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John Deere Lawn Tractor Buying Advice Needed: X300 or LA series

14 years ago

I considered posting this in the Lawn Mowers forum, but figured I might get better responses in the Tractor forum so here goes... (please don't laugh)

I am in the market for a small residential lawn tractor, mostly to mow grass but also for other (light?) jobs around the house. Here are my requirements:

  1. Must be able to easily mow my property which consists of:

    * .5 acres of Bermuda grass

    * Some slopes and hills (nothing too steep, maybe a max of 30% grade in some spots).

    * Very few obstacles.

I plan to directly mulch my clippings, though may end up side discharging too (doubt I'll ever do any bagging).

  1. Must be able to handle occasional tow duty using pull-behind utility cart (to transport bags of mulch, fertilizer, plants, and maybe even brick pavers or landscaping stones around the property).

  2. Must be able to handle seasonal use with a plug aerator and broadcast spreader.

  3. Should fit within preferred budget of $2000-$3000.

I've tried to do my homework and done lots of research online. Also visited my local Deere dealer (as well as box stores). So far it seems like something from the JD LA 100-series will "get the job done" and the model that seems to strike the sweet spot with me is the LA135 Limited Edition, which is the best equipped 42" tractor in the LA line-up (V-twin, wider rear tires, better seat & steering wheel, included bumper bar and mulch cover). I don't think I need a wider deck, and actually prefer fewer blades and moving parts so the more expensive LA145, 165, and 175 don't appeal to me as much. The only things I wish the LA135 had are the larger wheels/tires (from the LA165 and 175) and electric PTO (from the LA145 and higher models), but I guess the manual PTO won't be that big a deal. The price is right for an LA135 too (just under $2k, which leaves some money leftover to spend on accessories like utility cart, plug aerator, etc.).

However, I also understand that the LA100-series tractors don't seem to have the same stellar reputation as other JD equipment, and JD enthusiasts feel that one would have to step up to the X-series to get a "real" John Deere. That has caused me to at least consider looking at the X300. If money were no object, I'd love an X304, but an X300 with 38" or 42" deck would already be stretching my budget (and leave little extra for accessories). Believe it or not, the Deere salesman didn't pressure me into an X300, and once he learned I only had 1/2 an acre to cut, said the LA series would suit me just fine and I could probably expect 8+ years of service out one as long as I kept up with routine maintenance.

So, that being said, does anybody want to weigh in to help guide my decision? Is the X300 really overkill for what I need? Or is the extra grand going to pay dividends down the road, in terms of reliability or performance? Are the LA series tractors that bad? I think an LA135 will meet my needs and I definitely appreciate the better price/value, but I wonder about the little Tuff Torq T40J transmission when towing stuff. The K46 in the X300 is not exactly the best transmission either, but should stand up better to strains from towing, etc. right?

I can live with buying the cheaper LA135 even if that meant knowing it wouldn't last as long as an X300, as I might want a new tractor in 5-10 years anyway. I could also live with stretching the budget a little for an X300, if that meant my ownership experience would be that much better over the 5-10 years I plan to own it, because of better reliability. The mistake I want to avoid is paying more for a top-of-the-line LA series model (like an LA165 or 175) that maxed out features I probably don't care about, when my money would be better spent stepping up to a basic X300.

I plan to pull the trigger in the next few days, so any advice or shared experiences are appreciated. Thanks!


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