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View Full Version : Here we go: tractor suggestions, and where to find detailed specs?


Harrity
05-29-2007, 10:42 AM
Hello,

I'm looking to buy a tractor/mower for my home. I currently have less than an acre to mow, on land which is very flat though somewhat bumpy in a few places. A few trees to get around, but not wooded. I currently push mow it with a 21" 6.5hp Toro (which has been great for 3 seasons now). The upside is that I get some exercise; the downside is that it takes me 2+ hours to complete the job including mowing and trimming.

I think the commercial machines are overkill for me, and I'm not prepared to spend $4000+ on a lawn mower at this time. So I've been looking in the $1500-$3k range. I'd like to get something made in the USA, if possible, but I'm not particularly set on a specific brand at this point.

I've done a lot of searching online, including here. I'm comparing specs, reading reviews, and so forth. On Saturday I stopped by my local Simplicity/Snapper/Scag/Grasshopper/Toro dealer and checked out the new Simplicity Regent. It was a pretty nice little tractor. I really like the full floating deck and the relative ease with which it can be attached and removed. I also like that you can enable mowing in reverse once per ignition cycle, instead of having to push a button each time (as it seems the Deere 100 series require). I like that it has grease zerks for the blades, the spindles, and the wheel hubs (as did the Deere L150 I looked at last night). But the price is a little stiff: $2700 for a 22 hp/44" deck, or $3k for a 24 hp / 50" deck. Both have the Tuff-Torque K46HD drive unit. Can you typically haggle on price at an equipment dealer like you would at a car dealer? Or is it pretty much MSRP-only?

I also took a look at the Craftsman website (I know, I know...). For money similar to the Regent yard tractor, one can get into an entry level garden tractor from Craftsman. 26 hp, 54" deck (which I know I don't need, but my next home might have acreage...). 11 gauge frame with 10 gauge deck, vs. 12 gauge frame / 11 gauge deck on the Simplicity Regent. The Craftsman has 23" tires vs. 20" or 22" on the Regent. It also can supposedly support ground engaging attachments. This makes me wonder what hydrostatic drive unit is on the big Craftsmans (like the DSG 6500). Tuff Torq's website (http://www.tufftorq.com/prodcomp.asp) would make me think that the Craftsman must have a K62 or K66 unit (or something similar), as the K46 and K57 are not intended for the larger tires or ground engaging.

I guess the point is, if I'm going to spend $2500+, I could get a Simplicity which is a (nice) yard tractor with a cool deck and the full width rollers. Or I could spend a similar amound and get what seems to be a beefier tractor, with a heavier frame, thicker and bigger deck, and apparently a bigger hydro drive. But it has the Craftsman name, which is often disparaged here as "Crapsman" and such...OR, if I don't need the beefier frame and drive unit, I can spend $1800 on a Craftsman with a 12 gauge frame, or $2500-$2700 on the Simplicity...

So, who makes what? Where are the Craftsman yard/garden tractors made? Does anyone know where to find specs? I've not made it to the Sears store yet, so I'm hoping - but doubting - that they have more detail than what is on the Craftsman site (http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?cat=Lawn+Tractors&pid=07128750000&vertical=LAWN&subcat=Garden+Tractor+Series&BV_UseBVCookie=Yes).

Finally, what about Toro? I've heard they don't make their own tractors anymore, but I don't know what that means. They aren't shown as an MTD brand (like Cub, Yard Machines, White, Bolens, etc.). Toro's website (http://www.toro.com/home/tractors/gt/2100gt.html) shows some beefy looking yard/garden tractors, including some that are belt/variable pulley driven. I've driven some light yard tractors with the pulley setup, and they respond pretty nicely, but I wonder about longevity. Which requires more maintenance, a hydro drive or a belt drive? If it's just a matter of changing the belt every few years or so, maybe a belt is a good way to go?

So many questions, I know. Any thoughts or feedback is appreciated. :)

And I've seen the "buy a used commercial" suggestions, which I wouldn't rule out, but I'd like to get something soon, so waiting for the right deal to come along is a bit iffy. Plus I'd have no idea how well the unit was maintained and so forth...

Thanks for any input!

wolfsburg57
05-29-2007, 12:49 PM
Harrity - I am (was) in the exact same situation. I have about an acre to mow and I currently push it with the same style of push mower as you have. I was also in a similar price range, looking to stay at $3500 or below.

The regent is definitely nothing more than a good lawn mower. I've heard nice things about the quality of cut and durability from my local dealer who sells the snapper version of the same rider. At that price, you can also look at the entry level single hydro walkbehinds such as the simplicity pacer or snapper hydro cut. I would steer clear of toro from a tractor perspective, though you could look into their timecutter series of ztr's. You could also compare to the entry level deere la110 series as they get decent marks in the consumer mags (if you buy into those reviews). Haggling is its own set of issues - it may depend on how you want to manage the dealer relationship. Usually there is room for haggling on bigger tickets, but the price the dealer quotes you may already be knocked down from MSRP.

I might have missed it in your post, but I wasn't clear on whether you truly needed ground engaging power or just a mower. Are you going to till ground or use a blade/blower?

I guess I would recommend getting the best for what you need. If you are mowing 99% of the time, get a better mower and don't compromise to get supposed ground engaging capabilities. If you want to save time, look into ztrs or walkbehinds. If you truly need a garden tractor, save your money until you have the budget to buy the right product.

FWIW, I narrowed my options down to a Hustler Mini Fastrak (which is a 42 inch near commercial grade ZTR @ $3500) and a Quick 36 walkbehind. For my needs, the 36 walkbehind worked best and its what I ordered.

Harrity
05-29-2007, 01:28 PM
Wolfsburg57, thanks for the reply. By the way, it's a small world! I live in Brownsburg, about 10-15 minutes from Lebanon. :)

Anyway, you are right in your guess that I'll be doing pretty much all mowing. Maybe someday if I get around to planting a garden I could use it for that, but I'd more likely get a dedicated tiller vs. an attachment for the same money.

About the only other thing I might do with it would be to push some snow.

How long does it take you to mow your acre with the Quick 36? I was entertaining the idea of the walkbehinds; still get a little exercise by walking, but have the much wider deck than my 21" push mower, plus faster speed capabilities.

I even got to demo the Simplicity Pacer, but I wasn't sure a 34" deck was worth $2100, especially since the walk behinds take up about as much space as a tractor anyway. But as you mentioned, if it will be used only for mowing, for similar money one can get a better grade (commercial) piece of equipment when comparing a commercial walkbehind vs. a residential rider. I just checked out the Quick 36 online; it looks like a fun mower.

TAZ
05-30-2007, 06:36 AM
Toro's still makes the wheel horse which is the 315-8. I had one of those for 9 years (in the 314-8 configuration) and that thing is a work horse. It's built like a tank. the only downside is that it is gear driven so your lacking the flexibilty of variable forward speeds and instant reverse. For me it was never an issue. Those tractors as well as any of them you run across used are build better than almost anything else you will find outside of some of the heavier deere GT series stuff. I recently went back out and found a 520-H to use around the house and to pull aerators. That's how much I liked their tractors.

-TAZ

wolfsburg57
05-30-2007, 10:05 AM
Harrity - yep you are just down the road from me. I just ordered my Quick a few days ago so I can't give you any feedback on it. Probably another week or so and I will have cut the yard with it once or twice.

The price point you and I are (were) at is a tough one. I was really tempted by the Regent - I found an older new one at a dealer up near Logansport that qualified for the $300 dollar rebate on top of a pretty already low price. I think it would have been about $1600 or so out the door. But I just didn't want to ride a tractor - personal preference really. If I was going to ride, it was going to be a ZTR or nothing at all.

I ended up just laying out my priorities and going from there - I wanted to cut grass fast with a fabricated deck and I wanted to not lose all the space in my storage barn. I also had to stay within my gate width of 48".

I tested an exmark metro gear drive walkbehind and just didn't like the size (it took up as much space as a small ZTR) and the gear drive wasn't that great for my property where I do need to reverse from under trees. Great deck and great cut though. One mower I wanted to test but couldn't find was a gear drive toro turboforce walkbehind with the tbar handles. This mower gets great comments on this board and seems to sell well here locally.

I looked at the pacer but didn't demo it. I again didn't care for the size of it and the product (and its sibling products from ferris and snapper) has gotten mixed reviews at best. I also knew that at that price point I was within reach of the quick 36 fox and super duty.

A couple northside indy dealers gave me a hard sell on the billy goat gear drive 33" walkbehind mowers. I know the mower shop over in Fishers sells a ton of them to residentials. I didn't test one out and frankly I just chose to ignore it based on the comments on the web and my impressions of its overall fit and finish. Might be an option you want to look at, and you might have money left over for some other nice tools.

You also might consider the snapper or simplicity entry level ZTRS. I think the snapper is a 250z and the simplicity is a javelin. Those are right on top of your price point, about $3200 I think. Might be able to negotiate there. I saw a brand new snapper 250z at Howard's lawn and garden in Lebanon and it didn't look bad at all - way better than the 150z or the Axion where you sit way too high off the ground. Problem with stretching the budget for me anyways is that I can always keep arguing my way up to the next price point (ie, why pay $3200 for the snapper when I can get a hustler for $3500 and on and on).

nmurph
05-30-2007, 12:41 PM
fwiw- i vote to ride. the mft 42 will cut you lawn in half the time. here is a formula that you can use.

ac/hr= mphxdeck width (in inches)
if you can walk 3mph for an hour the quick will cut about .8ac in an hour.
the mft will cut 2ac/hr.
both of these are assuming a 20% overlap.

i would rather play racquetball for 30 minutes more per week to get my exercise.

nmurph
05-30-2007, 12:56 PM
i got interrupted before i got to complete my last post.
here is a more concise post----


fwiw- i vote to ride. the mft 42 will cut you lawn in half the time. here is a formula that you can use.

ac/hr= mphxdeck width (in inches)/99--------assumes 100% efficiency, multiply times .8 to get a realistic #

if you can walk 3mph for an hour the quick will cut about .8ac in an hour.
the mft will cut 2ac/hr at 6mph, which is easily obtainable if you yard is as discribed (plus you won't need a shower when you finish).
both of these are assuming a 20% overlap .

i would rather play racquetball for 30 minutes more per week to get my exercise.

Harrity
05-30-2007, 05:49 PM
Thanks for all the replies so far, everyone.

nmurph, I've seen you (and others) recommend the MFT many times. Sounds like a good mower (though I really think I'd rather be closer to $2k than $3k at this point :o). What are your thoughts on the Hydro-gear EZT integrated hydros? There was a thread on here where some guy just ripped the heck out of those, saying they were prone to breaking and so forth. Of course, that might be more the case when used commercially vs. a homeowner who might put 25-50 hrs per year on the machine...

It seems like the EZT hydros are pretty common on the $2700-$4000 ZTRs, regardless of make. For example, the Simplicity Axiom and Javelin have them, but the Champion moves up the the separate motor/pump configuration.

Also, can someone tell me what is the big advantage to a fabbed deck vs. a stamped unit? Is it mainly for toughness when hitting rocks, stumps, etc. (which is not a concern for me)? Especially if the stamped deck still offers grease fittings in the right places...

There is a Cub Cadet RZT 50 for sale locally for about $2k obo, with 110 hours on it. Using the same hydro drive units, but with a 50" stamped deck (w/ grease zerks) instead of a 36 or 42" fabbed deck, so it's pretty tempting to call the guy. It also has a 22 hp Kawasaki engine... I know it's a "residential" unit, but it sounds like the MFT is, too, at least based on the drive units.

Just some things I've been pondering. Anyway, thanks again everyone for the good feedback. :)

nmurph
05-31-2007, 10:55 AM
i love the mft. stick around long enough and you will hear somebody rip anything you can name. i have a first cousin that has been repairing mowers for many years. i have ask him previously and again recently if the ezt's showed up at his shop with problems. he said he had exactly two repairs on ezt's. his shop i good sized for a small town. one was bc a retaining ring was left off at the factory. are they commercial grade? no. will they last the average ho many years????? i'm willing to bet and i consider myself a person who is very careful when shopping for machinery. i grew up on a farm and learned the value of tough equipment that will perform when needed. there are other mowers that use the same drive units. however, when you look at the specifics of the mowers, the warranties, and the factory support, the mft stands alone.
about the deck, strength is certainly a very important reason to have a fabbed deck. one thing to consider about a fabbed deck is that it will be thicker bc of the difficulty and expense of bending heavy metal. for the same thickness, it is easier/cheaper to fab a deck. also when stamping a deck, there are limits to the design. you might not think you will hit a tree or a curb, but murphy says you will. then you will be glad you have a sturdy deck. the mft does not have zerks on the deck. they have sealed bearings. they are common on both commercial and residential machines. some commercial users are opposed to them, so have used them for many hours wo problem. i certainly think that they are more than adequate for a ho. my mower only has 5 greaseable points. all are easily accessible. no crawling under or lifting is required.
about the cub, there are people on here who have the residential model and have had good service. there are others who have problems. you do not read of mft owners with consistant problems. when there is a problem with a hustler, the factory stands bh what they build. spend some time reading the hustler forum and you will see what i mean.

Harrity
06-08-2007, 10:25 AM
Wolfsburg57,

Have you tried out your Quick yet? I know it has been dry here and the grass isn't growing too fast (unless you irrigate), but I'm betting that if it has arrived you've at least tried it out. I wouldn't be able to resist!

If you have, how easy are the controls? What are your overall impressions?

wolfsburg57
06-08-2007, 11:13 AM
Harrity -

I've gotten one cut in since I've had it. My hour meter reads 1.0, but that also includes the time I spent messing around with it to get a feel for how it handles. I purposely let my yard get overgrown waiting for the quick to show up ( I probably went 5 days longer than I normally would have between cuts) so I got a decent test of its dry cutting. Taking the mower out of the crate and setting it up took all of 20 minutes - 15 of which were spent taking apart the crate. I set the height at a 3" cut, gassed it up and it mowed my kentucky bluegrass without so much as batting an eye on side discharge. The cut was good - the few stragglers I had were from my poor driving and not the mower. I didn't scalp anywhere, though I did have to be a little careful on the mild ditch slope I have at the front of my house. The mower was really easy to trim with - I have a couple curved bed walls and I could follow the curves perfectly so long as I wasn't on the discharge side. Out of the box, the forward speed was set a little slow and and the reverse a little fast. That was easily adjusted by following some steps in the owners manual. I also still need to work on my turning - at first I kept wanting to muscle the mower and that doesn't work well - I soon figured out to let the mower do the work for you and use forward and reverse to make the turns. I had one spectator from the road stop and ask me about the quick as he'd never seen a mower that size with that compact of a deck.

I have to say the Quick is a pretty serious machine and takes a little practice to get comfortable with. Definitely looks, feels and sounds "near commercial" grade. Big change going from a toro 21 to 300# walkbehind with 16 horses. The hydro controls are firm and your thumb can get a little bit of workout if you use reverse a lot. The KAI motor just looks and sounds cool - started without a hitch and I didn't notice any of the vibration that some of the commercial users mention here. Of course, I didn't mow 50 yards with it either that day. The noise level wasn't too bad but I would definitely recommend hearing protection.

So far so good. Not an ounce of buyers remorse. I may be able to get a second cut this weekend if we get any rain today or tomorrow.