Purchasing a riding lawnmower (lawn tractor) is almost as confusing as purchasing a new car. In the Winter of 2005/2006, I began researching for a riding lawnmower. I finally made my purchase in the Spring of 2006. What really should have been a simple process, turned into a researcher's ordeal. I finally purchased a Huskee SLT 4200 Hydrostatic Lawn Tractor ($1199.96 + tax) from my local Tractor Supply Company.
Just like buying a car, it is highly recommended that you determine what features you need in your lawn tractor. Personally, I wanted the hydrostatic/automatic transmission for a tractor. I got tired of shifting gears depending on the growth of the lawn or the terrain. Other features on tractors are cup holders, cruise control, head lights, engine size, mower deck size, engine placement (front rear), steering (2 wheel or 4 wheel), adjustable seat, attachment accessories, and the list keeps going.
Now here is the kicker....MTD's lawn tractor production facility covers a lot of "name brand" equipment. I'm not bashing MTD, but the point is that they manufacture Huskee, Troy-Bilt, Yard Man, Yard Machines, Bolens, White Outdoor, Arnold, and McCulloch. There are minor cosmetic differences between the tractors - but replacment parts are bought at MTD. Lawn tractors are sold under the Husqvarna, Craftsman, Poulan Pro, Poulan, and Weed Eater brands names - but are mainly under one company. Let's not also forget about the John Deere/Sabre line of riding mowers.
Update (11/23/07): I was doing some research for a customer when I discovered, by accident, information concerning Murray lawnmowers. I was looking up the recall information concerning a riding lawn tractor and I found the particular recall I needed. The CPSC recall notice states that the company (Murray) is no longer in business and the customer should no longer use the lawn tractor. I continued with my research and found that Briggs and Stratton had purchased the Murray name and is beginning to get into its own product division of lawn care. Personally, it makes sense. B&S makes engines - why not the rest of the mower? I would just hope that engineering and quality control would improve upon some of the design flaws that are currently out there.
The first major point is to hit the web to find out the major manufacturer of the intended riding lawn tractor. Then make comparisions between the units (Huskee and Troy-Bilt for example). Not every feature will be available between the "brand lines", but most of the features will be. There might also be a difference between horsepower. One you figure out the manufacturer, begin on reseach on price.
Sometimes, on line is a quick way to find the price, but sometimes the local stores may have specials that are not advertised on line. When I purchased my lawn tractor, they were giving away a free 85 pound capacity spreader. It was a $60.00 value. I also picked up a $100 gift card from the store's on-line magazine. The lawn tractor was purchased with all my research done.
Accordingly, the Ebay Auction process is similiar. Now that you know a Troy-bilt is almost the same as a Huskee or as a Yard Machine - why are you bidding top dollar? Granted, I had a grandmother that believed that Mercury cars were better than Fords - but look under the hood of your riding mower. Yes, Troy-bilt was a name that meant "one of a kind" - but those days are done. Also remember, most lawn tractors have about a 10 year life span. If you are bidding on a used one you must consider the age, condition and maintenance schedule. That's why you shouldn't be bidding on a name-only lawn tractor.
If this guide has provided some insight to you - - please rate it. Thanks....