I have the 36" Metro with pistol grips. I had a 36" Woods (Ferris clone) SD before this mower and this mower is a thousand times nicer and easier to operate. I bought this mower because I didn't need the floating deck or the hydro drive. I have had no trouble at all with drive belt slippage even though they are the original belts and 4 years old. I try to only mow grass going forward so the instant reverse of a hydro wasn't necessary.
I use 36" Metro 12.5 Kawi, belt/pistol, it 's been a jack-of-all-trades basically. Great mower, never have down time since last season, all you do just cut and ride on sulky all day. 36" will be useful in later years even you now ride the Z cause you never know when those hills and gated backyards gonna get you.
48" is good to start but you still have to carry a 21er on trailer for gated areas which the 36" will eliminate the 21er job!
If you can "not" afford to loose gated/fenced properties then I think a 36" either Metro or Viking will be ticket, but if you don't mind cutting with 21er in gated/fenced areas (may be some painful few accounts to keep you headache) then a TTHP 48" hydro 17 kawi twin is the ticket cause it is really productive.
Lots of LCO carry 52" & 60" lazer or 48' TTHP and a little 21er on their trailer, but not me I hate 21er, (long history with me when I was cutting with 21er 6 days a week!) so I only carry my 36" Metro to do it all untill I get my 52" Lazer.
I've got a 36" toro proline fixed deck hydro, identical to the exmark viking. I put a flex deck attachment on it and now I have a 54" mower that fits through 36" gates. This setup is great. It replaced a 48" wb I had (sold it) and now I have even been leaving the 21" at home. I only mow about 20 accounts right now and this mower has saved me around 3 hrs a week, including using a ztr on the larger accounts. I went from a belt drive on the old wb to the hydro and I love it. Will never want to go back to a belt drive again. Demo some if you can. Marc
If you can afford it spend the extra money and go to a hydro/floating deck.
1. backs up easier without having to jump off the sulky and manhandle it.
2. cuts 100% better when its wet. Belts slip pretty bad when its really wet.
3. Fixed deck will scalp a yard fast if you dont compensate for it. I started with the 48" metro. Its an alright back up, just wouldnt want to use it all the time. If your cuttin all flat lawns the fixed deck would do fine.
4. Easier to adjust the deck height with a floating deck. The spacers on the casters for the fixed deck are not to bad, but I like to maintain the deck pitch. I dont want to have to add spacers to the blades to maintain the pitch.
You get what you pay for, At the time the metro fixed was all I could pay for, and it made me quite a bit of money.
I bought a 48" TTHP recently and I love it. I had a 36" Metro HP and rather than say anything bad about it, I'd rather just say that I REALLY like the TTHP alot better. This machine is so responsive and precise. It goes right where you point it - right now. I didn't use the Metro long enough to learn all it's tricks so I don't want to be too hard on it, but many times in this hilly terrain, it just acted like it had a mind of its own. The TTHP performs great on hills which is very important for me here at the foothills of the north Georgia mountains. Having reverse is great. Its hard to explain why, but the hydro is so much less tiring to operate than the belt drive was for me. When I operate the TTHP, I feel like I'm standing there on the Velke steering with my hands - which I am. For some reason, real or imagined, I always felt like I was operating the belt drive with my whole body. The Trivantage deck mulches great which I do 100% right now. The floating deck is a must for me, not so much because it floats, but because of the quick and easy adjustibility. I cut some weed yards at 1 1/2" and the next job might be Fescue at 3 1/2" - no problem! I like it so much that I'm going to buy a 36" TTHP before the end of the year. The only thing I would change about it if I could would be to put a 23 HP motor on it. The 17 is fine really, but a 21 or 23 HP would be better for mulching.
One other thing about belt drives - if I were going to buy another one, I'd probably go with a Toro T-Bar. ECS is great on the hydro - no complaints at all, but I think it is less than ideal on a belt drive because it is difficult to hold the controls in neutral and at the same time pull the machine backwards as you would do when making a tight turn and you want to pull back on the inside wheel. The Toro T-Bar works much better in this situation. I had to see this in person before I really understood that. Its too bad that Toro doesn't use the Exmark Trivantage deck on their floating deck machines like they do on the fixed decks.
I have a 36" Metro fixed deck. I've had it for 6 years and it pretty much does whatever the riders won't. I bought it to get in fenced back yards and tight area that were not practical for a rider. I also use it on some very steep hills where a rider would be too dangerous.
I have thought many times about buying a hydro and even a bigger Turf Tracer, but I cannot justify it. The only place a bigger cut w/b would work better than a rider would be on large, steep areas. And frankly, we don't have enough of those to justify the need for something bigger than the 36". I'd like a hydro 36" even, but same thing. It would not get used enough to justify the cost.