What a great machine. I bought this in May, primarily because I had a few landscape jobs I needed done that I’d never do unless I rented a tractor of some kind from the hardware store about a mile down the road. Naturally, once got the tractor, I found that I actually had dozens of such jobs, and now 50 hours later, I find that I have barely scratched the surface of what I actually want done. My property is about 2.5 acres on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes in the Brainerd Lakes area (where the movie Fargo took place. No...not everybody talks like Marge Gundersen, but I do know people that talk that way). About 1/3 of it is wooded, and about 1/3 of it is lawn that I have to mow. The mowing is done by a Z445, didn’t even get a mower for the 1023E. The ZTR likely does a better job in about 1/3 the time with less yard damage. Over the last 30 years, we just let the woods grow, and they overgrew substantially. The tractor’s main job was going to be reclamation of those woods as well as fixing up the yard (bare spots, low spots, etc). Shortly after getting the tractor, we had a windstorm and lost a couple of 30-foot spruces. My wife decided that they should all come down (12 in all) since the were all half-dead. That tree work increased the tractor’s work load by a lot.
After shopping a couple of other brands, I went to the John Deere dealer 5 miles down the road — a great guy I’ve dealt with many times before— assuming that I was going to buy a 1025R like everyone else. He had several on the lot and the pricing was good. But as we discussed what I was going to use it for, it became apparent that I didn’t need the features that separate the 1025R from the 1023E. No mowing, no tiller, no box blade, and nothing that is PTO-driven. I found armrests to be just another thing to get in the way, and my belly is not of a size that requires a tilt steering wheel to be comfortable. The 1025R would have cost me about $3000 more just to get those few things that I didn’t really need. There’s a horsepower difference, but as I’ve read many times on this forum, horsepower in a tractor is kind of irrelevant. If you run out of power, it just means you’re trying to work too fast. At no point in any of my little tasks have I run out of power. I’ve run out of traction, but not power. I really kind of wanted a backhoe, but just wanted it...didn’t really need it. In 50 hours, I haven’t really found anything that I would have used it for. Still...they’re so cool that I do have a small amount of regret.
About 80% of what I use this tractor for is carrying things. I’ve moved 20 yards of black dirt (have another 10 yards coming today) and 3 yards of crushed rock, as well as 5 or 6 trailer loads of brush, and several trees and tree stumps. Both bucket and forks...incredibly useful. The rest of it has been grading and leveling, and pulling. My 15 foot logging chain has uprooted dozens of wild bushes and ugly sumacs, and has pulled several 30-foot spruces over by the roots. My trusty old $100 Ryobi 16 inch chainsaw has had a tremendous workout, and I generally have at least two chains at the hardware store getting sharpened at any given time.
In that 50 hours, the tractor has performed flawlessly. Starts every time, runs great. Doesn’t overheat. I checked the oil once..it looked fine. I’ll probably change it and the fuel filters here pretty soon when I do the “50-hour/end-of-season maintenance”. I’d likely switch the oil to a 0-W-something for the upcoming Minnesota winter. I don’t know if I’ll be moving much snow with the thing (snowblower on my old LX277) but I’d want to be prepared for that. I view the oil change primarily as an opportunity to do that, but also to change the filter to something better than the dangerous and notoriously crappy Fram-made OEM filter. IMHO, that OEM filter poses far more danger to the longevity of that engine than letting the oil go to 200 hours. The hydraulic oil and filter/screen....I don’t know. I bought a block heater/adapter, and if I have the dealer install that I’ll probably have him do the hydraulic stuff, but I may skip that part as the block heater install looks simple enough that I may do that myself, and I’m not convinced that a 50-hour hydraulic service is necessary. I realize that’s a controversial topic, but I’m inclined to follow John Deere’s recommendations.
All-in-all, in 50 hours, I have found this 1023E to be far more useful than I thought I would. It is a serious piece of machinery for a residential homeowner like me. It’s not more tractor than I need but I haven’t found it wanting for capability for any task that I needed done. If I ever get to the point where I need a box blade or a tiller, or some other kind of PTO-driven doo-dad, I might have to consider trading it for a 1025R, or maybe a 2025R, but my need for a tiller is highly unlikely and would only happen if somehow, for some reason, I decided to take up gardening when and if I ever retire. In the meantime, I have a rather elaborate irrigation system and ground-engagement has a high potential for being counter-productive (and expensive).