Troy-Bilt Bronco

2013 Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 in 20 hp Lawn Tractor Review

This is Troy-Bilt’s mid-level Lawn Tractor.  It has a better motor than the Pony and an “automatic” trans. The “automatic” is easier to drive than a shift-on-the-go trans and the motor is a good Kohler with an oil filter. If you want a good lawn tractor JUST to mow lawn and pull a small cart this is a good choice!

by: Paul Sikkema

Is this the right mower for you?: If you just want an inexpensive mower and you have a flat lawn about 1/2 to 1.5 acres this tractor will do the job. Automatic transmissions are fun, agile and easy to drive, but they are limited to mowing a flat lawn and pulling a small yard cart. Automatics use a variable speed pulley/belt transmission so if you try to pull heavy loads or use this mower on hills you will be replacing the drive belt every few years or so.   This tractor will mow up to 1.2 acres an hour.

This rider has been around for a few years now.  It uses the proven MTD automatic transmission. You can use a 2 bin bagger.  This is a great yard mower and is designed to primarily mow lawns.  If you need a rider that will pull a heavy yard cart, sweeper, snow blower or other normal pull-behind attachments look at a different tractor. Oh, One last thing, this mower will not mow in reverse.

Is this the right lawn tractor for you? Please read this entire review before you buy this tractor.  This mower is a great value but it is not for everyone.

Is this the right mower for you?  The positive:

If you just want an inexpensive mower and you have a flat lawn about 1/2 to 1.5 acres, this tractor will do the job.  This mower does not have special features. It is just a good, basic lawn tractor.  It does have 2 anti-scalp wheels on the deck and it does  have a decent seat. If you have a flat lawn without a lot of trees and other landscape features to mow around this may be a good choice for you.

Most owners today prefer a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission but this is an inexpensive alternative: A “hydro” is easier to shift and saves you time when mowing around many obstructions but always adds a few hundred dollars to the cost of the mower.  This transmission is also easy to use. Just put the lever on the left-hand fender in “F” and push on the right foot pedal.  The farther you push, the faster you go. To back up place the fender control in “R” and push on the foot pedal and back you go! This automatic transmission is a lot easier to use than the manual transmission in your old mower.

Is this the right mower for you? The negative:

– This mower is a great value, but it is not for everyone. It is designed to primarily mow lawns.  If you need a rider that will pull a heavy yard cart, sweeper or ground engaging attachments look at a different tractor.

– The specifications state it will mow from 1 to 4 inches, but in reality it will only mow up to about 3 1/2 inches.  If you like a thick, lush lawn and mow high this mower will not mow high enough for you.  If you install a mulch kit this mower may not mow high enough for you to get the best cut.

– This mower will not mow in reverse.


If you do not purchase the Lowes Extended Protection Plan be sure you understand how to get your new mower repaired if there is a mechanical defect. Talk to the store where you picked it up and read the operator’s manual warranty statement. Note: The engine is warrantied through the engine manufacture and not through Troy-Bilt.

Reliability – New to 3 yrs: This tractor is serviced by an authorized Troy-Bilt repair center. There have been reoccurring issues with the build quality. After reading over 170 reviews of this tractor I see many problems with the Kohler motor and with the deck belt system.  My Opinion, The 22 hp Kohler in the Horse tractor has an excellent reputation, but for some reason this 20 hp is not proving as durable. I am going to recommend you stay away from this tractor. If you want an automatic I suggest you also look at the 2014 42 inch Craftsman Model 20373 – Automatic – 17.5 HP   before you buy this tractor. It has a proven B&S motor.

12 thoughts on “2013 Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 in 20 hp Lawn Tractor Review”

  1. Can you suggest a lawn tractor that can handle a pull cart capacity of about 500 lbs and in the $1000.00 price range.
    Thank you

    1. @Gene, there are no new ones in that price range that will handle that amount of weight. Lawn tractors under $1500 are limited to 300 lbs or so. I suggest you find a used Yard Tractor or Garden Tractor. You can find a used Craftsman GT5000 for less than that.

  2. I’m thinking about getting a basic riding mower for our less than an acre yard. I have one area that is a fairly steep hill. It’s probably about 15-20 degrees of incline. The lawn service we have been using cuts it horizontally, across the slope, using a zero turn mower. I’m thinking of cutting it upward, across diagonally, with a lawn tractor type mower.
    I’ve looked at this Bronco and the Pony, at Lowes. It seems like either one would be ok. Any suggestions?

    1. @Wayne, Both units are rated for only 15 degree slopes. But the Bronco is absolutely not the tractor for you. It uses a belt-drive transmission (They call it an Automatic foot-controlled transmission) It is NOT designed for slopes and you will be replacing the $100 variable speed belt way too often.

      The Pony has a manual transmission so the trans can handle the hills but the cheap, low quality tires do not have any traction. You may have to buy a set of tire chains to get enough traction to go up and down your hill.

      It appears you are looking at Lowes so the lowest price mower that would do the job there is the Husqvarna YTH2042. It has a better hydrostatic trans, good tires and cast iron front axle.

  3. Thanks Paul.
    Although I was looking at Lowes, I don’t have a problem going elsewhere.
    What else could you recommend? I’m trying to stay below about $1500.
    Thanks again.

  4. Thanks again Paul.
    Both of the Ariens units look fine to me, but the 21 HP model has an automatic trans. Overall, I like that one better, but I want to be sure the trans is OK my purpose. I did read your article on the different types of transmissions, but can’t tell from the specs which kind this one has.
    Separate question: you mentioned units being ‘rated’ for 15 degree slopes, which seems pretty standard on tractors is this price range. Assume that the slope that needs mowing is closer to 20 degrees than 15. Are slopes like this best mowed vertically? Seems tipping over would be greater risk mowing horizontally. I’m concerned that I’m going to buy a tractor and not be able to use it on a large portion of my yard.

    1. @Wayne, Here is where the lawn tractor industry makes thing very confusing. With an MTD built lawn tractor an automatic means a variable speed belt drive but with a Husqvarna built lawn tract automatic can mean either a belt drive or a hydrostatic. According to the parts manual on The Home Depot site this lawn tractor uses a K46 TuffTorq trans. The K46 is a decent hydro that is used on many of the under $2200 Lawn Tractors.

      Yes, I agree that if possible mow up and down. The problem is rear wheel traction though. Many owners put wheel weights on and even tractor tire chains to go up slopes steeper than the recommended 15 degrees.

      Will it mow your slope? Yes, but… You may need to add wheel weights and even chains to mow the slope.

      One last thing. DO NOT buy a 46 inch deck. The 46 inch 2 bladed deck sets too close to the rear wheel and you won’t be able to fit tire chains. The chains will rub on the deck.

      The Home Depot has a 30 day return policy on gas powered equipment. Get it home, try it out for a couple of mows. If it is the wrong one they will return it. You will loose a delivery fee but nothing else. YOU MUST have your receipt (or email receipt if you purchase it through my link above) to return gas powered items.

  5. OK. I think I got it. Thank you for being so helpful. It really does get confusing for those of us that only think about the details of lawn tractors every decade or so.
    One final question: does Ariens make their own tractors? The information I can find online is conflicting. Some say Husq. makes them. True?

    1. @Wayne, No they don’t make their own. Husqvarna makes them at this time. I call them “2009 Craftsman’s” Good solid tractors. Most Husqvarna and 2005-2012 Craftsman attachments will fit on them.

  6. I have a troy with the 20-22 horse motor, automatic transmission, forgive me if im wrong on the motor (for sure between 20-22). Today was a long day and I was just browsing for a plow for this thing…. This is our third year, Ive had no problems at all with it besides changing the fuel filter this year. I think it cost me less than $5 from a local hardware and I changed it in less than 10 minutes, maybe 5. What prompted me to reply to this was the 300lb rating. I have no idea what the “official” rating is, but I purchased a 3 seater Yamaha Waverunner this year, I towed and launched it with this tractor/mower with ease….IN MUD ON A RIVER SHORE! not a launch! That waverunner is easily 500-600+lbs. We bought this mower for just under the 1k mark, around $950 or so. I am pleased with our decision to purchase it (new) years ago. I routinely mow on our near acre waterfront property. The main reason we bought this model was the wide cut, automatic trans, and the larger tires that keep us “afloat” in the sometimes very soggy grass. I also use the yard cart or whatever you want to call it with the “dump” feature. I have yet to give this machine something it cant handle… on to something that I havnt seen in ANY mower/tracter that I would like to see. Due to our somewhat large and waterfront property…..maybe even dogs lol, we have a very lumpy and unlevel yard to cut. These solid axel machines dont adjust to the yard. We even have the one with the rollers on the blade area but sometimes the cuts arent how I want. I would like to see these machines with independent suspensions so the yard looks as even as it could be without blade chop.

    1. @Angryneckbeard, You bring up a good point. If you know what the limits of your equipment are, you won’t get too upset when you have to repair it when you over use it.

      In your case you’ll be able to use it to pull your Waverunner – for a while. Eventually you will notice that it doesn’t go quite as fast as it used to or you have to push the foot pedal farther to pull the Waverunner out of the pond. You’re not really breaking anything, you are just wearing out the drive belts quicker than the manufacture planned.

      When this happens you will have to replace the engine to transmission belt and/or the CVT belt and the tractor will be as good as new.

      There are a few mowers that mow the way you would like. For example, Simplicity tractors, Husqvarna Riders and Walker Zero-turns all use a “floating deck.” These decks follow the uneven terrain and you don’t get as much scalping on the lumps and grass missed in the depressions. The Simplicity tractors start around $3000, the Riders $4000 and the Walker around $7000. The Simplicity would pull out your Waverunner.

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