The four lawn tractors you see here
range in price from $1,100 for this Troy-Bilt model, to $2,200 for the John
Deere. Deciding how much to spend depends on your yard, as much as the size of your
checkbook. I’ll show you a few features to look for whether you’re in the market
for your first lawn tractor, or you’re ready for a replacement. But first, I want
to explain the difference between a lawn tractor and a garden tractor. Lawn
tractors are designed to cut grass and pull an accessory garden cart or
fertilizer spreader. They’re the best choice for homeowners with lawns from
1/2 to 3 acres. Plus, some lawn tractors can operate optional winter attachments,
like a snow plow blade or snow thrower. And frankly that’s all most people need.
Garden tractors on the other hand, are heavy-duty machines with larger
water-cooled engines and stronger transmissions. They accept larger mowing
decks and pro-grade accessories, like power tillers, leak vacuums, large snow
blowers or more serious snow plows. Shopping for a lawn tractor always
starts with a full assessment of your yard size and configuration, how much
time you want to spend mowing and how much storage space you have. Let’s talk
about mower deck sizes first. The mower decks on these lawn tractors range in
size from 36 to 48 inches, and represent what you’ll find with most lawn tractors
priced under $2,500. The wider the mower deck, the faster you’ll get the lawn
mowed. But there is a catch, if you have a gated yard, or narrow spaces between
retaining walls or are short on storage space, a smaller deck just might make
more sense for you. Now, let’s talk gas tanks. Most mowers have a translucent gas
tank, so you have to lift the hood to check the level. The tanks on these
models range from 1.3 gallons to 3 gallons. Now, small tanks aren’t a problem
if you’re mowing a half acre yard or less, but if you have a larger lot you’ll
want a machine with a larger tank or gauge you can check while you’re driving.
Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of running out of gas far from your house or shed.
If you have a small yard, a basic seat like this will be just fine. But, if you’re
mowing more than a half acre or have a real lumpy lawn,
trust me, you’ll want a machine with a more comfortable seat and better
suspension. Some tractors have dual pedals that allow you to alternate
between forward or reverse without moving a gearshift, just rock the pedal
forward or backward. The more you push the faster you go. The dual pedal feature
is available on both continuously variable or CVT transmissions, and
hydrostatic style transmissions. CVT transmissions are belt driven, while
hydrostatic transmissions use fluid pressure to drive the wheels. However,
less expensive tractors have a single pedal and a forward-reverse shift lever.
If you have an open yard with long cutting runs that don’t require a lot of
forward-reverse moves, this system will work just fine.
One underrated lawn tractor feature is the bumper. Most tractors don’t come with
one, but do offer it as an option. If you have a lot of trees in your yard, it’s
well worth the money to invest with one, if you can. A single collision can damage
the hood assembly, which will cost you several hundred dollars to replace. So, if you’re shopping for a lawn tractor,
my best advice is to go to a few dealers. They’ll really know the products, and be
able to answer all your questions and help you select the best mower for your
needs. Best of all, you’ll be able to take them all out in the parking lot for test
drives, so you’ll know exactly how they feel and operate.