When picking a tractor that's pretty, consider the following ditty.
...The first pic is an '04.
...The second a '98 to '02.
...Don't be misled
...Or this can happen to you.
...Make sure that you look.
...Compare before you get took.
...Don't buy the wrong year!
...Let the buyer beware.
Here are a dozen helpful tractor buying tips, as best as I can convey them, that may help you shop for a new or used tractor. [P.S.: Apparently some sellers don't want you to know this because they flag this article when I post it!]
- Check the first 6 digits of the serial number (under the seat) of any Craftsman or other American Yard Products (AYP) tractor manufactured after 1994 and you'll find the Date of Manufacture (DOM). In fact, check under the seat of almost any tractor and you'll likely find who built it. MTD products show a DOM with month and year. Most tractors are made by two companies, MTD and AYP.
- Currently, MTD makes Bolens, Troy-Bilt, MTD Pro, MTD Gold, White Outdoor, Yard Machines, Yard-Man, and others. MTD also manufactures current Craftsman entry-level tractors (LT series) for Sears. MTD even manufactures most lawn and yard tractors for Cub Cadet and Toro.
- MTD produces two chassis. The MTD Basic Chassis uses a very light frame, has a somewhat narrower and much lighter steel body, and accommodates single cylinder only entry-level machines, often found with the 6- or 7-speed “shift-on-the-fly” transmission, as well as some light-duty CVT automatics. On these models you will notice the thinner gauge body steel (try flexing the rear of the body) as well as generally lighter components throughout. Examples of this chassis are found on the new Bolens #13WC762F065 13.5 HP 38-inch (Lowes), new Troy-Bilt Pony #13WN77KS011 17.5 HP 42-inch (Lowes), new Troy-Bilt Bronco #13WX78KS011 20 HP Auto Drive 42-inch (Lowes), new Yard-Man 12.5 HP 38-inch and 18.5 HP 42-inch (Walmart), and new Craftsman Lawn Tractors with engines rated at 12.5 to 17.5 HP, and 38-inch up to 46-inch decks. Craftsman even offers two current models with 19.5 and 21 HP singles!
- The MTD Premium Chassis uses a significantly heavier frame, has a substantially wider and heavier steel body, has a larger step-thru area, and accommodates single and twin cylinder, high-end machines, often found with many more features such as: hydrostatic transmission, electronic PTO, cast-iron front axle, systems information monitor, larger and heavier decks (42-inches up to 54-inches), deck washout port(s), larger seat, and more. Examples of this chassis are found on new Toro LX and GT series, new Troy-Bilt Thoroughbred and Big Red models, new MTD Gold #13AX915T004 22 HP hydrostatic 46-inch and MTD Gold #13AP925P004 24 HP hydrostatic 50 inch, older Yard-Man automatics, e.g., Model 604, and selected models from other brands such as White Outdoor.
- AYP produces two chassis. The Basic Chassis uses a slightly smaller compact frame, has a narrower steel body, and accommodates single cylinder, entry-level machines found with either 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions, as well as some V-twin mid-level machines. On these models you will notice footrests that are separate from the fender panel and a narrower space between the dash and fender panel (with seat), and a slightly smaller, shift-control handle knob. Examples of this chassis are found on the new Poulan XT #960160024 17.5 HP 42-inch (Home Depot), Ryobi tractors (sold by Home Depot and no longer made), and certain 2005-2007 LT1000, LT1500, and LT2000 tractors from Sears. AYP’s Basic Chassis is superior in quality to that from MTD.
- AYP also makes a Premium Chassis that is extremely versatile. It is comparable to MTD’s Premium Chassis. It uses a larger, more substantial frame, has a wider and heavier steel body with integrated footrests, and accommodates single and twin cylinder machines. These may range from standard to high-end machines. An example of a new standard machine built on the AYP Premium Chassis is the Poulan XT #960460022 19.5 HP 42-inch 6-speed (Home Depot). Some mid- and high-end machines on this chassis include any of the new Ariens tractors found at Home Depot along with any from the current Craftsman Yard Tractor (YT), Deluxe Yard Tractor (DYT), and Garden Tractor (GT) series sold at Sears. All new Husqvarna tractors at Lowes and Home Depot are also built on this chassis.
- Husqvarna acquired AYP in 1995. So, when you buy a tractor manufactured by AYP, it's actually made by Husqvarna. Husqvarna's own lines include Husqvarna (of course), Poulan Pro, McCulloch, and Weed Eater. AYP also manufactures Ariens, Lawn King, and Yard Pro tractor products. Up until about 3-4 years ago, AYP made all Sears Craftsman tractors. Today, AYP makes the better Craftsman tractors. These are the Craftsman mid- and high-end machines that are designated as Yard Tractors (YT) or Garden Tractors (GT). In the past, AYP also produced Craftsman Lawn Tractors (LT), Deluxe Lawn Tractors (DLT), and Deluxe Yard Tractors (DYT) from as early as 1998 through about 2007, with exceptions cited below. Almost all Craftsman tractors from the LT1000 through the DYT4000 series were built on AYP’s Premium Chassis with its heavier, wide body and controls.
- During the past decade, approximately 75% of all new mowers sold have been Sears Craftsman products. As a result, there are more accessories and parts available new, aftermarket, and used for Craftsman and similar AYP products.
- Many of the early "Scotts by John Deere" and John Deere residential models (sold at big box stores) were actually made by Murray, which went out of business and has since been acquired by Briggs and Stratton. Later, some were made by AYP. Finally, many were actually manufactured by John Deere in Moline, IL. The only way to confirm who manufactured a particular Scotts or John Deere residential tractor is to compare the main fender and hood style with the respective manufacturer’s comparable products. Only consider those made by AYP or John Deere. Avoid those made by Murray.
- Today, John Deere makes their own residential machines found at big box stores. However, you pay a premium for a John Deere and these tractors can be more expensive to maintain.
- Finally, compare tractors based on overall weight (yes, heavier is better!), quality of construction, solidity of chassis, body thickness and size (notice its width and step-thru area), deck gauge (13-guage or lower), and desired features. Try spotting the differences in the MTD comparison to the right (click to enlarge).
- Let the buyer beware. Take the time to become familiar with the telltale signs of each chassis and you’ll be able to spot each configuration and determine which products suit your needs. Good luck out there!
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