Our Turf Expert Tested the John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor and Here’s Our Verdict (2024)

Updated: Jun. 14, 2024

I'm a turf professional, and I've sold a lot of heavy-duty commercial turf equipment over the years—so I know a quality mowing machine when I see one. Let's talk about the John Deere lawn tractor.

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Our Turf Expert Tested the John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor and Here’s Our Verdict (1)Joe Churchill for Family Handyman

Full transparency here: I’m in the professional turf business. I got my start as a teenager many years ago working at my hometown golf course. For about 10 years, I sold commercial turf equipment to golf courses, sports turf managers, professional sports teams and lawn care companies. This is all to say that I know a quality mowing machine when I see one.

So, when I got my hands on a John Deere lawn tractor, I was well prepared for the task. And if you weren’t already convinced of my prowess around a lawn mower, know this: I rigorously tested this mower for multiple months so I could give you the 4-1-1. How’s that for thorough testing?

What is a John Deere lawn tractor?

Founded in 1804, John Deere is a storied brand that’s been around for literal centuries. However, it wasn’t until 1963 that the brand produced its first lawn tractor (around the same time Cub Cadet did). The initial zero-turn mower followed in the late ’90s. OK, back to the type of mower I tested.

I received a conventional, belly-mounted lawn tractor from John Deere to test out, and let me say: It is one sweet ride. Upon ignition, I could sense the power and torque this machine was about to deliver. After the novelty of making a few laps around my lawn under the watchful eye of envious neighbors had withered, I began to pay closer attention to the experience.

As I said before, this is a lawn tractor. It’s not a zero-turn riding mower—although John Deere still makes those, as well. Zero-turn mowers typically take up a lot of floor space in big-box stores and power equipment dealers. They also receive high marks in terms of maneuverability and productivity. However, they’re not for everyone. There’s a lengthy learning curve associated with developing the skill set to operate one. That’s not so with the lawn tractors from John Deere. If you can drive a car, you can operate this tractor.

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John Deere Lawn Tractor Features

Our Turf Expert Tested the John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor and Here’s Our Verdict (2)via merchant

When taking a look at my John Deere Tractor, the first thing I noticed was that the display dash is well-designed and easy to read. It features a fuel gauge, tachometer, voltmeter and hour meter. My unit didn’t come with available power steering, which at first, I thought may be an issue. Not so. Guiding the mower around obstacles was effortless. I’m not sure why you would even need it, to be honest. The tractor also comes with automotive-style cruise control in case you’re mowing larger, unobstructed areas. Once engaged, simply tap the brake, and it disengages. The seat is adjustable and adds to the overall comfort of the operator’s station. There’s also a small storage compartment and cup holder.

The easy-start electronic ignition delivers a quick engine start every time. As expected, there are many safety features and integrated proximity switches that protect the operator from personal injury or property damage. The engine won’t start unless the parking brake is on. And, when mowing, the blades will automatically disengage when attempting to go in reverse. Pushing the PTO button down and then re-engaging is a bit cumbersome, but there’s a switch to intentionally override this safety feature. Otherwise, to re-engage the mower blades, you need to push down the PTO button and pull it up again. To dismount the mower with the engine running, you must have the blades disengaged and the parking brake activated.

I love the infinitely variable hydrostatic transmission. Travel speed in both forward and reverse can be increased or decreased by how far down you press the Twin Touch pedals with your right foot. It’s that easy. The hydrostatic transmission provides dynamic braking, meaning when you take your foot off the forward/reverse pedals, the mower automatically comes to a stop without using the brake pedal. The mower won’t coast when the hydrostatic transmission is in the neutral position.

The mower design offers good maneuverability, meaning it hugs sharp corners, trees and garden edging very well. Its well-designed steering and geometric configuration help keep the uncut circle to about 18 inches. This is impressive for a conventional belly-mount lawn tractor style. The mower comes equipped with large turf tires that provide a good grip, however, I did find it to be a bit underpowered when turning sharply uphill. I may be asking for a lot in this situation, but I did notice the mower had to work extra hard and seemed to stall a bit during this maneuver.

How We Tested It

My lawn is not large, and it’s littered with several trees, gardens, bird feeders and other obstacles tucked in numerous nooks and crannies. Add in a couple of small hills and it creates a potentially challenging proving ground for a lawn tractor. I was up for the task. The only remaining question: was the mower?

After a couple of mowings to determine the best angle of approach when navigating around these obstacles, I was very surprised at how maneuverable the lawn tractor was and how little extra trimming I had to do to finish the job. Yet, if your lawn is on the small side, a standard belly-mount lawn mower may not be the best choice.

My goal was to determine ease of operation and cutting performance, both in terms of the quality of cut and its maneuverability and production. I am pleased to say that I checked most of the boxes reckoning the John Deere X Series as a high performer when it comes to mowing lawns of various sizes, shapes or configurations.

Pros

  • Nicely designed operator’s station
  • Smooth two-pedal hydrostatic transmission
  • Superior cutting performance
  • Very versatile with many available attachments for year-round use
  • Easy to service
  • Powerful horsepower (HP) engine

Cons

  • Somewhat underpowered when climbing hills with the mower deck engaged
  • Manual PTO re-engagement after backing up is cumbersome

Comparing Models: John Deere Lawn Tractor Review

Our Turf Expert Tested the John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor and Here’s Our Verdict (3)Joe Churchill for Family Handyman

John Deere produces various lawn mower types, including zero-turn, lawn, commercial and golf- and turf-specific options. Here are the following lawn tractor types to be on the lookout for and what differences you can expect between models. For reference, we tested a lawn tractor within the X300 line, but the John Deere quality is present in all the series.

  • John Deere 100 Series: This is the most affordable line, which offers a two-year warranty on all mowers and decks up to 54 inches.
  • John Deere 200 Series: Units in this line have a three-year warranty, cruise control and the smallest deck sizes.
  • John Deere X300 Series: Twin Touch foot pedals are offered on these models along with a deck leveling system.
  • John Deere X500 Series: This is the priciest lawn tractor line that features a longer warranty of 500 hours (or four years), the strongest HP motors and a larger 21-inch seat.

Final Verdict

I grew up on a small farm in Southeastern Minnesota and my dad was a John Deere guy. Having declared that, I will tell you I have no bias toward a John Deere. In fact, I used to sell against John Deere in the golf and sports turf markets. John Deere isn’t the only good riding lawn mower out there—there are others, like Cub Cadet, Husqvarna and Kubota, to name a few. Yet, there is something about a John Deere lawn tractor that quickly transports me to my happy place. It gives me a better sense of comfort and assurance knowing I’m buying quality.

A lawn tractor from John Deere will set you back a few bucks, but there’s a reason for that. John Deere has been making quality lawn tractors finished in that classic green paint since 1963. It’s the genuine article when it comes to lawn tractors, the one all other manufacturers try to mimic. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

John Deere lawn tractors aren’t perfect, as there’s no such thing. But after spending some quality time with one and focusing on the sum of its parts, I’d say it’s at the top of the lawn tractor food chain.

Where to Buy a John Deere Lawn Tractor

Our Turf Expert Tested the John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor and Here’s Our Verdict (4)via merchant

Like many equipment manufacturers, John Deere offers a good-better-best product selection. You can buy them at big box stores, like The Home Depot and Lowe’s, where light-duty options may better fit your price point. Or you can buy the beefier X300 and X500 series lawn mowers at authorized John Deere dealers.

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Our Turf Expert Tested the John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor and Here’s Our Verdict (2024)

FAQs

What is the average life of a John Deere lawn mower? ›

How long will a residential lawn mower last? The average residential mower is used for 1-2 hours per mow with 35 cuts per year. Based on that usage, a lower-quality line of residential mowers is expected to last 450-500 hours, while a John Deere residential lawn mower will last around 1,000-1,500 hours.

How many years should a lawn tractor last? ›

If you run the mower for 2 hours per week for 8 months (32 weeks) out of the year, that's 64 hours per year, which is where we get the 6-10 year timeframe on how long most riding mowers last.

Who makes John Deere engines for lawn tractors? ›

When reviewing engines, you should know that John Deere does have branded engines, but they do not manufacture their own. Depending on the model, you will find engines manufactured by quality brands like Kawasaki and Briggs & Stratton. The 100 Series provides comfortable, easy-to-learn, easy-to-own mowing.

How many hours is high for John Deere lawn tractor? ›

However, other aspects of the machine, like the transmission, clutches, hydraulics, and more may need to be replaced to keep the tractor in good running order. A general rule of thumb is that 2,000 to 2,500 hours is well broken-in while anything above 35,000 hours is considered high.

What is better, John Deere or Husqvarna? ›

Bottom line: The Husqvarna offers a wider cutting deck and more hp for the price, but is likely to cost you a lot more in the long run. The same size John Deere lawn tractor – John Deere D140-48 – would run you $100 more, but offer much better reliability and lower repair costs.

Why is John Deere so expensive? ›

A key component of a John Deere compact tractor's value is its durability. These tractors are built to last for years to come. Unlike other tractor brands, the materials used to build the tractors include high-quality polymers.

Are any John Deere tractors made in China? ›

John Deere has a factory in Tianjin, China, which manufactures a variety of agricultural tractors, combines, and engines.

What is the best mower for 2 acres? ›

If you want a lawn mower that's fast, tough, and easy to use, consider the John Deere S140. It's the best lawn tractor for 1- to 2-acre yards because it's ergonomic, powerful, and durable. Its 22 horsepower engine and three precision mower blades make it easy to maintain a large pristine lawn.

What size lawn tractor do I need for 1 acre? ›

For lawns from ¼ of an acre to two acres, you'll most likely want a rear-engine riding mower, light-duty lawn tractor, or a residential-duty zero-turn mower. Anything more than two acres and you'll need a commercial-duty zero turn mower.

What does the L mean on John Deere? ›

090 - These three numbers indicate that the approximate engine power is 90 HP. E - This letter lets you know it is a basic tractor with few extra features. L - This final letter specifies it is set up as a low profile - low clearance tractor.

Is 500 hours a lot for a tractor? ›

For example: around 500 hours: the model usually does not feel new anymore. around 2,500 hours: the hydraulic pumps, clutches, and injectors usually need some maintenance. around 5,000 hours: the engine usually needs some work.

Is 250 hours a lot for a riding mower? ›

A tractor used to mow a two-acre yard in the northern U.S. usually logs 50 to 60 hours a year. "Ask the owner how long he had the machine and how often he used it, and then do the math: 50 hours per year times five years equals 250 hours—and that means you should pass on it," Sawchuk advises.

When should I replace my lawn mower? ›

On average, you can expect a heavy-duty riding mower to have a 5-year to an 8-year lifespan for residential use. For professional-grade mowers that see heavy commercial use, that lifespan is between 4 years and 5 years. The closer your mower is to those milestones, the more strongly you need to consider replacing it.

How often should I replace John Deere mower blades? ›

It's a good idea to sharpen or replace blades at a minimum annually or every 100 hours. Your personal mowing conditions can impact the wear of your blade.

Do John Deere mowers hold their value? ›

Resale Value

We have several customers that have traded in their mower and attachments that are decades old and still receive up to several hundred dollars for them. That's pretty amazing considering what they originally paid plus all the hours they put on them!

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