(post by Jason) When we bought this farm several years ago it quickly became clear that we were going to need to purchase a lawnmower to mow along our driveway and around our future barns. Obviously we didn’t live here at the time and I was reluctant to put anything that looked shiny and new in a place where I wasn’t immediately available to supervise. So instead of shiny and new I bought an ancient Kubota B7100 diesel tractor with a 60 inch commercial deck. It had 4000 hours on the clock and it was manufactured in 1978…one of the first Kubota’s to ever be imported into the United States. It looked bad enough that nobody would ever think to steal it but with a little TLC it ran well. Five years after purchasing the tractor it still runs well but it sure helps to have a set of wrenches handy to keep it running well. With as much old equipment as we have around here I’m ready for something to run correctly with minimal TLC. I’m sick of holding my breath and wondering whether or not I’m going to finish without lengthy repairs every time I start the lawnmower to cut the grass.
I decided to begin looking for a replacement a few months ago. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that I would need to double my budget if I was looking for a long term replacement for the old Kubota. The price of real commercial mowers……not the sort of thing you buy at Home Depot or the light duty models for homeowners at tractor dealers…..is astonishing. I looked at several new front cut models that were worth more than the sum total I’ve spent on automobiles since I started driving. Obviously I quickly ruled those models out. Even used they were upwards of $20,000 which in my opinion is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on cutting the grass.
About a week ago I located several lightly used John Deere 997 diesel zero turns at various dealers in Middle Tennessee and North Alabama. I spent most of yesterday between morning and evening chores checking them all out. The first mower was four years old and had only 200 hours on it which is nothing on a commercial diesel motor. It looked like the former owners spent the entire 200 hours driving the machine into trees and walls as well as over stumps, etc. The grease zerks had never been touched, there was no coolant at all in the overflow and the oil was so black and gunky that I’m sure it had never been changed. No thank you at any price.
My second stop was even more fruitful. The lawnmower I stopped to look at was in mint condition, still had some warranty left and it ran like it was brand new. I was just about to write a cheque to hold it until I talked to my accountant….one of the joys of incorporation….when the dealer said they had sold the mower while I was standing there looking at it to a Yankee….yes really…..over the phone for full asking price sight unseen. However, they had another one on the lot which was even better. Of course they did. This one had been owned by a local eccentric who apparently buys mowers and does nothing with them except park them in the garage. I’m sure that story is correct because after being parked in a garage for several years it ought to be no surprise that the battery was dead and it had a flat tire. No thank you for a whole variety of reasons, price being first among them.
In desperation I wheeled into the Kubota dealer. They had nothing used on the lot at all but they had a host of new mowers. The dealer persuaded me to try one of the new ones…a ZD326 diesel zero turn…..and I *REALLY* liked it. I liked it even more when I realized the price was over a thousand dollars less than the used John Deere mower with the dead battery I had been looking at. The only problem is that the price of all the mowers I looked at is several thousand dollars more than I ever dreamed of spending for something that cuts the grass. I expect the final problem will get answered with a very grudging cheque. But I can’t make myself write it just yet.