Caster/swivel front with rear-wheel drive
I need to replace my ~10-year-old MTD push mower, hopefully with one which still has swivel front wheels but also rear-wheel drive. It is very hard to find swivel front wheels in residential mowers!
I've found a few options. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.
1) Buy a good rear-drive mower with standard wheels, e.g. Honda HRR216VKA, and see if I can live without casters. I was impressed by the Honda's easy starting, reputation, and self-propelled ground speed.
2) Start with #1, and if that's not good enough modify the mower. I have a lot of obstacles to maneuver around, no hills, and don't really care about having perfectly straight lines. http://www.eazymow.com is one option, but in not 100% sure about the design. The wheels are smooth (like usual casters) instead of grooved like the ones on my existing mower. I could also try other modifications like retrofitting wheels/casters onto the Eazy Mow or using the swivel assemblies off my old mower. I'd have to modify them, since they bolt onto the curved part of the deck instead of having flat sides like the Eazy Mow. Ariens also shows a swivel wheel kit for $100 which also bolts onto a curved deck.
3) Buy a mower which already has casters. One option is the Ariens Classic LM 21 SW, but that's about $700. The Cub Cadet CC 98M, 98H, and 999ES are possibilities. I believe the Craftsman 88776 is a clone of the Cub Cadet. All are in the $500 range without electric start. I tested a used Craftsman of this design from a few years ago and was disappointed in the self-propel speed. I want something that'll do close to 4 mph, but this old one seemed more like 3. Perhaps it had a slipping belt or needed a throttle adjustment. I haven't been able to find speed specs on Cub Cadet or Craftsman, but the Honda claims 3.8 mph and the Ariens claims 4.