Pros: size DOES matter
Cons: so does price, rats
We bought our Craftsman mower two years ago after getting sick of trying to keep our Simplicity mower running two weeks straight. In all fairness, the Simplicity was a 16hp machine and the Craftsman has 24hp. We were told the Simplicity was too small for the amount of cutting we had to do and that we had simply run it to death. So first off, make sure you buy a mower large enough in hp to handle your lawn comfortably.
We paid $3,400 for the garden tractor Model 27322, 24hp/50?cut, hydrostatic drive. We also got the 3-year in-home covers-everything maintenance package for $400 additional. Say what you will about those types of extended warranties; we are getting our money?s worth from ours.
We chose Craftsman based on a Consumer Reports article that listed it as the second most reliable riding mower brand after John Deere. We were definitely into reliability. In two years of mowing 6 acres a week (minus outbuildings and pond) of lumpy, bumpy, stumpy, rocky farmland-turned-yard we have only lost one weekend to downtime. Once a blade bit into an exposed tree root big time and it just shut down the whole tractor immediately, before I even had time to realize what had happened. I was impressed with that as I am sure it minimized damage to the machine. Bent the blade, though, couldn?t be helped.
In two years we have lost one deck belt and worn out three deck float wheels (plus bolts), had one flat tire (wheel replaced free) and one engine part was caught in cracked condition during a maintenance check and replaced before it interrupted mowing. The maintenance man comes out once a year regardless to maintain the machine (clean deck, install new blades, lube, oil and filter, check for potential repairs, do a general engine cleaning and tune-up) at a date we choose. We are not careless mowers, but with the type of land we have, we are still ?finding? things with the blades that weren?t there the previous season and we get about two more sets of blades a year when they get bent or really hacked up (free). He always cleans the deck and puts them on.
When the blades are in good shape, it makes our yard look just beautiful. We have sections where the grass grows so fast and thick we may as well bale it when we?re done, literally. The mower does not bog down in this. I DO slow down a little though or the cut gets a little rough. We haul railroad ties with it, dirt, rocks, deer, the baby in a playpen?without the deck on we have no problem going out to the ?back 40? with the wagon on and the kids to check our berry bushes and whatnot. It has good ground clearance. My husband actually prefers the Simplicity for going around the trees as it has foot controls for direction. He keeps it running well enough to do that much.
We have since bought the snow thrower attachment but only had one chance to try it. Of course it never snowed worth a darn again after we bought it. That?s a whole separate review, but the tractor handled the attachment okay. It needed tire chains and a counterweight to do this, though.
To us, this Craftsman mower has a really good record. It probably won?t get any better unless we get a REALLY big garden tractor and really roll the heck out of our ?lawn?. To some, the $400 maintenance warranty may seem like money down the drain (people who have time to do their own maintenance) but in our case it was the way to go. I am home with two small kids who don?t give me much free time to monkey around fixing and maintaining things. It works for me to be able to jump on it and go if I get a window of opportunity to cut grass. Every time I have called, a man has been out within 1-3 days, depending on what day of the week I call. I am happy with this, as I do not have the time or equipment to haul the mower in for service myself. If the man does not have the parts with him, he has them sent to me or comes back when he gets them in if it?s something he will be changing for me. This has always worked out well.
If we are ever well off enough to buy ANOTHER mower to help cut down on mowing time (6 hours a whack) it will probably be a Craftsman, but an even bigger one. We feel our land is still pretty rough and is taking its toll on this machine. We would retire this one to our smoothest, most treeless parts of the land then.