT transmissions.
The Husqvarna is a light mower so the transmissions should hold up but the lightness will also give you traction issues on the hills.
You should really mow a hill with a ZTR across the hill and I know neither one will handle a 20 degree slope. They will slide right off the hill.
No problem… I figure you to be a very busy man!! I was wondering about the Raptor because of your review and the video on the hills. how steep do you think the hills on the video are? And how fast, actual mowing speed, does the Craftsman go?? I know the specs say 7.5… thanks
Hi Johnny, Yes, that video is a 42 inch Hustler. I would guess that is 12-15 degrees.
Actual mowing with the Craftsman or any stamped deck is about 4 mph.
So getting the Craftsman 20391 for speed is basically a waste if my YTH2042 is doing that also. What about the Raptor SD?? Or I buy the 46i for the flat since I can get it at a good price, and use my Husky for the hills?? I guess I should explain that I’m using these mowers for cutting my workplace’s grass, and am storing the units there. Or can you recommend one that will fit all needs????
Hi Johnny, Is that the Hustler you mentioned earlier for $2200? I thought you meant a standard Raptor with the EZT transmissions.
A Raptor SD is a completely different ball game. The SD is a much heavier mower, with solid, strong transmissions that will handle the hills with no problems. I would recommend a Raptor SD for your lawn.
The hustler I mentioned for 2200 is the raptor 52 inch cut that you reviewed, not the SD. And not the 42 inch in the video. Since the 52 inch is a little heavier than the 42 inch wood that hold better on the slopes??
Hi Johnny, The problem with the Raptor is the transmissions. Yes, it’s heavier machine, but I’m afraid the the EZT tranny’s won’t hold up to mowing on slopes. Go with the Raptor SD as a minimum – or go with a lawn tractor. Basically any Zero-turn under $3000 will not work on those hills. (Except the 42 in Hustler, Bad Boy and Toro MX)
Coming from a Hustler dealer here in Grand Junction Colorado as well as Exmark and Gravely, I would suggest that you step up to either a FastTrack, Proturn or Pioneer. With that much grass to mow and the slopes, you will be buying units every few years because none of the machines mentioned will hold up for very long. Paul is right, the heart of any mower is the engine and transmissions. If you want something that is going to last, perform better, have less maintenance costs, then it’s going to be more expensive up front.
Okay. Thanks guys for all your help and patience.
Johnny, You are welcome. Keep asking – we’ll keep answering.
David, would the Fastrak be ok, or the Fastrak SD??? Or would the Raptor SD be ok for my hills??
David S Boyd
I would suggest the Fastrak over the Fastrak SD for your application. The Raptor SD is too small. I would further suggest the 48″ simply because of the time savings over the lawn tractors that you have been using in the past. I know from customer feedback and personal experience, that you will cut your mowing time in half with a zero-turn. I would be more than happy to answer any other questions you may have also. Have fun!!
Thank you David!
ok, I’m good with the Fastrak if you think that it can handle the slopes I mentioned. trying to get away from multiple pieces of riding equipment.
How does the Raptor 52 XD work on grades/slopes? I have 2 acres on hill side, with steepest grade about 20% or 25%. Thanks
Hi Bill, The Raptor HD works well on slopes BUT…none of the manufactures will rate their mowers for slopes over 15 degrees. Use this chart to determine your slope. . If you and I are using the same terminology it will do fine. It’s a heavy mower so traction will not be an issue. It has the heavier drives so it will last.
what is the main differice between the raptor 52 and the raptor 54 sd looking at both.
@James, The Raptor is about 150 lbs heavier. The reason for that is larger engine, heavier deck, heavier rub bars on the deck, larger-heavy duty spindles, larger, stornger transmissions, larger tires. Think of the Raptor as the 1/2 ton pickup you drive to your desk job. The Raptor SD is the heavy-duty 3/4 ton truck that you use to haul a skid-steer to the construction site everyday.
Newbie here, just bought the the 52in variety and am excited to use it. I understand the transmissions on these geared to pull things, but didn’t know if pulling a lawn roller would be an issue? Slopes in yard are very minimal. Fort Wayne, IN
Hi Levi, Did you buy the Raptor or Raptor SD? The SD can handle some heavy stuff but I would be careful with the Raptor. If you pull the lawn roller try to keep the weight under 300 lbs and then only pull the roller about half speed. Trying to pull it a full speed puts a lot of extra load on the transmissions.
And try to pull it across the hill working down from the top of the hill.
Thanks for the info Paul. I bought the non-SD version. The roller I was eyeing maxes out at 280lbs. I’ll make sure I take it slow and mind the hills. Thanks again!
Hello, is there a difference between the Hustler ZTM sold at Lowe’s and one from a private Hustler dealer?
Thanks Lawrenceville, IL
Hi Steve, No. But – if you want options like the independent front suspension the dealer is the best place to go buy your machine. Lowes carries the basic machine but does not carry the options you can get for it.
Bryan Spanky McGee
How does the Raptor compare to the Bad Boy mower
Hi Byran, Hustler has been around since the dawn of zero-turns. They don’t make Junk. Bad-Boy is out to take over the top spot from ExMark and they are also building some of the biggest and baddest mowers on the market.
Both have mower ranging from $2999 up and well over $15,000. So for example if you are comparing a $4000 Raptor and a $4000 Bad Boy they are going to be very similar in features, performance and quality.
Personally, I would look more at the dealer than the brand. Both brands make great mowers but not all dealers are the same. Find one you like and trust – then buy from them.
Did I even come close to answering your question?
Yes Paul you did I’m looking at the 52″ Hustlers and Bad Boys and was finding them to be quite comparable and this helps me. Now it comes down to best deal. Cottontown Tn. I forgot to include my city before.
Donald Baron Central MN
You talk about the Raptor 52″ with the Hydrogear EXT and how that won’t haul a lawn vac. Would you recommend pulling a lawn vac with the Raptor SD 54″ with the Hydrogear 2800? Also I have a standard ditch in my front yard; will the Raptor do well on a standard ditch?
@Donald, Yes to both questions. The ZT-2800 drives are a lot stronger. I actually pulled 600 lb wing mowers (sometimes 2 at a time) for over 200 hours without the ZT-2800 drives showing any sign of wear. The Raptor SD will have no problems in that ditch. The standard Raptor will handle the ditch alright but it is a lighter machine and you may have traction issues on wet or drought dry grass.
Brett, The Colony, TX:
Looking at specs, I see that the Hustler uses a 23 HP Kawasaki engine, but it is a 603cc. The Toro uses the larger 763cc Kawasaki, also rated at 23 HP. To get this engine on the Hustler you must but the SD model. Why is this? Both Toro Hustler are same $2999.
@Brett, the engine you are referring to on the Hustler is a 15 hp that is only on the 36 inch. The 42 and 52 inch ZTR’s use the 726 cc. source: Click on specs tab
Where can I find the hours on this hustler raptor 52″ ?
@gina, I don’t believe the Raptor has an hour meter. If you own one you just have to measure how long you use it every week. Use your owners manual and multiply that to figure when to change your oil and do the other maintenance.
David S Boyd Duffys Outdoor Power Equipment
Gary, I am a Hustler dealer as well as a warranty center for Kawasaki engines. The problem that you are experiencing is not the Kawasaki engine or the Hustler mower. The problem is today’s gasoline with the Ethanol blend. TODAY’S engines are made to tighter tolerances for emissions and power. Like the cars of today, we are getting more power out of smaller engine sizes and as a result will act differently than the small engines of even 5 years ago. Ethanol is supposed to be at a max of 10% and the fuel cap on the Hustler states the same thing, but it has been our experience that the fuel companies has Ethanol up to 20%. Fuel that is left in a can for as little as 5 days will start to separate and the Ethanol will become concentrated. Ethanol has a lower boiling point, 173 degrees at sea level, and will cause vapor lock in a hot engine. Our suggestion is simple, use Ethanol free gasoline and your outdoor power equipment will last longer, run better and give you less headaches. Download the free app from pure-gas.org and you can find who is selling Ethanol free gas in your area.
Thanks David, If you can’t get ethanol free I always recommend Sea Foam or another good fuel stabilizer. Use it all the time.
@Gary, It’s nice to know not everyone loves their Kawasaki engine. (Just kidding) That is typically a carb/carb gasket issue and it vapor locks. You didn’t tell me where you live, high altitude can cause this.
This is an engine issue, so make sure the dealer is talking to Kawasaki about the problem. They are usually very good at following through with an issue like this.
Before you start your first cut, lift the mower at rear and check/tighten the mounting bolts for the 2 hydraulic motors. Mine were loose with no lock washers, lost 2 and this resulted in ripped belt that drive the motors. Not easy to replace even with guidance in Manual. Installed lock washers and double nuts on the mounting bolts to prevent spin-off from vibration. Total surprise that assembly did not use lock washers or Nyloc nuts. Otherwise a great machine.
@Vince, If you don’t want to use lockwashers, I suggest Permatex or Loctite Threadlocker. Threadlocker. I also suggest that you should go through your new tractor or zero-turn and check all the nuts and bolts sometime in the first 5 hours and again at 50 hours. 30 minutes checking it out can save you hundreds of dollars later on.
Just bought The 52 inch 23 hp Kawasaki Hustler Raptor…Cut for the first time today…mowed 3 acres…so far I really like it…runs great, cuts nice and is pretty comfortable. For the money..a great mower….Mocksville, North Carolinal
Thanks Paul, advice taken hubby very happy with the results! We still have to get the push mower, for a small 45 degree slope in the corner though…. Keep up the good works we learned a lot from your blog posts!
@Eugenia, If you don’t use your push mower more than an hour at a time consider the
40-Volt Li-Ion Dual Battery, Dual Blade, 20" 2-in-1 Cordless Push Lawn Mower. No oil,gas or storage issues. It’s very light weight, has plenty of power and extremely easy to push. The cut is only 1 inch less than a gas powered push mower.
Hi Paul, We are going to finally replace our old push mower, we only need it for a small 45 degree slope in the corner of or property. Which would be your suggestion for that in todays market? The old link on your previous post gives me a msg that the suggested mower is not longer available… Also could you include both options battery power and gas powered? Thanks in advance!
Hi Paul! How deep of a slope can I handle with this one? I was sold on the husqvarna yt48xls that you recommended me until I read your last post….
@Eugenia, 15 degrees MAX. Zero turns are fun, but for your yard I still like the yt48xls