Point/Counterpoint – Front-mount vs. Mid-mount Mowers

Two of the biggest names in mower manufacturing sound off about the best mower designs.

July 17, 2002


To read the July 2001 Conversation Series article with Bob Walker, click here:

  • Bob Walker
    • To read the July 2001 Editor's Focus column about Bob Walker, click here:

    • Editor's Focus
      • To read the July 2000 Conversation Series with Dane Scag, click here:

      • Dane Scag
            • Regardless of the issue being discussed, there are always at least two opinions. So Lawn & Landscape Online invited two men who know what it takes to make a good mower to share their opinions about the benefits of front-mount vs. mid-mount designs.

              Bob Walker, president, Walker Manufacturing, Fort Collins, Colo., is obviously committed to front-mount machines, as that’s all his company manufacturers. Meanwhile, Dane Scag, who founded Bobcat Manufacturing, Scag Power Equipment and Great Dane Power Equipment, has made mowers in all shapes and sizes. Today, he’s a clear proponent of mid-mount machines.

              Obviously, neither of these two manufacturers is right or wrong. Depending on your perspective and your applications, you’ll find reasons to agree or disagree with both. But you’ll probably also think about some issues a little differently before buying your next mower.

              Bob Walker

              The front-mount arrangement has operating benefits due to better weight distribution than the mid-mount design. The front-mount has less weight on the front wheels and more weight concentrated on the drive wheels, offering better traction and handling. Steering response is more crisp and precise and there is less tendency to scuff the turf with tight turns (drive wheels slipping). Another significant handling difference and safety concern is going downhill; the front-mount balance maintains traction, steering and braking going downhill while the mid-mount tends to shift weight away from the drive tires, potentially causing loss of steering and braking. Not a good idea.

              The front-mount design offers a smoother, higher quality cut in two ways. The mower deck and tractor move independently, allowing the deck to “float” and follow contour while the deck on the mid-mount is more rigidly suspended from the tractor frame. Secondly, less weight on the front deck wheels of the front-mount do not track and mash the grass down before cutting like the heavily loaded front wheels on the mid-mount.

              Mounting the mower deck in front of the tractor offers a lower profile so the deck has more “reach” for trimming. Also, the operator seating position behind the deck gives excellent visibility for close-in handling and trimming. By contrast, the mid-mount design does not allow the same favorable trimming geometry.

              If grass collection capability is needed, the front-mount configuration offers better geometry for mounting the grass catcher on the tractor instead of hanging on the back of the mid-mount. With the mid-mount, the extra weight and bulk of the grass catcher significantly compromise the balance and handling of the machine.

              Versatility of attachments is inherent to the front-mount tractor design. The front-mount platform is ideal for mounting other attachments and quick interchanging of different sizes and styles of mower decks. The balance and traction of the front-mount works better for attachments than the mid-mount layout.

              Mower deck maintenance and cleaning on the front-mount is easy with the “industry standard” tilt-up feature. Access to the mid-mount deck is not that convenient. – Bob Walker

              WHAT DO YOU THINK?

                Do you have an opinion on an issue of interest to the green industry? Or, is there a particular issue you would like to see Lawn & Landscape Online tackle in a future Point/Counterpoint? If so, email Lawn & Landscape magazine at bwest@lawnandlandscape.com and let us know.

              Dane Scag


              There certainly are some benefits to using a front-mount mower, but I think the average landscape contractor will generally be better off using a mid-mount design for a number of reasons. (That’s why so many manufacturers are focusing on producing mid-mount machines and the new manufacturers entering the market produce mid-mounts as well.)

              For starters, front-mount units are going to be longer machines, which means they take up more space on the trailer. That may requires landscape contractors to purchase a larger trailer or possibly even send two trucks and trailers to a property to get all of their mowers to the job.

              Next, take a front-mount mower and try to trim around a tree. You can’t do it well even with a zero-turn machine because the turning axis (the imaginary point around which the mower turns while making a true zero turn) is too far to the rear of the deck. The closer the mowing deck is to the turning axis, the easier it is to make a circle, and this is the key to mid-mount mowers. The closest you can get to making a circle with a front-mount mower is to create a teardrop pattern, so that means you’ll have to make two passes around the tree to mow it adequately.

              The argument for a front-mount deck in this situation is that you always have the work out in front of you and you’ll be able to get under tree limbs more easily with these mowers. But how important is accessing areas under tree limbs vs. maximizing productivity?

              Landscape designs today are getting more and more complicated with trees, beds and so forth. That means operators have to do more trim work and be able to make a series of tight turns on so many properties. Mid-mount mowers do this better than any other type of mower.

              Another factor contributing to mid-mount mowers’ productivity is their faster ground speed vs. front-mount mowers. On a mid-mount mower, the front wheels carry quite a bit of weight. By comparison, front-mount mowers carry less weight, the deck on a front-mount mower is more likely to bounce as you mow faster, unless the ground is particularly smooth.

              Again, there are some benefits to a front-mount mower. If you’re doing long stretches of straight mowing, such as along a highway or on a football field, a front-mount mower offers better visibility and viewing for the operator. And front-mount mowers generally take attachments better than their mid-mount counterparts. But if maneuverability matters to you, and I know that it does since your mowers are probably working at least six or seven hours a day, then mid-mount mowers are the best choice for you. – Dane Scag

              The author is Editor of Lawn & Landscape magazine and can be reached at bwest@lawnandlandscape.com.