semi-ready for upgrade, what's your oppinion?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Cimarron Landscape, Jul 15, 2005.

  1. Cimarron Landscape

    Cimarron Landscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 72

    well I've shopped around previously and was saving up for an Exmark Turf Tracer HP/Scag Zcat. I had been running on a Honda HX push mower but it died (I can fix it, just a little work) and it was slow anyway. I then fell back to an old toro (16+ yrs.) and today the bolt holding the wheel snapped. I'll have to special order it and no telling how long that will take. I'm REAL small but want to grow quite a bit. Currently I only have 6 clients :blush:. With so few clients I can probably survive on a rental for a few weeks till the new part comes in or I can fix the honda. 'bout $50 a day. Or I could buy an exmark metro. It would either be the new 26" for cost-effectiveness or the 36" floating deck. I need to know ya'lls oppinion on the 26", does it have a clean cut like all the other exmarks? Or would my money be better spent on the 36" belt drive floating deck? Most of my clients are 1/2 acres+ so the 36" would work well, it's just a matter of money.
    If I survive on a rental, and (after being fixed) my other mowers survive this mowing season, I'll have enough to buy that Turf Tracer/Scag Zcat.

    What would you do?
    Thanks,
    Brian

    P.S. This seemed like the best board. If not, moderaters feel free to move.
     
  2. south jerz

    south jerz LawnSite Member
    Posts: 87

    That is insane. I would not cut anything bigger than 1/6-1/8 (actually, even smaller than that) of an acre with a 21", and it would have to be a self-propelled 21.

    Forget the Metro. I have owned a 36" Metro and used the 48" model. It seems like a great mower, UNTIL you get acquainted with hydros. It gives a good cut and is reliable, but turning and especially backing out of tight areas requires a lot of energy. Muscling around belts all day wears you out.

    Get the Turf Tracer HP. You will finish your lawns literally 5x faster than you did with the 21, and you will have the energy to have a life after you're done cutting. My favorite feature of the hydro is the ability to change speed (throttle is to your touch, there are no set "speeds") from the hand controls and not using your knee like on belts. Also for small squareish areas where turning and doing stripes is inefficient or tight corners the reverse feature is great, no pulling required.

    I cut primarily 1/4 acre lots with medium obstacles and almost never leave my velke sulky. You can fly in the open areas and can slow down and maneuver, or even hop off and walk alongside the mower in tight areas. For about 90% of my lawns cutting is much faster with a sulky. It takes getting used to but once you get good you can fly around any type of lawn. To give you an idea our hydro 48 cutting solo does 1/4 acre lots in no more than 10 minutes, and considering half acres are wide open, no more than 20 minutes for them.

    As Fareway has recommended I would get the mulch kit with doubled-up (+ formation) Excalibur blades. Mulching is the best option as you will have no lines of discharged clippings and you will cut much more efficiently not worrying about facing beds or walkways with the discharge chute. And I must agree with Fareway that "bagging is for losers" whose primary goal in cutting lawns is excessively pleasing customers when it should be making money.

    I believe the TTHP runs about 5500, but believe me it will be well worth it. Just think, with 5x the cutting speed you can take on 5x the lawns. OK I'll be conservative- even 3x the lawns, and with 3x less fatigue. Do the math on that one.
     
  3. Cimarron Landscape

    Cimarron Landscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 72

    I've done the math, and yes, I can get the TTHP for just short of $5000. I should have clarified, both 21" are self propelled, but it does feel insane at times. Basically I'll have to dig into college savings to afford the TTHP. ($3500+ to be specific), whereas I can afford the metro belt drive with less dipping. It's a very small risk I know, but I don't like risking much.
    I'm aquainted with hydros, not with the belt drive, just looked at them. I attended a landscaping course this year where we drove some hydros. They're great, that's why I want one. It's just justifying the cost.
    Yes, I'll be mulching, I do that for all except one of my customers. I want a bagging capability because I get to charge extra for it payup,and I reccomend it as a minor weed control help in the spring. It's fine to use the time if you get paid for it.
    And, like you say, I can get the lawns. Haven't needed to advertise heavily lately because I'm already filled up with landscaping and what-not, but with a larger mower I could take on a bunch more.
    Bottom line, I'm very aware of the benifits of a commercial WB. I've spent the last 2 months shopping. It's just I've had this sudden mis-hap and I'm wondering I should take it as the push to get a commercial WB.

    Thanks for the reply!
    ~Brian
     
  4. south jerz

    south jerz LawnSite Member
    Posts: 87

    I've definitely been there, when you really want to go the cheaper route and save money (and it's much worse when you have a cheap and stubborn partner), but TRUST ME when I say go with the hydro. Around $3k (difference in price) is chump change once you realize the value of the hydro's increased efficiency. I have a belt 48 and a hydro 48 and the hydro is 2x more productive than the belt. That is HUGE. Spend a few of those hydro-shortened afternoons handing out flyers, and you will have paid off the difference in a couple weeks. It doesn't make theoretical sense because both mowers have similar top speeds, etc. but trust me once you've had extensive experience with W/B's you will understand.

    With mowers, go all out: get the best mower, the sulky, the mulch kit; create the most efficient grass-mowing machine possible. Efficiency is #1. The truth is 95% of your customers would be satisfied with their lawn after a freshly sharpened, mulching TTHP (with skilled operator) was done with it. No blowing or trimming, just cutting. What do you think we do if it is raining or we are racing the clock for whatever reason? Sometimes we skip trimming and blowing here and there. Most of the grass blows away by next morning and skilled maneuvering gets almost all grass. OK enough with the rant.

    Say your TTHP lasts you 5 years and allows you to cut 3 (conservative estimate) more 1/2 acre lawns a day with less fatigue than your belt would allow you. Say you get $35 for those lawns. That is an extra $105 a day, let's say 4-day schedule so $560/wk x 24 weeks a season x 5 years:

    That is an extra $50,000 earned because you chose hydro over belt. And looking at that does an extra $600 for a good sulky and mulch kit seem significant, especially considering those additions would increase that 50k number?

    The belt/hydro disparity is even greater with $25 or $30 1/4 acre lots.
     
  5. Thirdpete

    Thirdpete LawnSite Member
    from Chicago
    Posts: 236

    Been there too....

    Personally, out of all the options, a 36" Hydro seems in order, a walk behind will definitely be cheaper. You don't even need to get a floating deck on something that small. You could get a new Ferris WB for half of what the ZTR you're talking about getting.

    Even better, go look in the Trading Times (Or other similar publication) for used mowers. You could pick one up for under 1800 in really good condition that will last a few years atleast with proper maintenance.
     
  6. Cimarron Landscape

    Cimarron Landscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 72

    Thanks Southjerz,
    I agree with everything you're saying. especially the efficiency part. Since I run 21" that go 3 mph or less :realmad: I have to be REALLY efficient.
    ThirdPete,
    I'm aware of the Ferris, but have not been as impressed with them or Scag. This is where I say I want to buy the best. I know lots of guys use ferris with no problem, I just like Exmark and Scag better. Also, most of them are just a reverse help, not a full reverse. My memory fails me, maybe the metro is the same way...

    I'm definately not in a place to get the Zcat, but I could afford it next season if I didn't get something now.
    I've watched the classifieds like a hawk. Nobody wants to sell their hydro. Only belt drives, usually fixed deck.

    I'm convinced I should get the TTHP now, and not an intermediate.

    But, should I get it now, or wait till next season? In other words, is it worth the risk (of the college money)?
    In Texas right now, everyone's grass has stopped growing. Unfortunately I don't have everyone on contracts. (all future customers will be) Only the people that water a ton give me business. Or those that we set up for a certain amount per month, mow or not.
    Basically, it will be harder than it is in the spring to pick up customers to pay for the mower.

    Thanks so far for all the input!
    ~Brian
     
  7. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 394

    For about 5k you should be looking at a Wright Stander 36. Talk about productivity increase!
     
  8. Cimarron Landscape

    Cimarron Landscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 72

    They are good, but I'm not real tight on trailer space. The dealers like 'em but they say if you're going to spend that much on a stander (around here it's a little more than $5000, the TTHP is $4800), why not get a low-end ZTR? For me, that logic makes sense.
    I'll keep my eye on them though.
    ~Brian
     
  9. Thirdpete

    Thirdpete LawnSite Member
    from Chicago
    Posts: 236

    I would take a 36 stander over a small ZTR, but that's just me. That's a top end mower, better than getting a low-end ZTR, personally. Either way, you're not walking.
     
  10. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 394

    My thoughts exactly. Wright's are not just for people who don't have room on their trailer. It is a top notch mower.
     

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