Kubota ZD331 / 72" review (5 years)

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by LwnmwrMan22, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,373

    Now that it's 5 years later.....

    We are starting a switch to Exmark.

    The Kubota ZD331 are getting too expensive to buy AND operate.

    Over the last 3 years, we have gone through 4 deck gear box assemblies. Kubota welds the bearing to the gear box assembly, so once it's out, it tears out the whole assembly.

    I never used to have these issues, but at $1,300 per gear box, it's adding up fast.

    The pivot for the casters on the front deck, suck. They have an upper and lower "bushing" but the upper bushing will slide down, therefore not allowing you to get grease through the zirk, as the bushing as slid over the opening.

    Over the last 5 years I had this original ZD331 / 72" deck that I traded last fall with 1800 hours. I also have (2) 2008 ZD331 / 60" decks that currently have 1600 and 1700 hours respectively. Then I traded my 72" for a 3rd 60" last fall. This spring at 300 hours, the engine blew, my guys were not checking oil.

    Anyways, a new engine is $4,500. We have exhausted any and all resources short of putting a new crate engine in, and all other options are close to the $4,000 mark, so rather than rebuild, I'm going to put a new crate engine in over winter.

    For anyone thinking about buying one of these, just be aware that just about ALL of the parts are specific to Kubota it seems, and they are NOT cheap. You are paying a premium for the mower, and you will be paying a premium for the parts.

    They are very solid mowers. As stated with my hours above, we did minimal repairs with minimal maintenance. We mow a school district with about 80 acres of turf, and up until this year we mowed the local city with 19 parks, trails and other city owned properties, along with the typical mix of commercial / residential mowing.

    I gross about $275k / 6 month season here in MN with straight maintenance, so we do not sit still long when there's no snow.

    We are migrating towards Exmarks, for the cut quality, as well as the minimal maintenance. I'm trying to work my way out of the field operations and more of a support/irrigation tech/office type position after 23 years (I'll be 40 in November). The savings in fuel costs are minimal, as we have a local station that sells off road diesel at a discount, and the 29 hp Kawasaki burns about 1.5 gallons per hour.

    The Kubotas would run a little more than 3/4 gallon / hour, but not a full gallon per hour.

    I did have a decent conversation with my dealer about our leaving Kubota. They were always top notch in service, always getting me in and out, although like most shops, didn't stock alot of parts, so the odd ones we had to wait, or pay airfare.

    All in all, it was a good run. To me, the quality is slipping a bit, but it seems like it's always that way when you've been with one company for a period of years. We have the same issues with our own clients. You go in, do your job for 3-5-7-13 years, then all of a sudden they have to change because they think they aren't getting good value. You could be doing the exact same thing, for the exact same money, for the exact same timeframe, but they decide they need a change.

    For me, it was all about the money. A new X series Exmark with a suspension seat was $10,500. A new Kubota ZD331, $14,500. I don't have to worry about gear box assemblies on the deck anymore, I don't even really need to worry about grease anymore.

    We will see how the change goes.
  2. dutchacres

    dutchacres LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    I am doing the same thing although I have only been a Kubota owner since April. It is a nice unit but I am having cut quality issues and that is not acceptable to me. Exmark makes a good machine I think if I was going to go with them I would opt for a EFI machine as every little bit of savings is good. I am actually in the process of demoing equipment now. I am just going to go standers as I mow so many different types of properties that the versitity of them will save me so much time over a rider. Plus I can fit more on a trailer and they weigh half of what the Kubota weighs.
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  3. heather lawn sp

    heather lawn sp LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 681

    I was going to switch over to 331's but was reading too many reports like this and my daughter didn't like the feel of the controls on the 331. We are phasing out the 997's one's gone one more to go. I found the Ferris 5100 and 2500 have a good suspension system for the rough terrain of our schools. The operators will stay out longer during the day. they don't get as fatigued when they have the suspension. The belt drive from PTO to deck is a bit of a problem but I may have found a solution for that, time will tell. Dealer support here is good and I can often find after market parts. Like you I am getting to old for mowing duty and run office and repairs now
  4. Green King

    Green King LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 539

    Is it me or is it that I am getting sticker shock on diesel powered mowers. Even the gas mowers are really high in this economy. I also noticed on Dixie Choppers web site that there diesel mower has been discontinued is that from lack of sales or is the tier 4 thing getting the diesel powered mowers?
  5. Green King

    Green King LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 539

    Thank You for the update on the kubota. I was looking hard at the zd331 at $15,000 for a 72" which is about the cheapest diesel powered machine that I have found.
  6. weaver

    weaver LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,393

    What did you get the 27 60 for that price? I been looking at the 38 60 myself...
  7. grassman177

    grassman177 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,795

    funny, we have had many kubotas, with those kind of hours(the last ones we are selling have 1200 hrs) and have never had any issues. it is about maintenance, and i think you might have even admitted to lack of on your part. not sure how you can justfy kubota not being good, if you treat it so badly. good luck though not having issues with any brand, cuz each has theirs
  8. specialtylc

    specialtylc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,656

    I have a ZD331 with the 60 inch. 1800 hours on it. The lower pto gear box seal went out and we didnt catch it, so the bearings went out. I replaced the bearings ( the bearings are not welded to the gearbox) and seals, which lasted about another 200 hours and it failed again. So I bought a new box from dealer for less than $1000. I also have a ZD21 with over 2000 hours and have had no trouble with it.
    The gear box failure I take full responsibility, for not catching the leaking seal. I suggest you do the same for an engine failure.
  9. badbart

    badbart LawnSite Member
    Messages: 204

    Apparently the deck gearbox on the Kubotas is the weak link on that mower. I almost bought one with only 65 hours from a friend, but after doing a little research I find several with failed gearboxes. I am looking for another diesel(currently have a John Deere 997) but am not happy with the JD warranty. Had some small issues but JD wouldn't cover them. Might go with a Scag in the future. Any other diesels you guys using?

    WREBELMACHINE LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,089

    What kind of warranty issues? Interesting info on the kubota. I have seen several of them this last year.

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