What We Like
Tight turning controls
Efficient speed cuts mowing time
Easy Change™ 30-Second Oil Change System
No-choke start feature makes cranking machine easy
Comfortable seat with lumbar support for long riding
What We Don't Like
Gas tank fill level is difficult to read
Reversing can cause a designed engine failure
Washing blade deck can be messy
In the middle of the year’s hottest months, yards can be an unruly mess. Rain makes them grow faster, higher, and thicker. Drought makes them dry and brittle. Small push mowers and reduced-horsepower riding mowers may not be cut out for the work of maintaining big yards. If you dread lawn chores because your lawn mower isn’t up to par with your needs, you may be considering buying a new riding lawn mower. To see if the John Deere E160 Lawn Tractor could tackle an unruly yard of grass, weeds, and the occasional errant flower, we tested this product for hours in a large yard in desperate need of cutting. If you’re ready to make your life easier with a more powerful mower, find out if this 48-inch, 24 HP V-twin ELS gas hydrostatic lawn tractor is worth your investment.
Setup: White Glove Delivery Service, a special bonus
Home Depot, one of John Deere’s major sellers, offers White Glove Delivery Service, a complimentary benefit that arranges for a service of the tractor, including fluid and battery checks, delivery, and one-on-one instruction and tutorial. This service may be a selling point over similarly priced and rated machines simply because you get assistance in learning about the machine and making sure it’s running properly—a real bonus if you’ve never owned or operated such a large mower.
If you purchase your mower from a seller that does not offer this service, you might want to consider checking with a local tractor shop or small engine shop to verify the tractor has been set up properly. This includes checking oil, oil plugs, battery, battery connections, and tire pressure. The operator’s manual also provides detailed instructions on operations and introductory videos help introduce you to all the features.
Design: Large, wide structure
The John Deere E160 Lawn Tractor features a three-blade, deep deck design that effortlessly cuts grass and weeds at a cutting width of 48 inches, but it makes for a wide machine at the base—nearly 61 inches (60.8 inches) from side to side. It’s important to make sure you have a wide area to store the tractor before purchasing, as this machine won’t fit just anywhere.
The start mechanism is reminiscent of a car.
A ReadyStart system with key switch starts the machine quickly and effortlessly, without needing a choke or specific gear. In fact, the start mechanism is reminiscent of a car, which makes growing accustomed to the feature easier.
The operator’s station features all the buttons and gauges in easy-to-read spots, except for the gas tank gauge. It’s directly below the seat, so in order to know how much gas you have, you’ll need to check before or after you’ve mowed. It was difficult for us to monitor gas levels while we operated the machine.
The blade engagement mechanism is on the left side of the machine, within quick reaching distance. You can lift the blade if you’re driving near or over something you do not want to cut. You can also adjust while mowing if you prefer to change heights as you go—no need to get off the machine to alter heights. Height selection ranges from 1 to 4 inches in .25-inch increments.
It features a three-blade, deep deck design that effortlessly cuts grass and weeds at a cutting width of 48 inches.
The operator’s seat is padded and ergonomically designed for comfort while riding. You can adjust it with a handle in the back for more efficient support. Also, a cup holder and protected pocket sit on the right side of the machine so you can keep hydrated and stash your phone or music device while you mow.
Performance: Your yard is no match
The 24 HP V-twin extended life series (ELS) engine is powerful, and you can tell it from the moment you press the motion pedal. We were happy to note that the throttle lever lets you select a speed, which helped us easily control trajectory until we felt more comfortable handling the machine. The hydrostatic transmission can lock into cruise control, too, so you can set a pace that feels comfortable to you and allows you to maintain good control.
Because of the size, there were parts of the yard we had to trim or cut back with a weed eater because they were too small for the large tractor.
With the ultra-powerful motor and speed (up to 5.5 miles per hour), we were able to mow three acres in one hour and 15 minutes. That was about 20 minutes shorter than previous mows with a less powerful machine. However, because of the size, there were parts of the yard we had to trim or cut back with a weed eater because they were too small for the large tractor. That ultimately made the cutting time about the same.
Though this machine does not have the popular zero-turn capability of some larger mowers (which often adds several hundred or even a thousand dollars to the price), this mower manages to have a tight turn radius, which makes mowing around trees, flower beds, and edges easier. Because of the width of the blades and covers, however, you may not be able to get as close to the edges as you could with a push mower. An edger will still come in handy.
With the ultra-powerful motor and speed, we were able to mow three acres in one hour and 15 minutes—about 20 minutes shorter than previous mows.
Gas Mileage: Floating tank is difficult to read
John Deere E100 series lawn tractors have a gas tank immediately below the driver’s seat. In order to access it, you must lift the chair. (You can see the nozzle cover from under the seat.)
The gas tank, however, was one of the biggest frustrations we experienced with this lawn tractor. The tank was full the first time we mowed, but by the end of the three-acre mowing, the gauge read that the tank was empty. Thinking the machine must guzzle gas, we attempted to refill, only to find that the tank was still nearly full. After sitting, the gauge returned to the top to show the fuel tank was two-thirds full. The next time we mowed, however, the gauge sank to the bottom, despite being just under half full.
The gas gauge is designed to read the gas level with the help of the ‘floating’ tank, but we found it was often incorrect.
The fuel tank “floats” beneath the driver’s seat. It’s sitting on springs, instead of being bolted into the machine’s frame. The gas gauge is designed to read the gas level with the help of the “floating” tank, but we found it was often incorrect, which left us manually tracking how much gas we had used and refilling more frequently.
One benefit of John Deere machines is the Easy Change oil system, a 30-second oil change technique that allows you to keep your mower lubricated and ready to use. If you do not receive White Glove Delivery Service, John Deere offers online tutorials. You’ll need to replace the oil filter every 50 mower hours, at a cost of around $40. Based on our mowing times for a three-acre yard, one oil filter will be enough to last most of one mowing season or one year.
Noise Level: Average, so wear some earbuds
The John Deere E160 is noisy, as many lawn mowers are. We chose to wear protective earbuds in order to keep the noise at a minimum. Still, we were able to hear people shouting over the machine’s noise, which is ideal for safety.
Safety: Auto-kill switch engages when in reverse
John Deere is thinking two steps ahead when it comes to safety. The company designed an auto-kill feature that shuts off the machine’s blades and stalls the mower if you back up without engaging the reverse implement option. You can override this, however, by stopping the machine’s motion and pressing the reverse button on the left side of the steering wheel. Then, you’ll be able to back up (at a max speed of 3.2 miles per hour). The machine will not reverse unless you do this.
The reverse pedal is directly beside the forward (gas) pedal on the right side of the machine. The pedals are in an opposite place of car pedals, so you may have to pay close attention at first to make sure you’ve got your foot in the right position. The brake pedal is on the left side of the mower.
Cleaning: Messy, but important
For longevity of the machine and to prevent damage from buildup, it’s smart to clean the mower deck after every use. But when we tested the cleaning mechanism, we found it difficult and a bit messy. A built-in quick-coupler sits on top of the blade deck cover. You can attach a garden hose to it, turn on the water, and then start the mower’s engine. Next, you’ll turn on the mower blades and allow the water to move through them for at least a minute.
We found that this process sent grass, debris, and water flying, so make sure you do this in an area where you don’t mind creating a bit of a mess. Also, be sure it’s in an area where the grass can be a bit overcut, as the continuous motion of the blades damaged the grass on our first cleaning attempt.
Price: Expensive, but worth it for large yards
If you have a smaller yard, less than half an acre, such a large lawn mower is likely unnecessary. A push mower or smaller riding mower would be adequate. But if you have to cover several acres, especially land with varying terrain (a few bumps or hilly spots), this riding lawn tractor is a worthy investment. It also comes with a two-year, 120-hour bumper-to-bumper warranty for extra assurance.
John Deere E160 Lawn Tractor vs. RYOBI 38 in. Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower
Not only do you get 10 more inches of blade for extra-wide cutting (and fewer passes across your lawn), you get a longer mowing life with the John Deere Lawn E160 Tractor, too. The RYOBI Electric Riding Lawn Mower lasts up to two hours or about two acres. Larger lawns would have to be cut over multiple days after the machine has had a chance to recharge. However, if you’re looking for a quiet, electric option that doesn’t require burning gas, the smaller RYOBI may be a better option for your lawn care needs.
Still undecided? Check out our roundup of the best riding lawn mowers.
Be a yard champion with this lawn tractor.
If your yard is bigger than most and a bit unwieldy on the best days, the large John Deere E160 Lawn Tractor is the powerful lawn care machine you need. With proper care and maintenance (regular oil changes included), this machine could last you more than a decade, which would more than cover the initial cost of investment, especially if you loathe lawn maintenance and really need a machine that puts a bit of fun into the task.
- Product Name E160 Lawn Tractor
- Product Brand John Deere
- MPN E160
- Price $2349.00
- Weight 480 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 69.5 x 44.5 x 60.8 in.
- Material Composite plastic, steel, cast iron, rubber, foam (seat)
- Oil Capacity 74 oz.
- Warranty 2 years or 120 hours, whichever occurs first