Lawn Mower Fuel Guide: Gas, Diesel & Propane Benefits

Purchasing a new zero turn mower? If you're reading this article, you're likely pondering your various mower engine fuel choices. If so, we have lots of helpful information to share.

Let's start with what this article is and what it is not. Expect to better understand the benefits and compromises you will experience with each fuel type so you can make an informed buying decision. We will not make a final recommendation as the "best" fuel choice, since that will depend on your unique situation.

Diesel Lawn Mowers: The longer lasting machine choice

There are several benefits and advantages with using diesel fuel mowers. Diesel engines run more efficiently than gasoline engines, so your cost per hour is reduced. Better still, service intervals are longer. Engine oil and air filters do not need to be changed as frequently, and overall wear and tear is typically reduced. With proper care, serviceable engine life is three to four times your other commercial mower engine choices.

Extended life doesn't come cheap. Of the three engine/fuel combinations, diesel comes with the highest up-front price tag. The engine itself is more expensive, and diesel fuel tends to cost more per gallon. Ultimately, you will want to consider the amount of hours you use your lawn care equipment to determine the long-term effect of this trade off. Diesel is a great choice for frequent use but may not be for less used lawn mowers.

Fuel accessibility is also an important consideration. You'll find fuel for a diesel engine zero turn lawn mower at just about any local filling station. Many municipalities and some larger lawn care businesses have a full stable of diesel equipment already, so adding a diesel mower would keep things simple. Besides the convenience, there's less chance of using the wrong kind of fuel in a pre-established diesel environment.

Propane Lawn Mowers: The preferred alternative fuel machine choice

The propane zero turn mower saw a surge in popularity a few years ago, especially as gas prices soared.

One of the main benefits of using propane is its relatively low environmental impact. This green fuel burns on average 35 percent cleaner than gas. Free of carbon build-up, propane engines last about 25 percent longer than gas models. Many municipalities, government agencies, and colleges specify propane-burning lawn mowers on their contract bids as part of their sustainability efforts. Lowering your carbon footprint could turn out to be a competitive advantage for you.

Because it is stored in tanks, refueling a propane-equipped mower is as easy as disconnecting one tank and connecting another. This means less downtime and no chance of spilling. It also reduces the chances of pilferage compared to a container of gasoline.

The initial price of a new commercial propane mower falls between your two other choices. That said, you may find grants, third-party rebates and incentive programs tied to your investment in clean burning lawn care equipment. Be sure to look into tax credits, as well.

Going green has its challenges. Lawn mower propane isn't nearly as easy to find as gas or diesel. The fuel tanks are very specific and can vary between lawn mower brands. This necessitates stocking your own tanks and getting them filled or having ready access to a tank exchange. If you run out of propane on the job, you'd better have a spare tank on hand. The nearest gas station (and several others in the vicinity) most likely won't be able to help you.

Gasoline Lawn Mowers: The keep-things-simple machine choice

America's love affair with gasoline continues to defy every logical argument against it. That's because it presents the path of least resistance. For many, that's the most compelling argument to stick with tried and true unleaded gas.

Convenience is one of the main benefits of using gas in a lawn mower. There is no shortage of fuel stations, so filling up can be done on the way to the first job of the day, between jobs or whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Taking your personal car to the filling station? Bring along an extra couple fuel containers and fill them up at the same pump.

Gasoline engines aren't as low maintenance as your other options, but most small engine repair shops only work on gasoline engines, so it's easier to get service when you do have a problem. If you happen to know a thing or two about engine repair, it's most likely a gasoline engine.

Investment wise, gasoline powered commercial zero turn mowers have the lowest up-front cost. New EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) engines, such as the ultra efficient Vanguard™ 810cc EFI found on some Ferris lawn mowers, continue to supplant carbureted models. They offer increased engine efficiency and reduced service intervals, making gas less of a compromise.

For many commercial lawn care operators, unless there is a demand for one of the other fuel types, simplicity may win out.