What size lawn mower engine should you go with?

If you are in the market for a new lawn mower, you will soon be faced with a multitude of decisions to make. After choosing on a mower style, you will then need to focus on a brand. Once you have that figured out, you will then need to decide what size engine to go with. An engine that is too small may be underpowered for what you want to do and end up wearing out faster. A bigger engine may cost you more and be an unnecessary purchase. How should you decide then on an engine size? That is what one business owner was interested in knowing when he asked about the topic on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I’m looking at purchasing a stander style lawn mower and as I go through the details, the biggest difference seems to be between the different engine size horse power and if I should get the electric start. Evidently you can’t have the electric start w/ a 15HP (which I really don’t really see as a big deal). Speed, blade tip speed, etc all appear to be all the same. What am I missing?

I’ve found a used 15HP pull start that seems pretty reasonable w/ low hours and am trying to justify the need for the bigger HP. I’m doing mainly residential lawn mowing and am on top of the yards weekly.

My question is, should I buy the 15HP or buy a 17HP or 19HP etc….”

A second lawn care business owner said “if all you do residential mowing and on a weekly basis, plus the fact you don’t mind the pull start, I would say go for the smaller model with the pull start.

Otherwise beyond that I would go for the 17 or 19 hp. We run a couple of stander style mowers. You will notice a difference going up hills and in taller grass with the larger engines, no doubt about it. I also prefer the electric start over recoil. I’m assuming your looking at the 36″ mower? If you don’t mind recoil start and your not mowing slopes and hills you’ll be fine with the 15 hp. I’d go with it if it fits your budget better.

I think it all comes down to what you can afford at the beginning of your start up.

I think the terrain that your mowing should influence your decision also.

Having said that, if you can swing it for a couple hundred more dollars I would go with the larger engine.”

A third business owner said “I always try to buy the most versatile lawn care equipment for my dollar. For example the mowers in my opinion are the most versatile machines available.

  1. They are median priced between a walk behind and a seated ZTR.
  2. They are fast and maneuverable around obstacles.
  3. They are great for average sized residential to larger commercial properties.
  4. Fastest way to mow steeper hills.
  5. Small foot print = more trailer space.

I do believe that as your business grows you should cover all the bases with your equipment so that your customer base is not limited to one particular sized property.”

A fourth shared “it is important to keep in mind the terrain type the mower will be used on when it comes to engine size. Smaller HP engines tend to be the ‘minimum’ acceptable HP for any given deck size.

Another thing to consider when looking at HP size is the weed height, etc that you will be mowing. The biggest reason behind this that I know of is how hard your engine will be working. Sometimes your engine will work so much harder if you go with the smallest size available. The negative effects from over working an engine are multitude: more fuel is used, engines ‘lugs’ and thus wears out quicker, and despite these things, you still don’t have the power that you would have had otherwise. Like I said, the engine wears out sooner (with less hours than a larger HP engine would have), and thus, the engine will need rebuilt or replaced sooner than the larger engine. With this information, consider the extra cost associated.

Another question that I would ask is, are the optional engines all the same manufacturer? If not, that is another reason to consider upgrades.”

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