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Considering a riding mower? If you’re buying a tractor for the first time, Consumer Reports says you might want to check out two starter models under $2000. The John Deere D130 and the Cub Cadet XT1 LT42. Both offer 42-inch cutting decks, the smallest you can get with a lawn tractor. And they feature automatic drive systems, comfortable high back chairs, and washout ports, so you can clean under the mower. When it comes to cutting, side discharge is the preferred mode with tractors. In our cut performance tests, the John Deere and the Cub Cadet both earned very good scores. If you want to mulch your grass, the Cub Cadet takes the lead. Just remember, you’ll pay extra for that mulch kit, anywhere from $30 to $60. On the other hand, the John Deere scores higher than the Cub Cadet in braking, steering, turning, and stability. The John Deere costs more than the Cub Cadet. However, John Deere Lawn Tractors are less likely to need repairs. In Consumer Reports surveys, it beats out every other brand for reliability. So which tractor wins? It’s a close call and Consumer Reports says, both are a good buy for the money. Go for the Cub Cadet if you plan to do a lot of mulching. Or spend a little more and get slightly superior handling and better reliability with the John Deere. .