Which lawn mower should I start off with?

What is the best lawn mower for a new start up landscape business owner? A small walk behind consumer grade model? A larger commercial grade ztr? What about a larger walk behind unit with a sulke? One part of the decision should be based on how much you are willing to spend, another part is based on what size properties you will be mowing. Here is a great discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum that shares insight into the decision making process.

One lawn care business owner wrote “here’s my dilemma. This year I want to give a lawn maintenance business a shot. I have the money to buy whatever lawn mower I want, but I’m saving for a down payment on a house so I don’t want to spend too much. I already have a trailer, line trimmer, blower, etc. I just need a lawn mower. I initially wanted to only spend $2,000 - $3,000 on a mower. After looking at prices, it seems like the only thing available new in my range are new residential lawn mowers for around $3k, or a used commercial. I found one commercial mower that is 4 years old, but it has a new motor and deck for $3,700.

My brother in law bought a commercial mower which he got for around $4,000, but they seem to be in the $5k range now.

So the question is should I take the $4-5k gamble and start off with a commercial mower or should I start off with a residential zero-turn mower then try to upgrade later? I really don’t want to invest too much money early without being 100% sure I will like this business or be able to even get off the ground to pay for the equipment itself. So what should I do?

To give you an idea of the size lawns I want to service they will be in the 1 & 1/4 acre range, so a walk behind might not be a good idea.”

A second lawn care business owner said “well have you thought of a larger walk behind? They come as big as the zero turns but can be just as expensive. Maybe looking into a mid size mower like a 33″ - 36″ incher could be what works for you. If you find the right large land owner equipment it could get you into your commercial mower later on. Right now our largest mower is a 33″ deck. But I also don’t have the massive yards to worry about (the largest yard in our area is 1/4 to 1/2 acre).”

A third added “in my opinion, you can’t go wrong buying commercial grade over consumer. Commercial units can cost double over a comparable sized consumer unit. Commercial units have heavier decks, better transmissions, and more durable components all around.

Before you buy anything, demo all the units you can get your hands on. You don’t want to buy a mower only to find out later that it hurts your back or the controls aren’t the right fit for your hands.”

A fourth shared “personally I would shop around at the local dealers. See which offers top drawer service. Should you have issues it needs to be fixed immediately or at least as soon as possible. If need be even when things are in for service the dealer should offer a used or demo machine for you to use so ask about this.

In our business we can not afford down time.

As for the baggers on lawn mowers, we will not bag. It’s too hard on the lawns over the long haul. If a lawn really needs clippings taken up, we have tow sweepers than can go on right behind the mower.”

A fifth said “for your first year, I would suggest a 36″ commercial walk behind as it is a very versatile mower. I mow everything from small commercial lawns to an acreage that takes me about 1.5 hours to mow. The main thing is to make sure you get a sulky for it makes it much easier to use. If business takes off and you like what you are doing you can up grade next year.

I have been doing this for a while. About 12 years ago I closed my lawn care business to have a family and now that my kids are in school I’m getting back into it. But, years back I started off with a smaller commercial walk behind and it worked OK for what I used it for. Residential equipment I have found will work but, the up keep will cost you a lot more than commercial equipment.”

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