Help making a ZTR decisions

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by Havok1327, May 17, 2004.

  1. Havok1327

    Havok1327 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    I know yet another what "should I buy thread", but please hear me out. I've lurked and searched here for a few days and have gotten some great information on ZTR mowers. I'm pretty green, couldn't resist the pun :), when it comes to lawn mowers so this is what I've gathered in my few days.

    My current situation is we have about 1/4 of an acre where our current house sits. We will be moving to 3+ acres of land, minus the house, in the next year or so. What I'd like to get is a ZTR mower that can handle our current yard, but not short change myself and not buy what we need for our future, much larger yard.

    After reading through many threads it seems like Country Clipper, Exmark, Slimlicity or Hustler has one product or another that would meet our needs. I was leaning toward the CC but I am having a problem finding a dealer in our area. I liked the joy stick control and easy deck cleaning of it.

    The other 3 all have dealers within a few miles of my house. I'd like to spend around $5-$6K on one of these, less would be better of course. But I want something that will last and is relatively easy to maintain.

    So I guess I'm looking for suggestions, Pro/Cons of each, for my needs.

    The other question I had is if I want to pull a Fertilizer, seed spreader can I do it with any or all of these? How about a small trailer, I know my wife want to do landscaping at the new house so I could see this as an advantage, but not vital to my decision making process.

    Thanks for the help.

    Matt
     
  2. Havok1327

    Havok1327 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    I visited a few of the local dealers today. I went and looked at the Simplicity Colt 52". Which seemed pretty nice, got to take it for a test ride, I hadn't driven a ZTR mower before, but took to it pretty quickly. The dealer did say it was last years model and that it was aroudn $5400. Again didn't seem too bad a price.

    I also went to the ExMark Dealer, they were out of all the ZTR mowers. So he show'd me a Gravely, hadn't read any one them so I was just listen to his sales speal. He show'd me the consumer models of those also around $5K for the 52" model.

    Lastly I took a look at the Hustler. The dealer had a large selection, but pricing started at about $6K. So I think those will be out of my price range.

    Still no closer to a decision.
     
  3. DylanG

    DylanG LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    Hustler and Simplicity both have lines for the homeowner that are in the $4000-5000 range. So if that's your price range then your dealer should be able to get those for you.
     
  4. Havok1327

    Havok1327 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    DylanG thanks for the replay.

    I was actually able to find a CC dealer in my area after all. So I went a took a look at the Jazee they had in stock. Not to shabby either. It has more of a Consumer look to it and its not as big a machine as the Simplicity I looked at. They joystick was easy to use and I took to it pretty quickly. Pricing was around $4800-$5200 depending on model.

    I then went to another ExMark dealer and looked at their consumer line, the Lazer CT I believe. Now these looked like a commercial mower, I didn't get to drive one, but I was told that if I could give them a day or two I could. So I'll probably head back and take a test ride. These start at $4999 and $5399 again depending on model, engine, cut etc.

    So I think I've narrowed it down to these two dealers and machines. Now I just need to decide on cut size and engine.
     
  5. DylanG

    DylanG LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    I had to draw the line at $5000. I went into this expecting to spend $2000 on a lawn tractor. Maybe I don't know what to look for but I didn't see an advantage to the Exmark over the Hustler FasTrak and Simplicity Consumer Z which were my final choices. For $5000 I could get a 20 HP twin engine and 50" deck in those lines. With Exmark that would only get me a 17 HP single cylinder engine and smaller deck.

    I ended up buying the FasTrak 20/52 yesterday. The deciding factor was that it was available immediately and the Simplicity wouldn't be in stock at my dealer for 3 weeks. But I was leaning towards the Hustler anyway because of it's Honda engine and more heavy duty deck. On the other and, the Simplicity has a stronger and more servicable transmission. I was kind of glad the availability made the decision for me since I could see no other rational way to choose one over the other.

    Country Clipper was never an option for me since there is no dealer nearby.
     
  6. abospaum

    abospaum LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    Last fall I bought the Fastrak 20/52 for $4500 in Elkton, MD. It's been great so far having cut my mowing time by more than half.

    I almost wish that I went for the full size Z which the dealer would have sold for $5200 with 23hp Kawasaki and 52" deck. This mower goes 11mph and is solidly built with top access to the mower deck for cleaning. I don't know if I could have handled the extra speed because by yard isn't very even and the fastrak bounces me out of the seat as it is. This would have also meant a adjustable, suspension seat with armrests. And most importantly a significantly faster blade tip speed meaning a cleaner cut.

    Most dealers weren't close to this price but this guy was very up front and gave a great price right away.
     
  7. DylanG

    DylanG LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    Wow. Those are great prices. I just paid 5000 for the same FasTrak. My dealer wouldn't go any lower because he said he'd have no problem selling it at that price. I guess the good deals are in the fall but I couldn't wait.

    I would have been all over that MiniZ for 5200. That's like 2000 below MSRP.

    From what I can tell, the big difference with the FasTrak vs. the Mini Z or Exmark Lazer CT is the FasTrak has the less durable and less servicable IZT tranmission. The IZT used to be completely sealed and required no maintenance. It has been changed in recent models and the manual specifies a 2 year maintenance schedule for serial numbers XXX and up. I assume that this is an improvement in some way but I don't know the specifics. The Hustler rep on this board said the IZT should last 10-15 years for mowing up to 5 acres a week.
     
  8. JHE

    JHE LawnSite Member
    Posts: 102

    I was in the same situation while shopping for a mower (go completely residential or get a commercial). I ended up breaking my shopping into four main areas.

    I started to analyze the engine and determine how much power I would need. With 3 acres I am not bagging so would like to mulch a little. Sounds like running double blades or getting the mulching blades would do the trick. So I read some threads in here about mulching and picked the horse power I needed. I also listened to the types of engines everyone liked. The 1st place winner is the Kawasaki with the Kohler being a very close runner up (except in the higher 27hp range where Kohler is the favorite). The Honda appears to need some more engineering so I stayed away from that motor.

    Then I went to the drive system (hydraulics and wheel pumps). I am on a hill so control is the most important feature for me. Mowers with some sort if independent suspension are a plus in this situation but so is the way the drive system works. I determined that you need something very smooth or else you run the risk of locking up a wheel and white nuckling the mower to the bottom of the hill. From what I understand, most homeowner models drives are different that the commercial ones ( I do not know the specifics but they are a little more jerky). Once I determined what I wanted for control I looked at the actual make up of the components - how heavy duty are they. I stopped by some dealers and checked out the size of the pumps, how they were cooled, etc. This is important for me because I will keep equipment for 20-30 years+. In each range of mower (ie. homeowner vs. small commercial vs. large commercial) I found the components to be about the same quality. When you read threads from all of these guys in here you never here them talk about how exmarks wheel pumps beat Hustlers or beat Ferris, etc. One thing that I determined is that going from residential to commercial mower you get a much better drive system. I know that some of the residential manufacturers are using the commercial components in their mowers but you have to ask the question.

    Next, I went to the deck. One of the reasons that I am looking at a new mower is because my 50" stamped Gravely deck is rusting out (after around 25 years of service). I know that I want the heaviest gage deck that I can get so I put that on my list and factored it into my decision. I was also worried about the spindles. The heavier the spindles the more years of service I can get out of them. Again, read and ask the questions. Some homeowner models have the heavy spindles and some do not. Also, as you will learn, size does matter. Alot of folks buy smaller decks (48-50" range) because they have to get through gates, between trees, or around tight landscaping spots, near the pool, etc. I do not have any tight spots so I could get a bigger deck. Reading this site no one had a strong opinion about going from a 50" to a 60" deck. What is an extra 8" over the course of the cut but a couple of extra stripes. But my neighbor solidified it for me. He has an Exmark with a 60" deck. When I asked him what he thought (he is a retired engineer) he got a pencil out, did some math, and determined that when you consider the overlap (no one really gets 50" out of each stripe) a 60" deck does 15% more cutting. When one of the biggest reasons for looking at ZTR's is time savings - 15% matters.

    Finally, I went to price. Certainly having a 72" Ferris with a diesel motor would satisfy all of my concerns. But I am not throwing down 14K to cut my lawn. That is like 14 years of lawn service to me. Figure out what you can afford because asking questions about a $8,500 machine when you have $6,000 in you pocket is a waste of your time and the dealers time.

    Now you are asking what the heck did you buy? After all of this work (and I mean hours of research) I narrowed my decision down to two mowers - the Ferris 3000is and the Hustler Z. Both are commercial units in the $7,000+ price range. My choices were, to some degree, directed by what dealers I had locally and how I was treated when I walked through the door (I refuse to go to one dealership - I went in to ask some questions about a mower, they were not in a rush to get to me (I don't do this commercially and was on my lunch time) and answered my questions like I was an idiot. After I left pissed off I researched the questions myself and figured out that they really were not that stupid. At another dealer the guy closed at 6:00. I got there at 5:50 and he stayed open until 7:00 to answer all of my questions). The 3000is is a sweet machine. And, the one I was looking at was a leftover that the guy wants $7,500 for. If you have not shopped for a Ferris that is a sweet deal and the IS would certainly help on the hills.

    But in the end of the day I went with Hustler Z, 25 hp Kawasaki, 60" deck and a suspension seat (My gravely has a spring suspension and my guts hurt after 3 hours of cutting the grass on that - I can't imagine cutting the grass 2-3x faster without some type of spring or suspension seat). They have a sale going on until the end of May and there prices are really competitive. Since I am going to own the mower for 30 years I had to ask which company was going to be around that long and which company would be putting more units in the market so that I would have to worry less about parts. Right now Hustler (in my opinion) is doing a better job marketing, selling and adapting their mower to the market place. Sorry Ferris!

    For all of you homeowners ready to make a purchase I strongly advise you to take Hustler into consideration. The homeowner version (Fasttrack) is a nice machine for around $4,600. The mini-Z (with the commercial components) is around $5,800 with a 25 Kawasaki and a 52" deck. but act before the end of May. Oh, and if you are still reading you deserve this tip - If you live near Delaware and can pick the mower up yourself buy here - you will pay no sales tax.
     
  9. abospaum

    abospaum LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    JHE,

    I live in Delaware but found that American Service Center in Elkton was much more reasonable on pricing than any of the other Hustler dealers in DE.

    Also since I live here and had him delivery I still avoided taxes.
     
  10. JHE

    JHE LawnSite Member
    Posts: 102

    Abospaum - American Service Center is where I bought my Huslter. They did the best on price and I think I will have a better time with them on the service end of it. I also live in Delaware and they are delivering it to my house so that I do not have to pay the taxes. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, if you do not live in Delaware the only way to get the tax free price is to buy from a Delaware dealer. American Service Center may be able to meet that price but it is up to each individual to do their own shopping!
     

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