Outdoor Power Equipment

Ronald Wilwert, manager-national account sales for John Deere, discusses the current trends in outdoor power equipment, satisfying the rental customer and more.

RER: What does the outdoor power equipment market look like for 2005?

Wilwert: The OPEI market is having a fair year in 2005. Commercial sectors of the business remain strong, while the residential business has been impacted by cooler-than-normal temperatures delaying spring in many areas of the country.

Are there any tips rental companies should give novice operators?

To have a successful rental and a satisfied customer, it is important that the customer fully understand the features, functions and limitations of the equipment before he or she begins to use it. Always go over operation instructions with every customer. While many people may think they know how to operate equipment, they, in fact, may not. John Deere provides a safety video with the owners' manual at the time the machine is purchased. This video is in both English and Spanish.

How can companies keep equipment in good working order from season to season and expand the life of equipment?

Proper maintenance is critical for the proper performance of any machine, but it is especially key in rental applications. Following the operators' manual and recommended service intervals is a must. Many rental stores have implemented a “check-in/check-out” process where each piece of machinery is inspected before going out and after it is returned. Using OEM parts is also important to the longevity of any piece of equipment as those parts are manufactured to engineer specifications.

With fuel prices on the rise, how can operators get the most mileage out of each gallon?

Here again it is important that the machine is operated as recommended in the owners' manual and then routinely serviced. A dirty air filter will increase fuel consumption in any engine, regardless of size.

What should a rental company consider before purchasing outdoor power equipment?

Many factors should be considered when looking to add equipment to a rental fleet. First, what product categories are needed by the customers in the market at that time? You need to establish a goal for rental utilization for each product purchased. Next, you need to understand what the market rental rates are for that type of equipment. This is a critical economic factor that will determine your return on investment (ROI). Once you've determined a product need that allows you to meet your financial objectives, you can begin to survey the market for the product.

When it comes to purchasing the product itself, there are several key factors to consider:

  • The quality and brand reputation of the manufacturer
  • The quality and service support of the manufacturer and its dealer network
  • Versatility of the machine being purchased
  • Parts availability
  • Resale value

Once these factors are addressed, you will have the best product to suit your needs. Combined with regular service and maintenance, you will make your total cost of ownership the lowest possible and optimize your profit and return.

Are there any trends in the market to keep an eye out for?

There is a significant trend to move into more compact and smaller products, targeting the homeowner and do-it-yourselfer. Commercial mowing equipment is also being purchased for rental applications as landscape companies look for fill in gaps in their fleet or finish out contracts. Other trends include extended hours of operation, including weekends, and more appealing storefronts to attract homeowner or non-contractor business.


Vandermolen's Windmill trimmers are commercial units powered by Kawasaki engines. The line consists of five models, from the 18.4cc trimmer with curved shaft, model L1840K, to the new straight shaft models that range from 25.4cc to 43.2cc and feature an integral loop handle and body protection bar for use with monofilament heads or other non-metal cutting heads. Windmill trimmers are offered with a choice of 10 different cutting heads, five thicknesses of line and other related accessories.
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Subaru Robin

Subaru Robin's EH025 mini 4-cycle overhead valve engine weighs only 6 pounds for easy operator handling and is designed to power a variety of hand-held equipment. Offering the capabilities of a 2-cycle engine in a 4-cycle configuration, the air-cooled, single-cylinder engine produces a maximum power output of 1.1-hp. For easier operation, the EH025 engine features an automatic decompression system, resulting in fast, one-pull starts.
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The RedMax BCZ2600S trimmer is powered by a 25.4 cc, pure 2-cycle Strato-Charged engine that introduces fresh air into the engine between the exhaust gases and the fresh charge of air/fuel mix. This eliminates the need for a catalytic converter, which generates extremely hot exhaust gas. The 11.1-pound trimmer is equipped with RedMax' PT104 Plus bump-and-go head. The head is molded of heavy-duty nylon, and a metal insert in the tap knob reduces wear and abrasion as operators tap the head on the ground to extend the monofilament cutting line.
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John Deere

The John Deere 997 Diesel Z-Trak mower is designed for heavy-duty commercial and governmental applications and features a 31-hp, 3-cycle Yanmar engine. Deck options include a 60-inch 7-Iron side or rear discharge deck or a 72-inch 7-Iron side discharge deck. The 997 Z-Trak also features a heavy-duty canister air filtration system, a fully enclosed engine compartment and deluxe comfort seat with armrests and ergonomic controls. An optional hydraulically adjustable deck is also available.
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The Rolleez Dethatcher from MacKissic features the patented Kwik Thatch nylon tine system, which is designed for low maintenance and easy replacement. It takes less than 5 minutes to install a complete set of tines. The Kwik Thatch system offers smooth operation with less wear and tear on the machine and the operator can't damage sidewalks, pavers or sprinkler heads. The Rolleez is lighter more compact and the patented tine system won't allow the operator to abuse the machine or the lawn. With seven height positions, an ergonomic handle bar, and 12-gauge construction, it is durable and user-friendly. The dethatcher is available in an 18-inch, 108-pound model with semi-pneumatic tires or a 22-inch Pro model that weighs 126 pounds with pneumatic tires.
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The Ryan Lawnaire V Plus is built for large aeration jobs and added stability on slopes. The 26.5-inch width covers more than 40,400 square feet per hour. Features include comfortable rubber grips, handle-mounted throttle and a choice of engines. Dual weights help increase ground pressure by more than 25 percent and are spring-loaded for easy removal. With the added weights and water-filled drum, aeration tines can penetrate soil down to a depth of 2.75 inches.
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Honda Power Equipment

Honda Power Equipment's FRC800 rear-tine tiller is powered by Honda's commercial-grade GX240 8-hp engine. Ease of use is enhanced through a simplified tine engagement lockout system and a low center of gravity. Large-diameter 14-inch tires allow for smoother operation, while an overall weight of 275 pounds provides traction without the need for wheel weights. A front bumper is used to protect the engine, starter and belt cover to resist the wear-and-tear that comes from frequent trailer loading and unloading, and provides tie-down points for transport. The FRC800 employs heavy-duty tines, drag bar and handle bar.
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Rayco's RG 1631 gas-powered stump cutter is a larger, more powerful version of the RG 1625A Super Jr. The machine provides 31-hp, fingertip controls, variable travel speeds and an anti-creep hill brake. The stump cutter also features single wheel or posi-traction select drive and a Rayco “Quick Stop” cutter wheel brake for maximum safety.
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Morbark now offers the FlashFoam Coloring System for installation on a range of Morbark equipment, including tub grinders, horizontal grinders and whole tree chippers. In virtually any color, the system provides single-pass coloring on whole trees, stumps, roots, logs and more, with a dry finished product coming off the discharge conveyor. The FlashFoam system is designed to reduce water usage, eliminate waste caused by runoff and eliminate the need for additional handling and stockpiling. The foam coloring provides results on any type of wood.
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The Plugr PL410 turf aerator has a 22-inch aeration width and is designed to easily maneuver curves and slopes. Tines disengage with a hand lever to skip over sprinkler heads and sidewalks. Cam-powered tines punch clean, deep holes into the soil with no add-on weights or water drums. Engine options include a 5.5-hp Briggs & Stratton Intek OHV or 4-hp Honda OHV engine. Compact folding and a built-in lifter bar are designed to help make the aerator easy to transport.
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Bandit Industries

Bandit's 6-inch Model 65XL is a disc-style chipper for landscape pruning, and processing brush and stringy materials. The 65XL is designed for rental: It is compact for the homeowner, and rugged enough for the contractor. A wide opening allows it to chip multiple pieces and limbs. A variety of gasoline and diesel engines are offered from 20 to 37 hp. Bandit's line includes 6-, 9-, 12-, 14-, 15- and 18-inch diameter capacity hand-fed tree and brush chippers.
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Echo's PPT-260 Power Pruner features Echo's 25.4cc Power Boost Tornado engine designed for superior performance and reduced emissions, without sacrificing reliability or durability. The pruner's telescoping shaft allows pruning up to 12 feet, 10 inches in normal use and 17 feet, 10 inches with an optional 5-foot extension. A lightweight magnesium gear case houses a fully adjustable, gear-driven automatic oiler system that delivers proper oil flow during extended operation. The PPT-260 features a 19.6-fluid-ounce-capacity fuel tank that reduces refills and extends run times. A high-volume felt air filter cleans incoming air for longer engine life.
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Easy Lawn

Easy Lawn's hydroseeding units are used for various applications including residential yards and erosion control. The units have capacities of 100 to 3,300 gallons. Jet agitation units feature poly tanks and are low maintenance. Mechanical units feature stainless-steel tanks and mulch grinders, John Deere engines and zero daily maintenance.
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Briggs & Stratton

Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power designed its line of Vanguard V-Twin Big Block air-cooled and liquid-cooled commercial engines in the 25- to 35-hp range to meet the growing customer demand for more engine horsepower. These engines are designed to provide economical power, increased horsepower-to-weight ratio and the same mounting footprint for air- and liquid-cooled applications.
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Husqvarna's new 356BT backpack blower has an ergonomic design to make it easy to carry and operate. Husqvarna's exclusive Low-Vib anti-vibration system separates the engine from the housing with spiral springs of steel, resulting in low vibration levels. For operator comfort, the 356BT has a new, load-reducing harness with padded shoulder straps and a hip belt that distributes the blower's weight. The adjustable handle is placed on the outside of the tube to provide better control while working.

“Husqvarna's new 356BT is much quieter than other blowers we offer,” says Cari Bernhart, sales manager for M&M True Value Hardware in Steubenville, Ohio. “Our customers appreciate the reduced noise and lighter weight. They are drawn to the new design when they come in the store because it's much less bulky than other blowers. A lot of times they rent it, and end up coming back to buy it.”
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