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I own and use a John Deere 455 tractor to up-keep my grounds and garden. I have one with a 48 inch side dischange deck, the optional rear 540rpm agriculteral style PTO (which is great for using in conjuction with the three point hitch wihich I also have fitted). I also have the optiopnal 346t hydraulic dump collector which is mounted on the tractor to collect cut grass.
The John Deere 455 tractor is ideal for both home/estate owners and contractors. The 3 cylinder 22hp Yanmar diesel engine is very powerfull and allows the tractor to be used for a wide range of tasks, I have never been in a situation where it has been underpowered. Both the cutting deck and transmission are shaft powered with no belts involved - this allows for positive power transfer so that the engines full power is used. The tractors transmission is hydrostatic making it very easy to drive even for inexperienced users. The power steering is very light and makes driving the tractor very easy. The 455 is also equiped with cruise control,a differential lock (ideal for wet and slippery conditions), tilting steering wheel and adjustable seat (great if you arn't that tall!) and there is even a small tool box for keeping your sandwiches in!
John Deere offer a wide range of optional equipment for the 455. I have the 540rpm rear PTO installed on mine. This is the agricultural standard size PTO so attachments like finishing mowers can be used behind the tractor. I also have the three point hitch option fitted to the tractor. This allows easy connection of attachments such as the 346t collector to the tractor. Four hydraulic spool valves come as standard to allow the use of a front end loader or dozer blade. Many more options and accessories are available for the 455 making it a very universal machine.
John Deeres parts backup for all of their machines is excellent. All the parts diagrams for the 455 can be viewed at www.jdparts.com, this makes finding the correct service parts for the tractor very easy. When i have needed parts for my 455 such as an oil filter I recently purchased all I simply did was visit jdparts.com get the part number then go into my local dealer and order the part. It took about three days for the part to arrive and then I collected it from the dealer.
John Deere no longer make the 455, but have replaced it with the X740 and X748, these machines are very simular to the 455 except there engines are 2hp more, the X748 has 4 wheel drive and more options and accessories are available for them. In my opinion the 455 is much better built than the new X's, there is less plastic in the body work and the steel used is thicker. This is why I bought a used 455 in good condition for a fraction of the price of the new X's (which cost £10,000+). I would advise looking for a good condition low hours 455 as it will last longer than the new models and I believe is a better quality machine.