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How necessary is commercial grade?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by whitenack, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. whitenack

    whitenack LawnSite Member
    Posts: 78

    Let me first say that I grew up with a dad that bought higher-end equipment. He has a 20-year old Kubota lawn tractor that still runs great, and now has a Scag Turf Tiger that is an absolute tank. However, he has a farm and has rougher uses for his equipment. So, I understand the value of commercial grade, and would love the thought of buying something that would last a long, long time. However, I am your typical, average homeowner with an average, 1 acre lot. I don't have much, if any, rough terrain, and I don't have much, if any, thick brush I have to cut into (I have the occaisional honeysuckle sapling that I have to mow over, but we aren't talking about woody trunks).

    How much more would a 7 ga. steel deck improve the life of my mower? How much more would a heavier-duty transmission improve things? In other words, how long can I expect a nice residential machine to last vs. a commercial grade machine? Is it 10 yrs vs. 20 yrs? Is it 20 yrs vs. 25 years? I can probably buy 2 nice residential machines for the price of a nice commercial machine, so will a commercial machine last over twice as long?

    Another thing I like about a commercial mower is the bigger gas tank, but if I am mowing only an acre or so of yard, how much gas am I really going to be using? I know a lot of factors go into acres per gallon, but is there a rough ballpark for average residential use?
  2. lotsagrass

    lotsagrass LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 645

    I had a standard Craftsman riding mower (46" cut I think) for maybe 7 years or so and it looked/ran great when I sold it. I didn't have any real problems with it. I mowed my hilly 2 acres or so at the time with no trouble. I sold it because I wanted something new.

    Moral of my particular store is, it doesn't HAVE to be commercial grade to last under reasonable condition and good maintenance. Of course, you will notice a difference in cut quality and speed when you get a commercial mower. Is it completely necessary to have commercial for normal home use? No. Is it still better and more fun to have a commercial mower? Yes. :) Naturally, price is a big factor. My eXmark cost about $5k more than a regular riding mower I could have bought. I will also add though, I think my eXmark will last an easy 20 years if I decided to keep it that long. I can't see myself keeping it for more than 10 though because I'll just be itching for something newer at that point.

    Gas usage...I think the eXmark I have now uses maybe 15% or so more gas (guessing)...but I also get done MUCH quicker. It doesn't slow down going up hills like the Craftsman and Cub Cadet I had did. It'll fly up hills.
  3. IS500Z

    IS500Z LawnSite Member
    Posts: 246

    In a word - no. Commercial mowers are designed to be used for many more hours per week than those of us mowing our 1 acre lawns will put on in a month or more. Do you really need a heavy duty transmission, an engine capable of running for 2000 hours, and a welded deck as thick as armor to mow for maybe 50 hours a season? Residential grade mowers (and I am referring to the better examples) will give years of good performance if properly maintained. I have a two-stroke Lawnboy push mower that has been mowing grass for better than two decades. It does as well as my Ferris albeit it takes me much longer to complete my mowing task. Its a lowly residential mower but still starts on the second pull. Commercial mowers also have some downsides associated with their design, namely, bulk and weight. A good residential grade ZTR might weigh 600-700 lbs while a commercial unit could be in excess of 1000 lbs. That weight difference could lead to rutting problems in the lawn if you need to mow in wet conditions along with other issues.

    You also hear the 'excuse' used when buying a commercial mower that the individual wants something that will last 20 years. I doubt most people buying these machines for home use will have them a fraction of that length before they want something different. Owning a commercial mower for most of us is a desire not a necessity.
  4. whitenack

    whitenack LawnSite Member
    Posts: 78

    Thanks for the replies.

    My dad still has his 2 stroke lawnboy with the staggered front wheels! That thing is 40 years old. He doesn't use it much, but it still runs fine.

    Thanks for the comments about the weight. I have a section of the yard that takes longer to dry out than the rest, and my dad's scag TT has made marks in the past. I hadn't thought about that until you just mentioned the weight issue.

    I understand what you mean about not keeping something very long. There's a part of me that sees that as a risk in buying residential, unless I feel that I got a good enough machine for my needs. For instance, if I just went with a lawn tractor, even a great one, I could see myself wishing for a ZTR after a while. But if I got a nice residential ZTR, that I felt was plenty for my needs, I could see myself running it until it died.

    The question, then, is what features ARE a necessity? I think I'm looking at a 48-54 deck, and I want enough power to cut through thick grass.

    And about the gas question, about how many acres do you average on a tank of gas (and how many gallons is that)?
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  5. Dr.NewEarth

    Dr.NewEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,441

    I work with both commercial and lighter use mowers. They both break down.

    The main thing is to change the oil regularly, grease the gears and transmission and maintain the thing well. I'll bet that's what your Dad does to his machines?

    Keep the blades sharp.
  6. nobagger

    nobagger LawnSite Gold Member
    from Pa
    Posts: 3,065

    Keep in mind a "commercial" piece of equipment is built for daily use and many different people using/abusing it. My Dad has a Honda rider thats, oh geez, 15 years old now and just now in need of some repairs. The only thing he ever replaced on it was 2 tie rod ends.
  7. rdsmith3

    rdsmith3 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 26

    I just bought my second used commercial walk behind for my 1 acre lot. The first one lasted seven years (a Toro 44"). My latest is an Exmark 48" Turf Tracer HP.

    Why commercial? First, I can't easily use a tractor or riding mower on my property because of all the trees. Therefore, my choices are a consumer mower, commercial walk-behind, or some sort of ZTR. For me a big factor is my time. It would take me more than twice as long to cut my lawn with a 21" mower. A second factor is appearance. I think it looks better with the cut I get from a commercial mower.
  8. Capemay Eagle

    Capemay Eagle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,750

    For one acre, commercial really is not necessary, but if you can afford it and you are willing to part out your money for commercial grade, then yes, commercial is worth it. Better quality all the way around. Better deck, better engine, better trans and better cut! Doing all the proper maintenance to your machine, there is no reason why you could not see 20 years out of a really good commercial grade mower with only a one acre to maintain.
  9. Flatop

    Flatop LawnSite Member
    Posts: 237

    Residential mowers will last a long time (as you can see from previous post on this topic) so long as you maintain them. Large business as well as small use the commercial do to the abuse and long term use that the mower is subjected throughout the day. (I have both residential/commercial equip.) I am a solo operator and baby my equipment and take care of the maintenance. I don't think an employee would "baby" my equipment. You keep any equipment properly maintained, it will last you a long time.

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