This is my opinion/review on owning my first tractor and my first opinion on it. With any tool that a person owns, the purpose and expectation of the tool is the most important need to be met. I bought my tractor with the expectation of it making my life easier when it came to mowing a 4 acre fire line consisting of mustard grass, sage and wild grass on varied terrain around my home. I only bought it for that reason. After months of research, I bought a Cub Cadet XT1 42" and here's why.
This above all is the most important. Why are you even buying the machine? Is it to mow your lawn, trim weeds, plow, grade ect. My use for the mower is 100% to trim weeds for my fire line and that's it. I've been reading this forum for a few months and I think that the use of the tractor is slightly neglected to talk people into buying far more than they will ever need. You don't need to buy the $5,000 garden tractor to cut your lawn or keep the weeds away. Regular trimming to the weeds(if they're under control) will put very little stress on the tractor, no more than if you're mowing your lawn. If they've grown into some sort of jungle around your home, I would recommend using some sort of tool one time like a brush hog or heavy line trimmer after the brush is down. Then do regular maintenance with the riding mower. I do have a lawn that has Bermuda grass but I don't have it to flaunt it off to the neighborhood. My house is on 21 acres and none of my neighbors see my lawn and lawn envy does not exist. I have the grass for the kids and dog to enjoy and that's it. The quality of cut the mower provides to me is not all that important.
Here's the age old price argument. I spent $1545.00 on my 2017 XT1 42". For mowers in that price range, nearly all of them were made by MTD. I could had bought an MTD Troy built with a larger deck and more engine, but then it is less maneuverable, no hydro transmission and also had a worse warranty. For $200 more, I could had bought a John Deere with again a worse warranty and less HP and other options. I found the cub cadet to be a happy medium on price and value per dollar.
I needed the smaller deck to get into some tight fitting spots and on some steep terrain. The larger the deck, the harder it would be for me to get the mower into the hard to get to spots. While I have less engine with the smaller deck, I also have less rotational mass on the blades to spin. I'm not an expert when it comes to mowers/tractors but that seems to me less load on the engine thus not needing a larger engine to power the mower. Also included in this section is "Steep and hilly terrain". The Steep and Hilly term is subjective. I've tried my tractor out on different types of terrain and whenever I find my self having to do some sort of weight transfer of my body in any direction to feel "safe" I've probably gone too far and I'm in hand tool territory.
Some people will make the argument that if I had bought a better tractor, I could do the same amount of work in less time or I'd get a cleaner cut blah blah blah. But it all comes back to use and expectation. I'm happy my ride on mower has reduced my trimming time with a hand held trimmer from days into an hour. I'm also happy with the extra $3,500 I saved because I have more time than money. Ask yourself why am I considering a riding mower/garden tractor VS this post on the forums said I need this. I bought the cheapest riding mower Cub Cadet offers and it has fulfilled my purpose and I'm very happy.
Attached below is a before and after picture of a small snapshot of an acre of weeds on my property in my front yard. It took me about 20 minutes to have these weeds down to 2" with absolutely no issues at all.