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BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 10:32 a.m.

Looks like our lawn/garden dude shut down his side business and all of a sudden we need to work out how to mow our acreage. While we could probably get a referral I'm thinking I'd rather have the equipment myself - we have someone who might be willing to do the work and does lack capital to get his own equipment.

We have about four acres, and some of this is on a fairly steep hillside. I understand that for mowing only, a zero turn mower might be the better option, but I'm thinking that a tractor might be the better long term option as we effectively have a little farm out back with fruit trees and a little area that needs tilling etc. Hence, having the option of attachments sounds good to me.

After reading up on the difference between lawn tractors and garden tractors - and the distinction apparently being lost on most FB and CL sellers - it looks like I want a proper garden tractor with a PTO.

If money was no object I'd probably spring for an older Steiner 400 series, but unfortunately I just bought a couple of toys. I also have the impression that older, well maintained tractors are better than newer ones?

Any recommendations what I should be looking for? Seems that John Deere 300/400 series are about the size I'd want, or am I off here?

Any specific makes/models to look at and/or avoid?

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/20/21 10:49 a.m.

Do you think you need/would use a loader?  If so, how much would you want to lift with it?  

Doesn't sound like it necessarily applies in your case, but that can definitely end up sizing a tractor, especially when you get to moving large hay bales.

Note that any size loader beats a wheelbarrow like a rug.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 10:57 a.m.

I don't expect to need a loader, but the ability to use a larger mower deck (54"/60"), possibly a brush hog and a dethatcher/aerator, tiller and pulling a little trailer would all be useful.

I also don't want to go too big due to storage constraints, plus I can usually find someone local via word of mouth for really specialized stuff.

Essentially I don't want to buy too small but also not buy the stuff I'd need if I had a hundred acres of farmland.

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/20/21 11:04 a.m.

Prior response was more based on compact utility tractor than a garden tractor.  Costs overlap considerably at the lower range of compact utilities and the upper range of the lawn and garden, but there are still valid reasons to go one way or the other.

Also, having purchased a new JD x738 last summer as a replacement for a 20 year old 345, because that's what it took to get another liquid cooled motor, I wish I bought the diesel instead.

The x738 really, really likes burning gas.  But my decision was primarily driven by a recent mis-fueling incident where the kid who cut the grass but gas in our diesel 2305.

Additionally, stay away from the 4 wheel steer tractors, even though it's tempting to think they might cover some of the advantages of a zero turn.  In addition to the mechanical complexity, you can get a 4 wheel steer unit stuck in the inside right angle turn of a fence such both ends have to swing out through the fence to escape.  

My preference is also to get something with a rear diff lock if you've got uneven ground-- then you have a better chance of driving off of something after you've high centered it.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 11:21 a.m.

Diesel would be my preference if I can find one, simply for the lack of issues with storage. Noted on the lockable reaar diff.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Dork
4/20/21 11:25 a.m.

I've got about an acre and a half. I found a good deal on a John Deere 2210 with a loader.  Catching up on deferred maintenance and cylinder rebuilds probably cost me about $2500 which effectively doubled the price.  I could get by mowing with the 2210 but hooking and unhooking the loader every time I wanted to use it would get old. It's also a little big to manuever around trees, fences etc on my smaller lot.   The loader is really great. You will find all sorts of uses for it.  If it didn't have a loader I would hardly use the it at all. 

That being said I've got a zero turn for mowing. 

 

 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
4/20/21 11:26 a.m.

I know a few people with a Kubota.  They can't say enough good things about them.  Not cheap, though.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 11:34 a.m.

I had a few Kubotas catch my eye, it's just that even the cheapest one that's likely 30+ years old is still 1.5x my budget although it's beginning to look like I need to bump up the budget.

Most of the Kubotas I see are Steiner money or more, but it looks like both them and the Steiners have strong resale values.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 11:36 a.m.

In reply to Greg Voth :

Good point about size and maneuverability. I can't go too big either (hence the comment about the 54"-60" deck), otherwise I'll also be buying a lawn mower.

Rons
Rons GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
4/20/21 11:53 a.m.

You could try a rental for a day some places (eg Home Depot) include a trailer in the rental it can get expensive so you may want to have it narrowed down a bit. There is also outfits that rent attachments so you could pick a machine and then rent an attachmnent as needed. 

 

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/20/21 12:10 p.m.

I am a big fan of the Ford 1220. You can find them somewhat reasonably priced used, they have 4wd, rear PTO (and I think a belly PTO). They also have loaders available and 3 point hitch arms.

Ford 1220

 

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/20/21 12:21 p.m.

One other item for sizing a tractor and mower deck-- how big of a trailer do you have access to?  Even if you don't need to trailer around/between properties, you will eventually run into a situation where you need to trailer the tractor some where to be serviced.  

X738 has a 54" deck on it because that fits on the trailer we have and a 60" will not.  
 

Also found out this winter that tractor + snow blower + rear weight rack is too long for the trailer.

mechanicalmeanderings
mechanicalmeanderings New Reader
4/20/21 12:26 p.m.

What is your budget?

4 acres and a “mini” farm tend to push you out of garden tractor in my mind.  You get so much more with a subcompact tractor, Diesel engine, heavier, 4wd with diff lock, ability to add a loader later if you want

There are some good deals on financing on new right now 0% for 60 months etc.

Disclaimer: this is my industry, but not in your area.

 

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/20/21 1:01 p.m.

Can confirm 0%/60 months is easy to come by on new subcompact equipment for JD.  If you think you really want to work ground, garden tractors fall into the category of "almost doing it", while subcompact tractors start at "can just manage it."  

You mentioned brush hogging-- that's something that's going to work a lot better with more of a rear 3 point hitch and PTO than you can generally get on a garden tractor.  They like PTO hp.

Not to derail the thread, but pros and cons specific to new Deere equipment include:

Pros

  • Cheap financing 
  • Parts support-- my dealer always has parts in stock or two days max for Deere equipment.  Unfortunately, the part turnaround time does not include Frontier attachments

Cons

  • Damn, they are expensive (got to pay for the financing and parts logistic chain somehow)
  • Deere's less than sterling reputation (shiny happy people) in the right to repair battles
mechanicalmeanderings
mechanicalmeanderings New Reader
4/20/21 1:08 p.m.

I’ll leave the right to repair vs right to modify debate aside, except to say John Deere is 100% for right to repair.

Karacticus got it right about the difference between garden tractor and compact utility tractor.

side by side they don’t look that different, but there is a big difference in what they can do in the dirt.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 1:33 p.m.
Karacticus said:

One other item for sizing a tractor and mower deck-- how big of a trailer do you have access to?  Even if you don't need to trailer around/between properties, you will eventually run into a situation where you need to trailer the tractor some where to be serviced. 

Good point - I have a 16" car trailer, but I'll have to check the deck width. I also have no idea how heavy these tractors are so I'm not sure how feasible that is.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 1:38 p.m.
mechanicalmeanderings said:

What is your budget?

Not enough by the looks of it :). I am shopping used, and I was hoping to get the basics (tractor + mower deck) for about $3k.

4 acres and a “mini” farm tend to push you out of garden tractor in my mind.  You get so much more with a subcompact tractor, Diesel engine, heavier, 4wd with diff lock, ability to add a loader later if you want

There are some good deals on financing on new right now 0% for 60 months etc.

Disclaimer: this is my industry, but not in your area.

I as hoping to not have to finance something. The most urgent need is the mowing, for some of the other work I can get someone out (like brush hogging the back 2.5 acres, if that's done once this spring I can maintain it with a decent tractor and mower).

Mainly I don't want to end up too constrained by the tractor, but I also don't want to end up buying more tractor than I need and then also have storage issues.

OTOH I have enough old crap that needs fixing, I don't need to add to it.

Used with good resale would have the advantage that I don't have to worry too much about over/underbuying if I can get most or all of my money back.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 1:46 p.m.

Ford 1220, you say?

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/20/21 1:53 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

That's what I say. That tractor is at the bottom of the depreciation curve too. If it runs it's worth at least that much money. Plus you can add accessories.

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/20/21 2:12 p.m.

Interesting side note. I used to have a LGT-14D that was a great garden tractor. I sold it and regretted it. I clicked on your marketplace link and then it showed me local Ford tractors and I found a LGT-16D. Your marketplace link may be making my wallet a little lighter...

mechanicalmeanderings
mechanicalmeanderings New Reader
4/20/21 3:02 p.m.

Out west that price point would be hard to hit for something that is mostly reliable, especially with attachments.

if you find a tractor that looks promising try to steer toward a “category 1” 3 point . Some Garden tractors have a cat “0” and attachments are harder to find

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/20/21 3:09 p.m.

In reply to mechanicalmeanderings :

Do you mean that is cheap for a tractor like that (or that particular one)? For NY I would say that is a little cheap, maybe 1-2k but not way out of line. 

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/20/21 3:23 p.m.
BoxheadTim said:
Karacticus said:

One other item for sizing a tractor and mower deck-- how big of a trailer do you have access to?  Even if you don't need to trailer around/between properties, you will eventually run into a situation where you need to trailer the tractor some where to be serviced. 

Good point - I have a 16" car trailer, but I'll have to check the deck width. I also have no idea how heavy these tractors are so I'm not sure how feasible that is.

You're probably good weight-wise with the car trailer. My 2305 with loader and mower deck on it is under 3000 lbs.  2305 seems more or less equivalent to a current 1 series.   This is in absence of actually weighing the machines-- it also has a single set of wheel weights on it
 

Not that I'd run it that way (leaving the mower on), but if I added the rear weight rack on it for ballast if the loader per the manual, that's adding something like 700 lbs more. 
 

Something else to keep in mind-- if you really want to work ground with the tractor, you also need to invest in many pounds of cast iron. 
 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 5:02 p.m.

Neither tractors, nor zero turn riding mowers are very good on hills. I have a 54" commercial walk behind with a riding sulky, but I have to hop off and walk beside it when mowing sideways on hills.

With four acres, I'd be thinking about something like this:

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/20/21 6:18 p.m.

Man I keep falling down this rabbit hole...

leas hours, still has a finish mower, way further away and a little more money. 
https://utica.craigslist.org/grd/d/little-falls-ford-1210-compact-tractor/7294772375.html

also I support Woody's suggestion too. Different animal but it would get the job done and have other uses. 

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