Buying New Equipment: Does Brand Really Matter?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by MOturkey, Aug 25, 2004.

  1. MOturkey

    MOturkey LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,780

    The thread that prompted this was one I read yesterday about Dixie Chopper mowers. As usually happens when someone asks an opinion about a specific brand of equipment, the answers ran the gamut from "crap" to God's gift to the lawncare industry. I'm only a part-timer in this business, and seldom comment on postings because of my lack of expertise, but have noticed a common thread through many of the postings, especially regarding equipment, and thought I'd throw out some of my ideas, for what they are worth.

    I seriously doubt any commercial quality Z or walk-behind on the market today is "crap". I suspect the same to be true for trimmers, edgers, trim mowers, etc. All may have strong points, and weak points, but depending on the individual operator or owner, those strong or weak points may or may not be individually important. For example, I've only put maybe 10 hours or so on a Dixie, so I'm sure no expert, but you couldn't run fast enough to give me one. Now, before anyone starts penning their reply, let me explain. When I was using the Dixie, it was a dealer loaner to my friend whose mower was in for repairs. He has a contract on a state owned wildlife area, which is essentially 20 parking areas, most of which take about 20-30 minutes, then load up and drive a mile or so to the next one. I have a bad ankle, from an old injury when I was a kid, and the process of raising the deck to maximum height for loading on the trailer was, by the end of the day, excruciating. I also did not care for the controls, and much prefer the dampened ones on my Gravely, because I prefer to be able to release one or the other momentarily to flick a bumblebee off my leg, or something equally demanding, without going in circles or coming to a stop as I did on the Dixie. But, those are PERSONAL issues, which may or may not be important to someone else.

    Additionally, there is simply the factor of the operator. There are some guys, who, as my Dad used to say, "could tear up a crowbar in a sandpile". My friend I was referring to is an example. A couple of years ago I was helping him mow one of his residential accounts. They had a rather large shrub near the end of the drive which blocked their vision backing out onto the street, and asked my friend if he could remove it for them. He told me he was going to pull it out. I went to the enclosed back yard and was mowing there with the push mower while he did the deed. I finished, and walked back to the front expecting to see his 3/4 ton 4X4 pickup attached to the end of the chain. Instead, I see his diesel powered Encore Prowler. He managed to get the shrub pulled, but in the process, broke the radiator mount, causing the fan to chew a hole in the radiator. That, my friend, was a classic case of stupidity, even if he is my friend.

    Many threads here are originally started by someone who is looking to buy new equipment, and is asking advice. I totally understand that, as no one wants to spend good dollars and find they made a mistake, but I think what we all need to realize is that the perfect mowing machine has not been made, and likely never will be, and the likes and dislikes we have for a particular brand are probably, for the most part, personal. I find many equipment threads on here educational, because they can point out a particular flaw or quirk of a particular model of machine. For example, my Kawasaki 23 on my Gravely, fouled the plugs at 200 hours because the air filter was partially plugged. I would have thought it an isolated incident, but a thread was started on the same subject, and it seems several others have had the same problem, with the same engine. Now maybe the engineer in that department dropped a decimal point that day and installed too small an air filter, who knows? I just know by being aware of this, I'll simply change filters every 100 or so hours and eliminate the problem.

    I notice that often popular brands seem to be a regional thing, which could be because of many factors, from dealer availability and support to simply "Joe has one and likes it." I'm sure no expert on mowers, or any other lawn equipment, but I think many would be better off obsessing less about what to buy, or not to buy, and simply check out the major features which appeals to them as an operator, compare warranties, and take into consideration such things as dealer support and even simply whether the dealer is an easy person to deal with. Price should not always be the final deciding factor, because in my opinion, equipment expense is a necessary evil in this business, and the additional cost to make one more productive, or even comfortable, is always justified.

    I personally think it is more important to learn the quirks of your particular equipment, no matter what brand to buy, and learn to use it to the best advantage. Perhaps my Gravely won't cut quite as quickly as a Chopper, but perhaps it holds hills better. Each machine will have its own operating characteristics which you will learn to utilize to the fullest as the operator. Forget that perhaps brand X might go a little faster, or brand Z has bigger tires, and just learn what YOUR brand will do, and do it.

    I strongly suspect that if any of you were offered a free ZTR from any manufacturer, and a free replacement every couple of years, that whatever the brand, it would quickly become your "favorite" machine of all time, because you would simply learn to put up with the minor things you didn't like, and accentuate the things you did, because you sure wouldn't give up a free one to buy another, and, hey, neither would I. :) Neill
  2. dvmcmrhp52

    dvmcmrhp52 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Pa.
    Messages: 4,205

    Don't know about that.
    If a manufacturer were to give me ten free mowers every year and their cut quality was crap I'd pass in a new york minute.
    I'm in it for the long haul.........Quality is important.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    Your right, a lot of it is personal preference, and what's available at the dealers. Personally, I'd never even seen a Ferris until a couple of weeks ago. Don't see them at any dealers.

    I think for the guys that have gotten into this since the advent of hydros and ZTRs, anything thats belt driven is crap. I can remember not that long ago you didn't see many Velkes. I'd see LCOs doing HUGE HOAs with a zillion guys walking behing 36s and 48s. But that was then. (people used to actually bag the grass back then too- don't see that much anymore either).

    I think that if a machine cuts well, thats the top priority. I can adjust to how it handles and learn its quirks very quickly.
  4. Pecker

    Pecker LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,454

    As long as the cut is good, brand doens't matter nearly as much as dealer support.
  5. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,360

    exmark Brand exmark doesn't exmark matter :D :D

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