Within three years, more than half of outdoor power equipment dealers will be offering commercial propane mowers to their landscape contractor customers, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Propane Education & Research Council.
The survey, conducted by an independent research firm, Wiese Research Associates, found that a quarter of outdoor power equipment dealers currently sell propane mower models and conversion services. But when dealers were asked if they expected to offer propane models within the next three years, that figure increased to 60%.
“One out of four dealers currently differentiate themselves from surrounding dealerships by offering commercial propane mowers to their customers, but we were really excited to see the expected increase in availability of propane mowers in the marketplace,” said Jeremy Wishart, deputy director of business development for PERC. “It’s no secret that dealers are a conduit to what contractors ultimately purchase, so to see the research outlining a healthy jump in the number of dealerships making propane mowers available is another sign that propane is being accepted by the market.”
The survey was created to take stock of outdoor power equipment dealers’ perceptions, awareness, and understanding of commercial propane mowers. More than 100 dealers completed the phone survey in April.
In addition to the forecasted increase in availability of propane mowers at dealerships, the overall opinion of commercial propane mowers was overwhelmingly positive. Of the dealers who had prior experience with propane machines, 80% rated their performance on par with gasoline mowers, and 90% responded they had a favorable or very favorable opinion of commercial propane mowers.
More education needed
While much of the feedback was a positive for propane proponents, there were some responses showing there is still some misinformation in the market pertaining to propane. The survey results indicated that there are some misconceptions among dealers regarding the price of propane compared to gasoline. For example, more than half of the respondents — 55% — said they either didn’t know or thought propane was more expensive than gasoline.
“That shows we need to do a better job educating dealers about how propane can reduce at-the-pump and operational costs compared to gasoline when you factor in propane fuel contracts, increased productivity, and reduced spillage and pilferage that comes with a closed fuel source like propane,” Wishart said.
Many dealers are also unaware of financial incentives that can help lower the cost of the propane equipment or conversion costs, according to the report. Almost 80% of dealers not currently selling propane equipment didn’t know that there are state and federal incentive programs routinely available for purchasing a commercial propane mower.
“Overall, there were a lot of encouraging statistics in the report and the future of propane is bright in the commercial landscape market,” said Wishart. “But we also found we need to do a better job educating dealers about the benefits of propane equipment and how their costs compare positively with a comparable traditional mower.”
Dealers interested in being listed as a propane equipment dealer on Dealer Point, PERC’s new online search tool, can apply at www.propane.com/commercial-landscape/propane-equipment-dealers/dealer-point-application.