How long will a consumer grade mower last doing commercial mowing?

Starting out with a minimal budget leads many a business owner to consider saving a few bucks by purchasing consumer grade lawn care equipment. Sure it can cost a lot less, but what is the downside to it? That is what one entrepreneur was curious to know when he asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, how long will such consumer grade equipment last?

One lawn care business owner wrote “how long would this residential machine last doing semi-commercial work? How many yards per week, per year, for how many years you think a standard consumer grade machine would be good for?”

A second lawn care business owner said “consumer grade models last on average around 200 hours. While commercial units will be in the range of lasting 2,000 - 5,000 hours. I think this is where lawn mower manufacturers have new lawn care business owners over a barrel. The price of a commercial unit is difficult to afford for many new lawn care business owners. It’s easy to justify buying a residential mower when you are saving $3,000 to $5,000 off the price of a commercial unit.

The problem is; these residential units just don’t stand up to the abuse and constant use of a commercial lawn care company. Before the season is over, a residential unit probably has seized bearings, a mangled deck, and a half dead transmission.

The prices at the big box hardware stores are deceiving too. If I were new and naive about equipment, I would probably see a $3,000 price tag on a ‘commercial looking’ machine and think that it was probably a pretty good mower. Then I would realize that the steering sucks, the deck is a thin piece of stamped metal, and engine components are going to start giving me trouble half-way through the season.

I think one of the best pieces of advice for any new lawn care business owner who is serious about his business and making money is to form a good relationship with a reputable equipment dealer. With a residential unit, you have no quick recourse for maintenance work once your warranty is up. And, if they learn that you are a commercial outfit, your warranty will likely be severely restricted.

Buying from a good dealer puts you in a whole different class. The dealer knows you rely on your equipment to put food on your table and he’s going to do what he can ASAP to get you mowing again.

If you HAVE to buy a residential mower be aware that its build quality is much less than a commercial unit. Buying a commercial unit will put you leaps ahead.”

A third business owner said “if I where you, I would get a good used belt driven large walk behind mower for around $1,500 or less.

On average I have used 3 residential mowers to do bagging and small yards in my 22 years of being in business. The mowers themselves will last longer than the cutting decks. The average a deck will last me is about 3 years before any welding is needed on them and maybe 2 more years after that before the deck is totally worn out. This is doing 7 yards, 14 mowings total a month over a 7 month season for 5 year.”

A fourth shared “in the past 18 months of use, I have had to replace my consumer grade mower and trimmer. The mower I still have and it still runs but badly and the trimmer runs great but it over heated and warped the pull starter, so it’s hard to start and it leaks gas. I can’t have that as my daily trimmer. If you take care of your equipment it will last a long time, but there is still only so much you can get out of a machine designed for the occasional consumer usage.”

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