What’s the real difference in commercial lawn care equipment?

There is a step a new lawn care business owner takes when they go from using their own home mowing equipment, to needing more productivity from their mower with less down time. That is when they start looking around and either wanting a larger cutting deck, or more engine power, or maybe a commercial grade mower. But what are you really getting for that extra money the commercial mowers are priced at? That is what one entrepreneur was interested in knowing when he wrote about his situation on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One lawn care business owner wrote “what goes into a reliability rating for a commercial lawn mower. Commercial brands just about all seem to use same grade steal for the decks, a blade is a blade and replaceable, and a lot of the motors seem to be the same across most the brands, or at least they are the same cc engine size. The reason why I ask is there really that big of a difference if I spend $1,200+ for a walk behind mower when I can find another which I feel is comparable at $400 ?”

A second lawn care business owner said “how wide of a mowing deck are you looking for?

I say this because by the price you are talking, it seems like you are looking at smaller walk behind models. There are reasons why certain mower manufacturers designate particular mowers as consumer grade. Most every mower you will find that is cheaper is likely a consumer grade unit, especially if it is being sold at a big box store.

Is there a big difference in the options offered by manufacturer versus another? I personally like some brands over others. You will likely see a much lower maintenance cost with some mower brands than you will with others.

I would highly recommend not buying lawn mowers from any of the big box stores if you plan on using them for commercial purposes. I have been in such stores in the past, kicking the tires of a few ztr’s and have found the salespeople will tell you their machines are the same thing that are sold by the regular dealerships. This is an absolute falsehood. The big box store mowers are made of lighter duty steel and have cheaper quality engines.

Service and parts availability is key.

What ever mower you get, I recommend you buy it from a servicing dealer. They want to sell you a machine that is right for you. Why?  Because if it’s right for you, it’s right for them. If they make you happy, you are more likely to come back. If they upset you or sell you something that you don’t want or need, you are less likely to come back for other products and services. So for them, selling you the right product is a win win for you and them. The will also be there to service your mower as needed. Try getting a big box store to service a mower you bought there. The big box stores only care to sell you a machine. PERIOD.

Should you get a self-propelled mower? I would say this is mostly a decision you need to make based on how much you want to push the mower. There is the obvious difference in less fatigue with a self propelled mower, especially if you intend to use it for several hours per day, several days per week. If you were only mowing your own yard it may be more of a luxury but I believe that if you are doing it for a living, a self propelled mower could easily pay for any extra maintenance costs that you may incur because of the additional feature.

Another thing to consider, though it may not be the deciding factor, is what type of terrain you will be using it on. Only level terrain, only hilly terrain, or a mixture? All of these questions are important and a dealer will ask you them. Why? Because you will need a larger mower if you are working on mixed terrain and need the mower to propel itself.

One last thing, a mower blade is not a blade just like every other. There are many designs that perform different functions and function differently with different amounts of power. Will your standard consumer grade mower blade match the ability of a mulching blade designed for commercial use? No! If you don’t believe me, try them out and use a more powerful engine with the mulching blade. See how much of a difference it makes as far as what clippings are left.

To answer your question, yes there is a big difference in what you get when you spend $400 on a consumer grade mower compared to $1,200 for a commercial grade one. Visit a local commercial grade mower dealer and ask if you can demo one to see the difference in performance.”

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