Should I buy a Craftsman with the new auto transmission or pay the same amount for a John Deere?

Craftsman is now installing the General Transmissions Element V automatic in it’s twin cylinder Yard Tractors.  I expect all manufactures to start using this transmission in the next 2 years. This transmission replaces the hydrostatic that has been around for years. Many owners  will welcome this change because they have had more problems with the hydrostatic than any other part of the tractor. (It’s not always the transmission’s fault) Other owners are very cautious because it is a major change in tractor technology and the industry doesn’t always get it right the first time. (Craftsman Revolution, Lowes Raven, Cub Cadet 365L)

Should I buy a Craftsman with the new auto transmission or pay the same amount for a John Deere?

My Answer: Tough Question. But the answer is really more than just what transmission. Here are a few items to consider whenever you decide to make a purchase like this.

  • If it was just about price we would all be buying a $799 Yard Machines or $999 Craftsman
  • What did you have before? Were you happy with it and the service?
  • Do you want red or green in your garage?
  • If you have slopes the Craftsman wins with the new trans. If you lawn is flat either one is fine.
  • Parts are easy to get for both. You have to go to a Deere dealer to get their parts. You have to go back to the dealer to pick them up if they need to be ordered. With Craftsman you can order them at any Sears store or right from your home through and Craftsman parts from will be delivered right to your door.
  • Searspartsdirect offers a discount on parts (banner in the right column of this page.) I don’t know if Deere offers a discount off the retail price.
  • Service and warranty work, For Deere you have to take it to a dealer or they will pick it up for a fee. (They will pick it up or service it at your home for free if you buy the extended warranty) With Craftsman they always come to your house and the trip charge is waived if you have their Protection Plan. (The Sears Protection plan covers more than the Deere Extended warranty but it does cost more)
  • Price, The price I have for the Deere is from Home Depot (free delievery and setup). (Home Depot may have offers with their card) I don’t know if a dealer will have the same low price. (The dealers usually have finance offers on the 300 and higher series) For Sears the price can be less. You get 1 to 5% back in rewards points. 5% or no interest for 12 months with a Sears card. Free delivery if you use the links on this site (through 3/1/14) In addition Sears will run special pricing online only and free delivery at certain times of the month throughout the spring and summer.

The new automatic (CVT) is actually proven technology. There are now over 100 cars that use CVT and MTD has been using CVT in their inexpensive models for quite some time. (the tractors have the F-N-R lever on the left fender)

This is just the first time it is being offered as a replacement for hydrostatic transmissions in tractors costing $1500-$2000.

Should I buy a Craftsman or a John Deere? So the answer is not that simple, but hopefully I gave you enough to think about so you can make the best decision for you.

Please give your city and state when you comment

  1. Hi:

    I live in Howell, MI and am looking to buy a riding lawn mower. My lot is about 1/3 acre and does not have a lot of landscaping beds to maneuver around. However, I have a daylight basement so the lot is slightly sloped in the back. I want a tractor that will last a long time and one that is a good value for the money.

    Here is what I am considering:

    **Cub Cadet LTX1040 42 inch 19 hp ($1,399)
    **Ariens A19A42 42 inch 19 hp ($1,199)
    **Craftsman 20373 42 inch 17.5 hp ($1,199)
    **Craftsman 20374 19 hp 42 inch ($1,235).

    I also thought about an Ariens or Craftsman $999 model, but they don’t have deck wheels and the trans is not automatic.

    I am leaning towards the Craftsman 20374 for $1,235. Any advice on which one I should purchase?



    • @Eric, The 20374 has a 46 inch deck. If you want a 42 inch, buy the 20373. The 17.5 hp engine is plenty for that tractor. The 20373, 20374 and the Cub Cadet are very similar. The tires and engine are really the only difference.

      You’ve done you research well and I agree that the 20373/20374 are some of the best value mowers around. Either one will mow your lawn well for a long time.

      • Thanks Paul. Is the Ariens 42 inch 19 hp just as good as the Craftsman 42 inch 17.5 hp? They are the same price but the Ariens has a bigger engine which I know you said I really don’t need, but since they are priced the same I figured why not. I don’t like the Ariens 17.5 hp because it does not have deck wheels or an automatic trans.

        • @Eric, That’s a tough question because they are made by two different manufactures. The Craftsman 20373 we have been discussing is a lawn tractor made by MTD.

          The Ariens is made for them by Husqvarna. I believe this tractor is still using the 2013 engine ratings and it actually compares to the 17.5 hp in the 20373. (All 2014 Briggs models were lowered 2 hp for 2014)

          Now….For just a little more you can get the Craftsman 20381. It has more features than the Ariens including Craftsman’s 6 inch Turn-Tight steering and the Platinum Briggs engine. Attachments and accessories are also a lot easier to get. go here to read my review 20381 Review and attachments