There are many different style of mowers that are manufactured and each have their pluses and minuses. Before you buy one, you really should demo the lawn mower to see if will perform the way you want it to on the landscapes you service. One member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum seemed to be fed up with his ZTR lawn mower for many reasons and was looking to switch to a walk behind instead.
He wrote “well without a doubt before this lawn care season goes any further I’m getting rid of my zero turn radius mower and getting a walk behind. The zero turn is great for speed and that is why I initially bought it, but in my area there are a lot of hilly yards that are too big to push mow. I’m a one man crew and would rather have 1 really nice piece of equipment instead of 2 ok machines.
My newer ZTR is very bad on hillsides when compared to my older one. I tried everything to improve the ability of the ZTR to cut on hillside and nothing seemed to work for me. Going slower on the hills does help a lot on less steep hills, but on anything steeper, it just slides down the hill even with the front end pointed up hill and going very careful. It was a good lawn mower for flat turf and for mowing fast, but it just doesn’t go good on the hills.
I think the problem is the center of gravity on the mower is really high. I had another ZTR in the past that seemed to move great on hillsides but it left a horrible cut and the ZTR I use now cuts well but is horrible on hillsides. A friend of mine who works for another lawn company had the same type of ZTR I have and he also complained about it not wanting to stick on a hill side.
For my kind of mowing, a 52″ or 54″ inch walk behind would serve me well. As far as mower controls, I am concerned about the walk behinds with the pistol grips. I have heard the pistol grips are really hard on the hands after a full day of mowing. A lawn mower dealer right by my house sells a bunch of commercial walk behind mowers and as I look around, I see a lot of landscapers in my area run them. I need a machine that has a strong engine, good design, and one that will leave the best cut.”
A second lawn care business owner shared “how steep are these hills? I’ve rode my ZTR on many hills and retention ponds. The key I have found to using it successfully on such terrain is to use your body as a counter weight and go slow.
I think it would sure be tough to go from z-turns to walk behinds. Have you ever tried to use a walk behind on a steep hill or ride a sulky on a slope? By using the proper mowing angles on the hill with the z-turn it sure would seem easier to me.
Before you go and take the jump on a new walk behind mower, I would wait demo it first before I made that choice. A good walk behind has a lot of weight also and you will find yourself muscling it around a lot through out the day.
If you ultimately do choose walk behind, make SURE it is a hydro unit. If the hills are that steep, the belt drive will not work. Especially when it is damp or wet.
You are right about the hand controls as well. Don’t get pistol grip style controls. You could end up with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and that isn’t fun. I have a walk behind with pistol grip style controls that I avoid using. They tend to hurt my hands after a couple of hours of mowing. I think they lack an ergonomic design and the constant vibration really fatigues your hands and arms. I prefer walk behind mowers with the z-turn style controls instead.”