Toro and Exmark make great hydro walk behinds and have a lot of dealers around. I honesty like the Toro a little bit more for the controls and over strength of the machine. I would also recommended the Gravely Pro Walk, which is the same as the newer John Deere mowers just different paint. I got the 48 inch after demoing it and the Exmark and Hustler. It is very easy to get use to and cuts great. I plan on getting the 36 inch model and maybe the 52 Pro walk or Pro Stance in the future too.
I'm just curious if you priced the Gravely and it's JD counterpart and if so what the difference was. In my experience (and maybe it's just my dealer) that green paint must be really expensive because anything that color sure seems to be. Actually I've bought touch-up paint for my JD landscape tractor and it was expensive...like $10 a can.