2012 John Deere 42 in 18.5 hp X304 4WS Review

When you get done here stop by and read this new, updated article: Which New 2018 John Deere E100 Series Lawn Tractor Is Right For Me?

Executive Summary: John Deere uses a different approach to a tight turning radius lawn tractor than Craftsman. Where Craftsman has a 6 inch turning radius that uses radical front steering, The John Deere X304 uses 4-wheel steer (4WS) to achieve basically the same result. This big difference though is John Deere has chosen to only put the tighter steering on the more expensive X304 ($3700), X534 ($7400), and X724 ($11,000) series tractors. You can buy a Craftsman with Turn-Tight for around $1500. (Model 28851)

by: Paul Sikkema

The 4-wheel steer takes a little getting used to, but is much easier for you to learn to use than a zero-turn. The 4-wheel steer is much easier on your turf than a zero-turn. The 4-wheel steer will not scuff your turf and will not leave divots in your lawn like a zero-turn will. (until you get used to the zero-turn)

Mowing around trees and landscape features takes less time with 4-wheel steer than using a conventional lawn tractor.

Brand/Manufacture: John Deere / John Deere
Model/Series: Lawn Tractor / Select Series
Item Number:  X304/42X
Where To Buy: Your Local John Deere Dealer or John Deere Online
Store Pickup: Delivery: 7-10 Days by John Deere. Set-up Included
Street Price: $3699.99

Basic Quality: (Cheap, Good, Best, Premium, Don’t Buy)  This is John Deere’s Best quality. The 100 series is less quality. The X500 and X700 series are better.

Type: (Riding Mower, Lawn Tractor, Yard Tractor, Garden Tractor, Estate Tractor, Sub-Compact, Zero Turn, Stand-On) Lawn Tractor, Yard Tractor Handles at least 25 attachments including snowblower.
Compare it to: Craftsman Premiun CTX9000, Simplicity Broadmoor 20 hp/46 in., MTD Cub Cadet GT 2542, Kubota T2080A-42

2012 John Deere 42 in 18.5 hp X304 4WS Review 1

John Deere X304


4-Wheel Steering
Internal wet-brakes
Foot Pedal Lift System
Deck Leveling system built into tractor
Preset Cut Height


Competitors have larger engines.No fuel gauge
Must remove deck to switch to mulching
Optional lift-assist feature
Deck anti scalp wheels wear out quickly.

Retail Price: $3699.99 Check The Best Sale Price Here: John Deere Online

My Review:

There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for.” The John Deere X300 series are a good example of that.  You are going to pay almost $1000 more for this tractor than for a 110 Series Deere, but what you get is well worth the extra money.

These tractors are designed to mow well, drive well, and last much longer than the John Deere’s you find at Home Depot or Lowes.  Heavy duty frames, heavy duty steering, on board deck leveling, good motors, and good transmissions.

I call this class of tractor an “estate tractor”  This class of tractor is quieter, easy to use and will last longer than the “lawn tractor” class.

This article was first published at TodaysMower.com Any forum members, writers and bloggers who feel that they want to “paraphrase” this post please include where you got this article, go here to learn more! 

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this review.  If you have specific questions leave a comment below and myself or the readers will be glad to answer them.  This is a great tractor and if you want one to last this should be at the top of your list.

Comfort – Ease of Use:  This is a “real” lawn tractor.   Great seat, easy to use operator controls, low-effort steering, good field of view, quiet motor.  If you spend 5 hours on this mower, you will never go back to the 100 Series Deere’s.

Power For Mowing:  The X300 Deere gets high marks in all area except mulching.  If you want to mulch I don’t recommend this mower. It is under-powered for that task, but has plenty of power for all other tasks.

Reliability – New to 3 yrs: This tractor is serviced by your local independent John Deere dealer.  Although, Deere has a great parts network, the service itself is dependent on the dealer.  In 90% of the cases they will do a great job for you, but I do recommend you spend some time with the dealer to see if you can get long with them.  There have been very few complaints on this tractor.  About the only complaint is a very few owners had engine to deck belt problems that were fixed with a belt guide adjustment.

Handling – Traction/Steering:  This tractor has a low-effort steering and will steer much easier than the 100 series Deere’s.  The 4-wheel steer takes a little practice, but soon you will be glad you bought it.  It goes around obstacles better than the 2-wheel steer models and will not scuff your lawn like a zero-turn is prone to.  Traction is above normal for a 2 wheel drive, 550 lb tractor.  I recommend you never use a mower like this on wet or drought-dry slopes.  If you need more traction, buy a tractor with differential lock and traction control.

Mow – Mulch- Bag:  This tractor gets high marks by owners for cutting and bagging but very poor marks for mulching.  But, be aware this is not a “high-speed” deck.  It mows perfectly at 3-4 MPH but don’t expect it to mow as fast as the tractor will go (5.5MPH) and give you the same results.  With this tractor/deck you set the height of cut using a knob on the tractor.  You can raise the deck for transport and when you go to mow the next time, it goes right back to where you set it.  This is great if you have teenagers or other operators who don’t pay attention to the height of cut.  The bagging system is larger than the 100 series. You have remove the deck to install the mulcher parts.  The parts are made of plastic and I think with a normal lawn where you have small sticks, acorns, etc., it will wear out fairly quickly.  Mulching take a lot of horsepower and this deck is no exception. Users complain that they have to drive a lot slower using the mulch system. If you want to mulch, I suggest getting a tractor with a larger engine.

Specifications, Features, Benefits

The rest of this article is taken from the retailers website.

Type: Lawn tractor/Estate
Maximum mowing area per hour (acres): 1.05 acres at 3 MPH
Recommended for moderate slopes? Yes
Excels in mowing around obstacles? Yes

Manufacturer: John Deere
Brand: John Deere
Engine Power: 18.5 hp* (13.8 kW)
Displacement: 36.8 cu in. (603 cc)
Manufacturer: —
Cylinders: V-twin, cast-iron liners
Type: OHV, oil filter, Full-pressure Lubrication
Charging System: 15 amp regulated
Battery: 195 cold-crank amps
Choke/Speed Control: Separate levers
Fuel Tank Capacity: 3.3 U.S. gal. (12.5 L)
Transmission: Type K46 automatic
Transmission Control:  Twin Touch pedals
Cruise Control: Standard
Forward Speed: 0-5.5 mph
Reverse Speed: 0-4.0 mph
Chassis: Frame Welded heavy-duty/Primer/Paint E-coat/powder
Front Tires: 15×6-6
Rear Tires: 20×10-8
Front Axle: Cast iron
Hood Material: Xenoy (Recyclable Plastic)
Hourmeter: Yes
Tool Tray: On fender and under seat
Cupholder: Yes
Headlights: Yes
Translucent fuel tank or Fuel gauge: Yes
Deck washout port: No
12-volt outlet: No
Steering: 4-wheel steer
Turning Radius: 15 in.
Uncut Circle Radius: 16 in. (42X mower)
Spindle Bushings: Metal, replaceable
Seat Back Height: 15 in. open back
Fore-aft Adjustment: 7 in. while seated
Seat Suspension: Two coil springs, three-position no-tools adjustment for operator weight
Deck Lift System:Type Foot pedal with optional adjustable spring assist
Mower Cut Height: 1 in. to 4 in., 13 position
Cut Height Increments: 0.25 in.
Preset Cut Height: Yes
PTO clutch: Manual

Mower Deck

Type: Side discharge
Mower Cutting Width: 42 in.
Mower Deck Material: 0.105 in. (42X)
Mower Wheel Adjustment: 4-position, tool required
Mower Level Adjustment: Exact Adjust ports and onboard deck-leveling gauge
Mower Drive System: In-line belt, electric PTO
Mower Attachment: 4 point Not EZ-Off
Mower Drive: Belt Tension Spring
Mower Wheels Rotate For Deck Removal: No


Wheelbase: 49.4-in. (125 cm)
Overall Length: 72-in. (183 cm)
Width without mower: 41-in. (97 cm)
Width with mower: 53-in. (135 cm)
Width with mower: (deflector raised for storage) 44-in. (111.8 cm)
Height: 43-in. (109 cm)
Weight: 611 lb (252 kg) with mower, no fuel

U.S. Warranty: 4 year/300 hour

Optional Attachments

Mowers: 42X (standard)
Material Collection System: 7-bu 2-bag
Mulching System: Yes
Front Thatcher: 38, 46, 54 in.
Front Blade: 44 in.
Tractor Shovel: 40 in.
Snow Blower: 44 in.
Front Bumper: Standard, also styled bumper option
Brush Guard: Yes
Bucket Holder: Yes, single and double
Tow-Behind Tools: 16

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M. Devlin
M. Devlin

My 2014 304 X has broken 4 belts and only when the bagger is on– each time the belt snapped clear with no ragged edges. First time, chute was full. 2nd/3rd time, the shute was empty and bagger almost empty. Mechanics are at a loss with no wear marks evident.

mike roberts
mike roberts

were there any bigger decks that would work on the x304? thanks Mike

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