View Full Version : Hydro or Belt ?

01-22-2004, 10:27 PM
Just curious how many of you still use belt-driven mowers. I find them to be a complete waste of time. If any of you do is there a reason?

01-22-2004, 11:16 PM
The gear drives are of little use to me. a properly tuned hydro will make a better cut in a lot less time for me. more coin up front but a long time payoff in usefulness. Demoed a 48" bobcat gear drive, and own a 36" bobcat even if you shifted your weight to your heels on the sulky, it still wanted to pull up the front end, this causes funny looking spots in lawn . but with pratice I am sure you could make much better time than with a steering wheel. but getting a gear drive to track straight seems easier tham a hydro.

01-22-2004, 11:26 PM
Gears becuase of price and I only use them for smaller yards when I need a hydro I get the Z.


01-22-2004, 11:38 PM
I have 2 Bunton belt drive w/bs that I use as backups. They cut great, but when it's wet, forget it!

01-23-2004, 12:08 AM
waste of time? Maybe you're using the wrong belt drive mower or using them wrong. They're not as productive in many situations, but hardly a waste.

I'm hunting again for a hydro myself, but mainly because I'm trying to save wear on my body, not because I think the jobs will get done appreciably faster enough to justify the outlay of cash.

I use a wb only maybe 20 percent of mowing time, and thats for gated areas(usually small), really small lawns where the ZTR is just too much, berms the ZTR shouldn't be on, and in situations where the ground is wet and I want a lighter less damaging mower on it. If you're using it full time for mowing you will see more benefit to hydros than someone who uses it like I do. But belt drives do have a few advantages of their own to consider.

1. Lighter than hydros - I find my Toro belt drives were lighter and easier to baby over delicate turf areas than my hydro. The lighter weight also means you can manhandle them around when needed if they won't start or are broken. The lighter weight helps offset the need to manhandle it in tight turns somewhat.

2. Lighter touch for precision. I found I was able to mow more precisely with the belts in really tight spots, but of course had to pull it or switch gear to use the reverse assist. I found the ability to crawl slowly was better with the belts.

3. Maintenance/repairs; Belts to replace are no big deal. When a pump or motor goes down it's a big deal. And a hydro drive still uses one belt itself.

4. Control system availability: With all but Hustler and some Toro models, you're stuck with various of the same theme, pistol grips or ECS handles, on hydro models. And the Toro T bar stinks on their Hydros compated to on their belts. So you're left with a Hustler on a system that does not release to neutral and which requires a seperate speed/tracking lever to use with your non-existent third hand and neutral locks to have to remember to engage/disengage when leaving the mower or starting. Toro T bar is, I think, the best belt drive steering system, easy on the hands and easy on the mind, since you just stop pushing when you want to stop the mower. I hear Gravely has a similar system.

Hour after hour, day after day, a Hydro's extra cost will pay for itself in increased productivity and ease of use. But if you're on a sulky doing a lot of large flat rectangle lots, you may not notice that much of a difference. There are also several cleaver mowing techniques to help make near zero turns on a T bar belt drive that eliminate much of the extra manhandling of the mower that is a problem.

But before I would spend $5500 or $6000 w/ sulky on a major league well equipped full size wb, I would get a small ZTR for a little more. Now that's a productivity increase.

Pick what fits your needs the best, but a belt drive is hardly a waste of your time. I've mowed pretty darn fast with them in certain situations.

01-23-2004, 12:12 AM
Maybe its because ive always used a sulky, i tried it once on a belt when my hydro went down and it pissed me off to no end

01-23-2004, 12:19 AM
Anything I need a small mower for the belt drive is fine.Anything else.....that's what lazer z's are for.HeHeHe.

01-23-2004, 01:52 AM
I wouldn't mow if I had to use belts.

01-23-2004, 02:02 AM
My first mower was an exmark belt drive. Less expense was why I chose the belt. If the turf is wet or you get caught in the rain, forget about it, it is not going anywhere. Other than that I think they are worth the money, hydros are just easier to use and save you some time.

01-27-2004, 02:38 PM
The hydro is nice. I had a belt drive and liked it when I had no other choice. With the hydro I can maneuver the machine like you wouldn't believe.

I do all my trim with my walk behind. Its easy to go under a bush or a tree, and then back it up. Try doing that with a belt. Your behind is going to have to yank it back.

01-27-2004, 02:48 PM
we still use some belts now and then, but I feel hydros are hands down the best.

fa fa flo hite
01-27-2004, 02:57 PM
:blob4: :blob1: how much time exactly can you save ,compared to a belt on a upper class residential lawn.10min peryrd,20min etc...

01-27-2004, 03:01 PM
Had a backup 48 belt exmark. First mower for 900. Did justice in the beginning but found the hydro's. Never will go back. Just sold the 48 for 1300. Worked out good. Made money both ways. The guy I sold it to said he can't see where a hydro is worth the money. All he runs is belt. I like my back and so do my employes.

01-27-2004, 03:19 PM
Originally posted by fa fa flo hite
:blob4: :blob1: how much time exactly can you save ,compared to a belt on a upper class residential lawn.10min peryrd,20min etc...

by using the hydro we knock off approx 10-15 mins on small-medium lawns, while larger ones over an acre, we have saved in some areas 20-30 mins.

fa fa flo hite
01-27-2004, 03:23 PM


01-27-2004, 03:25 PM
with sulky

they just go faster, don't slow down going up hills, wet conditions don't affect them, and the turning is much more sharp I feel. I have saved so much time by switching over to hydros.

01-27-2004, 03:34 PM
I think Bruce32 made a lot of good points. I own a 48" Scag belt drive machine and it serves its purpose well.

It is a great machine for guys who are just starting out and don't have a lot of money It is much cheaper to repair and easier to fix on the job.

However, I do know that I will buy a hydro next time. I'm all for reducing wear and tear on the body when making 3 point turns when striping.

01-27-2004, 05:22 PM
Just looking at the TORO site, seems the HYDRO with T-Bar is a thing of the past. They only have one listed now and it's called THE CLASSIC. Now T-Bar with belt still shows a bunch of different combinations.

01-27-2004, 06:25 PM
Originally posted by tiedeman
by using the hydro we knock off approx 10-15 mins on small-medium lawns, while larger ones over an acre, we have saved in some areas 20-30 mins.

Maybe if your belt wasn't a really good one. In my experience it's more like half those figures for time savings. Top speed was the same, turning time was just a hair slower with belts, but it was much more tiring in small tight areas with lots of turns. No real difference on hills other than effort, with a T bar, can't say for pistol grips. And no real difference on large lawns where turns are less frequent relative to the size of the lawn. If you can do a small circle at the end of a row, it's just about as fast.

01-27-2004, 07:44 PM
I just purchased a new Bunton belt-drive. The main reason for going belt was price. I wanted a Hydro, but at this point I could get a new Honda push-mower along with a new 48. Makes sence to me!

Heron Cove PM
01-27-2004, 09:57 PM
To each is his own. Because of my business practices and philosophy, there a couple of reasons I go with belts over hydros. First, is price. I'm not spending $1300.00 a machine to cut the same amount of grass. Maintenance, upkeep, pumps going bad, etc... as everyone else has said, is a factor. Probably the biggest reason, and this ties in with my business philosophy, I don't need, want, or have machines running Mach 12 on any of my lawns. I'm not about speed. I would rather cut 6 lawns in a day and leave them golf course immaculate than cut 12 mow and go's. With this principle, the only thing that a hydro will do over a belt is back up easier. My belts are just as efficient as any hydro. I refuse, under NO circumstances to use a Velke behind a walk behind. If the operator needs to sit, a Sulky is useless; he can get on a ZTR. (In this market, we stand on a Velke and sit on a Sulky.) Also, I only use 36's and 48's when it comes to walk behinds. The next size past 48 I use a 60" and that's where my ZTR's start. Again, to each is his own but belt drives work much better for me.


Kelly's Landscaping
01-27-2004, 10:26 PM
Answere to your question is price I needed a walk behind I had 3k I ended up with a belt but that will be the only belt I ever buy. They do not compare to the hydros but you take what you can afford and when I was spending 10k on my Lazer Z 60 with a trac vac bagging system and about another 10 k on other equipment last spring. All that was left was enough for a belt driven 48''

01-27-2004, 10:37 PM
Currently I've got a belt drive Bob Cat 48' w/b and a 52" Lazer. The belt drives we all that were available when I bought my 1st Bob Cat and they had the single wheel belts. Talk about slippin' when wet and tracking with a loaded catcher on it was a pain. The one I've got now is 10 yrs old and it suits me fine. If I didn't have the Lazer, then maybe a hydro would be better as my only machine.

01-29-2004, 02:28 AM
Mine's the same story as some above. I bought mine new, and at the time, I was looking way down the road, as far as expense of replacing hydro pump, wheel motors, ect. and always knew to get back up, all I would have to buy would be another Peerless (180-+) and wheel belts. But, I was also using it as a stepping stone, to get to a hydro WB, but just alittle bit more $, and (to me) a ZTR would be alot more productive. *Not thinking how much I would have to use the brakes on hills, wet belts, and what the "R" on an Exmark belt-drive really means. In all fairness, I guess it will meet me half way on dead flat ground. (I ask my dealer what "Reverse-assist" really meant, he just told me not to get in situations where I would have to back up. He was right.)

01-29-2004, 04:07 AM
by the time the pumps ware out its time for a new mower anyway.

i only use hydro...no slipping belts to mess with in wet conditions and less operator fatique positive reverse .

Green Care
01-29-2004, 09:24 AM
I use a 32 belt for smaller places couldn't think of spending alot for those small areas.

All my other mowers are hydro.