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Choosing Between a Residential & Commercial Zero Turn Mower

I was recently in the market to buy a zero turn lawn mower to mow my yard. With so many options and decisions to make when purchasing a lawn mower, I want to share the most important factors so you can focus on what’s important in a mower for your yard.

So how do you choose the right zero turn mower? When purchasing a zero turn mower, you must evaluate your property size, landscape features and your return on investment when choosing a zero turn mower. These property features will determine the right size lawn mower deck for your yard.

I knew I didn’t want the cheapest lawn mower on the market, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune either. The price of zero turn mowers vary greatly from about $2,500 to $35,000.

I dug into the details to figure out what really is important features to have and hope I can help you answer some questions I had. See my zero turn picks below.

Choosing a commercial or residential zero turn

Why are Commercial Zero Turn Mowers More Expensive?

1. Increased Durability and Dependability

Commercial zero-turn mowers are constructed with a thicker gauge steel, fabricated decks, higher quality parts, better pumps, wheel motors and thicker frames.

2. Faster Mowing Speeds

Commercial zero turn mowers mow at speeds greater than residential mowers

3. More Comfortable Ride

Most commercial zero turn mowers have a high back seat along with a suspension platform or seat to absorb some of the shock from operating on uneven terrain. They may have a large cater wheel and wider rear tires as well.

4. Better Engine Quality

Engines in the upper commercial class of mowers are able to run 2,000 hours or more without any significant damage as long as regular maintenance is performed on the engine.

14 Items to Consider When Buying a Zero Turn Lawn Mower

1. Mower Deck Size for Your Property Size

Less than 3 acres36″ – 42″ Deck Width
3 to 5 acres42″ – 54″ Deck Width
5 acres and more42″ – 61″ Deck Width

2. Landscape Features & Slopes

Zero turn mowers work well in yards that have a nice lawn of grass. The lawn mower is not designed to cut fields, brush or rocky terrain. Zero turns must be operated safely by staying 5 feet away from any water feature, retaining walls, or other unleveled ground or drop offs.

You will need to have another method to cut these areas such as a push mower or handheld trimmer. Zero turn mowers are not good for use on slopes greater than 15 degrees due to an increased chance of a rollover.

3. Stamped Deck or Fabricated Deck

It’s important to consider what type of deck you want on your mower. If you are a homeowner who only uses your lawn mower 1-2 hours a week you will probably be fine with a stamped deck.

If you are a homeowner prone to hitting objects or using your lawn mower more often than this, I recommend purchasing a mower with a fabricated deck.

  • Stamped Deck – Mowers with stamped decks are typically less expensive. Stamped decks are literally stamped out of one sheet of steel. One advantage of the stamped deck is that it has good air flow for a good cut.

    A disadvantage is the thickness of steel used. Because the deck is made out of one sheet, the steel is a lighter gauge steel than the steel used in a fabricated deck. This can result in your deck shell being easily damaged when encountering a hard object.
  • Fabricated deck, also known as a welded deck, is made from a thicker gauge steel and welded together. This allows the lawn mower deck to be more rigid than a stamped deck.

    They are able to take a little more abuse. The depth of deck available with a fabricated deck also increases your quality of cut.

4. Quality of Cut

Your deck and blade tip speed with affect your quality of cut. A fabricated deck will always give you a better cut because the shell of the deck is deeper which give you a better lift of the grass.

The blade tip speed is a key feature that affects quality of cut. Many of the good manufacturer’s are running a blade tip speed of about 18,500 fpm (feet per minute).

5. Engine Size

Keep in mind when buying a mower, the engine horsepower is going to be a key option to consider. A bigger engine is always better if it is in your budget. A bigger engine doesn’t only affect deck speed and quality of cut, but it also is important for engine life and durability.

Depending on the deck size, keep in mind to have at minimum a 14 hp engine for smaller sized yards, but a larger engine over 18 hp is ideal for a residential zero turn. If you are mowing several yards per day you may want a bigger engine yet.

Consider the Larger Engine

Keep in mind, adding a bagger system or mowing thick wet grass will require you to add a bigger engine.

So, if you have the choice and the larger engine isn’t much difference in price, go with the larger engine for difficult mowing conditions or when adding a bagger. If you’re not going to encounter either of these situations, you won’t have to worry about it.

6. Serviceable Wheel Motor & Pumps

Now some of the lower end zero turn mowers will not have a serviceable drive train and wheel motors. The higher end mowers will have this option along with changeable filters which is good for the longevity of the lawn mower.

7. Mower Speed

The smaller entry level zero turn mowers will have a low ground speed and mowing speed. With the smaller engine with lighter horsepower found in these zero turns, the cut will be compromised with a higher ground speed.

Keep this in mind when you see a zero turn with a ground speed of 5 to 7 mph. The speed isn’t terrible, but a bigger horsepower engine will allow you to bump up that ground speed to 8 to 10 mph with a nice quality of cut.

8. Reputable Service Facility – Maintenance, Repair & Parts Availability

It’s pretty easy to order a mower online at Amazon or from a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes. Often times homeowners only look at price and mower specifications, but they don’t think about the items needed after the sale such as repair work and parts.

How frustrating will it be when the first time your mower fails you are unable to find a place to sell you parts or a service center to fix it in a timely manner.

  • Selecting a Lawn Mower Retail Store
    In the past, I have found it is far better to pay a little money to a retail store for a reputable brand product where I know I will have both dealer and manufacturer support.

    When selecting a retail store to your purchase your lawn mower make sure your store is both a repair center and a stocking parts store or there is a local facility that is able to support you and your mower after the purchase.

    Not being able to get parts right away and having to wait weeks during peak mowing season can be very disappointing. Professional lawn care stores will have belts, blades, filter, cutter housings, and other commonly used parts in stock to minimize downtime.
  • Look for a Helpful Staff
    During the purchasing process take time to talk to the staff to make sure they are willing and able to answer your questions.

    If they are not willing to help during the sales process, there’s a very good chance they won’t be willing to help after they take your money. This is a good way to figure out if they are going to be there for you during your time of need.
  • Find a Source for Service & Parts
    Again, if you do decide to make your purchase online or from a big box store, make sure you do your research ahead of time to identify where you can get parts and service. You don’t want to invest a bunch of money and then be stuck with a boat anchor later.

9. Safety Features

Zero turns can be safe if you utilize a rollover protection system with a seat belt and you mower comes with an operator presence control system. Zero turns should not be used close to embankments, bodies or water or on steep hills to prevent rollovers.

  • Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS)
    Your zero turn mower must come equipped with a rollover protection structure to prevent the mower from landing on your during a rollover. A rollover bar must be used with a seatbelt to provide safety.
  • Operator Presence Control System
    Make sure your zero turn is equipped with an operator presence control system that senses you are in the seat and won’t allow you to engage the mower blades without you in the seat.

    The system will automatically disengage the blades when you stand up. There are also other safety switches to prevent your mower from starting when you parking brake is not on.

10. Return on Investment

The engine lifespan on a mower can vary by manufacturer. Most commercial mowers with a reputable engine manufacturer such as Kohler, Kawasaki, and Briggs & Stratton are designed to run more than 2,000 hours. These higher quality engines consist of durable quality parts.

A true commercial lawn mower is designed to be run 8-12 hours per day every day. With routine maintenance of the engine and regular maintenance of the lawn mower and deck, a commercial mower can truly last a homeowner a lifetime.

11. Fuel Tank Size

Check fuel tank sizes on mowers. You won’t want to stop part way through your mowing job to fuel up again to complete the job.

12. Accessories & Options Available

There are many extra goodies you can add to your mower. If these are important options for you, make sure you are able to use them on the mower you choose.

  • Operator Control Discharge
    This is a great item when you are operating around mulch beds and walkways. You can close off the discharge opening on the deck so you don’t blow the debris into your mulch beds.

    It’s pretty difficult to remove grass in the mulch beds without blowing the mulch around.
  • Bagger System
    A bagger is a good option if you don’t want grass clippings laying in the yard. You’re not bringing grass into the house and tracking it all through your home.
  • Striping Kit
    Some lawn mowers will give you a pretty nice stripe without a stripe kit, but adding one will help you achieve a nicely striped lawn so you’re lawn is a talk of the neighborhood.
  • Mulching Kit
    The Kit includes baffles to place under your deck to close off the discharge area and create an area where, with using mulch blades, will toss the cut grass between the baffles in the deck so the blades will come by and chop the grass into small pieces and spread them back into the yard.
  • Cup Holders
    A cup holder may not seem like one of these important features you need. When you’re mowing on a hot day, it’s necessary to have. With a zero turn, you’re using both hands so you can’t hold a drink in one hand and operate both levers with the other.

    Short of getting one of those hats that hold a couple soda cans that includes a drinking straw, you’re going to want cup holders.
  • Lighting
    Having the ability to light the pathway when it starts to get a bit dark outside before you get the lawn finished is a nice feature. Look for lights that are bright enough to illuminate a path while mowing and aren’t just on the mower for show.
  • 12 Volt Power Port
    This is convenient to use with a cell phone charger. I love throwing on a set of headphones and streaming some music from my phone. With a power port, I won’t have to worry about my phone going dead and the music stopping.
  • Trash Bins
    Having a place to pick up trash you encounter while mowing may be something you want to have. It’s nice if you’re mowing pretty far away from your garage or home.

13. You Want Professional Results

The professional cutter gets paid to make customers’ yards look like a ball field. They can achieve this look because of the investment they made in the higher end zero turn lineup.

If you are looking for that same professional look and you don’t want to spend at least $9,000, there are some nicely built zero turn mowers out there with a great cut that start at around $4,500.

14. Warranty Period

The standard warranty periods for mower can vary by manufacturer. On average you can expect to find a warranty coverage periods between 2-4 years depending on the mower and its usage.

For example, buying a residential mower for commercial usage will limit the warranty period. Sometimes buying a commercial mower for homeowner usage will extend the normal warranty period.

Some manufacturers structure their warranty guidelines with hour limitations which is to the advantage of a homeowner.

  • Warranty coverage for the mower may be different from the warranty coverage for the engine. Most manufacturer’s don’t use their own engines. Because of this, the engine manufacturer’s often have their own warranty periods.
  • Warranty coverage does not usually cover wear items such as belts and blades. It is important to find out what the manufacturer’s warranty covers and how long you will receive the coverage. Some items to ask about lawn mower warranty coverage is:
    • How long is the warranty coverage?
    • Does it cover both parts and labor?
    • Do I have to bring it to an authorized dealer to have complete the repairs? This is important if you don’t have a dealer close to you and you find yourself having to drive hours away for coverage.
    • Will my warranty be voided if I state I’m using it for residentially but actually and using it commercially?

Reasons to Upgrade to a Commercial Mower

  • Reduction in Repair Costs
    Parts in commercial mowers are often made of a higher quality material making them more durable and less likely to wear quickly or break.
  • Professional Cutting Results.
    You want the ability to brag about your lawn mower and have the best cut lawn in the neighborhood.
  • High Quality Parts & Components
    You want to purchase a mower once so you want a mower built with higher quality parts, a better built mower deck, and a quality engine

The Zero Turn I Chose for My Yard

Exmark Lazer E-Series LZE740EKC604

Lazer E Series Image

So I ultimately decided to upgrade to a commercial grade zero turn mower to mower my 3 acres, but it is an entry level commercial mower. It was quite the investment at about $10,500, but I was able to take advantage of some 0% financing offers so it wasn’t a lot of cash out of my pocket all at once.

Quality of Cut
I considered less expensive brands, but I kept going back to the Exmark mower because they are known for their quality of cut.

I talked to a lot of landscapers around me before I made my purchase and they kept mentioning Exmark’s quality of cut. At the end of the day, that’s what sold me on this mower.

Upgraded Suspension Seat
I love the suspension seat. Part of my lawn is a little rough so having this suspension seat makes a big difference. There is a dial on the seat where you can change the amount of suspension based on the operator’s weight.

I definitely notice a difference especially when I jump on the mower and forget to change the weight setting from my spouse’s weight where there is 100 lb difference.

Warranty Period
The warranty period is awesome. They gave me a 5 year warranty or 1,250 hours which ever comes first. There’s no way I will reach that 1,250 hour limit in 5 years so I’m counting on a 5 year worry free period for major expenses.

Honestly, I’m hoping for a lot longer period without encountering a large repair bills because it appears to be a well built mower.

Zero Turn Lawn Mower for Every Budget

Residential Zero Turn Mower Under $4,000

The Husqvarna Z254 and Toro TimeCutter zero turn mowers are both good residential mowers for the price. You can find these models running $3,000 to $4,000 depending on deck size, engine type, and additional options such as the Toro’s suspension seat platform which provides a more comfortable ride.

Husqvarna vs Toro Zero Turn Mower

Husqvarna
Z254
*
Toro
TimeCutter MyRIDE 75745*

EngineKohler
7000 Series 26hp
Toro
Commercial V-Twin 24.5hp
Deck Cutting Width54″ Cutting Width54″ Cutting Width
Deck TypeStamped DeckFabricated Deck
Height of Cut1.5 Inches to 4 Inches1.5 Inches to 4.5 Inches
Blade Tip Speed, # of Blades18,500 fpm, 3 Blades
Fuel Capacity, Type3.5 Gallons, Gasoline3 Gallons ,Gasoline
TransmissionHydrostatic
Hydro-Gear ZT-2200
Non-Serviceable
Hydrostatic
Hydro-Gear ZT-2100
Seat15″ High Back, Seat Spring
Armrests Optional
18″ High Back w/ Arm Rests
Visit Husqvarna’s WebsiteVisit Toros Website

Heavy Duty Residential Zero Turn Mower Under $8,000

The Kubota Z421 and Exmark Radius S-Series are great zero turn mowers under $8,000. Some homeowners may like the wider drive tires and the better views from the operator’s seat on the Kubota zero turn lawn mower.

Both lawn mowers provide a great cut, however the Exmark Radius S-Series mower has the suspension seat and larger air cleaner on the engine that is a standard option on the lawn mower.

Exmark vs Kubota Zero Turn Mower

Exmark
Radius S-Series

RAS691GKA523
Kubota
400 Series
Z421KW-54
Exmark S-SeriesKubota Z421 Zero Turn Mower
EngineKawasaki
FX691V 22hp 726cc
Kawasaki
24hp 726cc
Deck Cutting Width, Depth52″ Cutting Width, 5″ Depth54″ Cutting Width, 5″ Depth
Deck TypeFabricatdFabricated
Deck LiftFoot ControlledFoot Controlled
Height of Cut1.5 Inches to 5.0 Inches1.5 Inches to 5.0 Inches
Blade Tip Speed, # of Blades18,500 fpm, 3 blades18,700 fpm, 3 blades
Fuel Capacity, Type7 Gallon, Gas6.8 Gallons, Gas
TransmissionHydrostatic
Dual Hydro-Gear ZT-3100
Replaceable Filters
Hydrostatic
Dual Hydro-Gear ZT-3600
Replaceable Filters
SpeedForward: 0-9 mph
Reverse: 0-5 mph
Forward: 0-10 mph
Reverse 0-5 mph
SeatAdjustable spring suspension seat with high back. Foam arm restsHigh back deluxe seat with molded plastic arms.
Other Options Available– 48″ and 60″ Decks
– Mulch Systems
– 12 Volt Power Adapter
– Jack Stand
– Ultra Vac Bagger System
– Operator Controlled Discharge
– 48″ and 60″
– Mulch System
– Seat Suspension Kit
– Grass Catcher
– Operator Controlled Discharge
– LED Work Lights
Visit Exmark’s WebsiteVisit Kubota’s Website

Exmark vs Husqvarna Comparison

Husqvarna also offers a good mower in this price point. For a comparison between the Exmark S-Series and Husqvarna Z460 read this article

Entry Level / Mid-Range Commercial Zero Turn Mower Under $11,000

Exmark vs Scag Zero Turn Mower

Scag
Tiger Cat

STCII-61V-26FT-EFI
Exmark
Lazer Z E-Series
LZE740EKC604
Tiger Cat Zero Turn MowerExmark E Series Zero Turn Lawn Mower
EngineKawasaki
730FT 26hp
Kohler
ECV740 25hp 747cc
Deck Cutting Width, Depth61″ Cutting Width60″ Cutting Width, 6″ Depth
Deck TypeFabricatedFabricated, Floating Series 4
Deck LiftFoot ControlledFoot Controlled
Height of Cut1.0 Inches to 5.0 Inches
1/4 Inch Increments
1.5 Inches to 5.0 Inches
Blade Tip Speed, # of Blades fpm, 3 blades18,700 fpm, 3 blades
Drive Tires24×12-12 Turf24×12-12 Turf
Caster Wheels13×6.5-6 Flat Free13 x 5.0-6 Semi Pneumatic
Fuel Capacity, Type 9.5 Gallons, Gas8 Gallons, Gas
Drive SystemHydro Gear Pumps 12cc/rev
Wheel Motors 14.5 cir
Parker Unitized Pumps 12cc/rev
Wheel Motors 14.5 cir
SpeedForward: 0-12 mph
Reverse: 0-5 mph
Forward: 0-10 mph
Reverse 0-6mph
Seat4-point iso-mounted mid-back. Operator-suspension platformAdjustable spring suspension seat with high back. Foam arm rests
Other Options Available– 48″, 52″ and 61″ Decks
– Mulch Kit
– Light Kit
– Stripe Kit
– Trailer Hitch
– 3 Bag Grass Catcher
– Operator Controlled Discharge
– Chrome Wheel Covers
– 48″, 52″, 60″ and 72″ Decks
– Mulch System
– Seat Suspension Kit
– Grass Catcher
– Operator Controlled Discharge
– Trailer Hitch
– LED Work Lights
– Bagger Collection System
– Tractus Tires
Visit SCAG’s WebsiteVisit Exmark’s Website

Heavy Duty Commercial / Professional Zero Turn Mower Under $15,000

Toro vs Exmark Zero Turn Mower

Toro
Z Master 6000
72960
Exmark
Lazer Z X-Series
LZ921GKA60600
Toro Zero Turn 2960Exmark Lazer X-Series Zero Turn
EngineKawasaki
FX 31hp 999cc
Kawasaki
FX921V 31hp 999cc
Air FilterHeavy Duty CanisterHeavy Duty Canister
Deck Cutting Width, Depth60″ Cutting Width, 5.5′ Depth60″ Cutting Width, 6″ Depth
Deck TypeFabricatedFabricated, Floating Series 6
Deck LiftFoot ControlledFoot Controlled
Height of Cut1.5 Inches to 5.5 Inches
0.25 Inch Increments
1.5 Inches to 5.5 Inches
0.25 Inch Increments
Blade Tip Speed, # of Blades18,500 fpm, 3 blades18,700 fpm, 3 blades
Drive Tires24 x 12.0-1224 x 12.0-12 Turf Master
Caster Tires13 x 6.5-6
Flat Free Semi Pneumatic
13 x 6.5-6
Semi Pneumatic
Fuel Capacity, Type12 Gallons, Gas12 Gallons, Gas
Drive SystemUnitized Pumps 16cc/rev
Wheel Motors 17.1 cir
Unitized Pumps 16cc/rev
Wheel Motors 17.1 cir
SpeedForward: 0-11.5 mphForward: 0-11 mph
Reverse 0-7 mph
SeatDeluxe Suspension with
3-D Isolation Mounts,
Foam Arm Rest
Deluxe Suspension with Elastomeric Vibration Control Material. Foam Arm Rest
Other Options Available– Bagger Collection System
– Mulch System
– Light Kit
– 12 Volt Power Adapter
– Z Stand
– Ultra Vac Bagger System
– Operator Controlled Discharge
– 60″, 72″ and 96″ Deck Options
– Mulch System
– Tractus Tires
– Bagger Collection System
– Operator Controlled Discharge
– LED Work Lights
– 12 Volt Power Port
Visit Toro’s WebsiteVisit Exmark’s Website