ZTR mower

I think I am going to get a ZTR mower. I just like the way they work. What would you buy and why?
Steve
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SWMBO and I just bought a Husqvarna 46" ZTR. Our house is on a 2-acre lot with many trees. Compared to the tractor-style riding mower we had been using, the ZTR cut the mowing time from 4-1/2 hours to about an hour and a half -- and I think it will get even shorter, once I get used to driving the ZTR. If you've never driven one before, there's a substantial learning curve.
When you actually get one and start mowing with it, practice in the middle of the yard, well away from any trees, ditches, or landscape plants that you want to keep, until you have mastered the controls.
Test-drive everything you're considering buying. When we asked to test-drive a mower at Lowe's, the salesman was surprised -- said he'd been selling mowers there for ten years, and we were the first customers to ever ask that of him -- but didn't argue with us. Pushed it out of the store, gassed it up, let us drive it around in the parking lot, just what we wanted.
The main reason we bought the Husqvarna instead of something else is that our yard is not at all smooth. It's pretty bumpy. And the Husqvarna has a much more robust frame than most of the residential mowers we looked at: the frame is a rectangular steel tube, whereas most others are U-channels or angle iron; some aren't even that sturdy.
Another thing to look at is the stops for the control arms (you push them outward to park the unit): Husqvarna, Dixon, Aries, and Gravely have actual steel stops. Every other brand uses the plastic fender skirts as stops, and they move noticeably when you park -- how durable is that likely to be? IMHO, not very.
A helpful (but not vital) safety feature is control levers that automatically return to the neutral position when you let go of them. I think every mower we looked at would return to neutral from *forward* motion, but only Ariens and Gravely would return to neutral from reverse also.
If it will be used by more than one person, and one is much taller than the other, you want a unit with a seat that easily adjusts fore and aft.
Other brands we considered, along with the reason(s) we didn't buy them: - Ariens: this was our second choice. Controls have a better feel than the Husqvarna, but the frame, although sturdy, is less robust than the Husqvarna's. Deck height adjustment is a foot pedal (everything else we looked at uses a hand lever assisted by a spring), and although SWMBO is easily strong enough to push it down, she's short, and it's just a stretch for her to reach it. Pricing is comparable to Husqvarna. - Dixon: identical to the Husqvarna except for the color -- and the price ($200+ difference) is a bit hard to swallow just to have it blue instead of hunter orange. - Troy-Bilt: similar quality to Ariens, but one significant drawback: if you're over 6' tall (my son) or have long legs (me), you have to be careful how you position your legs so that the control levers don't hit your knees. Priced a bit higher than Husqvarna. - Toro: frame noticeably less robust than the Husqvarna, and the controls are CRAP. Very touchy; the slightest movement of a lever produces a major motion of the mower. Thirty seconds into the test drive, SWMBO and I both said "Not this one". - Gravely: probably the best residential unit around. Very sturdy, nice easy controls. We would have bought this instead of the Husqvarna, hands down, *if* they had been close to the same price -- but it was waaaay out of our price range. - Cub Cadet: it's really sad to see what's being marketed under that brand name now. Light- duty unit with a heavy-duty price tag. Frame is lightweight angle iron. - Snapper: doesn't even have a frame, it's just a stamped pan. If you're over 6' tall, or have long legs, you won't even be able to drive this at all: the control levers will hit you in the middle of your thighs. Way overpriced, too. - Simplicity residential mowers: don't even bother looking at one of these. They're s**t, even less sturdy than the Snappers, and even more badly overpriced. - Simplicity commercial mowers: solid, hefty mower with a solid, hefty price tag. If you like the idea of spending seven grand on a mower, go for it.
Hope this helps...
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On 8/1/2012 4:00 PM, Steve B wrote:

the exmark product is practically indestructible. The place i used to work had 7 of them in full time use. They were 5 seasons old when I left, and none had had any major work. Only deck bearings and belts. The one I've owned since 2005 still has the original belts and deck bearings only once. No hydraulic failures on any i've been associated with.
--
Steve Barker
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