View Full Version : Big site mowing

02-25-2012, 01:06 AM
I'm debating a fleet purchase for this coming spring and want a few opinions from the pros with experience.

I have a large contract to fill with about 180 acres to cut in a section of our city. The terrain will be very flat, sandy soil, and sparse growing grass. There will be curbs to climb along all of the boulevards. The growing season is only 4 months at best.

What do you think the best output per dollar is from machine to machine?

All I have experience with is zero turn 72" exmark lazers and 72" ferris with suspension. Hp ranges from 27-34 that I have used.

I've seen a few toro grounds masters for sale and I'm curious if the wider cut justifies the purchase price in such a limited growing season?

02-25-2012, 01:16 AM
Did you sign the contract without the equipment? I know it doesn't apply to your question, just wondering. How many people do you have and what do you operate currently
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02-25-2012, 01:36 AM
25-35 staff that varies seasonally. Yes, signed contract without equipment. I priced buying new and salvaging at the end of the term. multi year contract. Its not really feasible for us to have that kind of equipment sitting around and contracts of this nature are not common in my area.

White Gardens
02-25-2012, 02:48 AM
Regardless of the larger equipment you buy, I'd make sure to have some 72" Dixie Choppers in there with the springer front forks. Maybe even step up to the twin gas motor option or the Yanmar diesel.


PK Mows
02-25-2012, 04:49 AM
How nice a cut does it have to be? Is this maintained as turf or does it just need to be knocked down? Can you use a growth regulator?

If you just need to get started at it on the cheap, you can use a stand-off tow behind mower like a Swisher, I have a buddy who tows two, I think 72" cut, behind an old Dixie Chopper. That works pretty well on long, wide areas. You could also use something along the lines of a small Kubota with a belly mower and pull a couple Swishers. Then your other riders/walk-behinds for the smaller areas.

I know those aren't elegant solutions, but maybe it's something you could work with.

If it's big and rough-cut, can't beat a tractor with a bat wing.

If you can use a PGR, then you can save yourself a lot of money. But you need to be sure the agreement is to maintain at a certain height and not to cut at specified intervals.

Back in the day, I ran Cushmans and Groundsmasters, love the things. But, do you want to sink a ton of money into a contract like this? For ten thousand or so you can pick up a used Groundsmaster with 10-12 feet of cut. But they can be very tempermental so be careful buying used. Many of these come off golf courses and from municipalities and have been beat to death. I've seen several on eBay that looked like pretty good deals, just get them checked out first, especially the hydraulics. They're the fastest machines I've ever used to cut large turf areas and certainly worth the money if you can keep them in use.

scotts lawn care
02-25-2012, 11:02 AM
The John Deere 997 diesel z is a nice machine for open areas. 31 hp yanmar diesel, 60" or 72" deck, hydro deck lift, suspension seat. I have the same motor in my 1445 and it uses half the fuel of my gas z. Or how about a front mount diesel mower with a 72" deck?

02-25-2012, 12:31 PM
I passed on a bid for much less turf than that last year but was getting ready to buy a 455-d or a 580-d. I was looking used because of price. I wouldn't consider a zero turn unless you put a fleet of them out there but then you are talking bucks to buy a bunch of Z's.

02-25-2012, 02:09 PM
I can buy 6 z's for the price of 1 grounds master 5900

Fred B
02-25-2012, 03:10 PM
I would take a serious look at a groundsmaster 4000D. Full time 4x4 rear discharge and still manoverable. It is also two thousand pounds lighter than a Toro 580/5900. You maybe able to buy alot of smaller ZTR but then you have to pay employees to run them. I wouls also buy a Walker Super B to be your trim mower behind the Toro. We are mowing 500 acres a week and this combo has saved us alot of money in the long run.

scotts lawn care
02-25-2012, 03:22 PM
I can buy 6 z's for the price of 1 grounds master 5900

Yeah and the z's will be nice on small and medium size properties as well.

Only thing is you need the man power to run that many machines.

02-25-2012, 04:03 PM
Fred, what type of sites do you cut? Also, what's the price range for one new vs used?

02-25-2012, 04:39 PM
here are some of the numbers i have been crunching on cost comparisons. this is rough and doesnt include fuel, etc. productivity numbers are taken from manufacturers websites.

Site size is based on 200 acres for easy math. I ran numbers over 3 years.

TORO 4000d- used $20,000
Output @ 50%- 5.33 acres/hr x10 hr day = 53.3 acres/day
Days to cut- 200acres/53.3acres per day = 3.75 days
Labour per cut- 3.75 days x 10hrs per day x $20 per hour (wage cost of $15 plus deductions, taxes, etc) = $750 per cut
Labour per season = $750 per cut x 10 cuts per season = $7,500
Yr1= Machine cost plus labor (20,000 + 7,500) = $27,500
Yr2 = Yr1 plus labor for year 2 = 27,500 + 7,500 = $35,000
Yr3 = Yr1+yr2+labor for year 3 = $35,000 + $7,500 = $42,500

Total cost of machine plus labor for 3 years is $42,500

TORO 5900- USED $30,000
Output @ 50%- 10 acres/hr x 10 hr day = 100 acres/day
Days to Cut- 200acres/100acres/day=2 days
Lab per cut- 2 days x 10hrs per day x $20/hr = $400/cut
Lab per season- $400/cut x 10cuts/season = $4,000 per season
Yr1= Machine plus lab = $30,000 + 4000 = $34,000
Yr2 = Yr1 plus lab= $34,000+4,000= $38,000
Yr3 = Yr2 plus lab = $38,000 + $4000 = $40,000

Total cost of machine plus labor for 3 years is $40,000

next is Lazer z

02-25-2012, 04:43 PM
ExMARK Z (72")- NEW $10,000
Output @ 50%- 4 acres/hr x 10hrs = 40 acres/day
Days to cut- 200acres/40acres per day = 5 days
Labor per cut - 5 days x 10 hrs/day x $20/hr wage = $1,000/cut
Labor per season- $1000 per cut x 10 cuts = $10,000 per season
Yr1= machine plus wages= $10,000+$10,000 = $20,000
Yr2= yr1 plus lab= $20,000+ 10000 = $30,000
Yr3 = yr2 plus lab= $30,000 + 10000 = $40,000

Machine plus labor for 3 years is $40,000

02-25-2012, 04:47 PM
Anyone know how much fuel each goes through per 10 hr day?

I would rather take a couple brand new zero turns than a larger used Toro. I've heard they are high maintenance once the hours get up there. Anybody know?

02-25-2012, 05:05 PM
There are several WAM's on ebay. Don't know if they are junk but worth a look perhaps.




Moose's Mowing
02-25-2012, 05:42 PM
this might not help, but when I was in high school, I mowed for a HUGE retirement community. This place had be kept as nice a golf course...maybe nicer.

They had large areas of manicured grass, I'm talking 20-40 acre fields spaced around the complex. I have no idea on the total amount of acreage I used to cut, but it was a lot.

My second year, the foreman quit so the lead boss stuck me in the John Deere 5400 towing a Woods WAM. I think it cut 18' per pass. It was a tow behind with 3 separate 6 ft decks that would fold down. it folded up real tight for transporting it around the property too. it was a PTO shaft unit with a hydraulic remote to raise and lower the decks. each deck floated indignantly too which was nice.

The turning radius on the JD 5400 was perfect because at full turn, the far side of the deck would pivot right in place and line up perfectly for the next pass, I didn't even have to feather the clutch or slow down, it was full speed ahead even when turning directions.

No idea on the model of the Woods deck, but it cut great. Again, I don't have any real numbers to give you to help you out, but maybe a smaller used farm tractor towing something like this would work. We also had a JD 955 tractor. Not sure if that'd have enough HP to run a really big WAM, but it might be worth checking around to see about getting a good used compact tractor to use to tow something around and then have one or two guys trimming with the Ztrs

I'd spent 2 and half days mowing on this thing and the 2 other guys were using groundsmasters to "trim" anything I couldnt get with the WAM.

FWIW, I HATED using the Toro Groundmasters. everything about them sucked. the ride was awful, they were heavy, loud, not very manuverable, didn't cut all that great, scalped like crazy, didn't seem to have much power, were terrible on hills......I hated them, everything about them. We also used one to plow and one with a snow blower on the front. the snow blower was so heavy it'd make the back steer tires come off the ground and it didn't have enough power to plow much. I remember almost tipping one over one day on a step hill, lost traction, slid a bit sideways and she just kept sliding down the hill. again I HATED those stupid Toros.

02-25-2012, 07:32 PM
Good to know? I'll check out a tractor/batwing combo

02-25-2012, 07:42 PM
Great White - we do a lot of acreage mowing. If you devote an 11' WAM and a couple riders to the job, you could probably knock it out in a (long) day, depending on how much line trimming is req'd.


Diamond Dave
02-25-2012, 10:20 PM
I would take a serious look at a groundsmaster 4000D. Full time 4x4 rear discharge and still manoverable. It is also two thousand pounds lighter than a Toro 580/5900. You maybe able to buy alot of smaller ZTR but then you have to pay employees to run them. I wouls also buy a Walker Super B to be your trim mower behind the Toro. We are mowing 500 acres a week and this combo has saved us alot of money in the long run.

I have to agree, I have not run a 5900 but have a 580d and 4000d. The 4000 is so much more manuverable than the 580d, and is better on fuel. I don't remember exact numbers but I think the 580d runs about 3 gallons per hour and the 4000 is closer to 2. I can't imagine cutting 200 acres with a Z or even 2 for that matter. I also think you would be hard pressed to find a used 5900 for $30,000, they have only been out a few years.

SDLandscapes VT
02-25-2012, 11:00 PM

I worked at a golf course that had a 455D and that thing really was marginal at best--very temperamental and was a maintenance burden. This is cutting the best of turf under great conditions. I wouldn't do Toro. My mechanic subs maintenance work for many GC's in new england and he tells me if you go WAM go Jacobsen.

J.R. Services
02-26-2012, 12:11 AM
Gr8WhiteNorth - we do maybe 100acres week in parks, with 180 acres I would probably suggest at least 1 WAM, but if don't wan't to spend the dough on a WAM I would highly suggest a minimum of 2 kubota 72" zd331s, I believe they are built way better than any other zturn, they have an actual transmission that will outlast any wheel pump configuration, decks are built heavier, legendary kubota diesel engine that will definitely outlast any gasser, everything is pto driven except for the 1" deck belt. But everybody has their own preference. Good luck. Guess you wouldn't want to give a ballpark on what the contract went for? Just curious to see what large contracts are going for in other cities :)

02-26-2012, 07:03 PM
I heard that WAM use about 3 Gallons an hour?...

For the comparison will say the

TORO 5900 uses 4 gallons an hour

the 4000 uses 3

And the ZTR uses 2

Diesel ZTR uses 1.5

so... using the numbers from the above example

the 5900 uses - 80 gallons total

4000 uses - 111 gallons total

ZTR - 100 gallons total

Diesel ZTR - 75 gallons total

Seems to me the 72" Diesel ZTR wins in the number crunch (if you we're willing to sit out there for days...)

02-26-2012, 08:53 PM
Interesting about the fuel economy of the mowers. I've never ran a diesel mower before, but our skidsteers, sweeper, loaders, dumps, and other trucks are diesel so I know how much nicer the power and efficiency is.

I've been debating the worth of diesel motors after countless repairs with our truck fleet. The extra money spent on upgrading to diesel motors hasn't offset the fuel savings or even come close to repair bills vs gas motor.

I don't have too much bad to say about kubotas in our skidsteers yet though. They've been very reliable. I don't think the power is necessary on this terrain. The grass isn't thick. Even our oldest ride-on with the 27 hp liquid cooled kawasaki (72") hasn't ever been reported as being under powered. I have been through a few big block vanguard and Koehler motors 32-34 hp on various ferris mowers we've had.

Does anyone know how much more the diesel option is on a ztr?

My ferris dealer once told me u could almost buy a new gas motor for the cost of the exhaust system for the diesel. It was common for them to rot out according to him. Also, the rental co's always swore by gas machines as being lower cost in the end.

As for the total dollar amount jr, no I can't say. I don't want someone coming in from my area next term and beating me on price. I will say the contract has a ton of trimming and requirements for setting up a remote compound for equipment storage, fuel, repairs, and operating base. utv's or small trucks for transporting staff around, among other things.

We've had large contracts like this before, but not this one specifically. Terrain wise, it should be easy, but im sure it will have its challenges.

J.R. Services
02-26-2012, 09:03 PM
I definitely understand about revealing contract prices. As for diesel mower prices, I can't say for exmark but a kubota zd331 72" retails for I think its 17k now, but if you have a decent dealer near you, you can probably get it for closer to 14k.

Also, how do like doing big contracts that are located in one spot? I haven't made up my mind on whether I like spending a whole day at one place or running all over town cutting 20-30 residentials

02-26-2012, 10:16 PM
We do a few residential lawn customers. In the area of 70 accounts of this nature. We also do small-medium commercial sites and condo groups scattered around the city. The headaches for this are dealing with drivers, vehicles, maintenance, accidents, and reception to answer phone calls.

The biggest reason for keeping these accounts and continuing to grow this type is for the stability. Everyone bids the big jobs and there is huge risk of losing contracts year to year.

It's a lot easier to lose 1 account that is half of your annual revenue vs losing 70 separate ones.

Three years ago we had a bad apple working for us. He was difficult to say the least, he harassed 2crew leaders and another 2nd year staff member so bad that they quit before I even knew what was going on. This guy's wife had won a million bucks a few years prior so he always preached he did this job because he loved cutting grass. He seemed to be a good employee other than butting heads with the few that quit, but they all warned me he needed to be fired.

A couple weeks later my division mgr came to me with a bad story. This guy approached him and wanted him to join him in starting a rival firm. Naturally when I confronted him, he denied, but then tried convincing me he had Ben honest about his intentions from the start. It was hilarious the he thought i would actually hire and train someone knowing they would start a rival firm.

He promised to leave my accounts alone and preached he was a mana of his word, but I told him he needed to sign his non-compete agreement as I found it was blank in his original orientation package. I'm a man of my word, my word is all I have he would say, so I told him to sign a different document stating he wouldn't solicit my customers but could start a business of his own that competes. He agreed, but wanted to take it to his lawyers to review first.

He never came back. The next time I say him he was mowing my 3 biggest accounts. It set me years behind, but thank god our revenue was spread out between 100 or so customers. He couldn't get them all.

Needless to say, I hate the guy. I thought it was funny that he was too cowardly to come pick up his last pay cheque and he didn't even cash it after my receptionist mailed it out. I chalked it up to his sorties of not needing the money because he is a millionaire. The first customer to contact me about him sitting them for business called me right away to tell me he was doing so. This customer told me the guy was really annoying on site while he worked for me because he would stand the the whole time everyone else worked and brag about being a multi millionaire and not needing the money. This customer told him to f off. Good guy.

The second and now former customer called me and reamed me out for being crooked and ripping the guy off from his last paycheck. I told him we mailed it out and the guy wouldn't cash it. The labor board keeps serious tabs on that stuff here in manitoba. He didn't believe me and I was totally floored. He didn't even care about how shady the guy was.

Nowadays, I check every non-compete agreement for valid signature. Lesson learned.

02-26-2012, 10:18 PM
Sorry about the random grammatical errors. Stupid iPad autocorrect just adds in its own words in place of mine

02-27-2012, 10:37 AM
As a business owner, wouldn't using the largest WAM make the most sense? It is more expensive and uses more gas but it takes less labor allowing you to gross almost double during a work week...

02-27-2012, 11:03 AM
We have an HR 9016 and we love it. 200 acres would be a solid day. The price on a brand new one isnt probably justified but we bought ours with 800hrs on it and love it. It does have its learning curve when it comes to maintenance, however when you learn everything trouble shooting is a breeze. It has cost us around $500 per year for upkeep which is really cheap. That number doesnt include regular scheduled maintenance.

I would be nervous about buying one, I was, but now even as we get undercut for work I still keep it in the fleet. Schools, golf courses, and even homeowners rent it from me. You can do rough cut and regular mowing. Has an unbelievable finish. Over 6 years it has cut 25 hours week/employee out of my business. I have also been able to maximize my production per week. I love my machine but with anything they come with a price tag.