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20k Tif419 Bermuda in Greenville SC.
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There is no material reduction when using a sweeper but we're also only talking about 7,500sq ft of lawn here. Which begs the question, why a 54" mower?, but I digress. Sweepers work well, if it's windy, you may find it tricky keeping leaves in the bag. A top cover for the bag/hopper is a big help in those conditions. Steep slopes can be a bit of a pain for a sweeper but if it's comfortable to mow, the sweeper should track just fine behind the tractor.

The 54" deck is the reason why there are no easy answers for leaf collection. Unless specific compromises are made, most decks that large require powered baggers to efficiently move material into the hopper. It's either because the deck design doesn't create enough positive pressure to tolerate a bagging chute, or the deck is capable of discharging more material than a simple chute can handle without a powered blower to move things along.

If you have a mulch kit for the deck, I'd try mowing as often as possible to recycle those leaves into the lawn. If you can hit it every 2-3 days during peak drop season, it should go very quick with the 54" deck. You'd only be doing that for a couple weeks until things calm down.

Also, with only 7,500 sq ft and wooded borders, a good backpack blower would be a highly useful tool and able to clear even heavy leaf cover from that area efficiently.
 

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20k Tif419 Bermuda in Greenville SC.
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3,234 Posts
What you said makes complete sense. What's an ideal compromise on size? I might see if someone wants to do a swap for something smaller. I asked the folks at my tractor store (where I got it) if they'd do a trade-in and I'm looking at $1500 on a $4000 purchase. That's way too low.
There actually used to be a "blue book" for this kind of thing. Unfortunately, it's the wrong color for resale value and outdoor power equipment in general (and especially residential) continues to be a terrible investment. You'd be much better off selling the unit privately around March/April. Plenty of folks looking for a true Garden Tractor, with a big mower deck, but without the new price tag. But I agree that $1,500 is a "I don't want it" offer. They clearly are avoiding trades.

Interesting quip about the diff lock (what you refer to as the "hydrostatic") as that makes replacing this machine a bit more complex. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any machines offered with a differential lock and a smaller deck. The smallest I have seen is 48" which is ok - but still can have similar challenges in regard to bagging attachments. From time to time, I have seen Deere offer a high-end lawn tractor with a diff lock, (without having to upgrade to the X500 series) but all of those are usually 48"+ as well.

In years past, there were garden tractors with 42" mowers, a diff lock, and a simple bagger system that worked well. (Not sure if you're interested in a used, older machine?) But the customer for that machine was/is relatively rare compared to the one that wants the big tractor AND a big mower. Even then, property owners with more demanding tasks than mowing, dictating a heavier duty tractor, are likely to invest in a HD machine to do everything - except mow, and then purchase a dedicated mowing machine (or hire that out) to manage the lawn according to their specific needs.

.... It's 1.5 acres total with about half being what I need to mow. ...
Half of 1.5 acres is 35,000+ sq ft - are you sure you're only mowing 7,200? If your current machine is working well for everything except leaf collection, you may be better off committing to the OEM bagger and making it work for you rather than trying to sell the machine (for a loss) and find a unicorn to replace it with. Compare cost and capability vs buying something like a backpack blower ($500 give or take).
 
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