Riding mower under $1500

jfw432July 20, 2010

My old troy bilt mower ended up destroying the crankshaft last week so I'm in the market for a new mower. I only have about .6 acres but it's all on a slope with some of the slope being quite steep. Push mowing is possible but extremely exhausting and typically takes a couple days since I can't do it all at once. Riding with my previous 46" deck took roughly an hour or more because the terrain is so complicated and there are a lot of obstacles and tight areas. I have to constantly change speed and direction so a manual isn't something I really want to deal with.

I've heard countless horror stories about all the MTD mowers so I'm trying to stay away from those which of course is quite difficult since almost every company uses them for some if not all models.

I was going to get the cub cadet LTX 1040 (http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xsf/R-202040880/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053). Then I found out that model was made by MTD and had tons of transmission issues. IÂm currently looking at the Ariens A195BG42 (http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053&productId=202018735). I understand the Ariens are all made by Husqvarna. One concern is there isnÂt a lot of feedback on these mowers but Home Depot's site has good reviews. The other concern is how the forward and reverse movement is hand operated instead of foot operated so I can see that being a little weird if you want to slow down in a turn.

Anyone have any further options? IÂve heard good and bad things about Craftsman mowers above about $1200. Are there any special considerations I should note besides rear tire size when driving up and down steep slopes?

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Let me inform you that the ENGINE with the ruined crankshaft.............was not built by MTD.
And the transmissions you are shy of............are not built by MTD.
And no matter what brand of tractor/mower you buy.........you could end up owning the same brand of engine that failed in your Troy-Bilt, or the same brand of transmission that MTD uses in Cub.
Crankshafts are very durable and seldom fail, if proper maintenance is done.
Having said that, I suggest that you place on the top of your "wish list" a Low Oil Engine Shutdown system and a Maintenance Schedule Reminder System........no matter what brand or model you buy.
I have my flak jacket on, so let 'er rip.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 1:06PM
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Sorry, I didn't mean to sound prejudice. I'm not shying away from the failure of my last mower as I bought it used and I'm sure it wasn't taken care of very well before I got it. The oil was at the proper level when it failed though. I don't have any issues with Briggs and Stratton engines and although many things on my last Troy Bilt mower performed poorly, I hold those problems against the previous owner and not the manufacturer.

I'm shying away from MTD since most mowers that are made by them look and feel cheap and have countless reviews from people that have had serious issues with them. We all know that a higher percentage of poor reviews on low end units come from people that no nothing about maintaining a mower so you have to read reviews with a grain of salt. However, if I spend $1000-$1500 on something, I would prefer to NOT have to make deck adjustments, realign the hood, and sand razor sharp edges off everything so I don't slice my hand open.

MTD or not... If a specific model mower has multiple issues with a transmission regardless of make and price, common sense should lead you away from that model. That's what drove me away from the cub cadet 1040 and not the fact that it was MTD.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 3:03PM
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The Cadet you mentioned has an automatic, not hydrostatic, transmission. While the Ariens name has been around for a long time, the lawn tractors you're seeing (and they are made by Husqvarna) are new on the scene; the cheapest Ariens do NOT have gauge wheels, nor brackets to mount them on. I would think this would be a consideration for you. The higher-priced Ariens do have gauge wheels. Sears sells both MTD and Husqvarna-made tractors; the MTD machines have 247 before the model number (on the tag under the seat), while the Husqvarnas have 917. Staying under $1500 for a hydro-driven machine, I'd look at the Husqvarna, Sears Craftsman that is made by Husqvarna, or the Ariens. This is just one old guy's OPINION.

I'm sure that you're aware that you can flip a lawn tractor over on its back - and on top of you - on a slope. If it's too steep to mow across, you might need to back up the slope and mow only on the downward run. We used to do this with farm tractors (REAL tractors), to keep the weight on the low side. HOWEVER, my experience with a K46 hydro on a Husqvarna is that it won't back up much of a slope at all.

As far as the hand-vs-foot operated feature, I use both, and it's just a matter of getting used to it. I think if I had to choose, I'd take the hand-operated type, but that's not a real strong preference.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:18PM
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Thank you twelvegauge. That is excellent information! Gauge wheels are important in my decision. I noticed that some of the mid level mowers have them and other don't while the higher priced mowers have nicer and more gauge wheels.

I am aware that a mower can be flipped over and actually bent a steering rod on my last mower trying everything possible to prevent a dangerous situation. Thank you for double checking though. This is also one of the reasons I didn't want a manual since it's faster/easier to back off the throttle on an auto/hydro than it is to shift or hit the brake.

Thanks for your insight. I will go to Sears tomorrow and take another look at the mowers with this new knowledge.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:43PM
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Go cheap, because you can't get quality anymore. My jd x300 needs a new hycrostatic drive and it has less than 100 hours.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 5:24PM
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Mownie made a good point. American lawn tractor manufacturers actually make very few of the parts. They don't make the engines, the transmissions, tires, batteries, switches, electric PTOs, electrical wiring, etc., etc. For the most part, they assemble the machines. I'm guessing that they manufacture their own frames, but I'm not certain. Some manufacturers tend to use a better grade of parts, particularly in their higher-end stuff, and some designs might be superior.

Keep in mind that both Briggs & Stratton and Kohler (the most-used brands) make different grades of engines - you can research this on those company's web sites. Transmission manufacturers make different grades, too. A common transmission is the TuffTorq K-46 - go to their web site and you will find that this transmission is rated for a certain maximum tire/wheel size, and is intended for lawn (NOT garden) tractors. Some manufacturers provide more powerful batteries. Some use heavier steel, particularly in the mower decks. Just generally speaking, higher-end machines are likely to have better grade engines and transmissions, and heavier-gauge decks. The point is, you need to do your research.

Under $1500, you're not gonna get top-notch quality. But, if you're careful and do your shopping, I think you can find a machine that will do the job for you.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 7:30PM
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milacqua(z7 TX)

I'm going to Sears tomorrow also to look at lawn tractors so I appreciate the tip on the numbers to tell who made the machine. The 42" Sears Professional (the gray colored one) seems like a lot of tractor for $2000. I have heard conflicting stories about this one, however, as to whether Husqvarna or MTD makes it. Does anyone know?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 1:44PM
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Granted I only looked at the Sears tractors under about $1600 but it seemed that all of the one I saw in red were made by Husqvarna and all the gray ones were made by MTD. I didn't see any gray models for $2000 at my Sears. Every mower I looked at though had one of those two model numbers in front of it so that will most likely tell you.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 1:56PM
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milacqua(z7 TX)

jfw432, I think I know the gray ones you are talking about. They are light gray whereas the Craftsman Pro models are darker with yellow trim. I have a red 3000 purchased several years ago and it has the 917 code before the model number which denotes it was made by Husqvarna. I'm sure the red ones must all be made by them as well as the Pro models with less expensive light gray models being MTD.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 3:18PM
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I recommend that you refer to the model number prefix (247, 917) rather than color.

917 identifies Husqvarna today, but this prefix formerly identified Roper, then AYP, then Electrolux, and now Husqvarna - these changes occurred as the manufacturing company changed hands. The quality has remained fairly consistent throughout these changes.

You can do a Google search on "Sears manufacturer codes" to get a list of what those 3-digit codes before the model number mean. These apply to virtually all hardware that Sears sells, from refrigerators to wheelbarrows. Keep in mind that some of these lists are not current; the last one I downloaded still showed 917 as AYP (American Yard Products), but that company has changed hands at least twice since it was AYP.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 6:52PM
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Mownie's advice is good. I'm now driving a Husqvana yth21k46 with a 46 inch deck $1600.

The new mower shreds the grass much better than the old one. No long furrows of clippings! Quieter, smoother and the chassis feels stiffer over the bumps or depressions

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 5:34AM
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