Today we welcomed a new member to the family: a lawn tractor (a.k.a. a riding lawnmower). We have been thinking about getting one for a few years and finally decided to do it. We have 1/3 of an acre of land, which in and of itself does not require an automated lawn-mowing machine, however we also have access to some additional land that our neighbor keeps mowed and I think it’s time we did our part. The land behind us connects to the next two lots, making it look somewhat like a golf course when it is all mowed. There is no way I could help out with a push mower, so a tractor was really the only option there. In addition to that, we do have some lower yard area that we didn’t mow as often that we can now give a bit more attention. Finally, the boys needed something that could be used for tractor rides. Towing them behind our cars just wasn’t the same. Kidding. Seriously.
So what did we get? After a bit of research and a trip to a John Deere dealer that included what was by far the worst sales pitch I’ve ever heard (i.e. don’t buy our plastic tractor), we settled on a Craftsman. It’s has a 22 hp two cylinder engine, a 42″ deck, and is driven by a CVT (transmission) with cruise control. It has a 6″ turning radius, can mow while in reverse, and can move forward at up to 7.5 MPH. It’s red, has headlights, and has a high-back seat. Overall it is pretty nice. We ordered it a few weeks ago and it was delivered this morning.
I took the boys for rides on it and mowed the lawn today. Overall I’m really pleased with it. I’ve driven a couple other tractors and it compares well to them. The turning is very tight which makes it extremely convenient. It is easy to get around the obstacles in our yard. The John Deere we were looking at had an 18″ radius, so this is much, much better. I said it can drive at up to 7.5 MHP and holy crap that is fast when you have no doors or a seatbelt. That thing flies. I’d never mow at that speed, but it is nice if you need to get from point A to B. The controls are easy to use and are located in the same spots as on the majority of mowers today.
The ability to run the mower while reversing is a big deal on tractors today. Most of them can do it, but it is usually a special mode so that you have to actively think about it. It’s a safety thing. On the John Deere we were looking at, you have to hold a button down the entire time you want to engage the mower blades while backing up. So you’re pressing the pedal, steering, watching where you are going, and pressing this button to enable it all. It’s a pain. Ours has a separate mode. You flip the key to “ROS” mode and you can mow forward and back. It’s nice and convenient but it isn’t as safe as you can just keep it in that mode and forget that you are still mowing when backing up. Regardless I still prefer it.
As with anything, there are some negatives. The tractor is very powerful but the transmission isn’t quite refined enough to handle it. It is really difficult to take off without jerking around or to brake without your body moving forward abruptly. It can be done but it takes a while to master. The engine’s power also manifests itself in the distance that it throws grass. Clippings shoot out of the side of it to almost three feet away. It makes things a bit more challenging when I’m trying to keep clippings off of the mulch around our trees. To round things out, there is a bit of vibration going on. Though has a two cylinder engine that is supposed to be quieter and more refined than others, it is still as loud as any other tractor and vibrates quite a bit. It’s not horrible but it’s certainly not smooth.
I’m still getting used to it and trying to figure out my pattern in the yard, so mowing today actually took longer in some areas than it would have with a push mower. As I mow more and more I’ll get better. We are currently storing the tractor in the back yard, under a “deluxe” cover that we bought from Amazon. We plan to buy a shed at the end of the season once last year’s fill solidifies a bit more. We didn’t want to wait until the end of the year to get the tractor and we found a very good sale so we decided to buy it and store it outside for a bit. My major concerns about it are actually maintenance – I have a terrible history taking care of any machinery that isn’t a car (i.e. anything that I have to maintain myself). I’ve read the manual and plan to take care of it correctly, even if that means chaining oil, replacing fuel filters, lubing gears and joints, and installing spark plugs. I’m even going to pay attention to where I’m mowing so I don’t pick up rocks that ruin the deck or other such things. We also bought an extended warranty that gives us 5 years of coverage, so that should help too.
All-in-all we’re happy. The boys love it. Sally has yet to drive it. Hopefully she doesn’t hate it when she does:)