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Hey Gang,

So many people come to these forums asking the famous 'What should I buy' question. Over the last 10 years, I have gone from a Craftsman piece of garbage LT --> X304 -- > Snapper RER --> X300 --> X320 (JD Promise upgrade) --> X500.

You could say I've been around the block w/ JD, they should probably send me a case of hats. At any rate, my years of trial and error and changing properties have taught me a few things that I'd like to share with those that are just entering the world of the Green & Yellow.

**Disclaimer: I'm not going into every difference here, just the biggies. Astute MTF members will be quick to point out size differences of axles, wheels, handles (or Stuff), etc. I'm just looking for the biggies here to get folks started in the right direction**

The following is what I would consider 'good advice' based on intended use, expected $$ expenditure, and longevity. I won't go into size of property, as really that's up to you and how much seat time you're looking after. Generally speaking, the more stout/reliable the unit, the longer it can mow lawn and the larger the lawn it can mow year after year. Really, for size of property your first consideration should be deck size, than what type of tractor you can mount said deck on.

Flat property, 90% mowing duties, longevity of unit important but not critical --> D series tractors. Pick your deck size, the corresponding tractor model will become self evident. All have Briggs motors in them. Higher model D series (D160 and D170) have what many would consider the 'true' entry level transmission (K46). Lower level models don't even have that much. None of the D series tractors have a serviceable transmission. These are you entry level grass cutters, with light lawn towing duty. Emphasis on LIGHT.

Flat property, 90% mowing duties, willing to pay for a 'True' John Deere by reputation and historical standards --> X300, X304. These upgrade the D series in engine (Kawasaki vs. Briggs), frame, and overall comfort. Sure there are other upgrades here, but those are the big ones. You still have the K46 transmission. Its not serviceable (by the book), but those that are handy and have the equipment can pull the transmission off the rig and service it in a less than eloquent way. X304 has 4 wheel steer for increased maneuverability.

Hilly property (not steep hills or acres of extended grade), 75% mowing duty, routinely pull appropriate sized carts, lawn rollers, thatchers, aerators, --> X320, X324. Engine HP aside (debatable gain of usefulness there anyway), you're getting a 'Yard Tractor' transmission vs. a grass cutter transmission w/ the K58. These rigs will also take a larger deck. Transmission still not serviceable (by the book). Consider these 'Rough and Tumble' grass cutters. They have chops to do some hauling/pulling, but are not ground engaging or garden tractors. Don't go pulling out stumps with these or do something silly. X324 has 4 wheel steer for increased maneuverability.

If you have a situation like the above, but want even more reliability and a extra long lifespan --> X310, X360. These have a serviceable K58 transmission (meaning you can change the oil in them). Biggest difference here is deck size. You also gain hydraulics with these two models, but that's out of scope for what I'm intending here.

If after reading this you have steep hill grades, a ton of property to mow, or want to start ripping up the ground, you are now looking at the X5xx series of tractors - the JD Garden tractors. As I'm not as well versed in them as the Lawn tractors, I will not get into THOSE. Maybe somebody else can come up w/ another set of guidelines.

Oh, and the one universal rule I have discovered: Whatever your needs, buy 1 grade higher if you can afford it !! Better to grow into something, then suffer buyer's remorse. Had I purchased the X500 equivalent 10 years ago, I'd still be using it today. I took the expensive route, don't be like me !!! On the Garden Web forums this is routinely referred to as Slammer's Rule.

Hope this proves helpful to folks.

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