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TORO 2 cycle s/p push mower is the way to go, I have one that is 15 years old and it cuts as good as the new one I bought last year. Just make sure to keep the air filter clean and the fuel mix rite and you should have no problems.
If you don't mind the side step deck, go with the Model # 22261 Lawnboy 21" commercial mower.(Check it out at alimia.com, $685 free shipping in U.S.) 3 speed transmission, 2 cycle engine that last a very long time, with proper accessories(mulch plate and mulch fan) great mulcher even when wet. A big selling point with me is it's light.
If you want a straight deck mower, get the Honda comercial mowers. 1 pull engine starts. 4 cycle engine, no gas-oil needed, depending on what model, can change trans speed on the fly, blade brake saftey feature(makes it handy for go over curbs,trailer ramps, streets, ect..)As a mulcher, it's ok. The other downside is if you have to cut muddywet grass or lift this machine, it's heavy. It does cut wet grass well however. Alamia sells honda's also.
I do prefer the Lawnboy over the honda because it's lighter and mulches better. The only thing that I can fault this machine is it's difficult to get thru small gates.
One thing to keep in mind is what other pro's in your area are using. You have to be able to get parts easily if you ar going to have a good machine.John
I use Lawnboy silver series. No self propelled, electric start or anything fancy. You can buy one for about $250 use it all season trouble free and get rid of it at the end of the season for $50. After the end of a single season, small things go wrong. (rope breaks, wheels worn etc.) I don't like to work on them, I like to work with them. There is still enough life left for a home owner to use it once a week for a very long time. In a single year, my lawnboys get a zillion hour put on them, and I will still keep buying them. I hate that little right hand wheel though!!
I know the gentleman who owns ProTurf Landscaping in Thomasville NC and his outfit is responsible for the High Point Regional Medical Center there and he employees close to a dozen immigrant laborers at a time and those machines withstand a lot of abuse from constant turnover. Although they are heavier machines they have definitely withstood the test of time.
Toro or Exmark with BBC and Kawasaki engine, the best!!
I know one of the local guys who used to use Honda (hydro). The next year he went to Toro he liked the Toro better than the Honda because it was faster.I have used snapper and Toro and I prefer the Toro also.