My wife let me buy the XL model new in 2008 after a year or so lusting after one, and we are so glad I did ever since! This was the 2nd best investment, after buying a garden tractor in 2001!
Our property is about one acre of land surrounded by leafy trees on 3 sides, so some years the leaves have been rediculous and I was losing all my entire weekends to yard care, even with 3-bin bagger on tractor.
I believe I paid $1,750+/- back then, and after 11 solid years of enjoyable use, that makes my return on investment excellent at approx. $150/year+/-. If you factor in time and aggrevation savings, it is a zero cost!
I do break-it down each year, and do complete maintenance, so there is time spent on that. But the B&S Vanguard engine starts right up every time, is very strong and makes it pleasureable to use.
I also highly recommend a heavy duty garden tractor for this and all other yard care for so many reasons.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
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