Pros: Power and large cutting width = quick work
Cons: Width of cutting deck, over use of safety devices
Having previously owned a Scotts riding mower I decided to take a chance on them again. My (smaller) riding mower had the Scotts name but was made by MTD, makers of Murray lawn mowers. It worked well for several years, with a few malfunctions. Most notable was that on two occasions the deck wheels (brackets and all) fell off while mowing and fell under the deck... which made for really, really short blade life. Anyway, that was then, this is now...
The Scotts brand riding mowers/tractors are now engineered and manufactured by John Deere. Based upon their reputation alone I decided to look into another Scotts purchase.
Although more tractor than I need, the 25HP 54" cut S2554 garden tractor was on sale for $1,000 less than the MSRP of $3,899.00. That, coupled with a 10% discount for a first purchase on a Home Depot card, made for an incredible deal. I didn't get any implements, but plan to get a front bumper, garden cart and possibly a tiller.
The first thing I found out was that the tractor was too wide to take home in a small truck. I had to enlist the help of a friend with a full size truck, and even then rear of the tractor had to sit on the tailgate. I soon learned that the tractor is over-engineered as far as safety devices go. I can understand not being able to mow in reverse without holding the PTO switch up... but not being able to engage the PTO without the brake on is too much.
Though comfortable, I find the seat weak in material and design, and being larger than average I would imagine this will be the first place the tractor will break.
Asking if taking the deck off might help us load the tractor more easily into the truck, I was informed that that was a very difficult task. Excuse me, but what about when I want to mount an implement and have to remove the deck? Isn't that the purpose of a garden tractor?
The engine "hunts" when cold, taking a full three minutes to reach operating temperature and level off. Also, when the PTO is engaged the engine boggs down terribly, almost dying.
I mentioned that one of the pros and cons of this machine is the width of the cutting deck. It's great if you have a lot of wide open yard to mow. But my lot has a number of obstacles, both natural and man-made. Having the deck extend a few inches beyond the rear wheelbase and a few inches more beyond the front wheelbase, you really have to keep alert when mowing around anything. Maybe some curb feelers would to the trick...
The deck itself is very stout, boasting thicker metal than most. I don't care for the plastic hood, which I had to have swapped out because mine arrived at the store with deep gouges on the side.
The tractor is shipped with heavy "break-in" oil in the crankcase, and must be changed after the first several hours of use. I still haven't found mention of this in my owner's manual... just word of mouth from the person who assembled it at the store.
Don't expect to get very far on a gallon of gas with this beast, either. I used it for a half hour and had to replenish it with over a half gallon of gas. Ouch!
Overall, I'm not impressed. But considering the price I paid, I can live with the shortcomings. If I had to pay full MSRP for it, I would have gone with a smaller version. If you absolutely need a garden tractor and money is not a critical issue, check out the Cub Cadet line. They are closer to a small tractor, but unfortunately start out in the $6,000 range and go up from there.
UPDATE I overheard a conversation at my local Home Depot last week that may explain why I got this "great deal" on this garden tractor. If the HD worker is correct, they will no longer carry the Scotts line starting next spring. It seems that the Scotts line of mowers and tractors has cut into the John Deere slice of the pie too deeply, according to this person. Since the Scotts equipment has a much smaller profit margin, the company likely has decided to pull out of the "low end" market and produce John Deere products exclusively. Go figure.
He also stated that Home Depot would continue to support previous buyers of Scotts products, but I don't find this too comforting.
UPDATE: May 2005. The tractor continues to run fine with minimal maintenance. I replaced the engine oil with synthetic and, at the rate I am using it (20 hours per season) I should never have to change the oil again (but will once a year anyway).
I put a ball hitch on the rear and modified all of my equipment (lawn sweeper, spreader/aerator & dump cart) with regular automotive-type hitches. No more fiddling around with hitch pins. Makes the job a lot faster and a lot simpler.
A mulch kit was also fitted to the deck, and aside from sweeping the yard for 'gumballs' and small twigs occasionally, I can now mow the yard in about 30 minutes because I don't have to stop and empty the sweeper.
Although The Home Depot no longer sells Scotts garden tractors, I find that all of the John Deere model GT110 parts fit it, so my fears of buying an orphan have subsided. Still a great buy on my behalf and I'm still happy about my purchase. So happy that I am upgrading my Epinion. The only drawback is that one of my cars has to sit outside the garage so that I have room to park it! This baby deserves a spot in the garage!