What to look for / watch out for in a used Riding Mower?

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Just in case we end up getting the acre lot with home, I'm thinking of picking up a riding lawn mower. Used, of course, because I don't like buying new things. I have a 22'' push mower which is on engine #2, been run over by my F-350 (long story) and is about near the end of its life.

Figure I might as well upgrade to a riding mower if we get to that point.

I know some have hydrostatic transmission problems. That seems to be the big thing to watch out for. How do I tell if something has a "good" vs a "bad" transmission.

Are servicable spindle bearings a thing? Or is that only for commercial grade stuff?
 
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Yes, a lot of lawn and garden tractors (if that's what you're searching) have not only serviceable but sometimes grease-able spindle bearings.

Sounds like a good opportunity for a John Deere 140 H1/H3, John Deere 316 (Onan preferably) or 318 (or really any variant). They made many good ones. I gotta say, even a lot of the vertical shaft Craftsman GT series from 90's are good units.

The 140, 300-series, 400-series, 4x5-series Deere's had very good Hydrostatic transmission/differentials.
 
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If you can justify around $1500 on a used riding mower, look for an 80’s or 90’s vintage diesel Kubota G. Their only weak link is grease points, but everything is serviceable.

They were offered in gear or HST. The HST on the 80’s G is powered by an Eaton 1100. I’ve moved my truck with it a few times when it wasn’t running.
 
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I have an older Deere 185. 17 hp Kawasaki with a spin on oil filter, with a Tuff-Torq hydro. 46" deck. Also came as a 165 with a 38" deck.

Not a lot of repairs, considering it is a 30 year old unit. These can be picked up for less than a grand, all day long.
 
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I have a 2003 Husqvarna GTH 2248 xpc it's a commercial grade I bought it from a friend 48 in is good for my yard it's half acre pretty much wide open consider what you're buying for where you have to mow because a lot of turn around being a bigger deck doesn't necessarily mean it's the best for your needs mine has a Kawasaki 22 horsepower engine got a hydro gear trans hydrostatic no issues whatsoever other than broken belts Etc but that's normal

TOMB
 
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I bought a used Deere LT150 2 springs ago with a 38" deck on it. It needed a little work, a battery and 4 new tires but have about $1,200 in it. This has been a good mower. My local dealer has or can get parts for it within a couple days. I recently just put a 42" snow blower on it as well.

I'd buy a Deere, it is nice to be able to get OEM parts when needed.

Just my $0.02
 
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There are ways to test a Hydrostatic tranny to see if its OK now but its hard to tell how much life is left in them. If the owner will let you, you can block the front wheels so the tractor can not move and then try to drive forward. If the engine loads down or the rear wheel breaks free you are OK, if it seems like a clutch is slipping its on its way out and may not be able to get up even a small hill. If the tractor has been well cared for and the grass is not piled up on the tranny and there is no rattleing from the mower deck as you bring the blades up to speed its probably OK. Of course if you are looking in the early spring you still cant be sure it wont have an issue in the middle of summer when the temps start bouncing off 90.
 

SwampSurvivor

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If a 22" mower has worked for you, consider upgrading to a new 30" Toro Time Master.

Complete teardown review.



I do have a 24'' in the garage that's in great shape but has no spark. It's even self propelled.

A $4000 semi commercial zero turn will cut mowing time in half and last a homeowner 20+ years.

Or you could buy a $1500 used junker and replace them every 3 years.

New house? Splurge for a new mower.

My opinion.
I'm a sub $500 junk kinda guy. I didn't pay for my current mower and I got 5 summers out of it!
 
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Where were you like a month ago when I was trying to give away my old Craftsman riding mower? It needed some love, but free and the hydro was good!
 
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A $4000 semi commercial zero turn will cut mowing time in half and last a homeowner 20+ years.

Or you could buy a $1500 used junker and replace them every 3 years.

New house? Splurge for a new mower.

My opinion.
I’m hoping this wasn’t in reference to my post. My main mower is a 1982. I use it to mow 3.5 acres all summer long. The engine is easily a 2-3000 hour engine that is used in countless industrial applications and it sips fuel. Their HST rear ends are pretty tough too. I’ve abused mine enough, but I try to pamper it given the age. I’ve owned it for nearly 4 years issue free besides wear items. Belts and blades.

If I didn’t have so much grass to mow, I’d have zero complaints about it.

If OP checks marketplace or CL he may find one for 500-1000. Deals do happen. You just have to act quick.
 
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I do have a 24'' in the garage that's in great shape but has no spark. It's even self propelled.


I'm a sub $500 junk kinda guy. I didn't pay for my current mower and I got 5 summers out of it!
You could also look for a 60’s or 70’s vintage wheel horse. They are somewhat of a collectors item so used parts should be easy to find, plentiful, and cheap.
 
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Newer is nicer, I have had several and newer seems quieter. Anyhow, mine all die from being stored outside. If you don’t have a shed to store in that would be problem one I think. Next problem being, its one more thing to move when you do--and simply in the way until you do.
 
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If a 22" mower has worked for you, consider upgrading to a new 30" Toro Time Master.

Complete teardown review.


The Time Master is an excellent choice, and you can find them gently used for decent prices. They mulch really well, which makes quick work of leaves in the fall. I have several customers with them.

The issue with used riding mowers is that like cars condition and prior maintenance is everything. I love the old John Deeres that Redhat mentioned, but they aren't for everyone. Most things that old seem to fit into two categories, well maintained and expensive or beat up cheap projects that need everything redone. The plus side to an older Deere is it will last a long time when sorted, and parts are easy to find. Don't buy a cheap used box store junker because you will be throwing parts at it yearly to get your lawn mowed.

An older commercial walk-behind can be a good compromise as well. I picked up a $500 1998 ExMark belt drive walk-behind last year. 48" deck, 14hp Kawasaki. I bought a stand on sulky for it for about $100 and it mows my 2.5 acres faster and with less fuel than I can with my 54" Deere garden tractor.
 
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A belt drive walk behind with a 48" deck along with a sulky will fit the bill plus you will get really nice stripes!!
I love mine. It stripes well, is fast, makes trimming around obstacles easy, no hydro pumps to go bad, and it's fun to use. Initially I thought a single cylinder Kawi 14hp wouldn't be enough to run a 48" deck, but even in thick grass it cuts well, since it has a higher blade tip speed being a commercial mower. It also sips gas. I like my Deere garden tractor with it's 25HP V-Twin Kohler, but that thing drinks fuel.
 
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These are nice riding mowers . :)
 
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I love mine. It stripes well, is fast, makes trimming around obstacles easy, no hydro pumps to go bad, and it's fun to use. Initially I thought a single cylinder Kawi 14hp wouldn't be enough to run a 48" deck, but even in thick grass it cuts well, since it has a higher blade tip speed being a commercial mower. It also sips gas. I like my Deere garden tractor with it's 25HP V-Twin Kohler, but that thing drinks fuel.
The Kawasaki FC 420 14 hp was the best engine Kawi ever made!!
 
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