'best' riding lawn mower or lawn tractor up to $1000 ?

emucomMarch 21, 2007

I am finally tired of mowing using the old push mower, and would like to get into a riding mower or 38" lawn tractor. The problem is the budget, as i don't want to spend more than $1000 or so. I would rather buy new. Looked at the "Bolens" (MTD) at Lowes the other day. Anyone have experience with those? Any other suggestions?

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canguy(British Columbia)

How many do you want to buy over the next 10 years?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 4:46PM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

Try Sam's Club. I think they have some over by the frozen food isle.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 5:21PM
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davidld(central KY)

Another couple hundred dollars gets you a lot more tractor--maybe even a basic hydrostat at Sears. At the under $1000 price point you are looking at gear-drive models from Sears and MTD.

At that price point I would be partial to the MTD-made YardMachines at Home Depot.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 5:28PM
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Sears has a tractor that will fit your needs exactly. Under $1000. I have one in my barn that works for me and I could easily have anyone I wanted.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 5:38PM
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davidld(central KY)

ok ok this is the new sears 28703 six speed on sale til Sat for $999

But at this price point I really do prefer the shift-on-the-fly MTD-built units.
Also, check your local Wal-mart for MTD-made YardMan, which in theory at least is an upgrade from Bolens and YardMachines


    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 8:44PM
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davidld(central KY)

in theory avail at some WAl Mart stores MIGHT be in your price range. It has a nice 19 Hp 1 cyl Kohler engine and a pedal operated vari drive similar to Toros at HD and Troybilt at Lowes More info at link below. There are cheaper Yardman machines with 15 hp Briggs engins and shift on the fly hand operated not foot operated vari-drives. The problem I have with Sears 6 speeds is that you have to stop to shift gears.

Here is a link that might be useful: YardMan

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 8:57PM
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It is not being advertised, but Sears has a friends and family sale this weekend for 3 hours on sunday. do your homework, All their tractors are 10 percent off even sale prices. THey are advertising a 6 speed B&S 21 hp for 1160. I am tossed myself between the Kholer 20 HP which is a hydro for $1330 and the 6 speed 24 HP B&S which is 1259 (200 more for hydro). WHat i don't like about the smaller hydros is the gas tank is in the front with the motor. PLus i read in a few places the Kholer engines as of late have been prone to head gasket issues, I think The 24 HP B&S is alot of machine for the money, I am sure you will be able to catch a great deal on anything you buy then. - search online and print out the coupons and shhhhhh dont tell too many people - they want to keep it a secret!!! (it was great watching the salesmans face when i would come back during the sale- he was like surprised I knew about it)

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 11:51PM
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alot of people will say this price range wont get anything worth it, but if you take care of a lower end model and dont work it too hard it will last a little while. wont last as long as a $4000 machine, but will serve its purpose. if all you are doing is mowing then anything the guys have listed so far should work okay. just dont except to pass it down to your grand kids.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 6:47AM
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davidld(central KY)

Near as I can determine, the KOhler Courages have been completely free of the head gasket problems that plagued some 03 and and early 04 KOhler Command Vtwin Engines..the designs are quite different.

Also take note that the head gasket problems have been occurring with the Vtwins not the single cyl Kohler Command or Courage engines.

I think the 1 cyl 19 and 20 Hp Kohler Courages are very fine reliable engines, and if pressed I think they are an upgrade to the Briggs engines of similar HP.

Given the choice between a Kohler Courage and a Briggs at the same price, I would opt for the Kohler, which in part is why many of the Sears tractors with them are interesting--but also the YardMan I found.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 9:29AM
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The "New"Bolens are definitly not like your Father's Bolens.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 9:48AM
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I like to get the best I can get for the money I spend, and that for me is not buying something made as cheap as possible so it can be sold as cheap as possible and still make a profit.

The cheapest well made lawnmower is probably a Snapper rear engine rider. That's because all the models, from the most expensive to the least expensive, are all made pretty much the same way. Some have bigger mowing decks, hi-vac decks, larger engines, electric starters, etc., but they all have the same design, the same tried and true drive system, and they all come with the same 2 year warranty. But the cheapest one is $1299. But when you consider it will just about run forever- that's not a bad price.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 1:32PM
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Your stupidity and ingnorance is unbelieveable.
Being the first two posters to reply to a honest question ,makes me believe that you guys have too much time on your hands.
12 years ago .I started out with a $970 Craftsman and glory be ...I still have it today.......doesn't that beat all.
The guy is doing the right thing by doing some reasearch before buying.
Give the guy a break.....and keep your stupidity to yourselves.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 4:47PM
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I also saw a Murray 10hp riding mower at Wal Mart (30" cut) I think that Sears also has this same model mower. Anyone out there have that one?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 12:11AM
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davidld(central KY)

Those are now made in the Husqvarna (former Electrolux) plant. The Murray name and green paint is used for the Target/Meijers discounters, whereas Sears gets a similar model painted red.

The late gen Murray version of the RER made in TN was trouble prone..no word yet on the model the Husqvarna plant is building, but I think they used the old Murray design and engineering on them. These are not Toros or Snappers RERs for sure.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 6:54AM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

Whoa there dynamike59! Don't have a coronary! Have you been to Sam's lately? They used to sell "Weedeater" labeled riders but they may be YardMan this year. And by the way.......they're still over by the frozen food isle at my Sam's. Your's may park them elsewhere.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 9:19AM
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herring-your comment was WAY off base. They are parked in the main aisle between the cellphone provider's booth and the big screen TV's right next to the clearance sweaters.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 9:27AM
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aesanders(8b Alachua, FL)

I would reconsider looking at some used equipment. I know you prefer a new machine, but for $1000 you can get a pretty well built used machine that will outlast a $1000 new machine.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:49AM
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davidld(central KY)

Weedeaters and Poulan Pros come out of the Husqvarna plant along side Craftsman
There are some real difference in MTD versus Husqvarna designs but the label doesnt matter within a given company MTD or Husqvarna

Yardman next to the YardMachines and Cub Cadets, Troybilt and HD Toros all by MTD

Husqvarna-made tractors no longer come in the vari-drive or shift on the fly belt and pully speed change variations, but are either non-shift on the fly 6-speed stop to shift gears tractors, or above about $1200 often true hydrostats. In contrast, MTD uses variations on the vari-drive theme everywhere, even the inexpensive Bolens at Lowes, and you generally have to get above $1500 to find a cub cadet with a true Hydrostat.

That in my mind, not some critical build quality issue, is what distinguishes the two companies in terms of purchase decision.

AT the $1000 or less price point I tend to like the vari drive and shift on the fly units over the 6-speed gear setups Sears offers at that price point. BUT once you get above $1200 I would opt for a true hydrostat from Sears over the pully varidrives MTD makes under the Toro, TroyBilt and YardMan logos.

Some of the guys here argue that the 6-speed gear tractors Sears offers are somehow tougher than the varidrives MTD sells at a similar price. All I can say is my experience with a 23 y/o varidrive from Sears and a now over 10 y/o MTD unit labeled as Shift on the Fly, I had no problem with that part of either tractor. And I do shift on the fly with the MTD unit rather than stopping to change gears. Not as convenient as the pedal hydrostat on my 110 to be sure, but that spunky green-and-yellow machine with its beautiful Kohler Command engine cost me $1600 too. And the varidrives are surely more convenient that the stop to shift scheme Sears uses.

Bottom line: I've had good luck with all the tractors I run--inexpensive to medium priced. I love lawn tractors no matter who made them.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 11:27AM
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I agree with aesanders. I understand you would like new (wouldn't we all) but for your budget you will get the best bang for your buck out of a used tractor. You can find 3-4 of the Snapper RER around here for $500 in good shape in the paper at any given time.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 11:29AM
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The Bolens (MTD) has a variable diameter drive pulley that allows you to change tractor speed without changing engine speed. The vari pulley seems to hold up well - but the belts are difficult to replace when they wear out. The mower deck on the Bolens is more difficult to remove / reinstall than the decks on the Sears tractors. The Bolens front end is constructed from sheet metal and uses plastic bushing to support the axle spindles. This design does not hold up as well as the Sears design.

The Sears tractor (American Yard Products) has a gear transmission that requires you to stop when selecting a gear. Please be aware - you do shift gears as you would in a car. The front ends seem to hold up well. The deck is easy to remove / reinstall. Aftermarket blades fit the mower deck just like originals and they are usually less expensive than the Bolens. Belts are easy to change compared to the Bolens. My experience is after 10 - 12 years, the Sears tractors hold up much better than the Bolens (MTD design). Usually Briggs engines are used on both tractors. The engines usually hold up well provided they receive routine maintenance. The Kohler Courage engine is usually installed on higher priced equipment. There have been few complaints on the Kohler Courage.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 11:57AM
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This is what I had in mind for my backyard....

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 3:55PM
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davidld(central KY)

THe two problens with RER are 1. The small wheels make them ride bumpier than the big wheels on an LT esp if the lawn is rough, and 2. Whith the concentration of weight including engine and rider on the rear and a light front end they like to do front end wheelies at unexpected moments....these are disconcerting tho generally with low center of gravity they don't roll.

These work ok if you have a smooth flat lawn that is not too big.

Many of the RER's have been trouble prone relative to a standard LT. The Snappers are the best in this regard but also more expensive.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 5:01PM
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RER's also have terrible turning radius' unless you are just creeping along so if you have any trees, fences, or other obstacles you will be cussing. If you really want one get a used Snapper RER. They are always in the paper and will outlast that Sears RER by many years.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 5:39PM
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aesanders(8b Alachua, FL)

That sears RER looks surprisingly like the Simplicity and Snapper RER. It might be the same machine just rebadged by Sears. The Simplcity model and Snapper model has a very good 12" turning radius. Like was pointed out, it would be fine for a small level yard. If you have slopes or a large bumpy yard then this is not your machine.

The original Snapper models are all over the place in the south and are very durable machines. Their great for those hot summer days on lawns that smooth and not too large.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 11:25PM
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I'd also be wary of the toolless deck leveling of the Craftsman RER . Murray had that and one of the complaints was an uneven cut the last few years they made them . For that price might as well opt for the Snapper anyway .

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 5:32AM
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Then I should modify my original question, Whats the best riding lawn mower or lawn tractor that has a 38" cutting deck. I cannot go above that (the fence door clearance will not fit a mower with a larger deck, we checked. And the clearance will be if one were to hold up the plastic chute.)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 5:03PM
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Keep in mind that even with a 38" deck and no chute you will be well over 38" wide, so whatever you get, measure twice and buy once.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 5:46PM
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Unfortunately there aren't too many 38" LTs available in that price range these days . Disgarding the MTD made Bolens , Yard Machines , Yardman brands , your best bet may be the Poulan (AYP made , their Weedeater brand LT seems to be gone from their website) gear drive bottom of the line tractor -providing it can fit through your gate . For a RER , Snapper new or used is the best option in that type of machine IMO .

Here is a link that might be useful: Poulan

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 7:46PM
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davidld(central KY)

given that you want 38 inches, I dont see anything wrong with your idea for the 38" Bolens. Make certain the plastic chute guard is flexible enough to pass through your gate as these add 6 or 7 inches to the mower width.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 8:53PM
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Go to your local independent dealers. Good chance someone will want to trade a half way decent tractor in by sears and you'll get it for under $500

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:09AM
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davidld(central KY)

Here you go! But note how far the plastic discharge chute extends beyond the 38-inch mower. However, there is probably a mulch kit available that closes off the discharge chute entirely and may permit removal of the plastic extension. I would check into that possibility if gate clearance is a problem. Dont get caught mowing with an open discharge chute w/o the safety. That is dangerous.

Action photo:

Here is a link that might be useful: Bolens link

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 7:29AM
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As I am looking at Sears equipment, is there a way I can tell who the actual manufacturer is by looking at the tractor? Is there a code number that I can go by?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 2:25PM
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davidld(central KY)

Anything rider that says Sears Craftsman on it is now made by the Husquavarna group formerly Electrolux. No exceptions now.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 6:06PM
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aesanders(8b Alachua, FL)

Are you sure davidld?

I now their tractor line is all made by AYP, but I'm not sure about that RER that was pictured above. Also I beleive Simplcity makes a ZTR for Sears.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 4:12PM
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davidld(central KY)

Husqvarna (formerly known as Electrolux) apparently bought the tooling for the RER from Briggs who got it in the Murray bankruptcy takeover. Look at the tag. I think you will find the address on it as to the assembly point is now the Huqvarna plant that builds all the other Sears stuff.
Formerly the RERs were made for Sears by Murray, but that Lawrenceburg TN plant closed entirely in '05.
I know the Murray branded push mowers out at Meijers I saw last summer had assembly tags that also went to the Husqvarna plant as well.

THe ZTRs are different beasts and have some different sourcing. But we were talking lawn tractors not ZTRs

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 6:18PM
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I asked the guy at Sears about the RER and he said it was mfg. by Murray, but as you mentioned above that has changed. I wish I could fit the Sears Deluxe Limited Edition lawn tractor through my gate because it is on sale now but it has a 42" deck.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 11:05AM
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davidld(central KY)

Well, you COULD widen the gate!
A 42 inch deck sans the safety is narrower than a 38 inch deck with the safety on

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 11:42AM
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Just looking over the Home Depot newspaper insert, and in it there is a Toro 20HP 42" lawn tractor for $1299. Anyone have any thoughts on that one? If I could give you the exact model number I would, but it only lists a stock number "945179".

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 1:06PM
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Here's a picture...

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 1:32PM
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davidld(central KY)

Its a pedal-operated vari-drive made by MTD not a real hydrostat

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 1:38PM
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It looks happy though!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 5:27PM
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I will echo some of the others thoughs. You will be far better off buying a used unit for the $1000 IMHO. You will get twice to three times the mower for the money. Hell I have a used Wheel Horse for sale for $400 that would out last the stuff you are looking at and it was made in 1976.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 6:25PM
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I have a '93 model Weedeater (Poulan) - 12.5hp, 42 inch cut always used in mulching mode. Change oil regularly and spark plug once a year and even a cheap mower will last unless you seek its' limits.
I just made my first mechanical repair this year: replaced the left blade spindle. Cost me $34 for the parts and a 1/2 hour of time. My mowed area is 3/4 acre of pretty flat but extremely rough (reclaimed land fill) dense grass.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 5:57PM
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How mechanically adapt are you? There are decent older mowers out there, i personally own around 15 differnt makes of lawntractors and all were non runners when purchased. To be honest they really didnt need much in way of getting them to run again. One of the easiest to maintain and best lawntractors ive ever owned ( and still own) is a 11/36 Dynamark i bot used and non running. My purchase price was $50, I put around $150 in new deck spindles in it ( 2) - still has orignal motor and deck , and starts at the first hit of the key everytime. Dont underestimate those old tractors- mines probably close to 20 years old ( or older) and still runs great. The deck is easy to remove for cleaning/maintenece ( one belt, one pin and its out) and parts are still available for it.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 2:09PM
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I would strongly suggest you buy a used lawn tractor for your grand and get a lot better machine... a used regent or L 110 deer would both be top rated in that price range. This is the time of the year to get great deals on trade in's... stop by your local simplicity or john deer dealership and talk to the salesman... the older scotts and sabre tractors are also decent bets...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:39AM
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Here is a tip that could save you some cash. If you have a Lowes nearby try to get there early during the week and look outside for marked down lawn tractors of the model you want. I have bought the last three lawnmowers that way plus a Troybilt roto tiller.These riding mowers have been returned and supposedly have been gone through again by the factory. I saved $200 off an $899 mower four years ago plus over 160 bucks on the tiller last April.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 1:09PM
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To bad you can't get a deal like I got last year. My Ryobi is still going strong and doing really well.

I would like a ZTR someday. Is the Toro Z5000 ztr made by mtd?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 3:53PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

Those returns from the big box stores like Lowes have not actually been reconditioned by the factory, you can bet on it. It would cost more than $100 just to crate one up & ship one to the factory and back to the store. What they do is contract with a local repairman and he does a once over lightly repair on any that need it. The regular customer returns where there was nothing wrong with it in the first place, they just clean them up and mark down the price.

But you can still get a decent deal on one if they come with the full warranty. Just be aware it is not a new machine and they cannot sell it as new. You can get a good deal just keep your eyes open, and make sure everything is there and complete, including the user manual and the warranty card. Otherwise you might as well buy one at a yard sale.

You also have to realize the contractors buy from these , beat the crap out of the merchandise at the job site and then return them for an exchange or a refund. Not so much with a $1000 lawn tractor, but with power tools, chain saws compressors and the like. The guys who did my roof went through 2 Hitachi air compressors from Home Depot destroying the first one and abusing the 2nd and returned both of them when the job was done.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 11:53PM
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Limiting yourself to $1000 for a lawn mower is kind of like $10,000 for an automobile. If that's truly your budget, even for a RER, you need to look at a second hand mower. If you've taken the time to research and gather opinions from this forum, then you obviously are concerned about buying a reliable product, and you won't find that for under a grand. If you're not interested in buying someone else's used mower, you might want to look at the scratch-n-dent Sears clearance outlets.
Metal, you're so wrong. You must be thinking of the Yerf-Dog go carts; the mowers are definitely in the rear near the coolers and the nice lady with the free shrimp samples.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 10:42PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

Austin makes a good point...buy a used, well maintained, premium tractor. I purchased a Wheel Horse 312-8 last year for $669. A love this tractor! Here's an old thread with pictures:

WH 312-8


    Bookmark   May 27, 2007 at 5:17PM
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I finally said no more MTD's and the reply to my post on Lowes returns made sense as the flooring contractor returned a new saw and various other tools. I bought a new JD at 10% off. It was worth the $1,349 plus taxes. The manual is idiot proof, which I need.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 2:06AM
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I saw an L130 a few weeks ago at HD that had been "reconditioned". It was in TERRIBLE shape, paint worn everywhere, filthy beyond words, and the word "RECONDITIONED" scratched, yes scratched, into the top of the hood, right there on the green paint, taking up most of the hood's top surface in two-inch high letters. Reminded me of those B-movies where the killer scrawls a message on the mirror... the only thing it needed was the thin trickles of blood seeping from the letters.

Best of all, it was marked down approximately $300 from original MSRP, and it was last year's model to boot. I'd like to meet the guy who buys that one so I could introduce him to my real estate program.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 5:04PM
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Do the L130's have painted hoods? I thought they had the "plastic" hoods like the higher end models.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 5:22PM
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It's a year later. What did you finally buy?

I was looking for a replacement for my 6 yo murray 12.5 BS 42" but it only needed a fuse. I paid $650 for for it. New. Replaced battery twice, belt 3xs; it needs new blades but I'll put it off for a while. I ran into a hunk of concrete; bent the deck, but I just pounded it out with a hammer. The grass doesn't know how much I paid for the "lawn tractor."

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 8:56PM
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I don't agree with the thoughts of $1,000 not being able to buy a decent NEW rider and that instead you should buy something used. The simpler the better in my opinion, the less there is to go wrong. I don't know how many neighbors and friends buy hydrostats, lawn tractors with electronic engagements, and other "fancy" features, ... and they all end up in the shop with something wrong and they're without a mower for awhile. They buy something new every 3-5 years because they're tired of all the problems they have and the cycle starts all over. Me? I'm still using my cheap 12 year old Murray I bought new (You tell me who got the value for their money and less headaches... my friends, neighbors, or me? Any riding lawn tractor you don't take care of will cause you problems. Most, I won't say all, decently built "cheap" rider will last IF you take care of it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 9:26AM
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Exactly why I'm buying a Snapper RER. Simple design, very little to go wrong with it. There are plenty of them out there that are 20+ years old. Easy/cheap to fix. I might go through some odds and ends, but that's it. MAYBE a repowering in 10-15 years.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 11:57AM
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No problem in buying a decent under $1,000 riding mower, just don't try and compare it to the more expensive models. You can get a basic light duty lt(new) at several different stores. Don't let these guy's tell you you have to spend $3,000 plus at a ag equipment dealer to get a lawn mower that you can ride on. The only agreement I have with them is, don't compare the features which includes the service that may or may not be available for it. Just compare it to other sub $1,000 LT's, but do that comparison.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 12:58PM
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Actually that tractor you paid $1,000 for twelve years ago would cost $1,400 today due to inflation, and a $1,000 tractor today would have cost less than $750 twelve years ago. Even $1,400 puts you in quite a bit better tractor then $1,000. Also, hydro trannies and electric clutches are actually very robust when used for their intended purposes.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 5:39PM
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Must of been lucky. Bought an MTD at Ace hardware (Ace Special Edition) with a 42" cut and 16hp Tecumseh. Aside from the normal problems of your MTD of that era IE having the grille mounts break off after a few years) it's been great, and it was only replaced as it was really starting to not work well on hills, and in the last year has been a case of "What's going to break next when I mow?".

A key to remember is any NEW tractor in that range is going to be light duty. If you have more an acre to mow with it, a newer, higher end, used model is a probably a better option. You'll get a lot of life out of one though if you keep it well maintained. Take care of it and there is no reason why you should not get a good, usable life of about 10-12 years.

one other thing to keep in mind; the chief complaints of many people on a mower it seems is the motor. That is the most important part of a mower besides the transmission on a Hydro equipped tractor. The engine is going to what will go wrong 9 time out of 10 on a mower, and is often going to be to blame for issues with cutting (due to lack of power) and reliability.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 7:13PM
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I agree with the used path (although the risk of an abused machine does exist).

Last year i purchased a Scotts 20HP 46Deck - knowing that it needed some love. (bought it for $250 and it came with a nice steel tilt-able tow cart as well.

So far I have put a battery Ign switch and 4 tubes in the tires (i am a little handy).

I am very pleased with my purchase - and my total outlay is well under $500 dollars.

I have looked at the Sears units (I like some of them)... but if you don't make it to the sale at sears...

I myself would go onto craigslist.com and do a little shopping... Nothing wrong with looking and not buying ... and eventually you will find a strong used machine which fits your budget ...

good luck to you.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 10:34AM
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we just bought a 3 yr old Bolens at a local yard sale. paid 250. runs great!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 10:46AM
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i bought a 38" yardman in 1995 and mowed 1 3/4 acres 3 times a week for 10 years and 1/2 acre for 5 years it has about 6000hrs on the briggs and stratton 13 hp it's starter just went out and i'll replace it for $50. i am looking to buy a new one at walmart for $1200 my first cost $1000. i'm keeping the old one to do leaves with. can't say enough about this tractor. and believe me when i tell you i change oil once a year and plug every two. changed belts twice.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:16PM
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