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Cheap Riding Mowers, Best Lawn Tractors
Cheap Riding Mowers Buying Guide
With a lawn larger than roughly one-third of an acre, you probably want a low-cost and easy way to get it mowed. Cheap riding mowers or lawn tractors are your best bet.
Not surprisingly, there are differences between cheap riding mowers and higher-priced models. Cheap riding mowers run on a one-cylinder engine and are designed to mow grass, although most can also tow a small cart, snow thrower, sprayer, and the like. You also have to pay extra for bagging attachments and mulching kits with the cheaper models, it may be a challenge to find parts and/or service, and longevity may be limited to several hundred hours of use. More expensive models, including heavy-duty garden tractors, feature more powerful engines, more advanced engineering, better build quality, and more features (e.g., a meter that clocks how many hours you've run the mower, large gas tank, four-wheel steering, longer warranty). Our research nonetheless indicates that many consumers appreciate the value pricing of cheap riding mowers and are quite satisfied with their purchases despite some minor shortcomings.
As you start to shop, consider some important specifics. Are you comfortable with a clutch system to manually change gears to get a few pre-set speeds, or do you prefer an automatic hydrostatic transmission that lets you set your own speed within a given ranges Then there's the width of the cutting deck, which affects how many passes you'll have to make; 42 inches is common for cheap lawn tractors, but we found cutting decks as narrow as 26 inches and as wide as 46 inches among the best lawn tractors. (Remember that a wider deck makes the lawn tractor larger and harder to store.) The turning radius affects how large an area is left uncut as you turn the lawn tractor in the opposite direction. Stability and traction on inclines is critical if your lawn is dotted with small hills and dales. Will you need to mow in reverse. And of course, be sure that servicing is readily available and replacement parts easy to find.
The market for the best riding mowers is dominated by a few large players, such as John Deere, Craftsman, Husqvarna, Ariens, Troy-Bilt, and Poulan, and some produce and sell under several brand names. Bigbox retailers like Home Depot, Lowe's, and Sears carry cheap riding mowers, and you can also buy many models online. Note that vendors tend to specialize in certain brands, and because of the sibling relationship among some (Yard Machines and Bolens, for example, are owned by MTD), you may not see much difference between models as you shop. There are also private label store brands, but we found more than the usual number of reports from consumers about broken transmissions, loose belts, and poorly-engineered parts with these budget lawn tractors, so our list includes well-known brand names only.
Any one of several cheap lawn tractors should meet most consumers' needs. We found several new models this year to replace a few that made our list last year; although short on reviews, we included them based on the strength of user and expert reviews of their predecessors. And so... Two lower-cost lawn tractors worth considering are the Ariens 42 In. 19 HP Riding Mower 960460024 (starting at $1,399) and the Craftsman YT 3000 46" 21 HP 28924 (starting at $1,350, Amazon). Two good cheap riding mowers include the John Deere 42" D100 17.5 HP (starting at $1,499, Amazon) and the compact Weed Eater One WE261 (starting at $697, Amazon). One cheap lawn tractor that seems plagued by problems is the Troy-Bilt 20 HP Automatic 42" Riding Mower 13AX78KS011 (starting at $1,249, Amazon).
Best Cheap Riding Mowers
Craftsman YT 3000The Craftsman YT 3000 features a 21hp engine with hydrostatic automatic transmission, two cutting blades, a 46-inch cutting deck, spring- loaded deck-lift system, and 16-inch turning radius. Users like the even cut, powerful engine, and all-around nimble performance. Read more »
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Ariens 42 in. Riding Lawn MowerAn expert reviewer prefers this new 42-inch Ariens, with its 19 HP single-cylinder Kohler engine, automatic transmission, 16-inch turning radius, and wash-out port over the highly-rated model it replaces. This is a basic riding mower that does its best work on grass that's not too dense or long and in yards without many obstacles; at 483 pounds, it's fine for light hauling. Read more »
Good Cheap Riding Mowers
Weed Eater OneThe Weed Eater One is about the cheapest riding mower on the market and appeals to users with small-ish, flat yards who prefer sitting to walking as they mow. This compact, lightweight mower features a 190CC engine, 26-inch cutting deck, a 3-in-1 single blade system that mulches or side discharges, and a relatively wide 31-inch turning radius; many users are satisfied but a few report mediocre performance. Read more »
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John Deere D100The new D100, an entry-level lawn tractor from John Deere, features a gear-driven manual transmission with a 17.5 HP engine, two blades, 42-inch cutting deck, and what the company claims is superior fuel economy and ergonomics compared to the previous model. Users like the quick and easy cut and comfortable ride; a few report flaking paint on the deck but it's unclear from the reviews whether this problem affects the older or newer model. Read more »
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Don't Bother Cheap Riding Mowers
Troy-Bilt 20 HP Automatic 42 in. Riding Mower
A strong 20 HP engine, 42-inch cutting width, two blades, and top forward speed of 5.5 mph would seem to mark this Troy-Bilt as a good buy, but users complain about parts that give out within a season or two, maintenance headaches, and a chronic need for servicing. Read more »
Troy-Bilt 20 HP Automatic 42 in. Riding Mower Review
Weed Eater One Review
John Deere D100 Review
Craftsman YT 3000 Review
Ariens 42 in. Riding Lawn Mower Review
Troy-Bilt 22 HP Hydrostatic 46
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