What’s better, hydro or belt drive lawn mowers?

What lawn care equipment is right for you? There are many options available and the choices can be daunting to the new lawn care business owner. When it comes down to commercial lawn mowers, a big choice is to either go with hydro or belt driven mowers. But which one would be best for the properties you maintain? That is what one lawn care business owner was curious about when he wrote us on The Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

He asked “I am now in the market to upgrade my lawn mower to a commercial grade unit. Because of this, I have been asking around what I should get and my friends at believe that I need to get a hydro driven lawn mower. Unless I’m running in the rain for a few hours, I don’t see the difference between a hydro or belt drive. Does anyone have any experienced views on this. One local mower dealer is offering a 48″ belt drive (new) for $3199 w/ hour meter. I guess I’m a little upset that the dealer didn’t try to up sell me to the hydro. What do you guys think? I’m new here so I will go with the majority vote.”

A second lawn care business owner said “hydro driven lawn mowers have the advantage of being able to reverse without changing the gear which helps a bit but not often. Belt driven lawn mowers have the advantage of smooth forward motion and continuous forward motion without stopping when you let off the handle which helps all the time in every situation (except reversing).

I prefer belt drive.

Something to keep in mind though, weather conditions effect the belt drive. The drive belts will slip a bit in a steady downpour but you most likely won’t be mowing in those conditions anyway. The grass itself being wet doesn’t affect the drive belts.”

A third lawn care business owner shared “there have been several situations where I wished I had a hydro walk behind lawn mower instead of a belt drive.

One time I had over 2,500 feet of road frontage drainage ditch to mow on a bi-weekly basis. The slope was steep enough that only a walkbehind could be used. The bottom of the ditch was continuously muddy and the kicked up mud often clogged the drive belt channels. A hydro would not have had a clog problem.

All-in-all, I prefer belt drive walkbehinds for their manual controls (ability to neutralize the belts quickly), lower cost, lower weight, ease of repair.

However, for all riding lawn mowers (ZTRs, etc.), I prefer hydros.”

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