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Discussion Starter #1
I have been called by a couple of neighbors who are long time snow plow customers and they have both asked me to assume the total care of their lawns as well. That brings my total lawns in the neighborhood up to 8 lawns, which will take me a day a week to complete. Here are the property details which are important in the selection of the walk behind mower I am seeking;
  • The one new lawn, while tiny in size with only 3,600sq feet of grass, is also entirely on a 10+ degree grade.
  • The second lawn is about 1/2 an acre of actual grass area to cut.
  • The turn around areas to reverse direction are on the smaller lawn is at the crown on the hill, which isn't ideal.
  • This makes mowing this tiny yard with my present ExMark commercial zero turn, out of the question.
  • There are curved landscape beds and pavement areas to mow around
  • A gate to the side yard provides a net clearance of 42" wide
  • It would be helpful to have a commercial walk behind mower for trimming some areas to cut down on current string trimmer time on my other lawns.
As far as the specifics of the mower, here are my preferences
  • Ideally, I would like a Hydro drive system verses a gear drive for the ability to easily vary mowing speed
  • A bagger is needed to keep clippings out of landscape beds, concrete areas, etc.
  • The ability to mulch is desired, but not critical
  • I want a commercial quality machine with a very high quality cut
  • Nothing narrower than 21" in width and ideally, wider, up to 36"
  • Kawasaki or Honda engine preferred
  • Excellent blade tip speed and even more than one blade cutting.
  • Prefer a one source or simple deck cutting height adjustment
  • Commercial quality and grade only, as I am not interested in a light duty machine.
Some of the mowers I am considering are the following; I have linked each mower listed to more details about the machine.
Several of the "premium brands" of the old days are now seriously disappointing machines. For example, I was shocked at how far the Lawn Boy brand has fallen. Gone are the days of Titanium Decks and incredibly reliable light weight push mowers which provided an excellent cut. Frankly, now they are something I wouldn't own.

Much was the case at many other brands I considered. For example, a little more than a decade ago, Craftsman had nearly a 55% market share in the residential lawn care equipment market. Now, they are a low price point big box store mower for the most part, which is sad to see. They have nothing of interest for my needs.

Anyone have any experience with a commercial grade walk behind mower which they either really like or really dislike?

I am not concerned about spending the money for something good, as I want a piece of equipment which I can rely on and will last me for much of remaining mowing years. Also, a good quality commercial machine is something often in demand by the commercial mowers, as most of those guys beat the living snot out of their equipment and it shows. So when I am done with it, the resale is very likely to attract commercial lawn cutting businesses.

Actually, if I had more lawns to use it on, I would purchase this ExMark 36" Viking machine as it is an outstanding commercial mowing machine and does a phenomenal job cutting, etc. I just don't want to spend $5,700 on a walk behind mower for the volume of work I need it for. Plus, I don't want to turn this into a full time job, its just fine as a part time hobby. Its not uncommon so see these machines with 5,000 plus hours on them. Yes, by then they are usually very tired, but they have more than earned their keep.

So, personal experiences would be appreciated. Thanks for your replies.
 

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I would've highly recommended a full size commercial walk-behind, not a push mower with a commercial name brand tag on it. If the yard is so small that a 36" commercial walk-behind isn't feasible, well then any decent push mower would be acceptable.

I've owned many commercial walk-behinds, I love 'em. I started years ago with 2 36" Bobcats. I've generally have had Bobcats and a few other brands. Simple and rugged, but highly maneuverable and considerably safer than any other kind of mower when it comes to slopes. They slide and don't take the operator with them.

You can also get a Velke or Sulky, a stand on trailer of sorts for the operator to stand on.
 

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I have kinda thinking of getting a large walk behind for mowing my lawn. The only reason I’d get one is to get a bit of exercise while mowing. I occasionally mow large portions of my lawn with a 22” walk behind , just for the exercise. I was thinking a 30 - 36” cut would be ideal for me. I was going to get an Ariens, but it looks like they no longer make them. I really don’t want to spend more than about a $ 1,000 on a mower that I really don’t need and may not us often.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I have kinda thinking of getting a large walk behind for mowing my lawn. The only reason I’d get one is to get a bit of exercise while mowing. I occasionally mow large portions of my lawn with a 22” walk behind , just for the exercise. I was thinking a 30 - 36” cut would be ideal for me. I was going to get an Ariens, but it looks like they no longer make them. I really don’t want to spend more than about a $ 1,000 on a mower that I really don’t need and may not us often.
One of the HUGE differences in the price point market you will notice is the weight of the machine. Most of the commercial mowers, even the smaller walk behind machines, are very heavy for push mowers. The 21" ExMark mower is 112 pounds, and the 30" Exmark is 185 pounds, where as most 21" walk behind mowers are far lighter.

The real commercial machines have commercial grade engines, extra oil and fuel capacity and the key to a good cut begins with a deep deck to create proper lift, to start a good cut process. When you see the difference in the cut quality between the Fabricated decks on real commercial zero turn mowers and those with stamped decks, its night and day.

The commercial walk behind mowers are all over the range, but very few are under $1,000, in fact, not one I have found I would want is under that price point, and with what goes into making a commercial mower, I can see why they cost more.

The biggest drawback for my needs is the gear drive transmissions. They are one speed per gear and they also are far less smooth to mow around objects where you need to vary speeds. As far as used commercial walk behinds, I have found there are two common offerings;
  • Those machines the owner hates for some reason and wants to get rid of it, and often these are the machines with many fewer hours on them. Ad my friend the dealer insists that often, they hate them because they aren't reliable. He was stuck with a big name brand commercial walk behind machine he took in trade with less than 100 hours on it. Since it didn't sell, he took it home and then found it constantly threw belts and just seemed to be "made wrong", because no matter what they tried, they couldn't get it to work correctly. He still has it......out back somewhere.
  • Those machines which they have worked to death and want to get a new machine. Most mowing crews are very hard on equipment, so you have to be very careful looking at used commercial equipment. Also, only the true professionals really running a business tend to maintain them correctly and the rest believe maintaining their equipment is to perform the very minimum to fix it when it won't run............
 

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I went from a JX85 Deere 21" commercial mower to a GS30 Deere 36" wb, gear drive. I too thought the gear drive would be a limitation, but it really wasnt. When nearing areas I needed to slow down, I could, fairly easily, drop a gear. Then when clear of the area, go up a gear, or two.
I only ever had one yard where I needed only the 21" mower. It had two fenced areas where it was the only mower that would fit.
On the 36", I added the factory mulch kit, and never took it off. It did an EXCELLENT job. I sold that mower years ago when we moved and I quit mowing anyone elses lawn, but I wish Id have kept it. As good as my Exmark cuts, that one cut just as good, and no matter the grass height, never left any clumps, and I never had to worry about beds, walks, etc. I much prefer mulching to bagging. But if you are doing Fall cleanup, that might make a difference, as you can easily get behind on leaves and mulching wont work so well.
Also, one other thing to consider on the large walk behind vs the 21-30" models is weight. You can easily maneuver the small ones around even when they arent running. The big ones? Sure it can be done, but its not fun. And just like big zero turns, they can leave divots where you turn.
I will say too that while not everyone would want to, I bought that GS30 for $250. It needed an engine, and a ton of other parts. By the time I was done, I had about $750 in it. Still a smoking deal, considering it looked new when I was done, but I had time to wait to find deals on parts I needed to, and again, thats not something you are likely able to do since you will need it soon. I did sell it fairly cheap, I think around $1200, which was still a great deal for that mower.

I think your choices are good ones, but I would probably push anything 21" sized down the list. Cost is an issue too, so I suppose if you are factoring all that into your placement on the list, it might make sense in that case. Then again, the time saved, even by going with the Toro 30" Personal Pace, would be significant, but until you know just how much time is saved, its hard to figure that in. Ive not used one of the 30" Toro/Exmark models, but my Dad mows his one acre yard with one, and has for the last several years, and loves it.
If I were buying it just for one lawn, or one lawn and some trimming on others, Id be hard pressed to go above the 30" just for the cost alone. Yes, they are heavy duty, but that Toro is a great mower, and will last a very long time.
I, personally, would not consider the Cub Cadet 33". I dont know about the smaller one, but I had a VERY similar 33" mower years ago, and while it was ok, it was a bear to maneuver. It didnt turn like any other walk behind. The brakes werent the same. Maybe they changed that. For the price, I cant see any advantage over the Toro 30" simply because its harder to use in practice, so that extra 3" of cut wont gain you much extra very often in smaller areas.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I went from a JX85 Deere 21" commercial mower to a GS30 Deere 36" wb, gear drive. I too thought the gear drive would be a limitation, but it really wasnt. When nearing areas I needed to slow down, I could, fairly easily, drop a gear. Then when clear of the area, go up a gear, or two.
I only ever had one yard where I needed only the 21" mower. It had two fenced areas where it was the only mower that would fit.
On the 36", I added the factory mulch kit, and never took it off. It did an EXCELLENT job. I sold that mower years ago when we moved and I quit mowing anyone elses lawn, but I wish Id have kept it. As good as my Exmark cuts, that one cut just as good, and no matter the grass height, never left any clumps, and I never had to worry about beds, walks, etc. I much prefer mulching to bagging. But if you are doing Fall cleanup, that might make a difference, as you can easily get behind on leaves and mulching wont work so well.
Also, one other thing to consider on the large walk behind vs the 21-30" models is weight. You can easily maneuver the small ones around even when they arent running. The big ones? Sure it can be done, but its not fun. And just like big zero turns, they can leave divots where you turn.
I will say too that while not everyone would want to, I bought that GS30 for $250. It needed an engine, and a ton of other parts. By the time I was done, I had about $750 in it. Still a smoking deal, considering it looked new when I was done, but I had time to wait to find deals on parts I needed to, and again, thats not something you are likely able to do since you will need it soon. I did sell it fairly cheap, I think around $1200, which was still a great deal for that mower.

I think your choices are good ones, but I would probably push anything 21" sized down the list. Cost is an issue too, so I suppose if you are factoring all that into your placement on the list, it might make sense in that case. Then again, the time saved, even by going with the Toro 30" Personal Pace, would be significant, but until you know just how much time is saved, its hard to figure that in. Ive not used one of the 30" Toro/Exmark models, but my Dad mows his one acre yard with one, and has for the last several years, and loves it.
If I were buying it just for one lawn, or one lawn and some trimming on others, Id be hard pressed to go above the 30" just for the cost alone. Yes, they are heavy duty, but that Toro is a great mower, and will last a very long time.
I, personally, would not consider the Cub Cadet 33". I dont know about the smaller one, but I had a VERY similar 33" mower years ago, and while it was ok, it was a bear to maneuver. It didnt turn like any other walk behind. The brakes werent the same. Maybe they changed that. For the price, I cant see any advantage over the Toro 30" simply because its harder to use in practice, so that extra 3" of cut wont gain you much extra very often in smaller areas.
Jim, Thanks for your reply and input.

I really can't get excited about the Cub Cadet. The only reason I am looking at it is that is one of many lines my buddy's small engine shop handles. His primary is Exmark, but he is selling a ton of Cub Cadet to the residential market. Personally, I have never been a fan of the Cub products.

The other Honda stuff I own has been simply amazing. The power washer I have is at least 10 years old and it always starts with the 1st pull. Same with the Honda Generator, never gives problems and never lets you down.

For some reason, John Deere just doesn't sell in the commercial mower market here. You never seen any mowing crews using the Green Equipment, unless they are municipal or school district. My friend who sold me my tractor is now at another dealership about an hour away and he says he does much better selling the John Deere commercial equipment, but ExMark still outsells it 4 to1 in that market. In the market here, hands down its ExMark and Toro in the commercial market. Then Kubota and there are a bunch of barely hanging on lawn service companies operating with Big Box equipment, likely on their Lowe's card.

Deere has got a new 36" walk behind in 2019, and apparently had a 32" walk behind in the same line up in 2018. It appears the 32" walk behind is no longer made. The reviews by users on the equipment are all about the same, frankly, most of the posted reviews are largely worthless. How one person can use a product and absolutely loves it and it meets their needs and the next person isn't at all happy and claims nothing but trouble, you really have to wonder. Our local John Deere dealer doesn't even stock any of the commercial equipment they sell so little. I will have to drive an hour to the other dealer to see Deere equipment but I am going to check first to make sure they have it.

Sometimes you will see common complaints, for example the baggers on some of the Commercial Mowers several people complained that they blew grass out around the mounting points because they were made of plastic and wore quickly which makes sense. But then you will see a review where they complain and give a poor rating because the dealer isn't close enough. That is largely why I was asking here on GTT, as most people on here seem to have more common sense and intelligence than the average human.......

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
 

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Hi Sulley,

Ever think about an Exmark type, with hydro drive and put a sulky on it? Would make mowing bigge areas easier since you aren't walking. Very maneuverable and have excellent cut.

I don't know much about these but know they also have cut off plates to stop discharge from blowing into unwanted areas when needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hi Sulley,

Ever think about an Exmark type, with hydro drive and put a sulky on it? Would make mowing bigge areas easier since you aren't walking. Very maneuverable and have excellent cut.

I don't know much about these but know they also have cut off plates to stop discharge from blowing into unwanted areas when needed.
Thanks for the reply, ExMark is my primary mower and its an outstanding machine. I am amazed how well the ExMark cuts and the job it does, but like anything, the key is keeping the underside of the deck clean and the blades highest quality, lift blades kept sharp.

The only downside to the ExMark is they are not cheap. Their hydro drive walk behind mower starts at about $6,500 and easily reaches $7,500 with the basic must haves. But like anything, having the best tool sure makes the job a whole lot easier......I have put nearly 600 hours on my LaserZ in two years.

Thanks for your suggestions on the mower. In the end, I added a Commercial Honda Push mower as the one yard which demands it, has two walk through gates which while the gates measure 48" wide, they only have about 32" of swing clearance due to mature landscaping which restricts their movement.

The Honda is an excellent machine and does a really nice job of cutting. Plus, being a Honda, it ALWAYS starts on the 1st pull. It has a very easy to use "Mulching / Bagging / Discharge" option with the turn of a lever on top of the mower deck. Probably one of the best designed systems for switching between the different styles of mowing, I have ever used.

The Honda has a Hydro Drive which allows me to pick the speed based upon how much input I put into the drive handles. Blade clutch, hydro drive, Honda power, so far its been an excellent machine for the limited use its getting. I have been using it in a few other lawns for trimming, etc. to cut down on the string trimming and it works very well for that.

Thanks again for your reply. No question the ExMark machine is a high quality machine and I have been extremely happy with my ExMark. I recently added the pedal operated door on the discharge flap and while it was pricey, at around $500 plus, it sure cuts down on the clean up time and allows you to produce a really nice quality result. The difference is always in the details....... (y)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
You left out Gravely and Scag.
Either no or very weak local dealers, which is why I didn't consider them........
 

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That happens. I grew up in Minnesota in the 60s and Gravely was the ultimate machine. Scag is built just up the road from me in Wisconsin and a pretty hot ticket around here. Commercial walk behinds are in a very competitive market these days. I also see Gravely around here though.
 
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