Kubota ZD331 / 72" review (5 years)
Now that it's 5 years later.....
We are starting a switch to Exmark.
The Kubota ZD331 are getting too expensive to buy AND operate.
Over the last 3 years, we have gone through 4 deck gear box assemblies. Kubota welds the bearing to the gear box assembly, so once it's out, it tears out the whole assembly.
I never used to have these issues, but at $1,300 per gear box, it's adding up fast.
The pivot for the casters on the front deck, suck. They have an upper and lower "bushing" but the upper bushing will slide down, therefore not allowing you to get grease through the zirk, as the bushing as slid over the opening.
Over the last 5 years I had this original ZD331 / 72" deck that I traded last fall with 1800 hours. I also have (2) 2008 ZD331 / 60" decks that currently have 1600 and 1700 hours respectively. Then I traded my 72" for a 3rd 60" last fall. This spring at 300 hours, the engine blew, my guys were not checking oil.
Anyways, a new engine is $4,500. We have exhausted any and all resources short of putting a new crate engine in, and all other options are close to the $4,000 mark, so rather than rebuild, I'm going to put a new crate engine in over winter.
For anyone thinking about buying one of these, just be aware that just about ALL of the parts are specific to Kubota it seems, and they are NOT cheap. You are paying a premium for the mower, and you will be paying a premium for the parts.
They are very solid mowers. As stated with my hours above, we did minimal repairs with minimal maintenance. We mow a school district with about 80 acres of turf, and up until this year we mowed the local city with 19 parks, trails and other city owned properties, along with the typical mix of commercial / residential mowing.
I gross about $275k / 6 month season here in MN with straight maintenance, so we do not sit still long when there's no snow.
We are migrating towards Exmarks, for the cut quality, as well as the minimal maintenance. I'm trying to work my way out of the field operations and more of a support/irrigation tech/office type position after 23 years (I'll be 40 in November). The savings in fuel costs are minimal, as we have a local station that sells off road diesel at a discount, and the 29 hp Kawasaki burns about 1.5 gallons per hour.
The Kubotas would run a little more than 3/4 gallon / hour, but not a full gallon per hour.
I did have a decent conversation with my dealer about our leaving Kubota. They were always top notch in service, always getting me in and out, although like most shops, didn't stock alot of parts, so the odd ones we had to wait, or pay airfare.
All in all, it was a good run. To me, the quality is slipping a bit, but it seems like it's always that way when you've been with one company for a period of years. We have the same issues with our own clients. You go in, do your job for 3-5-7-13 years, then all of a sudden they have to change because they think they aren't getting good value. You could be doing the exact same thing, for the exact same money, for the exact same timeframe, but they decide they need a change.
For me, it was all about the money. A new X series Exmark with a suspension seat was $10,500. A new Kubota ZD331, $14,500. I don't have to worry about gear box assemblies on the deck anymore, I don't even really need to worry about grease anymore.
We will see how the change goes.
Give thanks, for all that He has given.