Pros: Inexpensive, powerful
Cons: Modest features
Also see my general tractor buying guide:
I purchased the Craftsman LTX-1000 from Sears. I was looking for an inexpensive tractor for general mowing, light hauling, and snow removal. This one fit the bill and then some!
The Craftsman LT series is their light-duty tractor. All LT-1000 tractors share the same underpinnings, and vary only in engine, transmission, and deck size. The LTX-1000 is a "special edition" tractor featuring a high-performance (20hp) engine, manual or automatic transmission, and 42" mowing deck. Prices for the LT series range from around $1200 to over $1800.
Note that Sears sells a number of LTX-1000 models with different engines. All are "limited edition" gold tractors with (relatively) generous equipment for the money, but not all feature the 20hp Briggs & Stratton engine that mine has.
What you get
Craftsman uses the mid-range Briggs & Stratton and Kohler engines in the LT tractors. These engines are quite acceptable for consumer use, often including features like 2-cylinder designs, full-pressure lubrication, and cast-iron cylinder liners. All LTs also feature 42" or greater mowing decks and optional automatic transmissions.
My LTX-1000 features Briggs & Stratton's upper-end 20hp Intek V-Twin engine. Although not labeled as such, this is a 2-cylinder, full-pressure lubrication, cast-iron cylinder liner engine not found in any other tractor. It also has a decent manual or optional hydrostatic automatic. It's gold in color, as opposed to Sears' standard green.
What you don't get
The Craftsman LT mowers feature combined left-foot braking and clutch, manual accessory drive engagement, and fender-mounted shifting. Some higher-end mowers from brands like John Deere, Simplicity and Scotts feature a right-foot pedal that controls the transmission and makes driving the tractor similar to driving a car.
The Mower in Action
The mower starts and stops with a bit of a jerk, as the left-foot control is difficult to get used to. It drives easily, and turns sharply in about the width of a driveway. In 6th gear (manual) it moves quite quickly, and reverse is just the right speed.
The engine is fairly noisy, though quieter than my walk-behind mower. I park mine in the garage, and roll it outside before starting to avoid getting exhaust fumes inside. Briggs claims that this is a "clean" engine, but it's certainly smellier than my cars'!
The tractor cuts well, and the 42" deck allows me to cut my acre in under half an hour! Once you're used to driving with just a clutch, it's really quite controllable. However, the manual transmission forces you to come to a complete stop before changing gears, which is somewhat annoying. It's also a bit tricky to stop, reverse, stop, and get the tractor back in the desired gear at the end of each row. I have taken to mowing in a circle instead, but you might be better off spending the extra $150 or so on the automatic transmission!
The deck has 6 heights, controlled by a manual lever. There is a meter on the left showing deck height, but it's not really more useful than the markings for the deck lever. The deck has outboard wheels to keep it level, and comes with a baffle to allow it to mulch.
The tractor gets good gas mileage, using under half a gallon for my 30-minute acre. This is about the same amount of fuel that my walk-behind required for it's 1.5 hours of work on the same yard.
One tip: Clean the deck frequently. Mine already had a large amount of caked-on grass (I use the mulching baffle) and this is a prime cause of rust. Pretty much the whole tractor can be hosed off after use, and a good sharp spray under the deck will go a long way toward making your tractor last as long as your mortgage!
I purchased mine (model 27243) on sale at Sears. It was marked down to $1,299 (from $1,599) with a special 0% financing offer on the Sears card. They had also left a 10% off sign on it from the previous week's sale, and the Sears associate honored that as well without my even asking! This extra $120 off brought the final price to just $1179, which is really an amazing value for this tractor. Kudos to Sears for such excellent customer service, too!
Sears delivered the tractor in just 2 days, and arrived exactly on time. Unpacking was a fairly easy task, though it was difficult to get the tractor off this wooden crate frame. Assembly was a snap, consisting of unpacking, assembling the steering wheel and seat, and checking tire inflation. The tractor came with the oil full and tires overinflated, as expected. It started right up with a bit of choke, and settled down to a smooth run in moments.
Update - Repairs
5 months after buying this tractor, I experienced my first repair. I had it parked in my garage, and noticed the smell of gasoline. Soon, it became quite strong, and on investigating, I discovered that the fuel tank was cracked where the fuel line exits it. I cleaned up the tractor and emptied and removed the fuel tank, placing it away from the house for safety!
I called Sears' help line (1-800-4MY-HOME) and after talking to a couple of people was able to get the part sent out, free of charge. Note that the basic warranty does NOT include on-site installation, but Sears would have been happy to repair it for me if I had brought it in to the store. They charge $40 for a home visit to replace parts, even if they are covered by the standard 2-year warranty.
Because this cracked gas tank was clearly a manufacturing defect, and could have been dangerous if it had broken free while I was using the tractor, I am going to have to reduce my durability score. However, problems can happen, and I will not let this reduce my enthusiasm for the tractor in general.