Diesel vs Propane Mowers: Choosing the Right Fuel

Today, landscape professionals have more options than ever when it comes to fueling commercial mowers. While gasoline remains the most common choice, advances in propane and diesel engine technology make both fuels more viable for landscape contractors.

Looking at the big picture, the decision on which fuel is best for you is related to a number of factors in your business, including but not limited to, your choice of fuel for other vehicles and equipment, your clients' needs, or the demands of the properties your crews maintain.

Diesel Mower Benefits

Exmark Lazer Z DieselWhen it comes to getting big jobs done quickly, diesel-powered lawn mowers are an excellent choice. Diesel engines have the power to handle larger decks and increased ground speed, making them some of the most productive tools in a landscape professional's arsenal.

Modern diesel engines are extremely durable and offer extended service intervals, making them a solid choice for landscape contractors that work long hours every day. Additionally, thanks to their shrouded, liquid-cooled engines, reduced engine RPM and low-mounted exhaust, diesel mowers are typically quieter than other engine types. This can be a big benefit on a wide range of job types, from parks and municipal settings, to high-end residential work.

The Lazer Z Diesel mowers integrate Exmark's patented RED Technology. Working with cutting-edge EPA Tier 4-certified Yanmar diesel engines, RED increases engine responsiveness while reducing fuel consumption. As a result, the new Lazer Z Diesel is more efficient, with a lower cost of operation than other machines. Learn more about RED Technology.

Propane Mower Benefits

Exmark Turf Tracer S-Series PropanePropane has long been the "green" alternative fuel option for zero-turn mowers. Until recently however, propane mowers have been saddled with challenges associated with converted gasoline engines, including hard starting, short runtimes and increased maintenance. It was clear a better solution was needed.

Kohler EFI-propane engines are capable of optimizing engine performance in real time based on the conditions at hand. Benefits include easy starting, with power and performance on par with equivalent air-cooled gasoline engines. In addition, the fuel efficiency of EFI further enhances propane's green status by reducing greenhouse gas emissions considerably.

In 2013, Exmark was the first to embrace Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) on its propane-powered commercial mowers. Today, we lead the industry with a complete range of EFI-propane walk-behind, stand-on and zero-turn riding mower models. Learn more about Exmark propane mowers.

Fuel Sources and Transport

Fuel availability is important to consider when weighing an investment in diesel- or propane-powered mowers. While not quite as universal as gasoline, diesel's widespread availability at gas stations nationwide makes it an attractive option for many contractors. It is easier for contractors to find fuel throughout the day. As a result, they can carry less fuel on trucks, leaving more room for tools and equipment.

Propane is less widely available and requires special tanks to transport and use on the mowers. As a result, propane requires more investment in infrastructure to implement smoothly into an operation. Propane's tank-based storage reduces the opportunity for spillage or pilfering, however.

When considering a switch to diesel- or propane-powered mowers, one of the first questions to answer is what fuel you're using in your other equipment. If your company has already invested in propane-fueled trucks, and/or propane fueling infrastructure, it makes sense to consider adding propane-powered mowers to your operation. If most of your existing trucks and equipment run on gasoline or diesel however, the challenges of fueling could outweigh the potential benefits of running propane mowers.

Cost Considerations

For many contractors, the increased purchase cost of a diesel-powered mower is the largest hurdle to overcome. When you look at total cost of ownership however, Exmark diesel mowers often come out ahead in the long run. Reasons include increased fuel efficiency and productivity, with reduced maintenance and a longer lifespan. Diesel-powered mowers also typically fare better in resale than comparable age gasoline or propane machines, so you're usually able to get more of your investment back when it comes time to sell.

Thanks to incentives by the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) and numerous state and local agencies across the country, propane mowers can be much less expensive to purchase. Fuel costs may be lower than gasoline or diesel fuel, too. In addition, the clean-running nature of propane means mower engines can last up to 25-percent longer than an equivalent gasoline engine.

Bottom Line - How to Choose

It's a good time to be a landscape professional looking for an alternative to gasoline-powered mowers. And while there isn't a clear-cut winner between propane and diesel, there definitely are no losers. Ultimately, the answer of which fuel you choose has much to do with your business and your customers. And for many, the best fuel may boil down to the one that's already being used in trucks and/or other equipment.

If you're considering the switch from gasoline to an alternative fuel, your local Exmark dealer can be a great resource for information, equipment demos, perspective on local fueling options, and more.