Should I upgrade or not?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by jtkplc, Jan 10, 2006.

  1. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    In past posts I've mentioned upgrading to a more powerful 60" ZTR. I started another post about which of 3 brands to upgrade to. Now I'm to the point where before I make a decision about which brand to upgrade to, I need to deside if the upgrade is the smartest move to make. Some are probably thinking this should have been the first question I asked, but in my own mind it was, just not on here.

    Here's my situation:

    I'm 19 almost 20. I'm not sure the direction I want to take for a career. I have started some online classes for natural health and I might be going into that if it proves to be a passion. That will a couple years to complete. In the mean time I will be cutting grass. I've already been successful with it and it will allow me to get a great financial start in life.

    I work part time for another lawn company 3 days a week and then on those 3 weeknights and then the final 3 days of the week, excluding sunday, I work on my own accounts. Of my own, I have 6 residential accounts and 2 commerical accounts; a softball complex and a 46 home condo complex. My own work takes about 16-18 hours of my own time to complete.

    The reason I want to upgrade is lack of power on my 260Z, fuel efficiency, and overall productivity. I'm shooting myself in the foot for not getting the most powerful engine option when I bought it in August of 2003. I've used an Exmark 60" XS which has loads of power that I love. I will also be mulching the majority of my accounts this year to save from double cutting. I will need more power for that. The 25HP Kawaski I have on my 260Z will get the job done, but I like how much more productive having more power makes you. I've also read posts that talks about a key to mulching successfully is having plenty of power.

    I feel that this is the best time to upgrade because being just over 2 years old, this is the time in which I could still get a good percentage of my money back. If I wait much longer to upgrade I wouldn't be able to as much for it. Also my warranty is now up and that is a concern if I will have to start making costly repairs.

    My problem lies in that it will cost me between $5-7K to upgrade to what I want. The questions I need answers for and haven't been able to figure out are:

    (1) Do I really need a more powerful mower or is it just a "want"?
    (2) Will it be smartest for me financially to spend $5-7K for a mower that won't get huge amounts of hours put on it in a season and if I don't stay in this business for over 3 or 4 more years will it be "wasted" money that could be better spent on buying a house or whatever?

    Thanks for any help/advise.
  2. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    Well, I am going to tell you what I really think... not what I think you want to hear.
    Ok, let me divide it up...

    Mowers and engines first...

    First off, good for you. Strong lesson learned.

    Next, I'm a little confused. I work in some really power robbing situations. I have a 25hp Kawasaki pulling a heavier mower and the same size deck. During side discharge, mowing heavy weekly growth, I never feel that down on power. During side discharge I can usually cut as fast as I can stand to ride the mower. I can strain the engine, but not enough to be an issue.

    With that said, if you are wanting for power during side discharge, I have to point the finger at the mowing machine the engine is mounted to.

    However, mulching is certainly a different ballgame. It takes a lot of power. So the mower is limited by the engine HP, the capacity of the deck, it's mulching ability and the inheirent speed of it's mulching cycle.

    Again though, I'm still not complaining about my 25hp Kawasaki. Yes, the mulching does slow me down some. But there are also a lot of properties that I finish the entire job a lot faster while mulching. I guess overall I wouldn't cry if I had more power and my mulching fuel economy might be a little better with a larger engine. But I'm not disgruntled from lack of power. But if I had a lot of properties that were smooth and fast, there is a possibility I would be.

    With all that said, I highly suggest you be patient until all the new offerings start to hit the showroom floors. Wait until then before you begin to steer yourself in any direction about selecting a mower. You don't want to be looking over your shoulder again wishing you had waited to demo the eXmark Triton, Hustler XR-7, or the upcoming Lesco/Cub offerings... oh, and don't skip too quickly over the Bob-Cat Predator Pro...

    Moving on...
  3. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    Like I said in my original post, my 25HP Kawasaki isn't bad, it gets the job done, but it's in the areas where I have to slow down because the engine can't keep up. My biggest account grow very fast and I'm cutting off a LOT of grass. Once I started using the Exmark XS with the other company did I really appreciate that kind of power. Going back to my 260Z wasn't always fun.

    So, do you think that I would be making a wise decision, both business and personal financial, by upgrading, or not because I might not be in this business for more than 3 or 4 more years and the hours I put on my equipment isn't much. On the other hand, I might be in this business for a longer period of time, say 5+ years.
  4. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    Ok now that you have a hard lesson learned.... 5-7K for an upgrade sounds like it could also be an expensive lesson learned. That's a lot of money for a power upgrade.

    Now I guess it comes down to the fact of rather you can justify it... If you feel that you really need to switch to mulching due to personal preference, or problems/issues/complaints about side discharge... well then you might just have to bite the bullet.

    But, if you are more focused on production gain, you might fall a little dissappointed about parting with your money. Yes, you may be able to travel a little bit faster with discharging or a good bit faster while mulching. If you are looking long term and possibly full time, then it might be worth it. But in your current situation, I feel you have to question some things.

    First of all, what do you have more of.... TIME?.... or MONEY?
    A lot of decisions can be settled simply right there.

    Next, if you are working for yourself 16-18 hours a week.... just how many of those hours are you actual logging on the mower itself? Not all of them. Now, out of your mower hours, how many of those do you think you will save per week? Maybe 1 hour???? I don't know, but that's my guess unless you are double cutting and can eliminate it like I did.

    But in any event, plug your projected hours saved in.
    Then multiply that by what your time is worth to you per hour.
    Then divide that into the 5-7K.
    What did you come up with?
    Whatever it is, that's the number of hours it will take to recover the cost of the upgrade.
    In other words, adding work hours, earning more in the same time and forfieting the extra to the mower.

    1hr saved x $50 per hour = $50
    $50 / $5,000 = 100 hours

    Yeah, that's a GROSS example. But you can plug your own figures and find out how long the recovery period is. This will give you another perspective though, however major or minor it seems to you.

    Also note that if you are financing the entire upgrade you can shift the calculation to monthly and figure it a different way. Now I don't use or encourage financing, but the painting will be prettier this way.

    If you are making payments now and you were not planning to keep the current mower long term, then really all you are doing is trading payments. This will make an even prettier painting.

    In any event, YOU have to decide rather it is a want or a need. I'm leaning towards it being a want... but I don't know your circumstances at all and can't really judge for you. In addition, even if YOU decide it is a want, that doesn't mean don't upgrade period. Wants are not always a bad thing. Personally I place a lot of value on personal happiness. It can really make a difference in your life, your business, and it can make all the difference in the world when it is you that you're treating out there day-in day-out. The difference it makes for you overall can be HUGE.

    So I guess it comes down to rather or not you NEED anything else first, and if not, what will make you happier and better off in business... the money?... or the new mower?
  5. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    OK, I understand what you are saying now. I'm just curious to know which mode you are in that slows you down. Just trying to help myself judge some mower suggestions for you. Since we have equal motors, I can get a feel for rather the mower it is on is harder to power and you just need some more ponies... or if it's not and you need a lot more ponies.

    If it's the mower, you might be happy as a lark on another brand with a 27hp or a 28hp or a 28hp EFI.... which would take some of the sting out financially. If it is not anything to do with that, I might would steer you towards the diesel version or your mower, or other diesels, or the 31-35hp eXmarks, Scags and Bob-Cats.

    Also, I hope I am not confusing you more here... but have you considered a power upgrade for your current mower? Or do you feel it is not worth it?

    If so, you could consider something like the 31-33hp Generacs.

    Also, contrary to popular beliefs, there are vertical versions of the Big Block Vanguards.
    Guys gave me #ell about it sometime back when I was talking about the whole line of engines before they came out... and when they did, of course the horizontals were first. But the verticles do exist and you could consider those. You could get one in the 30hp to 36hp range.

  6. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    Ok, seems like you and I do a lot of conversing! Anyways, thanks so much for you insight. I have thought about upgrading the engine on my 260Z. I've talked it over with me dad, also, but didn't really look into it. I haven't really read much about it on here, like it's the popular thing to do. I guess I would like to know more about it; cost and what's involved. I would love to put a 31HP Briggs on my machine, what a hoss that would be.

    You've given me some things to look at and consider. I've done some of them already, but I like to get other's perpectives because I know I probably didn't think of something being unexperienced in this sort of area.
  7. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    The reason I want to switch to mulching is: (1)Just to try it, (2)To eliminate double cutting, (3)On my large commercial account, there are many places where it's impossible to not throw grass into mulch. I have had a few complaints about it, and (4)To increase productivity (a) by being to use my bigger mower (my 260Z, I also have a 36" walkbehind) in areas that I couldn't by side discharging because of getting grass in the mulch and flower beds and (b) having two trim sides.

    I log about 8-10 hours on a week on my 260Z, the rest are on my walkbehind and hand work. I should have put that in my original post because that is a factor also.

    All of my equipment is paid off. The only reason I would finance the upgrade would be to wait until I had a little more money to live on and cover the cost of the mower which I would pay off in full as soon as I were able to do so.

    Some of it is a want, but there is the part about personal happiness. When it comes to equipment, I like not having to worry about power or whatever. My grandpa has always told me (he was a farmer) when buying a machine always get the best you can, otherwise you may regret it. If I am in this business longer than 3-4 years, I would regret not upgrading now. I'm in a good position to upgrade now because I still live at home and I do have the money and it wouldn't really set me back too much.
  8. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    I think you mean side discharge or mulching. I have only done side discharging and this would be my first experience with mulching.
  9. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    One other thing we haven't talked about is if I upgrade to a diesel mower, the money saved from fuel savings would help with my upgrade recovery costs.
  10. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    No problem... decisions can be rough... especially if you get a bit STUCK.

    The 30-36hp briggs engines are sized 'roughly' 21" wide, 24" long and 25" high.
    All those measurements are just a tad 'heavy.
    The mount pattern should be standard.
    The only items I question are the actual shaft lenght and size, and the wiring.

    But you will pay for the power.
    I don't know what you might pay in your area, but I'd guess around $2,000-$2,300.

    I don't know the cost or sizes of the same class Generacs.

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