Is There a Way To Tell If You’re Buying 2012 Model Lawn Tractor, As Opposed To The 2011 Model?

Is There a Way To Tell If You’re Buying 2012 Model Lawn Tractor, As Opposed To The 2011 Model?

A lot of readers have been asking how do you determine the model year of a lawn tractor so here is a short article telling you what I know. The answer is simple, but the explanation is complex.

Figuring out when a lawn tractor was made has always been a mess.  L&G, agricultural, and construction does not use individual serial numbers like the automotive and over-the-road industry. Finding an individual tractor, owner or the year it was made is next to impossible. Some of the construction equipment now has individual serial numbers, but as a whole there is no constancy.

There are currently no model years. New For 2013! A company usually announces when they come out with a new model. But there are production runs or specific models that may run for one year or many years. If that model is successful (if you buy enough of them) it may be produced for many years. If it is not successful it just doesn’t get made during the next production run.

What Year Was It Built?

In addition, when it was made has no corelation to when it was sold. Jacobson used to make their golf course equipment 12 to 18 months before it was sold.  The dealers had to order their equipment in April for the NEXT year! Back in the 90’s John Deere had so much fun with their new combine production line that they made them so far in advance that some of the combines had to be repainted before they could be sold.  International Harvestor used to make tillage equipment in five year runs….for example, they would make enough corn pickers and send them to the dealers to last for five years. John Deere made corn shellers every seven years. If the dealer ran out, you sometimes had to wait in line for years to get a new one.

The majority of the manufactures use model numbers to determine the tractor series. These model numbers are not associated with a year as much as they are a set of features. For example, when Craftsman came out with the new Turn Tight Technology last year the model numbers of the YT series tractors changed. They will keep those model numbers as long as they don’t change the features of the mower.

Most of the manufactures will also change the model number when they change an engine.  If there is a EPA change required on the engines, they will change the model number of the tractor.  That way if there is a recall for that engine, they can contact the owners easily.

To make matters worse, some manufactures are now resurrecting older models.  When one company develops a new model the manufacture will take all the old welding jigs, assembly fixtures and equipment used to make that mower and store it (or sell it) Sometime in the future another company may want to sell a lawn tractor. This company may not want to be “on the cutting edge” of technology, they just want to compete on price. Instead of developing a lawn tractor just for them, the manufacture will use those old jigs and fixtures to make a competitive tractor.  There is no design cost, tooling cost or other development fees that need to be recovered so this company can sell a tractor for less than the competition without having to absorb all the overhead of the initial start-up. “The tractor was originally red, now it is yellow, orange or blue)

A great story about this is about 10 years ago someone found the dies and jigs for the International Harvestor 300 series utility tractor (originally made in the late 50’s) sitting in a warehouse somewhere in Malaysia.  Everything was there. So they decided they were going to resurrect this great old tractor and make “new” models to sell in India. 

Very few of the manufactures use the serial numbers for production runs.   Most use the model number.  There is no standard way to determine the model year.

There is a “Tractor Blue Book” but it only covers the sub-compact tractors and larger.  It does not list Craftsman, Cub Cadet etc.

I look at the owners manual copyright to determine at least when a particular model was FIRST introduced.  This usually gives me a general idea of when the tractor was made.  This works well for the Craftsman branded tractors.

Leave a Reply

Get more stuff like this from

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.