How To Choose a Lawn/Garden Tractor - Quality Versus Price

Richard L. Parish  |  12/1/2004 11:39:55 PM

Figure 1. Welded front axle on lawn tractor.

Figure 2. Cast iron front axle on lawn tractor.

We’ve all heard the old saying, "You get what you pay for." Is that really true for mowing tractors?
There is certainly a wide range of prices; in fact, you can easily pay twice as much for a lawn tractor at a major farm equipment dealer as you would pay for a lawn tractor with the same horsepower and mowing width at a discount store. What do you get for the additional money?

For a given product line, price tends to increase with horsepower and mowing width. Price also increases as you move from a lawn tractor to a lawn and garden tractor or on up to a garden tractor or compact tractor. Beyond these general trends is the dramatic difference in price among tractor brands. Some of the factors that lead to a cost difference among brands are:

Engine quality varies. Some engines of the same size are more reliable and designed for longer service life.

Frames and axles can tell you a lot about a tractor. Lower-priced machines generally have front axles that are formed from steel and welded (Figure 1), and more expensive machines generally have forged or cast iron axles (Figure 2). The forged and cast iron axles tend to be stronger and are a good predictor of overall quality level.

Transmissions come in different quality levels, particularly among hydrostatic transmissions. Some will work more smoothly and hold up longer than others.

Overall reliability can vary a great deal. In some cases, the more expensive machines are just built better all the way through and will give longer service with fewer problems.

Service should be a consideration. The less expensive machines typically have a shorter warranty, and getting repairs done under warranty may be difficult; dealers and manufacturers tend to stand behind the more expensive machines.

Parts availability can be a big issue. The more expensive machines generally come from dedicated lawn and garden or farm equipment dealers who stock plenty of parts and have ready access to even more parts. The less expensive machines are often sold by discount stores and mass merchandisers who have no long-term relationship with the manufacturer, thus future parts availability is questionable. The tractors at discount stores and mass merchandisers may carry the house brand name, but the actual manufacturer (and the entire design) can change annually.

This whole issue becomes a question of value. You have to balance the quality features against the price for the various brands and models and then determine what is the best value for you. What is right for you might not be right for your neighbor. If you have only a small lawn to mow, you might be satisfied with a low-cost tractor and mower. If you will use the mower more extensively, you might want higher quality to reduce down-time and repairs.

Yes, with mowing tractors you usually do get what you pay for.

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