Advice on new Honda self-propelled mower

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Mr_G, May 3, 2014.

  1. JimsLocalLawn

    JimsLocalLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 903

    I started a work thread recently. I use the HRR217VKA and posted pics of MULCHING a overgrown lawn today. Take a look here

    These mowers are amazing unless the conditions get soaking wet - then you simply can't cut unless you discharge and the rear discharge isn't suitable. Anyway go look at the pictures.

    The $399 Honda runs circles around any other mower in the price range. However it's not perfect! I will tell you the ability to keep the bag on while mulching, then switch it to bag mod is irreplaceable and not found on any other mower other than the Honda HRX. Not sure if the HRX is worth the upgrade, but my Honda is much lighter than most 21" mowers and performs flawlessly. Look at the pic's, then make your decision! Good luck either way.
  2. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,083

    To be honest with you, I didn't "discover" the honda commercial 21 until about 2007. I seriously never knew it existed before that.

    Even when I owned a frikken toro dealership, I ran Toro Personal Pace 21's (totally not a commercial unit).
    In my opinion ALL 21's suck… because they are 21's.

    Something decent for 600-800 is reasonable, don't buy some trash for 200-300.

    To be totally honest however, in my opinion, why not just go work for a lawn company instead of starting your own?

    You would net 480 or more a week, from scratch, no investment.
    Can you really beat that your first summer out there?
    Have a job for now, be patient, bide your time, keep waiting for opportunities, Save money for a decent walk behind, and if you get a better job take it, if not, maybe by next year you have your WB money saved up.
  3. Mr_G

    Mr_G LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    @rbljack: I wish I had enough to afford a HRC or one of the Exmarks but they're just too much for me at this point. I went with the $499 Honda - one of the HRR216 models. I could have managed $600 for the 217, but I figured that extra $100 would come in handy with advertising, a couple of new gas jugs, a large garbage can, a reel of trimmer string, and miscellaneous stuff I haven't considered yet. I hope I have the same luck as you did with your Super Recycler.

    @PicturePerfectLawns: Thanks for the encouragement! It's been a hard past year watching my wife go to work as I apply for anything and everything to either: A) Hear nothing back. B) End up going to a series of interviews where they end up picking some other guy. I'm going to be on top of maintenance and do everything ahead of schedule because I need this to last me. And if worse comes to worse and I can't pick up as many customers as I'd like, I've got a darn nice 21" mower and I'm not a nickel in debt. You're absolutely right about working within your budget. I wanted to be sure that I didn't go into the hole on something I wasn't 100% certain would work. The only money I am out is what I spent on the mower, and I purchased that cash-in-hand.

    @JimsLocalLawn: I'm glad you chimed in because your one-man efficiency setup really inspired me! I went with the 216 because it's what I could most comfortably afford and it still has some of the features that I really liked - Roto-stop, the switch to go between bagging and mulching, etc. I'm definitely not a fan of the rear discharge, but I'm going to be bagging or mulching either way most likely. I hope that I do well enough this year to set myself up similar to yourself by next year!

    @TPendagast: Solid advice. I've already pulled the trigger on a mower, but there's nothing stopping me from making some more money on the side if I could land a job with somebody in my neck of the woods. I've already inquired at the two places I know of that offer landscaping services and they didn't have anything available. I think there is one other place that I can check reasonably close.
  4. rbljack

    rbljack LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 731

    Mr g.....I understand completetly. Figured it was best to mention the options so you could make an informed decision. I started with the resi models myself. Here is another piece of advice; do quality work, and let your work speak for itself. Word of mouth is THE BEST advertising you can get.

    As you start working yards, start putting money aside so if you have a problem with a piece of equipment, you can have enough to buy a replacement on the spot. Start thinking about back up equipment, so you can have two ways to do each process. For me the poulan pro split shaft trimmer was the initial answer. I bought one for 179.00 and then got the edger and trimmer attachements. From there, I found an old blower attachment. As soon as I had the money, I started buying the commercial string trimmer, and edger. Then the poulan pro became back up in case the other equipment had a failure. That fall, I found the tiller and chain saw attachments on clearance, and gobbled them up, along with the hedge trimmer attachment. I used my stihl trimmer and edger for over two years now and they were both bought used. My edger just crapped out the other day, and I didn't have time to look at it, so I bought a Kombi 130 power head with the edger and trimmer shafts. So now they will be come back up, and its commercial equipment. The poulan pro's are good for about a year or two, and then they will start giving you headaches, if used often.

    Good luck, and wish you the best!
    Last edited: May 4, 2014
  5. LawnMowerMan2003

    LawnMowerMan2003 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 768

    I'm not sure how relevant my experience with Honda is, because I haven't used one made very recently. One of the first new mowers I bought was a Honda though, and I definitely liked it. It wasn't commercial; at the time it was about $400, so it would probably be a little more now.

    I thought it was worth the price. It ran good. The engine didn't have too many problems, at least not for a season or two. The cut looked really nice. I mainly used it to mulch, so I'm not sure on the bagging. I think that Honda was one of the most comfortable handles and very little vibration, from the mowers I've used.

    Here's the bad part, which you may have guessed. Since it's not commercial little things will break on it, like the cables for the self propel, and brake/clutch. Unless you can fix those yourself (and even then you may have to order a part) you may want to have some sort of backup mower. But so did the John Deeres I used to use, which were even more expensive. I think eventually on both of those (The grey John Deere with Kawasaki) the transmissions eventually wore out, but I mowed plenty of lawns with them first.

    But for the money, if they make them like they used to, they are pretty good mowers.
  6. PicturePerfectLawns

    PicturePerfectLawns Banned
    Messages: 3,845

    Mr. G, a few more things I've learned along the way as a solo operator.

    1. I've read many stories on LS of people getting discouraged their first year. If you make it past the first, I think you'll do fine. Just remember it takes time and a certain mindset to build a business. Don't get discouraged if you don't find the work right away. If YOU DO want to find the work right away, have the mindset I had when I started advertising. As I mentioned in another post, I was once shy, I became a slick salesman in a few months. I started talking to old ladies in the grocery store, pretty ladies at the convenience store, and old couples in every lawn I seen across town. I had the mindset to sell myself my first year and I sold myself.

    2. Another good thing I learned my first year, all money is not good money. I started out trying to take on all customers and soon realized that some customers cost more money then their worth. Avoid these and save the space for another good customer.

    3. Your starting with a push mower similar to how I started. Flyers are awesome for targeting certain areas. Target areas within your means. Remember although you can push mow a 1/2 an acre if someone ask you, could you do it efficiently with a push mower? You could mow how many "average" lawns in the time it would take you to push mow that 1/2 an acre? Target areas that would be "most efficient" with that push mower and you'll be much better off.

    4. Always carry yourself as polite and professional. Thank you's, Yes Mam', Yes Sir', goes a long way with customers.

    I hope you have a great year man. and like mentioned above, don't get discouraged when you have small things break on a mower. It happens to us everyday, so expect it before it happens. And before it happens have a plan, either know how to work on them, or find a good mechanic locally on CL or online. I can work on mine, but I found a mechanic off CL that I've did some work with, he fixes anything I can't fix within 24 hours. ;)

    Good luck!
  7. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    I know that I am not alone in using a Honda HRX217, Cruise Control drive model. I've changed my business model in the past couple of years, but a few years ago, it ran about 700 hours per season. Yes, it had a few problems, such as drive cable repair. The Honda GCV190 engine was faultless -- starts well, runs smooth, and performs at the top of the game. I changed oil every 25 hours of service, used Shell Rotella oil.

    The BBC feature, the Clip Deflector for changing from mulch to bagging is a great time saver.

    I chose the HRX217 over the 216 (commercial model) because of weight. The plastic deck, which never created a problem, is at least 20 pounds lighter. At my age, I did not want a heavy mower, and the choices were limited. The hydro drive never faulted, and gives great control over ground speed.

    If you are serious, the price difference of $500 to $800 is trivial. If you are that badly strapped for capital in getting started, then you may wish to rethink your business plan.
  8. PicturePerfectLawns

    PicturePerfectLawns Banned
    Messages: 3,845

    x2 on changing your oil very often. Oil is the life to any engine in my books and mine is changed the same way. As for the mower talk. I say you just pick a decent mower which it sounds like you have already done and work on your business model, then what comes next? Get to mowing. Before you have any trouble with that new mower except for POSSIBLY very small issues, you will have money put away. Before switching to 30's, I started out with a TORO PERSONAL PACE, $399.00 push mower. Rather than worried about the mower, I worried about mowing. :laugh: Sure enough, the things still running, but before it even had a chance to break I had enough to buy a Commercial 30.
  9. Mr_G

    Mr_G LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    Thanks a lot! I really appreciate the encouragement. Luckily, if I do have something go wrong, my father-in-law used to work as a mechanic so he can help me fix just about anything. The best thing is that every time he fixes something I get to work on it along with him so I can learn to do it myself. I'm definitely going to focus on getting smaller lawns. It's going to be tough around here since I live in a rural area and most folks have bigger properties, but there are people in the little towns nearby that have small yards. Those are going to be the places that will net me the most money vs. time spent. Selling myself is something I'll have to work on! I've always been polite, but I'm a bit soft spoken, kinda shy so that's an area that needs improvement for sure.

    Yeah, I'm pretty badly strapped. Haha. Well, it's not that I couldn't get financing on something better. I know I certainly could, but I guess I'm hesitant to spend more than what I have at hand without knowing if I will be successful or not. The 216 mower that I settled on was a good price for me and if I don't get the kind of customer base I'd like or if I just can't pick up customers for whatever reason then I've got another welcome addition to my riding mower here at home.

    BTW, guys, my dad has expressed some interest in trying to help me along (I think he wants to live vicariously through me because he's always wanted to work for by getting me a trailer and he mentioned looking together at some used equipment. I'm not big on accepting help, but at this point I don't think I'd turn it down either. Anyway, any thoughts on this used WB? I am almost 100% that I won't be seriously looking at something like this until next year, but how is the price of these two Toros if running well? I'd like to get an idea of what a good price is for used equipment.

  10. LawnMowerMan2003

    LawnMowerMan2003 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 768

    I would spend $750 on that Toro (and hopefully nothing breaks right away lol) because I like the T handle. I know a guy that sold something similar (but it was a Gravely) for $700, and I would have bought it from him if I had the money, but unfortunately I didn't. I'd still rather have the Toro.

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