This is a topic that's been on my mind for some time - approaching a total property/yard maintenance solution. The time has most certainly come for a riding lawn mower at minimum, and I've oft dreamed of the tractor/snowthrower/mower/leaf collector combination as a way to do this, if I could get it all set up as a package meant to "play well" with each other.
It was suggested on another forum (that is before being told by some that such a solution that didn't incorporate a horizontal shaft drive on the tractor for 25K total package price or more wasn't really worth persuing) that a JD X300 or X500 series package could well be a solution at a lower price point.
I've been researching the lawn tractor topic for some weeks (approaching months) now, and one thing I've gathered is that if I do want a "longer lasting" solution that I need to pay attention to the powertrain - engine and transmission in particular, which is what seems to separate the big-box from the dealer purchased to the highest end "horizontal shaft drive" specialized stuff. Lots of machines look brawny but aren't so stout in the mechanics, particularly in the category of "lawn tractor/mowers".
As I'm sure most here can attest, it seems there's no "free ride", in the sense that if I want a stout transmission as an example, I'm going to have to pay for it. Particularly if I intend to move or push snow, or tow carts, or have a leaf/lawn waste bagging system that's strong enough to consistently work/do the job properly without wearing it out in three to five years.
I've looked at a number of zero turns, and now turning my attention to lawn tractors, and it seems that if I do "zero turn" that I'm buying a lawn mower only (with a leaf collection add on possible) but certainly no snowthrower, which would be a separate item. I could certainly invest in a good two stage machine to handle the paved driveway and adjacent walks, so that could be a solution, but was pointed to a JD X500 series setup that would offer a stouter, nearing or being an entry level commercial grade transmission in the K72. Entry level price (X570) at about 6K, seeming to be comparable to the Hydro-Gear 3100 or 3400 that would be similarly stout (and also serviceable) in zero turn "comparables" in that "entry level commercial" area of their lineups. So in buying an X500 series JD, it seems that I'm only gaining the option to have the add on snowblower and "made for the machine" leaf collection setup, which is VERY appealing.
Put another way, we discussed going with a Zero Turn Scag, Bobcat, or JD in the 5-6K range, separate two stage snowthrower, and buying a "made for" or outboard leaf collection system (like a DR leaf vac setup that attaches to your mower setup, which has it's own engine for the vac). OR I could just get an all JD setup, with snowthrower, leaf collection setup and mower, all in one package, all made to work with each other.
Adding to the ease of going JD, I've been approved for sufficient financing to allow an X500 series package to be paid for by way of a 4.9% 48 month payment term, which is very attractive and a reasonable way to get ALL of the necessary equipment to complete the package in one easy payment setup, and all new gear to boot. Now I wouldn't have bothered applying for that financing if I didn't first think that JD had a reasonable shot at being the "chosen solution", at least in part, having been sufficiently impressed with the offerings in equipment, and especially the X500 series, to make the application to take advantage of the current financing offers.
So with that said, I want to pick apart the X500 series, much of which I have read about on this site already, and see what choices within that series would be right for me - or not.
The property: 1 triple-lot, 3/4 acre space with a 125 foot paved driveway and 200+ foot adjoining sidewalk, which I often find myself servicing as two of my four neighbors are elderly and not so much up to the task. So the snow removal "brawn" would be a big help. The driveway concrete downslopes on the last third, so I would be curious as to how well the 44 or 47 inch blowers would handle the "dropoff from level" that the driveway brings as I would go down the slope (I figure going down away from the house toward the street is easier on the tractor or blower, too). But in addition, and even more importantly, the property resides in a valley, surrounded by trees, which forms a "bowl" where the surrounding density of trees deposit large quantities of leaves onto the lawn. LOTS of them. So I need a setup that will allow me to vac on a weekly basis for four or so weeks out of the year to keep up with them, and to prevent them from being covered by the snow. We've used the largest leaf blowers we can buy or borrow and it all seems overwhelming. A tractor leaf collector setup would be really welcome, I think.
So with all of that learned from reading, I was off to the local JD dealer this weekend, and was shown the X500 series by the salesperson. He brought up the differences in the X500 models, quoting my $5999 for the X570, $6999 for the X580, which seem the two primary machines of interest, with the main difference being the power steering and hydraulic lift. In particular, as it related to the snowthrower, the idea was posited that in five or seven years that I would be happier not pushing on the manual lift (I am early 50's now, which drives my want for this kit as I'm tiring of the physical workout of doing this as I have until now) if I had the hydraulic lifting on the snowthrower. He also seemed to push the idea of pairing the 47" snowthrower with the X580 (or even the 590), as the 47" snowthrower is 125 lbs heavier than the 44".
So now I have a "double dilemma":
1) By purchasing the 580 or 590 with power steering and hydraulic lift, am I introducing complexity into the machine that would be a service headache later in ownership, or are these systems proven reliable? There seems a lot of merit to the simplicity of the manual lift being reliable, and as one who buys his cars with minimal options that I don't perceive necessary save on future repairs. OR.....
2) If I went with the X580/590, I still see a lot of merit in the 44" as it IS 125 lbs lighter according to the dealer, so I would have an easier time mounting it up at season start - or are there OTHER reasons I should spend the $200 extra for the 47", given that it's only $200 more on an $11K package? If I have the hydraulic lift the 125 lbs is less of a concern when on the tractor, and if there's other "merits" to the 47", like serviceability (I didn't ask if the pulleys had grease nipples on either one, but if one did and the other didn't, that might matter here) as well as having a bigger auger other than just width? I saw the 44" but they didn't have a 47" out and visible, although they DID have it in stock, but I didn't get a look see, and the salesperson didn't really seem to know aside from the fact that "the mouth was deeper and wider".
3) OR if I should just get a separate two stage and save the $600-800.
Leaf collection: There exists two options I'm aware of for the X500 series - the 7 bushel, two removable bag kit ($1200 inclusive), and the 14 bushel three removable bag kit ($1700 inclusive). From a couple YouTube vids these seem effective and "operable", finding no complaints as to their lack of effectiveness to do the job - and effectiveness IS really important as I don't want to spend the $$$ and find out that it's underpowered. But those aforementioned vids even mention collecting when the leaves were moist/"dew-ey" so that seems something of an added endorsement. Given the leaf volume the 14bu seems a MUST, as the volume of leaves we get here are substantial, and I'm not buying one of these kits to fall short of the job - and the extra $500 seems well worth it in the context of the overall cost, and the need for robust leaf collection this property presents.
Then we looked at a few accessories: The front cage guard for the X500 (seems sensible/protective as well as looking good) that would be used for all but snowthrower time, chains for snow season, and four weights for the rear or front depending on snow or leaf removal season. Which reminds me - that I guess the 570 doesn't have the spot for the front weights stock, I have to buy that?? So if I went 570 I guess I would be buying that mount for leaf season? Or is the weight of the 24hp Kawasaki enough to counter that with a 14bu leaf setup on the rear? But those accessories seemed to be the basic required package if I bought the setup with the required trimmings......
Deck size seemed to be 48" as a pretty firm idea, not just for easier parking and storage but I read here that it cuts really well. And YES, they did offer to do a 48" with the 580, as I read some here had issues with getting that through their dealer?? I am traditionally a "mulcher" and read here that sometimes special blades are better or optimal for that? Not sure how the mulch kits would play out in practice, and was a topic I didn't get to with the salesperson, which brings me to.......
The dealer. Having been my first visit to a local John Deere dealer (short of a few parts purchases for an old TRS21 snowthrower some years ago, which they did have parts for) I was less than impressed with the visit. While the salesperson DID explain the basic option upgrades on the X500 series he did so with half of his attention literally focused someplace across the shop, with seemingly an attitude that if he didn't sell it to me someone else would buy it (and that after telling him I had a JD finance approval sufficient to buy an entire package). I've been in the sales/service business my whole life and know "don't give much a bleep" or relative disinterest when I see it. And this before ANY discussion of price came up - it just seemed if this was the interest level of selling an 11K package now, what would be the interest of service after the sale?? And this taking place figuratively and literally in the shadow of their World Headquarters, which has me (and moreover, my wife, who insists if I do buy that I do so at another dealer, even if it's JD) a bit perplexed and feeling unsure - at least about THIS dealer. There are two others within 30 miles of here, just out of town, so more visits there are in the cards, if for no other reason to try to feel out for who is going to take care of me AFTER the sale. Still yet, I wouldn't use it (yet) as a reason not to buy the brand, as from what I've read and researched it seems that I AM looking at good equipment at the price point and for the purpose. It has that "universality" too in that it's not a rare brand, always good in the aftermarket/leter years of ownership too.
Because it IS pertinent, the prices offered if buying the package:
44" snowthrower $1600
47" snowthrower $1800
7bu two bag kit $1200
14bu three bag kit $1700
Chains, four weights, front grill guard $450 total
It does seem that deals are not given easily (although there's a little money off here, but not much) but I'm not really focused as much on "The Deal" right now as getting the right product for me as well as the right dealer. But especially for purposes of this post, getting the right combination of product and to focus the lens as to the issues/questions that I have, particularly before I sign for 11K worth of product. I am definitely asking myself if I should get the X570 or 580, and if I should get the attached or separate stand alone snowthrower as primary questions, and the aforementioned specifics on the associated attachments - and if something is NOT recommended or inadequate or mismatched in your experience.
Any help/focus would be welcome. Thanks very much in advance.