Pros: Starts easily. Blades engage after warming the engine. Cupholder is nice!
Cons: Flimsy materials, uneven mowing deck, scalps, bagger poorly designed, etc etc etc.....
I purchased my John Deere L-130 from Home Depot two winters ago (2004), figuring that this was a John Deere....what could go wrong? I bought it early in the season, and by the time I had used it, it was too late to return it. And at the time, since this was my first riding lawn mower, I figured it was a learning curve, and I was the problem.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. After the mowing experience got worse and worse, only too late I learned that John Deere had cut many corners building this piece of junk, and because of this many flaws have appeared.
The main problem is the uneven nature of the mowing deck. Deere's first, middle and last excuse for this is that the tires aren't inflated properly. The real reason is that instead of a bar holding and balancing the front of the mowing deck, they have cut a corner and placed only a single hook to hold the deck in place. The uneven weight tilts the deck, regardless of tire pressure, or many adjustments. I overinflate my right tires by several pounds (both right sided tires leak anyway) every week or so, but the deck is still lower on the right by an inch. The deck of this mower is 48 inches, and if your are cutting at the base of a hill, that deck will scalp your lawn. This is also true if your lawn is slightly uneven, or if you are making a turn!!
The belts and area between the mowing deck and under the seat are difficult to clean, with protective plastic making it impossible to pull the debris out. The hood is a flimsy piece of plastic held barely in place with flimsy wires, and any contact with bushes will torque it off. The mowing deck does have good suction, but I have a fast growing lawn in one area, and zoysia in another, and both will clog up the deck and stop the mower pretty easily. Slowing down the mowing speed helps improve the cut in thicker grass, but clogs the deck. I still have to run over each section twice, once each way, or from the perpendicular, to get the lawn mowed decently.
Another problem is the bagger. $320 for a bagging system that functions poorly at best, and is made of mostly cheap plastic. It is worth about $30 at most. The two-bag system preferentially dumps into the left bag, and the right fills rather poorly. JD's answer to this is to slow the engine down, which doesn't work and makes the cut even worse. At least the extra weight on the left helps even out the cut a bit. Also, as the bag fills, the upper portion of the grass chute pulls out of the bagger, so that I get sprayed with dirt and grass clippings on my back. At this point I am driving with one hand and holding the chute in place with the convenient handle (Gee, I wonder why they put THAT there!)in the other hand. I can alleviate this by emptying the full left bag and almost empty right bag and starting anew.
Another problem is the "18-inch" turning diameter. What a joke. Oh a very hard steer, it is 4 feet at best, and look out when you scalp the lawn doing a tight turn: it shifts the deck and it digs in. Also, turning anywhere makes the cut poor and uneven, and this part must be redone.
Do I really need to go on?
My next door neighbor had a John Deere L series last year, and then I noticed it was gone, and replaced with a more commercial looking mower. A close friend of mine, not knowing what mower I had, told me about his Home Depot return of an L-130, after he had noticed these same problems, and a Deere retail and service center had warned him off the product. He went back and still uses his (rare) Deere Zero-Turning Radius mower without problems.
I am a professional who normally enjoys mowing my large lawn as relaxation, which is one reason I choose to do it myself. The other main reason is that it would cost me over $3000 per year to have others do it for me, and they rarely do it properly and when mowing is needed. I have used the L-130 for two years, so I have easily paid it off, and I'm sure I can sell it at a substantial discount (not to a dealer, since they all know about these things!). I'm investing my money in a commercial rider like Exmark or Ferris.
The bottom line is that John Deere created this line to compete with cheaper models from other companies, and cut many corners to do so. What they have created is an inferior product with a higher pricetag. You are much better off buying a Sears Craftsman or a YardMan or MTD. I think Deere has done itself and its retailers a huge disservice, since selling inferior introductory products turns customers off to their brand forever. I'll never buy another Deere, even though I know there are quality products in their inventory. Once bitten..... I've seen dozens of companies destroyed this way. JVC Electronics, Kramer Guitars come to mind.