Seven Best Riding Mowers Under $1500 for 2017

So you want a lawn tractor to mow your 1/4 to 1 acre yard but you don’t have a lot of money to spend?

There are currently about 2 dozen lawn tractors and riding mowers that are available for under $1500.  The quality and durability of these machines is less than the $2200+ models but there are a few gems that will do a great job of cutting your lawn and will last for years with a little maintenance and care.

Hi, I’m Paul Sikkema. Don’t know me? Check out this About Page or my LinkedIn Profile.

The entire list of mowers under $1500 is at the bottom of this article.

The top seven riding mowers on this list is very easy to decide. They all use the heavier yard tractor style frames so they have more leg room, mow better and can do more than the mowers that use the lighter lawn tractor frames.

The number one pick though is a lot harder to decide. I had a very hard time deciding on the best mower.

Features I had to consider were:

  • Which one make me feel like have spent my money wisely?
  • Which one has the best mowing, mulch and bagging deck?
  • Which one has the best cut for your average lawn?
  • Which one has the best engine?
  • Which one has the best frame and steering?
  • Which one has the best transmission?
  • Which one is the most maneuverable?
  • Which one is easiest to use for me?
  • Which one has the best parts availability?
  • Which one has the best service network?

So let’s go through the logic I used to decide which riding mower under $1500 was the best.

I won’t waste your time, I’ll discuss the top mowers first and then go over the rest.

Mower 1. Craftsman 42″ 19 HP Fender Hydrostatic Model 20381!

Engine: Most of the under $1500 lawn tractors use a single cylinder engine. All the 2017 models are Overhead Valve. (OHV) All the 2017 engines in the under $1500 lawn tractors can use 87 octane, 10% Ethanol (E10) or less fuel. The main feature I looked for was full pressure lubrication (internal full time oil pump) so the engine would last a long time on not only flat lawns but lawns with 15 degree slopes. The 19 HP single cylinder counter-balanced Brigg & Stratton Platinum engine has the full pressure lubrication and the best B&S oil filter. It has plenty of power for mowing heavy grass and throwing it into a bagger. It’s more fuel-efficient than a V-Twin. There are 10’s of thousands of this engine out mowing lawns every week and I can say it is a dependable, long-lasting motor. Change the oil, oil filter and air filter at the required times and keep the engine cooling fins clear of debris and you will get years out of this engine.

Deck: Most of us don’t have a lawn that is as level as a baseball field.  We have dips, bumps, divots, swales and other rough areas so my second feature was a good cutting deck that cut well in all conditions. The 42 inch deck in combination with the lawn tractor’s resilient frame allows Craftsman Model 20381 yard tractor to mow through and over those bumps and depressions to give you the best cut over your entire lawn.

Just to be clear, the Number Two pick Cub Cadet XT1 LT42 has the best cutting deck if you have a nice flat lawn, you want to mulch and know how to mulch properly. To be more exact the other review site rates the Cub Cadet 42 inch deck slightly better for mulching but the same as this deck for side discharge and bagging. The number three pick, the Craftsman 90th Anniversary has the same deck as this number one choice and my favorite 20 HP V-Twin engine, but uses a rather cumbersome foot control for the speed and direction.

Transmission: The transmission in this riding mower has been performing well for your average residential lawn for many, many years. In fact it was the transmission of choice for this size lawn tractor for just about every manufacturer until the stronger CVT (In mowers 3, 4, and 5) came out four years ago.  It is still the best option for the fact that since it uses a fender speed control lever. Just about anyone can use it.

Let me expand on the fender speed control. It is the best option for many owners even though almost all riding mowers and tractors today use a pedal that you press with your right foot to control the tractor’s speed. The foot control style is common because the engineer’s think you will find it easy to use because it’s supposed to operate basically like the accelerator in your car.  The problem with a foot control though is you have to keep a constant pressure on the pedal and the pressure is greater than what you need for the accelerator on your car. For example, if you have arthritis of the knees mowing for more than a few minutes can be quite painful. If you have arthritis in your hips or other leg joints or circulation problems, the foot control forces you to stay in one position for a long time while you bounce around your yard. In other cases you may be much shorter than the “average” person and the pedal makes you sit too far forward on the seat. Sitting too far forward is hard on your back and can make the seat safety switch cut in and out.

Even though I highly discourage letting underage teenagers drive, this fender control is the best choice for them. They can sit back on the seat comfortably, set the mower to move at a realistic speed and concentrate on not hitting obstacles. There is no awkward, unsafe twisting and stretching trying to reach the right foot control. To stop they can pull the speed lever back to neutral or step on the left clutch/brake pedal. If the mower deck is running they can even just stand up and the engine shuts off.

If you are in a wheelchair because of leg problems but you can use your arms well, this lawn tractor with the fender control is the best, inexpensive lawn mower option.

And finally, if you are one of the U.S. population like myself who ate too much over the years the fender control allows you to move the seat back far enough for your belly to clear the steering wheel.  You don’t have to reach a foot pedal to maneuver the lawn tractor.

The fender control is very easy to learn, has built-in speed control and works the best for anyone with physical conditions different from the average person.

Here are few more features that makes the Craftsman 42″ 19 HP Fender Hydrostatic Model 20381 the best choice for most people: 

  • Uses the mid-size yard tractor frame. This is a thicker, stronger frame than the sub $1300 mowers.
  • 6 inch Turn-Tight steering. This tractor turns almost a tightly as a zero-turn. This steering is the best for lawn with lots of trees.
  • More accessories and attachments including specialized mulching, bagging blades and a 3-bin bagger.
  • Fender controlled hydrostatic transmission that most people can use.
  • Mow-In-Reverse
  • 24/7 hour parts ordering online or by phone. All you need is the model number under the seat to get your parts.
  • Deck Washout Port
  • Spring assisted deck lift
  • Warranty: 2 year / 5 year frame and axle
  • Cast iron front axle
  • FREE Craftsman Smart Lawn app to help keep track of maintenance and help you do you own tune-ups.
  • Sears in-home repair.
  • Of course it has a cup holder 🙂
  • Check the special offers tab on the page link below. Most of the time they offer “Online Only! FREE Delivery on this Riding Mower Sold by Sears!  Plus 5% off or up to 18 months Special Financing on Riding Mowers & Tractors with qualifying Sears Card.”

Read More and Buy From Sears.com:  Craftsman 42″ 19 HP Fender Hydrostatic Model 20381 

Mower 2.  Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Model # LT42 at The Home Depot

 Craftsman has the most riding mowers and lawn tractors in the under $1500 price category,  But there three other brands that sell good value lawn tractors in this price range. The best of the “other” tractors is the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Model # LT42 available from The Home Depot. If you really don’t want a Craftsman this is next best choice.

Engine: Kohler 18HP Single Cylinder OHV.  This is the Courage – not the new 7000 series. That said, it is a dependable engine and is counterbalanced well so there is little vibration from the single cylinder. It will work on the hills as well as the Briggs & Stratton Platinum engine in the Craftsman above.

Deck: The other review sites feel this deck mulches better than the deck on the Craftsman above. I have to agree. If you are mowing at the right height and mulching properly this deck is one of the best non-baffled decks for mulching. But it is no better for side-discharge or bagging than the Number 1 choice. There is only one bagger available, a 2-bin, for this lawn tractor. Like the Craftsman it is a stamped deck and has 4 anti-scalp wheels. This deck in combination with the Cub Cadet XT1’s stiff frame allows it to mow flat, smooth lawns very, very well. In other words, if you volunteer to mow the local softball or soccer field this will give you that perfect cut.

Transmission: This tractor uses the K46 hydrostatic transmission. There are millions (yes millions) of these transmissions out mowing lawns every week. I want to be very clear about this transmission – the tractor forums and some John Deere lawn tractor owners want you to believe that you should never buy a lawn tractor with this transmission because it won’t last. In reality, the only reason this transmission fails is because some manufacturers try to save costs and install this lawn tractor transmission in a larger tractor/mower than it should be installed in. The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Model # LT42 is the size this transmission was designed for. If you mow your normal lawn and pull a yard cart like the Cub Cadet Hauler Tow-Behind Dump Cart for clean up this transmission will last the life of the lawn tractor.

Other Features:

  • Uses the mid-size yard tractor frame. This is a thicker, stronger frame than the sub $1300 mowers.
  • Standard 16 inch steering. Owners state this mower steers very easily
  • Accessories and attachments including a 2-bin bagger.
  • Foot controlled hydrostatic transmission with cruise.
  • Mow-In-Reverse
  • Deck Washout Port
  • Spring assisted deck lift
  • No hour/3-year limited residential including the power train and 5-year chassis/front axle warranties
  • Cast iron front axle
  • Of course it has a cup holder 🙂
  • Cub Cadet open high-back seat that is designed with an oversized base and elevated back support
  • Cub Cadet LT42 comes fully crated and requires some assembly
  • Model 13AVA1CS056

Read More and Buy From The Home Depot:  Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Model # LT42

Mower 3 Craftsman 42″ 19 HP B&S Fast Auto TurnTight Model # 25581,

Mower 4 Craftsman 46″ 19 HP Fast Auto TurnTight Model #25583 at Sears

I grouped these two tractors together because they are the same tractor just with a different deck.

Engine: This is the same good Briggs & Stratton Platinum 19 HP single cylinder engine that is used in Tractor Number 1.

Deck: The Model 25581 use the same 42 inch deck as the Number 1 above.  The Model 25583 uses a 46 inch 2-blade deck that allows you to get done just a little faster.  The slightly wider deck sticks out the side of the lawn tractor just a little bit more and that allows you to trim around obstacles, buildings and fences just a little easier. There is a 3-bin bagger available for this tractor! Part No. 24904

Transmission: These Yard Tractors use the General Transmissions RS800SD auto/CVT transmission.  It is considerably stronger than the hydrostatic transmission it replaced. The SD model features a debris cover to keep grass and dirt from accumulating on the top of the trans. This eliminates the need to clean the trans. (Previous versions did not have the debris cover and accumulations of grass made the foot pedal hard to press. ) The 7.5 MPH top speed lets you get yard work done faster and also beat all the neighbors Green and Yellow lawn tractors in a race around the block!

I like this transmission a lot and I highly recommend it if you have hills or regularly pull loads over 400 lbs.  But I do want you to know that the foot pedal is a little higher than foot pedal on lawn tractors with hydrostatic transmissions. The extra height/length allows you to go the 7.5 mph, but if you wear a size 8 shoe or smaller you will not be able to rest your heel on the floor board when mowing the lawn.

Other Features:

  • Uses the mid-size yard tractor frame. This is a thicker, stronger frame than the sub $1300 mowers.
  • 6 inch Turn-Tight steering. This tractor turns almost a tightly as a zero-turn.
  • More accessories and attachments including specialized mulching, bagging blades and a 3-bin bagger.
  • Foot controlled CVT transmission that most people can use.
  • Mow-In-Reverse
  • 24/7 hour parts ordering online or by phone. All you need is the model number under the seat to get your parts.
  • Deck Washout Port
  • Spring assisted deck lift
  • Warranty: 2 year / 5 year frame and axle
  • Cast iron front axle
  • FREE Craftsman Smart Lawn app to help keep track of maintenance and help you do you own tune-ups.
  • Sears in-home repair.
  • Of course it has a cup holder 🙂
  • Check the special offers tab on the page link below. Most of the time they offer Online Only! FREE Delivery on this Riding Mower Sold by Sears!  Plus 5% off or up to 18 months Special Financing on Riding Mowers & Tractors with qualifying Sears Card.

By the way, if you own a Craftsman, Poulan Pro, Ariens, John Deere, or Husqvarna with the CVT transmission please read this article. Do You Own a Red Craftsman, Ariens, Husqvarna or Poulan Pro Lawn Tractor? Read This!

Mower 5. Craftsman 42″ 20 HP V-Twin 90th Anniversary Model # 27398 at Sears

This is a special Craftsman anniversary model that to me reflects the most popular Craftsman Lawn Tractors of yesterday and today. A good, well-built mowing machine. In fact, there are many similarities with this lawn tractor and the most popular Craftsman lawn tractor ever from the year 2000. That lawn tractor has proven so dependable that you can still find a “green hooded” Craftsman out mowing in your neighborhood every week. The right stuff has been improved over the years but this 90th anniversary model still has the roots of that original lawn tractor that so many owners love.

Engine: This is a sweet “little” 656cc V-Twin. The V-Twin 20 HP Briggs & Stratton Intek OHV. It’s very compact and fuel-efficient. One of the features I really like is how smooth-running this engine is.

Deck: This is the same deck as Mower 1 uses.

Transmission: This Yard tractor uses the same General Transmissions RS800SD auto/CVT as mowers 3 and 4.  The only difference is the speed is limited to 5.2 MPH. No, I don’t know how to adjust the linkage to make it go faster.

Steering: This lawn tractor uses the standard 16 inch steering radius. It does not have the 6 inch Turn Tight Steering like Mowers 1, 3, and 4.

Other Features:

  • Uses the mid-size yard tractor frame. This is a thicker, stronger frame than the sub $1300 mowers.
  • More accessories and attachments including specialized mulching, bagging blades and a 3-bin bagger.
  • Foot controlled CVT transmission that most people can use.
  • Mow-In-Reverse
  • 24/7 hour parts ordering online or by phone. All you need is the model number under the seat to get your parts.
  • Deck Washout Port
  • Spring assisted deck lift
  • Warranty: 2 year / 5 year frame and axle
  • Cast iron front axle
  • FREE Craftsman Smart Lawn app to help keep track of maintenance and help you do you own tune-ups.
  • Sears in-home repair.
  • Of course it has a cup holder 🙂
  • Check the special offers tab on the page link below. Most of the time they offer Online Only! FREE Delivery on this Riding Mower Sold by Sears!  Plus 5% off or up to 18 months Special Financing on Riding Mowers & Tractors with qualifying Sears Card.

Mower 6. Troy-Bilt Model #TB46 – Horse Lawn Tractor

This is the new model Horse (13WX79BT011) not the older model rated by Consumer Reports. This new model uses the same transmission as the Craftsman Model 20381, Mower 1 above but the fender mounted speed control is on the left fender instead of the right like the Craftsman. It’s also made by a different manufacturer than the Craftsman. This is a good alternative to the Cub Cadet Mower 2 above.

Engine: 20HP Kohler single cylinder

Deck: 46 inch 2-blade deck

Transmission: Hydro Gear T2. This is a great lawn tractor transmission. Be aware I don’t recommend it for hills and regularly pulling heavy loads.

Other Features: “The Horse lawn tractor features a reliable 20.0 HP* Single Kohler® Courage engine and a rugged cast-iron front axle.  Built comfortable with a hydrostatic transmission, a Soft Touch steering wheel and high-back seat,  the Horse XP riding lawn tractor is equipped to handle the largest of lawns.”

Mower 7. Poulan PRO 46 in. 20 HP Model # 960460079

 This mower is made by Husqvarna and is very close to the Craftsman 90th Anniversary model. Mower 5 above.  I want to point out that the picture on Home Depot and Poulan Pro both show the 6 inch turning radius steering but the description and parts listings show the standard 16 inch radius. I trust the Illustrated Parts List as the actual product so I am going to state – it has the 16 inch radius steering.

Engine: 20 HP V-Twin B&S Intek.

Deck: 46 inch 2-blade

Transmission: Auto/CVT GTRS800

Other Features: It has the flat metal deck reinforcements found on the more expensive Husqvarna Yard Tractors

Mowers 8, 9, 10. Craftsman 46″ 547cc Auto Riding Mower Model # 27374Craftsman 42″ 547cc Auto Riding Mower Model # 27373Craftsman 42″ 420cc Auto Riding Mower Model # 20372

Engine: The 547cc engine is guessed to have around 17 HP and is plenty for this lawn tractor and deck.  The 420cc engine has a little less power but is still very adequate for this lawn tractor and weekly mowing. Both engines are full pressure with oil filter and tool-less air cleaners.

Deck: 42 or 46 inch 2-blade deck. Both of these decks cut, mulch and bag very well for the price of the lawn tractor but only have two anti-scalp wheels. If you lawn is very rough I suggest Mower 1, 3, 4, or 5 instead.

Transmission: CVT. This CVT has been around for years and it just works. It is designed to mow your 1/3-1 acre lawn and pull a small cart. In other words if you just want to mow your lawn and pick up leaves and branches with a cart this transmission will last you many years. The speed is controlled with your right foot and the direction with a shift lever on the left fender. It does not have cruise control.

Other Features: 

  • Automatic transmission makes mowing your lawn even easier
  • All models mow in reverse.
  • 18″ turning radius helps you to navigate around obstacles in your yard
  • 547cc engine delivers plenty of power to cut grass quickly and effectively
  • Features hauling capabilities that allow you to add rolling or aerating equipment
  • Controlled via foot pedal and can drive up to 5.5 mph forward or 2.3 mph in reverse
  • Comes with 2-year limited warranty as well as a 5-year frame warranty and 10-year front axle warranty

Mower 11. Troy-Bilt Model #TB42 – Bronco Lawn Tractor

In reality a lot of the mowers on this page are basically the same – they just change the paint, engine and decals for the different brands.  This is the same mower as the $1099 Model 20372 Craftsman above with a more expensive Kohler engine and cheaper tires. It is also lacking the Sears Home Services repair network. You can order maintenance parts online at Troybilt.com.

Engine: 19 single cylinder Kohler Engine.

Deck: 42 inch 2-blade

Transmission: CVT. This CVT has been around for years and it just works.

Other Features: Cheap Tires, Low Back Seat, 18 inch turning radius.

Mower 12. Poulan PRO 42 in. 19 HP Model # 960460077

The only real reason I listed this tractor as Mower 12 is because of the service and parts availability. It’s a good tractor but you have to go to a completely different service network to get warranty work done. This service network is usually not your local Husqvarna dealer as you may expect. This Yard tractor is very similar to the Craftsman Model 25582, Mower 3 above. The only real difference is the Craftsman is a lot easier to get parts, service and warranty work if you have any issues. In other words, if you have Home Depot gift card but you really like the Craftsman 19HP 42 inch Yard tractor this is the alternative.

Mower 13. John Deere D105  Model # BG20873

The John Deere D105 is an anomaly in the long list of John Deere lawn tractors. It is simply a lightweight, small lawn tractor that is directly comparable to the Craftsman 20372, Troy-Bilt Bronco and Poulan Pro 960460077. Yes, no matter what the guy at the bars says – It is made by John Deere in their Kentucky assembly plant.  Just like the lower priced Troy-Bilt and Craftsman’s Consumer Reports does not rate this lawn tractor. It’s major redeeming feature? It is the least expensive John Deere lawn tractor you can buy. I strongly recommend if you want a Deere please spend another $200 and purchase the D110.

Engine: 17.5 HP John Deere engine

Deck: 42 inch “Edge” deck

Transmission: General Transmissions RS400 CVT

Other Features: One great feature this mower has is the John Deere white glove delivery. Your local Deere dealer will assemble the tractor, test it and deliver it to your home.

  • 17.5 HP John Deere branded engine for powerful performance
  • 42 in. Edge Cutting System with deep deck design to lift grass for superior cut and smooth underside to prevent grass buildup
  • Cut height selections range from 1 in. to 4 in. in 1/4 in. increments
  • Wash port included for convenience to clean the underside of the deck
  • Fully welded steel frame and cast iron front axle add strength and increase life
  • Fade-resistant hood is made of a tough composite material that won’t dent or rust; openings on side let in cooling air while keeping sound level low
  • Baggers, carts, aerators, spreaders, front blade, mulch plug and snow blowers are sold separately to help with projects around the yard
  • Inspected, tested and supported for hassle-free ownership – your local John Deere dealer will complete a thorough 10-point pre-delivery inspection on all new John Deere tractors and zero-turn mowers prior to sale

Mower 14. Craftsman 42″ 19 HP 6-Speed Gear Model #20380

There are few people who still want a gear drive lawn tractor and this is it. This mower is basically the same mower as Mower 1 above except it has a real-deal six-speed geared transmission instead of the fender controlled hydrostatic. So it is a capable yard tractor that is hard to break. This mower does have one downfall and because of that negative I don’t recommend it for anyone just learning to drive a riding lawn mower or for younger, inexperienced drivers. The negative is it is VERY easy to pop a wheelie in 4-6 gear. Why? Gear drive lawn tractors don’t use an actual clutch like a car or truck. When you step on the left foot pedal you simply release the v-belt driving the transmission. When you release that pedal there is no “feathering” of the clutch – the belt just grabs and off you go.

Engine: 19 HP Single cylinder Briggs & Stratton Platinum engine.

Deck: 42 inch 2-blade

Transmission: This is the real-deal in-line 6 speed gear drive tranny that was the standard transmission in lawn tractors for years. Almost impossible to break and easily modified for lawn mower racing.

Other Features: All the same features as the Craftsman Mower 1 above

Mowers 15, 16. Troy-Bilt Model #Pony, Tractor Supply, Huskee 42 in. 420cc Lawn Tractor SKU #445267399

There is really no need for a gear-drive lawn tractor anymore. The transmissions in these lawn tractors are not tougher than the CVT versions. They don’t use a real clutch or brakes so they are not safer to use. They don’t handle hills any better than the CVTs. The CVT versions found the $1300 and less lawn tractors are built-in large enough quantities that it really doesn’t make sense to make a gear drive tractor just for cost of the trans. You may be surprised to find that some of the “gear drive” transmissions in lawn tractors are just a CVT with notches in the shifter mechanism.

What about rear engine riders.

Rear engine riding mowers are placed at the very bottom of this list because of the simple fact that they can be very unstable on any slope. Yes, they are great for getting through small areas and gates but for anyone without a lot of experience they are too unstable.  Just trimming around an old tree can be more of a slope than theses rear engine riders can handle.  Rear engine riding mowers are smaller and less powerful than the other lawn tractors on this list. Even more so than zero-turn riders, which also have their engine at the rear, rear engine riding mowers are very light in the front. That will cause the front end to pop up when starting out in too high of a gear or going up hilly terrain. They only real advantage over traditional lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers is they are cheaper than most. But if you only have $1200 to spend and your property is under an acre in size there are still better options on this list. (Look at Number 9, 10 and 11)

Note: These small rear engine riders are only rated to 12 degree slopes or less.

Mowers 17, 18, 19. The Cub Cadet CC30H, Craftsman Model 29000 and Troy-Bilt TB30R Rear Engine Rider

The Cub Cadet CC30H, Craftsman Model 29000 and Troy-Bilt TB30R are basically the same mower with each one having a few different features. They are small mowers for 1/3 to 3/4 acre lawns.  The main reason I am rating them so low is they are very tippy and should not be used on any kind of slope. Even mowing around an older tree should be done with extreme caution. They actually mow and bag well but be aware with the longer 30 inch single blade they will scalp an uneven lawn quicker than a 42 or 46 inch deck.

The Cub Cadet has a dependable hydro-static transmission and is the easiest model to use. Parts and service are available through your local Cub Cadet Dealer.

The Craftsman 29000 has the best service and parts availability. You can order parts online or schedule service anytime day or night. The Craftsman also has the larger 420 cc engine.

The Craftsman and The Troy-bilt have the 6 speed shift on-the-go transmission. The tranny is dependable but many people complain that the Forward/Reverse lever is hard to reach. (it’s below the seat, between your legs)

Mower 20. The Poulan Pro PB30

The Poulan Pro PB30 is arguably the worst mower available for 2017. People buy it because it’s cheap and has a small deck. It shifts hard. The clutch is very jerky. Braking is almost non-existent. It mows poorly. It has a very poor turning radius and it harder to steer than the MTD built rear engine riders. Many owners state their deck does not stay level and a few fell off. Front steering wears out quickly. Does not have a bagger available. It is top-heavy and I don’t recommend it for any slope over 5 degrees.

Here is a list of all the current model 2017 lawn tractors that I can find.

[table id=6 /]

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107 Comments on "Seven Best Riding Mowers Under $1500 for 2017"

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AM
Guest

Paul,
Please explain the differences between the Craftsman 25581 (currently $1,299) and the Craftsman 20381 (currently $1,338). Looks maybe a good time to pull the trigger on one, or is there another 42″ that would be better?

Thanks,

AM

Teresa
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Teresa
I’ve been reading your mower reviews and value your opinion. I’d like to get your opinion of the Craftsman T2400 Model #20383. I can get one locally for a heck of a deal (20% off regular price). The reason for the significant savings is due to the fact that the mower is an ‘outside’ floor model, never used. I’m assuming sitting outside during the season is not a problem. Sears assures me it’s not. I need the 46″ cut as I’ve got several flat acres to cut. My last mower was a Toro WheelHorse 14hp 48′ cut with the Kohler… Read more »
Tom McDonough
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Tom McDonough
Paul, this is a very informative site. Thanks for your work. I have one question regarding the tendency of geared transmissions to pop wheelies. I’ve currently looking to replace my “vintage” 1990 Craftsman 12 hp with a geared transmission. The transmission has worked well for me because my yard has hills. There are also long stretches where I don’t want to be pressing a foot pedal. The 6-speed works like a cruise control. For these reasons, I’m considering the Craftsman 20380 as a replacement. The “clutch” on my old tractor functions by loosening the idler pulley on the drive belt.… Read more »
Scott Perkins
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Scott Perkins
Paul- There are two aspects of riding mower performance that is very important to me that I think has mostly escaped your attention and would be important to you as well. 1st is the mowers ability to reduce or eliminate the requirement that I rake or somehow bag the clippings from the lawn I have just cut. This is a huge incremental work task and if the mower sufficiently pulverizes and spreads the clippings then they can be left on the lawn. Some mowers appear to have special blades for mulching and if so I would like to know it.… Read more »
Marshall Stewart
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Marshall Stewart
Paul – Great website! Just what I needed. You are providing a very valuable service. I was wondering if you would be willing to answer a question for me. At first, I had pretty much decided to buy a Craftsman 42” Model 20381, which is Mower 1 on your list of riding mowers under $1500. A snag developed when it turned out that this mower is not available for delivery or store pickup within a 100-mile radius of Washington, DC. I looked at Mower 2, the Cub Cadet, but passed on it based on your review. I have a half-acre… Read more »
Jim Connelly
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Jim Connelly
Paul, Great article – thanks. I am trying to decide between Mower #3 (Craftsman 25581) and Mower #4 (Craftsman 27398). They are both very similar with the only differences I see as the 25581 has a faster speed and tighter turn radius, while the 27398 has the larger engine and more HP. I live on a 3/4 acre lot that is relatively flat with one hilly part where my sewer field is. I am also in Florida, where in the summer the grass can get pretty heavy and thick, especially if I let it go an extra day or two… Read more »
Tony Lee
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Tony Lee
Paul, I’ve always used the old tried and true push mower because the part of my yard that required cutting was small and I could cut it with a push mower in 30 minutes (plus it’s exercise). Our new home has about .8 acres of grass to cut so I’m moving up to a riding mower and I’m looking at either the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT42 (Home Depot) or the Husqvarna equivalent 18.5HP 42″ cut (Lowes). Both sell for the same price at $1499. My yard is fairly flat with a slight decline on one side in the back.… Read more »
Chris
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Chris

Hey Paul,

Is a 40″ dethatcher considered ‘ground-engaging’ equipment? I was pulling one yesterday with my Craftsman 20391. It had two cinder blocks on it. When going up a very slight slope, the tractor slowed to almost a stop. (the slope was very slight!) I know you mentioned in many articles that only Garden Tractors can use ground engaging accessories, so was wondering if I’m over-stressing my transmission. Thanks.

JR
Guest
My dad has an old 4′ x 8′ utility trailer (a converted snowmobile trailer) that weighs ~350# empty and maybe 750# full, with a tongue weight of ~80# at full load. He’s been using his 20-year-old riding lawn mower — a 17-hp Poulan Weed Eater w/manual transmission — to casually haul it across his 3/4-acre slightly lumpy grass lot and up a very slight hill to the driveway. It’s a short trip, maybe 90 yards, but the trailer doesn’t roll across the grass especially easily, and it’s parked in some ruts that make it quite hard to get started. Anyhow,… Read more »
Tim Frank
Guest
Tim Frank
Hi Paul, Looking for advice please. I have a lot, almost an acre. If is somewhat hilly, but the steep hill in back I push mow. The rest isn’t that bad. I am interested in getting the Craftsman 42″ 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Hydrostatic TurnTight® Riding Mower. My biggest question is I spend a good amount of time in fall pulling a 42″ lawn sweeper because of all the leaves I have. I rake some of them because of the sheer volume, but I have to sweep as well when I mow. Will this mowers transmission be up for… Read more »
Brian
Guest
Brian
Paul, I am looking for a budget machine to mow my fairly steep yard. I like the idea of having fender control or at the least cruise control. HD is running a deal along with Lowes. 1399 for the CC XT1 as well as the Husqvarna YTA18542. I am worrried about the K46 of the XT1 on my hill but it has cruise control. Should I be? The only thing it will be used for is mowing. The Husqvarna has the CVT but no cruise from what I understand. Or should I look at the Craftsman with the CVT? Loading...
Ken
Guest
Hi Paul! Great site. I’m planning to purchase my first riding mower and I’ve learned a TON from this site in just a day or two! Thank you! I’m considering the Craftsman Pro 27042, currently on sale. 1. I’ve seen you (and others) say very good things about the Craftsman Pro 20442, which is no longer available. Is the 27042 a worthy replacement? 2. You seem to favor the CVT trans in some of the “non-pro” Craftsmans over the k46 in the 27042. Are there any in the Craftsman Pro line with the CVT? (and why wouldn’t they put the… Read more »
tim
Guest
Hi Paul. I am having enormous problems trying to get your 2017 comments section boxes to show up. I have used Firefox, Chrome, etc. You just go to the bottom of the comments section and the box simply isn’t there. I finally clicked on this article, even though it’s not related, and the box is thankfully available on this one, so I’ll leave the comment here. I am a couple of months away from finally making my purchase, and while I had long settled on the Craftsman Pro 46″ #27042 I had one reservation on it, and that is the… Read more »
Chris Gervais
Guest
Chris Gervais
Hi Paul: this is a great site. I am a single woman, 66, and want a small mower like 30in. I do have a slope in my back yard. I have about 1/2 acre. I just want a small mower because I don’t want to take up that much space in my garage. I don’t want to turn over on the slope! So, which mower would be the best for me? I am not holding you libel; I just do not have the mechanical knowledge to pick. I would appreciate your suggestion. PS, the Craftsman mower on Amazon is about… Read more »
AJ
Guest

Paul, First of thank you for taking the time out to write such an insightful article. My question is about the Free Shipping offer that a lot of these places offer. Is it better to get the rider delivered or pick it up? Because I’ve heard stories about the rider being delivered in a crate and you have to assemble it yourself.

Bob
Guest
Paul, I was looking at buying your number 3 choice but I was a little confused about a few things and was wondering if you could help. In your review you say that it has fender controlled hydrostatic transmission but the only thing that I see on the fender is a lever for the deck adjustment. Also you mentioned that the foot pedal is a little higher to allow for faster speed but the owners manual shows on pedal is for Brake/Clutch and the other is a forward drive pedal and must be engaged to go forward. I appreciate any… Read more »
Montesa_VR
Guest
Montesa_VR
Paul, thanks for all your helpful information. Buying a riding mower is one of the most baffling consumer challenges I’ve faced. Most of the manufacturer web sites and sales brochures are next to useless. I’ve been rechecking daily on your links for mowers 1 (fender lever hydro), 3 (fast hydro) and 14 (gear drive) and number 3 popped up yesterday for $1100 so I jumped on it. Considering the platinum engine, the six inch tight turn, and the General Transmissions RS800SD auto/CVT transmission, that seems like an incredible bargain. Before I started reading your site I could not have made… Read more »
Elaine
Guest
Elaine

Hi Rob,

Thanks you for your article. We really didn’t know where to start. We really like your top pick. Ease of use is a big factor as we are not getting any younger. However, I’ve been going round and round with Sears as to whether this mower can accept attachments like a sweeper or cart. The last answer I’m getting is yes, but I’m worried we will order it and find out that is incorrect. Do you have any insight? The sweeper seems like a great solution to all the leaves.and a cart would be handy when spreading mulch.

Ron
Guest
Hi there. I decided to buy the Craftsman 25581 because it was number three on your review,and it went on sale for $1099.99. They called it a spring black Friday sale. I could not have it delivered to the state I live in, ,so I am having it delivered to a store in the Reno/Carson City area. The non “restricted in my state” equipment I own burns more efficient,and uses less fuel. Its going to work out great-were going to get a nice room and take in a show the night before we pick it up. Well have a big… Read more »
Ross Wegma
Guest
Ross Wegma

Meant to post here. #3 is on sale today (4/24/17) at Sears for $1099. This is the 42 inch deck mode.The 46 inch deck model is also on sale for $1399. I ordered the 42 online. The add is kind of confusing but they may be on sale this Thursday & Friday as well.

Ross
Guest
Ross

#3 is on sale for $1099 at Sears online today. Just ordered one.

William Kiessling
Guest
William Kiessling
Hi Paul, Thank you so much for this website. I appreciate your effort. I’m in the market for my first riding mower. My yard is about a half acre and is far from flat. The front yard slopes down from the house to the road but my neighbor, who has mowed it in the past, insists that most of it can be done with a riding mower. The back yard is fairly flat with a couple of trees. I think I’ve narrowed it down to the Craftsman 46″ 25583 and the Poulan Pro 46″ 960460079 from Home Depot. From your… Read more »
Ken Speicher
Guest
Ken Speicher

Paul, Which mower is the best between the 20381,25583,25581 for bagging and mulching? And of the 3 which do you think will last the longest for a 15,000 sq. ft. yard with a slope in the front yard, flat in the back yard? Thanks, Ken

Greg
Guest
Greg

Paul, I am looking at the Husqvarna YTA22V46 with cvt trans. Can you please help me figure out which transmission is in it? Is it the 400 or the 800 series? Thanks for all you do!

David
Guest
David

Paul – What would likely happen with Craftsman warranty if Sears goes out of business as they are hinting at today?

Trillium
Guest
Trillium
Paul I have to say your insights on these mowers is best thing I have found online! We are shopping for a new riding mower and the first contender was the XT1 Club Cadet. We sat down and sorted for the worst reviews first to see any patterns in the bad reviews. ehhhhh. We backed away slowly. John Deere was so expensive and their reviews didn’t really make us feel that confident either and I really didn’t see the value with quality vs price for a residential application. 1. My one concern with Craftsman is they sold out in January… Read more »
Ken Tuerk
Guest
Ken Tuerk

I have a fairly level lawn. Is there any way to use a dethatcher with any of these mowers? I really like the Craftsman but i am wondering about that. If not, what models do I have to get in order to use a dethatcher??

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
Hi Paul, great website! I recently purchased my first lawn tractor with bagger and snow thrower. I am having issues with my snow thrower fitting up to my tractor however. I have a Craftsman Pro Series tractor 247.204420 and a Craftsman snow thrower 486.248374. According to the Craftsman fit-up chart, these are compatible together. Unfortunately the mounting brackets that came with the thrower do not even come close to bolting up to the tractor frame. I was hoping you could provide some insight…I have searched the internet high and low for some kind of mounting kit that will work but… Read more »
Jeffrey Hanning
Guest
Jeffrey Hanning
I have a rather unique, I guess, set of circumstances. I have a slope in the front of the house that is currently bare. My Ford truck shows it at 3 or 4%, but I am not really sure. I had it terraced, so its not a straight slope from top to bottom. I am going to disc it, fertilize and distribute grass seed this Spring to stop the erosion. One of the seed mixes specifies mowing the millet so it doesn’t choke out the Bermuda. I don’t want to mow with my tractor because I think I would just… Read more »
Rob Boyd
Guest

Paul, will the 46′ Craftsman 25583 give the same good cut on bumpy lawns that the 42″ 20381 gives since it uses the same mowing deck? Thanks in advance.