2011 Ariens 46 in 20 HP Riding Lawn Tractor Model 960460023 Review

Ariens 46 in 20 HP Riding Lawn Tractor Model 960460023 Review

New Ariens or Old Craftsman?

It’s Not The Best Lawn Tractor….It’s The Best Lawn Tractor For You!

I have seen this mower before. It looks like a very popular tractor from the last decade.  It took me a while to figure out exactly where I had seen it, but finally I figured it out.  It has the exact same specs as a 2008 Craftsman.  Right down to the hood, engine type, turning radius and controls. Because of this fact I will change my normal review layout to include a direct comparison of this tractor with the 2011 Craftsman it is competing against.

What a compliment to Sears and their Craftsman tractors.  It’s one thing when someone copies your work because they like it and feel it is the only way to compete.  It’s another when they use your old, outdated technology to say they have a “new” riding mower.

Face it, Craftsman mowers are popular.  They consistantly are the best rated mowers in the industry and eventually you will own one.  They are so popular that it looks like Home Depot is now offering similar (read older) versions of them with Poulan and Ariens names and colors. I spent a few hours comparing the specs of the “new” Ariens mowers at Home Depot and I have come to the conclusion that these Ariens tractors have the same, exact specs that the Craftsman models had in 2008!

Ariens and Home Depot are welcome to contact me and show me the difference!  I’m sure the engines in these mowers have the required EPA changes for 2011 otherwise I can’t tell the difference between these “new” mowers and the 2008 Craftsman lineup.

What do you want to do with your riding mower?

The Ariens does not have the 6 inch Turn Tight Technology the 2011 Craftsman’s have.  In fact the Ariens has a large 16 inch turning radius. The older Craftsman had a 14 inch.

My Review:

My Value/Cost Rating: Yard Tractor: Mows Lawn Well, Mulches, Gets Through Tight Spaces Well.  Great for 1/2 to 2  Acre Lawns, Light Hauling, Light Snow Removal. Accepts Light Attachments & Bagger.

Type: Lawn Tractor. See Tractor Rider Mower Types for a complete explanation.
Engine Type: Good. See Engine Types for a complete explanation.
Transmission Type: Hydrostatic. See Transmission Types for a complete explanation.
Speed Control: Fender Infinite

Accepts Light Duty Attachments

Direct Comparison of this tractor with the 2011 Craftsman it is competing against.

Product Data is taken directly from Home Depot .com and Sears.com at the time of this review. Please check the sites for current info.

  • Brand: Ariens Model 960460023 Craftsman Model 28852
  • Engine Size: Ariens 20 hp Craftsman 21 hp Oil Pump Briggs (Yellow Filter)
  • Cylinder: Ariens 1 Craftsman 1
  • Transmission: Ariens Hydrostatic Craftsman Hydrostatic
  • Cut Width: Ariens 46 in. Craftsman 46 in.
  • Blades: Ariens 2 Craftsman 2
  • Turning Radius: Ariens 16 in. Craftsman 8 in.
  • Frame: Ariens Steel CraftsmanSteel
  • Cutting Positions: Ariens 6 Craftsman 6
  • Forward Speed: Ariens 5-1/2 MPH Craftsman 5-1/2 MPH
  • Gas Tank: Ariens 1.5 gallon Craftsman 1.5 gallon
  • Average Price: Ariens $1299 Craftsman $1495

What I Like!

If you want a mower that will mow 1/2 to 2 acres well, handle a snow blade, and all the non-ground engaging attachments this is a great choice for you.  This tractor is heavy enough to handle moderately hilly and rough lawns.  This lawn tractor is one riding mower that will work well for your suburban lawn.

There are very few negatives with this mower as long as you understand that it is a good quality mid-sized mower designed to mow lawns well.  Take care of it (do the normal maintenance all lawn mowers need) and it will last you a long time.  I like this lawn mower for what it is designed for.

I personally feel the new Turn Tight Technology on the Craftsman yard tractor changes the game though for just about all residential yard owners. For most of you this will mow as quickly as a residential zero-turn.  It is easier to drive, is easier on your lawn and less expensive than the comparable zero-turn models.  There is no “learning curve” like there is with a zero-turn. It will handle slopes that the residential zero-turns won’t.  And………it will pull stuff!

I am confused on the motor.  The Craftsman uses the better B&S engine with an oil pump.  The literature for this Ariens st

Product Description From Home Depot .com

This Ariens riding tractor has premium features found on more expensive tractors such as a powerful Briggs & Stratton 20 HP engine, a hydrostatic automatic transmission, plus a wide 46 in. mowing deck with 4 anti-scalp wheels and a wash out port, all at a value price. Throw in a comfortable high back seat and handy beverage holder and you will find this solid looking riding tractor is all you need to get the job done quickly and easily.

  • Assembled Dimension: 49.5 in. W x 72.75 in. D x 46 in. H
  • Powerful 20 hp Briggs & Stratton pressure lubricated engine
  • Smooth hydrostatic automatic transmission with lever control that allows you to match the speed to the job
  • Wide 46 in. wide mowing deck with wash out-out port, 4 anti-scalp wheels, and spring assisted lift
  • Dual-blade cutting deck design ensures that grass is cut evenly on every pass
  • Tight 16 inch turning radius that allows you to maneuver around obstacles with ease
  • Durable, welded steel frame for long life
  • 6 cutting positions let you cut grass down to as short as 1-1/2 in. and as tall as 5-1/2 in
  • Travels at speeds of up to 5-1/2 MPH forward and 1-1/2 MPH in reverse for efficient mowing
  • Comfortable, adjustable, high-back seat plus a handy beverage holder
  • 1-1/2-gallon fuel capacity minimizes the need for refueling
  • Mulching capability extends the mower’s functionality requires mulching blade, not included
  • Mows in reverse,this feature is not found on comparably priced front engine lawn tractors at other retailers
  • MFG Brand Name : Ariens
  • MFG Model # : 960460023
  • MFG Part # : 960460023
  • Number of Cylinders : Single Cylinder

Ask a question, leave a comment, tell us about your mower below:

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  1. Thanks for the tip about Agri-Fab, but i could not find anything on their site about snow equipment whatsoever. They do not sell a plow or a blower, at least not on that site.

    Craftsman has on on their site but I’ll definitely need to confirm it’s the right part – the blower costs more than I paid for the tractor!

    • @jackBe, I would try calling Agrifab. Use the link in the previous comment to contact them. Also go over Bercomac. They make a heavy-duty snow blower and they list right on their site what their units fit.

  2. Thanks for this detailed review. I just picked up an Ariens 46″ at home depot for just over $1000. It was a display model from last year that did not sell, but still brand new. The sales rep said that this mower can even take a snow blower attachment or a plow blade.

    Does this mean I can use the Craftsman snow blower that’s still sold on the Craftsman web site, or has the chassis changed on the new Craftsman tractors so they are no longer compatible with the ones they were putting out in 2008 (a.k.a., the 2012 Ariens mower I just bought)?

  3. Like the blog (hate the term blog) Hey Paul, it sounds to me like you are a craftsman sales rep. I do like the craftsman mowers, and my wife groans every time we go to sears, because I always park out back where the service desk/pickup door is so I can look at the mowers outside and of course the tool ection is the first section just inside the door. I really looked at Craftsman mowers and others before I found the Ariens on clearance at Home Depot. As mentioned before my wife asks me why I am still looking at mowers 9 months after we bought one and own two others (older ones) already… I like all things mechanical and electrical.

    Back to mowers – Price and value are my main objectives when I look at mowers. Reliability and name brands are subject to how well the “manufacturers” shop for parts, when they build a mower. Engine – I know that B&S, Kohler and Kawasaki to name few all are used. B&S has a high and low end engine line. My Ariens mower has the 20Hp Intek 1 cylinder engine. My brother owns a John Deer (2 yrs old) with a 22 Hp B&S motor. Kohler engines are supposedly some how better. But I have read about the overheating? Could simply be poor ventilation due to mower hood design. I don’t know…. Kawasaki and Kohler engines are going to costs you $100 – 200 more. To me you can’t go wrong with simple and proven Briggs and Stratton. No slight to other engines, just rather pay less for something that gets the job done just as good. Question, does anyone know if Honda makes larger Hp mower engines? They make excellent small engines and outboard motors…

    Transmission/Transaxles – The ariens that I bought has a Tuff-Torq hydrostatic transaxle. It is very smooth and easy to adjust speed for the obstacle and turn. I had a problem though. Mower wouldn’t go in Fwd or Rev intermittently. Tried what the manual said to purge air from hydraulic system. After after awhile, the mower would not move at all. No it had nothing to do with push/drive lever position. Ifigured out that the axle shafty key had sheared on the right side. Could not see it while sitting on the mower due to the rubber hub dust cap. I just noticed i move slightly, then pulled it off and saw the axle shaft spinning away, but not driving the wheel. The part only costs $2.47 but didn’t want to wait for it to be delivered. Measured the part and researched online. 3/16″ square bar stock costs about 1.55 a foot at ACE hardware.Instead of the factory width of two inches, I cut mine as wide as the keyway width, minus a lttle wiggle room so it wouldn’t rub against parts it shouldn’t. Now the mower does wheel stands if you don’t watch out and start in full forward sped and throttle. Operatimg tip – My wife was trying to adjust speed mainly with throttle. instead of gear shift lever (INFINITELY VARIABLE SPED BETWEEN 0 AND ABOUT 5.8 mPH… NOTICED HER SNATCHING THE WHEELS OFF THE GROUND AT STARTS AND TOLD HER TO USE SHIFT LEVER TO CONTROL SPEED. mANUAL STATES TO RUN AT FULL THROTTLE NO MATTER WHAT SPEED RANGE YOU DESIRE TO KEEP THE BLADES SPINNG WITH FULL POWER FOR A CLEANER CUT AND NOT TO BOG THE ENGINE DOWN.

    Sorry caps lock button stuck while I was typing.

    A differential allows each wheel to spin at different speeds to go around corners and in case of loss of traction. The pinion gear which is driven, turns a ring gear, which turns two spider gears, which rotate freely and turn in opposit directions perpendicular to the ring gearand turn a gear attached to a yoke,and two indepent drive axles going to one wheel on either side of the vehicle. It will drive both wheels if the direction of travel is a straight line. If you turn or lose traction on one wheel it will drive the wheel with least resistance. On a car one wheel or the other will break traction during a burn-out and that one wheel and only that wheel will be driven because of the differential gears BY DESIGN.

    Anyway after speaking with Home Depot and Ariens about the problemm Home Depot has said the I have a full two year warrnty not just the 1 year store warranty. Maybe Involving corporate at HD and Ariens made that happen. I just wanted a new axleshaft – about $22 and a new wheel hub About $90…. They insist I bring the mower to service shop and have it repaired. I haven’t decided yet what to do. The key sheared and since I didn’t figured it out until damage was done – The sheared key halves would sometimes catch and drive the wheel for awhile, which made me think it was a hydraulic pump or valve or air in the system problem. By the time I took the wheel off, there was nothing left of the key but metal shavings and dust. The axleshaft and the wheel hub were badly scored and gouged. To the point that ifeel it may wobble some and make the new key werar out and shear again. I just wanted an axle and hub to fix it down the road sholud it get to the point of being sloppy and chronic problem. I will figure out what to do.

    Anyway Tuff Torq buils residential and heavy duty transaxles and Zero trun units as well. They are prevalent on a lot of mowers.

    Mower Decks This is a very critical component, as it is why we buy ‘mowers’ in the first place. MTD decks are ok, but are kinda thin and they will bend and hit the blade very easily. I had a 38″ MTD deck and it had no guide wheeels so it would bend ahit the blade and stop the blades and engine sometimes until you bent it or beat back out awawy from the blade. I replaced with a 42″ MTD deck with diagonally opposed guide nwheels. It works great unil the front of the deck withouta guide wheel hits a root the bam! same problem. The Ariens Mower deck (HuskQarna) has four guide wheels, and it goes over anything and rarely even scrapes an exposed root. I am going to install a gude wheel on all corners of the decks on my older mowers. I will not buy any mopwer without four deck guides wheels ever…. I have a yard to mow, not a golf course green.

    The end.

    P.S. All mowers are good, You just have to have the right size mower for the Job. My Murray 12.5 Hp spins the 42″ deck just as good as it did the 38″ one to my ammazement. I way 300 lbs and it pulls my heavy butt and stills powers along. Just don’t try to mow 12″ high grass. I broke out my Ariens with the 20Hp engine and it was like childs play then, Just have to make additional passes to mulch up the bushels of grass clippings afterward….

    The End H

    • @Leonard, Thank you for the detailed letter. No, I am not a Craftsman rep. I just like Craftsman because they usually get the new innovative features before the other Husqvarna built tractors. (Ariens, Husqvarna, Poulan Pro)

      Most, if not all manufactures require that you use their service centers to get warranty parts. These service centers stay in business by back charging the part and labor for your repair. The manufactures also rely on these service centers to get the correct part and only the correct part. Even though you and I know what parts may be needed, we can also forget we need gaskets, oil and other items to make the fix last.

      Now for the sad news. In your case the servicing dealer won’t just order the parts that are broke. There are no serviceable parts on these transmissions. It costs too much in labor to remove the trans, tear it apart to replace the axle, fill it with new oil and then replace in the tractor. It is something that the manufacture won’t allow you to do because these trans really need to be rebuilt in “clean room” conditions and ANY dirt or foreign objects introduced into them during a rebuild (or oil change) will lead to premature failure.

      So they will replace the entire trans because that axle shaft is mauled.

      You are exactly right. There are a lot of mowers out there and each one is designed with a specific buyer in mind. I don’t feel there is one “best tractor” but there is one best tractor for you. My goal here is to help you find the best tractor for you.

      • Paul, you are probably right about replacing the whole axle. I don’t detect any wobble, so will probably just do visual inspection after mowing season to see if damage is worse. I doubt it will be a chronic problem. I am fair about things, and don’t want Home Depot to have to pay more for repair than I paid for mthe clearanced mower to begin with.

        As I mentioned, I replaced the axle shaft key with 3/16″ square bar stock. Cost $1.55 for a foot long piece. Replaced other axle key at same time. Instead of the two inch long stock key, I made it about 3 1/2 inches long – more surface contact with both axle and hub key ways. I also put a generous amount of high temp water resistant brake caliper grease on the axle to fill in the gap and reduce wear due to now not so perfect clearance due to gouging of axle and hub. Put some on good axle as well. Figured it couldn’t hurt, and have read horror stories mabout hubs rusting to axle and couldn’t be knocked off even using a torch in some cases.

        As far as Transaxle servicing, you are correct about keeping dirt out. I have seen where people have documented their own rebuild jobs with photos though. One guy figured out that the tuff-torq trans axles with the “non user serviceable” sealed unit, can be serviced and fluid level checked if you remove the cooling fan you can get to the fill plug to change or add fluid. New axles are only about 25 bucks and 30 bucks depending which side from parts dealers. A new wheel hub is some ridiculus price around 95 dollars. That is retarded, becuase I have seen wheel hubs and tire assemblies for murray mowers at Lowe’s for less than $60. They have a square axle end that drives the wheel hub instead of using a key though..

        Happy mowing and keep up the good work. It is easy to figure out alot of things through blogs if you have the patience and enough knowledge to separate bull crap from the real deal. Also figured out that through watching actual repairs on you tube, you can avoid finding things out the hard way and be totally prepared to tackle most jobs with the right tools on hand…

  4. The Ariens 46″ mower with 20hp B&S engine, Hydrostatic drive is actually built by Huskqvarna. Based on how the craftsman (2008 model) you described, it was too probably. I bought a factory reconditioned Ariens (46″/20horse Briggs) at Home Depot this Feb for $612.00 At that price, my shopping was over with. It appeared that someone bought it, mowed their lawn once ,bent a blade and returned it. The factory did not correct the problem, but when I pointed it out to Home Depot, they sent sent a repair shop out bto pick it up for repairs at no cost. Since it was ‘factory reconditioned’, the normal 2 year factory warranty was void, but Home Depot gives a 1 year warranty.
    Anyhow, I do like the mower, and it gets the job done in a hurry with the wide deck. I don’t know how you can turn a mower around a 6″ radius at any speed even on level ground unless you have all 4 wheels steering like the new Cub Cadets. I own 3 different mowers, (Murray 12.5 Hp – was 38″ but I installed a 42″ deck on it. By the way a 38, 40 or 42 deck will interchange. The 12.5 hp briggs and stratton is more than enough power by the way, as I weigh 300 lbs and have a 1/3 acre yard. Also own 42″ Wizard (western Auto) with 14.5 hp and the 46″ Ariens AND if you try to turn in less than a 36′ radius you had better be creeping in low gear with low throttle, or you will just plow straight ahead into a ditch or tree, you get the idea. I have seen Craftsmans tight turn steering. If you turn the wheels 90 degrees, it creates a good possibility for rollover especially if you are turning uphill. The base of most mature trees are at least 2 to 3 feet in diameter and have roots, which increase the diameter of the base of the tree quite a bit further. I have learned that you make passes and try to get a quarter of the way around the obstacle (tree) at normal (slow speed recommended)cutting speed during nearby straight line passes to safely mow around the tree. Better yet, break out a push mower or weedeater to finish.
    A big zero turn mower (not talking about Craftsman tight turn) is very good, but if you have small children, our pets around they will get run over by the nut jobs that zoom around like rabid dogs on those things. They will stop, back up and pivot so fast and with totally reckless abandon, and it is all over but the crying if a kid or dog, or in my yard ducks get in the way.
    In the ’60s when I grew up (I’m just a whuppersnapper – wasn’t born ’til Eisenhower was president) – Mowing used to be a civilized affair, and bermuda shorts and argyle socks were the uniform of the day. Mom would bring lemonade out to Dad and he would tip his hat to his golfing buddy across the street, who was also mowing his lawn, (with a jazzed up 20′ two stroke lawn-boy)… Now we are all so in a hurry to get back to the game, and the wife is out shopping (sorry fellas, no lemonade for us). By the way, this does not describe me, I am not better than anyone, and my wife likes riding the mowers as much as I do. And thankfully, she hates shopping.

    In summation, most mowers are manufactured by Michigan Tool and Die Co. (MTD) , American Yard Products (AYP) and as of late Huskqvarna. The name brands are marketing badges stuck on after the fact with the appropriate color paint job. However, back in 1922 their was an ARIENS mower manufacturing company in Brillon, Wisconsin. They are still there, but probably really only build snow throwers now. I may be wrong, so please don’t sue me. But the name Ariens, and Gravely go back a long way, and Ariens/Gravely mowers that are 30 and 40 years old are still being rebuilt and driven to this day by die hard owners who rightfully trust those names. Gravely built full size farm tractors as well and maybe Ariens/Gravely still actually buid commercial grade zero turn mowers, I don’t know. Have researched some, but am not an expert on any subject, so please feel free to correct me, and would like to learn more, and have factual statements presented, that we all can learn from.

    I am a Craftsman Club member and own a Craftsman walk behind, self ropelled mower (honda 5.5hp). Have owned many Craftsman mowers, and my dad would either buy craftsman or Western Auto mowers when I was a kid. We had a mower that you wound up a spring with a crank handle, the hit a start button/lever and the spring would crank the engine, like an old automobile, before electric starters. That was a real innovation, and a marvel of simplicity in mechanical engineering.

    The Ariens is a good mower at a great price. Bottom line.

    • @Leonard, You really got great deal on the Ariens. Thanks for the info, I didn’t know Home Depot changed the warranty on returned mowers. (If you buy a clearance Craftsman you still get the full warranty)

      Ariens is alive and well and yes they do make high quality mowers (they just don’t make lawn tractors here in the U.S.) They recently purchased Countax (English) and I hope they bring those tractors over here.

      I to love the old Gravely’s. I would love to find a Gravely ProMaster 50 to restore. It was my first rider when I started the landscape business.

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  10. Compare this to the Craftsman model 28885 which sells for $1299. The Craftsman unit has a CVT transmission Vs a hydro, doesn’t have the mow in reverse feature which the Ariens does has 2 Vs 4 gauge wheels, an 18″ turning radius Vs 16″. The unit you are comparing to sells for $1499, not apples to apples.

    • @Jeff, You are right. If you compare by price you have to look at the Craftsman 28885. If you go to Sears Yard Guru they compare this model to the 28885.

      But I have to compare it to the 28852 because the Ariens is simply an older version of it. Specifically the Ariens has the same, exact specs as the 2008 Craftsman model 28814 (20 HP Intek, 16 in turning radius, 46 in deck, hydro.) The 28885 is made by MTD, the Ariens and 28852 are both made by Husqvarna.

      In fact here is the product page on Sears for the old tractor. http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_07128814000P?keyword=07128814000&sLevel=0&sid=I0084400010000100600&aff=Y#specs

      Since then, Craftsman has updated the mower to include a better motor and Turn Tight Steering. Craftsman has added only $200 to get you these new features.

      By the way, I was able to demo the new Turn Tight Steering a few weeks ago and I feel it is worth the extra $200 alone! The 28852 steers easily and will easily mow around a flagpole.

  11. Thanks Paul! That’s what I thought, I just wanted to make sure before I buy this gem next month. I thought it was surely a mis-print until I considered how a front wheel might handle. I have long, slopped barrow-pits to mow and keeping on the slope is accomplished by slightly turning the front tires uphill and skidding them. Maybe front wheel drive would work better for that situation. But it looks like I’ll not have a chance to find out!

    Thanks again. This is an incredibly good service you provide here!

    • I’ve had this mower for a year now and thought I’d update my comments. This is an incredible mower!! I have 1.6 acres in 5 plots with 5 trees, 6 bushes, a house and driveway to mow around and have put this to many a test.

      I have 300 ft of 30 degree slope I have to mow on the slope. I have to sit on the uphill side of the seat and rest one hand on the center of the seat to keep the seat switch from killing the engine, but this works just fine while still providing the rollover-kill protection.

      Once the engine is running the key returns to the forward position. You can turn it to the reverse position and leave it there and mow both forward and backward without moving the key again. For a convoluted yard with many backups and no children or pets this is a great feature.

      The 20 horse engine pulls a 46″ thatcher, 46″ sweeper, or 42″ aerator effortlessly. I mounted a rack on the rear and have an ATV 10 gallon Fimco spray tank with boomless nozzels or electric seed-fertilizer spreader on it and this mower handles either so well I leave the tank on and loaded all summer.

      Turning radius is really 20″ – on concrete at a crawl. On grass it’s really 34″ due to skidding. But with one backup to breakout the center of a land that’s still pretty good.

      Bottom line on this mower – Beware, your neighbors will accuse you of recreational mowing!!

  12. The specifications tab on the Home Depot page for this Ariens mower says that it’s Drive type is Front wheel drive. Is that a miss-print, or it it really front wheel drive? If it is, is the Craftsman also front wheel drive?

    • @Keith, I know I just about fell out of my chair laughing when I saw that the first time. I’m not sure if it is the 19 year old kids that are doing the web stuff or the people they outsourced the work to overseas who never have seen a lawn tractor!

      No, It’s not front wheel drive…………