Need a riding mower

I’m a push mower user and have been for years, but getting up in age as well as being in a traffic accident, I’ve decided it’s finally time to invest in a riding mower.

I’ve been looking around online and have found several options available, but really don’t know if any of the “fancy” options are worth it. Options like automatic transmission, hydrostatic, etc…

I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with riding mowers and brands and what you would recommend. Here is my yard info:

1/3 acre
Front has a short fairly steep incline
I have a fenced in back yard with about 47in clearance at the gate, so I’m thinking a 42" would be the best width for me.
My next door neighbor has a Troy-Bilt with 17.5hp and he says it handles our front hill (we share it) just fine.

I guess in general I’m asking is it worth the price premium to move up to other brands? The least expensive option is Troy-Bilt, but is it worth it to buy a Cub Cadet, John Deere, Ariens or Husqvarna (sp?).

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


I had a cub cadet automatic and loved it every second I drove it. Extreme turning radius and excellent engine. Steep inclines can be a problem with any mower, never mow across the hill, always up and down. I would have thought Ariens would be the cheapest.

My thoughts, but they may not be too helpful: I have a full acre, fairly flat, so I went with the John Deere Zero-Turn mower, 48" deck (model Z425). I love it, but it didn’t come cheap. What used to take me about 2 hours with my old Craftsman, I can now complete in 45 minutes. If I didn’t have so many trees (5 in front yard, 7 in back plus a swingset/playset), it would probably be even faster.

Thanks for the responses! Zero Turn is definitely out of my price range… I’m trying to stay below $1500 and the Cub LTX1040 is right on the edge of that.

Be sure to confirm whether 42" is the cutting width or the mower width, or plan to widen that gate.

Oh, be sure to keep an eye on your local Home Depot/Lowes/whatever for closeouts and specials. A couple of weeks ago, an HD near me had a remanufactured Husqvarna for $525, down from a new price of $1100 or so. I was seriously considering trying to hit up everyone in sight for a buck or two.

I worked for John Deere many years ago, specifically marketing riding mowers for home use. I wouldn’t buy anything else. I’ve looked at the difference in build between JD, Cub Cadet, Sears, etc. and the green mowers were far better. That being said, the ones sold at Home Depot are dumbed down a bit from the JD mowers built prior to 2004, but they’re still a higher quality product.
Also, you can pay someone $30 or $40 to mow 1/3 of an acre for several years before you’ve spent $1500. Something to consider.

My husband bought a lightly-used Dixon ZTR and loves it. I see him doing donuts with it when he thinks I’m not looking. We have a fairly steep slope at the front of our property and I’ve never observed him having a problem with it, whereas he had to tow his old Cub Cadet off of it pretty regularly.

Because it was used he got it fairly cheap, about $4-500.

Another John Deere person here. Love, love, love it. It takes a beating and still runs like a champ. I’d definitely go hydrostatic, you won’t regret it. It may be a little out of your price range though. Mine was about $1700 at Lowes.

I’m sort of nervous about JD’s as this is the current walk mower I have (the highest end one they had). I’ve had it right over 2 years and it broke on me at the end of last season. Sent it into Lowes and they sent it off to be fixed (I believe at a JD service center). Started it up this season and have 3 mows on it and the SAME piece is broken again and now it’s out of warranty!

It’s some piece at the front of the mower that controls the auto-choke, I think, but that piece is made out of plastic and breaks easily. I am not hard on my mowers, but to me this is a piece of junk… And it cost me $500!

Don’t be nervous. They offer a push mower because they basically feel like they have to. Their riding mowers are of a very high quality. You can tell just by looking at the build compared to others. I’ve met dozens, if not hundreds, of people who have driven their John Deere mowers for 25+ years.

As the owner of a 17 year old crappy Canadian Tire (MTD) model, I would definitely spend the extra on a decent name brand. After 6 or 7 years I’ve been repairing one thing or another on mine every year. It’s a clattering bucket of bolts at this point, but I’m going to run it until it dies. (Or I win the lottery!)

I bought the base model John Deere for $1500 two years ago and have been very happy with it. It has a gear transmission rather than hydraulic, I prefer the gear transmission. The only thing I changed on it was disabling the seat cut-off switch and the button you have to press to put it in reverse. It mows my flat 1.4 acres very well.

Lowes and my local John Deere dealer had it for the same price, but the local dealer would deliver it for free.

Ok, maybe I’ll take a better look at JD then. I’ve been sort of dismissing them when looking so far. My grandfather just bought a JD rider this year because his old Ariens died and he says he’s happy with it (and he’s about 2 acres).


Kimball, what model is yours?

Got distracted and missed the edit window.

I also think the design and fit and finish are very good. Changing the oil is very easy, there is a very accessible valve on the lower side of the engine that you half-turn to drain the oil, and the spin-off oil filter is easy to get to as well. It has grease fittings for lubing the axles and such, and a LCD hour meter that blinks every X hours to remind you that service is needed. On the underside of the seat is the service schedule.

control-z - service meaning what? Oil change? Sorry, I’m a complete newbie to riders…

My dad bought a JD for his 1/2 acre like 5 years ago. He used to cut his then drive down the street and come cut mine. I was finally able to buy one 3 years ago and now I cut my own. I’ve had zero problems with it.

He’s had problems with his but he takes it into the woods behind his house and cuts too near to boulders :-/ So he ripped the deck off or some shit. A few welds and he’s good to go.

Yes, oil change. There’s a service schedule in the manual that tells you what to service at what hours, just like a car’s service schedule at what miles.

I can handle an oil change no problem, but anything more than that, I’ll be lost. Do you know if they offer an onsite service plan for anything more major? I don’t have a truck to carry it anywhere…

You might want to check out the Craftsman 42" YT4000 or YT3000… it’s in your price range when it is on sale. It has the smallest turning radius of any tractor-style mower. That should be a good selling point for such a small yard. I have one and I couldn’t be happier… unless I had a ZTR.