Joseph has had a lawn and irrigation business in Florida for almost a decade and enjoys sharing his landscaping tips.
Zero-Turn Mower Considerations
Between lawn care professionals and weekend experts, a common source of conversation and debate is which zero-turn is actually the best?
Topics of such discussions 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 of these four brands to truly stand out.
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, they 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.
Some Dixie Chopper Models:
- 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.
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Exmark's 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, an 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.
- 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 they have quickly grown to be 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.
Some Kubota Zero-Turn Models:
- 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 1980s, 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 Zero-Turn Mower Models:
- 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
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, long lasting, and excellent for large accounts.
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
Question: I am a homeowner mowing 1 to 2 acres. Which is the best mower for the money?
Answer: 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.
Question: Home owner mowing 5 acres of “country lawn” needs power, speed and a bagger. Which is the best mower for this situation?
Answer: The Kubota brand would probably be the best to suit your needs for a strong homeowner version with a bagger option.
ryan on August 24, 2020:
i own a driving range with plenty of hills in northeast ohio. cut 2 to 3 times during season. which would you prefer in the commercial categorie?
Dennis on August 16, 2020:
I have the Dixie chopper zee 2, it has left me stranded now with one bolt that falls out and completely stops the mower,it has been put back in with lock title and manages to fall out every six months! This is for residential use one lawn once a week,one acre. I see why they went out of business,purchased brand new,it happened the first season with less than 30 hours on the clock. This was my second purchase of a Dixie Chopper never again! My Craftsman tractor lasted 10 years no problems! Think twice before you spend your hard earned cash on this mower!
Jamie on July 30, 2020:
On that fereis theres a tensioner rod on the drive belts if theres any slack youll think the belts slipping its not.. grease up the spring with creep and tighten a couple spins on tension rod and give it a spin you hadnt really enjoyed it. With ferris its alot of moving parts and just like a car lot the service dept dont tell you ever thing when theres a service done. Retorque and measure. Trust me i did my science.
Todd miller on July 02, 2020:
I have owned a kubota ZD 28 for about 12 years and i think it could last another 12 are more, i bought it used with about 300 hours on it , i own around 13 rentals, grass grows fast in lousiana, i have cut my daughter and son, practice soccer and baseball practice fields that were always in bad shape , i have bought and sold country homes where the home where foreclosed and the grass would be taller than the mower, i have help family with acreage that the grass got away from them , im sure every body has there favorite but i would not take a chance with any other mower , i know i have one of the best, it never let me down , regular maintenance is all i have done to it, I am a licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic i know quality and relatability, kubota has it.
Rob on June 16, 2020:
I would have to say after owning several Zero turns, my Ferris IS3200 with 72" deck and 37HP EFI Vanguard is the best by far. I mow over 11 acres of rough horse pasture with several hills and lots of ruts and rocks. I use it for the pasture and my lawn, it aces both.
Mark on May 04, 2020:
Ferris 3200z 61” deck and a 37 hp Briggs is the best mower I have ever owned by far. I know it’s a little over kill my yard is only 5 acres but after 2 yrs of trouble free mowing I have only put 70 hrs on it and just changed the blades for the first time. Believe it or not it is very fuel efficient. As far as the price You get what u pay for. By something cheap and u get junk. No regrets I would buy the same mower if I had to do it all again. Buy a ferris if you want the best!
Patrick on April 22, 2020:
Rick hanneman, Toro owns Exmark. The Exmark is the luxury Toro.
Rick Hanneman on March 06, 2020:
I have noticed that no one has mentioned toro at all. Why?
Joe Lavergne on October 04, 2019:
Anyone considering buying the new Gravely zero turns need to reconsider it. The new model #991145 Gravely Compact Pro 44 Commercial mower is having many problems. From poor structural design to poor deck hangers that break and the fact that they have changed the mower from having 10″ rear tires to 8″ rear tires causes the mower to slide more easily, even on dry ground. This sliding has even caused the mower to slide into a ditch, when I was cutting the side of the road, and it flipped over!!!!! For it being called a commercial mower, it is NOT one!!!!!
thomas pesacreta on September 29, 2019:
The four bolts that connect the frame to the engine on my Ferris lawnmover backed-out and fell off . Is this a common problem? I have have to replace 4 drive belts in 4 years with less than 220 hours of operation. The first time was after only 11 hours of operation!! Is this a common problem? I would like to contact Ferris to request a refund but they don't have a physical address that I can send a Certified letter to. Does anyone know where I can get such an address?
Dealer on September 18, 2019:
Go to a Spartan mower, you wont be disappointed
Pj on August 11, 2019:
Author is clearly biased to Kubota. The lowest powered and weakest warranty. Tells everyone to go but one. I'll stick with exmark, ferris, Scag, or wright.
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on August 05, 2019:
11 acres maintained at 2-3 week intervals? I seriously hope it is not Bahia grass. A Turf Tiger by Scag can handle that usage. If you have level grass and its not bahia, a turf tiger with a 72" deck will cut through it at about 10-12 mph
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on August 05, 2019:
Working on a comparison that includes gravely and bad boy mowers
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on August 05, 2019:
Chaz, I'm sorry to have overlooked your question. The only one that I know off is the old Hustler that used to offer a 36" but i believe that has been discontinues. Most brands still offer stand-on's at 36" but Im not aware of any that still offer one in a commercial line. Several in homeowner lines.
Gregg ehrgood on July 13, 2019:
Think you could have added A GRAVELY to the pack.
jack on June 23, 2019:
Are there zero turn commercial mowers that don't need the grass scraped from under the deck each mowing? My 61 inch snapper pro fills up fast
Nomoredixie on June 23, 2019:
Dixiechopper has shutdown do not buy will not be able to get parts once they run out of stock
Jim D on June 09, 2019:
My Dixie chopper has no side hill -down hill slide drift
Bill on May 26, 2019:
Kubota for the following reasons: Oil coolers on their gas engines and liquid cooled diesel, direct drive with a single belt for maintenance (also used to protect the drive shaft in case you hit an immovable object) hydraulic lift for their 7 and 8 gage decks (3/16" and 11/64" steel) Built im jack (optional) to quickly sharpen blades. Those are my reasons why Kubota is the most attractive to me.
Evergreen on May 21, 2019:
Ferry's? Exmark ,Dixie chopper and Kubota the best for me
Wendy Bellin on May 15, 2019:
You might want to think twice about the ex mark lazer. We bought one brand new rods have been through the engine 3 times, only has 569 hours on it. Has been a huge fight with the manufacturer every time.
Randy on May 05, 2019:
Need to cut 11 acres country grass. What is the best from a durability perspective
Larry on April 28, 2019:
Just how well does a exmark morer how up. I thinking 72 in lazer with red tech. Cost i know is high but time wise what i need to knowq
Lee on April 19, 2019:
I have been in a lawn maintenance business for over 24 years now and I have used every brand of mower out there I can guarantee you the Kubota hands down will stand up and hold up better than any of them they are a Powerhouse. And always purchase the z700 series
hsharpe on April 14, 2019:
I have been in the lawn cutting business for 17 years for the whole time ive used Ferris mowers i have a is 3100 that has over 2500 hrs on it and it still cuts as good as it did when i bought it brand new and l have a is 2100 both mowers are 61 inche mowers they do cost a little more but you get what you pay for but they are well worth the money
Jim on April 10, 2019:
I have between 2 - 2.5 acres of grass that I mow. I usually get behind in mowing in the spring and fall because it grows so fast and because of time issues with work and what time it gets dark out. I was looking at an Emark Laser Z E-series with a 52 inch deck and bagger system. It's a big investment for doing my lawn, but I want something dependable, long lasting and fast. I know this machine can do it, but I am wondering if it is overkill and too expensive for what I need. I want to use it for about 15-20 years until I retire and don't want to mess with it anymore. Thoughts???
Rory on March 31, 2019:
I have a lawn care company I operate 6 months out of the year. I need a zero turn that is small. I currently have a 38" John Deere lt155 riding mower but I need to replace it. There are only a few company's out there that make a 34"-36" deck size. Mostly Hustler which has a raptor 36" and the new dash 34". Also exmark has one smaller as well. I need to get through the gates. My Deere fits through most gates and I rarely use my push mower.
Jack Wertenbach on March 28, 2019:
Grasshopper hands down better than any of these
Clay Ross on March 25, 2019:
Question: Which of these zero turn mower brands have all steel welded and not stamped mower decks?
ChazNelson on February 07, 2019:
Hi, cant find my question. May have not sent properly? Looking for a ride on style mower that can fit thru gates. And be low budget friendly. We like our Toro's, and our commercial walk behind Craftsman does real well. Most our lawns are under 1 acre. 2 places are at 2 acres. Only one seen in article is Exmark 34". What is suggested that can fit smaller budgets and gates to help us get done faster and take on more people? Thanks
Dave on January 07, 2019:
Hi I have been in the grass business for years. Farris great mower, until the suspension system starts to fail $$$. The price of Farris is also $$$. Exmark good over-all machine. No experience with Dixie Chopper, they say they are the fastest, well I don’t know of any yards that are smooth enough to run 13mph. I have run Kubota’s for years, 2 zd28’s n now I am running a ZD331. 31hp diesel, over 1300hrs. I cut around 40 acres a week. Great machine. They all have issues, look at services n how good your dealer is. Just my opinion!!
Dave on October 03, 2018:
Just bought a Kubota 1211 3 cylinder diesel and I absolutely love it is a 72 inch cut and gets the job done fast.
James on August 15, 2018:
unless you need the tractor for other purposes they are horrible for mowing "lawn" even with a finish mower. Maneuverability and mowing close to objects is horrible on a tractor vs a good zero turn. Get yourself a Ferris with 72 inch cut. I like the smoother ride of my Ferris vs dads Exmark and my friends Dixie Chopper. I would say that dads Exmark seems to cut smoother but then again his yard is much smaller and level compared to mine. Mine is more like a pasture vs lawn but starting to smooth out.
Joe Greene on August 06, 2018:
To answer both questions, Larry, your exmark is just fine. No need to change. Victoria, get a tractor with a finish mower. It will be better for a pasture.
Larrry Hughes on July 03, 2018:
I mow 4 Acres at home and have a 2 Acre commercial lot and 3 or 4 rental yards I mow what X Mark do you suggest
Victoria Cannen on July 02, 2018:
I'm mowing 11 acres of pasture that is maintained almost like lawn. What is recommended for a couple decades of use?