Help me choose a zero turn.

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664
Location
florida
buy a major brand for parts support reasons . avoid the minor players like big dawg etc. get something with a Kawasaki engine. I have had kolher -no thanks . dosnt compare to a kawi. the skag liberty series is a good fit for you
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
I looked at 2020 Hustler models, Scag, and Kubota today. Kubota just happened to be there so I reconfirmed why I eliminated them. No Kawasaki, serviceable hydro, and >50" combination under $6,500 MSRP. No thanks.

November really seems to be the time to buy. I can't tell you how many deal prices I've been offered without even asking. I can get a steal of a deal on the last remaining 2020 Hustler SDX 60" on their floor right now. I didn't know the Big Bite tires were actually introduced on the 2020 models, but this one had them. That tire really has my attention for some reason. I do have some occasional slopes that have semi-permanent loose dirt/sand. Standard tires normally slip a bit. Maybe that's why...not sure. Regardless, as tempting as it was, I don't want to rush into a decision and possibly regret it later. I'd rather wait (possibly pay more) and make a fully educated and thoroughly tested decision.

As for the Scags, I eliminated all of their models except the Liberty Z 52" deck. But even it is not a strong consideration at $4799 MSRP. I'll have to actually drive one to be sure, but it's not at the top of my list.

I also discovered how insanely expensive Hydro Gear's service kit is. To kick you while you're down, there doesn't seem to be a cross-reference for it that's any cheaper. At least the oil seems to be widely accepted as standard 15/20W-50 motor oil. I have a feeling Mobil 1 15W-50 is in my future...

I may go play with Deeres tomorrow, but I'm going in very skeptical that I'll find anything within my criteria.

My current revised list of top picks are:

1. 2021 Hustler Raptor XDX.
2. 2021 Hustler Raptor XD.
3. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 50"/60" (Only one in my top picks that I've had hands-on time with).
4. Gravely ZT HD 52"
5. Spartan RZ-PRO 54"
 
Messages
456
Location
VA
I also discovered how insanely expensive Hydro Gear's service kit is. To kick you while you're down, there doesn't seem to be a cross-reference for it that's any cheaper. At least the oil seems to be widely accepted as standard 15/20W-50 motor oil. I have a feeling Mobil 1 15W-50 is in my future...
Yeah, the hydro filters are expensive. I run M1 15w-50 in my ZT3400s and my wright stander's pump/motor combo. The good news for you is that following the break-in hyrdo service, you'll likely not live long enough to see it require changing again given you'll only be cutting an acre, it will take multiple years to put 100 hours on whatever machine you buy.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
Yeah, the hydro filters are expensive. I run M1 15w-50 in my ZT3400s and my wright stander's pump/motor combo. The good news for you is that following the break-in hyrdo service, you'll likely not live long enough to see it require changing again given you'll only be cutting an acre, it will take multiple years to put 100 hours on whatever machine you buy.
Well, considering I'm in my early 30's, and I have to change the oil twice a year already... I doubt that. My buddy and I have been sharing his mower (I've been renting his and doing all maintenance). This arrangement was convenient for me because I wasn't sure if I was staying at my current home or not (didn't want to buy a zero-turn if I was moving to a tiny yard in a year or two). It was convenient for him because he got a healthy amount of his investment back and had to do zero maintenance. Now that I know I'm not moving, I want my own so that I can spare his mower the hours, and my wallet the rent money. We trailer it back and forth as we need it (we live about 8 minutes from each other). The mower sees double duty, which is about 120 hours per year for his property and about 100 for mine. I'll be doing an annual OCI on the motor regardless of hours, unless there's <60 in a year which won't happen. And based on your comment, I'm assuming you change the hydro oil at 100 hours? That's the only part of my service plan I don't have established yet, considering I've never needed to do it before.
 
Messages
145
Location
Louisiana
Bad Boy . Kohler engine . No issues . Skag is a good machine but overpriced and overkill for one acre residential use . Parts are expensive too . Dealer location and reputation is a consideration when deciding .
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
Yeah, glad a scoped out Deeres a little more before wasting a trip. The cheapest option that checks the most basic boxes is the 700 series starting at ~$6,500. And Deere apparently hasn't received the memo regarding abandoning stamped decks.

Hard pass.
 

JTK

Messages
13,234
Location
Buffalo, NY
You probably know this, but some of JDs stamped decks will easily outlast and outperform other manufacturers fab'd decks. Their "7-iron" deck for instance. Not sure it that's still in production or what followed it. Haven't followed these things in some years. Like you've found, anything green is going to be expensive, as is the orange machines.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
Yeah Deere and Toro are both completely out. I'm also changing my mind. Kawasaki engines are now 100% set in stone. No Kawasaki, no buy.

My train of thought was thrown a massive curveball today. I went and looked at Spartan mowers... W-O-W. They are on the higher end of my 'budget' but these are easily the best mowers I've seen so far by a large margin. They are really doing amazing things. They do not play around when it comes to deck height and thickness either. Anyone that hasn't at least scoped one out needs to do so before their next purchase. Less than a week ago, I had never heard of them. Now they are a top 2 pick. The 12V port is a really nice touch. The deck height selector felt just as solid as the Bad Boy. My only reservation is the unavoidable keyless system. Instead of a key, you program a pin code. Nothing wrong with it, but I was told if it ever went bad it's "only" $250 to replace. That said, even though I'm hesitant, it's admittedly pretty cool, and packs a few bonus features (namely the unique soft start feature). Here's the only pic I could find of it:

maxresdefault.jpg


I was also able to go to a remote dealer that had some 2021 Hustlers. This was what I was waiting for...or so I thought. I went into the store with high expectations because I already knew what Hustlers are about. Wrong. Words cannot describe the disappointment I felt. Sure, they looked just as good as the pictures, and have made some improvements. But it's truly shocking how far the quality has fallen in the last 5-6 years. I first went to check out the Raptor X. No, it's not in my criteria, but it's the closest to what I've been using to get a decent comparison. I'll start with the good. The Big Bite tires are awesome (although I think Spartan's radials are better). It's nice to see an hour meter standard even on the cheap models. The (I think) rubber covers over the seat springs were a nice touch to keep the noise/rattles down. The flip-up floor pan was nice, and the gas tank opening being on a 45 degree angle was a welcome touch I didn't previously think about. It would definitely be easier to pour fuel into. That's about the only good I saw. It seemed incredibly light. Too light. Also, this may be my personal ignorance, but I've never seen such a tiny battery on a mower. I don't even know what they're called, and after 10 minutes of searching the G machine, this was the closest thing I could find that looked like it, had the same tiny dimensions, and the posts on the same side. If anyone knows what it is or if it's a pro or con versus the standard old $25 mower battery, please enlighten me. These batteries were even used on their XD. Moving on, the lap bar movement didn't have enough resistance. Way too easy to go from full forward to full backward. The 'park' to neutral movement was very cheap feeling also. But now my absolute biggest complaint...one that made me feel completely disgusted and was present on every model they had on the floor, even the more expensive ones. I hope a Hustler bean counter or engineer reads this:

Hustler - WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU MADE THOSE ARMRESTS?!?

I would expect that type of feel on a child's Power Wheels version of your mowers, not the real deal. In all seriousness, I truly felt like I was going to break them just by getting off of the mower. And sure, the easy answer would be to keep them in the upright position and never use them. Right? No. I'd still be afraid of them breaking off. They were absolutely terrible.

Moving on to the XD which is what I was assuming I'd buy, I was also unimpressed. Mainly the same complaints from above, but I discovered a weird quirk I didn't like. The XD has Hydro Gear ZT-2800s, which is the minimum I was after. But what was missing was the expansion tank (or two in most cases). No tank at all. They're essentially a sealed unit, but you are able to service them. To me, this says more hassle and shorter fluid life due to less fluid. I'm not eliminating the XD, but it definitely isn't at the top of my list anymore. Shame.

I don't know what to think at this point. Today was a rollercoaster. I need more time and experience to decide, but as of this second if I was forced to make an ordered list, here's what I think I'd go with:

1. Spartan RZ-HD
2. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2
3. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT3
4. 2020 Hustler SDX 60" (*Only if I buy one of the last remaining ones for under $5100)
5. Gravely ZT-HD
6. 2021 Hustler XDX
7. 2021 Hustler XD

I'm literally making excel spreadsheets with color-coded pro and con comparisons... I think I need a break for the weekend to clear my brain and gather my thoughts.
 
Messages
49
Yeah Deere and Toro are both completely out. I'm also changing my mind. Kawasaki engines are now 100% set in stone. No Kawasaki, no buy.

My train of thought was thrown a massive curveball today. I went and looked at Spartan mowers... W-O-W. They are on the higher end of my 'budget' but these are easily the best mowers I've seen so far by a large margin. They are really doing amazing things. They do not play around when it comes to deck height and thickness either. Anyone that hasn't at least scoped one out needs to do so before their next purchase. Less than a week ago, I had never heard of them. Now they are a top 2 pick. The 12V port is a really nice touch. The deck height selector felt just as solid as the Bad Boy. My only reservation is the unavoidable keyless system. Instead of a key, you program a pin code. Nothing wrong with it, but I was told if it ever went bad it's "only" $250 to replace. That said, even though I'm hesitant, it's admittedly pretty cool, and packs a few bonus features (namely the unique soft start feature). Here's the only pic I could find of it:

View attachment 34652

I was also able to go to a remote dealer that had some 2021 Hustlers. This was what I was waiting for...or so I thought. I went into the store with high expectations because I already knew what Hustlers are about. Wrong. Words cannot describe the disappointment I felt. Sure, they looked just as good as the pictures, and have made some improvements. But it's truly shocking how far the quality has fallen in the last 5-6 years. I first went to check out the Raptor X. No, it's not in my criteria, but it's the closest to what I've been using to get a decent comparison. I'll start with the good. The Big Bite tires are awesome (although I think Spartan's radials are better). It's nice to see an hour meter standard even on the cheap models. The (I think) rubber covers over the seat springs were a nice touch to keep the noise/rattles down. The flip-up floor pan was nice, and the gas tank opening being on a 45 degree angle was a welcome touch I didn't previously think about. It would definitely be easier to pour fuel into. That's about the only good I saw. It seemed incredibly light. Too light. Also, this may be my personal ignorance, but I've never seen such a tiny battery on a mower. I don't even know what they're called, and after 10 minutes of searching the G machine, this was the closest thing I could find that looked like it, had the same tiny dimensions, and the posts on the same side. If anyone knows what it is or if it's a pro or con versus the standard old $25 mower battery, please enlighten me. These batteries were even used on their XD. Moving on, the lap bar movement didn't have enough resistance. Way too easy to go from full forward to full backward. The 'park' to neutral movement was very cheap feeling also. But now my absolute biggest complaint...one that made me feel completely disgusted and was present on every model they had on the floor, even the more expensive ones. I hope a Hustler bean counter or engineer reads this:

Hustler - WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU MADE THOSE ARMRESTS?!?

I would expect that type of feel on a child's Power Wheels version of your mowers, not the real deal. In all seriousness, I truly felt like I was going to break them just by getting off of the mower. And sure, the easy answer would be to keep them in the upright position and never use them. Right? No. I'd still be afraid of them breaking off. They were absolutely terrible.

Moving on to the XD which is what I was assuming I'd buy, I was also unimpressed. Mainly the same complaints from above, but I discovered a weird quirk I didn't like. The XD has Hydro Gear ZT-2800s, which is the minimum I was after. But what was missing was the expansion tank (or two in most cases). No tank at all. They're essentially a sealed unit, but you are able to service them. To me, this says more hassle and shorter fluid life due to less fluid. I'm not eliminating the XD, but it definitely isn't at the top of my list anymore. Shame.

I don't know what to think at this point. Today was a rollercoaster. I need more time and experience to decide, but as of this second if I was forced to make an ordered list, here's what I think I'd go with:

1. Spartan RZ-HD
2. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2
3. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT3
4. 2020 Hustler SDX 60" (*Only if I buy one of the last remaining ones for under $5100)
5. Gravely ZT-HD
6. 2021 Hustler XDX
7. 2021 Hustler XD

I'm literally making excel spreadsheets with color-coded pro and con comparisons... I think I need a break for the weekend to clear my brain and gather my thoughts.

You make such a big deal about only a Kawasaki engine. I submit the transmission is a bigger concern than the engine.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
You make such a big deal about only a Kawasaki engine. I submit the transmission is a bigger concern than the engine.
I completely agree, but when I have a stellar experience with one and talk to others about it, they tell me their other brand of engine misfires, smokes, uses oil, is difficult to start, had to be rebuilt, etc. It doesn't help that literally every dealer I've been to (even Kohler-heavy brands) recommend the Kawasaki over all other options. It just solidified my choice and verified my experience.
 
Messages
456
Location
VA
Not sure how you manage to rack up 100 hours a year with 1 acre to cut. I cut 9 acres with my Ferris sometimes, other times it is 5 acres and my in-laws cut the other 4 with their mower but my mower is 6 years old now and it has 141 hours on it. The commercial or "pro-sumer" grade mowers cut grass so fast that you just don't rack up that many hours on them.
 
Messages
169
Location
MO
My 260Z Gravely has a Kohler Command Pro 27. I too agree that the transmission is of more concern than the engine, however, my next machine will NOT be Kohler powered. I am not happy with the performance, reliability, or parts quality. While I think there are quality Kohler and Vanguard offerings, I encourage you to stick to your guns on the Kawasaki requirement.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
Not sure how you manage to rack up 100 hours a year with 1 acre to cut.
Again, I'm using a cheap residential zero turn mower. Combine that with the ZT-2200s (EZTs) that only go 6mph, thick wet spring grass, navigating around obstacles... it all adds up. Combine this with the fact that since I'm mowing a much smaller property than your 9 acres, I'm spending less time doing full speed cutting and more time turning around at fence lines. Also, I'm sure my deck height is smaller than yours. Ultimately, we have a long mowing season here. I usually start mowing around March 1st, and usually my last cut is just after Halloween. I try to mow once a week to keep the hours per mow down. If I don't mow once a week in the spring, I just kicked myself by doubling my mow time because it's tall, thick, and wet. Fall (September-October) I can get away with every 10 days.

To answer your question:
I've essentially been borrowing/renting a zero-turn from my buddy who has a Hustler 52" deck and ZT-2200s (6mph), and that unit typically takes me 3 hours to mow in the spring and 1.5 hours in the fall (I have lots of fencing/cross-fencing and a few obstacles to navigate around).
Combine those numbers with a March-October mow season. Using my above mentioned times per mow (2.5 hour average) and above mentioned cut schedule (35 cuts per year), that equals 87.5 hours. Plus throw in a few double-time cuts in the spring and I'm easily at 100 hours. Double-time cuts happen when I take a vacation in the spring and it doesn't get mowed for 10 days. Then rain will usually make it worse, leading to either cutting at a snail's pace to avoid bogging the engine or mowing it twice (first time at a higher height, second at my ideal height). Another double-time scenario is when I need the mower and it decides it needs an unexpected service/part and is down for a few days. Or the trailer we use to bring it back and forth has a flat...the scenarios are endless.

Everything mentioned is the reason why I want a more substantial mower that will not only reduce my cut time, but eliminate the back and forth variables.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
306
Location
Oklahoma
You make such a big deal about only a Kawasaki engine. I submit the transmission is a bigger concern than the engine.
My 260Z Gravely has a Kohler Command Pro 27. I too agree that the transmission is of more concern than the engine, however, my next machine will NOT be Kohler powered. I am not happy with the performance, reliability, or parts quality. While I think there are quality Kohler and Vanguard offerings, I encourage you to stick to your guns on the Kawasaki requirement.
See? I rest my case.
 
Messages
456
Location
VA
Again, I'm using a cheap residential zero turn mower. Combine that with the ZT-2200s (EZTs) that only go 6mph, thick wet spring grass, navigating around obstacles... it all adds up. Combine this with the fact that since I'm mowing a much smaller property than your 9 acres, I'm spending less time doing full speed cutting and more time turning around at fence lines. Also, I'm sure my deck height is smaller than yours. Ultimately, we have a long mowing season here. I usually start mowing around March 1st, and usually my last cut is just after Halloween. I try to mow once a week to keep the hours per mow down. If I don't mow once a week in the spring, I just kicked myself by doubling my mow time because it's tall, thick, and wet. Fall (September-October) I can get away with every 10 days.

To answer your question:

Combine those numbers with a March-October mow season. Using my above mentioned times per mow (2.5 hour average) and above mentioned cut schedule (35 cuts per year), that equals 87.5 hours. Plus throw in a few double-time cuts in the spring and I'm easily at 100 hours. Double-time cuts happen when I take a vacation in the spring and it doesn't get mowed for 10 days. Then rain will usually make it worse, leading to either cutting at a snail's pace to avoid bogging the engine or mowing it twice (first time at a higher height, second at my ideal height). Another double-time scenario is when I need the mower and it decides it needs an unexpected service/part and is down for a few days. Or the trailer we use to bring it back and forth has a flat...the scenarios are endless.

Everything mentioned is the reason why I want a more substantial mower that will not only reduce my cut time, but eliminate the back and forth variables.

If you do end up with the Kawasaki, pay special attention to the cylinder cooling fins staying free of grass clipping clots. They are known to drop exhaust valve seats when the cooling fins become clogged with clippings.
 
Messages
6,344
Location
Connecticut
I completely agree, but when I have a stellar experience with one and talk to others about it, they tell me their other brand of engine misfires, smokes, uses oil, is difficult to start, had to be rebuilt, etc. It doesn't help that literally every dealer I've been to (even Kohler-heavy brands) recommend the Kawasaki over all other options. It just solidified my choice and verified my experience.
One of my customers is a Kawasaki fanboy. He tells everyone he will only buy Kawasakis, even wears a Kawasaki hat.

I've replaced 3 of his Kawasakis, all had oil consumption issues and he ran them low on oil. Yes, definitely his fault, but whether it would've happened with another brand that didn't have that issue remains a question. All I'm saying is just be careful listening to "professional" lawn guys whose favorite thing is telling people how they bought the best most expensive equipment.


Also, I would avoid any kind of keyless ignition system. I've even told people to avoid the new John Deere garden tractors that have an on-board computer controlling everything. Way over complicated, and not fun when you are stuck there trying to start it, and nothing happens because mice chewed some wires to that $250 computer.
 
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