Lawn Tractor VS Garden Tractor

Lawn tractor versus garden tractor

What is the big difference? A lot of people get them confused. Modern day people who don’t understand the old stuff think everything that has a mower deck on it that’s smaller than a farm tractor is a lawn tractor or riding lawnmower. And some of the older guys might think some of the newer stuff that you see out in front of Home Depot is a garden tractor. Both of those are wrong. In this comparison, I am going to go over the four main characteristics as separate lawn tractor from a garden tractor.

Here it is.

1. Weight

So the first defining characteristic that separates garden tractor for lawn tractor is the weight. Lawn tractors are built much lighter, lighter materials, lighter everything. One because it doesn’t have to do the heavy duty work of a true garden tractor.  And two, a lightweight in a lawn tractor or riding lawnmower is important to prevent compaction of the soil and the ground of which you are mowing. So that is a big difference. To give you an example of how big the difference of weight is, I went around my property and first picked up the only lawn tractor that I own and then I proceeded to try to pick up several of true garden tractors.

  • The first tractor is a Craftsman YT 4,000. I can pick it up pretty easily.
  • The second one is a John Deere 317, a true garden tractor from the late 1970s. I struggle to pick it up.
  • Next up is one of the smaller of the garden tractors of the 80s and this is a Wheel Horse 312-8. I can’t pick that up.
  • Moving onto another small one, this Ford 120. Also, it was hard for me to get a grip on this one, but it was also difficult for me to pick up.
  • And finally, just for kicks and Giggles, I try to pick up the largest garden tractor of the 1970s and 80s and this is a Simplicity 4041 Power Max. it’s a huge machine and I have no chance of picking it up.

2. Rear ends

The second characteristic are the rear ends. The rear end of a lawn tractor or riding lawnmower is very lightweight. They have aluminum housings, they don’t really have true bearings to support the axles. And they’re pretty puny. There’s not much to them. The gear ratios aren’t as high. If we move over to some true garden tractors, like on this Simplicity Power Max, you can see this is a big piece of cast iron.

And here is an international harvester Cub Cadet rear end. You can see the bull gear. It is a huge gear. There is a great gear reduction, in this rear end transaxle that gives it a higher amount of torque that is available to the tractor to pull really heavy stuff.

3. Frame

Next up is the frame. The frame of a lawn tractor is just like the rear end, very puny. There’s not much steel to it. A lot of the frame is bolted together instead of welded. The frame of a lawn tractor or a riding lawnmower is merely there to support the engine and the rider. It is not meant for any true extreme stresses that could come upon it. Unlike a garden tractor. Check out the frame on these garden tractors. This frame is from a John Deere 400. It is big, it is thick, it is wide.

The wider the steel is, it’s, it flexes a lot less than when it’s driving across the linear plane, pulling a really heavy load. All these frames are built extra, extra tough.

4. Connection points

Lastly, the fourth characteristic are the connection points. A tractor’s main job is to pull stuff. And where you connect your pulling implement to the tractor is very important. In Craftsman YT 4,000 the connection point is a piece of thin steel that they reinforced by giving the steel some little curves and bends. But still, the attachment point is a part of the frame and is very thin steel. It’s only meant to pull other wheeled objects across the yard such as garden dump carts and others.

If you look at Simplicity Power Max, those connection points are to the cast iron rear ends themselves. This provides the strongest connection between the power source, which is the rear end and the implement. Garden tractors are not just meant to pull wheeled trailers. They’re meant to pull things through the ground and they’re meant to push things through the ground. So we need a really strong connection point for those purposes. And that’s where a garden tractor truly shines.


So those are the four characteristics that help you separate a garden tractor from a lawn tractor. I hope that helps you determine what is a lawn tractor and what is a garden tractor. I hope if you’re deciding what to do with your first home or your rural property. If you’re trying to decide what kind of tractor to get, I think you should get an old garden tractor, fix it up, build a bunch of cool things for it and use it on your property.