lawn mower buying guide

Written by Fran Donegan

Unless you are in it for the exercise, a large expanse of grass that needs to be cut calls for a lawn or garden tractor. They feature wide cutting decks with multiple blades to get the job done quickly. There are also several attachments that can turn the mower into your go-to tool for chores around the yard.

What’s in a name?

The terms lawn and garden tractors are often used interchangeably, or they are referred to as riding mowers. But generally, lawn tractors are lightweight versions of garden tractors. They both will cut a lot of grass quickly with comparable size cutting decks. While a lawn tractor can be used for towing light loads and spreading fertilizer and the like, you will need a garden tractor for serious towing and heavy-duty attachments, like those used for digging or tilling the soil. Garden tractors tend to have more horsepower and beefier frames. The attachments you plan on using will play a big part in your decision when buying a tractor.

Choosing a cutting deck

The cutting decks range from 30 inches to 54 inches for both lawn and garden tractors. The larger the area to be cut, the bigger the deck needed. However, if the area contains a lot of obstacles like trees, planting beds or paved surfaces, you may want to consider a narrower deck and smaller tractor for maneuverability. Manufacturers all have their recommendations for matching the width of the cutting deck to the area to be cut. Here’s one to use as a starting point:

  • Two acres or less: 30 to 46 inches
  • Two to four acres: 48 to 54 inches
  • More than four acres: 54 inches

Manual vs. hydrostatic transmissions

Tractors have either a manual or a hydrostatic transmission, although the hydrostatic transmission is becoming standard on most newer models. This is similar to an automatic transmission on a car and makes handling the tractor easier than needing to shift gears. The transmissions on garden tractors are built for towing heavy loads.

Attachments to consider

Newer tractors come with a lot of extras that older models don’t have, such as the hydrostatic transmission. Other features include LED lights, more comfortable seats, easy cutting deck adjustments and cruise control. At least one company equips some of its models with Bluetooth so you can use your smartphone to keep on top of tractor maintenance.

But the business end of the tractor includes only the cutting deck and blades. Most other attachments are usually purchased separately, including grass baggers and mulch kits. Attachments that require a power source, such anything that digs in the soil or the snow blower, require that the tractor have a PTO (power take off) hookup. These allow the attachment to draw power from the tractor engine. Here are some other popular attachments.

  • Spreaders
  • Dump carts
  • Dethatchers
  • Aerators
  • Bulldozer blades and plows
  • Snow blowers

Lawn and garden tractors are indispensable for large properties that need to be maintained. Discuss the size of your property and other chores you may want to do with the tractor with the tractor dealer. The dealer can help you pick the tractor that is best for your property.

About the Author: Fran Donegan is a home improvement expert and author who writes for The Home Depot. Fran shares his mastery on topics from considerations for riding lawn mowers to choosing pool equipment so his readers can make good decisions.

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