The deep-voiced announcer on a current John Deere commercial makes it plain: "When it's time to pick a mower, you gotta get on one," a practice Consumer Reports routinely recommends. The commercial ends with the company's slogan, "Nothing runs like a Deere." But in our tests we discovered that even though John Deere lawn tractors and riders are among the best you can buy, some run a little better than others. Deere's dealers sell machines that you can't find at your local home center. Here's the difference.
Select Series X-class John Deere lawn tractors ($3,000 to $4,000), sold by authorized dealers, have long been top picks in our lawn tractor Ratings. The John Deere X300, John Deere X304, and John Deere X310 sport twin-cylinder Kawasaki engines, considered among the longest-lasting; heavier-duty transmissions that are well-suited to towing or pushing; and sturdy construction you can feel when you're driving it.
Deere's D-class tractors such as the John Deere D125 or John Deere D110, sold at Home Depot and Lowe's, typically make our top picks list yet cost under $2,000. These models feature Briggs & Stratton engines, capable transmissions, and lighter-weight construction all-around. Unfortunately, while you can sit on one at the home center, you can't give it a test drive except on certain "demo days."
If you're committed to the Deere brand, which is among the most reliable lawn tractors, you can visit an authorized dealer to get some perspective. Dealers, especially those that service machines sold at home centers, often stock D-class as well as Select-Series tractors. So you can drive tractors of both tiers to see which you prefer. True, the Select-Series tractors cost more. But in addition to their sturdier parts and construction, dealer-sold machines have warranties that are twice as long.
The attraction of home-center tractors, of course, is the price but Deere fans will be happy to hear there's an in-between choice—the John Deere Sport Series S240—that's not a compromise. You can buy it at the dealer for $2,500. This recommended model offers a twin-cylinder Kawasaki engine and other components similar to what you find in the Select-Series tractors. But it's built on a D-class frame.
Our lawn tractor Ratings represent 10 brands, including Deere. If it's been years since you last shopped for mowing gear, be sure to see our mower buying guide.
—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)