The Best Garden Tractor - What to Consider When Choosing It
The Best Garden Tractor - What to Consider When Choosing It

Garden tractors are an improved version of lawn tractors capable of performing heavy-duty ground jobs. They also have larger back tires that provide extra ground clearance and stability on inclines and slopes. Garden tractors faced a lot of criticism due to their previous cumbersome nature; however, modern garden tractors are designed to resemble modern cars, which are easier to operate and drive.

They also offer versatility and can do more than the typical lawn cutting, for instance, they are capable of plowing dirt and snow, spreading fertilizer, tilling, mulching, towing heavier cart loads, removing moss, and furrowing. You need a garden tractor to help you keep your property looking lush and beautiful. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when choosing a garden tractor.

Amount of Mowing Needed

What Are the Best Garden Tractors in the Market?

You can choose the right tractor by first evaluating the size of your farm/landscape, which translates to the amount of work needed. If your farm is over two acres, you’ll need a garden tractor with the maximum 54-inch deck size so as to make the chore easier and less time-consuming. On the other hand, a garden less than two acres can use the 45-inch size. If speed is more important to you, then you should go for one with a wider deck.

Engine and Horsepower

The engine highly affects the capabilities of a tractor. Even though most garden tractors have a twin-cylinder engine design, single-cylinder versions are ideal for moderately large flat lawns, whereas, three-cylinder engines can handle very large areas, inclined surfaces, and difficult terrain. These engines are typically overhead valve to ensure efficiency, fewer emissions, and a quieter performance. Generally, an engine with more horsepower provides an improved performance, which makes it capable of handling heavy-duty attachments such as tillers, plows, and grading blades. Bigger blades require more power to run. Most of these engines have up to 20-30 horsepower. The higher horsepower makes mowing faster, especially when you use it for tilling, pulling heavy loads, digging, etc.

Wheels and Tires

Lawn Tractors

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Wheel size matters when choosing a garden tractor. A bigger tire offers more stability on rough or steep terrain and makes it easier to navigate the tractor in muddy conditions. Even though garden tractors are rarely overloaded, tires with a higher carrying capacity are more resistant to punctures when it runs over rough terrain, and also beneficial for work other than mowing. You also want to choose a tractor with wheels that satisfy your traction needs. For instance:

Turf treads provide more traction on slick grass, while not damaging or digging up the turf.

Knobby all-terrain treads feature deeper groves and large tread blocks to provide more traction in loose areas like sand, mud, or dirt. They also have a high void area to remove debris from the tire.

Ribbed treads feature flat or slightly scalloped straight ribs and circumferential grooves to provide lateral stability, which prevents the tire from sliding sideways.

Tractor Dimensions

You also want a sizeable tractor that can get where you need to use it. Measure the size of the tractor, including shed doors, gate openings, as well as any other tight spaces you may need to pass through. The overall size of the tractor has to be consistent with these constraints. If your garden is mostly open and large, then your tractor needs a generous cutting width, however, if it has several obstructions such as bushes, trees, and flower beds, then you need a smaller tractor that’s capable of going through the tightest passages.

Transmission

Do you love manual transmissions, well; you can get tractors with a manual transmission that lets you shift up and down without requiring you to stop or use a clutch. However, modern garden tractors also offer automatic and hydrostatic transmission. The automatic transmission works just like the transmission in a car, which allows you to control speed using gas pedals. This can be useful when working around obstacles as it allows you to easily change speed. Hydrostatic transmission works like an automatic transmission except it transfers power from the engines to the wheels using fluid instead of belts. Tractors with hydrostatic transmission are easier to operate, durable, require less maintenance and offer a smoother ride.

Controls

We’ve already established that choosing a garden tractor depends on the kind of transmission you want, which has a lot to do with how the machine is controlled. Some models come with a foot pedal, while others offer hand levers. Foot pedals are ideal for rough terrains and activities like digging, scooping soil, and maneuvering tight spaces, whereas, hand levers are for gardens that require mowing or tilling on gentle terrain.

Attachments

Different Ways to Find Small Tractors on Sale
Different Ways to Find Small Tractors on Sale

Depending on your needs and budget, garden tractors come with a wide range of attachments that allow you to use your tractor for more purposes and make the lawn care much easier, regardless of the season. You can either go for high-end models with fancy features or those with basic features that can prove useful. Some of these attachments include:

  • Attachments to cultivate the soils such as tillers and harrows
  • Equipment to move or execute soil and other materials such as augers, front-end loaders, scraping blades, and digging buckets
  • Carts and trailers with damping mechanism
  • Tanks and sprayers for spreading fertilizer, herbicides, water, and pesticides
  • Mulching attachments and associated accessories
  • Bagging attachments and associated accessories
  • Lawn vacuums to clear debris, leaves, and snow
  • Headlights to allow you to continue working at dusk
  • A scarifier to remove moss

The Layout of Your Lawn

Lawn Tractors

You need a tractor that best matches your property’s landscape. For instance, a tractor with more horsepower is ideal for climbing steep hills, whereas, a hydrostatic drive is best suited for flatlands. A Zero-Turn-Radius model is ideal for a farm that looks like an agility training obstacle course, not to mention, it helps you mow easily around any bushes, trees, or flower beds in a confined space.

Bagging or Mulching

Compost for leaves and grass
Compost for leaves and grass

There are several ways to handle grass clippings. You can choose to go for side-discharge tractors, which is ideal for coarse or tall grass as it directs clippings back out onto the lawn. Bagger-capable tractors allow you to collect clippings using an optional bag that’s purchased separately. This leaves your lawn looking clean with no raking, plus it avoids spreading weed seeds. However, if you are looking for a more natural way to fertilize your soil, then you should consider mulching-capable tractors. Mulching equipment saves you time and energy of manually collecting all the clippings.

Safety Features

Garden tractors are designed to run over rough terrain and even destroy heavy pieces of debris. Unfortunately for you, this means they are capable of running over you too. You need a tractor with a range of safety features so as to stay safe during your landscaping activities. Automatic blade stopping and deadman control are both used to stop the blade from moving when you stand up from the seat. Tractors can be tippy, so, get one with a rollover protection structure. You can also look for machines that lock the ignition when the PTO is engaged to prevent getting run over by the tractor. Most importantly, use your common sense. For instance, don’t operate a machine near children or unsecured animals, walk around the area before you start working, and keep a phone with you to call for help in case of an emergency.

Durability

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Just like every other purchase, you need a garden tractor that’s durable and offers value for your money. Since garden work strains a tractor more than a simple lawn activity, check out the units to ensure they can withstand any kind of pounding that stones and clogs in your farm can cause. Also, make sure there are grease fittings on the bearings as well as other friction points to prevent fast wear and tear.

Storage

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Do you have enough space to store and protect the garden tractor and the attachments you intend to purchase? If you intend to use your machine for winter snow removal, you need a warm spot preferably in the basement or garage. The wear and tear caused by bad weather can wreak havoc on your tractor if it’s poorly stored.

The Necessity of the Purchase

Most homeowners consider a garden tractor to be an unnecessary luxury compared to a less expensive walk-behind tiller. However, when carefully maintained, tractors can offer huge a return on your investment by offering busy and productive gardening years. In addition, some people, for reasons of lack of time, strength, or health issues, can benefit from a yard machine that’s well-built, lightweight, and allows them to sit down while landscaping.

Cost

How much are you able and willing to spend on your garden tractor? Keep your budget in mind when shopping for a tractor. The cost of tractors varies depending on the type, size, horsepower, and the accessories you wish to include. While they may seem costly at the time of purchase, tractors can save you time and money on future farm chores. This significantly reduces your long-term operating costs. Also if you need to shaper knives with angle grinder every second mowing, it means the lawn mower get’s even more expensive.

Used or New Garden Tractor

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Tractors are generally durable and versatile. A new tractor may cost much but is more reliable. You can get one from a dealer with a thorough understanding of the tractor’s capabilities. A dealer will help you find a machine within your budget and one that satisfies your current and future needs. However, if you wish to save a few bucks, then a pre-owned machine will be in order. Unlike new models that require sophisticated diagnostic checks, which come at a price, old models are more straightforward to those who prefer DIY services.

Attachment Capability

The Best Garden Tractor - What to Consider When Choosing It
The Best Garden Tractor – What to Consider When Choosing It

There are times you’ll need a strong and more powerful tractor that can not only handle a cart or a sprayer, but also heavy duty attachments. Therefore, look for high-end models with a PTO (Power Take-Off) hitch. These tractors can significantly expand the attachment options to include snow throwers, dozer blades, tillers, disc cultivators, front-end loaders, and much more. But, even those without a PTO consist of basic attachments such as lawn vacuums, a cart, and bagging and mulching equipment.

After-sale Services

Whether new or used, your garden tractor will definitely require maintenance in the future. Therefore, ensure you make a purchase from a reliable manufacturer who’s able to offer speedy repairs when you need them. There are several different brands available in the market, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Comfort

Riding a garden tractor may require you to sit for longer periods of time, so, ensure you consider the comfort levels it offers. Look for models that follow ergonomic rules, for instance, those with lumbar support features, armrests, adjustable seats, etc. This will help you achieve better work performance and avoid body injury.

Choosing the right garden tractor is the first step to achieving proper lawn care.


Richard Adams blogs over at Dreamley, where his team recently updated their popular buyers guide to choosing a garden tractor.

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