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Do I get a riding mower?

  • Nope it's too much power for what you need.

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Do I really need a lawn tractor? Not really. But is it overkill for what I want to do?

7510 Views 60 Replies 26 Participants Last post by  RT3360
Hey Folks! I'm new to this forum :)

I'm in an analysis paralysis - I'll explain my situation and hope I can get some advice from you all.

I just bought a new house on a hill in a semi-dense suburban area, where the front yard is pretty small (would take 15-20 mins mowing with a self propelled mower) but the back yard is (1) relatively larger, (2) down a hill and uneven, and (3) needs a lot of work.

The backyard is divided into two spaces - an actual lawn, probably 5000-7000 sqft and slightly hilly, and a green space with large trees and English Ivy ground cover (which I want to get rid of because it's killing the trees). The actual land I own is 0.75 acres; out of which maybe half is green space.

There's a lot of work which makes me want to get a tractor - hauling wood/branches out of the green space as I try to clear it up (and take it up the hill to dispose), dethatching my lawn since it's covered in moss and dead branches, and obviously mowing. I also kind of want a tractor because I think it'll be more fun + a lot quicker than regular mowing - I don't want to spend all my weekends in the garden/lawn, but it's really expensive to get someone to come and mow every other week here ($70 a mow in Seattle).

Just wondering.... does it make sense to buy an entry-level lawn tractor like the JD S120? It's got a 42" deck but 22HP which I think would be useful for all the stuff I want to haul. I do have the space to store it. Or is it overkill, and I should just buy a ~$500 mower and call it a day?
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My property is just over a third of yours, and I have one Lawn Tractor for mowing...and another larger tractor for moving snow and other projects...if you have your own yard...you can always use one....and, as suggested, keep in mind future projects whan buying so you do get something that will be useful for other projects....good luck with decision and keep us posted
Newbie poster. We get both kinds, the ones who pose a question then repost in another new thread 2 hours later because they never got a response to the original, and the ones that forget or get tied up with life in general and don't come back for a week.

We just need to exercise some patience. The thread is still less than 2 days old.
Makes you wonder about some people..
OP,

What have those that have been mowing your property use, I would think that would be somewhat of a guideline.

Did their machine struggle or do a good job without injury risk.

CCMoe
OP is back :)

Wow, thanks so much for all the responses, people! I've learned a lot more about tractors just by reading through this - I thought all I needed was a little bit more HP!

I'm trying to upload some pictures of my place for more info, but it looks like there's an error/it isn't going through! I'll keep trying.

To clarify some things, there's a little bit of a grade (probably 20 degrees) on the backyard lawn. There's a bit of a larger slope (30-35 degrees) on a driveway going up from the backyard to the front - and if I'm hauling things, I'll be hauling them up the hill to the front, rather than down the hill.

The attachments I'm looking at right now include a dethatcher, and a sweeper (loads of trees shedding on my back lawn). In the future I might get an aerator, I just don't know how often I'll use it and whether it's worth the cost (vs. renting).

I guess I should be looking outside of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes, so I'll try taking a trip to a local distributor for John Deere! Although online they have a $300 off deal on their X300 series, so I might just consider an X330 - will have to think about it!

Meanwhile, I'll try posting some pics today - maybe I can get it to work somehow. Thanks again everyone!
What is the problem you are having with the pictures?....Anything you could use help with?...by the way
2492949
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With a slope like that you might want to consider 4WD, makes a huge difference.
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You should be able to drag and drop right into your reply, if you are trying to do it from a file location try this:

2492956
OP is back :)

Wow, thanks so much for all the responses, people! I've learned a lot more about tractors just by reading through this - I thought all I needed was a little bit more HP!

I'm trying to upload some pictures of my place for more info, but it looks like there's an error/it isn't going through! I'll keep trying.

To clarify some things, there's a little bit of a grade (probably 20 degrees) on the backyard lawn. There's a bit of a larger slope (30-35 degrees) on a driveway going up from the backyard to the front - and if I'm hauling things, I'll be hauling them up the hill to the front, rather than down the hill.

The attachments I'm looking at right now include a dethatcher, and a sweeper (loads of trees shedding on my back lawn). In the future I might get an aerator, I just don't know how often I'll use it and whether it's worth the cost (vs. renting).

I guess I should be looking outside of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes, so I'll try taking a trip to a local distributor for John Deere! Although online they have a $300 off deal on their X300 series, so I might just consider an X330 - will have to think about it!

Meanwhile, I'll try posting some pics today - maybe I can get it to work somehow. Thanks again everyone!
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I have slope in my yard. I don't have 4-wheel drive. I just use chains and I can go anywhere. I just leave the chains on all the time.
To OP,

You didn't mention slopes that severe. That is well into the dangerous category.

Simplicity is an excellent brand but I didn't mention it when you said slopes, it is just not as capable. I have a Conquest and the quality of cut puts the X758 to shame.

You won't get any better advice than @Sergeant, excellent write up as always.

However now that you have brought up slopes that steep, I believe 4WD is the choice just do to safety. BTW, don't worry about HP, they all have plenty.
There’s a huge difference in “slope” and “angle“ so here’s a link to walk you through the math. Knowing how many feet of rise there is and the length of the slope will help you determine the angle of the slope.

A sweeper can work, but how much debris there is and what type may make other options a better choice.

If you keep giving us info, we’ll likely give better advice.
OP is back :)

Wow, thanks so much for all the responses, people! I've learned a lot more about tractors just by reading through this - I thought all I needed was a little bit more HP!

I'm trying to upload some pictures of my place for more info, but it looks like there's an error/it isn't going through! I'll keep trying.

To clarify some things, there's a little bit of a grade (probably 20 degrees) on the backyard lawn. There's a bit of a larger slope (30-35 degrees) on a driveway going up from the backyard to the front - and if I'm hauling things, I'll be hauling them up the hill to the front, rather than down the hill.

The attachments I'm looking at right now include a dethatcher, and a sweeper (loads of trees shedding on my back lawn). In the future I might get an aerator, I just don't know how often I'll use it and whether it's worth the cost (vs. renting).

I guess I should be looking outside of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes, so I'll try taking a trip to a local distributor for John Deere! Although online they have a $300 off deal on their X300 series, so I might just consider an X330 - will have to think about it!

Meanwhile, I'll try posting some pics today - maybe I can get it to work somehow. Thanks again everyone!
  • Like
Reactions: CCMoe
Slope / angle is difficult to judge. 30deg is very steep. It feels a lot steeper than what the number would suggest.

So lets look at some pics.. if possible try tp get a frame of reference intp the pic - like a piece of flat ground, or a vertical tree
That is only a little over 4'7" of rise in 8 feet. Not steep at all if the mower deck doesn't get hung up on the top side. I have a few spots in the yard that rise 4' in less than 4 feet that get mowed. Fortunately not very long a stretch and I do have to back down. All done with a 2 wheel drive. But like stated 4 wheel drive would make no difference if the deck will not clear on the top side of the hill.
Slope / angle is difficult to judge. 30deg is very steep. It feels a lot steeper than what the number would suggest.

So lets look at some pics.. if possible try tp get a frame of reference intp the pic - like a piece of flat ground, or a vertical tree
Maximum angle of repose for dirt or gravel - 39° (The slope of a pile at the end of a conveyor.)

Angle of a typical 4/12 pitch house roof - 18.4°

Maximum slope for an interstate highway - 3.8° (6% grade)

Lawn tractor hydros will have a shortened life span if used regularly on slopes exceeding 7°.

Few people can guesstimate a yard's slope with any degree of accuracy without a known reference.

To the OP, lawn tractors (LT) such as found at the big box stores, including JD X3xx models, have hydros which can deliver up to 3 hp to the ground, no matter what size engine is in the tractor. Garden tractors (GT) have hydros which can deliver, depending on the model of hydro, from about 3.5 - 5.5 hp for entry level and up to 11 hp for the heavy duty hydros. For a 30° slope, you want a heavy duty hydro if you want the tractor to last for more than a few years.
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Good point Tudor and frame of reference.

Not to seem redundant but it seems the OPs needs should be more centered on safety, not what hydro will stand steep slopes.
Maximum angle of repose for dirt or gravel - 39° (The slope of a pile at the end of a conveyor.)

Angle of a typical 4/12 pitch house roof - 18.4°

Maximum slope for an interstate highway - 3.8° (6% grade)

Lawn tractor hydros will have a shortened life span if used regularly on slopes exceeding 7°.

Few people can guesstimate a yard's slope with any degree of accuracy without a known reference.

To the OP, lawn tractors (LT) such as found at the big box stores, including JD X3xx models, have hydros which can deliver up to 3 hp to the ground, no matter what size engine is in the tractor. Garden tractors (GT) have hydros which can deliver, depending on the model of hydro, from about 3.5 - 5.5 hp for entry level and up to 11 hp for the heavy duty hydros. For a 30° slope, you want a heavy duty hydro if you want the tractor to last for more than a few years.
Zaidhaque, Welcome to MTF. At the bottom of the window where your typing click on the icon that looks like a paperclip. That should open your file of pictures. Then just click on your pictures (one picture at at time) and click to open it. You should see the picture in the window you are typing. I hope this helps in posting your pictures.

Pictures will help everyone helping you.
Hey Folks! I'm new to this forum :)

I'm in an analysis paralysis - I'll explain my situation and hope I can get some advice from you all.

I just bought a new house on a hill in a semi-dense suburban area, where the front yard is pretty small (would take 15-20 mins mowing with a self propelled mower) but the back yard is (1) relatively larger, (2) down a hill and uneven, and (3) needs a lot of work.

The backyard is divided into two spaces - an actual lawn, probably 5000-7000 sqft and slightly hilly, and a green space with large trees and English Ivy ground cover (which I want to get rid of because it's killing the trees). The actual land I own is 0.75 acres; out of which maybe half is green space.

There's a lot of work which makes me want to get a tractor - hauling wood/branches out of the green space as I try to clear it up (and take it up the hill to dispose), dethatching my lawn since it's covered in moss and dead branches, and obviously mowing. I also kind of want a tractor because I think it'll be more fun + a lot quicker than regular mowing - I don't want to spend all my weekends in the garden/lawn, but it's really expensive to get someone to come and mow every other week here ($70 a mow in Seattle).

Just wondering.... does it make sense to buy an entry-level lawn tractor like the JD S120? It's got a 42" deck but 22HP which I think would be useful for all the stuff I want to haul. I do have the space to store it. Or is it overkill, and I should just buy a ~$500 mower and call it a day?
Well we should always be centered on safety. Safety has little to do with two wheel or four wheel drive on slopes but more to do with center of gravity. I have watched two wheel drive equipment operate safely on slopes you could not walk on. It is all about maintaining center of gravity.
Good point Tudor and frame of reference.

Not to seem redundant but it seems the OPs needs should be more centered on safety, not what hydro will stand steep slopes.
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Thought it might be helpful to have a reference to something you might find in your owners manual. I’m including what is in the manual for my X738, which also has an angle reference you can print and use. Section 15 Operating on slopes. This is not to say your tractor will be able to operate safely in the same conditions, but gives you things to think through for whatever machine you choose.
OP is back :)

Wow, thanks so much for all the responses, people! I've learned a lot more about tractors just by reading through this - I thought all I needed was a little bit more HP!

I'm trying to upload some pictures of my place for more info, but it looks like there's an error/it isn't going through! I'll keep trying.

To clarify some things, there's a little bit of a grade (probably 20 degrees) on the backyard lawn. There's a bit of a larger slope (30-35 degrees) on a driveway going up from the backyard to the front - and if I'm hauling things, I'll be hauling them up the hill to the front, rather than down the hill.

The attachments I'm looking at right now include a dethatcher, and a sweeper (loads of trees shedding on my back lawn). In the future I might get an aerator, I just don't know how often I'll use it and whether it's worth the cost (vs. renting).

I guess I should be looking outside of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes, so I'll try taking a trip to a local distributor for John Deere! Although online they have a $300 off deal on their X300 series, so I might just consider an X330 - will have to think about it!

Meanwhile, I'll try posting some pics today - maybe I can get it to work somehow. Thanks again everyone!
JD's are overly tall and does little for the center of gravity. Does made the tractor look impressive. But why does a 700 series weight in only a few lbs more than some smaller in stature GT's? People need to look at the big picture once in awhile.
Safety begins with using the correct tool to do a task.

After the correct tool has been selected comes the operator's job of learning how to use it safely.

Keep in mind that the OP has entered this discussion with an obvious and admitted zero knowledge base where it comes to residential tractors and their capabilities. Our task, as experienced members of MTF, is to first educate the OP on the various capabilities of the many brands and models that have a chance of surviving the particular circumstances that he has listed for operating the tractor. Once a group of tractors that have that capability have been identified, then we can go on to educate with safety as the main focus.

Baby steps, good sir, baby steps. (y)
Good point Tudor and frame of reference.

Not to seem redundant but it seems the OPs needs should be more centered on safety, not what hydro will stand steep slopes.
I half agree and half disagree with you and this is why.

Of course center of gravity is the ultimate reason a machine will or will not tip over. However 2WD vs 4WD can easily enter the equation. A 4WD machine is MUCH more stable descending steep slopes, particularly if the conditions are adverse, i.e. wet, muddy or very dry. A 2WD machine will plummet out of control downhill once one tire slips and the other free wheels. At that point the operator better have some wits and and depress the forward pedal as fast as it will go AND keep the machine headed in the direction gravity is taking it. An attempt to turn can easily result in flipping over. If gravity is taking you towards an obstacle, then you have a serious problem.

Going uphill the hazard is obvious, the 2WD will easily find situations where it won't make it and then one is faced with backing down the hill which can often times be difficult. One of my rollovers was pulling something uphill, a tire slipped and the machine slid backwards jackknifing and instantly flipping the GT over.

I have never met any slope I couldn't easily manage in 4WD, then if needed, stop while going downhill and back up the very same slope.

Slope is hard to see in pics. but look at the glass of water in the cupholder for reference. I would call this pretty steep, with a 4WD machine it can be negotiated up/down or transverse across it. I have one small section of the back yard about double this steepness and there is no way a 2WD could operate up or down it.

Caveat, attachments also can greatly affect the COG and I have seen some placing weights quite on machines exacerbating the situation. I made a bracket for my loader tractor to allow weights to be placed much lower to the ground. Loaders get into problems very quickly.
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Well we should always be centered on safety. Safety has little to do with two wheel or four wheel drive on slopes but more to do with center of gravity. I have watched two wheel drive equipment operate safely on slopes you could not walk on. It is all about maintaining center of gravity.
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