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Greg Voth
Greg Voth Dork
4/20/21 8:04 p.m.

In reply to Karacticus :

This is very true. On the JD 2210 I've got a box blade on my three point to help counterweight and was planning on posts to be able to add weight on. The loader will tip the tractor if you aren't careful.  

Furious_E (Forum Supporter)
Furious_E (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
4/20/21 8:14 p.m.

I think you're on the right track with something like that Ford above.

You mention the 300/400 series John Deeres in the OP, my current mowing rig is a 318 and I spent many hours on my parents old 425 during my high school and college years. They're both great garden tractors. The 425 has foot pedal controls for the hydrostatic, which are a lot smoother in my experience and keep one hand free for running implements or holding a beverage, which is nice. Also diff lock versus split brakes on the 318 and the liquid cooled Kawi is more powerful and durable than the old air cooled Onan. Mine drinks a fairly alarming amount of oil at around 1000 hours on the clock, but still runs great and has plenty of power. Likely the valve seals from what I understand, but I'll likely drop in a HF Predator, or maybe a Honda if I can score a deal, when the time comes.

There were diesel versions of each as well. Downside to the 425s is they seem to run around double the price around here. Plenty of implements available for each - blades, snow blowers, tillers, even loaders. They seem to be much better value when bought with the tractor rather than individually, blades especially. Won't run a brush hog, but I've cut pastures over a foot tall with the 425 no problem.

While the 318 is delightfully overkill for my .8 acre lot, the 425 was pretty marginal at my parents place, which is around 30 acres total and roughly 4 acres of grass to cut. With a 54" deck, mowing used to take me 3-4 hours and that was all it was used for. Ultimately my dad traded both the Deere and a larger New Holland in on a compact Kubota B2650 with a loader as the "one tractor to rule them all," and that's proven to be the perfect solution for him. Something between that and a garden tractor, like the Ford, seems about right for you.

alphahotel
alphahotel New Reader
4/20/21 8:27 p.m.

I fell down this rathole when we bought a larger property (though with no grass, so I don't care about mowing).  I started out looking at old Gravely walk-behinds (can put a snowblower or brush cutter (for trails through the woods)), $1500-3000.  Then I was convinced by talking to other property owners that I really wanted a subcompact utility tractor (SCUT) with a loader ($12-$14k new, $8k-10k used).  I finally ended up buying a next-size-up from SCUT Kubota B21 TLB (tractor-loader-backhoe) for $12k used.  I have used it way more than I expected.  There are lots of things that you wouldn't buy a tractor for, but if you have one it is a lot easier.  Better living through hydraulics!

If you want to spend time over-researching like me:

https://www.tractordata.com/ (specs about almost every tractor out there)

https://www.tractorbynet.com/ (forums about just about every tractor brand)

https://www.orangetractortalks.com/ (Kubota specific)

Get a well-supported brand name and it will hold its value pretty well.

jh36
jh36 HalfDork
4/20/21 8:45 p.m.

I have had a mid 80's JD 870 for about 10 years. 28 hp, 60" deck, pto. I bought a loader for it a few years ago. 
it has been dead reliable. I mow 5 acres and use the loader in a variety of ways. 
Zero turn would be faster but there's something nice about chugging around on the diesel. No ear ringing afterwards and I can easily work on this for hours at a time. 

JThw8
JThw8 UltimaDork
4/20/21 8:52 p.m.

FWIW I was in a similar spot 2 years ago.   We moved from an acre in the 'burbs to 11 acres in farm country so I needed something to do serious mowing.  Browsing the comments I see the proper answer has already been given.  I looked at used equipment and in my case I needed something that would just plain work every weekend to knock down 11 acres.   New it was and Kubota was, and I suspect still is, giving 0% financing.  One L3300 later and I have a tractor that will mow the crap out of my lawn and a loader for other use around the farm.   Added bonus clamp on forks for a loader are relatively cheap and make moving stuff around a breeze.

With 4 acres you'll likely get away with a smaller unit, but go talk to a Kubota dealer and see what they can do for you.  Yes I have a monthly payment for 5 years but I also have a crapton of property to maintain and the ONE time I had to pay someone else to cut it down before I bought the tractor cost me 2 months worth of payments on a tractor.  Every quote I got to maintain the propery on a monthly basis was higher than an tractor payment and I find riding around listening to books on tape a quite enjoyable way to spend a sunday morning :)

mechanicalmeanderings
mechanicalmeanderings New Reader
4/20/21 9:47 p.m.
New York Nick said:

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. 

I was referring to op’s budget.

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
4/21/21 6:33 a.m.

I went through the debate of tractor/loader/backhoe(TLB) vs zero-turn and skidsteer about 5-6 years ago. I purchased a larger 33hp John Deere tractor with LOTS of accessories(cab, loader, backhoe, finish belly mower, PTO driven rough cut mower, snowblower, weight box, and more..... As soon as I realized that these things, being TALL and narrow don't do well on any sort of incline or side hill, I had to get rid of it. I had planned this one piece of equipment being a Swiss Army knife and do any and everything I needed around the property. Nope! If we had a flatter lot, I would probably still have it.

 

I bought a used estate series Husqvarna zero-turn(ZT) to mow the 2 acres of back yard. With a 48" deck it worked well once I changed the rear tires. It also went through the woods clearing small scrub. I beat it up pretty on the weekends but other than blades and 1 spindle, it was a work horse. Fast forward to last fall, we transformed an acre of woods along the driveway to grass, so I sold the old Husky and picked up a new Cub Cadet "steering wheel" zero-turn with a 54" deck. With 3 acres of grass, hopefully the new wider machine cuts down my seat time.
 

ZT's are 5X's faster at mowing grass than a garden or lawn tractor and probably more than that compared to a tractor pulling a mower. 
 

An ATV or SxS pulling a mower deck would also be a consideration since the rest of the time you would have a property maintenance vehicle. We use our Kawasaki Teryx all of the time. With a winch it moves trees and also hauls mulch, rocks, gravel, topsoil, leaves, etc. I used it at 6:30 this morning to take out the garbage and recyclables. Ours is a 2013 and has 2900 hours on it.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 7:08 a.m.

As usual, this forum delivers. Thanks everybody for chiming in.

Yes, I'm rapidly learning that my budget does not match my needs, so I need to do something about that. Somehow...

One question - and apologies for the ignorance on this as this is a pretty new topic for me - what's the reason for a ZT mower to mow that much quicker, compared to a tractor with a similarly sized deck? I naively assumed that something like a Steiner or the aforementioned 1220 with a 60" deck would have roughly similar mowing performance compared to a ZT with a 60" deck? Most of the property is wide open so there isn't much of delicate mowing around flowerbeds where I would expect the additional manouverability of a ZT to make a big difference.

I am a little concerned about the use of tractors on the incline, OTOH our neighbour did run his small garden tractor with a belly mower up and down our back yard's incline when he was helping us getting rid of some brambles without any issues (at least I didn't see him barrel roll the thing).

Furious_E (Forum Supporter)
Furious_E (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
4/21/21 7:26 a.m.

Travel speed on a ZT while mowing is much, much higher and the ability to change direction more quickly means less time turning around to aim at the grass you want to cut and more time cutting it. A skid loader/ZT mower combo, as someone else mentioned, would be another excellent solution, although certainly an expensive one. 

Any pics of the incline? As long as you can easily run up and down the hill, rather than across, you're probably fine on a tractor. ZT will have a lower COG, but can still have some wonky dynamics on a side slope. 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
4/21/21 9:02 a.m.

Zero turn can zip along pretty fast.  The casters on the front wheels make for some very sketchy behavior on slopes, especially if you're not accustomed to it.

https://occupythefarm.org/can-you-use-zero-turn-mowers-on-hills/

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 9:40 a.m.

I'll try to get some photos of the steper slopes we have on the property to see if that should sway us one way or the other.

STM317
STM317 UberDork
4/21/21 11:37 a.m.
BoxheadTim said:

One question - and apologies for the ignorance on this as this is a pretty new topic for me - what's the reason for a ZT mower to mow that much quicker, compared to a tractor with a similarly sized deck? I naively assumed that something like a Steiner or the aforementioned 1220 with a 60" deck would have roughly similar mowing performance compared to a ZT with a 60" deck? Most of the property is wide open so there isn't much of delicate mowing around flowerbeds where I would expect the additional manouverability of a ZT to make a big difference.

My neighbor has an older, but very well maintained JD garden tractor (not a lawn tractor). I have a commercial ZTR. My deck is a little bigger, but I have more trees to mow around and more uneven terrain than he does. If we start at the same time, we usually finish at the same time. Except his lot is 1 acre, and mine is 3 acres.

If you want to cut lots of grass in a timely manner, a commercial ZTR is the tool for the job. A "walk behind", or "stand on" mower from a reputable brand will give you the same speed/maneuverability advantages while being safer on steep slopes than a ride on ZTR. But all of them are specialized tools for cutting grass and little else (although I do pull an aerator and a 50 gallon sprayer behind mine a couple of times per year). A tractor is much more versatile with various lifting attachments and a PTO/3pt hitch but it's drawbacks have been listed already.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 2:53 p.m.

I'm an antique tractor kind of guy, so my knowledge of the model numbering systems that manufacturers use after about 1980 is poor.  I used to know nearly all of them.

John Deere makes wonderful things.  After about the late 90s they became more assemblers than manufacturers, but they still use really quality stuff for the most part.  Don't fall for the ones they sell at home improvement stores or hardware stores.  I don't know why Deere lets their name be put on them, but they are not John Deere tractors.  They are Sabres which uses copies of Kawasaki engines, stamped steel frames, etc.  Its unlikely a hardware store would have a large enough model for you anyway, but just know that JD is not always JD.

Dad's current garden tractor is a mid-2000s X485 JD.  I find it to be wonderful.  It has a massive drive-over mower deck, a snow blower that will chew up a frozen roadkill cat (ask me how I know), and an optional 3-point hitch.  He mows about 2.5 acres with it and uses the 3-point for a cultivator.  Amazing ride.

Other brands I would gladly consider: Mahindra and Kubota.  Kubota is the Toyota of tractors.  Highly reliable, nicely ergonomic, and incredibly expensive.  Mahindra is the Kia/Hyundai.  99% as good as Kubota, but bathed in skepticism which keeps the prices a little lower.

One thing to consider.  Is your hillside/elevation a nice smooth transition, or is it "lumpy?"  Your deck width should be proportional to the flavor of the ground more than it should be with the acreage.  If you have lumps and dips, or compound curvatures, you'll find that it floats over sections while scalping the sod on others.

If your hillside looks like this, go as big as you want.

See the source image

If your hillside looks like this, a big deck is a drawback.

See the source image

On the money saving end of things, JD for a while did a 322 that was a beast.  They built the motor in conjunction with Yanmar as a 3-cylinder diesel.  After some market research and looming emissions requirements, they decided to complete the motor design as a gas engine.  The result is a way-overbuilt brick.  It's a 658cc 3-cylinder that makes 18 hp, runs forever, and it's far smoother than the typical 2-cylinder offerings.  Yanmar went on to finish its development as a diesel and it was used in a few million generators and air compressors with great success.

JD also did a 430 model that kind of bridged the gap between compact and lawn/garden.  It used a Yanmar 900cc diesel that made 20 hp and wicked torque.  Also runs forever, but good luck finding one.

If you ever plan to go toward the loader/bucket side, or want to have a "real" 3 point hitch, your minimum is compact.  In the JD world that means 6-9 series.  The 6 and 7 series were great landscape, light utility models, but the hydraulics weren't the beefiest for things like loaders.  I think Ford had that market pretty well cornered.  Something from the Ford line like a 1700 was about the same size as an 870 JD, but had a little more utility prowess.

If I were buying right now to handle 4 acres, I would look for a 322.  Same tractor also came with a 2-cyl Kawasaki in 16, 17, and 18 hp.  Still very nice, but that Yanmar in the 322 is really amazing.

If you find a 430, let me know and I'll buy it out from under you.  Sorry, not sorry.

If you're looking newer, JD's X400's line is a no brainer.  Really nice machines.  There are many attachments available, but most will be proprietary to JD (read: more expensive) but they are really quality things.

If you're looking for compact utility, JD 600s series, or Mahindra.  Kubota if you want the absolute best and don't mind a little more money.

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/21/21 3:22 p.m.

That Ventrac is the bomb but brace yourself when you ask the price. I priced one for work with a cab, blower, mower, and a salter and I think it came out at about $50k. It is an amazing piece though.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 3:28 p.m.

In reply to New York Nick :

I've been pricing up used Steiners (same or similar tractor) so I'm rather aware of their prices. Cheapest used one just with a mower deck I could find was about 7500. I still wouldn't mind one because of the coolness factor.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 5:47 p.m.

An acquaintance of ours who's interested in taking care of the yardwork just dropped by and after we wandered around the property, pointed out several areas where he doesn't think it's safe to use a ZT mower, with this one probably being the worst:

Didn't photograph that well, but there are places that are well over 45 degrees in inclination it's not clear to either of us how the previous lawn guy mowed these areas without also barrel rolling his ZT mower. There are some other 45+ degree areas where he also pointed out the damage done by the ZT mower slipping.

So it looks like it might be tractor time, just possibly a bigger - mainly wider - tractor than I originally expected, and with possibly a wider deck that I envisaged, although I do seem to have a hard time finding anything that's got a deck wider than 60".

New York Nick
New York Nick GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/21/21 6:40 p.m.

I like the property, that's a cool looking shop. I like the Steiner's and the Ventracs. In my local area the ventracs are fairly (maybe last 10 years) new to market and they are the only articulated small tractors you see here. I haven't seen prices that low yet. 
This tractor was made from a Steiner. John Deere

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
4/21/21 7:31 p.m.

Nothing that I see in that picture would stop me from running around on my zero-turn. I would see where I need to compromise. If there is 2 acres of grass that can be cut with a ZT or lawn tractor and only a few hundred square feet of steep incline, then ZT it is. I would just push mow or use a string trimmer to do the rest.

 

I have a VERY STEEP sand mound that I still go down with my ZT. It's definitely "pucker time", but I can do about 30% of the sides. I grab the string trimmer and do everything else. Hopefully the new Cub Cadet "steering wheel" zero turn will work better on the side hills. 

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 7:47 p.m.

Obviously my photography skills suck, that hillside is a lot steeper than it looks in the pictures. And there is more, but it's not as steep:

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 7:48 p.m.
New York Nick said:

I like the property, that's a cool looking shop. I like the Steiner's and the Ventracs. In my local area the ventracs are fairly (maybe last 10 years) new to market and they are the only articulated small tractors you see here. I haven't seen prices that low yet. 
This tractor was made from a Steiner. John Deere

The halfway affordable Steiners here are probably 25+ years old. Ventracs are a lot more expensive, but also a lot newer. Lowest I've seen is around $10k, without any attachments.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 8:10 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

There are several 430s around here for sale according to FB marketplace, including a few north of you that are probably too far away for my last butt to drive to.

Somebeach (Forum Supporter)
Somebeach (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
4/21/21 8:41 p.m.

When we moved to our current house (about 10acres very flat), I was trying to decide what to buy for mowing and maintenance. 
 

I evened up with a old ratty Ford 1720 diesel that I bought for 5k and a 60" zero turn that I bought for about 3k. 
 

 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 8:54 p.m.
BoxheadTim said:

 

One question - and apologies for the ignorance on this as this is a pretty new topic for me - what's the reason for a ZT mower to mow that much quicker, compared to a tractor with a similarly sized deck?

Turning radius.

Once you get to a tight circle (or oval), you spend a lot of time backing up a tractor.

A walk behind with a sulky comes close to the speed and turning radius of a zero turn.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/21 8:56 p.m.

I'm not sure if other brands have anything similar, but the Hustler flip up deck is a huge advantage when it comes to maintenance.

.

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/22/21 9:51 a.m.

I do love a good zero-turn, but they only mow.  If you just need to mow and do nothing else, ZTs are wonderful.  But they don't do anything else.

 

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