Buying Guide to Lawn Tractors

If your lot is over a half acre and you don’t yet have a lawn tractor, now is the time to consider one. Prices have come down in recent years and many models are priced comparably or even less than riding lawn mowers. A bagging kit for lawn tractors is a readily available option.

Not only are lawn tractors priced comparably to riding lawn mowers, they are far more versatile as well. Attachments for plowing, lawn aerating, towing and snow blowing hook easily to the mower and offer greater performance out of the machine.

Lawn tractors come with either a manual transmission for changing gears or a clutchless automatic drive using a hydrostatic transmission or a continuously variable transmission. Some models have a translucent fuel tank for checking how much fuel remains while others have a fuel gauge instead. Other features to look for include cruise control, electric power takeoff switches, cup holders and four wheel steering.

Before buying a lawn tractor, decide on the type of mowing you do. Side discharging of clippings is the most common mode that most people use and all lawn tractors can accomplish that. Bagging kits are also available but cost hundreds of extra dollars. If this is the type of mowing you require, by all means, get the bagging kit. If not, consider a lawn tractor with a mulching plate. A mulching plate grinds the clippings and shoots them back down into the lawn. Mulching is considered ideal for the grass; it keeps moisture in and cuts fertilizing costs. Because mulching only works on dry grass, choose a lawn tractor model that can easily switch between mulching mode and general cutting.

In addition, consider the conditions you will be using your lawn tractor under. Is the lot sloped? How large is it? Are there a lot of obstacles to work around? Cutting decks come in various sizes. A 42 inch cutting deck with two blades cuts evenly and is the easier to maintain than a larger three bladed deck. For a lawn with slopes, choose a wider deck for added stability. Smaller lawns can get away with smaller deck sizes while a larger lot, such as over two or three acres, will benefit from the larger cutting deck. The larger the cutting area, the faster the job gets done.

Which lawn tractor is best? The one that matches your needs. For example, a person with smaller lot (less than an acre) with few obstacles might choose a less expensive gear driven lawn tractor while someone with a one to two acre lot will prefer a lawn tractor with the automatic transmission, cruise control and a more powerful engine. For those with even larger lots, their ideal lawn tractor will come with an 18 to 24 horsepower engine and a 46 inch to 54 inch cutting deck.

A zero-turn-radius lawn tractor allows you to steer by adjusting levers that control a driven rear wheel. The ZTR style lawn tractors maneuver by pivoting and do not leave a circle of uncut grass. ZTRs have less traction than regular lawn tractors and are not suitable for hilly slopes. ZTRs are strictly mowing machines. Their design and rear mounted engines don’t allow for attachments. ZTR lawn tractors are great for lawns with lots of obstacles but you will pay a price for the added maneuverability, from $2500 to beyond $7,000.

Lawn tractors can be purchased at either a home improvement store or direct from the dealer. For the lowest prices, comparison shop at stores such as Sears, Wal-Mart and Home Depot. If service, set up and instruction are required, buying from the dealer will better meet your needs but their prices may be a little higher.

Lawn tractors come in all price ranges from budget to high end with features to match. Budget lawn tractors cost about $850 to $1500. Expect a manual transmission, a single cylinder engine. Stepping up to the next level will get you an automatic transmission, mulching kits, cruise control, headlights, adjustable seats, electric power take off and other amenities such as cup holders. Getting a high end garden tractor will cost between $5000 and above. The highly rated Kubota GR2100 garden tractor comes with all wheel drive, a three cylinder 21 horse power engine, power steering, a hydraulic attachment lift and more. The Kubota costs about $8200.

Heavy duty lawn tractors last longer and are more durable than the less expensive light duty models and riding lawn mowers. Over the years, John Deere and Craftsman lawn tractors have proved to be reliable, durable models. Depending on how long the lawn tractor lasts before it needs replacing or major repairs, the more expensive models may actually cost less over the long run.

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