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Old 11-10-2009, 10:58 AM
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Best Trim Mower?

I am in the market for a new trim mower. Can you give me suggestions on which is the best one to buy for my home? I have been looking at the John Deere J series, and an Exmark Commercial 21.

I do not intend to bag. Thanks!
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Old 11-10-2009, 11:57 AM
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I suppose this is technically a homeowner's forum question, but since you're selling gear in the biz, I'll venture an answer.

The Toro commercial 21" models are very close to being the same as the Exmark 21", though there may be some variations in engine/features offered. I've been pleased with the Toro high end residential and commercial models over the years. For most home lawns, the commercial would be close to overkill, and the added weight would be a hassle in places (120 vs 70-100 lbs). At real world prices with discounting this time of year, the cost would be roughly double to go from a Toro superrecycler (not recycler) to a roughly comparable commercial unit ($600-$1200). I paid $400 for a superrecycler on closeout in 2005 (zone start, personal pace, no bagger)

For the extra money of a commercial model you'd get a somewhat more torquey and longer lasting engine, a thicker deck, and stronger height adjusters. The latter two of which wouldn't matter at all to a homeowner. You'd also get 3 speed transmission with a bar you squeeze to control speed with, vs a "personal pace" bar you push forward on the residential units. The 3 speed will pull you up hills easier, but that's offset to a large degree by its added weight in other situations when jockeying the machine around. For home use once a week, the PP is fine. Some even prefer it.

I wouldn't worry about durability on the higher end residential toros. My latest is still running fine with 5 years of use. I mow the equivilent of maybe 6 average sized home lawns a week with it (gated areas, tiny lots, etc) so that's about 30 years of home use. Still cranks first pull. Plus it gets banged around being transported and the wheels are still in fine shape and not worn down. I prefer the 75 lbs of this machine vs the 125 of some of the commercial units because I have to sometimes lift it and jockey it around in tight spots.

Toro and Exmark are both introducing lighter commercial units. Toro has theirs on their website. It is a 1 speed (3.1mph?) that seems to combine the best of both with light weight, more power, and stronger wheels. That speed is acceptable in my opinion. It just leaves off bbc, a bagger(optional), and the thick and heavy deck. I've used toros for 18 yrs and have never damaged a deck. I think the thicker decks were designed for protection from gorilla employees. They seem to mulch well, bag ok, but discharge is not as good as a dedicated discharge design. But I rarely have to discharge, as regularly maintained turf will mulch fine.

The lighter toro commercial is about $950, but you might have to order it as it's a new model and not that common. Exmark has a new similar model, but it may not be out soon. there was a thread here somewhere on it.

I have used bbc models and zone start ones, and I agree with others that the bbc system adds weight and takes up space under the deck that may affect cutting performance. If you don't plan on bagging a lot, it's not necessary. I also is one of those things that can break or need adjustments.

Some guys like to buy commercial equipment sorta for the bragging rights with the neighbors, and for peace of mind in terms of durability, but my experience is that for home use it isn't necessary in this class of mower. The light-commercial models coming out seem to be a very good compromise. If you have anything big enough, I'd take a look at low-hour gear drive midsize wb's. They're a little more versatile in terms of handling leaves and such and of course get the job done faster.
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