hugh -- I understand where you are coming from. We had the same concerns.
As far as Briggs engines, we have about 400 hours on our first T3000 (April 2008). Oil consumption = zero. Performance = still the same as a new engine. More than enough power too.
I agree that Honda is good. In fact, I still use an 8 hp Honda in my truck everyday, and I bought it in 1991.
I'm 55 years old, but I still try to keep an open mind. We shelled out a 15 hp Kawasaki engine recently, and it had less than 2000 hours on it on an Exmark mower. So go figure.
Hugh - I'm thinking you may have had a bad experience with Briggs engines in the past. So be it, but Briggs has made quality changes over recent years.
So until the newer Briggs (commercial grade) engines start leaking oil, loosing compression, or have a short lifespan , we'll continue to rely on them.
I'm not the only guy in town who realizes that Briggs commercial engines are good. Just look at other ride-on manufacturers who have "made the switch".
Bottom line -- we are extremely pleased with our newer Briggs engines. They start on the first pull, and they have never failed. Made in the USA.
NOTE: Briggs (Milwaukee, WI) hired techs from Harley Davidson ( Milwaukee, WI) to improve engine quality & spec tolerance. (bet nobody knew this)
Our 2 cents.