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My wife and I recently moved into Southwestern Virginia. We now mow about four acres regularly with an additional two acres being cut occasionally. Our lot is covered with significant slopes. There is barely a blade of fine grass to be found, almost everything is junk. The topography is rough; there is no proper (smooth) landscaping. Most of our parcel is covered with plantings, both gardens and individual trees/bushes.

We are using our old Agco 1920H as the primary mowing machine. Our Gravely 16 pro convertible serves as a jack of all trades, snow blowing, ground plowing, and backup mowing. The 20 hp Kohler on the Agco is just about due for a rebuild or replacement. Given the state of the rest of the tractor, I truly hesitate to invest that kind of money into rebuilding or replacement. Also, the slopes are hair raising using this machine.

The Gravely is a great all purpose tractor; but, of course, is dog slow for extended mowing. Indeed both the Agco and Gravely can only be used at half throttle on most of our ground. It's simply too rough.

I know that there have been scores of "what should I buy" threads entertained on this forum over the last few years. I'm not looking to bore anyone with yet one more repetition. However, both my wife and I are in our sixties. We sold our retail business three years ago and are now on a fixed income. I suspect that our list of mowing concerns might be at least a bit different from those normally seen on the site.

At our ages (well into our sixties), we prefer not to be beaten to death. Does any line of ZTR handle rough terrain noticeably better than others? Are there true differences in the way various machines handle tight conditions; in other words, do certain machines "zero turn" better than others? Do certain ZTRs handle 45 degree plus slopes better (read that as safer) than others? Are there significant differences in maintenance requirements, line to line? Do certain manufacturers put out machines that are honestly more durable than others? Is there one or more residential ZTR that might actually hold up for ten years under our conditions without requiring endless major rebuilds of deck, engine, hydros, etc? Do you feel that a particular size of deck would be most efficient at mowing a parcel such as ours (six rather rough acres with lots of tight turns, some on real slopes)? Here, bigger is better might not apply. Finally, I'm looking to buy the smallest engine possible that can legitimately handle my mowing requirements. I'm hoping to get by on about nineteen or twenty horsepower. Is that expectation unrealistic?

The answers to these questions plus any additional comments would really be appreciated. I actually ran a lawn service for two years back in the early seventies. The gold standard back then, at least in South Jersey, was the walk behind Gravely. Times have really changed, and I haven't kept up. At this point, I am pretty sure that I don't really want to continue mowing down here using a garden style tractor, way too slow. However, I've never run a ZTR. While I'm sure that I can significantly reduce the time spent mowing, I feel like a sitting duck regarding all other ZTR considerations. As a final consideration, our somewhat fixed income is great motivation for price control. Towards that end, I'm hoping to find something that is reasonably priced new and that can be found used during September and October at a nice price.

Thanks in advance for any input.

Al Jarvis
Wytheville, Va.
 
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