Should I buy a small commercial mower or larger consumer mower?

Lawn mowers come in many sizes. There are also many levels of durability which go from consumer grade level all the way up to commercial grade. With these various sizes and equipment durability grades, comes a wide range in prices. Which options are best for you? Consumer grade? Commercial grade? A large lawn mower? Or maybe a smaller one could do? In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we hear from a new business owner who is curious as to the best lawn equipment path for him.

One lawn care business owner asked “I am working on a limited budget. Sadly I’m selling my motorcycle, to fund a new lawn mower.  Right now I’m using a 21″ consumer grade self-propelled mower and a consumer grade line trimmer. I need commercial lawn care equipment and I’m wondering if it would be better to buy a new 21″ commercial mower or wait to find a used 32″, 36″ or larger walk behind a mower.

My concerns are:

  • Time efficiency vs. Ease of use
  • Being able to get the mower though gates
  • Maintenance and reliability

I know a walk behind will get the job done quicker but a 21″ will be easier to handle and maneuver… Right?

Also a 21″ lawn mower is sure to be able to get into every gate and narrow space I need it to.
A new 21″ will also likely come with some sort of warranty and being new I know it doesn’t have any issues.

I know it sounds like I’m more interested in buying the 21″ but that’s why I’m asking.

The ideal thing to do would be to buy a brand new walk behind mower but that’s just not in the cards right now.

I would appreciate any kind of feedback, opinions, or personal experience.

Also I suppose I should add that I only do residential jobs and none that are too big, but next year I am hoping on getting bigger jobs.”

A second lawn care business owner responded “I would not spend a lot on a 21″ lawn mower, you will out grow it fast. I use a 33″ zero turn rider 99.99% of the time. I only use a 21″ mower on two yards for under a minute each.”

A third shared “most of the advice you get will be based on the use of the person giving said advice and not based on YOUR needs/usage.

Take all advice with a grain of salt.

For me, I started last season. I purchased a new 21″ push lawn mower and it’s still running just fine. It’s lighter and easier to operate than a commercial model and cost me one thousand dollars less. I could think of half a dozen good uses for that thousand dollars.

The problem with starting out with a small mower is that you must limit yourself to lawns you can cut and make a profit - smaller lawns.

This spring I bought a 36″ walk behind (new - I couldn’t afford used) and I find myself with little use for it on my current client’s lawns because they are better suited for a 21″ mower. Now I’m trying to only take new clients with larger lawns I can use the walk behind on.

Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t find a HUGE savings in time by using the 36″ mower. Sure it is faster and way more powerful (which is helpful for overgrown lawns), but if you don’t need to worry about gates, I’d consider something larger than a 36″.

Generally speaking, I agree with the ‘buy commercial grade’ line of thought, but in this case, I did some research and factored in my experience with my current push mower and decided a commercial 21″ mower was just not something I needed, or wanted.

If you’re just starting out, I’d be more concerned with the reliability of big ticket items than something like a 21″ mower that can be replaced with relative ease.

You are the only one who can decide what equipment will be best suited for you. A 21″ mower has it’s uses. A walk behind is suited for other uses. A ZTR is suited for yet other uses. It all depends on what sort of lawns you have/plan on cutting.”

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