Several mower manufacturers, including Exmark, Kubota, Toro, Ferris and Scag, have impressive new zero-turn riding mowers that burn propane. Lehr even builds small push mowers, trimmers and leaf-blowers that run on propane. Propane-powered mowers typically cost slightly more than their gasoline counterparts, but if you’re a landscape contractor, the Propane Education & Research Council will give you a $1,000 incentive for buying a propane-powered machine.
Propane is a cleaner fuel overall than both gasoline and diesel. According to Popular Science, burning propane generates 26 percent less greenhouse gases and 60 percent less carbon monoxide than gasoline. Propane is a byproduct of processing oil, and it would be burned off if it weren’t otherwise marketable as a fuel. Handling propane is a lot less messy than doing the same work with diesel or gasoline. Propane doesn’t deteriorate when it’s in a sealed tank, so you can store it in winter and then go to work promptly when the grass turns green.
My wife, Carolyn, and I tested the Exmark LazerZ propane mower with a 60-inch deck, as well as a similarly equipped Kubota ZP330P. With a single 10-gallon tank, the 24-horsepower Exmark mower ran for about five hours before it needed to be refilled. Filling the tank cost about $35 during the summer of 2013. The fuel expense of our propane mower seemed to be comparable to the fuel expense of a similar gasoline mower. The Kubota carries two 8-gallon tanks on a 31-horsepower model. Both mowers supplied plenty of torque and ran trouble-free through a season of work on our large rural property.
The disadvantages we found in using a propane mower were that the full tanks were heavy to lift, and local propane dealers weren’t cooperative. In general, they weren’t set up for walk-in business and weren’t keen to help. Also, arranging to visit them during their limited business hours was a hassle, while we could have filled a gasoline can any old time at the convenience store. If you buy a propane mower, ask the dealer to throw in an extra propane tank so you can keep a reserve in the garage.