Need a lawn mower: garden tractor or ZTR for 5 acres?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by SWScorch, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. SWScorch

    SWScorch Diamond Member

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    I just bought a house out in the country with 5 acres of land. There are a few small trees and I will be planting more in the future. The property has a slight slope but no real hills of any kind. We will be planting a decent-sized garden, but even so will be mowing nearly all of the land.

    I was originally thinking of getting a garden tractor so I could attach various implements, like a snowblower or a tiller. That way, I could use one machine year-round, and not have to worry about having it sit unused all winter. Also, our driveway is 200 feet long, so I figured using the tractor to remove the snow would be much easier than using a walk-behind snowblower.

    However, after talking to a dealer, he strongly recommended getting a zero-turn tractor, as it will significantly cut down on the time it takes to mow a yard that size. My family supports the garden tractor idea, though, for the reasons I was originally leaning toward one (a ZTR is nothing but a lawn mower and can't do anything else - not very versatile).

    So I ask you, oh objective denizens on the interwebs, if you had 5 acres to mow and a 200' driveway to snowblow, and a large garden to till, what would you recommend? I definitely like the idea of mowing the yard in only a couple of hours with the ZTR, but they are more expensive, and are one-trick ponies. Thanks.
     
  2. OILFIELDTRASH

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    Why do you need a zero turn for basically flat land with minimal trees?
    Btw congrats on the country estate. There ain't no going back to city living now.
     
  3. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    Frankly, what is your budget? That makes a huge difference. With 5 acres you are in a perfect position for a compact utility tractor - Kubota BX series. They are around $14k-$16K (And 0% interest for 60 months) for fully decked out 4WD, diesel, 54" deck, and a front end loader. 5 acres is a decent chunk of ground to take care of. With a true tractor you have a full hydraulic front end for front end loaders, blades, snow blowers, ect.

    And on the back you can toss in ground engaging things like box blades, tillers, brush hogs, and even post hole diggers and log splitters.

    The front end loader is one of the best things you can own. It's amazing how handy those things are. You can scoop mulch, haul landscaping block, use it as a wheelbarrow with a 600 pound capacity, scoop out snow, level out ground, ect. Just amazingly handy.

    With that much space I'd just grab the biggest deck I could and get something with real utility. ZTR's are nice, but the only thing they do is mow. You can't pull or do anything else with them.
     
  4. SWScorch

    SWScorch Diamond Member

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    OFT, the only upside to the ZTR is the decreased cutting time. The dealer was telling me 5 acres could take 6+ hours on a regular garden tractor and <2 hours on a ZTR. I definitely don't want to be out cutting the grass all freaking day.

    vi_edit, I was hoping to stay around 5-6,000. I definitely cannot afford something that costs almost as much as my car. Although a compact utility tractor would be awesome!!
     
  5. OILFIELDTRASH

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    Yes I know the only benefit is decreased cutting times. Hence the flat land with a few trees comment. Zt would save you the most time navigating trees and corners etc. When you have a big square lot with a few trees you aren't saving much time on the turns as you don't have many. You definitely aren't saving 4 hours vs a garden tractor. Maybe 30 minutes. Even if the zt goes faster it really won't matter as a garden tractor will go as fast as you're wanting to go unless you have a completely bump/hole free yard. Even then the top speed will probably be the same.
     
  6. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    That number is highly dependent on the property. If you have a very irregular lot with a ton of obstacles to navigate around then maybe those numbers are realistic. If it's just a lot of large open space then any mower with a decent sized deck and similar mowing speeds are going to be much closer. With a non ZTR you'll have to make some inital passes to give you turning space and it'll take you a bit to figure out a pattern, but after a few times mowing you'll get much more efficient.

    If there's any one thing I can suggest it's to go with a diesel. The savings on fuel are insane over gasoline. My old ZTR mower had a 20HP Kohler gas engine in it. Mowing took about an hour to complete. I was burning about 2 gallons of gas per mow. My diesel tractor with a larger deck takes about 1.5 hours to mow (but I'm also doing another 1/2 acre side yard with it) and I'm burning less than a gallon per mow.

    Diesel engines can use less than half what gasoline ones do. Take that over 10 years of mowing and it is serious savings.
     
  7. highland145

    highland145 Lifer

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    Out of curiosity, what are you going to do with 5ac of mowed land?
     
  8. SWScorch

    SWScorch Diamond Member

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    Let the dog run around (when we get one), let the kids run around (when we get one), play bocce, throw a frisbee, fly a kite, set up a beer mile course, you know, the usual.
     
  9. highland145

    highland145 Lifer

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    ATOT invite?
     
  10. SWScorch

    SWScorch Diamond Member

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    If we really do it (which I would love to), I will definitely let peeps on here know :)
     
  11. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    Also, just telling you from somebody in your original budget....good luck.

    :)

    $5000-$6000 is no mans land for mowers. That won't even get you into a Deere 5 series. And used prices on these things are just redonkulous. It's almost criminal what people are asking for used equipment.

    The are very few "garden" tractors any more. Deere and Simplicity are about the only ones that do and those are starting at $10,000+. For $5000-$6000 you are looking at an overpriced Deere 300 series, or some overpriced MTD product. You can also get into a mid range Simplicity, but you are going to feel cheated with the options you'll have available with them.

    Used you are looking at some old Deere GT series with lord knows how many hours on it or depending on dealers a several year old Deere 5 series. But it's not going to have a rear PTO and any front end attachments are going to be electric assist and not full hydraulic. If you look in the ZTR market you'll probably find a a couple year old ExMark with a couple hundred hours on the clock. But again, zero utility outside of mowing.

    Then you start doing your shopping and somebody tells you about the Kubota BX series. And you start looking ;)

    Seriously, they are a 20 year tractor for most "estate" owners. Durable, built like a tank compared to an overbuilt lawn mower like the Deere 700 series. Diesel, 4WD, and have a whole range of affordable implements compared to Deere.

    Put $5000 down and finance the rest at 0%. It's $150 a month and you won't feel like you cheated yourself. They'll keep their value much better than a normal garden tractor or ZTR and the diesel savings won't make up the difference, but an extra $30 a month in fuel savings (which could be realistic in a heavy rain summer on that much ground) only makes it $120 a month for the nicer machine.

    I don't like upselling people on stuff they don't need, but once you shop around you'll see how devoid of options there in is that middle range price.
     
  12. DrPizza

    DrPizza Administrator Elite Member Goat Whisperer
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    You're mowing FIVE acres of land? That's roughly 4 entire football fields worth of land (for the city-dwelling ATOTers who haven't got a clue how big an acre is - 90 yards of the width of a regular football field = 1 acre) You want a pretty large mower for that sized task, else your life will be consumed by mowing.
     
  13. SWScorch

    SWScorch Diamond Member

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  14. DrPizza

    DrPizza Administrator Elite Member Goat Whisperer
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    5 acres = 217800 square feet. With a 6 foot wide cut, your garden tractor is going to have to travel 36,300 feet. That's 6.875 miles of riding the tractor to mow your lawn. Going around trees, turning, etc. - 1/7 of your waking life is going to be consumed by mowing.
     
  15. Demo24

    Demo24 Diamond Member

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    I'd probably now an acre or two around the house and driveway and let the rest grow wild, maybe cut it every couple of months. *** cutting that every weekend, maybe if I had a huge deck and it took 2-3 hours.
     
  16. Minerva

    Minerva Platinum Member

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  17. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    It just really comes down to how much function you want to get out of the device.

    With something like that you have a belt driven deck (instead of a PTO shaft) so it's going to bog down terribly in taller/wetter grass.

    You have no ability to do any ground engaging things. Want to till up that big garden? You need a seperate tiller. Want to use a box scraper? Can't do it. Want to pull a plug aerator? Have fun when you blow out the hydrotat on it. Even having a 3PT hitch on the back lets you toss a simple (and cheap!) rear blade for grading dirt, gravel or pushing snow.

    That's an air cooled 21HP gas engine. You are going to burn 5+ gallons per mowing. Just be warned about that.

    If you want to add a blade on the front you are stuck with the handle ones with basic up/down function, no angle adjustment. And you won't be able to do a front blower on the front if you want (need a mid PTO for that).

    5 acres is a very good chunk of ground. It's really what you want to do with things outside. If you have any big plans for gardening, landscaping, ect outside then you are probably going to find yourself unhappy with a basic riding mower. Do you really plan to mow all of that? Dr. Pizza was pretty blunt on the numbers. Even 2 acres is a pretty good amount of ground to keep looking halfway decent.

    I've only got two acres that I take care of, and I've used the crap out of my tractor. It's a bit overkill for mowing but the FEL has saved me *weeks* worth of backbreaking digging/hauling/shoveling/ect.

    If you have no plans to do any major work outside then the value of those more robust machines goes down. But they are still built very well and will give you 3x-4x more longevity than something like that tractor you linked.

    That 'garden' tractor is not built like the Deere GT's of 20 years ago. That's just a slighly more beefy lawn tractor.
     
  18. MagnusTheBrewer

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    Here you go. I've used the smaller walk behind models and their pretty tough. For 5 acres, the model I linked should be pretty good.
     
  19. edro

    edro Lifer

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    We have 3 acres. We went from 4.5 hours on a John Deere LX176 garden tractor (32" deck) to just under 2 hours with a Gravely ZTHD 48" deck.

    Zero turns are amazing. Do you really want to spend over DOUBLE the time mowing, EACH time you mow?

    They tow garden trailers fine too. I have a small garden trailer I have loaded down with fire wood and it pulls it fine.

    The zero turns are not just faster, they are a lot more powerful, so you can easily cut tall grass that a garden tractor would bog down in.
     
  20. edro

    edro Lifer

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    That's the same mower as the Gravely ZT HD series, just rebadged.

    The 48" is around $4800 and the 60" is around $5400.

    We got the 48" because a 60" wouldn't fit through some of our gates and trees.
     
  21. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    So adding 50% more mowing deck didn't have anything to do it? And there is nothing magical about a ZTR's "power". Stepping up to a similar sized engine in a rider would yield the same results in cutting ability.

    I don't deny that they can greatly reduce mowing time in certain situations. But in wide open areas it's more about deck size and operating speed.
     
  22. edro

    edro Lifer

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    Show me a garden tractor that can cut at 8mph.
    I rest my case.
     
  23. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    In most rural settings you aren't going to be mowing at max speed. It's going to be rough enough that high speeds are going to bounce you out of the seat. And to answer your question the Deere 7 series Garden Tractors have a forward speed of about 8.5MPH.
     
  24. JoeyP

    JoeyP Senior member

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    My suggestion is to buy a "dealer only" model of a good brand like Cub Cadet or Husq in the $2-$3k range. Use it solely for mowing the lawn. Then find/buy a couple cheap push mowers and build a wide tow-behind rig. A friend of mine did this, so the cutting path consisted of his lawn tractor width in the middle plus I think 20" on each side. You'll be running 3 motors. This thing was epic for vast stretches without the headache of a much more expensive mower.

    Then find a good 26" used snowblower from the late 70s or 80s, with a Tecumseh Sno-King engine. The steel is far more durable than what you get today, and parts are available anywhere. I have 300x17 feet to plow and this size snow blower from 1976 works great.

    With the money you'll save going this way, you can then upgrade the snow blower to something bigger, or possibly get an ATV with a blade. You're going to find all kinds of places you'll need to spend money (been there), so this route will give you lots of bang for your buck.
     
  25. Minerva

    Minerva Platinum Member

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    There's a reason why pros use ZTRs. They get paid by the job not by the hour. If you even try to go that fast on a tractor it will look like shit. Higher end ZTRs can cut at 14-16mph and still look decent! I've seen fields cut with pull behinds at beyond their speed rating (20+ mph behind a large ATV) and they do chop down the "grass" it looks more like hay than a lawn. :rolleyes:

    We replaced our Alis Chalmers 5020 farm tractor with a combination of ZTR and Diesel ATV and could not be happier with the results. Save about $6400 annually on landscaping bills. The estate is approx 375 acres which about 9 acres is mowed, 35 acres of orchard the rest wooded.