With commercial zero-turn mowers costing from $3,000 to more than $10,000, it’s crucial to determine your requirements before writing a bid.

By understanding the basic features of zero-turn mowers, you can narrow the field in advance to determine which models make the most sense and provide the best value.

Zero-turn mower basics

Zero-turn riding mowers can be narrowed down to two basic types: mid-mount and front-mount.

A mid-mount zero-turn is a four-wheeled power unit with the cutting deck mounted under the operator’s seated position and forward of the engine. The operator rides above the deck and in front of the drive wheels and the zero-turn-radius pivot point.

A front-mount zero-turn is a three- to six-wheeled power unit with the cutting deck mounted forward of the operator’s seated position. The operator sits forward of the engine and close to the zero-turn-radius pivot point.

If the mowing crew must maintain open, straight-away areas, a mid-mount mower is sufficient. If there are trees, fences, or other obstacles to mow around that require secondary trimming, a front-mount mower is more versatile and reduces trimming time.

What to specify in the bid

Be specific when defining features and options.

Engine. Identify if a gasoline, diesel, and/or propane engine is required. Visit Grasshopper’s fuel and emissions calculator at www.grasshoppermower.com/_fuel_calc.php.

Specify commercial engine features such as a heavy-duty air cleaner, V-twin or three-cylinder, displacement (engine size), and crankshaft alignment. Many use a vertical engine alignment because it is cheaper to produce. But horizontal crankshaft engines provide more uniform cooling, and better airflow and lubrication.

Transmission. Zero-turn mowers use a hydrostatic transmission, so including specific requirements and understanding differences are important. Transaxle transmissions feature a gear-reduction system and are typically found in residential zero-turn mowers. Most manufacturers use a pump-and-motor transmission for commercial zero-turn mowers because they provide greater durability and longer component life in commercial applications.

Request information on maintenance schedules and requirements. Seek a transmission that is well-balanced and offers greater life, ample speed when mowing, and fewer service intervals.

Cutting deck. Fundamental categories are fabricated and stamped and their quality can vary greatly. Most mower decks are fabricated because they are more durable and are typically reinforced in critical areas to extend life and protect against impacts.

Finally, consider safety features such as rollover protective structure (ROPS) and availability of servicing dealers.

Brent Dobson (bdobson@grasshoppermower.com) is a government accounts manager at The Grasshopper Co., Moundridge, Kan. Visit www.grasshoppermower.com.