Reviews of Exmark, Ferris, Dixie Chopper, and Kubota Commercial Zero-Turn Mowers
Between lawn care professionals and weekend experts, a common discussion and often argument is about which zero-turn is actually the best. Topics of such conversations always include speed, power, deck durability, price, and warranty. While most of the larger brands on the market will tell you they are the "industry leader," few have the ability that these four brands do to truly be the industry leader.
In any major U.S. city, you will see each of these brands being carted around from yard to yard or working right of ways or medians. They are some of the strongest choices in the industry, and the weekend play toy for some who are not in the industry.
Below, we will break down the strengths and weaknesses of each brand based on model information. We will also see how each of their flagship models compare by looking at their horsepower, speed, and warranty.
1. The Dixie Chopper
In the world of lawn mowers, especially zero-turn mowers, no name is bigger or gets more attention than that of Dixie Chopper. Long known as one of the strongest and fastest mower lines on the market, Dixie Chopper is stronger today than ever.
Dixie Chopper began as the first zero-turn mower made for commercial use in 1980 in Indiana. In fact, they have become accustomed to "firsts." In 1987, they became the first to incorporate Stainless Steel for more durability and introduced the industry's first hydrostatic drive. In 1993, they were the first to use a 150 hp engine and then in 1996 used the first "twin engine" mower. Dixie Chopper also introduced the first propane mower and the first 4 wheel drive zero-turn to the market.
The Excalibur, DC's impressive "industrial" model, has up to a 74" blade deck, an available 36 hp Vanguard engine, and can fly at 13 mph. This mower package can mow up to 7.8 acres per hour, leaving you wondering what else to do with your time.
Dixie Chopper also has options from residential to commercial with engines ranging from 22 to 36 horsepower and decks from 42 to 72 inches and a walk behind from 32 to 44 inches.
One of the best aspects of the Dixie Chopper is their side discharge/mulching system. With a simple pull of a lever off to your side, you can open or close the chute, allowing you to easily control your discharge.
Dixie Chopper models include:
- Zee 2: 23 hp engine and 42" to 54" deck
- Magnum: 24 or 25 hp engines and 50" to 60" deck
- Blackhawk: 22 or 24 hp engines and 48" to 60" deck
- Eagle: 27 hp engine and 54" to 60" deck
- Classic: 27 to 36 hp engines and 50" to 72" deck
- Xcalibur: 31 to 36 hp engines and 60" to 74" deck
2. Exmark Laser Z
Beginning in a small building in Beatrice, Nebraska in 1982, Exmark has always been a professional turf care company. Soon after their founding, Exmark began making commercial grade mowers and have developed a line of zero-turn mowers that is widely used by yard pros, commercial and residential alike. Exmarks lineup includes options for propane-fueled mowers, rear discharge decks, walk behind, stand-on and more.
The levels of Exmark zero-turn riders include the Quest, a great commercial option for homeowners, the Radius, and excellent ergonomic commercial mower, and the Lazer Z, Exmark's flagship line that they refer to as the "standard of excellence for commercial zero-turns."
The Lazer Z-X series offers from a 48" to a 72" deck, gas, diesel or propane fueling system, and the new RED Technology onboard intelligence platform that monitors the systems on the mower to make sure it is running at optimum performance.
Exmark offers mowers with deck widths from 34 to a whopping 96 inches. They also offer multiple walk behind, stand on, and other mowing options.
Exmark mowers come in the following models:
- Quest: 34" to 60" decks
- Radius: 48" to 60" decks
- Lazer Z: 48" to 96" decks
- Navigator: 42" to 48" decks
Comparison of Horsepower, Speed, and Warranty
5 year, 600 hours
5 year, 1,250 hours
3 year, 300 hours
Kubota was established in Japan in 1890 as a cast iron foundry, making cast iron parts and pipe. Soon after, Kubota began making oil-based engines for agricultural uses in 1922. Kubota did not bring their products to the United States until 1969, but has quickly grown to one of the largest mower and tractor brands in the USA.
With 8 lines of zero-turn mowers ranging from 19 to 32 horsepower with decks from 42" to 72", Kubota has every size zero-turn available. These include entry level/homeowner models, large and small diesel units, and models with every creature comfort available.
The flagship of the Kubota zero-turns, the ZD1500 series, offers a 30.8 hp diesel engine, air ride suspension seat, split front axle, mulching capability, hydraulic mower deck lift, and more.
Kubota offers zero-turn mowers with engine packages from 19 to 32.5 horsepower and deck widths from 42 to 72 inches. They also have walk behinds, stand-ons, and front mount mowers.
Kubota zero-turn models include:
- Z100 (Kommander) Series: 21.5 to 25 hp engines
- Z200 Series: 21 to 27 hp engines
- Z300 Series: 23 to 32.5 hp engines
- Z400 Series: 22 to 24 hp engines
- Z700 Series: 22.5 to 25 hp engines
- ZD1000 Series: 19.3 to 21.6 hp Kubota Diesel engines
- ZD1200 Series: 24.8 hp Kubota Diesel engine
- ZD1500 Series: 30.8 hp Kubota Diesel engine
Ferris Commercial Mowers began as a milking machine manufacturer in upstate New York in 1909. Foreseeing the end of their industry, in the 1980's they began designing and building a rugged commercial mower. Since then, Ferris has been bought by Simplicity (owner of Snapper) and then by Briggs & Stratton.
Ferris mowers offer patented seat suspension, a wide range of deck sizes (44" to 72"), and plenty of powerful engine options including various Briggs & Stratton powerplants like the 38 hp Vanguard "Big Block", a Caterpillar Diesel, and a Yanmar Diesel.
The Ferris IS3200Z comes with the Vanguard engine and cuts at speeds up to 12.5 mph. It also has a 3 year/300 hour warranty and a foot operated deck raise that makes selecting a cutting height as easy as cake.
Ferris offers zero-turn mowers in the models below:
- F160Z: 23.5 hp Kawasaki engine
- F210Z: 25.5 hp Kawasaki engine
- IS600Z: 25 hp Briggs & Stratton V-twin engine
- IS700Z: 27 hp Briggs & Stratton V-twin engine
- IS2100Z: 28 hp Vanguard engine
- IS2600Z: 24 hp Yanmar Diesel engine
- IS3200Z: 37 hp Vanguard Big Block engine
- IS5100Z: 33.5 hp Caterpillar Diesel engine
Which Commercial Zero-Turn Mower Is Your Favorite?
After riding on each of these, I can definitely say they each have different strengths. The Ferris was a smooth, comfortable ride and reminded me of an old Snapper, which makes sense. It wasn't the best laid out, but once you were used to it, it was an easy ride. The Exmark was a good all-around ride, but it was probably the hardest one to make scalp on a turn or hill, which is great for commercial services.
Of the four, the two I would recommend the most would be the Kubota and the Dixie Chopper. The Kubota is not the smoothest or the fastest, but at its price point it would be a great buy for any new service or a homeowner looking for a stronger mower. The Chopper is basically a fast tank. The one I was on was not the smoothest, but lowering the air pressure in the tires would probably help. This mower is strong and fast, excellent for large accounts and lasting for a long time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
I am a homeowner mowing 1 to 2 acres. Which is the best mower for the money?
Of the brands mentioned in my article, the most you would need is a mid-grade Kubota. You could also check out Bad Boy mowers.Helpful 114
Home owner mowing 5 acres of “country lawn” needs power, speed and a bagger. Which is the best mower for this situation?
The Kubota brand would probably be the best to suit your needs for a strong homeowner version with a bagger option.Helpful 103