For those looking at garden tractors, the Craftsman line is worth consideration. I purchased a Craftsman 2015 GT5500 after looking at Husqvarna, John Deere, and Cub Cadet. It's hard to ignore the GT5500's price point and features. For the price of one John Deere X360 I could almost buy two GT5500s (plus the on paper the GT5500 has better specs than the X360 such as a stronger transmission, more hp, tighter radius, larger tires, and a bigger deck).
Here is my review of the GT5500.
A little about me. My garden tractor experiences include a Cub Cadet 2000, a John Deere G100, and an IH Cub Cadet 1000. I use my tractors for mowing, snow removal, and light ground engagement. I also recently purchased a Johnny Bucket Jr.
In 2014 Craftsman retooled their garden tractor line. The GT6000 model 28861 was redesigned as the GT5500 and the model number was changed to 28861x. As in year's past, the GT5500 is based on the Husqvarna and is assembled in the same plant.
After a few days leaving the assembly plant, my GT5500 arrived at my house with 0.1 hours.
The tractor looked and ran great. Cosmetically it had no imperfections and looked well lubricated.
I paid $2607 for my tractor (I had a 10% off coupon plus saved another 5% with my Sears card) and I earned nearly $170 in points that I used to buy weights that will help with my Johnny Bucket.
The GT5500 has been pretty impressive so far. There is a lot of pick up and go and it mows pretty well.
It's a little loud with the deck going, but it's not too bad.
I would strongly recommend anyone who buys a Craftsman mower to inspect the tractor. While on the surface it looks great, I was concerned to see so many loose bolts. I found bolts were surprisingly loose on the battery terminal and the brush guard.
When removing the deck, I found some stray packing from the factory. There was a loose rubber band on the deck and there was paper on the transmission pulley. The tires were also grossly over inflated. The back tires should only be inflated to 10 psi, but were filled to 30 psi. I'm guessing a tractor from a dealer would have a more proper inspection.
I'm not too keen on the Sure Start feature. Probably more of a gimmick. But it works and I've grown accustom to it. Honestly it's easier to just turn over a key than to have to press a series of buttons in sequence.
Deck removal isn't too bad, but does require removing about half a dozen pins. My 30 year old IH Cub Cadet has less complicated deck removal system. Overall the decks comes off in just a few minutes. Just make sure you keep track of the pins and bars that keep the deck in place when removed.
Now that the tires are properly inflated, the GT5500 rides pretty well. The seat has just enough bounce to accommodate any bumps. I find getting on and off is a little tight, especially if the deck lever is lowered.
The frame seems sturdy, but it's definitely not comparable to my 30 year old IH Cub. The body is also pretty firm. The hood is metal and the back is heavy gauge. If you're like me, sometimes I have to lift the back of the tractor and scoot it around the garage. I often worried I may bend the metal on my previous tractors.
Overall the GT5500 seems to be a good buy. Just be sure to take some time and inspect it.