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I'm going to be buying a riding mower, 42 or 46 inch, from Lowe's, and I need some advice. I'm buying from Lowe's because I have about $500 in gift cards from there, plus I get a 10% discount for being retired military. I need a mower that is reliable, simple to service, and comes with a good warranty. I know that is asking a lot, but hey, you never know until you ask, right? My yard is maybe 1.2 acres, completely flat, with only a few trees. I don't want or need a zero turn mower. Any help or guidance would be very much appreciated!
 

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Go to Lowes. Get pics and model #s of LT or GT you're considering.
My opinion: Don't get a plastic CVT tranny, Don't get a cheap hydro.
 

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While Lowe's or any big box store is not high on the list of my acceptable places to purchase a tractor. there may be some good in it.
The first thing is not to purchase what they have outside and ready to go. You have zero idea if it was even assembled correctly.
Take a look at Lowe's website, enter tractor in the search term. When the new page appears, click on price high to low.
If you purchase a tractor from something they have to ship in, they usually have a local dealer assemble it instead of one of the store clerks.
Get the most tractor you can buy now.
 
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Make sure there is an alternative way to get local repair services such as a dealer for the brand you choose. For the most part Lowes doesn't fix anything they sell.
 

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@Hellnbak I'd get a John Deere because at least they're assembled, inspected and serviced by a dealer in your area. No other brand does this that I know of, instead you deal with warranty problems through Lowe's. So go online and buy the biggest baddest John Deere lawn tractor that Lowe's will sell you, have it shipped to your store and find out which dealer supports it.
 

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Your lawn is the ideal candidate for a ZT....but there is a certain attraction towards a tractor...all I see available from Lowes in a riding mower is either a Craftsman...or a Husqvarna....which makes the Craftsman.....neither of which is getting very favorable reviews..or the JD S100 or S130...each has a sizeable engine for a lawn tractor...if you were to stick to mowing grass...no other activities for it, and perform the maintenance you could make it last ....a lot of people say that they are 10 year machines...I think with proper care you could go longer...I guess they dropped the Cub line of tractors
 

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Anything at Lowes will be simple service. Only things on most of them serviceable are tire pressure, engine oil changes and mower blades. Maybe a belt or two along the way. Just don't fall for the HP gimmick they try to use calling it a better tractor. Just to many old GT's out here still turning 42 inches worth of blade with 16 hp. That will out preform new 23 to 26 hp lawn tractors. Oh and by the way you don't have to be retired military to get the 10% discount. Just have to be able to prove you are or were military.
 

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Anything at Lowes will be simple service. Only things on most of them serviceable are tire pressure, engine oil changes and mower blades. Maybe a belt or two along the way. Just don't fall for the HP gimmick they try to use calling it a better tractor. Just to many old GT's out here still turning 42 inches worth of blade with 16 hp. That will out preform new 23 to 26 hp lawn tractors. Oh and by the way you don't have to be retired military to get the 10% discount. Just have to be able to prove you are or were military.
Plus Briggs got caught selling the same engine as anywhere from 21-24 horsepower. I think on some of their older Intek V-Twin engines. So... they were outright lying about stated output.

To your point... plenty of 14-16 HP older GT's that would pull around a brand new Craftsmans / Husq / JD with an engine "rated" nearly double the horsepower.
 

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I'd call the local John Deer dealers and see what they have used. They'll do the service, so if you don't want to tinker you don't have to tinker. Before I'd go spend $2,000 to $2,500 on a new lawn tractor... I'd spend $3000 on a beast of a used garden tractor. Even if you never plan to use it for anything more than mowing grass.... you'll have a 2000-3000 hour machine. It'll be running until the day it too rotten to support your weight any more.

Otherwise, call the John Deere dealer and ask them what they can recommend based on what's available from Lowes website. Confirm that it'll be set up by them (or another dealer) and not someone who works for Lowes. Initial setup is critical. If you can't be sure it'll be assembled by a dealer.... I don't know that I'd buy one from them. I'd probably sell my gift cards for 90 cents on the dollar and consider it a small cost of investing into a better machine.

Having said that, lawn tractors can serve their purpose... if they are taken care of as well as you can. Get real familiar with the engine, and its' known problems so you can get ahead of them. Head gaskets that like to blow, sump gaskets, valve lashing coming out of spec (which causes rods to be bent / broke / grenade the engine)... cheap steering parts, poor air filter fitment leading to lots of dirt in the engine, not keeping the cooling shrouds clean around the engine....

Keep the engine clean, check the oil every time you go to use it. Change the oil and filter once a year.... it'll cost $10-$15 to do so. But that'll be the difference between this being a 300-500 hour machine or one that will easily last double or more.

I own an MTD Yard Machines tractor with a 24HP Intek V-Twin and a small little hydro gear rear end (and I do mean SMALL). It's known for the backlashing on the valves to fall out of spec, and the rockers to come loose lettting the rod get slop in the travel and they bend or break.... ruin the engine. Mine has a revised air filter, slightly older ones sucked in a lot of dirt. But it's a very light duty machine. I've never done more than cut grass with it, but I can tell you that it's pretty well beat from my yard which has a decent slope in the back half. The drive belts dry rotted and came off last season. When I took the deck off to inspect, I noticed a lot of crap around the rear end... grease forcing out the casing halves. Probably overheated it lugging my big rear end all over my hilly back yard the past 3 years. I put it on ice for a while and bought a beefy garden tractor.
 

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Buying from big box stores or any other place. I, under stand where every one is comming from. In 2004 I, bought a Huskee tractor from Tractor Supply. It has a 23 horse brigs. I mow 1 acre, all flat. Never do I mow at a high RPM, just enough throttle so the engine does now lug, or race. I, change the oil, regular. When you pull the dip stick out the oil is very clean. I, do all maintance and all the preventaveive maintence. After all these years it runs like a top. So, I, do not know, not buying from a big box store???? Not buying from any place except from a big dealer???? With all machenery, you must take care of it. It is good to look every thing over, how it is made, ect. I belive in maintenance and do not abuse your equipment. BTW, the JD that has the 50.00 quick change oil filter, Briggs did not put that on, JD did. The sales people will tell you, no it can not be changed over to acept a regular filter. The oil sumps are the same, you can change it over.
 

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With 1.2 acres of flat lawn, I’d go after the biggest and best deck you can find. From Lowe’s that would be the S180 with the 54” edge deck. If you maintain it and don’t abuse it, it should last many many years.
 

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I bought a John Deere D110 from HD in March of 2011. 19.5 hp briggs. We still use it today. Got 250 hours on it. I checked the valves last year at 200 hours and all was perfect. I think the mower sold for $1699 back then.

My cousin bought the E 100 two years ago and it broke the ACR at 60 hours. I removed the engine for him and got him going pretty easy. Found all the missing ACR pieces . Nothing else was harmed.

Crap shoot on one of these today. I got lucky. At least for now.
If I had to buy another mower today it would be from a dealer like others have suggested. Spend that store credit on something else.
 

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It really is a crap shoot but if you don't bag on it, a box store one will work. I run my AYP built Craftsman T3200 decently over some bumpy terrain. Other than a k46 fan that was damaged when I bought it used, it only required a front spindle to be welded as I decided to smoke a fence post and break the cheap weld. Not sure of the hours but I got it in 2016. Another hydro oil change and she's ready for another season.
 

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It's been a while since I gandered the lineup at Lowe's. in my order of preference, these stood out as the best choices in my opinion:
1. I saw the Husqvarna model TS354D garden tractor that comes with a steel hood, not plastic, and a cast iron front axle, locking rear differential, and a 54" deck, plus a front mounted brush guard. Comes with a 25 HP Kohler. Cost is $3700. For $4300, you can get essentially the same mower with a 24 HP Kawasaki engine. The Kawasaki engine is nice, but I don't know if it is $600 nicer than the Kohler. Both come with a 3 year warranty.
2. The "best" John Deere that Lowe's offers is NOT a garden tractor, but a pretty good lawn tractor with a 24 HP John Deere branded ELS engine, 54" cut, It can be fitted with a front blade or snowblower and has a "heavy duty" transmission. It also has a really expensive plastic hood that is easily damaged and hard to fix. Cost is $3100. Comes with a 2 year warranty.
3. The best Craftsman is a $2600 lawn tractor that is has a 24 HP engine and a 54" mower deck. This is a tractor built to match a price point for folks on a budget. Comes with a 3 year warranty.

I can't guarantee that any of these will outlast the others, my crystal ball broke last week. And I was quite surprised that Lowe's doesn't carry the Cub Cadet line any more, and they don't carry Ariens line of lawn tractors either, just the zero turns.

No one has mentioned this, but go sit on the machines. How easy is it to get on and off. Check out the reach for controls, lift and lower the deck, how much belly room do you have between the seat back and the steering wheel. Is the seat adjustable? Will the seat be comfortable if you are sitting on it for say 2 hours? Will the seat hold its adjustment once in place? Will there be other operators on this machine? Someone much smaller, weaker like a 12 year old son or daughter? your spouse? Can they lift the mower deck? Will they be able to lift a front snowblower if you decide to get one in the future? I mention all the ergonomics because I'm a fat old fart that is 6'-3" and very right handed and what works for me may not work at all for a 150 pound 5'-8" left handed person. Are the lights bright enough to actually let you work after sundown? or are they purely decorative? How easy is it to check/change the oil, the air filter? Where will you be able to take it for repairs? On a dead flat lawn just cutting grass every week, with no snow removal, no tilling, no pulling an airator, You would be pretty safe with any of the basic lawn tractors with a 48" to 54" deck and have it last for years. Airating, tilling, snow removal all need a bigger stronger machine.
 

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I heard that Craftsman snow blowers had utilized the plastic transmissions, and are irreparable. (DonyBoy YouTube) If they can't hold up to just pushing a snow blower around, what happens in a lawn situation? Pease look hard at the transmission on whatever you buy and be sure it is not plastic. Collect the trans info from the tag for researching its heritage.

Somewhere on the interwebs you should be able to research the trans models used and who made it.

From there, you can visit the trans manufacturer's web site to see how they spec the trans model out and the intended purpose.

Someone mentioned Cub Cadet not being at Lowes any more. They seem to have migrated to Home Depot. Coincidentally, I'm picking up a CC ZT2 60" there later today... Kawasaki engine, Hydro Gear 2800 transmissions. Keeping my fingers crossed.
 

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Going back over your original post...

You have 1.2 acres, flat, a few trees and want something that is reliable, simple to service, and a good warranty.


I'd probably forget the warranty, all but the junkiest mowers will last the short warranty period.


You have two real options here:

1) Lawn tractor. They usually have weaker engines, and weak rear ends. Basic maintenance only, engine oil and filter, belts, blades, maybe some steering parts. The rear ends usually don't have drain or fill ports. These machines average 500-1000 hours before "something" expensive breaks (engine or trans). Less if they are not taken care of, or used for anything other than flat, smaller yards. Overheating a smaller air cooled engine like these can shorten the lifespan. They normally aren't pressurized systems in terms of the oil... usually just splash lube.

These can last, but my point about setup and maintenance is critical. If it was set up by someone at the big box store, and they were yokels.... they might not have put the oil filter on tight enough, or too tight. They might not have got the oil to the proper level. A dozen different adjustments they might not have done right... deck adjustment, wheel adjustments, tire pressure, and on and on and on. IF the tractor was set up correctly, and if you keep after it... it's a machine that will likely serve you well for a good 10+ years. They tend to die fast because they aren't set up right, people don't do the maintenane and just because it has a little reciever they think it's fine to pull things around with it. A tiny little lawn cart with 50-100 pounds in it... sure. Trying to pull hundreds of pounds with a little K46 (or worse) and you'll kill that tractor in 2 or 3 years.

2) Garden tractor. Industrial grade. Much better engines rated for commercial use. K66 or better rear ends meant for pulling around ground engaging implements. They can drag around most anything you want to drag around. The rear ends are much more serviceable, even if the manual tells you that you don't need too (bologna). These machines are 2000-3000 hour machines before something expensive breaks. Real workhorses. Overkill for your situation, for sure. Like putting a pro NFL linebacker into a highschool game.... easy as apple pie.


Which way you go is up to you. Main points are forget the warranty, and stay away from any machine that doesn't have at least a K46 Tuff Torque or similar grade Hydro Gear rear end in it. I'd also advise staying away from the Briggs and Stratton Intek Twins.
 
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