Selecting lawn care equipment can be a tricky proposition—especially if the grounds manager making the choices isn't asking the right questions. John E. Gibson, is president of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), and director of operations for Denver-based Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care. Gibson said grounds managers are prone to a number of common mistakes when shopping around.

“They often buy the equipment based on bells and whistles, when the core job of that equipment is not the unit's strong point,” he said. “Also, they frequently go for equipment of a size that gets them either too much or too little for the job they really need.”

To avoid slipups in acquiring lawn care equipment, Gibson recommends using the following checklist as a reference tool:

  • Are you selecting equipment for a specific job or multiple uses?
  • What is the life cycle of this equipment?
  • Will changes in technology affect the future?
  • How does this equipment relate to the rest of your existing fleet—i.e. vendors you currently use for equipment, availability of repair parts, whether your in-house mechanic can fix or if it will need to be shopped out, and need for specialized maintenance tools?
  • What warranties are offered?
  • What experience do others in the market have with this equipment and its reliability?
  • What financing options are available for large equipment—should you buy, lease, or rent on an as-needed basis?
  • Gibson added that one trend in lawn care is common to most other service industries: mechanized equipment that increases production and while reducing required manpower.

    Boom mower

    The Maverick industrial boom mower lets users access hard-to-reach areas, with variable reaches from 21 to 24 feet, or 27 to 30 feet. The boxed-section contour gives the unit added strength in sections where it is most needed, and it delivers optimal strength-to-weight ratios. A computer provides simple troubleshooting from within the tractor cab. A broad range of cutting heads is offered. Alamo Industrial. www.alamo-industrial.com.

    Versatile decks

    XR-7 mowing decks offer a range of cutting options. Choose from side-discharge, mulch, or catch configurations. Operators can mow tall or fine grasses efficiently and effectively. The design minimizes clumping and buildup for optimal finished appearance and improved productivity. Other features include an easy-to-install mulch kit, 7-gauge deck plate and sidewalls and 11-gauge doubler and 7-gauge tripler (nearly ½ inch thick) at spindle mounts. The decks come in widths ranging from 54 to 72 inches. Hustler Turf Equipment. www.hustlerturfequipment.com.

    Zero-turn-radius mower

    The Grizzly zero-turn-radius mower offers three twin-cylinder engine options: a 24-hp Honda, or 25- or 27-hp Kohler Command Pro. Choose from a 52- or 60-inch cutting deck, with 18-position positive-lock deck lift and foot assist. The smooth-riding Big Rig seat suspension system raises for ease of access to belts, pulleys, and other parts for maintenance and cleaning. Optional attachments include two- and three-bag grass catchers, mulch kits, and a snow blade. Dixon Industries. www.dixon-ztr.com.

    Ride-on mower

    The Quik-Trak mower—with a stand-on platform—features a compact design that occupies about the same trailer space as a commercial walk-behind unit, with favorable trimming visibility. It features a vertical-shaft, air-cooled Kawasaki engine. A number of models are available: the 647A combines a 19-hp engine and 48-inch deck, the 657A has a 23-hp engine and 54-inch deck, and the 667A mower has a 23-hp engine and 60-inch deck. Each of the mowers has a hydrostatic drive and other features that help lead to quicker loading and unloading, shorter interruptions for debris collection, and reduced operator fatigue. John Deere Construction & Forestry. www.deere.com.

    Large-frame mowers

    The Max2 line of large-frame, mid-mount, zero-turning-radius mowers has been expanded with two new models. The ZVKH72302 and ZVKH61302 feature 30-hp Kohler V-twin engines. Each mower includes a rugged, full-floating cutting deck made of 10-gauge steel, with 7-gauge side skirts and a rolled front edge. Each unit features large pneumatic-drive tires for enhanced curb-climbing ability and comfort, quick-lift cutting height adjustment, and ground speeds of up to 10.5 mph. Yazoo/Kees, a division of Electrolux. www.yazookees.com.

    All-terrain mower

    The DewEze ATM-72LC all-terrain mower has an updated hood and cowling design to permit easier access for maintenance and service. The 30-hp diesel engine powers a hydraulic deck drive, steering, propulsion, auto leveling, and deck fit. The split 72-inch deck design efficiently follows contours and allows for simple, automatic cutting of V ditches and crowns. Harper Industries Inc. www.deweze.com.

    Sickle-bar mower

    The Triumph sickle-bar mower can quickly attach to the company's MT-V municipal tractor. It uses the machine's hydraulic system and valves to operate. The mower is mounted on the front of the tractor, delivering good operator visibility. The 6-foot-long cutter bar can angle from -75 to +90 degrees and tilt 10 degrees in either direction. The MT-V tractor is a rough-terrain vehicle that offers 110 hp at 2500 rpm. Trackless Vehicles Ltd. www.tracklessvehicles.com.

    Variable-speed transmission mower

    The HRR series of mowers feature the Smart Drive variable-speed transmission system, which lets the operator easily control the speed with controls on the ergonomically designed handlebars. The blade brake clutch lets the user start and stop blade action without having to stop the engine. Also, the mowers' twin-blade configuration and four offset cutting surfaces deliver improved performance and finer clippings. The GCV160 engine offers clean, low-emission, four-cycle operation. Honda Power Equipment. www.honda.com.

    Construction permitting module

    This construction permitting software module lets municipalities control and complete reports on building permit activity. For example, New Jersey regulations require municipalities to transmit and record permit and certificate data electronically, regardless of a town's size or permit activity level. Features include links to tasks (including project creation, data entry, and fee calculation), multiple choices for data input, project tracking, and the ability to attach pertinent documents. National Geomatica, a division of Jungle Lasers LLC. www.nationalgeomatica.com.

    Traffic-barrel repair

    The Pneumatic Drum Doctor reshapes and repairs damaged channelizer drums onsite, increasing the life expectancy of the traffic drums. Made of heavy-duty steel, the unit can be operated easily by one person. The portable product mounts quickly to any 2-inch hitch receiver, and it is adjustable for various vehicle and worker heights. It uses compressed air to reshape drums from the inside with minimal time and effort. Mechanical Advantage. www.mechanical-advantage.com.