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Any suggestions for a good riding lawnmower?
Old 03-25-2012, 10:18 PM   #1
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Any suggestions for a good riding lawnmower?

So I sold my old riding lawnmower today...and it is gone. My wife said I had to get rid of the old one before I can get a new one. When I bought this house, the guy I bought if from was retiring and going into full time Rving. and said he would leave his old rider here. It worked okay, but it was time for it to move on. Frankly it was too big for the yard, it was a testosterone buy on his part I think. I want something scaled more to this yard vs. just pure power.

Thus I am in the market for a new riding lawnmower.

Any good suggestions or one to avoid? I have about an 3/4 of an acre or so of grass, the rest is heavily wooded. The terrain is not smooth, lots of slope and trees, etc.
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Old 03-26-2012, 12:11 AM   #2
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I went through a couple of Sears Craftsmen. The deck tended to be the major reason for scrapping out, though the last one I also took apart the manual transaxle a few times to fix. The easy availability of parts and all the exploded diagrams were a plus with Sears. But I think they were more solidly made then.
I moved up to JD, twin cylinder ~22 HP Briggs with hydro. Well built, handles very well. Turns tighter, turns easier like it had power steering, is more stable. I think more thought went into its design.

I would avoid Snapper, Cub Cadet, even MTD might be questionable now. Consumer Reports has done stories on lawn tractors. About every make has their own cheering section. My neighborhood has had all sorts of different makes over the years, but seems to be coalescing to JD now.
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Old 03-26-2012, 01:47 AM   #3
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3/4 of an acre, with lots of ups and downs and trees to circumnavigate? A riding mower seems like overkill, and not the most efficient solution. They are better for larger, smoother lawns, IMHO. I would go for a decent self-propelled walk-behind mower.

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Old 03-26-2012, 06:47 AM   #4
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I am in good health and exercise every day but there is no way I would mow 3/4 acre with a walk behind. I don't think I would want to do it even if retired. If you have a lot of trees to mow around I would consider a zero turning radius mower. The tractor style mowers are not so good around obstacles.
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Old 03-26-2012, 06:55 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by hakuna matata View Post
The terrain is not smooth, lots of slope and trees, etc.
If you do have to get a riding lawnmower, then cutting on deep slopes could be some kind of nerve breaking experience because you should only do up-and-down, no cross cutting unless it's equipped with a ROPS. A good walk behind cutter might be a better choice, like this one SCAG POWER EQUIPMENT - SFW Belt Drive Walk-Behind Mowers. In general, there are several other factors which can give you a hint about how well the machine is built: the total weight (heavier -> thicker gauge of steel is better), engine shaft mount orientation (horizontal is better than vertical), and number of grease fittings (more is better). If it comes with a hydro transmission, self-serviceable (fluid change) is better than permanently sealed one.
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Old 03-26-2012, 07:03 AM   #6
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I'd be tempted to look at a smaller zero turn mower if you have lots of trees and other obstacles, as they really save time. If the slope is steep, it might not be such a good choice. Around here that is all the landscapers use.

Troy-Bilt Colt 17AE2ACG information from Consumer Reports
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Old 03-26-2012, 07:53 AM   #7
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I have a hill in the back that is steep enough to eliminate any riding mower from consideration so I got a 33-inch walk behind. Mine was from Sears on sale but this is the same one:

33 in. Wide Area Cut Variable Speed Self-Propelled Gas Mower-12AE764N056 at The Home Depot

I should note that although it is self propelled, on a hill it is still an upper body workout to handle. On flat ground it's the same as any other.
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Old 03-26-2012, 08:39 AM   #8
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FWIW, I've been living here for 18 years and am on my third riding mower with a bit over an acre to mow. They get a beating due to the uneven ground, hills, dry/wet spots rather than just a traditional "boring flat" lawn.

I started with a Sears, moved to a John Deere, and currently have a Cub Cadet. The last one has been the best in performance and reliability thus far.

I would really like to get a Grasshopper but the price is a bit more than I'm willing to pay at this time. Of course at my age, I can see never getting a replacement but rather pay for a service after the Cub Cadet (or me ) is no longer serviceable.
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Old 03-26-2012, 09:23 AM   #9
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3/4 of an acre, with lots of ups and downs and trees to circumnavigate? A riding mower seems like overkill, and not the most efficient solution. They are better for larger, smoother lawns, IMHO. I would go for a decent self-propelled walk-behind mower.
Data point -- we live on about a half acre. It took a little over 2 hours to finish the entire yard with a self-propelled push mower and about 40 minutes with the riding mower I bought a couple years ago. Given that at times (like now) the weeds are growing fast enough to need mowing at least once a week, that's a substantial savings in time and effort. Plus in our four months of 105º weather, you don't want to be outside pushing a mower for two hours.
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Old 03-26-2012, 09:26 AM   #10
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Kabota T1880, bullet proof and a bit expensive but will last forever if taken care of properly.
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Old 03-26-2012, 10:51 AM   #11
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I didn't think anything grew in 105 degree wx. Certainly not lawn grass!

Data point: from the ages of 11 through 15, I mowed the family lawn once to twice per week during summer vacation for $2.00 per mow. This was in northern NJ. The property was 1.5 acres, sloping and uneven, about .25 acres in scrubby second-growth trees. There were 44 mature trees in the lawn - I know this because I was also expected to hand-trim around them, and even back then I was the geeky sort of kid who counts everything.

I also timed stuff, which is why I also know it took me a bit less than 2 hours to mow the grass, using a cheap, small, old, early 70's vintage walk-behind mower whose self-propelled feature rarely worked. I usually ended up pushing it because that made it go faster. And yes, it was a workout. Even for a 12-year-old girl.

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Data point -- we live on about a half acre. It took a little over 2 hours to finish the entire yard with a self-propelled push mower and about 40 minutes with the riding mower I bought a couple years ago. Given that at times (like now) the weeds are growing fast enough to need mowing at least once a week, that's a substantial savings in time and effort. Plus in our four months of 105º weather, you don't want to be outside pushing a mower for two hours.
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Old 03-26-2012, 11:28 AM   #12
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I have about an 3/4 of an acre or so of grass, the rest is heavily wooded. The terrain is not smooth, lots of slope and trees, etc.
Sounds very much like my place. I got a John Deere X500 simply because it's the only one I found with a feature that lets me lock the rear axle. Previous mower would get sideways on a slope and spin one of the rear wheels, causing me to go nowhere fast.

I've had this one for four years now, and I love it.
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Old 03-26-2012, 12:58 PM   #13
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I have had Cub Cadet, MTD and Simplicity. The Simplicity was my favorite, but it was also the newest. It has a tight turning radius, can mow in both forward and reverse and maintenance has been ok.

If money is no object, consider Kubota or Honda.

You could do 3/4 acre with a walk behind, depending on how ambitious you are and how much exercise you want.

My mom's mower has one of those pro walk behinds with a sulky that he stands on - it is actually fun to watch him mow.
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Old 03-26-2012, 12:58 PM   #14
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I am also planning to replace my present riding lawn mower (1993 Murray 42"). After 19 years I have repaired the deck once and now have to replace the steering (3rd time). The deck needs work again and is not worth the price of parts. I have 2 acres with lots of ups and downs. Presently thinking of one of the JDs for about $2k.
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Old 03-26-2012, 02:32 PM   #15
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Thanks for the replies. The slope is not enough that I can't use a rider on it--I used the one I just got rid of for the last two years on it. The biggest issue I had with the old one was the turning radius to get around a couple of large trees that are in the middle of the back yard and it was clunky.

I just mowed it with my pushmower this last weekend, and although good exercise, it took me about 90-100 minutes to do it all. With the riding mower I can get it done in about 30 minutes.

I have been looking at zero turn mowers but they are pricey--like $3600. Right now I have it narrowed down to a John Deere with 17.5HP for $1499 and/or TroyBilt with 20HP for $1249-the John Deere is about $250 more but might be worth it even with less HP. Anyone have experience with either TroyBilt or John Deere?
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Old 03-26-2012, 04:31 PM   #16
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......I have been looking at zero turn mowers but they are pricey--like $3600. Right now I have it narrowed down to a John Deere with 17.5HP for $1499 and/or TroyBilt with 20HP for $1249-the John Deere is about $250 more but might be worth it even with less HP. Anyone have experience with either TroyBilt or John Deere?
I think you need to aim up a little higher.

TroyBilt was an well-respected Troy NY mfg. of rear tine tillers years ago. Built like tanks to last and do the job well. I have one from the early '80s that I had shipped to me. But then they went mainstream marketing, and their name was splashed over all sorts of stuff. Must have been a new generation of people in control. They had stuff made for them, and I then I think they were sold. I'd pass on them.

JD - If you are interested in what is now the D100 line (their web site is a mess, isn't it?) I would strongly suggest starting minimum at the D130 level in today's numbers. Get out of the single-cylinder shakers and all gear-drive, and move up to the V-Twin's and hydro. Hydro is so nice for speeding up/slowing down effortlessly when mowing around things. And the V-twin is so smooth under load. My V-twin never labors, and has never killed if the deck got choked up in mulch (mulch plate over output) when running into heavy grass after a rain.

The JD X300 line is also a popular one, but you are talking more $ as it is above the lawn-tractor class.
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Old 03-26-2012, 05:10 PM   #17
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I have 3 acres of which 1 is lawn and two are woods. The woods require lots of work to keep the brush and trees is shape. I have a Kubota and it was the best investment I ever made. Front end loader, 50 inch deck and rear power take off. I wish I had bought the loader years ago, probably wouldn't have a bad back today if I had. As said above they are bullet proof and with the diesel engine will last longer then I do. Buy it once vs several times. Had a JD for years and it was a decent rider, but no comparison to the Kubota.
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Old 03-26-2012, 05:53 PM   #18
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Another vote for V-twin and hydro.

The thing I like about the Simiplcity is that you control forward/reverse with a foot pedal - you press the foot pedal forward (like a gas pedal) for forward - and the more you press the faster you go. To reverse you press the other side of the pedal with your heel. Very handy when trimming around trees and shrubbery. And with the flip of a switch it mows in reverse as well.
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Old 03-26-2012, 06:11 PM   #19
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I have a hill in the back that is steep enough to eliminate any riding mower from consideration so I got a 33-inch walk behind. Mine was from Sears on sale but this is the same one:

33 in. Wide Area Cut Variable Speed Self-Propelled Gas Mower-12AE764N056 at The Home Depot

I should note that although it is self propelled, on a hill it is still an upper body workout to handle. On flat ground it's the same as any other.
Sorry for the diversion
Walt,
I was thinking about buying that very model last year. The swivelling front wheels looked great for maneuvering around the flower beds DW seems to plop down in my nice expanses of grass every time I go out of town. Question: I've got a hill that is fairly steep,and I was concerned that the front swiveling wheels might make it a bear to keep the beast headed perpendicular to the slope. On these types of hills, is it harder or easier to use than a conventional fixed-wheel push mower?
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Old 03-26-2012, 06:32 PM   #20
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Kubota all the way. I currently have a Simplicity, and the turd tossed the drive belt, 13 times, had to tow it and have another one put on. You cant get at the rear drive pully to put it back on. Pushed it on the pit in the yard and set it on fire. Going to buy a Kubota BX series. Drive shaft, not belt driven.
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