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Is hydro really that much better?

Discussion in 'eXmark' started by new2thebiz, May 12, 2004.

  1. new2thebiz

    new2thebiz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 69

    Ive been researching everything I can find on 48" walkbehinds, and everyone says that a hydro is much better. What advantages does a hydro offer that make it worth the extra 1500 or so that it costs? Also, could someone please give me the suggested retail of the exmark walkbehinds that are 48" and larger, both gear and hydro models?
  2. Acute Cut

    Acute Cut LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 980

    Wow. Not to be mean or anything, but to hear your question is like asking if a car is better than a bycicle.

    I dont work for exmark, but i use the machines. Belts are slower, have no reverse, Divot on EVERY corner or turnaround, are USELESS in the rain, and have a part where belts tend to wear out.

    Hydros are tanks. Forward and reverse. If they can get traction they go. Try DEMOing both machines. You will NEVER regret getting the hydros. You will however kick yourself daily for getting a beltdrive. If you read through ls more, you will read MANY MANY posts of people wishing they had bought hydros.

    Take it from an old guy, BUY HYDRO! It resales better too and lco's actually WANT them.
  3. eXmark

    eXmark Manufacturer / Sponsor
    Messages: 4,258


    Acute has some good points. I would probably argue that they divot on every corner but they are much more likely to do so than a hydro. On point he makes regarding fatigue is one we often forget. You drive a hydro..........you manhandle a belt drive. Both are good machines and both serve a purpose. If it is your primary machine most operators will take a hydro over a gear drive. If it's a back up machine or a trim mower the gear drive dominates. For a new guy like yourself the belt drive will do what you need it to do but if you can swing the hydro price you won't be sorry you did.


  4. lawnranger44

    lawnranger44 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 370

    I agree with acutecut. We bought a belt drive, and we DO have to manhandle it. We are planning to upgrade to a larger hydro mower next season. I do have to say, that after using a belt drive it will make me appreciate our hydro when we get it.
    Another thing that was not said is that hydros can turn on a dime, whereas belt drives need to make a 3 point turn every time you change directions.
  5. creek chub

    creek chub LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38


    I also have a 36". Just curious, what setup do you have to stripe?

    Creek Chub
  6. HoosierL&L

    HoosierL&L LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3


    Tried a belt drive once. Will be my last time. Some people don't mind them, but hydro is THE way to go. Easier to manuever and they have reverse. I never felt comfortable w/ a belt drive on a hill, especially near water...but that's just me.
  7. Mowing Bushman

    Mowing Bushman LawnSite Member
    from GA
    Messages: 8

    I was told when I went to buy our 48" W/B last year that if you can afford it, hydro is much better. Well, we did but it and have no regrets. I love the response it has. I would not belt driven machines after owning this one.
  8. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    Some of the points above were overstated. I've used both hydro and belt drive wb's extensively.

    - the belts won't divot in turns if you know how to work around their inability to zero turn. But it takes more effort to do so. That's the negative to them. Skilled operators matter too. Some people don't know how to use the momentum of the machine to help turn it , or make small circles at row ends instead of tight turns that cause problems.

    -hydros can be jerky and their more instant response can cause damage to turf with inexperienced operators. I find t bar belts to have a lighter touch, but that might just be because I'm more used to them.

    - not every belt drive is slower than a hydro. There are some fairly slow hydros too.

    - depending on what you use it for, reverse may not matter as much. You have to manhandle a belt drive more, so it tires you out more. The tighter areas you mow, the more the hydro matters.

    - The difference in pistol grip type belts and hydros is more pronounced that between T bar belts and hydros. Those pistols on belts will wear you out, I admit.

    -steering is easier and less fatiguing with a hydro.

    - a hydro doesn't have slipping belts in the rain.

    - A belt drive weighs a little less and can be manhandled in certain spots easier, but a hydro is less likely to need manhandling.

    - A belt drive is cheap to replace parts on relative to the more complex hydro mower.

    -If you are mowing a large flat rectangle at your own home a belt drive is fine. The more turns you make, the more hills you do, the more wet times you're mowing, the more you will appreciate a hydro.

    But it's not like a hydro will halve your mowing time or anything extreme like that. Buy a hydro if you can afford it. Much of the extra you spend will be returned when you sell it if you don't wear it out. And with the increased productivity (from both speed and lowered fatigue) it will more than pay for itself. But a GOOD belt drive is no horror story either. I would never buy a pistol grip belt drive mower. But I wouldn't be horrified if I had to use a T bar or Pro Steer belt drive.
  9. ensor

    ensor LawnSite Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 55


    Good objective response. I own a 48" belt drive for personal use only. For my purposes the belt drive works great. Yes, there is a time or two during each mowing that the instant reverse of a hydro would be nice, but not necessary. For my application the belt drive was a better value and does exactly what I need it to do. I agree that you need to learn to turn the belt drive to prevent divots, but I have found that allowing the inside wheel to keep turning slowly results in no divot and only a slightly wider turn. For me, the belt drive's response to driver input (turns) is more forgiving/gradual than the hydros. I have driven several different hydros walkbehinds and they seemed jerky - I realize that experience would help smooth this out.

    All in all, I enjoy owning and using a good quality piece of equipment whether it be belt or hydro driven.
  10. Acute Cut

    Acute Cut LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 980

    You can make turns without divots that is true. But, as you stated you have to make wider turns. This leaves a small patch missed in that turning radius. With a belt drive to get a professional look you will have to "border" or make a "perimeter run" two times vs the one pass you can do with a hydro. It is irrelevant if you are doing few lawns or just your own, but when you are running 20-30 lawns a day that extra time really adds up.
    JMO though.

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