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Competing Dealerships / Products

Section 1: Competing Dealerships (scroll down for competing products)

WHY buy from Earth Tools, when there are other walk-behind tractor dealerships? If you have a few minutes to read this, here are a few reasons to consider:

We have been doing this a LONG TIME. My father started using & selling walk-behind tractors in 1977, and we are currently the largest dealership for walk-behind tractors in the WORLD. No other dealer selling walk-behind tractors can match our experience, knowledge, expertise, spare part supply or custom tractor and implement / accessory selection. However, a few dealers have decided to match or beat us on Price. To do this, these dealers are typically selling equipment unassembled and untested, sometimes even drop-shipping it to the buyers to cut corners on price.

Here’s why we DO NOT and WILL NOT do those things:

1. STOCK. We don’t just “order something in” when you want it…we have the largest stock of walk-behind tractors and implements of any dealer on this planet…we typically carry over 2.5 million dollars worth of inventory, and this includes over $250,000 worth of spare parts. I don’t believe in “just-in-time” inventory; my Dad taught me that if you want customers to buy from your store rather than someone else’s, STOCK THE PRODUCT! (NOTE: with the supply-chain issues following the Covid pandemic, this has become much more challenging for us…because our manufacturers are running 6 to 12 months behind on production! Hopefully this will be resolved in the near future…)

2. SETUP. This equipment does not come from the factory “ready to use”, it is designed to be dealer-serviced before the end user gets it. We take this very seriously. For example, BCS America has issued a 21-point checklist for setting up a new tractor…but here at Earth Tools, our in-house checklist is 30 to 40 points, depending on tractor model. (Actually, BCS America used to have just a 10-point checklist, but they revised it after they got a copy of our checklist!) Our check-out culminates in me (Joel, Earth Tools founder & owner) personally doing the final checkout of every new tractor, including a test-run. Plus, we have an in-house 5 to 10-point checklist for most implements. Obviously, some defects might slip by us occasionally (while we test-run every tractor, we do not actually test-run every implement)…but we do our best, within reason, to catch whatever the factories might have left undone. (We have seen the factories screw up too much, after working on equipment for almost 4 decades…Even the best pieces of equipment suffer from “human error” on the assembly line.)

The time we spend setting up a new tractor is our ‘insurance investment’ that the new owner will be well satisfied with a dependable, well-tuned and properly serviced piece of equipment that they can put to use right away and not have to ‘fiddle’ with to get such things as cable tension adjustments right. Not only has our customer invested a lot of money in an excellent piece of equipment and deserves to have it as well-tuned as possible from the start, but of course we have also found that the better the impression a customer has of their new equipment, the more likely they are to send other potential buyers our way…

Example: The BCS factory starts every machine for a few seconds as it comes off their assembly line, but more often than not they fail to adequately drain the test fuel out of the carburetor & fuel tank. This “test fuel” is always stale by the time the machines arrive here from Italy. Consequently, we drain the fuel systems on all the BCS machines we set up, and put fresh fuel in…otherwise they will not start or run properly. Sometimes, we even have to clean the carburetor before they will run properly!

Another example: Many of the BCS warranty claims we submit to the company are generated DURING THE TRACTOR SETUP…Some of them are for seemingly silly little things like bolts improperly tightened, cables improperly adjusted, cable clamps not tight enough, etc…. BUT the fact is, any of these “little” things, if NOT corrected by the dealer before the customer gets the unit, will aggravate the new owner and lead to a poor impression of the equipment, not to mention of the dealer. If you buy a BCS tractor or implement in an unopened box, as some of these low-ball-price-dealers are selling them, BEWARE.

We have enough experience selling, servicing and using this equipment to know what may go wrong in the future and we take every step to prevent it with proper setup… this includes recommending the proper equipment options, configurations and accessories to give the best service for the implements chosen with the tractor. Experience counts. When you purchase from us, one of the ‘perks’ is that you can consult us for our experience & technical expertise for FREE, for as long as you own your equipment. –It is worth noting that a few other walk-behind tractor dealers around the country are now trying to copy what we do in terms of their equipment check-out procedure and their product offering (often buying some items FROM US to be able to offer what their customers want!)…. Well… what’s that saying? Something like: “Copying is the ultimate form of flattery”.
Anyway, if you choose to give your business to one of these “satellite” dealers, for whatever reason (they are closer to you, etc.), that’s up to you…just please remember that as far as our “free technical support” goes, that is only available to customers that buy directly from us.

3. LONGEVITY (the equipment, AND our business). This equipment is designed to last a lifetime with proper service, and I want this business be here to give you the product support you need for that lifetime. My family has been selling, servicing and using Italian-made walk-behind tractors since 1977. I enjoy this business and I plan to keep doing it as long as I am physically able to do so. I am not in this business to make a fast buck; there are plenty of other businesses I could be in if that were my goal. Our sale prices run 5% to 10% below suggested retail price and our sale prices are good year ‘round. We stay informed of all BCS factory promotions and pass them along to our customers. I could play “price wars” and try to undersell all our competition, but I want to still be in business in 30 years, so I can take care of my customers… so I’m going to make enough to stay in business. We don’t have other lines of equipment that are our ‘moneymakers’ so we can afford to give away Walk-behind Tractors at super-deep discounts. Walk-behind tractors are the primary focus of our business; I know every inch of the equipment from both a user’s and a mechanic’s perspective.

If you are considering buying a BCS or Grillo walk-behind tractor from another dealer, here are the questions you need to ask that dealer:

  1. How many walk-behind tractor & implement parts do you stock? (Earth Tools stocks over $250,000 in parts)
  2. How many full-time walk-behind-tractor-dedicated service personnel do you have? (Earth Tools has 2 full-time service technicians)
  3. Do you use this equipment yourself, on a regular basis? (Earth Tools’ owner uses a walk-behind tractor as his ONLY “wheeled” power equipment to maintain his property, logging over 200 hours of use per year)

The answers to those questions will likely tell you something about the future satisfaction level you will have with that dealer…

Section 2: Competing Products

There are really no products on the North American market that are really true “competitors” for the Italian-made walk-behind tractors in terms of versatility and durability…but I will talk a bit about some products anyway:

  1. Gravely®. Chances are, if an American has even heard of a walk-behind tractor, they are more likely to associate it with the Gravely® brand name than any other name. Gravely® was the first American company (and possibly the first in the WORLD) to produce walk-behind tractors with an actual PTO-shaft drive system, starting in the 1920s. Gravely® was great equipment in it’s day, but the problem with Gravely® is that they never really innovated or changed their original product…they were essentially selling the same thing in the year 2000 that they were in 1940. The continuing innovation of the Italian machines (reversible handlebars being the main thing Gravely® never incorporated) passed the Gravely® up in the 1960s, Gravely eventually sold out to the lawn & garden company Ariens® in 1982, and the original Gravely® walking tractors finally went out of production completely in the mid-2000s. After that, Gravely/Ariens® experimented with importing some very expensive Swiss-made walking tractors (the Rapid brand), and finally started producing their own walk-behind tractor again around 2015. This new version suffers from the same “blind spot” as the old Gravelys®: THE HANDLEBARS DO NOT REVERSE, so it is a FRONT-PTO MACHINE ONLY. Furthermore, it has a very limited number of implements (7, as of the date of this writing), aimed toward lawn care and snow removal only. You will also find that the base tractor price is even MORE than the cost of the much more versatile Italian machines we represent.

  2. DR®. If you’ve read ANY gardening / small farming / outdoorsy magazine, you’ve seen ads for DR® power equipment. They originally started in the 1990s selling a single-purpose brush mower which they bought from another company (Bachtold Brothers) and private-labeled as their own, and eventually grew to the point that they started building their own equipment. Again, this equipment is no match for the overall versatility of the Italian walking tractors (DR® has 5 implements, all “front-mount”…the Italian machines have over 50 implements, some front-mount and some rear) or the durability of the Italian machines (DR® powertrain: belts and powdered-metal-gear, grease-packed “transaxle”; Italian powertrain: Fully-hardened-steel shaft and gear drive in oil bath with all ball bearings, with automotive-style clutch)…they really do not belong in the same class at all; DR® is simply not much different in quality than the “lawn & garden” equipment you might find at a Big Box Store. We have sold many machines to folks who started out with a DR®…after their DR® falls apart in a few years, the buyer learns that “you get what you pay for”.

  3. Chinese / Asian made “copies” These are fairly new to the North American market: Chinese (or other Asian Country)-made walking tractors that are KNOCKOFFS of BCS or Grillo equipment. Some of this equipment is being sold directly under a Chinese name (Hongyue, and others), and some is being private-labeled by American companies (Trac-Vac), but it is the same story: A cheap knockoff of an Italian machine. We actually purchased one of the Chinese “BCS knockoff” machines in 2015 to test it and see what the quality was like….. Well, let me put it this way: After 3 years, the tractor, tiller and flail mower had self-destructed. (Actually, the first time we hit a rock with the tiller, the gears in the tiller gearbox failed. The tractor & flail mower lasted a little longer…) Again: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If you want to pay a cheap price, you get short-lived equipment (plus: who knows if you’ll ever be able to get a spare part for this “imitation” stuff!). If you are willing to pay the price for proven quality, you will run the machine for thousands of hours, plus have a reliable parts supply to keep it going through the years.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. As they say around here: “Lord willin’ and if the creeks don’t rise”, we will be here to serve you!

Joel's signature

Joel Dufour, Earth Tools owner