28" MTD (Cub Cadet\Troy-Bilt\Craftsman) Walk behind mower review.

Braddo

LawnSite Member
Location
Redmond, WA
This is a brand new mower so I thought I would post my needlessly long review of it.

I have about ½ acre of grass in total, more than I care to mow with a 21" mower and there are too many obstacles for any type of riding mower.

My previous primary mower was an MTD (Craftsman) 33" walk behind mower. It's about 15 years old now and the deck is starting to rust out so it was time to replace it.I considered a new 33" MTD but I was never happy with the cut quality. Looking at the newer models it doesn't appear they've done anything to improve the cut and instead cheapened it. The new two handed cable driven controls seem dumb.

I also looked for "better" mowers. The Ariens\Gravely 34" and Quick 36" are discontinued and impossible to find around here. I've seen a few Ferris and Exmark 36's pop up on Craigslist but the prices are steep. In the end I decided to give up on the "pro" mowers because the price was too high. They would have taken up too much room in what little garage and shed space I have to spare and I have a feeling I would have had to keep my 21" mower to mow one steep hill section I have.

This until recently left me with the Toro Timemaster. I've been following this mower for a few years and have read mixed reviews so I wasn’t 100% sold.

Now just in the past couple months MTD released their imitation of the Timemaster under the Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt and Craftsman labels each with slight variation. The mower is new so there aren't really any reviews yet. The only thing I could find on this mower was from Consumer Reports. I don’t put a whole lot of faith in Consumer Reports but they said it mulches and bags better than the Timemaster. So whatever, I decided to give it a shot.

The Cub Cadet has a 190CC Cub Cadet engine, electric start, two sets of blades with bagger and castoring front wheels. I don’t want or need electric start on a 190cc engine. Castoring wheels with the ability to lock straight ahead didn’t bother me but the fact that you have remove the front wheel axle pins to adjust the height did. I adjust the height of my cut somewhat regularly.

The Craftsman has a 223CC engine, pull start only, fixed front wheels and lawn striping attachment. Bagger is sold separately. I guess the lawn striper is neat but I don’t need it. I don't normally bag but on rare occasion I do so it would be nice to have.

The Troy-Bilt has a 223CC engine, pull start only, fixed wheels and two sets of blades with the bagger.

I ruled out the Cub Cadet because of the smaller engine and more difficult height adjustment. ($900)

I ruled out the Craftsman because yesterday it was $800 +$200 for the bagger. Today it is $720 for the mower plus $180 for the bagger. ($900 total) :(

The Troy-Bilt is listed as $850 on the Troy-Bilt website but being a new mower with no reviews I hadn't seen in person I didn’t want to deal with return shipping if I didn’t like it or had a problem. Lowes didn't list the mower on their website but they are a Troy-Bilt dealer. So I went to Lowes to special order and by luck they had just received a shipment of them. They were asking $900 and I tried to get them to match Troybilt.com at $850 butthey wouldn’t do it. They said Troy-Bilt charges $50 for shipping (which is true) so it comes out the same. I told them I have to pay 10% for tax at Lowes but no tax online. They didn’t care and wouldn’t budge on the price so I bought it anyway.

Finally what you've all been waiting for the actual review....

The first thing I did was remove the mulching blades and replace them with the included hi-lift blades. Then I got to mowing.


Pros:

Cut Quality - The mower seems to have great airflow and cuts very nice. The mower was sucking up a ton of dirt, stones and twigs my other mowers never noticed. It also makes a very satisfying sound of air movement my MTD never made. (maybe it's just that I can hear it now with the quieter engine.) My lawn isn't as thick as I would like in all places so it's nice to finally have a mower that sucks the grass up straight when cutting. The MTD always left a center strip in thick grass and would blow grass out one side of the deck when mulching.

Speed – While not as fast in a straight line as the MTD 33" it is light and I can whip it in and out of tight spaces quicker. Also before I had to switch to my 21" mower to mow the steep slope in my yard. Now I can do it all with one mower so in the end I am getting my lawn done in about the same time as the 33".

Clean Deck – Very little grass on the underside of the deck after one mowing. That may change when if I switch to mulching.

Blades not timed – I've never had a problem with my 33" mower with timed blades even though I tend to put my mowers into dangerous situations but many people complain about timed blades getting out of sync causing havoc.


Cons:

"My Stride" This is MTDs version of Personal Pace but rather than the controls sliding down the handlebars they pivot. This makes handling the mower feel sloppy, every time you pick up the front wheels the handle is moving around. I also have a feeling it's not going to be as durable as Personal pace.

Speed – It’s the same speed as my 20" John Deere JS63 mower but slower than the MTD 33" with the old 3 speed transmission. It's okay but I wish it was faster, I think the straight line speed would be a killer for anyone attempting to use it commercially. I can't compare directly to the Timemaster but at one time I had a Toro Recycler and I seem to remember it being faster. I flipped over the mower to see if I could replace the pulley. The pulley on the engine is a stacked one piece unit so I can't easily install a larger pulley there. I might be able to change to a smaller pulley on the transmission itself.

Vented Deck – The deck is open around the spindles and grass blows up through the deck and gets trapped under the belt cover. I'll be leaving the belt cover off so I can easily clean off grass that accumulates up there.

Discharge chute – It's held on with hooks that latch onto the mulch plug hinge and a bolt in the back. I knocked the chute off 4 times while mowing. Why doesn't it bolt in front of the chute like the bagging tube.

Bagger- TBD but doesn’t seem to attach well. The bag is not attached at the bottom and one review I read says the bag bounces while mowing dropping grass behind. I didn’t use the bagger so I can't confirm. I did test fit the bagger and found that the tube doesn’t just fit on nicely and you have to fiddle with it and flex it into place. This would be a huge pain if you find yourself having to clear the tube regularly. Time will tell.

Blade engagement latch – I didn't look to see if other mowers have this but I'm sure it's some federal nanny required safety feature. It's not a huge pain but at the same time it's just two bolts to take it off.

Squealing noise – Mine makes an intermittent metal on metalish sounding squealing noise. I took off the belt cover and tried to pinpoint the noise but haven't been able to find the source yet. I may exchange for another one.


Verdict:

I'm impressed with the cut quality and it gets the job done fast enough for me. My gut tells me it cuts better than the Timemaster even though I have no direct evidence to back this up. I don't think it's worth $900 as it feels like a quick cheap knock-off of the Timemaster at the same time I don’t think the Timemaster is worth $1000 but it fits a niche and personallydon't really have any other alternatives. I'd like to compare it head to head with the Timemaster but I am too lazy to go to Home Depot.For now I am going to hold onto the MTD 28" and see how it works out.
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OakNut

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Pittsburgh PA
Cool. Thanks for sharing.

It does appear a bit "Timemasterish" aside from that goofy side discharge tube for the rear bag.
Wouldn't want to deal with that with that clogging in wet grass.

I can tell you that my TimeMaster is a LOT faster than my Super Recycler. It will go faster than I care to walk.

Glad to see more competition in that size mower although I don't think Toro has anything to fear until Honda gets in the game.
 

jod788

LawnSite Member
I bought a commercial Turfmaster for $1629. Have also used the exmark 30 for several years. Great machines. I'd have a hard time spending a grand on a Troy Bilt
 

OakNut

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Pittsburgh PA
I just watched a Youtube video of the Craftsman version and it really does look a lot like the TimeMaster.
I would not want one of these over a TimeMaster though just because of the impractical grass catcher. I also prefer to adjust each wheel individually as opposed to "single point" adjustment. That's great for a homeowner, but I like to adjust for specific needs and often set the front one notch lower than the rear. and on occasion, I'll adjust one side higher than the other for a long run along a curb or something uneven like that.

Oh and it looks like the handle stows in the vertical/upright position!!!
That is AWESOME and as dumb as it sounds, is one of the most beneficial features for me on my TimeMaster. I don't know why all mowers are not designed that way.

Either way, even if it's not a mower I would buy, I'm happy to see more options on the market.
 
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Braddo

LawnSite Member
Location
Redmond, WA
I hope more options become available. I'm not sure MTD employs any engineers. I think the marketing, finance and legal teams get together to sketch up all the designs and send it over to china for manufacturing. Marketing just to make sure the product checks all the feature boxes, finance to make sure its cheap and legal to make sure their imitation features are just different enough that they don't get sued.

I feel guilty for purchasing this mower and supporting the above business model. I don't have any logical reasons for keeping the mower other than it cut well the one time I've used it so far and I am tired of looking for the perfect mower. I've been searching every mowing season for 5 years. The Timemaster was close to checking all the boxes but based on the reviews I read I wasn't sold on the price\performance ratio.

Stay tuned for my next post when my return window has expired and I regret and rant about my decision. :)
 

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