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

7489 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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COG is only half the issue.
Traction is the other - especially on grass. As was just noted.
When you are on 4wd, your brakes work through the transmission giving you 4wheel brakes - differentials not withstanding - although 4wd machines have a rear-diff as well typically, so only the front diff will result in a potential reverse wheel spin.
I have seen front diff's flip tractors also so don't depend on it.
Yep, go with a GT style tractor to be able to add implements for other jobs. They can be pricey so look for a used one that's been taken care of. You'll be glad you did.
I guess the OP gave up on posting pictures of his yard.
Honestly, I think if you want it, buy it. There are endless chores you will find that can be done more efficiently even with a small lawn tractor. A dump trailer, often included as an incentive (John Deere) from Home Depot, is worth its weight in gold. Not only does a tractor make doing yard work fun, (grab a set of Bluetooth ear muffs and stick a cold beverage in the built in cup holder) but I actully look forward to cutting the lawn now days! I also have a 44" snowblower and soft top for mine for winter use.
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?
I would also like to ad that you don't need to spend a fortune on a "garden tractor" with 4wd & hydraulics as many here would have you believe. I can almost guarantee you that there are very few people cutting on hills steeper than mine, and I get by with a JD E180 and 54" deck just fine. The previous owner used an old LA140 for over a decade without issues.
Honestly, I think if you want it, buy it. There are endless chores you will find that can be done more efficiently even with a small lawn tractor. A dump trailer, often included as an incentive (John Deere) from Home Depot, is worth its weight in gold. Not only does a tractor make doing yard work fun, (grab a set of Bluetooth ear muffs and stick a cold beverage in the built in cup holder) but I actully look forward to cutting the lawn now days! I also have a 44" snowblower and soft top for mine for winter use.
Can't beat this analysis. Good advice. I have only a hilly half acre, and I just upgraded to a John Deere X590. Never run out of stuff to do with it (besides just mowing the lawn). I purchased an electric front end loader (Little Green Monster) to help move topsoil and mulch.
Well as Others Have said Don't go with a entry Level Lawn tractor i.e one that You Can Buy at a Box store Like Home depot or Lowe's All But the Top two Models S170 & S180 Have a TL-200 Transmission same as the Previous T40J Those are really designed for a Rear engine Rider and There Usually fine if Your Yard is Flat as a Pancake and You Have a 1/2 acre or Under The S170 & S180 Have a K46 Transmission the same You will find in the S240, X330, X350, X350R & X354AWS There fine for Flat Yards & rolling Hills for Mowing and some snow removal again as long as it not a really steep hill the X300 listed Can be Just fine for Under a acre The X370 Had a K57 which is basically a K46 with a Bigger charge Pump( But the Transmission is serviceable Meaning You Can change the Transmission fluid while the Transmission is on the Tractor) then the X380 thru X394 Have a K58 Transmission The X390 & X394 Models Have a serviceable transmission like I stated earlier.

The Next Deere series is the X500 series which is 2WD with a K72 which is Basically the top of the Line Belt driven Transmission all transmission our serviceable all But the X570 Have replaceable internal filters The X570 is your Basic Deere Garden tractor with Manual spring assist footed Pedal lift for Mid and front and rear Implements Cant get a electric Lift Kit for a Front Blade or snow Blower The X570 also Had manual steer

The X580, X584 & X590 Besides the serviceable K72 with Internal filter They Have Hydraulic lift for Mid and front and rear Implements and Hydraulic Power steering the X584 also has All Wheel Steer(great if You Have a Lot of Obstacles to Mow around But are Limited In rear Implements such as it Can Use a OEM rear Mounted PTO or Hydraulic driven tiller.

Based On Your Use I am Not Going to Talk about the X700 series I own a X748 older Version of a X758 But think either would be overkill for your Intended uses

The Cub Cadet XT3 series as Mentioned above Very Capable Tractor
XT3 GS is You No thrills Garden tractor It Is Manual lift for Mowing decks and Front Blades and Manual steer It Can support up to a 54inch Fabricated deck I would try the OEM 60inch deck. Though it's listed as fitting even with the onboard Spring assist it is a Bare to lift

XT3 GSX Has electric lift for Mowing decks and front Blade It has a choice of 6 Mowing decks a Stamped 42, 50 & 54inch deck or a Fabricated 48, 54 or 60inch deck. This Model also Had Electronic Power steering. On Hand Operated Diff/lock Many of the PTO Mounted Implements for it our aftermarket PTO Tillers, Rotary Brooms ect

I own a Cub Cadet XT3 GSX Myself Been a Great tractor for the 2 & 1/2 years I have owned it Just used it for snow removal as well this past winter which it think might be over in North East Illinois
My Plans for the XT3 GSX is to add a Bercomac 30inch PTO tiller and a front Mounted Rotary Broom finally this year

What I Like about the XT3 series is the Fact you have so Many Mowing decks sizes.

The Other Cub Cadet I would recommend Looking at is a Cub Cadet XT2 GX54 D Has a Kawasaki engine as of 2021, Rear Pedal Operated Diff/lock with a K62 transmission

Somebody Mention the Kubota GR series That is a issue Prone series for Kubota it's Basically a dressed Up Lawn Tractor with AWD and something Like All wheel steer a lot of Issue with there steering system

Kubota that I would recommend for Your Intended use is a Kubota T2290KWT48 It has a Proven Garden tractor Transmission in it a Hydro Gear G730 Thought it is sold as a Lawn Tractor comes with a 48inch deck a Kawasaki engine Great all around Lawn tractor But it's Price In in the Cub Cadet XT3 series Price range

I would even recommend Simplicity a Boardmoor( K58 or K62) , Conquest(K66) or Prestige(K72) That a K58 to a K72 Transmission all have a Automatic Traction control The Conquest and Prestige Have diff/lock as well some Conquest Models have Hydraulic Lift and electronic Power steering The Prestige has Hydraulic Lift , Hydraulic Power steering some of the Boardmoor Model Have Both Hydraulic Lift and electronic Power steering

Cub Cadet

John Deere

Kubota

Simplicity

Just some Brands and Model for thought to support a Hilly 3/4 acre Lot
(y)
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While I agree that 4wd is an unnecessary option, I totally disagree that an on board hydraulic system fits the same category. There are simply too many tasks to which such a system can be applied that have nothing to do with using the tractor for anything but a portable power supply. As far as steep slopes are concerned, my summer job in 1964 included mowing the 39° slopes at the sides of the approach to a bridge with a small GT. That job would have used up the hydro in your tractor in less than one season.

A hydro provides motion by generating pressure to offset the resistance to motion, below a specific pressure that the hydro can generate continuously, there is minimal wear. above that continuous duty pressure, potential service life declines drastically to the point that heat generation cooks the fluid creating carbon particles that cause wear in addition to the wear caused by the excess pressure alone.

The hydro in the previous owner's LA140 is a K46 that was designed to give about 2000 hours of service life mowing level lawns. Allowing for 25 mowings per year with a 1 hour duration, that's 80 years. Introduce slopes into the mowing program, and that 2000 hour service life begins to drop. As long as the slopes are less than 7°, no big deal, the hydro will still probably outlast you. Above 15°, you' will be replacing it, and if you persist in replacing with similar grade equipment, probably several times.

More than a few members have used tractors with that transmission on lawns with, what they have referred to as, 15° slopes and have had to rebuild or replace the hydro in as little as 200 hours of service. In the 11 years that I have been on MTF, I don't recall any GT hydros that have met the same fate.

Post #40 by c5ruilz shows a pic of a glass of water indicating a side slope of about 28°. That's a slope angle that you never want to subject an LT hydro to for more than the few seconds necessary to climb out of a ditch.

Note that the hydro is subjected to the same pressures whether powering up the slope, or braking while going down.
I would also like to ad that you don't need to spend a fortune on a "garden tractor" with 4wd & hydraulics as many here would have you believe. I can almost guarantee you that there are very few people cutting on hills steeper than mine, and I get by with a JD E180 and 54" deck just fine. The previous owner used an old LA140 for over a decade without issues.
A friend of mine has a steep hill in his front one acre yard. He cuts it with a Yardman tractor he's had for 15 years. He doesn't cut his hill up and down. He cuts it sideways.
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?
I am sure you will get good advise for a garden tractor however I can tell you from experience when purchasing a tractor or spreader.....purchase one with a wider wheel base due to the hills. Much less chance of tipping over. The cheaper tractors tend to position the wheels under the seat. Also get a cutting deck that cuts outside the wheel base so you don't have to run over the landscaped flower beds.
Howdy- I know I'm gonna get some anti- Husky comments but being that I don't recall reading that you'll need to push snow or dirt, maybe consider the Husqvarna TS348XD. It comes equipped with the 24HP Kawasaki coupling to the wheels via a Tuff torq K66 with a locking differential. I bought one last summer with a trailer and have about 14 hours on it mostly moving dirt and mowing on a hilly terrain, 3 1/2 acres. I bought the Husqvarna triple bagger which installed and works flawlessly. It's ability to suck up and bag leaves is impressive. Before you consider the Husqvarna read up on older model frame issues with ground engaging equipment. Good luck.

Edit- I just read through and saw the slopes you're dealing with, I'm curious to see what the answer is from others on the forum.
Thanks, that is good to know @TUDOR regarding the slope. There is a few feet steeper than that but then the slope indicated goes for about 40 yards across. I have one spot that is a LOT steeper.

To illustrate a point, the 4WD machines can easily traverse up or down, stop and back up the slopes.

Didn't know that about the pressures, going up and down. So what are the pressures when one wheel slips and the other free wheels? Probably less?
Post #40 by c5ruilz shows a pic of a glass of water indicating a side slope of about 28°. That's a slope angle that you never want to subject an LT hydro to for more than the few seconds necessary to climb out of a ditch.

Note that the hydro is subjected to the same pressures whether powering up the slope, or braking while going down.
from where I'm sitting, the pressure is related purely to the amount of work that is being done. if the wheels are spinning freely on ice... or wet-grassy-slope, the pressure would not very high. If you're on flat ground.. pressure is light. If you're trying to get going up a steep hill, the pressure is higher (more torque on the wheels required to get moving).
Thanks, that is good to know @TUDOR regarding the slope. There is a few feet steeper than that but then the slope indicated goes for about 40 yards across. I have one spot that is a LOT steeper.

To illustrate a point, the 4WD machines can easily traverse up or down, stop and back up the slopes.

Didn't know that about the pressures, going up and down. So what are the pressures when one wheel slips and the other free wheels? Probably less?
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Heh, heh, heh.! Consider that the pressure in the hydro is comparable to the pressure applied by your foot to the gas pedal when the wheels on your truck spin.

You have driven in winter, haven't you? o_O

Note that 4wd GTs have only the largest hydros. There are plenty of 2wd GTs with the same hydros, and other heavy duty hydros as well, that can also stop and restart in either direction on steep slopes.
Thanks, that is good to know @TUDOR regarding the slope. There is a few feet steeper than that but then the slope indicated goes for about 40 yards across. I have one spot that is a LOT steeper.

To illustrate a point, the 4WD machines can easily traverse up or down, stop and back up the slopes.

Didn't know that about the pressures, going up and down. So what are the pressures when one wheel slips and the other free wheels? Probably less?
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Surely you jest.:censored: I do live in Wisconsin. :LOL:


I've got stronger feelings about 4WD than most. An instant example of the difference is the JD 2305 with MFWD. In 2WD it will easily spin tires when traversing slopes and will slide downhill in 2WD when it gets real dry in the Summer. It will never back up a steep slope whereas when the MFWD is engaged it just never happens. Turning while going downhill, the outside front tire is hard on turf. With these issues the X758 are just not apparent, the hydro 4WD is seamless and quite remarkable.
Heh, heh, heh.! Consider that the pressure in the hydro is comparable to the pressure applied by your foot to the gas pedal when the wheels on your truck spin.

You have driven in winter, haven't you? o_O

Note that 4wd GTs have only the largest hydros. There are plenty of 2wd GTs with the same hydros, and other heavy duty hydros as well, that can also stop and restart in either direction on steep slopes.
I can agree with you to a point. That point is traction doesn't equate entirely to 4 wheels. Tire type and weight distribution can go a long ways.
Surely you jest.:censored: I do live in Wisconsin. :LOL:


I've got stronger feelings about 4WD than most. An instant example of the difference is the JD 2305 with MFWD. In 2WD it will easily spin tires when traversing slopes and will slide downhill in 2WD when it gets real dry in the Summer. It will never back up a steep slope whereas when the MFWD is engaged it just never happens. Turning while going downhill, the outside front tire is hard on turf. With these issues the X758 are just not apparent, the hydro 4WD is seamless and quite remarkable.
I'll be the first to admit that most of my operating hours are in winter when traction is a scarce commodity, and there are no slopes in the neighbourhood worthy of that description other than what has been created by excavators, loaders, or other mechanical equipment, bur tire chains on a 2wd GT beat the heck out of a 4wd SCUT with diff lock, a narrower bucket, and a 200 lb weight advantage, even on the 20 - 25° icy slopes created so that the tractors can push or carry snow to the top of a 7' high pile. Carrying a load of snow down such a slope would be interesting, to say the least, but the advantage would still go to the tractor with chains.

In the summer, the larger hydro in the 4wd SCUT has the advantage. Equal sized hydros in 4wd and 2wd GTs of equal weight, not so much, but there are still some definite advantages for the 4wd.

The biggest disadvantage of 4wd is the cost of parts in the event that it breaks.
I've got stronger feelings about 4WD than most. An instant example of the difference is the JD 2305 with MFWD. In 2WD it will easily spin tires when traversing slopes and will slide downhill in 2WD when it gets real dry in the Summer. It will never back up a steep slope whereas when the MFWD is engaged it just never happens. Turning while going downhill, the outside front tire is hard on turf. With these issues the X758 are just not apparent, the hydro 4WD is seamless and quite remarkable.
Wow! THAT changes everything! Take my post with a grain of salt BUT... not one of the tractors, LT, GT or CUT mentioned in all the posts before mine are designed to handle a 30 degree slope. NONE of them. As far as I am aware, there are only two manufacturers that have tractors specifically designed to safely operate on 30 degree slopes and even those require double wheels (yes that's 8 tires and rims) and 4wd or AWD. Those manufacturers are Steiner and Ventrac (Ventrac is an off spin of Steiner as they were owned by the same family, the Steiner family).

You also mentioned that money is a serious consideration. These tractors are NOT inexpensive. The base tractor (either brand), without ANY implements, not even a mowing deck is about $23K new. However if you would like to be able to maintain and possibly improve that property safely, Ventrac or Steiner with doubles are the only tractors that I am aware of designed to do the work that also have a full line of implements and attachments which make owning one equivalent to owning a Swiss Army Knife and a multi tool plier for your yard.

Do a search of both Ventrac and Steiner to learn more. Watch their videos on YouTube especially the ones where they are mowing or otherwise working on slopes.

Then again, that's just MY opinion, for what it's worth.
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!
Yes these tractors have there place but really?
A better solution maybe contacting a landscaper.
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