My Recent ZTR Comparison And Purchase Experience

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Distorted, Apr 23, 2006.

  1. Distorted

    Distorted LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,982

    I'll offer this for what it worth, and give my background so that it can be judged...

    I am not an LCO, but have property that requires a large mower to maintain the 5-6 acres I mow. In the past I maintained less acreage - about 3 acres, but the wife has steadily expanded the trimmed space.

    I have had an Exmark Lazer Z HP 48" for the last four years for the job, and found it to be adequate, but with some problems. The first couple of years it ate belts like crazy until the manufacturer came out with a fix kit, the particulars of which I do not know. Probably some kind of pulley alignment, I would guess. The deck/19hp Kawi engine combo was not good in any heavy stuff though, and it was slow for the amount of area it had to increasingly maintain. The non-greasable spindles gave up @ 400 hrs. Additionally, the thing would beat you to death on the relatively rough former hay field it mowed. That was part of the reason it was so slow mowing, because the bouncing caused (a) bad cut, (b) the operator to slow for comfort.

    I needed more mower, so I conducted a search this spring. I looked at Kubota, Hustler, Ferris, Exmark, Cub Tank, Lesco, Gravely, Scag, JD, Bad Boy, and Dixie Chopper. I did not test the DC, Bad Boy, Tank, Lesco, JD or Gravely for various reasons. I got to run the Kubota xx28 & xx21, but could not cut at the dealers site. It felt really good, had some fine and unusual features (tilt-up deck), probably the best engine in the biz, but past problems with the all-in-one pump/motors, plus higher initial cost pushed me away. My choices boiled down to the Hustler Super Z 66", Ferris IS-3100Z 61", and the Exmark Z ES 66". My local dealer, who stocked them all, was partial to the Scag, claiming they were less prone to repairs and easier to work on than all the others, but my preference for a better ride for my conditions eliminated the Scag out-of-hand. The thing would necessitate a liver transplant within a month after a test cut comparison of the Scag Tiger, Exmark, Ferris and Hustler. I originally wanted a diesel, but cost factors shied me away from them, yet the need for ample power in heavy conditions was a primary consideration. When I went for my final test and purchase, I had settled on the Ferris in my mind, but after the test of the IS-3100 with the Kohler 30hp the example I was testing bogged down decidedly on normal grass and had trouble spinning up the blades upon engagement. Additionally, the suspension feature that I admired in print seemed to throw the machine off line in practice in rough conditions, and was not that big an improvement in ride over a good suspension seat. The Ferris can be ordered with a big block Vanguard, but the dealer did not have one. The Hustler 66" is not available with more than a 30hp Kohler.

    I was shocked to finally decide on the Exmark Lazer Z ES with a 31hp Vanguard. I really had not considered Exmark in my serous running due to the problems mentioned above and their higher price ($9800), but considering all the compromises and my needs, this was the model that came to the top for me. The Triton Deck, 66" cut, and suspension seat along with the excellent power of the engine were deciding factors, plus some design features that indicate the mower has been designed for extended use - large pumps/motors, air filters, pump fans, semi-pneumatic front tires. The spindles have been beefed up, and perhaps the thinking expressed on other threads that not having your people need to be meticulous on greasing them is an equal off-set to the better certainty of proper manual greasing. I hope so, although I would have preferred greasable spindles considering past problems I have had. All these machines are compromises.

    I have used my new mower in 2' high thick grass and weeds, and can report that while slow and with a couple of bog episodes the power and deck has actually cut as well as I had hoped with a second pass to clean the stragglers. Remarkable really, considering that extreme test. Normal mowing is a snap, but I will have to do a full mow to see how much time is saved after the spring flower bloom and reseed is complete in the extended field to be mowed.

    Your different opinions and requirements are welcome, as I understand that most here have other needs on the top of their lists for a mower, such as ease of service, and have more experience with a wider variety of makes and models.
  2. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062

    Sounds to me like the 30hp Kohler demo had a bad coil.
    Yeah, I would rather have the Briggs engine over the Kohler also.
    But to be fair, that 30hp Kolher probably had issues.

    To be honest with you, I think you would have been happier with the 66" Hustler w/Flex Forks for your uses.
  3. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,646

    I'm kind of surprised, the Ferris not riding very well and the 30hp Kohler, which I would also think would have to have problems. I've used an Exmark XS and the ride is certainly nothing to brag about compared to my Gravely 260Z. Hmm...I guess that's why there are different brands because not everyone is looking for the same thing.
  4. MTR

    MTR LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,280

    eXmark bug biting again....:hammerhead:

    You need to ride Gravely Z (either 100 or 200 series) and then be "immune" forever to eXmark fever......................:weightlifter: :laugh:
  5. Travis Followell

    Travis Followell LawnSite Silver Member
    from KY
    Posts: 2,207

    The reason the Ferris didn't ride good was probibly because the suspension was set too stiff and/or too much air in the tires. It may have been underpowered because like Envy said, maybe a bad coil or the rpm's may have been set too low and it wasn't turning 3600.
  6. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 14,700

    It's refreshing to see someone actually tell the truth for a change! :)

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