Low Cost Zero Turning Radius Mowers For Home Lawns

Regina P. Bracy, Parish, Richard L.  |  12/18/2004 2:01:42 AM

Figure 1. Example of a low-cost zero turning radius mower designed for home lawns.

Figure 2. Another low-cost zero turning radius mower for home lawns.

Figure 3. Yet another low-cost zero turning radius mower for home lawns.

Zero turning radius mowers have separate hydraulic pumps driving the left and right tires, and each side is controlled separately.
 
One tire can be turning forward while the other is turning in reverse so the mower can pivot around its own center. This feature allows amazing versatility in trimming while mowing. Zero turning radius mowers have taken over the commercial riding mower market. In the past, few low-cost models were available to homeowners, but this has changed. Low-cost homeowner models are now available from several companies (Figures 1-3).

Pricing
Commercial zero turning radius mowers are priced from around $5,000 on up to more than $12,000, depending on size and features. There are now some homeowner zero turning radius models available for $2,000 – $3,000. This is still a significant cost, but it is comparable to the price of many higher-quality lawn tractors. There are also smaller semi-commercial models that bridge the gap between strictly homeowner mowers and full-fledged commercial mowers.

Features
The small homeowner zero turning radius mowers offer the same type of dual hydrostatic system used on commercial machines, but they typically lack some other features of higher-priced machines. The small homeowner machines typically have smaller (lower horsepower) engines and smaller mowing decks.

Quality
You get what you pay for. The small, low-cost homeowner machines are built with lighter, lower-quality components. The engines are smaller and have a shorter lifespan. The dual hydraulic systems also are lower quality and have a shorter design life. The frames are lighter and not as strong. The control systems may not be as sophisticated and may be more prone to going out of adjustment and having “slop” in the linkages.

Lifespan
A good commercial zero turning radius mower should run 2,000 hours with minimal repair cost. A probable design life for the low-cost homeowner zero turning radius mowers is about 500 hours. This may be good enough for you. If you spend an hour a week mowing (remember, the zero turning radius mower will reduce your mowing time compared to whatever you have used in the past), you will run the mower about 25-30 hours per year. That equals 17-20 years of life with a mower designed for a 500-hour lifespan. Most people won’t want to keep a mower any longer than that anyway.

The question you need to answer is: Is a low-cost zero turning radius mower good enough for me? For people with smooth lawns less than an acre or two in size, the answer may well be yes. For larger lawns or rougher areas, the strength and durability of a small commercial machine might be justified. The choice is yours, but today you do have a choice. For contact information on specific brands, see the related article on “Sources for zero turning radius Mowers.”

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