How to Choose a New Garden Tractor

Before splurging on a garden tractor, make sure you know the details for which type of tractor will work best for your needs including the tractor parts, drive train, durability and more.

| July/August 1979

It's a fact: home gardening is becoming more and more popular with each new year. As a result of this backyard growing boom, retail sales of lawn and garden products have — in the United States — increased from $2 billion in 1972 to a projected $14 billion in1979! And while buyers are inundating garden centers with new business, the equipment dealers are swamping their customers with an unbelievable variety of machinery and tools with which to ease their plowing/tilling/mowing chores.

This spring, for example, there were no fewer than 115 different sizes and shapes of new, gasoline-powered, 10- to 20-horsepower garden tractors lining showroom floors across the country . . . with prices ranging from $1,850 (for some of the lesser-known brands) to almost $4,000 (for the most fully equipped, "flashy" models).

Of course, because of the wide variety of machines on the market, there is some question as to what the term "garden tractor" actually means. But, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (which is responsible for sorting out the various categories of lawn and garden machinery), a garden tractor is properly defined as a "self-propelled riding vehicle — designed for general purpose lawn and garden work — which must have all attachments removable . . . and be capable of pulling a plow."

Why are Garden Tractors so Popular?

Market analysts in the outdoor power equipment industry aren't exactly sure what's behind the phenomenal growth of their field, but there are a lot of theories making the rounds. It's finally being recognized, for instance, that one-family dwellings are on the increase again, and that the "back to the suburbs, back to the country" movement is growing stronger every year.

In addition, the rapid and well-advertised inflation in real estate values has turned many homeowners into meticulous caretakers . . . who are willing to spend more on the upkeep of their lawns and gardens.

A recent Department of Agriculture survey also came up with an interesting fact: There are about 6,000,000 acres under cultivation in home gardens today . . . almost the same as the total commercial acreage planted in fruits and vegetables! And the survey emphasized another point that most of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers already know: In 1977 — for the first time — the gardeners surveyed by the USDA began to talk about the superior quality of chemical-free fruits and vegetables raised at home. Perhaps the cost of tools for home food production — one of which would be a high-priced garden tractor and its implements — is becoming less of a deterrent in a nation that's very rapidly adjusting to a new level of health and nutrition awareness.

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