Best Garden Tractors For 2015 – Is a Garden Tractor right for you!

What is the best garden tractor?  What makes a Garden Tractor?

Update: March 3, 2015

Although it is a term used quite often to describe a riding lawn mower, a garden tractor is actually designed to do more than just mow your lawn. Garden tractors are designed to mow your lawn and pull ground engaging equipment like a moldboard plow, box scraper, disk and tiller. They usually have 22 inch or larger rear tires that give the tractor the clearance needed to work in tilled soil. They also have heavy-duty transmissions designed to deliver horsepower to the rear wheels. The transmissions in these tractors can handle years of mowing steep slopes and some even have traction control or 4 wheel drive that help you go up and down slopes.

Garden tractors are easy to recognize from regular lawn tractors. The rear of the tractor frame slopes up. (Except Cub Cadet GT Models).

sleeve hitch

Sleeve Hitch for Ground Engaging Equipment

This allows you to install a sleeve hitch for those ground engaging tasks. The estate model garden tractors have extra features like power steering, and hydraulics. Garden tractor prices start around $2900 for a 2014 Craftsman G5500 and well over $7000 for some of the estate models like the Simplicity Prestige series.

by: Paul Sikkema

What makes Garden Tractors different from lawn tractors? Hint: It’s all about the transmission and wheels.

Is a Garden Tractor right for you?

If you primarily mow a large 2 to 5 acre lawn and once in a while grade your driveway, disk up a garden and haul 1000 lb loads of dirt or firewood a garden tractor is a good choice for you. The garden tractors you are most familiar with are a little more expensive than a lawn tractor with the same deck size but they also have larger tires and a heavier transmission. They will handle hills and rough lawns better than a residential zero-turn. The new Craftsman G5500 will turn almost as tight as a zero-turn and there is no learning curve to using it.

If your slopes are greater than 15% consider a tractor with traction control or differential lock. Snapper, Simplicity, Husqvarna and John Deere all have models with differential lock but they are higher priced.

If you want to do a lot of ground engaging work, have steep slopes, mow lawn and snow removal the John Deere X500 series is a really good choice.

Not Covered In This Review – LGT and Compact Tractors:  In the last few years some manufactures like Husqvarna, Craftsman and Cub Cadet have started using the LGT designation.  This is just a marketing term they are using to make you think you are getting a garden tractor without spending the extra money.  LGT (light garden tractors) are designed to mow large areas of lawn comfortably but not designed to dig up your garden. The Husqvarna LGT26K54/LGT2654 sold at Lowes is a typical example.  The lawn tractor uses a garden tractor frame but a lawn tractor transmission, Tuff Torq K46. This tractor has 22 inch tires. The transmission is too light for ground engaging tasks even though the rear frame will accept a sleeve hitch designed for ground engaging tasks. If the retailer is asking less than $2600 for a “Garden Tractor” you can be sure it does not have the heavy-duty garden tractor transmission. The Cub Cadet LGT 1054 and Craftsman G5100 Model 20401 are more examples of a lawn tractor with large wheels. The John Deere D170 is similar but Deere has wisely chosen to call it what it really is…a lawn tractor.

Many of the garden tractors 30 years ago were also capable of using a bucket loader and powering tillers.  With the introduction of the compact tractor by Kubota, today’s garden tractors have changed and are no longer capable of that task. If you are interested in moving dirt, manure or digging in the ground compact tractors are the way to go.  Contact your local rural lifestyle dealer for a free quote on a compact tractor.

I Heard a Shaft Drive Is What I Want.

Garden Tractor Deck Garden Tractors  Back in the 70’s most of the garden tractors used horizontal shaft engines connected to a transmission and an automotive style rear end. While these were bullet proof tractors they were horrible to drive. They turned about as sharp as your extended bed pickup and the engines alone weighed more than your current lawn tractor. They could pull a disk, plow or drag and a few of them had rudimentary mowing decks at best.  The first lawn tractor that featured a drive shaft was the 1963 International Cub Cadet.  International Harvestor (IH) did such a great job promoting the “drive shaft is better” that even today many customers come into lawn and garden dealer insisting they must have a shaft drive lawn tractor. The only lawn or garden tractor still made with a drive shaft is the Cub Cadet XT3 Enduro series  – now manufactured by MTD. Today the Cub Cadet XT3 series is not better, it is just different from the rest of the group.

Today’s garden tractors use vertical shaft engines and high horsepower v-belts to drive the transmission.

“There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.”

40 years ago there were more than 100 different manufactures of garden tractors. Today there are very few tractors and only 4 manufactures. Everyone else has left this market segment and either makes a lawn tractor primarily for mowing lawns or compact tractor capable of doing much more than a garden tractor ever could.

Here is a list of the current garden tractors: I will update this as new ones arrive for 2015

Brand: Craftsman
Year: 2015
Model: G8400
Item Number: 20445
Manufacture: MTD 20445 left
Engine Brand: Kohler Elite
HP: 24
Deck: 54
Transmission: Heavy Duty Hydrostatic
Speed: 5.5
Street Price2999 or so
MSRP: 3499
Where To Buy: Sears 
Pro Series 26 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 54″ Turn Tight Extreme Garden Tractor

My Review: Craftsman Pro Series Garden Tractor
My Opinion: This is the garden tractor that everyone else tries to compete against in the $3000 price range. It has been slowly evolving since the 1970’s and continues to be one of the best values for anyone that wants a heavy-duty mowing machine that will also pull stuff. It is the fastest garden tractor and was flying around your yard long before Jimmy Johnson put his name on the “Fast Tractor.” No it does not have traction control or power steering or hydraulics. But for the average backyard food plot, 300 foot driveway or 2-4 acre lawn this is one tractor that can do the job for a cost that is half of the other “better” garden tractors. With the addition of the 6 inch Turn Tight steering this tractor is a great alternative to a residential zero-turn.  It will maneuver almost as well and does not have the learning curve associated with using a zero-turn for the first time. If you need traction control and a fabricated deck the Husqvarna GT52XLS is the alternate choice for this model.

Brand: Poulan Pro

Poulan PRO PBGT2654

Poulan PRO PBGT2654

 Year: 2015
Model: Poulan PRO PBGT2654
Item Number: 936069
Manufacture: Husqvarna
Engine Brand: Kohler 7000 Elite
HP: 26
Deck: 54 in Pro reinforced
Transmission: G730 Hydro Fast
Speed: 7.5 mph
Street Price: 2899
MSRP: 2899 through Amazon
Where To Buy: Poulan Pro 960420173 PBGT2654 Kohler V-Twin 26 HP Pedal Control Hydro Transmission Cutting Deck Riding Mower, 54-Inch

My Review: This is the least expensive garden tractor available for 2015 with a hydrostatic transmission. It is one of the best for dependability and is just a good, basic garden tractor. (The Craftsman GT5500 is only around $200 more and has more features.) It has the best reinforced 54 inch cutting deck, the new Kohler 7000 motor and 16 inch turning radius.
My Opinion: This Husqvarna built tractor has been around with various names on it since 2005. If you have big, open areas to mow. If your lawn is typically full of gopher mounds, mole runs and other “features” that keep it from being picture perfect this is a great rugged tractor. If you just want a tough, “old” garden tractor to mow your lawn, drag a DR box blade down your driveway, haul firewood, feed or dirt in your dump cart this is one of the best choices for you.

Brand: Craftsman
Year: 2014-2015
Model: G5500 20403
Item Number: 20403
Manufacture: Husqvarna
Engine Brand: Briggs & Stratton
HP: 24
Deck: 54
Transmission: Heavy Duty Hydrostatic
Speed: 7.5
Street Price2999 or less
MSRP: 3499
Where To Buy: Sears Craftsman 24HP 54″ Complete Start Turn Tight Garden Tractor – Non CA 16″ X 6.5″ – 8″
My Review:Craftsman 24HP 54″ Complete Start Turn Tight Garden Tractor
My Opinion: This is the garden tractor that everyone else tries to compete against in the $3000 price range. It has been slowly evolving since the 1970’s and continues to be one of the best values for anyone that wants a heavy-duty mowing machine that will also pull stuff. It is the fastest garden tractor and was flying around your yard long before Jimmy Johnson put his name on the “Fast Tractor.” No it does not have traction control or power steering or hydraulics. But for the average backyard food plot, 300 foot driveway or 2-4 acre lawn this is one tractor that can do the job for a cost that is half of the other “better” garden tractors. With the addition of the 6 inch Turn Tight steering this tractor is a great alternative to a residential zero-turn.  It will maneuver almost as well and does not have the learning curve associated with using a zero-turn for the first time. If you need traction control and a fabricated deck the Husqvarna GT52XLS is the alternate choice for this model.

Brand: Craftsman
Year: 2014
Model: G7400 98645
Item Number: 98645
Manufacture: Husqvarna
Engine Brand: Kohler
HP: 26
Deck: 54
Transmission: Heavy Duty Hydrostatic
Speed: 7.5
Street Price2999
MSRP: 3499
Where To Buy: Sears Sears Online Exclusive
My Review: To Come
My Opinion: This is same Garden Tractor as the red Craftsman G5500 with three differences.  A Kohler motor, a piece of pipe around the front of the deck (reinforced deck) and the new Craftsman and EZ Blade change

Brand: Husqvarna

GT48XLS

GT48XLS

Year: 2011-2014
Model: GT48XLS(i)/GT54LS(i)
Item Number: GT48XLS/GT54LS
Manufacture: Husqvarna
Engine Brand: B&S
HP: 27
Deck: 48 fabricated/54 stamped
Transmission: K66
Speed: 5.5
Street Price:
MSRP:
3199
Where To Buy: Dealer Locator

My Review:
 I have not written a stand alone review of this tractor yet.
My Opinion: If you don’t want a 54 inch deck this is one of the best value GT’s available. The John Deere X500 series is better and the Briggs/Simplicity Prestige is more expensive but the only real advantage they have is the ability to mount the tractor mounted Berco rear tiller.All things considered the GT48XLS is the great choice if you have hills. With the larger tires the tractor is only 2 inches longer and 1 inch higher than a lawn tractor so getting a “bigger” tractor is not an issue. The real advantage is the transmission. The differential lock trans on the GT48XLS compares to machines costing twice as much from Deere and Simplicity. If the wheels start to slip on your hill just press on the foot switch and it locks both rear wheels to give you twice the traction. (Always try to mow up and down slopes) I like the deck on this tractor. It is heavier than a stamped deck and is reinforced around the bottom edge so you can bang into things and not wreck the deck. It also has a good mulching kit available.

Brand: Husqvarna

GT52XLS

GT52XLS

Year: 2011-2013
Model: GT52XLS
Item Number: GT52XLS
Manufacture: Husqvarna
Engine Brand: Kawasaki
HP: 24
Deck: 52
Transmission: Tuff Torq
Speed: 7.8
Street Price: 3299
MSRP: 3299
Where To Buy: Dealer Locator
My Review: I have not written a stand alone review of this tractor yet.
My Opinion: This is an interesting tractor. It has an 8 mph “fast tractor” transmission and a welded deck all for 1 to 4 thousand less than other garden tractors with those features.  Husqvarna states it has a heavy-duty frame and a well reviewed Kawasaki motor. It does not have a diff lock. Note: it is only sold at dealer stores.

Note: Husqvarna has the GTH24K54 but for 2014 they are listing it as a Yard Tractor.

Brand: Cub Cadet

Cub Cadet XT1 GT50

Cub Cadet XT1 GT50

Year: 2015
Model: XT1 GT50
Item Number: 205617449
Manufacture: MTD
Engine Brand: Kohler
HP: 25
Deck: 50 inch
Transmission: K58
Speed: 5.5
Street Price: 3499-4099
MSRP: 2699
Where To Buy: Cub Cadet Lawn Mowers XT1 Enduro Series GT 50 in. 25 HP V-Twin Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine Garden Tractor with Cub Connect Bluetooth GT50
My Review: 
My Opinion: This is a completely new lawn tractor for 2015. It has a lot of promise.

Brand: Simplicity Conquest

Simplicity B&S Prestige

Simplicity Conquest

Year: 2011-2013
Model: Conquest
Item Number: 2691128
Manufacture: B&S
Engine Brand: B&S
HP: 27 Pro
Deck: 52
Transmission: 2WD K66
Speed: 7.2
Street Price: 6499
MSRP: 8099
Where To Buy:  See you local dealer
My Review: I have not written a stand alone review of this tractor yet.
My Opinion: The Conquest is a really nice mower. Heavy frame, automotive grade steering and little features like rubber cushions to keep the hood from rattling.  Like the Craftsman GT-series this garden tractor has been a work in progress for many years. Craftsman made improvements to the tractor but kept the cost the same. Simplicity on the other hand not only made improvements but kept adding features that increased the functionality. Today it sports features like dedicated cruise control, automatic traction control, differential lock, single hand deck removal and even power steering on some models. 4WD is even an option. If you want a high-end tractor that will probably last as long as your roof check this mower out.

The biggest difference between this garden tractor and all the rest though is the deck.  This deck is a ground hugging deck with a full-length rear roller. With the other garden tractors the cutting height is controlled by a lever on the tractor and the tractor tires set the height. If one tire is low the deck will cut low on that side. With the Simplicity the height is controlled by the gauge wheels on the deck and the height is independent of what the tractor is doing. This method gives you a very even cut that is always consistent. The full length rear roller gives you the striping that you see at a major league ball park.

Brand: John Deere

X534

John Deere X534

Year: 2011-2013
Model: X500 X530 X534 X540
Item Number: Multi-Terrain Tractor
Manufacture: John Deere
Engine Brand: John Deere iTorque
HP: 23-24
Deck: 48-54
Transmission: Automatic with differential lock
Speed: 7.2
Street Price:
MSRP: 5899 – 7799
Where To Buy: Dealer Locator
My Review: I have not written a stand alone review of this tractor yet.
My Opinion: Many of you will want to compare the X310/X324/X360 series to the rest of this group because the price is comparable to the Simplicity Conquest but they are not designated by John Deere for heavy-duty ground engaging work.

courtesy mytractorforum

courtesy mytractorforum

The X500 is the best Garden Tractor on the market. Yes, it is the most expensive and costs more than twice as much as the best value Craftsman G5500. But if you want the most versitile, the best hill climbing, best ground engaging garden tractor it is worth spending the extra money. There are 4 models in this series. Starting with the basic X500, the 2 wheel steer X534 to the high-end X540 with power steering. I’m not going to go into all the features that make this the best mower. Just Google X500 John Deere review and you can read many honest reviews of this John Deere Garden Tractor.

Please give your city and state when you comment

  1. Hi Paul,
    Been looking at all your reviews and was trying to digest your information about all the different transmissions. Can you help me understand the differences in transmissions for the garden tractors you have listed (or any other suggestions) you may have for me. My yard is between half and an acre but I think I will need to have a plow because of winters we have been having in NJ.
    Thank you for your advice.

  2. Hi Paul,

    Just wanted to give you an update and say thanks again for the analysis and informed opinion. I went back and forth on the SCUT’s (really like the Kubotas), but have decided a something more specialized to mowing will be a better solution for my property (lower weight, less compaction).

    I picked up my new Craftsman Pro Series this weekend! It’s also identified as the G7400 here in Canada as well, but it appears to be mostly identical to the G5500 (the red one) that your guys get, except a few things. Definitely different than the Pro Series and the G7400 you detail above.

    Things I note on it:
    -Same color scheme as the Pro/G7400
    -Same front bumper guard as the G5500 (different than the Pro/G7400), but in yellow
    -26hp Kholer vs. the 24hp in the G5500
    -G730 hydro transmission
    -Doesn’t have the super tight turn, webbed front spindles shown on the Pro
    -Standard key start instead of the code start
    -Normal bolt on blades
    -Front bottom lip of the deck is reinforced with another flat of similar gauge to the deck
    -Comes with the mulching kit

    It eventually came down to value and this one seemed to be the best available here. The x500’s are definitely better, but are also 2.5x more expensive.

    Thanks again!
    -Gord
    Toronto, ON

    • Hi Gord, Great! Yes, your tractor is similar to the G5500 and also the 2014 Craftsman Pro. Both are Husqvarna built tractors. Except for the quik-tach blades it is a 917.98645 down here. You can read my original review here: 98645 Review

      Here is a list of 54 inch attachments you can also use as a reference: 54 inch deck attachments

    • Hi Paul, I live in northeast Indiana near Grabill, Indiana
      In the fall of 2013 I purchased a CRaftsman model No 917.288613 whuch has since been discontinued.
      I have had many probems relating to the front axles and wheels.
      The steering would turn the wheels to 90 degrees and stop the tractor.
      IT steered hard from day one and the wheels kept falling off.
      SEars repaired it three times before the Sears tecjh said iut needed drag links on it, and told me it should have came that way, but it didn’t. It also tore up the front tires which have now been replaced twice.
      IT has 125 hours on it and has set in my barn broken down more than it has been used.
      Finally Sears tech put drag links on it, but 15 minutes after he left and I was mowing with it, the steering completely went out and the steering wheels could be turned in circles.
      THis is the 6th repair in the approx 20 months I have owned it. SEars refuses to replace it or refund my purchase and I have spoen to and emailed t least six different SEars management people in getting it repaired or replaced. Each time it breaks down it is usually a two to three month wait for service.
      Has anyone had similar problems with ths model Craftsman?
      The engine and transmission work great, it has been constant problems related to the front axles.
      The new 8400 model has been totally redesigned, including the steering gear.
      Do you suppose this was done because of the problems with the model I have?
      I did read some other reviews on it elsewhere, and several mentioned that the front wheels fell off quite regularly. The tech installed new busings also, but both front wheels still were wobbling when the steering went out.
      I think a good set of wheel bearings would be better than the bushings.
      Right now I still have to wait two more weeks for service.

      I have 3 acress to mow, and part of it is not very smooth at all, rather kind of bumpy as it is past farm land.

      • Hi Ed, Yes, some of the 28861’s have front steering issues. Do you have the same tech every time? If you do the next time you call ask for a “seasoned tech” An experienced tech can diagnose the entire problem and get all the parts to rebuild the front end correctly.

        The new Craftsman Pro has a different front steering because it is from a different manufacture. It is not a redesign or replacement for the 28861.

        One of the big problems with the front wheels is they are supposed to be greased every 50 hours. For some reason very few people read thier operators manual and remember to do it. Basically every time you change the oil, grease the front end.

        • Thanks Paul,
          Yes it has been the same tech everytime.
          I was told he covers this area.
          I do keep the front wheels greased, about everyy ten hours, or every third time I mow.
          ON part of my property , my private workshop which is on a separate piece of property about 3/8 of a mile from my house does have moles which is almost impossible to get rid of and once in awhile ground hogs which t6his past two years have been kept under control as my property runsd along a ciorn field and a small woods
          My lawn for my home is mole and ground hog free.
          We have two Bald Eagle nets nearby along the St Joe river and and I watched several summers ago as an eagle dove down and snatched a ground hog!
          They keep some of our rodent problems in check, rabbits, squirrels, etc.
          The tech said the wheels were leaning top side inward and that accounted for the extra tire wear.
          He also said it should have had the drag links on it from the factory, but why he didn’t mention it the first time he repaired the tractor, leaves me baffled. This will be the sixth repair in 20 months.
          I feel the lack of drag links put undue wear on the steering and it simply gave out.

          This is why I was asking Sears for a replacement, but they state specifically it must break down four times in a 12 month calendar period.
          MIne broke down 4 times in 14 months.
          But when I see him this next time I am going to ask for a written statement from him that the drag links should have been on it when I purchased it.
          In my mind, I feel it was defective then when I purchased it.
          ONe thing really gets my goats, I keep getting “apology” emals from Sears about my tractor breaking down as much as it has and that they are sorry for the inconvenience it hs caused me.
          When I went to the store I purchased it from, I kept getting “passed up the line” to higher management but no one had authorization to make a decison to replace it.
          After I had emailed and spoke to eight people did they finally agree to repair it, but my first repair waiting time was three months!
          The second was three weeks, the third was two months, the fourth was six weeks the 5th was three weeks, and the sixth has now been two months and I still have to wait untoil June 2nd. Sears says this is the best they can do.

          I have seen the newer 8400 model at a Sears store, and really like it, but I am apprehensive because of Sears less than lustrous service should I have a problem.
          I think it would better suit my needs.SEars aso agrred to pay up to a total of $50.00 or a total of $100.00 per year to have my lawn mowed or pay for a rental. My rental fees exceeded this and Sears refuses to pay as much as the first dime!
          Sears used to be the “benchmark” of the big retail stores. They sure have sliiped from that position!
          I own almost $3500.00 worth of Craftsman tools and hardly ever have a problem., but they did replce a ratchet wrench and an old Sears hammer my Grandfather gave me that was about 50 years old when the handle broke( wood).
          Thjey put the head on a new handle and gave it backk to me free oif charge! That was about 25 years ago.

          Thanks for your reply Paul.

          • @Ed, so far the 20445 has no bad reviews (the 2 listed are for another tractor) and I have not had anyone state they have had any problems at all with their new tractor.

            Yes, all of my Craftsman tools are over 40 years old.

  3. Hi Paul,

    I’m in Central Massachusetts, and I’ve got about 1 1/2 acres to mow. It has some moderate ups and downs but isn’t too steep, except for a small section where it drops off a bit at the edge. (Small enough that I can mow it with my reel mower if I need to.) It’s a bit bumpy in places though, so I don’t know how well a big deck would do.

    I also have about a 250′ driveway with about a 10% grade, a bit steeper right at the road. The way it’s set up, I can’t use a blade for snow but need a blower. I’d also like to get a trailer for moving wood around.

    What would you recommend? I’m guessing that I would need a locking diff to handle snowblowing the driveway, but I’m not sure. We do get a considerable amount of snow here in the winter.

    • Hi Andy, start by looking at the Husqvarna GT52XLSi. It is a dealer only tractor with the heaviest locking diff transmission in any tractor under $6000. The 52 inch fabricated deck cuts well. The Endurance Briggs engine has been proving to be a good one.

      • Wanted to add that I had similar requirements to Andy, and Paul also recommended the Husky GT52XLSi. I went for the GT48XLSi as my yard has some odd topology that favors a smaller deck — other than the smaller deck, it’s the same machine — and with the Husky (mfg’d by Agri-Fab) snow thrower, weights and chains, it handled all the snow on my long hilly driveway this winter (I live in the Catskills Mtns in New York State). This tractor is tough. I love the locking differential — as Paul says, this tractor is the only one with the K66 trains with the locker under $5000. If you have a Husky dealer anywhere near you, take a look. Remember, the GTnnXLSi series comes with a fabricated (not stamped) deck. I can tell you, the mower deck is built like a brick s**thouse — so much better than the flimsy stamped deck that rusted out on my old Cub Cadet LT1042.

        • Hi Grant, How does the 48 cut? I haven’t been suggesting it because of the bad reviews on Husqvarna.com about it leaving strips of uncut grass. If it does fine for you there are a lot of people who would like a tough tractor with a 48 inch deck.

  4. Paul,

    First I want to thank you for all of the information you have provided to me thru reading all of the questions and answers on this page. Truly enlightening. I recently purchased 2.5 acres that we will be building on in a couple of years. In the meantime I do want to mow it a few times a year and handle my current lawn (1/2 acre). Currently I have a JD L111 which I know will not handle the new plot (it hardly handles my current yard) so I am looking at getting a new garden tractor. I am looking at the Cub Cadet XT1 GT50 since it has the k58 transmission. In the $2700 range are there any other models that would be a good fit for my situation? 2.5 acres is mostly flat but there is some gentle slopes and ditch. I will want to plow or snow blow in the future. Grading of a gravel driveway potentially and some hauling since we are building we will be doing much of the landscaping. Any information or advice you provide is greatly appreciated here in Appleton WI.

    • Hi Greg, That sounds like a good fit. You can also look at the Craftsman Pro if you would like a 54 inch stamped deck. The stamped deck will cut a good lawn better.

  5. Hello,

    I live in CT and have ~ 1 acre with some moderate hills. I’m considering Deere D160 but confused about which non-Deere manufacturers compete head to head with the D160. Dealer suggested the D160 because of hills and the better motor. Which Husky model should I consider?

    My main use will be cutting the lawn BUT I also need a snow blower. So…my 4th grade math skills tell me the blower attachment is like buying a high end snow blower. Should I use this tractor to snow blow or stick to grass cutting.

    • Hi Dave, If you buy the D160 stick to mowing grass on flat or gently sloped yards. If you mow hills and blow snow the K46 transmission will not hold up.

      When you say Husky I assume you mean Husqvrana and not the cheap Huskee tractor sold at Tractor Supply

      Comparable motor and transmission: Craftsman Pro with 46 inch deck. Cub Cadet XT1 with 46/50 inch decks

      Comparable motor and better transmission Craftsman 20391, Husqvarna YTH24V48, Husqvarna YT46LS

      Better motor and better transmission: Husqvarna YT48XLS,

      Better tractor and very comparable to the X300 series Deeres: Husqvarna GT48XLSi

      • Hi Paul, I live in Draper, VA you gave me some helpful advice about two weeks ago about the raven. As I looked them up on the Lowe’s web sit I see that the camo is not only a color difference. It is 5 inches longer a little wider and 120lbs heavier and is rated to tow 50 lbs. more. What is the difference between the two?

        • Hi Thom, It looks like Lowes should doublecheck their work. Here is the official spec sheet. Raven MPV-7100 B/S.

          The S model has the Camo Skin (It’s not paint) and the deluxe, high-back, tilt seat.

  6. Paul, Thanks for all the great info. I am getting conflicting advice which model would be the best replacement for my 1978 (yes, that’s right) Cub 1000 Series. We moved 2 years ago and the old Cub is finally at end of life. I love the Cub Cadet XT Series and am stuck between the XT2 Lawn Tractor (w/ locking rear differential, 46″ deck) vs the XT3 Garden Tractor. I have 1-2 acres of hilly terrain and a 200 foot sloped driveway. I haul a yard cart with mulch/firewood etc but do not have a need for ground tilling equipment. I am considering using the tractor with a snow plow/thrower. Primary use would be mowing/bagging lawn and some hauling, including uphill. I want the right fit without overspending for features I may not need (don’t we all!). Should I be looking at the Deere X500 Series too? Help is much appreciated – the dealers want you to spend the big $$$$ of course!

    • Hi Bob, The new tractors cut faster and are a lot more agile than your old Cub Cadet. The XT2 is considerably lighter so it won’t tear up your lawn as much. The traction control is nice for a snow blower and will help you to get up your hills as well as your old 1000. You will get a noticeably better cut with these new decks.

      The XT3 is closer to what you have but it’s also quite expensive compared to XT2 series. The X500 Deere is another $1500 to $3000.

      I’m going to suggest the middle ground. The 46 inch deck is nice but the tractor’s transmission will not hold up to your hills and your sloped driveway. The XT3 does not have the traction control. So the middle ground is the GX54. It has a larger deck than you would like but it has the transmission to put up with your yard and snow blowing. It has the larger tires you are used to and is about $1200-1500 less than the XT3 and deck.

      • Thanks for your reply Paul – if I am reading the brochure for the Cub Enduro series correctly, the GX54 fab DOES have the heavier transmission and larger turf tires but does NOT have auto rear differential lock like the LX46 does. I would think that this feature would be one of my “must haves” given the graded terrain and desire to plow. If it matters, Im likely to go the snow thrower route rather than pushing snow with a blade. The most I will haul is a 10-12 yd yard cart full of firewood/mulch up a hill at about a 15 degree grade. Is this a deal breaker for the LX46 model? Also, the opening in my fence is only 55 inches… I can widen if necessary…

        • Hi Bob, You have a brochure? Where did you get one? No the GX54 also has the “Deluxe hydrostatic transmission with enhanced automatic traction control for smooth operation” as listed on cubcadet.com.

          The transmission in the LX49 is one of the most controversial on the market. Over 1,000,000 are installed each year and if your tractor is a 42-46 inch that is used for mowing lawns it does great and last a long, long time.

          But, as soon as you start to use it for hills, put it in a larger tractor, (Husqvarna LGT2454, D160, D170 Deere) using it with weights and chains, (snow blower) and regularly pulling 4-500 lb loads it then has a high percentage of failure.

          So if you are going to mow lawn and pull your yard cart around your property I would say yes. If you are going to install a snow blower and pull 400 lb loads loads let’s find a different tractor.

  7. Hi Paul,
    Great site thanks putting your research out there. I will need to replace an older Craftsman tractor that was lost due to fatigue cracking in the chassis and front axle. It was a hand me down tractor, and its time was up. I have 2 acres to mow, half of which has some good bumps and ditchs. I also want to consider being able to buy attachments as a later date for garden tilling, hauling, and possibly snow blower / plow. I think I want a tractor with a 54″ deck for time savings. Reviewing your site you seem to prefer the Craftsman Pro Series Turn Tight Extreme riding over the Poulan Pro PBGT2654. However, I’m concerned regarding the chassis and transmission of the Craftsman being less rugged than the Poulan. Is that warranted? I’m mostly concerned about durability. The price point is near identical, with Craftman Pro at $3299 and Poulan at $2799. Would the Craftman be a better deal at the sale price though? Thanks!

    • Hi Dan, The 20445 will have a snow blade and snow blower available later this year.

      The Poulan Pro PBGT2654 is getting hard to find. There is another tractor with the same frame, transmission and similar engine and it’s priced in between the Poulan and the Craftsman Pro.

      The Craftsman 24HP 54″ Complete Start™ Turn Tight® Garden Tractor – Non CA has all the features of the Poulan plus the six inch turn-tight steering. It uses the same G730 transmission as the Poulan Pro.

      Here is my review of the Craftsman G5500 model 20403 20403 Review

      • Follow up questions. I went back and read through your reviews again, and checked the pricing on websites. The Poulan Pro is still $2800, the G5500 is on sale at Sears for $2,850 and then there is the Husqvarna GT54LS at around $3,200. I’d rather not go over the $3000 threshold so that eliminates, Cub Cadet, Deere and Simplicity. I know I want a 50″+ deck, towing a trailer, possibly snow attachments and they are all made by Husqvarna. They seem similar and I probably couldn’t go wrong with any of them. Sears website reviews give some mixed messages and I know I should take a lot of reviews with a grain of salt. In your opinion which one do you think I would last the longest and is the best overall deal. You seem to high on both the Craftsman and Poulan. I live in out in the NW Suburbs of Minneapolis. Thanks again.

        • I went and read one of your other responses and saw that on a 2 acre yard, a 54″ deck only saves 15 minutes versus a 46″. So now I’m going back and reviewing 46″-48″. I still have the bumps and slight hills, would like to tow etc. as I indicated before. Disregard my previous reply, maybe your best opinion on a garden tractor in the 46″ to 48″ deck size. Cub Cadet XT2 LX46 looks promising.

          • Hi Dan, The Cub Cadet XT2, XT1, and Craftsman 20442 are all basically the same. They use a lawn tractor transmission. If you want the heavy duty ground engaging trans unfortunately you have to stay with a 54 or 52 inch deck.

        • Hi Dan, I’ll usually go with the Craftsman because they have the widest range of attachments that are easy to order and get. Cub Cadet and Husqvarna also have a good selection of attachments and if you have a good local dealer they are also a good choice.

          There will be a snow blower and snow blade for the Craftsman Pro by fall.

          The Simplicity attachments are high quality but very expensive compared to everyone else. Deere you have to watch so you don’t end up with a single stage snow blower in Minnesota!

  8. Hi Paul — I live in a rural area south of Houston. I typically mow about 5 acres multiple times a week. While not terribly hilly, I have some moderate slopes, sometimes swampy conditions, a ton of periodically surging roots, huge crawdad mounds, lots of trees, and a typical 5 rail ranch/game-wire fence. I think I’ve zeroed in on a Craftsman and I have always wanted a ZTR — but after reading a few of your articles, I think I might be better off with the G5500. I’m stumped, though, on whether the G8400 might be better for me. Price seems comparable, speeds and power are a bit different (but I don’t think speed is my friend in my yard), and bells and whistles seem comparable. Is there really anything to distinguish one from the other from a technical aspect? Thanks

    • Hi Jenny, I also think the G8400, Craftsman Model 20445 is the better choice for you. The only real reason is the front axle is stronger and will put up with your rough lawn without bending. The G5500, Model 20403 is a great, heavy duty tractor but the front steering does not hold up on rough lawns. The steering linkages and axles will bend.

      Most people are also stating the steering on the G8400 is easier.

      You can buy the tractor online and get free delivery! Use this link: Pro Series 26 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 54″ Turn Tight Extreme Garden Tractor

  9. Hello Paul , Is there a snow plow available for the pro series 8400 and will it readily accept one . I was told it did by a salesman at sears but it doesn’t show it anywhere in the details for the tractor. Also my ground is not exactly smooth but it has been being mowed for 40 years or so , hav I made the right choice with the 8400 .

    • Hi Robert, The G8400 (model 20445) will have a snow blade and snow blower available later this year. Yes, that tractor is a good choice for an older lawn. This tractor will take the beating of a old rough lawn.

  10. Hi Paul, I am about to move into a home that previously had horses (stable) and so it has fenced paddocks. There is about 6 acres of grass I will have to mow. There are hilly areas around the edges of the property, but otherwise the majority of the mowing areas are flat. There is a lot of grass to be mowed and I was wondering what type of mower I should get (that my mom could also use and handle easily, with no/low learning curve) and which ones specifically? Thank you

  11. Hi Paul
    I have 4 to 5 acres to mow some of it has steep hills. I would like a tough mower that will last and get the job done quick. I had thought about the craftsman pro series or the cub cadet with the auto locking rear differential. What do you think and I missing something that I should consider. Which would you recommend and why?
    Thanks
    Thom

    • Hi Thom, Remember the manufactures only recommend mowing hills 15 degrees or less. What are you using now? Does it get up the hill ok? If yes, then the Craftsman Pro will do well. If your current tractor has problems the Cub Cadet will do better but you may still need a 4WD.

      • I used a LA 110 (JD) to clear the land (turn it from field to lawn). Currently I still use the LA 110 46in and a Wizard 42inch. It takes a lot of time to mow with these. 90% of the mowing is flat. The total property size is about 19 acres. After reading another post on here I may look at the Raven.
        Thanks

        • HI Thom, The Raven only has a 46 inch deck but it mows 2-3 mph faster than a lawn/garden tractor so it may take less time to mow your property than a 54 inch garden tractor. I’ve had one now for a year and it is a really fun machine to drive, mow with and buzz down to the lake. It has plenty of traction to mow your hill.

  12. Hey Paul,
    Been doing some research here and I think I am down to the Craftsman G5500 or the new pro series. I was wondering what your opinion is on relative ride quality with the more flexible husqy frame vs the stiff MTD? We have about 3 mowed acres, not too hilly but has it’s fair share of bumps and dips. Have had some pain issues in the past and want to look out for the ole back. Thanks!

    • Hi Garret, I haven’t actually rode the Pro garden tractor on rough ground. The G5500 rides well because it has large tires, a great seat and it’s fairly heavy. Reduce the rear tire pressure to 14 lbs and it’s about the best ride you can get – other than a Simplicity Regent with the rear suspension.

  13. Paul, Fantastic write up! its impossible to find good information about this stuff without spending loads of time on tractor forums. I mow a little over 3 acres,so i need something that can be my main mower and have enough power to pull a garden trailer. My yard is mostly flat but i need something that will last!
    I would love to get a JD X500 and be done with it but unfortunately the Mrs doesn’t feel comfortable spending over 6k for a mower! lol. My budget is around 3k to 3.5k ish.
    I am currently looking at the Husqvarna GT52XLS (52) and Cub Cadet GX54 KH FAB (54″). Both Models have the Kohler 7000 series motor in their 2015 line up, Which i don’t know much about. I do like the Fast trac trans in the Husky over the Tuff Torq in the cub. What are your thoughts? What Transmission is better? Is the Kohler 7000 motor any good? or should i look for something with a Kawasaki?

    • Hi Paul, The fast tranny is nice and it also in the Craftsman G5500 – Model 20403, Poulan Pro garden tractor and a couple other Husqvarna’s.

      If you want the strongest transmission in your price range it’s in the GT54LS.

      The Kohler 7000 was new in 2014 and replaced the old Kohler Courage engine. It has had no issues that I have heard of (not one.) I think Kawasaki is no better than the Kohler 7000 and Briggs Platinum/Endurance/Intek Plus/ELS engine. It is living on the reputation of the commercial FS Kawasaki’s. The brands are still asking a premium for the Kaw but I have a feeling that won’t last too much longer.

    • Hi Paul. Wouldn’t a Raven be good for some of your readers. So far I like mine. I mow 4 acres in half the time. Robert

      • Hi Robert, The Raven MPV-7100 would be perfect for many of the readers here. I’m working on an updated review and should have it out soon.

        What do you like about your’s so far?

        • Paul: Now that I am more confident and comfortable with the Raven, I can offer the following. It is a lot of fun to mow with, especially in cruise control. Just be carful of sharp turns. It does mow at close to twice the speed of my JD. I purchased an electric chain saw for trimming high branches that I can just plug into the Raven. I pulled some huge limbs and climbed steep (short) hills with no problem at all. I now at night around the bee hives with great led amazing lights. Customer service has been terrific.

          The cons so far are few, but important to note (for me anyway). The flushing connection does not work that well. I still have to get under the deck and crape and spray. The back end of the Raven is higher and wider then other riding mowers and turning tight around a tree can scrape and even crack the plastic. Because the back end is high and wide, the release hatch for the back end can easily catch a tree limb and snap the plastic like a cracker when mowing close to bushes or tree limbs. Some kind of flap or redesign can fix that. I use my old JD to mow close in where I have to duck down to mow, (hence, I am doing a lot of trimming).

          Most of the issues can is a matter of being more aware that the Raven is not like other riding mowers and mishaps so far have been my fault. I would take it on open trails, but not through any rough terrain with it.

          Final comment. I do enjoy the Raven and glad that I chose it for my little 6 acre farm. One question for you, Paul. When I mow the side of an embankment (sideways), will the oil pump manage to work properly?

          Thanks, Robert

          • Hi Robert, Thank you for your detailed review.

            Yes, the oil pump in the engine will work on 15 degree or less slopes.

            I decided to fix my landscaping instead of changing my mower. I really hate scratching my equipment on bushes or getting knocked off the tractor from tree limbs. So over the last 8 years I have trimmed up bushes that can be trimmed so I can mow under them and the ones that I can’t trim I have mulched around the base. I even had one bush (that my wife loves) that I moved because she wouldn’t let me trim it….

            Deck wash. The deck wash is something MTD started a few years ago and now everyone has to include it – even though it is a feature that causes more harm than good. A deck wash should only be used on a deck with sealed bearings because the high pressure it creates can force water into a greased bearing and ruin it.

            Don’t be too concerned with keeping the underside of a deck really clean. A fabricated deck like the Raven will always have build-up in the corners and it does not affect the cutting, mulching or bagging. As long as the deck doesn’t sound like an airplane propeller, cleaning it when you sharpen the blades is really often enough.

  14. Paul, what would you say is the best one that I can put a snowblower on? the craftsman pro does not list a snow blower on the accessories.

      • Ok thanks Paul, one other question how is it for snowblowing, have over 150 feet and want good traction, I have kmlooked at the huskvarna but have not really liked the lgt2654 and it has a see transmission.

        Paul how about the craftsman 7000 it looks like it is on sale for 2499 how is this tractor? It seems like this would be the better option and I do not need the snow blower till later why would this one be cheaper but have a larger engine?

        • Hi Wesley, I put both of your comments together because they cover the same topic. The LGT2654 and the Craftsman 20444 both have big decks but the small K46 transmission. The industry has had more problems with this engine/transmission combination than any other setup. The Craftsman G5100, John Deere D160’s and D170’s fall into this same issue.

          Basically any lawn tractor with a 54 inch deck that sells for less than $2700 is using this transmission and the transmission is not designed for it.

          The K46 transmission is not heavy-duty enough to last when trying to push that large deck. Many people are getting less than 200 hours of use before the transmission goes out.

          The LGT2654 is the model that has been around the longest. If you go search Google, read the tractor forums and read the reviews of it on Lowes and other sites you will find more people complaining about the transmission going out than on any other tractor.

          There is only one cheap 54 inch lawn tractor that does not use that transmission. It’s the Craftsman model 20393. It uses the stronger CVT. 22HP 54” Kohler Powered Turn Tight Riding Mower – Non CA.

          If cost is your only criteria for a selecting a new lawn tractor – buy what you want. But you came to this website because the transmission in your old lawn tractor failed. I won’t suggest a tractor to you where the transmission will last only 2 weeks past the end of the warranty.

          • Thanks, cost was not my only concern I want strong but decent quality, have you heard any issues about the turn tight on the new ones? I just need a strong mower, it looks like the G5500 is still the best option than.

            • Hi Wesley, The G5500 still uses the 6 inch Turn-Tight. But if you have any issues with it Sears has been very good at quickly fixing it. It appears once they replace the front tie-rods the problems go away. (The front axle is warrantied for 5 years)

              There will not be any issues with the 5 inch Turn-Tight Extreme on the Pro’s.

  15. We are looking at a “gentleman’s” farm. It will have about half an acre of turf, 20 fruit trees, blueberries, 4000 sq ft of row crops, chickens, etc. Today it is all in natural grass. We are trying to figure out the type of tractor to buy – garden tractor, small tractor… The ground is relatively flat – minor slope. We want to be able to pull a single blade to break up the ground, till, minor grading on gravel driveway. With a lawn tractor is tiller self powered (Separate gas motor) or does it take power from the garden tractor? Can the Craftsman 8400 easily attach a tiller and have the lifting capacity to raise/lower and drive with it in the raised position? As you can tell we are neophytes – thank you for your help.

    • Hi Bill, I’ve been a little overloaded with questions this week so I’m sorry – I’m just getting to yours.

      In my opinion you will be better off with a sub compact tractor than a lawn/garden tractor. Garden tractor can pull ground engaging equipment but they can’t lift the tiller, they have no power take off to power tillers, brush mowers, etc. Mahindra, Kubota, John Deere, Kioti are among the few better brands. Find a good, local farm store to help you get the right equipment.

      Then get an inexpensive lawn tractor like the Craftsman 19HP Briggs & Stratton 46” Riding Mower – Non CA to mow your lawn.

  16. I spoke with a Husqvarna dealer this week and it seems that Husqvarna is not using a Kawasaki engine in any of it’s higher end tractors this year. Any idea why they may have switched to the 26hp Kohler engines over the Kawasaki’s? Is there a big difference in V-twins between Kohler, Briggs and Kawasaki? Specifically the YT48xls and the GT52xls are using Kohler’s this year, not Kawasaki’s. The majority of my 2+ acre lawn is on a hill and I’m not sure that the YT48xls which has the k46 transmission would be a good choice. I may go for the GT52xlsi with the Briggs Endurance series V-twin, not sure if that would be overkill though. I probably won’t do any snow plowing but would like to pull a lawn sweeper for the fall clean up.
    -Aaron, Goshen, New York

    • Hi Aaron, To answer your questions. Yes, But I don’t want to talk about it publicly. No, The Kohler 7000, Briggs Intek Plus and Kawasaki FR are all full pressure engines that will last on hills. This includes the “branded engines” in the John Deere 100-300 series, Craftsman Platinum, Kohler 7000 Elite, Kohler Courage single and Briggs Endurance in Husqvarna’s. The Toro ZTR engine is also great. Stay away from the Briggs Intek and Kolher Courage V-Twin for hills.

      GT52XLSi is a great choice! The GT models give you bigger tires, heavier frame and the GT52XLSi gives you a very strong transmission.

      • Just wanted to add that I bought a Husqvarna GT48XLSi (same as the GT52XLSi but with narrower mowing deck) based on Paul’s guidance, and it is a beast! I got mine in January just as the snow really started whacking the Northeast. I added weight, wheel chains, and snow thrower, and the Husky did a great job keeping my hilly, .15 mile long driveway clear. Can’t wait to see how it mows! The transaxle is beefy and includes an electric diff lock, which made a huge difference with snow removal. These tractors are tough and are great bang for the buck!

        • Thanks for advice and the first hand experience. It’s very helpful to hear from users who have real world experience on the mowers.

          Thanks Paul! I will be returning to the Husqvarna dealer later this week to negotiate sale and delivery of the GT52xlsi. After I’ve put in some time using the tractor, I’ll let you know what I think.

    • I am ready to purchase a garden tractor, cant make up my mind over the craftsman G5500 or the 8400 pro series all 54 in ch cut . My property is 3.5 acres rough and hilly. I also plan on using a cart on the back. I just dont know what the real difference between these two is . I just want the best unit can you tell me wich one to buy
      thank you Mark

      • Hi Mark, The G5500 (Model 20403) 24HP 54″ Complete Start™ Turn Tight® Garden Tractor – Non CA is the best choice for rough and hilly. Why?

        1. The G5500 has a transmission I trust. The G730 is one of the strongest transmissions for tractors and just doesn’t go bad.
        2. The Husqvarna built frame has more flex than the MTD built Pro frame. That gives you better traction over rough dips and bumps. Depending how hilly your property is you may still have to add weights to the rear wheels but try it first. By the way the frame has a 5 year warranty.
        3. The G5500 has has many more options and attachments available. Different blades, baggers etc. 2 different snow blower, a heavy duty front blade and even a front material scoop.
        4. The complete start is cool. You use a code to start it and you can change the code so other can’t start the tractor. The Complete Start has built in diagnostics that tell you if you have a battery issue or a safety in the wrong position.
        5. A few owners are having issues with the front tie-rods from the factory. If the front wheels start tracking funny just call 1-800-4MY-HOME and a Sears tech will repair it. The front axle has a 10 year warranty and a lifetime warranty for the first owner.
        6. It is a big, well made garden tractor and the basic tractor has been around for many years. For $2900 it is a value.
        7. If you use the link above to buy online you get free delivery, an extra 5% off and you can also get an additional 5% discount or no interest for a year with a Sears card. If you don’t have the card you can apply for it during the checkout process.

        The 8400 (Model 20445) Pro Series 26 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 54″ Turn Tight Extreme Garden Tractor was given a very high rating by CR. Let me go through the reasons why people are really interested in this one.

        1. CR gave this mower the highest rating for mowing among the large deck tractors. Just remember, CR uses a flat, level field to perform their tests.
        2. The Pro uses a stiff frame so it will give you a great cut on a well manicured lawn. If your lawn was made using construction equipment to smooth the property this tractor will give you a ball-park like cut. If you have an old lawn or a lawn that was created from a farm field, woods etc. this tractor may leave gouges in the turf more than the G5500.
        3. The Pro uses a G58 transmission. It is now rated for ground engaging work but I have always known it for a heavy duty lawn tractor transmission. If you want the toughest transmission the G730 in the G5500 is still the way to go.
        4. The Pro uses a new automotive style front axle. It appears to be heavier duty than the one on the G5500. It also carries the 5 year frame, 10 year front axle warranty.
        5. The Pro is brand new. Everything about this mower is new except the deck. I really like the design of the tractor but it doesn’t have any history yet. I expect good things out of this tractor but I know what to expect out of the G5500.
        6. This tractor is brand new and the hot item so it does not have the extra 5% off the G5500 currently has. That make it $300 more right now.

        • Paul,
          I”m torn between the G5500 and the new Pro Series 26 54 Elite.
          I had a GT5000 for 13 years and is served me well, I could pull and roll through and over most things around the house. From what I’ve been reading you don’t believe the Pro 26 54 will be as good, all around as the the G5500 even though it has a ground engagement rating, along with the 22 inch rears?
          Thanks.

          • @MJ, I’m also torn, The transmission is better in the G5500 but the front axle is better on the Pro. The manufacture is confident that they made the right engineering choice with the K58 in the Pro so…..

  17. Hi I am Chris in Archer, FL. I have a farm and my yard that I mow is about 5-10 acres. I looked today at a Husqvarna GT52SLSi and they want about $3500. Is that a good mower? The Raven intrigues me because I could use the little generator to run power tools around the farm. I WISH I could find something like the old gravely convertibles that you could switch a finish mower/little bushhog/rototiller etc. Is there anything like that around today? Right now I am currently using a 6′ bushhog and a push mower. Thanks for the informative website So I guess my choices are the Husqvarna I mentioned, a Craftsman G5500, and the Raven at Lowes (at least that’s what I’ve found so far). How good is the transmission on the Husqvarna? Also are the little rototillers they sell for these garden tractors any good? I have a big (2 acre) garden and clean out my rows with a walk-behind tiller currently.

    • @Chris, I’m wondering if you would be better off with a good zero-turn. A Hustler Raptor SD has a heavy deck and will be able to mow that tough grass you have down there. It’s only about $500 more than the Husqvarna.

      My biggest concern is the decks on the tractors. Even the GT52’s fabricated deck is designed to mow lawns not fields. You will wear out any of those tractors in a couple of years. Plus the Zero-Turn is twice as fast.

      The only convertible that is currently being shipped into the U.S. is the BCS Tiller Rear Tine Tiller GX340 Honda 26″ #732GX-11-K. There should be a dealer around you. They have the two-wheel tractor and you can get just about anything for it including a brush and finish mower.

      You will be happier with a good walk-behind tiller than the tow-behinds. The tractors can’t go slow enough to do a good job.

      I had to think about the Raven for you for a while. I feel it may be a better choice than the tractors you mentioned. It has a fabricated deck and the deck is about as heavy as the Husqvarna deck. If you understood that you may have to replace the deck shell every three to five years or so it’s a good choice. The Raven will mow faster than the Garden Tractors (about 6 mph) It’s heavier in the rear so it will have better traction in your sand. It also has a front suspension so it rides better. If you can get the black one – the seat is really, really nice on that model.

  18. Hi Paul,

    Could you clarify your comments regarding the John Deere X300 series vs. the X500’s and the other tractors listed here? Specifically I mean about the transmissions used in most of the X3 line which is the K58 (other than the x300) as compared to many of the others on the list here. Aren’t they about the same?

    Obviously not in the same class as the X500’s, but as you indicate, none of the others are either. A few of the others seem to have good specs, but some are no longer available (like the Husky GT48XL).

    I’m in the market for my first ride on for a new property, but it’s got pretty good slopes and I do see doing things other than just mowing (snow plowing, grading, hauling, etc.). It seems like something with a K58 level capability transmission is the minimum that will take it, but I’ve been seeing comments in reviews around the net warning against pulling even 1000lbs with something like that for fear of killing the transmission. That doesn’t seem very capable.

    Is it really required to go to the X500’s (or bigger) to get something capable & durable?

    Thanks,

    -Gord
    Toronto, ON

    • @Gord, Here are the spec sheets K58 specs.

      If you want something capable and durable a compact tractor is a much better way to go. The tractors I review here are lawn mowers that do a few other tasks. They are not multi-purpose tractors that also mow lawns.

      • Thanks Paul. It would seem then that the better X300’s (320, etc.) fit in with the lower end entries on this list while the X500’s are at the top end.

        I understand what you are saying about the higher classes of machine, but I guess I was looking to see if there is a middle ground. The thing I fear of the sub-compacts/compacts other than being overkill, is if they also bring some real issues such as size and weight (ie. so heavy as to rut the ground) and not being a good choice as a mower.

        From the looks of things it seems the X500/700’s (and maybe the Kubota’s?) are the only choice on the market right now for more than a lawn mower, but not an all out tractor.

        Thanks again.
        -Gord
        Toronto, ON

        • @Gord, My father uses a New Holland Boomer on his 5 acres but his ground is that good midwest prairie black dirt. Lighter ground and thinner turf the Compacts may leave ruts.

          I wish they made a bucket loader for the X500. It would be perfect for me.

          Mahindra does have a sub-compact. It has about the same foot-print as the X700 but has 3 point and you can put a loader on it. They have a 60 inch belly mower for the Max 22 4WD HST

  19. Hi Paul, I would like some info on a garden tractor that’s heavy duty and will hold up an last. I have an older john deer 332 diesel but it is worn out so I’m going to retire it and restore it someday. But it is a great garden tractor for where I live and I do live on a mountain with some pretty steep hills. I do use a tractor year round. I need to find something that will hold up but my budget is in the three thousand’s dollar range. I have looked at cub cadet xt2, xt3 – troy built- Husqvarna- craftsman- even a Jonsered garden tractor. Well I looked at them and I hear good and bad things on all of them so I don’t know which one would be a good tractor so could you point me in the right direction or some info. I know they won’t be quite like my diesel but I just don’t have the budget to get another one or a compact tractor

    • Hi Robbie, Yes, your 332 is more like the 700 series Deere’s.

      I believe you 332 has a differential lock. On hills that is very important today because the rear end of these tractors is a lot lighter. The all have aluminum transmission housings.

      So that limits you to the:

      Cub Cadet:
      XT2 LX54″ with Fabricated Deck Lawn Tractor K46 ELD
      XT2 GX54″ with Fabricated Deck Garden Tractor K58. ELD

      Husqvarna

      YT48XLS K46LD
      GT54LS K66 ELD

      Personally I would stay away from the K46 transmission for your hills. The GT’s also have larger tires like you are used to. Both of these tractors are dealer only models.

      Simplicity also has a few with traction control but they are in the $6000 range.

  20. Hi Paul, I live in Exeter, RI with 12 acres of land and 5 of it being grass fields. I wanted to mow the field to keep the ticks away from the animals and people but some of the grass is very steep hill. steep enough that we had a 110 yard sledding path this winter and gained quite a bit of speed going. Would the Craftsman (Item # 07120445000P Model # 14A7A3ZW099 ) be capable of such a steep incline? not sure of the gradient for it but enough that I even considered a 4×4 kubota B24 at one point.

    • Hi Adam, Lawn and Garden Tractors are only rated for 15 degree slopes. Here is two charts to help you. Print the first picture and cut the picture on the angle. Line it up with your slope to see if your’s is steeper than 15 degrees.

  21. Hi Paul. I live in McKinney, Tx and need to mow 4 plus acres. Uneven terrine with some incline. I do haul some dirt and manure in my craftsman trailer. I currently have a JD LT 180 with 780 hrs. JD is trying to sell me the 320. What would you recommend? I am open to suggestions. I even considered the new Raven 7100, but chickened out. I was never a Craftsman fan, but times change and competition forces innovation. I am 72 and a comfortable seat with suport is a plus. You have the BEST site, and thank you so much for all you do for the overwhelmed and confused. Robert

    • Hi Robert, Well, you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of the LT 180 mowing that much land.

      I like the Raven myself, It mows well and it will handle inclines well. That said, with 4 acres of rougher terrain you could use a Garden Tractor. The Craftsman I will show you is a heavy-duty tractor with large tires and cost less than the X320.

      Consumer Reports just gave this new Craftsman Garden Tractor a “Recommended” rating and gave it their best score for the large deck tractors. I have not written a review of it yet, but I am also going to give it a great recommendation. I like the deck, the Kohler engine, the way you sit and the toughness of the tractor. It has the good K58G transmission. It’s heavy-duty and will last.

      Online they have free delivery through April. Here is the link to the Sears page: Pro Series 26 HP V-Twin Kohler Elite 54″ Turn Tight Extreme Garden Tractor

      The only thing you should be aware of is you can order it today but you won’t be able to get it until April 15-25. They are still in transit from the factory. Feel free to ask any other questions.

      • Paul. I did go to Sears and sat in the Craftsman 24 with Briggs engine. It felt really nice and very comfortable. I Chickened out on the Raven partly because Lowes had a hard time getting it running and having all the gadgets in the right position. I did test drive it. I was not as comfortable in the seat for some reason as the Craftsman.

        But the main reason I chickened out on the Raven is that service center and parts are 35 miles away and I have to haul it there. Plus, not sure if the mechanics are up to par yet. I will not need the 17 mph speed.
        Head to head, for rough 4.5 acres lawn-pasture with varying terrain to cut, in the 4K $ range, in your opinion, a JD, Raven or the new Pro Elite 54.

        Sears will give me the sales price plus 5% military discount and another 5% if I use the Sears Card, so even with the tax it is about 3300 out the door (they deliver). Is the 5 yr bumper to bumper home repair worth 890? I also tested the JD 320 with a 54″er for $4400 plus tax.

        Your thoughts please.
        Robert

        • Hi Robert, I like the seat on the all-black Raven the best. The Raven does have good safety controls. It has the same safeties as the current lawn tractors – they are just easier to use. Just sit on the seat, put the F-N-R in neutral and make sure the PTO is off. It will also start with the parking brake set and the motion control switch in neutral. Raven has had NO problems since last spring.

          The fun thing about Sears is there is 3 different pricing models. 1. At the store they have the military discount and the 5%/12 month financing. 2. On line at Sears.com they have the Free delivery ($70) and 5%/12 month financing. In addition online also has an addition 5% off on some models (not on the GT’s right now) 3. The independent Sears Hometown Stores have a different pricing model. All three models are within a few dollars of each other.

          Whether or not the Protection Plan is for you is a personal choice. The people who buy Sears Protection Plans will almost always buy another because it is a no-hassle way to insure you have a good working machine. Here is a comment I wrote a while back on the protection plan.

          Just to clarify the service: Sears/Craftsman has 10,000 techs in trucks and they come to you to repair your tractor. No one else is authorized to do warranty repairs. If you know it is not a warranty issue most repair shops will work on your Craftsman.

          – Sears always comes to you to fix your tractor. With the 2 year defects warranty they will usually ask for a trip charge up front ($100 where I live) because about 80% of the time the problem you are having with the tractor may not be a defect from the manufacture., i.e, it won’t start because you forgot you need to step on the parking brake when you push the code into the keypad. After they troubleshoot the issue and it does turn out to be a defect, they will reimburse you the upfront fee. (All these types of issues are always covered under the protection plan. No, trip charge and diagnostic fees are always included.)

          Other brands either make you bring them tractor to a dealer store or the dealer charges you a fee to come and get your tractor. My father’s local Deere dealer charges $125 for an 8 mile trip. My local Husqvarna dealer charges $50 or more depending if they sold the unit.

          If the tech does not have the part with him, he uses his in-truck computer to order it right there. The part actually gets sent to your home and when it arrives the tech comes back out (no second trip charge) and installs it.

          Basically everything is covered with the protection plan. OK, it doesn’t cover garage fires and dropping it out of the back of your pickup :) But you get 25% discount on parts if you do smash the hood.

          They always come to you, you never have to take your tractor anywhere for repairs. About all you have to do is replace the mower blades, change the oil, spark plug, oil filter and air cleaner. With the protection plan you also get a 25% discount on those non-covered parts.

          It covers not only defects but most wear and tear items. Battery, tires, belts, starting issues, etc are all covered free of any extra charge. Labor and the trip charge to your home is always included.

          It is not an insurance plan. If you drop it out the back of your pickup, the garage burns down with the tractor in it or your buddy decides to drive it into the pond – that stuff is not covered. You can also get a 25% discount for parts for these types of occasions.

          The protection plan is a replacement plan and will cover the cost of the new tractor if the old one is a lemon or they can’t get parts for it.

          My favorite example from this year. An owner came into my local Sears and asked if a cracked seat was covered. (They had one year left of a 5 year plan) The sales associate told them to call a tech (1-800-4MY-HOME) to come out and inspect it. The tech did and ordered a new seat. About 2 weeks went by and the tech called them and stated he could not get them a new seat. (Their tractor happened to be a Pro model with a yellow seat) He then told them, “Because I can’t replace the seat with a new yellow you are getting a new tractor!” Even though they would have been happy with a new black or gray seat. It took another week for the paperwork to go through and they got their new tractor.

          Finally, Sears has a worry-free guarantee. If you buy the plan and anytime during the normal warranty period (2 years here) you decide it wasn’t a good value for you all you have to do is call 1-800-4MY-HOME and ask to cancel the plan. They will reimburse you the entire amount of the plan – even if you used it! After the end of the second year the refund is prorated for the rest of the time (3 or 5 years)

          The cost of the protection plan on that tractor is about $8.15 a month. It’s less than the insurance on your cell phone, covers more and offers a full worry-free guarantee.

          Manufactures only cover defects. It is proven that over 80% of the problems a customer will have with a mower during the factory defect warranty period are not defects but are wear and tear, operator error, not reading the starting directions, bad gas, bad gas, BAD GAS, or operator abuse. The manufacture will not pay the repair service anything unless there is an approved factory defect. In the case at the beginning of this article the person on the phone does not know if the transmission is bad (covered) a bolt or clip fell off the control linkage (may be covered) the belt broke because a stick got wedged under the deck (not covered) or someone was playing around with his new toy and didn’t put the coast rod back in all the way. Because they can’t troubleshoot your repair over the phone, most repair services will charge you a trip charge up front. If it ends up being a covered repair most of the retailers will reimburse the cost of the trip charge. If you are required to deliver your item to a repair center they usually will not reimburse you for your time and expense.”

          • Paul. For my 4.5 acre lawn-pasture which mower would hold up best? What would you recommend? Raven, JD 320, or new Craftsman Pro Elite with 54 deck?
            Have to make a choice soon. Grass is getting tall her in Texas.
            Thanks again, Robert

  22. Paul, we just moved into a new house with about 1+ to mow(Up to 2+ acres if I want to mow that much). The terrain is smooth, but has about a 1/4 acre section with a pretty significant grade. The rest is gentle slopes or fairly flat. Before it was stolen, I had a 2011 Cub Cadet LT 1050 KW (in a previous house) that I bought new back then that worked great for the 8 or so hours I used it. I still have he snow blade, wheel weights and chains I bought with it.
    Now I am in the market for a new mower. I have been looking at the John Deere Z445 54″, the Cub Cadet RZT S 54″, the Cub Cadet Z Force 54″, and wanting to look at the Exmark Quest S Steering wheel model. I am also considering a smaller deck in all of these models. I was also considering the Cub Cadet Zero as well as the XT2 54″ tractor due to being able to use my previous snow blade. My drive is about 200 feet long. If I get a zero turn, I will have to purchase a dedicated snow thrower to clear the drive.
    Most of these have the Kawasaki engine, which I liked on my previous tractor. There just seem to be too many options out there right now. I would say my budget is trying to stay under $5k. I would also like it to fit on my 5×10 trailer I own. Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated on these or any other options I might need to look at. Thanks from Dayton, Ohio.

    • @Ken, Have you verified that your snow blade will fit on the XT1/XT2? It is a completely new frame compared to the LTX models.

      For slopes either go with the steering wheel ZTR’s or a lawn tractor. Lap-bar ZTR’s in this price range don’t like slopes. A 48-50 inch deck is plenty for 1-2 acres. They mow more evenly than the 54 inch decks.

      I just wrote a review on the Toro Steering wheel models. It is the same mower as the ExMark. The ExMark has an upgraded seat and the deck has flat front instead of the rounded front. 2015 Toro Zero-Turn Tractors | My Review. Don’t rule out the Toro and ExMark engines. Toro designed these specifically for zero-turns. Kawasaki has a reputation in the commercial mowers for the FX series but the FR residential engine is nothing special.

      There is a plow for zero-turns: Nordic Plow Snow Removal Nordic 64 in. Zero-Turn Snow Plow NAP-ZC4

      Check out the Nordic Plow site here: Nordic Plow

      • Thanks Paul. In checking with my local Cub dealer, they sell a kit which allows the older plows to work with the new tractors for about $25. Do the smaller deck CC tractors also have transmission issues you spoke of in another reply? I also didn’t realize that about the KW engines. Learning every day.

        Looking at the Toro, which do you prefer: the SWX5050 or the SW5000? What is the major differences? Will these effectively use a snow plow or will it put too much stress on the transmissions shortening their lives?
        I like the idea of speeding up my mowing times as my weekends get pretty short. My wife also likes the idea if the wheel steer for the rare times she will have to jump on it. The list is getting shorter.
        Ken

        • Hi Ken, All of the new cub cadet tractors use the K46. The Garden tractors use a stronger K-58.

          The SWX will have no problems with a plow. It’s transmissions are strong enough to handle any task you throw at it. It will also mow snow better than the Cub Cadet tractors because it will go 7 mph. That’s fast enough that it will roll the snow off the plow better. With more weight on the rear it will also push better than the tractor (you will still need chains but you 20×20’s will fit.)

          The SW5050 and the Cub Cadet steering wheel ZTR’s use the lighter ZT-2200 trans. I won’t recommend those for snow plowing.

          • Well, the list has shortened to two. Looking at the Cub Cadet Z-Force SZ48 and the Toro SWX5050. On the Cub Cadet, I have the option of the Kohler 7000 or the Kawasaki FR. The Toro’s at my dealer were all ordered with the Toro 708cc engines. Thoughts between the two? These are very close in specs across the board. Each dealer is giving a bundle deal for purchasing a mower and snow blower together, this eliminating the need for the plow. I still want the ZT-2800 transmissions for the hills and slopes in my yard. Getting closer to a new mower for the season:-)

            • @Ken, the Z-Force is a good mower but over all I like the SWX Toro the best. It’s a very heavy duty machine and I’d even suggest it for a small commercial operator. It’s very smooth to drive and cuts extremely well. I’m very excited about the Toro engine – they designed and built this engine because of the problems we are having with the older Kohler Courage and the Kawasaki FR.

              • Hi Paul,
                Just wanted to update you. I followed your advice and went with the Toro SWX 5050. Hoping to get it in next week sometime. Thanks for all of your help and time. Your wealth of knowledge is a godsend.

  23. Hi Paul,
    I do appreciate your reviews and comments!!
    Can you compare the John Deere 160 vs a Sears G5100 or G5500? Mowing 2 ac of fairly flat lawn that is rough on the last 1/2 ac.
    Thanks
    Paul H

    • Hi Paul, The G5500 is a true garden tractor with a heavy-duty transmission, 54 inch deck, big tires and can handle ground engaging attachments.

      The D160 and G5100 are very similar overall. They both use the same engine (Briggs ELS) and transmission (K46). They both have a 3 blade 48 inch deck and they both cut, bag and mulch the same. Same tires, etc. The Deere is made in Georgia, the Craftsman in South Carolina.

      The The D160 and G5100 are both considered lawn tractors because of the transmission. The G5100 does have a heavy-duty garden tractor frame and the 6 inch Turn-Tight steering. Those two items make it worth the extra money over the D160. Either one will do well on your 2 acres. The 22 inch tires on them will make the rough area a little easier on your butt.

        • @Paul, I’d still pick the G5100. Why? They are both lawn tractors because they have the K46 transmission in them. The Craftsman has a better Briggs Platinum Engine.

          As far as I know the Husqvarna LGT has the old Kohler Courage. (The Courage has been replaced with the Kohler 7000)

          Here is my review of the LGT: 2013 Husqvarna LGT2654 Review | Beware! This Is Not A Garden Tractor!

          Here is the bottom line: In the G5100, The Deere D160 and the Cub Cadet XT2 series the K46 transmission does ok. But when you put it in a tractor with a 54 inch deck it appears there is just too much of a load and it doesn’t last. Any slopes or hills shortens the trans’ life to hours instead of years. This tractor is one of the main reasons why the K46 has such a bad reputation. (even though when it is in the mower it was designed for it lasts for years)

          This is a great example of a retailer insisting on a tractor that is cheaper than the competition’s but ended up with a tractor that breaks all the time.

          • Thanks, much appreciated. What I really want is a good lawn tractor to handle a little over 2 acres that is reliable. I might use it to pull a small wagon but nothing big ore real heavy. Something with a decent ride would be good. Thanks again!!

          • Hi Paul,
            Just a quick question. For mowing 2ac what range of tractors would you suggest? 48″ is big enough and only used for mowing. Does it pay to go to one of the lower cost lawn tractors? Reliability is a major concern over years of service. Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks again.

            • @Paul, The 20391 with the 48 inch deck is a great option. It has a great 22 hp v-twin Briggs Platinum (ELS) This tractor/chassis/deck has been around in one form or another for years and most owners are getting 10-15 years out of it with no problems. In fact, this tractor still has many of the parts from the 1998-2001 Green Craftsman. The steering, engine, trans of course has been updated. Greaseable spindles on the deck. The belts last, etc.

              Not to rush you but this tractor is an extra 10% off online today. The sale goes off at 4 am tomorrow morning. 1817.99 with free delivery. Plus you can get and additional 5% off or 12 months no interest with a Sears card. You can apply for the card during the checkout process.

              Here is the link to Sears: 22 HP V-Twin 48″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower – Non CA

              • Hi Paul,
                I decided to purchase the G5100 from Sears. They just delivered tow days ago so I haven’t had a chance to try it out. The tractor looks good and starts easy so that a good start. Thanks much for your assistance research.
                Paul H

  24. Paul, I am trying to decide between two Craftsman 54″ garden tractors you recommended: (1) Craftsman G5500 Complete Start and (2) Craftsman Pro Series G7400 Pro Series. It appears to me that the engines are of equivalent quality and that the transmissions are the same (both are ground engaging). Other features very similar. The big difference I see is that the G5500 has a two-year warranty and the G7400 has a three-year warranty. Price today (March 18) is almost the same: G5500 = $2935 and G7400 = $2999. Any reason to not buy the G7400 with the three-year warrants. Thanks.

    • Hi Prentice, There is nothing wrong with the G7400 but it is being replaced next month with a new Craftsman Pro model made by MTD. What that means is you may have problems getting parts painted black/yellow 6-10 years from now.

      Also, the blades are unique and are not used on any other Craftsman. You can get them on sears.com now but next year you may have to go to searspartsdirect to get the blades. I do not expect the stores to carry them. Here are the part numbers for the blades. If you buy the Pro write these down in your operators manual.
      to buy them just put that number into the sears.com search box and they will come up. • 70787: 54” High Lift Blade • 70786: 54” Mulching Blade • 70754: 54” Mulch Kit. The high lift blades work the best on that deck.

      Just so you know. You can actually do better than $2935 on the 20403 (G5500). Click on this link and then read the 6 special offers. Craftsman Red Garden Tractor. You get free delivery, and extra 5% off online. Plus, 5% or no interest for 12 months.

  25. Paul, my wife and I purchased a second home in central Virginia, near Charlottesville, last May. It’s located on 14 acres, mostly wooded and very hilly, some areas, including our 500’+ driveway are in places very steep. The steep sections of the driveway are paved, while the flat areas at the bottom of the driveway are gravel. We only have about 1/2 acre of lawn around the house that we’ll need to mow. Two areas are on fairly steep terrain, including the area over the septic leach field. In addition, at the bottom of the hill we have two fields totaling about 2 acres that our neighbor bales for hay about two times a year. My wife is really into sustainable gardening and we plan to install several raised bed garden plots in one of the fields. We’re looking for a dependable (I’m handy, but not a mechanic!), versatile garden tractor and your site has provided a lot of good information, but with all the options out there, we’re a bit confused on which way to go. Besides mowing, we expect to do a lot of hauling of dirt, mulch, firewood, etc. up and down the driveway as well as a bit of snow plowing (no more than about 4-8″ at any one time). Based upon our research, it appears we should be looking at either the Craftsman or Husqvarna with a locking differential, but I don’t think we need a 54″ deck. We’ve budgeted about $4000 for the tractor and attachments (plow blade, trailer for hauling, tiller to come later). So, do you have any recommendations? Thanks for your input! Todd and Melanie

    • Hi Todd and Melanie, Any slope greater than 15 degrees is too steep for a lawn tractor. There is a real possibility of tipping the tractor over or having it slide down the hill uncontrollably and then it tipping over. So, I am very cautious about suggesting any riding mower when you say “fairly steep terrain.”

      So , since the lawn is only about 1/2 acre have you considered a walk-behind? For example, a Toro Lawn Mowers Personal Pace TimeMaster 30 in. Variable Speed Self-Propelled Walk-Behind Gas Lawn Mower with Briggs & Stratton Engine 20199 can mow a 1/2 acre lawn in less than an hour.

      Now, since you have 14 acres and it sounds like you would like to move around it at will a lawn tractor is again not the best choice. Even lawn tractors like the Husqvarna YT42LS that have the locking differential won’t have the traction to pull half trailer loads of dirt around your property. Also these tractors only go 5.5 MPH so plowing a 500 foot driveway will be a real chore.

      Most owners with that size property who want to pull a cart and use a blade to move snow eventually end up with an ATV instead. A 4-wheel drive ATV can pull any trailer including ones like the Polar Trailer 8232 HD 1200 Heavy Duty Utility and Hauling Cart, 84 by 45 by 31-Inch. You can load these trailers up with 1200 lbs and not worry about them or the ATV. A lawn tractor can only pull 2-300 lbs under ideal conditions.

      Finally an ATV can plow snow 5 times faster than a lawn tractor.

    • Hi Todd, just wanted to share my experience: after doing lots of research including Paul’s site (a great resource!), I got a Husqvarna GT48XLSi. This model has the locking diff with a 48″ fabricated deck. I live in the Northeast, and this tractor, equipped with a 42″ snow thrower, plus wheel chains and a 50lb rear weight, had no trouble clearing my steep, 0.2 mile gravel driveway, even when I let a foot of wet snow accumulate. I think the Husky is a great value for the money: for around $5000, I could have gotten a new leftover Snapper with no money left for the snow thrower, or the Husky with the blower. A no brainer. I can’t wait to start mowing with it!

  26. Hi. I am a 60 year old woman looking for a garden tractor that will spread gravel, shovel or push manure, snow and cut grass. Buying a neglected 10 acre horse farm and need something I can handle. Any suggestions?

    Eileen Bowling
    Columbus, OH

    • @Eileen, Actually I do have a few suggestions. To do all those tasks well you are looking at a sub-compact tractor. Sub-compacts have quik-attach loaders for manure, snow and gravel. Three-point rear hitches for leveling the driveway and tilling soil. Strong rear hitches for pulling wagons and manure spreaders. Plus they have decent under-belly mowers that can stay on while doing the other chores or come off easily for winter use.

      Here are some of the best. You can buy these new and also find good used ones at your local farm implement dealers in the Columbus area.

      The following is a list of tractors that you can find at dealers all within 50 miles of Columbus. All of these tractors are great machines and will last your 20 years or longer. You may not be familiar with the names but they all have a great reputation with the “rural lifestylers” and small acreage farmers.

      John Deere: 1025R Sub-Compact Utility Tractor or 2025R Compact Utility Tractor
      Kubota B Series: 2620, 2650
      Kioti: CK20S HST or CK2510 HST
      MAHINDRA: eMax 22 HST or eMax 25 HST
      Case IH : Farmall 30B
      New Holland: Boomer™ Compact Tractors
      Massey Ferguson: GC1700 Series
      LS Tractor: LS Tractor Model J2020H

  27. @Paul, a quick follow-up on my quest for a garden tractor. My local Snapper/Simplicity dealer didn’t have a YT400 on the floor and was trying to get me to buy a 2013 (new leftover) Simplicity Conquest for $4600 cash. Nice tractor, but since my budget is $5000, it meant that I couldn’t buy a snow blower attachment this year. I took another look at the Husqvarna GT48XLSi and realized that I was getting basically the same motor and transmission as the Simplicity, plus a fabricated deck, for $3399. For another $1399, I can add the “Husqy” snow blower attachment and still squeak in under my $5000 limit. I ordered the tractor and blower through Power Equipment Direct, as the Husqvarna dealer nearest to me is 50 miles away and doesn’t have the model I want in stock anyway. Can’t wait til the delivery truck shows up :-) Thanks for the great guidance on your blog – it was very helpful!

  28. Paul, I’m located in Woodstock, NY. I’m looking for a tractor that can mow about an acre of hilly, rough ground; and handle grading-in-the-summer/clearing-snow-in-the winter on a 1000-foot-uphill-from-my-house-to-the-street gravel private road. In your reply to @Jeff on Nov. 12, 2014, you made the comment that a garden tractor/snow blower/weights/chains rig might not have enough traction on a sloped, concrete driveway. I’m looking at a Snapper YT400 and was wondering if its combination of traction control and a diff lock would be able to handle my road? I don’t want to invest in a tractor/snow blower setup only to find out it won’t make it up the hill. Thanks!

  29. Paul, I am buying a house in Hillsborough NC. The sellers are offering to sell their 2013 Craftsman YT 4500 for $1200. It has 75 hours on it. I am curious if this is what I will need or should I invest in a true garden tractor? The house is on a 5.56 acre lot that has about 1-1.5 acre cleared. The slot is on an incline and the driveway is at least 1000 feet and gravel. I do not expect a picture perfect lawn due to the terrain which is a little rocky and is covered with leaves during the fall. I except to be hauling firewood, dirt, compost and mulch throughout the year. I may also purchase a box grader for the driveway but may not have to. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the tractor they are offering and if a full garden tractor is needed?

    • @Matt, As a lawn mower and all-around yard tractor it is a good choice. It will handle firewood, compost and mulch well. You will have to replace the drive belt every year or so if haul loads of dirt up and down you slope. It will not handle a box grader. You can’t hook a sleeve hitch to that frame for the box grader.

      The price is reasonable on the YT4500

      A new GT5500 Craftsman Garden Tractor is around $3000. You can add a sleeve hitch to it and haul anything around your yard.

  30. Hi Paul, I live in Barrie, Ontario, Canada and I am looking to buy a lawn/garden tractor to cut approx 0.5 acres of grass and blow a driveway approx 100′ long with a 30′ diameter bulb on the end ( all flat ground). I am concerned with a lawn tractor due to the fact we get a lot of snow. I don’t know if the lawn tractors are equipped to handle a lot of snow blowing? Any recommendations?

    • @Jeff, a 100 ft driveway is about the minimum I feel where a tractor mounted snow blower may be the right choice.

      -You will want a tractor with a V-Twin, but for you 1/2 acre you really only need a 42 inch deck.
      -The tractor needs quite a bit of room to turn around (it’s 8 feet long with the snow blower)
      -You need weights and chains and the chains will scratch concrete and leave brown rust marks.
      -If the drive is sloped you may not have enough traction on hard packed snow to go back up the drive.
      -An Agri-Fab made snow blower is the cheaper way to go but it has a habit of breaking belts in heavy snow. You need to have at least one spare and know how to change it. (About $1600 with weights and chains)
      -A BerCo snow blower is usually what you buy up there. They are more expensive and durable. (about $1900 with weights and chains)

      Now you can buy a good walk-behind snow blower CRAFTSMAN®/MD 357cc 28” Steerable Snowblower for around $1300 and a good tractor for your yard for about $1600 to $2200.

  31. Paul,
    The cam in my 7 yr old craftsman tractor just blew up destroying the engine so I need to replace this 20hp, 42″ deck tractor. I live in northern Michigan and have a 450 ft driveway so my tractor gets lots of use in the winter blowing snow. Also use to haul firewood, mulch leaves in the fall, and drag our gravel road with some old bed springs.

    Sears outlet has a 2013 GT6000, 26hp, 54″ deck and a 2014 24hp, 54″ deck 20403. Both are 1/2 off. I’m leaning toward the 2014 tractor but would appreciate your opinion on which might be better for me?

    Thanks,
    Larry

    • @Larry, The only real difference is the hood styling and the color. The hood now fits better and doesn’t rattle around as much as the older rounded hood on the 2013. The engine had a required horsepower labeling change for 2014 so it is actually the same engine. It’s now labeled as a 24 instead of 26. I like the red one!

      p.s. Your snow blower should mount right up. Be sure to save the snow blower brackets off your old tractor.

  32. Hi Paul. Great site and enjoyed reading many posts and replies.
    My wife and I moved to central Massachusetts mid-summer where I enjoyed utilizing the “free” riding mower that came with the house. We have 5 acres; 2 of it requires mowing. There are a number of decline/inclines on the property that this mower could not handle, thus requiring me to use my old push mower in those areas. With just this terrain I was researching garden versus lawn tractors. Now add the fact we have a 200 foot driveway and our wonderful New England winters, where I want to purchase a plow as an attachment to this new riding mower (or maybe even snow blower attachment). The property is also surrounded by pine trees and other wooded areas that have left leaves and pine needles I want to remove.
    With this info., I’m deciding on a garden tractor where it has the muscle to mow and ride the hills, push/throw some snow, and haul the occasional large tree limb after a Nor’easter. Plus any odd ball yard work my wife will eventually want done (e.g. haul large bushes from the front-end of the property). Your review mentions the Husqvarna GT48XLSi and Simplicity Conquest with some decent praise. I didn’t mention any John Deere and as great as they are, I didn’t want to drop that kind of money and leave me nothing to get the accessories, and guys love add-ons! This is where I was thinking about the Husky to still get a robust quality garden tractor that leaves some cash for the Bagger, Snow Blade, Aerator, etc.
    So, after the 2014 mowing season has come to an end, what has been your overall impression of the Husqvarna versus Simplicity, or any other suggested model fitting my needs?
    Cheers
    Bryan from Sudbury, MA

    • @Byran, Sorry, I lost your comment in the pile. The Husqvarna is a good choice because it has the differential lock so both wheels can get traction to pull stuff up your hills.

      By the time you get a Conquest and plow you will be around $6200. With a snow blower it will be over $7000. The Conquest will actually be about as expensive as a X500 series Deere.

      The Husqvarna is just as capable for your size yard and you will be about $3800 for the tractor and dozer blade. If you often get 8 inches or more of snow don’t bother with the plow. Go right to the snow blower. With a tractor the plow only pushes snow off to the side, it doesn’t go fast enough to roll it up and out of the way like a plow on a pickup does.

      Have the dealer install the snow blower the first time unless you are good with tools.

  33. Paul,
    This is a follow-up to my previous, typo-ridden comment. Firstly, I apologize for not proofing it before shooting it off. Let me clarify/rephrase one important point: I’m considering one of these three: Husqy YT46LS, YTH24K48, Craftsman 20401. My budget is $2,500 or thereabouts. Which would you recommend or are there others I should be considering as well? I’m not averse to John Deer but am afraid of shelling out a lot more for a machine that can help me aerate or haul some dirt/mulch (approx. 5-6 times a year?). Even used JDs (300s) are way over top. I do have two good dealers close-by for JD and Husqy. My lot is fairly flat except patch of about 50 feet abutting my house on the south side that grades at 15%. Thank you!

    • @Rahm, Of the 3 I like the YT46LS the best and I feel it will give you the best service over the years. (The 20401 uses the same trans as is in the YTH) See the other comment about tire size though.

  34. @Paul:
    Great site with lots of information. Thank you. I have an 1.5 acres place and, in addition to mowing, I do my own aeration, dethatching, fertilizaiton (using AgriFab tow-behind), and move dirt/mulch/compost around a few times a year (I have a 1000 sq ft veggie patch and a dozen semi-dwarf fruit trees). I bought a Craftsman GT5000 in 2004 and it worked well for about 2 years. I’m handy with machines and very possessive. I don’t lend and don’t let even my teenagers get on them. The crazy, obsessive-compulsive spit-and-polish types.I can’t tell you how frustrated I was with this machine. Sears came many, many times and they couldn’t fix the many range of problems this machine had including the tranny. I even called the tranny manufacturer and they were very helpful. But that’s not the case with Sears. They began by delivery the wrong model. When they came back, they did not bring the accessories I had ordered. It took more than a month to get my machine on the yard. For all the trouble, they threw in an extra year of free service coverage (over the 3 i bought) but when the time came to use it, they claimed there was no such offer/committment in their records!! Anyway, the stream of service calls continued every year – at least 4 to 5 calls every season and they could not figure out what was wrong. They’d the same guy who does garage doors and appliances. Moreover, each time, they’d send a different guy and for some reason they either did not record the history well or the guys could not interpret the problems. So I had to explain it all over again. Finally, in the year 6 or so after my purchase, they sent an “expert” who really did no better. Their generosity amounted to a “sorry, that’s how some machines are.” and, as if to rub salt into the wounds, “here’s a $50 coupon for a new Craftsman.” Ever since I’ve making do with a used mower with limited capabilities. On doing some research for a tractor for about $2,500, the Husqy YT46LS or YTH24K48. I came across your review of the Craftsman 20401 but my experience of the Craftsman tractor and, importantly, Sears dismal, incompetent, and apathetic service has me scared. What would you do, Paul?

    I have read your disclaimer and your avowed impartiality but I have often wondered why there isn’t much coverage of Husqvarna. After all, being the manufacturer of Craftsman’s machines, shouldn’t they know how to put their own machines together well enough? Aren’t these the same guys who make some other good professional tools including the incomparable blowers (now that they bought RedMax as well)? Thank you!

    • @Rahm, I don’t cover Husqvarna tractors as well as I should because I don’t have enough hours in the day. I do all this myself, (right now movingsnow.com my snow blower website is going bonkers) plus my wife and I have been preparing a condo of ours to sell for the last month (renters…what can I say) I’m sorry – I’m whining but I’m done now… :)

      I will be glad to compare the Husqvarna for you. I recommend the YT46LS a lot. I like the locking differential. The 46 inch deck cuts well and bags well. I not quite as happy with the YTH24K48. This tractor gets it’s “fast tractor” by changing the pulley ratios on the K46 transmission. I feel this will give problems later on especially since you do pull stuff with your tractor. I would be a lot more comfortable with you getting the Craftsman 20391. It has the Element V Trans in it and I feel will hold up a lot better over the years.

      Now, all of these tractors have a smaller tire size than your old GT5000. If you liked the larger tires look at the GT52XLSi

  35. @Trebor, The K58 is still considered a lawn tractor transmission but it does have a 1 inch axle and is rated for 23 inch tires. It has about 20% more power than the K46. The K66 is Tuff Torq’s garden tractor trans.

    It will handle the hills just fine and light tilling like pullin a powered roto-tiller, pulling the DR brush mower or DR Power Grader. I don’t recommend it for equipment like a Till-Ease Chisel plow.

    • @Andy, That’s like asking which is better pickup, Dodge or Ford?

      The most common Tuff Torq is the K46. It’s used in many lawn tractors and has had a long reputation as a good transmission. They also make lighter and heavier transmissions for small tractor all the way up to Garden tractors and even compacts.

      The most common HydroGear is the G730 and is used in many garden tractors. It’s pretty much bulletproof. Hydro Gear also makes lighter and heavier transmissions.

      There is a 3rd manufacture now. The General Transmissions Element series don’t have cold weather issues like hydro’s sometimes have.

  36. Paul, I have a 1.5 acres with about 1/4 of it highly sloped and a decent grade on my 300’+ driveway. I live in maryland which gets decent amount of snow but not like the northeast typically and haul rocks and dirt as well.. I am a big guy also. I want something that is reliable and wont have me under to chassis constantly fixing belts and adjusting the balance of the deck to get an even cut. I get rows of uncut/poorly cut strips requiring me to re-mow half my lawn. I have been getting by with a 2006 Cub LT1042 17hp kohler but I know I have been beating it to death as its quit on me. The belts would go while climbing the hills etc. What would you recommend I get for my next tractor?

    • @Chris, The best Tractor for you is the Model 20403 24HP 54″ Complete Start™ Turn Tight® Garden Tractor – Non CA.

      This tractor has a heavy duty transmission that never wears out, large tires for traction, cast iron front axle for the snow blower, and is heavier than your Cub Cadet for getting up the hills. The drive belt is Kevlar reinforced for longer life. The rear wheel base is wider than your Cub Cadet so it will feel better on the slope.

      Now, the negative is this heavy duty tractor only comes with a 54 inch deck. The deck cuts well but it is a wide deck and these decks don’t give you as even of a cut as a new 42 inch deck. Consumer Reports rates them separately from the 42-46 inch decks for that reason. There are no heavy-duty tractors (Garden Tractors) that have smaller decks.

      Here is my review and a list of attachments for the tractor G5500 Review

  37. Hi Paul,

    I thought I would post an update on my search for a garden tractor.

    After some extensive research and mind numbing hours comparing the major components of the readily available choices, and considering other options, I had come to the conclusion that I would need more machine then I had originally imagined.

    So after a good deal of searching and negotiating, I am the extremely pleased owner of a new X740 / 60D deck.
    @ 60 hours now, and I just could not be happier with this choice.

    I wish to thank you for your time and replies on the various threads I have posted on Todays Mower.

    Wash & Lube ..wash and lube 😉

    Best regards, Cassidy

    • @Cassidy, Your very welcome. That 7-iron deck is one of the best on the market for large decks. Heavy duty, greaseable spindles, center PTO. Landowner grade all the way.

  38. Paul – My Simplicity Landlord DLX that I picked up last year for a few hundred bucks just died on me. I’d hoped to get through this year but she couldn’t make it. My yard is about 3/4 acre. Front yard is 1/4 acre fairly level that I keep looking good, and striped. Back yard is a 1/2 acre hilly obstacle course that gets steep in places. The Landlord never had issues with the hills. After lots of research including your great blog I’ve narrowed down to 3 choices for a new tractor – a Craftsman garden tractor, a Craftsman T3000 with the CVT transmission or a Husqvarna YT42LS with the locking differential. My basic thought on each – Craftsman garden 54″ is too big for my yard and the 48″ does not have pedal drive. No doubt it can handle the hills and the bumps though. Craftsman T3000 seems like a great option but I’m seeing mixed reviews on the CVT transmission. Husqvarna YT24LS has a Kawasaki engine which I prefer but I think it comes with a Tuff Torq K46 and those are known to be problematic. (As a side note/complaint, it’s frustrating that so difficult to figure out what transmission each tractor has) Thanks in advance for any input and thanks for the great site.
    Sykesville, MD

    • @Mike, The YT42LS does have a K46 – but there are many different configurations of that transmission and the config with the locking diff has very few issues. (Only the K46’s in tractors with 22 inch rear tires have the majority of the issues.)

      I like the deck a lot on that mower. It cuts very well, bags and mulches great. If I needed a lawn tractor for my 1 acre the YT42LS is at the top of my list.

      Be aware that your old Simplicity Landlord DLX weighed a lot more than the YT42LS so you may have to put fluid in the tires or add weights if your slopes are as steep as you suggest. The locking diff gives this tractor a lot more traction than the Craftsman T3200 but it still may need more weight.

      • Thanks for the quick response. My Husqvarna dealer is locating a YT42LS for me. He suggested the same thing you did, filling the tires so we are doing that.

  39. Paul,

    Most impressive! Thanks for the fast response. I have a couple of other thoughts on my search since last post. I did find a simplicity dealer in the menomonie area. They took over for turf and timber, it is menomonie rental. Since I work in menomonie dropping off for service is no problem.

    I bought a used simplicity broadmoor 10+ years ago it was a 1995 and I really like the cut. Is my brand loyalty showing yet.

    Test drove the conquest as well as my neighbors x530 and the independent suspension (scs-4) on the simplicity is a great ride! The other consideration is the floating deck. In your opinion is the cut of the simplicity better than the jd? I do like the stripes.

    I will take a bit more time on this decision as i am able to borrow a jd zero turn for a bit. Tested that last night and you can speed up the cut time a bunch, but i was not really impressed with the cut quality.

    One other question. Do you have an opinion on sigle vs two stage blowers. Jd only offers a two stage, simplicity offers a 42 and 46″ single, and 47 and 42″ dual.

    I will definitely check out the jd 540 too and try and make an unbiased decision now that I have a bit of time.

    my the force be with you!

    • @kurt, I get it… The Simplicity deck will always cut better than the other brands because of the floating deck. It doesn’t mow quite as fast but it follows the ground contours so it doesn’t scalp or miss the depressions. And the roller is great for knocking down gopher mounds :) I like the quick detach deck mount.

      Don’t even consider a single stage. They are worthless for our snows. They only throw heavy wet snow about 2 feet and the 17 to 20 incher’s we also get take forever to move.

      I do like the full frame mounting system on the Simplicity. The snow blower is mounted to a full under-carriage frame that absorbs all the shocks and hits that will break most other tractors. One frame can also be used for a dozer blade if you want to switch.

  40. Obi Wan!

    Help! I am lost in the Cantina of Mos Eisley and can not pick any of the wider variety of mowers!

    I was all set to purchase a Conquest, and then second guessed myself after talking with a neighbor about his x530… about 2 acres to mow and some hauling and good sized driveway for snow blowing.

    The Prestige has more comparable features. Local dealer says the JD has the better engine than Conquest/Prestige. As you can tell price is not the biggest concern. I want a mower that is going to last.

    Follow up comment… just read that you are in CF… forgot to mention my city… Eau Claire.

    do you have recommended Simplicity dealer in our area?

    • @Kurt, I would have a hard time deciding between the Prestige and a X530 except for the fact that we don’t have a current Simplicity dealer in our area. Ace Hardware – Lake Wissota still has a few 2013 models left and Eau Claire Lawn will service them. But then again you have to travel up to Chippewa Falls for the Deere.

      I don’t really agree that the 24 hp John Deere iTorque™ is better than the 27 hp BRIGGS & STRATTON COMMERCIAL TURF SERIES™. All said both will last the life of the mower.

      Right now I would go with the Deere. The Deere has been around for a while now and it a larger range of attachments and the service is consistent. The Simplicity is a great machine and has promise but Briggs still can’t quite figure out what to do with it. (They announced this morning that they are moving the tractor assembly line back to Wisconsin)

      Finally, take a hard look at the X540. The liquid cooled motor is one of the quietest motors you can get in a lawn tractor. THAT motor has a great reputation and is a step above any other motor in the current lawn tractors. The 48 inch deck cuts better than the 54.

  41. My brother and I purchased the same scotts tractors (made by deere) about 12 yeard ago. I cut 2 acres, he cuts 3/4, both turned out to be junk. My k66 trans went out at 300 hours It cost me over $500.00 and I did the work myself. I received absolutely no help from jd what so ever. One year later my brother trans went out at also just over 300 hours. He also choose to replace it himself at a cost of over 5
    $500.00. My tractor went another few years until It got to about 630 hours on the thing and again the tranny went out. This time I talked to tuf torque and if
    Sent it to them in tennesee, and for $300.00 he would rebuild and install heavy duty parts that will be much stronger then the origional. What a joke, I askef him why dont they make it right the first time? His answer was that John Deere wanted the cheapest unit they could buy to increase their profit margin. Oh by the way, my brother’s second transmission went out at the same 600 hour mark. I told the guy at tuf torque that there must have been thousands of complaints on line about problems with the k66, his answer was thats just a drop in the bucket because we make millions of these. John Deere should be ashamed of them selves. Needless to say both of our tractors were junked.

    • @thomas, It’s actually all about marketing. This is what I saw in the market at that time.

      Back then the other manufactures were handing John Deere their lunch on cheap paper plates. Those companies had realized that the American Homeowner did not want a quality product as much as they wanted a product at a certain price so they pumped out cheap, low quality lawn tractors….and we were buying them by the hundreds of thousands.

      John Deere always had a strong market share and these cheap mowers were taking a huge dent out of it. They didn’t want to “tarnish” the Deere reputation by selling “cheap” Deere’s so they came up with the Scotts/Sabre. John Deere was very clear that the Scotts/Sabre was not the same quality as the John Deere. Many of the Scotts/Sabre dealers were not always as clear.

      Of course that marketing test didn’t work and Deere ended up making the 100 series… an inexpensive lawn tractor that carried the John Deere name. Not as high quality as the “dealer” models but still a step better than the cheap tractors on the market.

      The other side of this coin is why have the car makers convinced us that we should trade off our cars every 3 to 5 years and that car now cost 10 times more than it did 20 years ago. But we still expect a lawn tractor to last forever and actually want to pay less today than we paid for one 20 years ago?

  42. this Is Overwhelming And I Can’t Sort Through It All. I Mow Three Acres: Some Ditches, Lots Of Steel Fence Posts, Many Holes And Ruts Dug By Dogs In Search Of Moles Hidden Tree Roots And Hidden Fallen Branches In The Woods , Some Regular Lawn ,With A Few Tight Areas, Often Tall Grasses And Weeds Which Are Waist High Or Higher. Would Also Like To Remove Snow.In Long Gravel Drive, And Maybe Be Able To Haul Tree Limbs Out Of The Woods, Etc. I Am A Mechanical Ignoramus, And Don’t Have A Lot Of Money. The Craftsman Lawn Tractor 917.288280 Has Needed To Be Fixed Twice Each Summer In The Five Summers I Have Used It, And I Have ONLY Mowed With IT. I’ve Been Without It More Than I’ve Been Able To Use It Because In This Rural Area I Have To Have Them Come And Get It And It Is Weeks Before They Can Get To It. What Would Be Three Reasonable Choices In An Area That Doesn’t Have Lots Of Places Who Can Come And Get The Equipment To Service It?
    Markleville, IN

    I wrote Deb and asked here a few more questions:

    Hi Deb, I have a few questions before I make a selection for you.

    What was going wrong with your Craftsman? What type of repairs?
    You had it hauled for service so you were not using Sears Repair. (Sears always comes to you) What dealer did you use for the repairs?
    Do you have any hills? That art of Indiana is pretty flat but I see there are a few creeks.

    Thank You,Paul

    Her Response:

    Thanks! I don’t know technical terms, so I will give descriptions. The mower deck twice lost the rod at the front that it suspends from. The engine continues to give out after about half an hour, requires a ten minute rest, then will restart and continue for decreasing lengths of time. I cannot do a full acre at a time. They have three times tried to fix that, with no success. And various other things. Currently it also does not cut level, so there are hideous lines where I mow. I don’t remember the other problems, but it had to do with parts falling off, breaking etc.

    I did use Sears during the 3 yr warranty. I had terrible problems with them, getting them to come out, and they expected me to stay home all day, giving an 8 hr window for their Servce calls. I have to work!

    I then used a local service shop, which sells and services lawn equipment. But they took forever, so I went with another dealer whose name I can’t find. They were quicker and cheaper, been around a very long time.
    I have no hills, but two long ditches which I have to mow. And of course the rough pasture, the woods, and the yard. The angles of one ditch are probably 30 degrees or less, nit a huge problem to do horizontally. The other is more angular, and I drive up and down the banks of that ditch, angled more like 45 degrees.

    • @Deb, The next time your tractor dies after about 30 minutes loosen the fuel cap. If it restarts and runs the vent in the fuel cap is plugged.

      Lawn tractors are not designed to mow rough areas. Tree roots, Sticks, etc. will break any lawn tractor. Banging the deck into trees, fence posts and other obstructions will also bend and break any deck on the market. In addition when mowing waist high weeds the stuff will wrap around the spindles and blades under the deck and you will break or burn out the drive belts.

      In other words, a 46 inch lawn tractor like your won’t last more than a few years with the type of stuff you are trying to mow.

      If you get a new tractor please always mow as high as the mower will go when trying to mow off your lawn. Don’t mow grass and weed more than 12 inches tall and please pickup branches, etc before you mow.

      A tractor like the Craftsman 20401 has larger tires so it will go through and over ruts better. The 3 bladed deck won’t wrap long grass as easily as the 2 blade 46 inch you have now. The 48 inch deck will get the job done faster than your current mower.

      I strongly recommend buying a brush mower to mow the rough areas. A rough cut like the SwisherLawn Mower. 44 in. 11.5 HP Briggs and Stratton Rough-Cut Trail Cutter will give you a better cut on the rough areas and won’t break as easily as the lawn tractor.

  43. I just purchased a new Cub Cadet GT2050 and I must say I couldn’t be happier. First thing I did when they delivered it was have my wife take it out and test it. The minute she got on it all I seen was her big smile. She did a couple rounds and brought it back. The first thing she said it is so smooth and the seat is so comfortable. She truly loved it. Then I took it for a ride and finished cutting the yard. It has more then enough power for the 50 ” deck . A 22.5 h.p. Kohler Command Pro. And the job it did cutting was very nice. It steers like a car.
    I purchased it from our home Case/International farm dealer Osentoski’s Farm Equipment
    Osentoski’s Farm Equipment in Bad Axe,MI. My salesman was Tim Osentoski and he treated just great. He delivered the unit and filled it up with gas for me.
    All I can say is this is allot of machine. I still my Cud Cadet 1650 which i will be saleing in the near future.

    • @Ron, I’m glad you are pleased. That garden tractor has always been a great machine. I don’t review it here because it is a dealer only model.

  44. Hi Paul,

    Thanks again for answer. I had made a typo in last post, my dealer was wanting me to buy a x475. this was a while back.

    I had mentioned that I got just better than 30 years out of my JD 318, which btw I am still using until I replace it. it is just too tired to justify putting any money into. prolly more n a hundred welds and modifications on it,
    also I mentioned that I have already a small tractor, JD 5065. and that I need a garden tractor for sure, to mow lawn, pony stuff about, and do a good deal of edge of pasture, side of road etc. cutting.

    yes I am guilty of comparing modern disposable stuff with yesterdays durable stuff,

    And modifying “safety’s” simply adds hours of machine life, not a time saver, there are far more dangerous pieces of equipment here, not to mention the horses and cows, and all of them must be worked around safely, with intentional thought,

    if the case was that my situation called less then a dozen dismounts in a mowing session, I would most likely leave the factory condition, on average, I must do closer to 50, that is 50 blade engagements more wear on belt and 50 more engine starts. after 30 some odd sessions a year for better n 40 years, “put in neutral, set brake, and get off on other side of discharge” with clear thought of the potential danger must work, I have proof.

    all that said, in your reply you mentioned a number of tractor dealers, I am familiar with,and have no need for a “compact tractor”
    what I am looking for is a durable, rugged, “garden tractor”.

    the only feature I care about is that it have a belly mounted mowing deck that either is well made or can be modified,
    if it was built to withstand a hundred monkeys beating on it from all angles with tiny little hammers, that would be a huge bonus.

    thanx for your time friend, best regards,C

    • @Cassidy, I thought about this for a few days and at this time the only “tough” lawn tractors are the few Huqvarna’s with the fabricated deck. I put together a comparison page for you Husqvarna Tractors with fabricated deck.

      The GT52XLS has the garden tractor trans and the GT48XLSi has a locking differential. You can only find these at a Husqvarna Dealer.

  45. Paul,

    thanx for speedy reply and your time friend.

    I took a good long look at the link you supplied, the reviews are a bit of a concern.

    Mowing here is an all day affair, this time of year it can be once a week, roughly 3 acres of manicured lawn, and 2x as much more edge of pasture, bar ditch and along fence work that the shredder does not get close enough to. (yeah all the money went into the jd 5065, and yes Hurst or B&E would love to sell us the x745 or whatever they are pushing now, we simply are not able to afford it)

    What ideally we would have is a strictly utility monster with no frills bells or whistles, the frequency that I must get off and on for gates, moving stones, lizards n snakes, and the like, requires that any “safety” be disabled, (seat switch etc.)

    all of fence here is steel pipe, miles of it, and the deck should, initially at least, be able to withstand a few hundred impacts a session, (of course on our last deck we made many welds and modifications to deck and mounting)

    for one thing “turning radius” is of no concern to me, here is wide open space. a good reverse, that can be used frequently is far more important.
    things I would like to avoid are “electronics” (lights and switches and anything that “thinks”) and plastic.

    is there really nobody that builds a bare bones, durable, strictly utility, no frills garden tractor (with a mower dek), that is professional quality? I surly can not be the only one with this need.

    thank you for your time friend, best regards C

    • @Cassidy, There are still bare bones, durable tractors. Heavy-duty decks with 1/4 – 1/2 inch rub rails.

      Mahindra, McCormick, Kioti, Yanmar, Kubota, AGCO, Branson, Farmall, Montana, and New Holland to name a few.

      The tractor I feel you are thinking of – Cub Cadet shaft drive, Wheel Horse, etc. disappeared in the mid-80’s. Simplicity hung around with the Duetz, Conquest and Prestige for a while but today those all have stamped decks and are designed to mow lawns – not fields.

      By the way, I don’t think the 745 has a heavy enough deck for your tasks

      Just an FYI from an old guy – removing the safeties is never a reason. It’s only an excuse and at the very best – an accident waiting to happen. So what if it takes you an extra 10 minutes a day to work safely. At least your family will enjoy saying “I love you” at the end of the day. I’ve seen too many people who thought they would never get hurt lose hands, feet, eyes, arms, legs, and the lives of their kids and grandkids because they thought it was “required” to disable the safeties. And yes I do know what I am talking about – I grew up on a dairy farm with 50’s and 60 farm equipment. It’s a wonder any of us made it out alive.

  46. HI Paul,

    Cassidy, bout as close to Roswell as Lubbock out here.

    Please help me if you can, It is time to put the old abused deere out to pasture, so to speak, there just is not enough bailing wire and JB weld to keep it alive it seems,
    after a few decades of “everything the shredder wont get” I can say we got our moneys worth. there is a possibility that more n one record was set on that 318.

    We have some “lawn” and some “field” ( the bar ditches, along the fences and areas too small for tractor with shredder) that must be mowed by a rider, also a wheel driven spreader pulled, (for this we are able to use either a truck or the loader, but the “GT” was the best choice)
    to be honest all of the modern garden tractors seem to me to be flimsy, for lack of a better term.

    while educating on the subject, I came across your review, I wish to thank you for your time, I am sure you have helped many folks make better choices.

    what we need is about 3x more machine then we can afford to be honest

    I came across a Jonsered GTHi 2754 Garden Tractor, from what I gather it is a Husqvarna.

    Zero-Turn Mower | Brand : Jonsered® | HP : 27 HP | Engine Make : Briggs & Stratton | Cylinder : V-Twin | Transmission : Heavy Duty Hydrostatic | Turn Radius : 18 in. | PTO : Electric | Cutting Width : 54 in. | Deck Type : Triple blade

    “The Jonsered® GTHi 2754 Garden Tractor features a V-Twin 27 HP OHV Briggs & Stratton Engine, a heavy-duty hydrostatic transmission that accepts optional ground engaging attachments. The tractor is designed to mow up to 5 acres. A unique feature is the programmable Smart Switch that brings the convenience of one touch starting, real time operator feedback and key-less security to lawn equipment. No more complicated starting procedures or lost keys along with the peace of mind and added security around children. In addition, the GTHi 2754 has a 54 in. triple blade Air Induction Mowing Technology deck that improves air flow within the deck insuring a clean and consistent cut. The deck washout port allows for easy cleaning of the deck with a garden hose. The Electric PTO engages the blades electrically, 4 deck wheels and nose roller to help prevent scalping the lawn.”

    I am trying to figure out what exactly the “Heavy Duty Hydrostatic ” is and also which brigs v twin.

    As I see it, this could be a sleeper skunk, or great deal depending. In the past I have had some experience with the brand “Jonsered”. from a pro tree faller pov their stuff is every bit as good as Sthil or husky pro stuff.

    So it seems the jonsered brand is only available at the TSC (tractor supply store) between you n me, I shop there for few things, one or two times a year they send us a 10% off anything coupon, we stock up on a few pallets of feed generally with that. I am not a huge fan of much of the merchandise they carry as a good deal of what they sell is rubbish quality.

    Do you have a way of finding out if this unit has a quality engine and which differential?

    Perhaps you have a recommendation for us, we are poor and all our love and money goes to the critters,
    we do take good care of the stuff we get, kept in shop and all service as needed and repairs we do here, but for sure we ask more then most folks do from our equipment. it is hard livin out here and hard conditions.

    any help is greatly appreciated. best regards, Cassidy

    • @Cassidy, This is an easy one. Today every retail store wants their own brand. First so they can shout “Mine’s better!” and second so they don’t have to price match the competition. The Jonsered GTHi 2754 Garden Tractor with Smart Switch
      icon is a case in point. It is basically a Husqvarna GTH24K54 painted red with a Briggs engine in it.

      It does have the heavy duty garden tractor transmission, but I am unsure of the quality of the engine. (I can’t get the specifics and I can’t tell if the motor is a standard Intek or the Extended life Series) You don’t need 27 hp on this tractor. It has the Old Style Huqvarna/Dixon/Craftsman hood from the 90’s and the $49 tube bumper. It’s also shipped to your home in a crate. (Some assembly required)

      Personally, I feel you get a better deal with the 24HP 54″ Complete Start™ Turn Tight® Garden Tractor – Non CA. It’s the same basic tractor plus the Craftsman comes with the better 6 inch Turn tight steering, a better extended life Briggs (Craftsman Platinum) and the Smart Switch ignition and a better deluxe brush guard for about the same money.

      Sears is offering Extra 5% OR 12 months special financing with a Sears card so that makes the deal better than the Jonserd if you take advantage of it.

  47. Paul,

    I recently picked up a late 1980s John Deere 322. What a great garden tractor. Yanmar, liquid cooled engine, dual hydraulics, power steering, split brakes, and it weighs nearly 1,000 lbs, but is in such a compact package. It mows great (50″ deck) as well. Thanks for your articles and reviews.

    Paul

  48. Hi Paul, Help. Looking to buy a new mower for my 75 year old Dad. He has a 20+ old Cub Cadet. He mows 4+ flat acres. Very little in the way of trees etc, so I don’t know if a ZTR is the way to go. Straight runs. Needs a large deck obviously. He doesn’t like john Deere. He likes Cub Cadet. He needs a comfortable ride. Not looking to spend more than $5k. Recommendations?

  49. I want a real transmission and a clutch, I’m sick of the Hydro transmissions. No I’m not impressed with the locking ones either.

    • @Joe, If you want a 3 speed on the floor you will have to go back into the mid-70’s to get one. I haven’t found a standard transmission with a slipper since then. There are still old Cub Cadets around.

  50. Paul,
    I bought one of the Allis-Chalmers rebadged Craftsman CTX 9500 nee Simplicity Conquest. I believe all I gave up was striping and the rear suspension but saved over $2000. Your thoughts.
    Thanks,
    Frank
    Braceville, IL

    • @Frank, I like the price! The Conquest is a great mower but is too expensive for most of the readers here at Todaysmower. I do like the quality of the tractor a lot. The steering is great and the transmissions are a lot heavier than most under $3000 mowers.

      You’ll get many years out of it mowing the sand burrs in your lawn (I worked over on Essex Road for many years :)

  51. Any comments on the Kubota T and GR series. More costly, but they seem built well. The B seres is hd, but the tr is 7.5 ft!
    Dave, Syracuse, NY

    • @Dave, They are built better than any other tractor and are very comparable to the 500 and 700 Series Deere’s. The T series is just a lawn mower and it doesn’t hold it resale value very well. You would be better off with a good zero-turn in most cases.

      The GR2120 on the other hand is one of the best lawn tractors on the market (and priced accordingly) It is fun and effortless to drive. It is a true shaft drive tractor and there is only one belt on the deck. I feel the Kubota diesel in this tractor is one of the longest lasting motors ever designed. It holds it’s resale very well. You can attach a bagger, dozer blade and snow thrower.

  52. Hi Paul,

    I purchased the Husqvarna GT52XLSi based on information I found here and other places on the internet. I wanted a garden tractor that had ground engaging capabilities with future hopes of pulling a small single bottom plow and possibly a rototiller. I have rolled and mowed my 2 acres twice with it so far and have about 9 hrs. on it. I was surprised to find out that while mowing on slightly uneven terrain the frame of the tractor appears to twist. I can see the hood cowling separate from where it contacts the top of the control panel by roughly 1/4″. My old (and cheaper) White Outdoor tractor does not do this. The other thing that makes me believe the frame is twisting is that I can feel the forward pedal pushing back against my foot as if it’s attachment point is moving relative to the foot wells. Is this somehow by design? The frame doesn’t seem to be as heavy duty as I would expect – I should have looked at it closer before buying it. I was thinking that it would be a heavy duty c-channel, but it is not. It looks to be more L-shaped. I believe when I looked at the Craftsman frame on a G7400 tractor it was a c-channel. I assumed that since they are made by the same company they would have similar frames. Am I wrong about that? I am concerned about the long term durability if this tractor based on the fatigue the frame might experience from mowing over uneven terrain – let alone using a plow, box scraper, or rototiller. I hope I didn’t make a mistake.

    Another thing that I found strange is that there doesn’t seem to be any way to adjust the toe of the front tires. On other tractors I have seen a threaded joint on the end of the steering link. The ones on this tractor are solid and do not appear to have any adjustment. Seems strange on a $3400 tractor.

    On the plus side I really like the heavy duty fabricated mowing deck with a lifetime warranty which mows much nicer that my previous tractor. The Briggs&Stratton engine starts easily and has lots of power. Contrary to the Husqvarna website this tractor does have an electronic locking differential which is also very nice. Hopefully it and the pushbutton “SmartSwitch” prove to be reliable. Speaking of the Husqvarna website – there is lots of contradicting information. Along with the mistake on the locking differential it also doesn’t list this tractor as ground engaging, but other websites do. I believe it has the Tuff Torq instead of the Hydrogear “fast” transmission. Hopefully Husqvarna will correct their website soon because it makes things really confusing.

    Regards,

    Randy
    NY

    • @Randy, Yes the Husqvarna frames twist and the hood will move around going through uneven ground. It has the same frame as the Craftsman and Ariens Garden Tractors. It has a full 5 year warranty on the frame and I hear of very few owner having issues.

      To get a “stiff frame you have to get into a $6000-$8000 tractor.

      No, John Deere, Husqvarna and MTD all got rid of adjustable front ends about 10 years ago. The Husqvarna front steering is designed to give you a “flat” ratio with just a little toe-out. This gives you scuff free turn and the toe out allows you to turn sharper than you could if the front wheels were toed in. Unless you have very poor turf it turns well and never tears up the turf.

      If it has the locking diff than it is a Transaxle, Tufftorq K66ELD. That’s the heaviest transmission you can get in an “under $8000″ tractor and is more than rugged enough for ground-engaging but the trans is not advertised as heavy ground engaging. I have a feeling that is why Husqvarna does not list it that way.

      Yes, It has the sloped rear “Garden Tractor” frame so it will accept a sleeve hitch.

  53. Paul,
    I have about 2.5 acres of grass to mow that is almost entirely on an even slope of about 15 degrees of incline. I would like to avoid the higher priced x500’s. Would the Craftsmen G5500 be sufficient? Are there any others that you could recommend? The local landscaping company wants almost $500 a month just to mow the lawn. Ouch!

    • @Aaron, If you can mow up and down the G5500 should do fine. Some guys will add wheel weights or a rear weight for extra traction. The tractor won’t get funny with the extra weight on it. A few of the die-hards will even mow with chains.

      For about the same cost as weights/chains you can install Lugged – Farm Tractor Tires

      One other option is the Husqvarna GT54LS. That tractor has a rear locking differential. You can only get that tractor at a Husqvarna dealer.

  54. Hi again, The overall condition of the 265 is great. Uses no oil, seat is near perfect and paint is shiny. No issues with hydro. I only have about 1/2 acre to mow where I live now, Heavily wooded with some slightly sloping terrain. The deck shell is no longer available for the JD 265 (or so they say) the $1300 for a completely new assembly. I am leaning towards the 5500, but not sure if I can get over the green paint syndrome!. Thanks for your answers. Really appreciate the advice. Gary F., Centralia, IL.

  55. My old JD 265 has 762 hrs. It’s onlyh problem is a BADLY rusted deck. I am torn between getting a new deck for this unit ($1300) or a new tractor. Considering the Craftsman 5500, Husky GT52XLS, or JD170 as the other solution. Do you think there is enough life left at 762 hrs to warrant investing in a new deck? The tractor is kept inside a heated garage and is otherwise very good shape. Thanks !!! Gary

    • @Gary, Do they want $1300 for the entire deck or just the shell? If you can get the shell for $400 or so than I’d say repair. When making your decision also look at the overall health of the tractor. Does it use oil? Does the transmission make noise? Little things like a new seat, steering wheel, tires and bearings can all add up quickly to the cost of a new G5500.

      Just so you know the Craftsman 5500 and the Husqvarna use the same heavy duty 7.5 mph garden tractor transmission. The D170 uses the K46 lawn tractor transmission. Don’t pick the John Deere if you have slopes and hills to mow.

  56. PAUL ready to purchase a simplicity CONQUEST the motor listed 4 this unit is the BRIGGS & STRATTON Professioanl Series “V TWIN W/EFM a j-d dealer here locally ran the motor down MAYBE THEY HAVE SOME COMPETITION NOW !i DONT know they make great big good tractors but could never spend the high price they ask for there riding mower ‘s. I think simplicity is a very well made product . PLEASE any info would be help thanks Greg.

    • @greg, I really get wound up when I hear of another dealer knocking another product. It’s one thing to compare the differences, it’s another to run the product down because you know it’s better.*

      The facts. The Conquest has a better motor and is a better tractor over all than his 100 and 300 series tractors. The Conquest is comparable to the 500 series in fit, strength and overall durability.

      The Conquest is expensive when you compare it to a Husqvarna, Craftsman or Cub Cadet, but it becomes a really great value when you compare it to the John Deere 500 series.

  57. Hey Paul, i have been trying to read through your reviews of the mowers and feel a bit overwhelmed. I just purchased a new home on 5ac in Williston Fl. About 3ac will need to be mowed regularly but not precisely, 1ac will be gardened, and the last will be my manicured lawn. Could you suggest your 2 best mowers to handle my needs. There are no hills by the way.

  58. please help I am 60+years my lawn is 4 acre , 2acres field small hills and ruts in field. please help. retired.

  59. i am looking at the HuskyGT48XLSi , now I am tid the 27hp engine was discontinued (environmental reasons) and the new model has the BS 24hp. I love the locking differential….
    would the HP change concern you ?I have always owned a Kohler engine…..thoghts on the BS engine please.

    Thanks
    gary

    • @Gary, The Briggs Endurance is a little better than the Craftsman Platinum in their G5500 and a little less than the Craftsman Professional Briggs. It is a better motor than the Kohler Courage and according to the specs just a little better than the new Kohler 7000. I have no problems endorsing that motor in the GT48XLSi.

      Horsepower: The government changed the engine horsepower listing rules so that 24 HP Briggs was labeled as 26 HP last year. (That 27 would be listed 25 this year)

      Trust me :) 24 hp is plenty for that tractor.

      p.s. I really like that tractor myself. It’s too big for my yard but I would love to have it because of the locking diff and welded deck.

  60. Why do cub cadets get such incidental reviews?? Are you in the pocket of the people at J Deereor Husqrvarna?

    • @Hymen, I don’t know why other sites give such incidental reviews. Myself, I am working on them. I have the hot, hot, hot steering wheel ZTR’s done and I should have the tractors done in a week.

      If you notice there are also very few 2014 reviews of Husqvarna, Troy-Bit, Toro, and Ariens. It’s very early and I won’t get all of them doen until May.

  61. Hi Paul,

    Above you recommend the Husqvarna GT52XLS as an alternative to the Craftsman G5500 if you want traction control, but then under the section for the GT52XLS you state that it does not have a differential lock. Is that an error or does the Husqvarna have some other traction control feature? The only Husky I see listed with the diff lock is the GT54LS.

    Is the Kawasaki motor in the Husqvarnas preferable to the Kohler Elite that come in the comparable Craftmsman tractors?

    Thanks.

    • @Randy, It looks like Husqvarna has changed their rear ends for 2014. I went back to Husqvarna.com and the YT46LS, YT42XLS, YT48XLS, GT54LS, GT48XLSi have the 5.5 mph transmission with locking differential. The GT52XLS, GT52XLSi have the 7.5 mph transmission without the locking diff.

      The Kohler (7000) Elite is the newest so I’ll bet it is the most durable and fuel efficient of the big 3 for 2014. (B&S Platinum, Kawasaki FR, Kohler 7000) A lot of people are big fans of the Kaw because the FR was a better engine than the B&S Intek and the FZ was a better motor than the Kohler Courage, but that has all changed with the B&S Platinum (Intek Plus, John Deere ELS) and Kohler 7000 Elite engines. Right now it boils down to a Ford, Chevy, Dodge thing-i.e. what brand do you like the best.

  62. @Paul

    I am in Canada. Last year while doing some online searching I had come across those Columbia tractors, and looked at them among others. But in the end I chose to buy the Craftsman GT 5500 and mostly I like it, except for its 54″ mower. If the large area where I cut had sufficiently even terrain then it would be a-ok, but alas it does not. I may have to give Sears a call and see if there are any other size mower decks (smaller) that would fit this tractor.

    And thank you Paul for your breakdown of the Columbia tractors.

    regards,
    Laurence

    • @Laurence, Sears.ca has not displayed their new tractors yet but there is a new Garden Tractor here in the U.S. with a 48 inch deck. It’s called the G5100 model 20401.

    • @Laurence, where are you located? U.S. or Canada?

      Columbia is MTD’s dealer only Canadian Brand. It appears the entire line is a combination of the Troy-Bilt and Cub Cadet lines you will find in the U.S.

      The brand has been successful enough that it looks like they are now going to try marketing it here in the U.S. as well.

      They both have the new Kohler 7000 series engines.

      The GT5426 and the GT5024 compares directly to the Cub Cadet GT1054. It appears to be the same tractor with just different engines and decks. They DO NOT HAVE power steering.

      Both the 50 inch and 54 inch decks cut well. The 54 in deck has a reputation for eating belts on the Cub Cadet tractors but not on the Craftsman and Cub Cadet zero turns. If you have really heavy southern bentgrass or plan on mowing fields stay away from the 54 inch deck.

      The only question that I don’t have answered about the tractor is the transmission. It states it uses a hydrostatic which is the same great transmission as in the Cub Cadet. But the picture on the web shows it has an automatic (variable speed belt) The automatic is a proven bulletproof trans in the lawn tractors but I have not seen if before in the Garden Tractors. How do you tell the difference? The hydro will have two pedals on the right floorboard and a cruise control on the dash. The automatic will have one pedal on the right floorboard, a F-N-R lever on the left fender and no cruise lever on the dash.

  63. Paul,

    Thanks for the advice. I got my X500 and I love it. Never a problem on the hills and a great cut. Worth every penny. I might also add that my dealer experience was second to none.

  64. Paul,

    I am really having a difficult time deciding between the John Deere X340 and the X500. I don’t plan on doing any ground engaging work, but I do have a significant hill to mow that has given other tractors difficulty. I also plan on towing with it and one day putting a snowblower up front. Can you offer some advice?

    • @Marc, The X500 series has the auto traction control and differential lock. This is the best way to mow hills using a 2 wheel drive tractor. I like the heavier frame on the X500. The X500 is a heavy garded tractor which will help on the hills and using a snowblower.

  65. Paul, I am interested in the Husqvarna GT52XLS and I am trying to confirm that it has a locking differential as you stated in your review. I cannot find any mention of a locking differential on Husqvarna’s website for this mower. It does list it for the GT48XLS though.

    • @Rick, Thanks, that model does not have the locking diff. It has the Hydro-Gear 8 mph transmission instead. The other LS models have the Tuff Torq with the locking diff. I’ll change the review.

      If you want to bag be aware that the 48 and 52XLS model decks need a bagger with an auxillary blower and the cost is around $900.