The Best Lawn, Yard & Garden Tractor Buyer’s Guide – How To Pick The Best For You!
Lawn, Yard & Garden Tractor Buyer’s Guide Introduction
This guide will help you begin to sort through the differences for the 200 plus Lawn, Yard & Garden Tractors on the market. This guide will help you decide the best brand and model for you.
Lawn, Yard & Garden Tractors are designed to cut grass and pull attachments. In addition some of them are designed to clear snow. So, this guide is going to help you decide on the type of tractor you need based on the size of deck and the attachments you want to use.
Note: Lawn & Garden tractors are designed to mow lawns. They are designed to mow weekly or bi-weekly growth. They cut no taller than 4 inches. They are NOT designed to mow pastures, timber, fields and paddocks. They are NOT designed to mow grass/weeds 12 inches to 6 feet tall. Mowing grass over 12 inches will damage deck spindles, belts, tires and bearings on all the models.
Pastures, fields, paddocks and timber require a rotary cutter or rough cut mower. Yes, I know your neighbor uses his but please don’t blame the mower or the brand when your mower requires $500 worth of repairs because you mowed your horse pasture. I highly recommend the AcrEase Rough Cut.
So Which One Is Best For You? I will go through the different quality levels in the next sections. Sizing the deck is at the end of the article.
Lawn Tractors less than $1500 (economy)
If you no longer want to use a walk-behind to mow your yard a lawn tractor is a good choice. The riding lawn mowers cost less than $1500 and will mow your lawn faster than using a walk behind mower and pull a small yard cart, lawn sweeper, dethatcher or spike aerator. Most can be equipped with a bagger for collecting leaves and a few also have an available mulch kit. If you’re primarily looking just to cut grass and perform light clean up around the yard, a lawn tractor is a good choice. These mowers typically have low quality tires, large steering radius, and only come in a 42 or 46 inch deck size. The economy engines are typically internal splash lubricated and not designed to mow on slopes.
If an economy lawn tractor is the right choice for you go here: 2016 Lawn Tractors less than $1500
Lawn & Yard Tractors above $1500 (mid-grade)
Yard tractors are built to last longer than the under $1500 lawn tractors and have a few more features so you can get you work done faster. They generally have better cutting decks, better engines, better transmissions and a few steer almost a tightly as a zero turn. The better engines allow you to mow on slopes up to 15 degrees. You can attach a snow blade or snow blower to most of these models. Yard tractors cost between $1500 and $2500 depending on the size of the deck, the engine quality and the extra features. All the brands have models in this price and quality range but not all brands call them Yard Tractors. If properly maintained these tractors will last 10-15 years.
John Deere also makes the dealer only X300 series Lawn Tractors. These are outside the scope of this article and cost from $2999 to over $6000. Consumer Reports has an article that explains the differences here: Nothing runs like a Deere you buy at the dealer.
If a lawn & yard tractor is the right choice for you go here: 2016 Lawn Tractors over $1500
Garden Tractors above $2600 (ground-engaging)
If you also want to use your tractor for pulling a self-powered roto-tiller, spike aerator, driveway leveler or cultivator a garden tractor is the right choice. Garden tractors have a heavy-duty transmission that is designed for ground engaging tasks.
Garden tractors also have heavy-duty frames and typically come in a 54 inch deck size (Cub Cadet has a 50 inch model and Husqvarna has a 48 inch model) They generally have a larger snow blade and snow blower attachments available. You can attach a snow blade or snow blower to most of these models. Garden tractors cost between $2700 and $3999 depending on the size of the deck, the engine quality and the extra features.
John Deere does not make a Garden Tractor but their dealer only X500 series have features that are similar.
If a garden tractor is the right choice for you go here: 2016 Lawn Tractors over $1500
Light Garden Tractors $1900-$2500 (LGT)
There is one type of tractor that I want to caution you about. If you just look at the tractor, it looks like a Garden Tractor. It has large wheels, a big seat and 22 -25 HP. In reality it is not a true garden tractor. It does not have the heavy duty transmission needed for ground-engaging work. If the price is less than $2500 it is too good to be true. If the price is less than $2500 DO NOT believe the “kid” trying to sell it to you. It is NOT a garden tractor. Craftsman, Husqvarna, John Deere, Columbia, Poulan Pro and Troy-bilt all make a model like this.
Bag, Mulch, or Side Discharge?
All of the current mowers I list are designed to throw the grass out the side (side discharge) and many will also mulch or bag with optional attachments.
Mulching uses special blades that chop up your grass clippings into small particles and a cover that plugs the discharge chute so those clippings are forced back into your turf. Mulching with a lawn tractor is more of an art than a science and not all lawn tractors mulch well. Mulching Kits are designed for the specific brand and deck size. They are not interchangeable from one brand to another.
Bagging consists of a tube connected to the side discharge and a set of bags that hang on the back of the tractor. The mower’s blades throw the grass clippings out through the tube and into the bags. Baggers work well for dry grass and leaves. They don’t work well when the grass is wet from rain or dew. Baggers come in either two or three bin styles – depending on the size of the tractor. Baggers are built specifically for a certain brand and can’t be interchanged from one brand to another.
Sizing Your Mower Deck:
- Use the chart below to give you an idea of what size to get. I do suggest going with a smaller deck if you want the best cut possible. Bigger is not always better when figuring out what size deck you can use on your yard. Decks over 48 inches will cut larger areas quicker but they don’t cut as evenly from side to side as a 42 or 46 inch deck.
- Go around your yard and measure between landscape features like trees landscape beds and buildings. The smallest deck on a lawn tractor is now 42 inches (48 inches with discharge) so areas narrower than that will have to be mowed with a push mower or string trimmer.
- Slopes steeper than 15 degrees will have to be mowed with a walk behind or string trimmer.
- If you have plenty of room to mow I now suggest a 46 inch deck for 1 acre yards. Today’s 46 inch decks all cut very well.
Up to 1 Acre = 42” Deck
1-2 Acres = 42-46” Deck
2+ Acres = 48-54″ Deck