Lawn mowers make spending time outside in the summer and the spring worth it. Feeling the wind rush through your hair while riding a ZTR and with the smell of freshly cut grass can make you feel more alive than ever. That feeling can’t happen though if you haven’t got a zero turn lawn mower. I’m currently not in the market for a new ztr, but I’m interested to see what kind of deals you can get on places like the facebook marketplace. I always look at many different factors to gauge the general condition of a mower. One of the most important factors though is how many hours the zero turn has on it.
Generally, high hours on a zero turn mower is anything above 1500 hours. For gas-powered mowers, the high hours number will be a little lower than diesel engine ZTR’s which typically become high hours at the 3000-4000 hour range. For diesel mowers, the engine typically outlasts the other parts.
Conversations around the amount of hours a mower has usually come about when trying to purchase a used ztr or trying to figure out when to sell your own. Below i’ll discuss how the number of hours on a ztr affects the reliability of the mower and some of the other ways you can gauge the condition.
Dealing with hours can be a little tricky and to be honest with you, it’s largely subjective.
Just for a second, let’s imagine you were going to buy a car. It’s pretty common to go into this situation with a certain mileage in mind. For example you might say “I’m not buying anything with over 60,000 miles on it”. With a car, there’s a lot of different opinions about how many miles is too many miles but you can get a pretty good idea of how long a car will run before it starts to run into problems. Of course, there is variation between different brands and the age of the car etc, but there are high standards of maintenance held to cars.
With lawn mowers, there is a vast difference in how they’re used and how they are maintained so it’s very difficult to say how many hours is too many hours. You could ask a hundred different zero turn mower owners – how many hours is a lot? – I’d be willing to bet you’d get a wide variety of answers.
In any event, it’s never a bad idea to throw some numbers out there just to give you a rough idea. I’ve found there’s some pretty useful information about zero turn mower hours on the lawnsite forums from people posting who actually own these machines. They write about how many hours they have on their own models and what repairs they’ve had to make because of wear and tear.
A lot of these people’s opinion align with what I know others have said in the lawn care industry.
- “Way too many variables, some are shot around 1500 hours, others 2500-3000 hours still run smooth and strong. Many people on here have mowers with 3000-4000 hours being used regularly on original drive trains.” – TML
- “I’ve seen several Bobcat mowers with Kohler engines run 4000+ hrs. before engine work was needed, and the mowers were still in good shape, but well maintained. I know people that have put 6 to 7 thousand hours on Scag mowers, but not with the same engine. I’ve seen 10,000 hrs. on a Grasshopper diesel mower, and all the ones I’ve mentioned have had units that gave trouble early on as well. There is no rhyme or reason why one mower will give exceptional service, and the next one off the assembly line is a lemon and gives nothing but trouble.” – puppypaws
- “diesel engines are a whole different story. the engine will outlast every single part on the mower. Gas engines you may replace the engine at 2000 hours and have the hydro system go 4000 hours. deck bearings need to be replaced every 200-400 hr’s spindles and housings/pulleys 600-800hr’s so the only variable on the deck is rotting out witch has to do with how often you clean it.” – haybaler
Often people who a new to zero-turn mowers ask about the hours/mileage out of curiosity. Often times, people look for an exact answer but as you can see from the comments above, hours does not prove itself do be a definitive factor for mowers because one statistic doesn’t give you the full story of the history of that mower and how well it has been maintained. It seems like there is quite a lot of luck involved too! The variation seems large so giving an exact figure isn’t particularly helpful here.
The general idea is that if the number of hours on the meter is high, it will mean there is a drop in the price when compared with a ztr that had a lower amount of hours on it. This is because its more likely that mower repair cost and replacement parts will be needed as the mower increases its usage.
Hour Meter Reliability
One problem with using hours to gauge the condition of a ztr is that it might not always be very accurate.
“Hour meters occasionally fail, but they usually fail within the first 50 hours if the meter is defective”eXmark
Some ztr hour meters are grounded via an oil pressure switch so that the meter will only run when the engine is running. Someone could potentially unplug the wire so that meter won’t work which does give some level of uncertainty. From talking with others in the industry, the general consensus seems to be that these are not 100% reliable.
Another problem is that some ztr’s don’t even have an hour meter installed on them anyway. You’ll usually see them installed on the commercial mowers.
Other Ways to Gauge a Zero-Turn Mower’s Condition
A zero turn mower with high hours can still be a quality purchase if the previous owner properly maintained it. If you’re trying to work out whether the mower is still in good condition, you’ll need to answer yourself several questions like – did the previous owner do maintenance on the mower? did they replace parts? Was the mower used for residential purposes or commercial? All of these questions are good to think about initially.
Some people like to say if a mower has X problem then don’t buy, but in my my opinion there shouldn’t bee too many deal breakers when gauging the condition of a zero turn mower. It really just depends on your situation and what you’re planning to use it for. For example you maybe mechanically minded and able to weld or repair a damaged frame yourself so getting something with a fair amount of wear and tear might not bother you so much. On the other hand, if you’re going to get someone to do it for you then it could cost you a lot of money so you’ll need to factor that into the cost of buying the mower.
Sometimes, the owner of a lawn mower will keep a log for the maintenance work that has been carried out on it through its lifetime. Sometimes the log doesn’t always tell the full story though. You never really know if its just the oil/tire checks on there and not all the other expensive repairs. In any event a maintenance log is usually a good start and it shows the owner has at least taken some interest in the upkeep of the mower.
If the owner doesn’t have a log of this, you can examine the mower and get pretty good idea of things yourself. Below is a list of the most important things to look out for. By important I mean the things are essential for the mower to run and are the most costly to replace if faulty.
Most Important Things to Look Out For
- Look at the hydros – This is probably one of the most expensive parts on the machine. If you can see oil seeping around the seals on the hydro pumps, it’s a pretty good indication that the machine has been well used and not well maintained.
- Pop the cap on the oil reservoir – If it has oil in it, you know that the previous owner has at least bothered to pay attention to the general maintenance of the mower which may be an indication that other parts have been maintained too. If there’s no oil, you might want to pass on that machine.
- Look at the spindles – This is pretty important. It’s an easy task to pull the belt of the spindle and check it. You want to make sure there’s no play in the spindle. If you can hear the bearings are dry, you should probably expect some further costs on that deck.
- Check the different lift points – If there’s some slop, its’ going to be challenging to keep the deck level.
- Check the engine – Make sure there’s no oil buildup around the engine caused by leakage. This can cause the fins to clog up and the valves to burn. Engine replacements on a zero turn are massively expensive so take your time to inspect this closely.
Questions to Ask to Gauge Condition of a Used Ztr
- Are there any breaks in the frame?
- Are there any cracks in the deck?
- Is the paintwork scratched?
- How tore up is the pads or the seat?
- Are the tires bald?
- Does the owner have the service history?
- What price do they want to sell? Is it in your budget?
- Where is the mower stored?
- Is there a dealer nearby? Can they work on the mower?
- Are you able to test drive the mower?
- Is the serial number still on the mower? Has it been scratched off?
These considerations will help you to ensure the lawn mower you’re looking to buy has been well maintained and is in good condition. These suggestions can be used in conjunction with the number of hours it has to gauge its use but all things considered, a well looked after ztr should last quite a long time.
If you’re told that the engine in the mower may need to be rebuilt soon or another critical part needs to be replaced, don’t let that put you off completely. It’s pretty common for mowers to be rebuilt and it’s highly likely that some parts will break before others. It doesn’t mean that mower isn’t worth getting and it maybe a good thing that the owner is being honest about what they’re selling. You just need to think about the extra costs you may incur and whether you can repair or upgrade the parts on your own.
Purchasing a used zero turn can be a challenge as you try to figure out whether its right for you as well as gauge the amount of wear and tear it has. Figuring out how well the previous owner has taken care of it is no easy tasks but taking your time doing so will be worthwhile in the end when you finally manage to get yourself that great deal!
More Resources if You’re Buying a Used Zero Turn Mower
- How to Buy a Used Zero Turn Mower at a Low Price – Really good article including some places to look when buying used and how to go about buying a used ZTR at a low price.
- How to Choose a Zero-Turn Mower – This contains extra information about types of zero turn mowers, deck sizes, brands, durability, engine, deck construction and more!
- How Much Does a Zero Turn Mower Cost? – Read this article if you’d like an idea of how much a zero turn mower costs in general. Knowing this will help you find which mowers for sale are good deals and which aren’t.