Choosing the right tractor for your lawn can be a daunting task. Let’s start sorting through the options so you can start shaping up your lawn.
Tractors, like automobiles, are available with a variety of transmission options. Consider your yard’s terrain before selecting what type of transmission you will need. Also decide how easy you want mowing your lawn to be. Automatic transmission with cruise control will do most of the work for you, while manual transmission will give you greater control over your ride. Here are the types of transmission available for your tractor:
This is the most basic kind of transmission on the market. Manual transmission involves gear shifting and use of a clutch to start, maneuver or stop movement. While the operator must be more directly involved in the driving process, manual transmission offers more control and may also offer a cost advantage and better fuel efficiency. Manual transmission is best if you have hilly terrain.
Also known as “shift-on-the-go,” transmatic transmission involves shifting gears with no clutch. With this type of transmission, you have the option to change speeds easily without stopping. You can use a speed selector to set your speed and still use your brake pedal to slow down. Once you release the brake, you can resume your selected speed.
This type of transmission is pedal controlled. The ground speed of your tractor can be controlled with the push of a pedal, similar to a car. This is one of the easiest types of transmission to operate. With automatic transmission, some models come with cruise control as an added convenience.
Using a foot pedal control like basic automatic transmission, hydrostatic transmission differs by using fluid to drive pumps to control speed. This type of transmission is the most similar to what you would find in your car and is best for flat lawns with obstacles.
Before selecting what type of engine you will need, you must consider your lawn size and terrain type. The more hills you have to climb with your tractor, the more powerful engine you will need. There are two types of engines on the market today.
Single cylinder engines are perfectly adequate for medium-sized, flat lawns. Typically, the biggest issue with single cylinder engines is vibration. Most modern single cylinder engines come with anti-vibration systems that cut down on the side-to-side motion which contributes to a shaky ride. A single cylinder engine with an overhead valve (OHV) will also run cooler and with less vibration than a standard engine.
V-Twin (Two Cylinder)
For large lawns with difficult terrain, a twin cylinder engine will garner the most power, as well as the smoothest ride. These engines are counter-balanced, which results in operation that is quieter, with less vibration and more power. These engines are also highly reliable, taking less wear and tear over time and requiring less maintenance.
The cutting deck is the area that contains the blades that do the actual work of mowing your lawn. Deck size, or width, is an important consideration since it determines the speed at which you can finish mowing your lawn. When deciding what size cutting deck you will need, you must factor in the size of your lawn and the amount of storage space you have. Also make sure to measure any gates on your lawn to ensure that the tractor you buy can fit through them.
For the cleanest, most manicured finish, cutting decks measuring 42” to 46” wide are the best. Tractors of this size will also fit through most gates and will be more compact and easier to store. If you lawn is 2 acres or less, this is the size you should look for.
Larger cutting decks, measuring 46” to 54” wide, are best for lawns over 2 acres. You will get the job done quickly, but you will sacrifice some of the final polish of a smaller, precision deck.
Aside from just the width of the deck, you should look at what increments the operator can raise and lower the blades. Typically, the blades can be raised and lowered in increments of about 1/2 inch from anywhere from 1.5” to 4” above the ground. Also, some decks will come with gauge wheels which can prevent scraping and will keep the blades level on uneven surfaces.
Grass Clippings Options
An important decision when purchasing a lawn tractor is how you want to dispose of the grass clippings. You should determine how often you mow, how quick your lawn grows and if you want to compost the clippings. Here are the three options you have for grass clippings disposal:
- Bagging: With this option, a chute delivers grass to a bagger located at the rear or the side of the tractor. Some home owners prefer this method as it provides a clean and manicured finish. With a bagger, you can choose to compost the clippings or dispose of them. No raking is necessary, since all clippings are removed from your lawn while you mow.
- Mulching: Mulching kits are available to add to your tractor. The clippings are cut into very small pieces and returned to the lawn to add nutrients and act as a weed barrier.
- Side Discharge: This is the standard option for most mowers. The clippings are released onto your lawn while you mow, often requiring you to have to rake to clean up the build-up of dried clippings several times throughout the mowing season. If you leave your grass a long time between mowings or you have a lush, shaded lawn which grows quickly, you may find the grass is too high to mulch, so side discharge will be your best option. With a large, tall lawn, baggers may fill easily and require emptying which can disrupt and slow down the process, again making side discharge the better option.