Best tractors/riding mowers to buy used

dman535April 1, 2010

We just picked up a 5 acre piece of property. Going to need something to mow it, not all 5 acres are grass. I am looking for recommendations on brands to go with and those to avoid.

I am mechanically inclined - but don't want to he hunting down parts or fixing the thing all the time.



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How much can you spend?
What dealers do you have in the area?

Those are two things you need to post along with what jobs you want the tractor to do.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 9:09PM
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For someone like you willing to put in some grease equity you should consider old stuff!

Back in the 70s-80s Deere, Cub Cadet, Case/Ingersol and Wheel Horse (of course!) were built better than all but the best machines today.

Wheel Horse (so called classic Series) and Ingersol have a families with interchangeable parts from decades of machine.

My 1969 Wheel Horse Charger (bought it for $140, and after the engine blew another $65 on a very clean replacement engine) has a very direct lineage from 1967 until some point in the 90's. Lots of implements, as well as parts, are available on ebay. Plus, many parts are available through Toro, though they are expensive.

Ingersoll still makes direct descendants of their 1970 (?) tractors.

Best of luck

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 9:34PM
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For right now - the only thing I need it to do is cut grass and maybe haul some stuff with a small utility trailer.

As far as budget - I would like to keep it around $700 or so, less if possible.



    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 7:31AM
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Well Derek you may get lucky and get a used Garden tractor for very cheap. That is if the person selling has no clue what they have but good luck with that. You may be able to find a Sears Garden tractor used for that price but anything less for what you describe will have a short life.

Best of luck

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 8:40AM
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1980's deluxe Deere, or 1990's basic Deere. Hunting parts won't be an issue, but anything older will have little issues.

I'd go old Deere #1 or old Cub Cadet #2.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 12:25PM
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Look at all the used commercial ZTR mowers in your area. Most have many hours left in them. A large ZTR will cut your mowing time in half.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 8:52PM
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Find an old Allis Chalmers/Simplicity in good shape. Simple to work on and the only major things to go wrong on them are the engine or tranny and that rarly happens

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 10:20PM
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Are there any John Deere models to avoid? Looking on craigs list it tough to gauge the year or the duty level of the units.



    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 3:55PM
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As I see it, you have need of a mower for a 5 acre property but your budget is for a lawn tractor that suits a 1 acre property.

I think that you should go to link below and do a little bit of self-education. I point you at Deere's website because if you examine the various series they offer, you will also see the prices these tractors sell for when new.

Anyone who owns a 5 acre property and needs to maintain the better part of that land should be considering a true garden tractor, not a lawn tractor. Right now, your budget fits a 3 to 4 year old lawn tractor or a 30 year old garden tractor.

What's at issue here is the durability (lifespan) of the parts chosen to build these radically different models that have radically different price tags. A new lawn tractor (LT) can cost from $1800.00 to $3000.00 plus but it is still made from lower cost components. The engines chosen for such models are made to last at least 1000 hours of use before possibly needing to be rebuilt. In comparison, engines for high-end garden tractors (GT's) are designed to last for 3000 hours and up.

The same holds true for the trans-axle assemblies. Engines are the most expensive part of any tractor but the trans-axle is the second most expensive part. So, if you buy a 30 year old GT for $700.00, the engine itself becomes the burning question. Many of the older GT's used Onan engines to power them because Onan was THE premium engine of the day.

Premium engines use premium quality parts that come at a premium price so you can expect to pay at least $1500.00 to have an Onan PROPERLY rebuilt today. Other premium engines are Honda twins, Vanguard twins, Kohler Command Pro twins and Kawasaki twins. These are the engines of choice by manufacturers of high-end GT's and none of those engines are inexpensive to rebuild.

Hydrostatic trans-axles are equally expensive to deal with. Some can be repaired or rebuilt but if you don't have the tools and skills to do this work, then the labour cost at a shop can be devastating. If a friend of yours told you that he was thinking of buying a 30 year old sports car for 7 grand and that sports car sells for over 100 grand new at the dealership today, what advice would you give him?

This is where you are at. Any old GT is going to have issues that come with it as a result of age, wear, tear and all too often, neglect and abuse by past owners. Now you could buy a used Deere L or LA model that is a few years old for $700.00 but if it has high hours of use on it, then the risk of the hydro failing or the engine letting go is also high.

The same holds true with a GT for the same kind of money. A tractor at that price point is pretty much used up or it wouldn't be selling for that amount. Realistically, your budget should be at $3000.00 so that you can find a decent, used GT that still has a lot of life left in it and won't need constant repairs.

While ZTR's cut grass faster than most GT's do, they have TWO hydrostatic pumps and TWO hydraulic motors in them and those equate to TWICE the expense when they are houred up. In fact, there's a good chance that the cost of replacing the pumps and motors will exceed the current value of the ZTR at that point. So, a well-used ZTR wouldn't be a good choice for you, IMHO.

Another "educational" place to review is the e-Bay auctions to see what various used GT's bring in the open marketplace. You can also visit ALL the local dealers and make notes of what makes, models, years, hours showing and the price of used units in their inventory. At least...if you buy from a brand-name dealer, there is a certain amount of good-will warranty that will flow with such a purchase because the guy doesn't want to lose your future business.

For a five acre property, nothing less than a 54" deck is suitable and a 60" deck is really the smallest I would want to have. To cut down seat time even further and still have a mower that would easily negotiate the tighter areas near the house, then a 48" deck is ideal for that but for the large, wide open areas I would pull a 60" trailing mower such as those made by Swisher so I could cut 8 feet of grass on every pass.

However, your budget isn't high enough for that but I thought I'd toss it out so you know that such a combo is available.

Here is a link that might be useful: Deere

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 7:32AM
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Thanks for all the great info.

The property is fairly wooded - the grassy area is not a full five acres. With a 21" push mower its about a four hour job, give or take.

I was looking at the 200 series stuff, like a 235, most of which seem to have Kohler engines.

I think that at this point a GT maybe a little out of budget. Will keep an eye on the market.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 12:54PM
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