ZTR Advice for 3 acres

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by Lawn Yawn, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. Lawn Yawn

    Lawn Yawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    So I posted this in the homeowner ztr discussion thread, but it is clear that that thread is ignored by most people. So here it is:

    I've been lurking for a few weeks now. We purchased a property on 3 acres. It's approximately 1.3 acres smooth lawn and 1.7 acres less-than-smooth field grass/weeds (which I would like eventually to make smoother and less weedy). There are not many obstacles to contend with, and it is quite flat. I have done some internet research (including lurking around lawnsite), and I've visited and called a few dealers in town. I've narrowed my choices down to three ZTR mowers in my 5k price range.

    1) Hustler FasTrak 54" Kawi FS 22hp. $5600 (Or 21hp 48", $5400. Are the extra 6 inches worth $200?)
    2) Gravely ZT HD 52 Kawi FR 24hp. $4999 (might be able to get the dealer to lower this price a bit)
    3) John Deere z655 54" $5750 (took it for a spin and this thing feels nice, comfy, and FAST)

    I am a mower rookie. My previous yard in inner city Portland was concrete. No grass at all. So I would appreciate some help. Here are a couple things I am concerned about:

    1) Ease of Maintenance. I am not mechanically inclined. I have never changed oil . . . on anything at all. I would like to learn how to do some simple maintenance (oil changes and whatnot) on my new investment. But i do not want to do anything complicated.
    2) Durability. I would like this machine to last a long time. 5K for a lawn mower seems very expensive, and it is freaking me out a little bit! For this reason, the 4-year warranty on the Hustler and the Deere seem impressive. Though I am uneasy about the Briggs engine, whereas the Kawis in the Hustler and the Gravely are well regarded.

    I would appreciate some direction from the mower experts. I am especially torn between the Gravely and the Hustler. So I would like some insight on how the two mowers compare.
  2. dbear

    dbear LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 606

    With regard to routine maintenance, I'm thinking most ztrs are pretty much the same. Most have engine oil drain tubes and filters accessible from the top/sides; those that aren't sealed spindles have zerks usually in the top housing (I'd avoid any that required getting under the deck to grease); belt tensioners are spring-loaded, auto tightening; all require getting under to clean the deck and/or replace blades. So I'm thinking it's a wash.

    Well, here's my thoughts on your choices:

    1) Hustler - I wouldn't look at anything below their FasTrak Super Duty line. (Same applies to any brand.) Bigger hydros, better engines, but based upon the prices you listed for their little brothers, probably $1000 - $1500 above your budget.
    2) Gravely ZT HD 52 - I like this line & the price works. If the 60" was doable moneywise, I'd seriously consider it.
    3) John Deere z655 54" - I honestly don't know a thing about this machine. I do know that anything JD green tends to be a little pricy, but dealer support is usually very good to excellent.

    Although you probably already did, be sure to check out this thread:

    My advice there applies here as well:
    Husqvarna MZ6128 http://www.husqvarna.com/us/products...wers/mz6128zt/ or Dixon Ultra 61 (http://www.dixon-ztr.com/node2328.aspx?nid=346905&pid=114620) - same machines; different engine/color
    Hustler FasTrak SD (http://www.hustlerturf.com/products/...uper-duty.html)
    Gravely ZT HD (http://www.gravely.com/zero-turn-mow...s/default.aspx) or Ariens Max Zoom (http://www.ariens.com/products/ridin...s/default.aspx) - same machines; different engine/color
    Dixie Chopper Magnum (http://www.dixiechopper.com/mowers/magnum). I did price the DC a while back ($6500+ if memory serves) so that one might be out of the running when compared to the others.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  3. Lawn Yawn

    Lawn Yawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    Thanks for the response, dbear.

    As I understand it, the FasTrak and the FasTrak Super Duty are pretty similar, but these seem to be the major differences:
    FasTrak (zt3100, Kawi FS series)
    Super Duty (zt3400, Kawi FX series, larger gas tank)

    Both have a four year warranty, the same frame, the same 20 inch tires, etc.
  4. sprinter

    sprinter LawnSite Member
    Posts: 110

    dbear, I'll give my two bits. I just moved to a five acre place and mow from 3-4 acres of it. Most of it is pretty rough. I researched mowers and demo'd them all til I was sick of it. My advice is this: You are in the right category - mid level between residential and commercial between 5 and 6k, unless, of course, you can afford more. You can't go wrong with fully commercial except they are heavier which can be a detriment. From what I saw, anything in that category will work for this kind of place. Some guys balk at the price of ZTR's (I did) and try to cheap out. Bad idea. Demo the units you like from the dealers in your area and take the one you like the best. Any will be fine. Don't obsess too much about the details except to go with the heaviest duty parts you can (tranny's, tires, etc). Durability is the key. They all cut well, ride the same (harshly), etc. Speed is unimportant after about 6 or 7 mph, except that I think the faster speeds may indicate heavier duty components. Any of the engines will go probably 15+ years with this kind of light duty with proper maintenance. That's only about 1000 hours which is nothing to the commercial guys. Oh, and unless you have narrow gates or obstructions, you're best off with a 60" deck. I was going to go with a 52 because 60 just seemed overkill, but now I'm very glad I went 61. Even the smaller yards.

    FWIW, I ended up with Husqvarna MZ6128 and I think it will outlast me. Chose it for bang/buck on the durability factors. Then I got an aftermarket Michigan suspension seat for comfort and extra speed on the rough ground. However, I thought that all of the models you see discussed here were fine. Go with your gut after looking at them all and comparing the important factors.

    BTW, if you come up with an economical way to smooth the rough areas, please let me know. A lot of my area was pasture for years.
  5. BINKY1902

    BINKY1902 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from South
    Posts: 1,123

    To be honest if there are no obstacles involved, and you want a simple machine, I would just look at some nice garden tractors.
  6. sprinter

    sprinter LawnSite Member
    Posts: 110

    Sorry, I addressed that to dbear. Should have been to Lawn Yawn, the OP.

    Another one you may want to look at is Land Pride. I believe it is basically a Hustler clone but may be less expensive, I don't know. I found Hustlers to be good machines, but about $600 more expensive than comparables and I couldn't justify the extra cost myself.

    My take on tractor vs ZTR is this. Tractors are more versatile and if you may want to use attachments like snow blower, plow, tillers, etc., then a good garden tractor (GT) may be the best choice. If you go that route, though, be sure it's a good quality GT, not a cheaper Lawn Tractor (LT) which will just not last long enough. I used an inexpensive LT on two acres a while back and I was always fixing broken parts, welding on it, fixing tires, cleaning carbon out of the heads, and even at that it finally gave out after six years. Penny wise, pound foolish. With a good GT including a mower deck, you're into as much money as a good ZTR but it won't mow as fast and takes more effort to steer. You do have to realize that a ZTR does only one thing - mow grass, but it does it well. I do have a small dump trailer that works well with my ZTR, but it only should tow about 450#. One other consideration is mowing speed, ZTR's can mow much faster. However, if your place precludes anything more than about 3 or 4 mph mow speeds anyway, you won't be taking full advantage of the ZTR capability. GT's do have their place. There are good tractor-oriented forums, like http://www.mytractorforum.com/ and http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/forum.php among others.
  7. Lawn Yawn

    Lawn Yawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    I was a bit torn between the garden tractor and ztr option throughout the process. It seems to me that I can get a quality GT for 1-2K less than the kind of ZTR that I want. I liked these GTs in particular:

    This one with the 54" deck.

    Or this one because of the straight-ahead mowing speed.

    At some point I might want to do something with the back couple acres other than mow them, so the versatility of a GT might come in handy. The previous owners had nursery for a while - christmas trees and whatnot. But all of that's gone and I know next to nothing about that stuff, so while we think about it, I'm going to mow it so my kids can run around out there, play ball, and get dirty.

    My wife wants to till a garden, but I might just hire a guy with a real tractor to do that.

    We move into the house next weekend, and my wife has big plans, BIG PLANS, for me as far as work around the house. The property, while not tree-filled, does have some obstacles, and if the ZTR saves me an hour or more every weekend, that's one more hour I can spend fulfilling my husbandly duties, which I live for :rolleyes:.

    Ultimately, I went for a ZTR to save time. Most people I talked to seemed to think it was the difference between 3-4 hours mowing time vs. 1-1.5 hours for a property the size of mine. That's worth an extra 1k for me, especially over the course of the 15 years or so that I hope my machine lasts. As far a versatility goes, I may kick myself later for not recognizing of some important application for my property that only a GT can handle, but for now, cutting grass and occasionally hauling a dump cart is all I can imagine.

    After much deliberation, I decided on the Gravely ZT HD48, delivered next weekend. I'll let you all know how it works out.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2012
  8. sprinter

    sprinter LawnSite Member
    Posts: 110

    Well, FWIW, I think it's a great choice. Congrats on the new mower. and also the new place. The Gravely should last forever with your kind of situation. Just maintain it properly. That's the key. Find a well made dedicated walk-behind tiller for the garden. One other piece of advise because I just can't help it: You remind me of when I started the country dream life, family, implements, the whole thing (Battle Ground, WA, not far from you). This is our third. Most important thing is keep it fun; don't let the to-do lists get overwhelming and never allow it to become work. Having a lot of stuff to do on the place is a good thing and will always be enjoyable if you let it.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2012

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