John Deere Z345M vs Z345R: Which Model Should You Choose?

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The John Deere Z345M and Z345R are both entry-level residential zero-turn mowers built for the lawn tender seeking to upgrade their mowing game. Perhaps walking under the sun behind a screeching walk-behind mower has gotten painfully old and your shed can only fit a small-sized ZTR– the entry-level John Deere residential z-turns are just the right way to begin.

The likenesses between the two models are striking, so much so that I’m left wondering why the engineers didn’t just merge them as one model. Although the Z345M and R are synonymous, they do have a few variations that I will be reviewing in this article.

I’ll be discussing the similarities and differences between both machines to help you decide on which Z345 model to buy for your best interest. Let’s get into it!

reviewing the similarities between john deere z345r and z345m

A String Of Similarities: Z345M Vs Z345R

Here are the 6 major parallels of the Z345M & R:

1. Engine Specs

Power is easily the best selling point of zero-turn mowers. No matter the model of a ZTR, the engine capacity has to be relatively good for the machine to perform its basic required functions. For the Z345 M & R, the 16.4kw Briggs & Stratton engine is the powerhouse of the machine. (The Kawasaki or Kohler engines come later in the series on the high-grade residential models, but not entry-level models.)

In a measure of horsepower, both the Z345M & R will surge with 22hp which is more than enough to bolt you through your fields under the right condition; an acre and half or two acres of fairly rough grass is a great example of what these models can handle exceedingly. Also, keep in mind that the Z345M and Z345R are still entry-level residential machines, so mowing professionally with these models will seriously take out of their estimated lifespan.

2. The Transmission System

The transmission system of zero-turn mowers is responsible for smooth steering and maneuverability. For the Z345M and Z345R, the hydrostatic Hydro-Gear EZT transmission carries this responsibility and dutifully ensures adequately smooth steering for the models. I agree that they just might not be the smoothest steering out there (the higher you go up the line of models the smoother it gets) but it is more than enough to pull the task through– no jerking or streaky movement when you maneuver through your yard.

3. Deck Types, Cut Quality, And Cutting Heights

Usually, deck types will vary depending on the models, but the John Deere Z345M and Z345R have the same deck type; the machines are equipped with the accel deep double-blade stamped decks with an infused wash port— nothing too fancy, no bells, or whistles. The decks are simple and easy to maintain, and because of their smaller size, trimming tight edges and crannies will be much easier for you to attain, especially if you mow around your garden or trees.

The cut quality of the Z345 M & R is great under the right conditions which are adequately moist turfs and fairly tall grass of 15 to 20 centimeters, anything other than that, and I’m afraid you might be signing up for a struggle; if you have a bushy lawn with meter-long aggressive grass, the truth is that you’d either damage the blades, the engine, or the transmission of the machine.

Likewise, I can’t say I’m all hyped about the mulching quality– there is a mulching kit but the decks don’t do the job exceptionally well. Bagging is also a fair trade; you’d bag enough to be satisfied but the clippings get everywhere!

For both models, the cutting height is adjusted with the pin system from 1-4 inches in increments of ¼ inches respectively.

4. Comfort And Usability

Comfort is highly important when you’re dealing with z-turns. After the cut quality and efficiency of the mower have been tested, the next big thing is to hope you can mow and still have your spine in one piece.

The Z345M & R both come with regular tool-free sliding seats and standard armrests. The suspension you’d find on the seats is created by two solid metal springs underneath the saddles that do a good job of curbing the shock waves you’d get when you run over bumps. Although it’s better than nothing, I can’t exactly say they do much of a good job especially if you have a tender back.

Another issue you might come across with the seats is that they might be a little too small if you’re on the big side which will cause reversing to be a tad difficult since the small seats get too close to the steering levers. The bright side is the armrests; at least you can rest your tired arms in short intervals while you struggle with the steering levers.

If you have a bumpy lawn or would need extra space to sit comfortably in the Z234M or Z234R, I suggest you install a suspension seat. That might just save you the need (and money) to purchase a larger model with extra space.

I have written a well-detailed article about suspension seats so you can see which saddle will suit you best.

5. Traction And Stability

I’m very pleased with the traction and stamina of the Z345M & R. The whole build of both models sits low to the ground, properly dispersing weight and gravity so that you don’t wobble around when you go up a hill. Also, the machines are efficiently powered to climb slopes and run down smoothly without any problems.

The tires measure 11 by 4.0-5 at the front and 18 by 8.5-8 at the rear for both mowers, which in rapport with the small structure of the machine, offers enough traction to withstand slopes and hills. For a much safer mow when dealing with hills, try to go up and down the hill rather than going from side to side as there’d be less slanting and tilting that could potentially hurt you.

Also, manipulating the tire pressure of your chosen zero-turn model can help a ton with traction. I have discussed the hows and tricks of attaining this in a previous article on tire pressures for zero-turn mowers.

6. Warranty

Both the Z345M and Z345R are warranted the same way; you get 2 years/120 hours bumper-to-bumper warranty for both parts and labor.

z345r or z345m

The Almost Unnoticeable Differences

The zero-turn models in the discussion, as you have seen, are highly similar. The only specs that put them apart could easily go unnoticed and can be applied to one model or the other. This means that you could prop the Z345M to look like the Z345R simply by purchasing the standard features on the R model and installing them on the M. Allow me to elaborate:

The Standard Floor Mat

Where the floor mat is optional on the Z345M, the Z345R comes with it as a standard. The mat is a comfort feature that provides you with a better grip and protects your feet from the irritating vibrations you will face as the deck jolts through the turf. It might seem insignificant for newbies, but once you have them on, you simply can’t do without the mats. If you prefer to purchase the Z345M, you can easily request the floor mat to be installed on the mower at a price.

Much Better Ergonomic Steering Levers

The steering levers of the Z345R are the premium and much more user-friendly levers in comparison to the Z345M, featuring better hand-intuitive curves, lengths, and padding that will allow you to easily grip the levers and steer through your lawn. For the Z345M, you get the standard levers that are equipped on the Z335E John Deer model.

The Deck-Lift Foot Pedal

The deck-lift foot pedal is standard on the Z345R and optional on the Z345M. The pedal is used to assist in cutting height adjustments so that the strain and weight of the deck aren’t completely on your arm and the lever. This is easily the most significant difference between the two models because not only is it more effective for ease of use, but it also will assist you if you have a challenge bending over to pull on the deck height lever. However, you can easily request it to be installed at your dealer’s for a price if you prefer the Z345M.

Price Tags And Money Talks

For the extra jingles that come with the Z345R, it’s no surprise the difference in pricing. The Z345R starts at $3,600 in comparison to the Z345M with their mark at $3,500 depending on your dealer. Just an extra 100 bucks for the extra mile.

Z345M Vs R: Which Model Should You get?

For a $100 difference, I would go for the Z345R and the extra benefits it comes with. Since both models could easily pass as identical, the R is the much better option for the extra goodies it would offer for such small extra money.

What Are Your Alternatives?

If the Z345M or Z345R do not appeal to you as you thought they would, I suggest you take a step higher up the scale. Chances are you are seeking to mow vigorously through rough aggressive turf, and the models seem to not be the best contests for the task– why not seek the immediate upper-grade models in the John Deere series, Z500?

You’d be taking a great leap to better, bolder features that will tackle all your problems at a go! The only issue is the budget; they start at $5,500, but at least you’d get some gain out of your reselling price. You can check out the Z530M and R comparison here to see what’s in it for you. Otherwise, for the budget, Cub Cadet zero-turns offer great entry-level models starting at $3,500 too.

Final Words

The John Deere Z345M and R models are built specifically for the entry-level residential lawn tender, which entails less frequent mowing in comparison to professionals, smaller averages, and friendlier turf. They were not engineered for heavy-duty and withstanding harsh and frequent use. So, if you fit into the required category, I assure you a great mowing experience with whichever model you choose. After all, nothing runs like a Deere. Good luck!

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EL Mehdi (Medi), the founder and voice behind Desired Lawn Mower. He is a riding mower enthusiast who enjoys spending more time discussing and covering various ride-on mower topics. He has been active in the industry for years comparing models of different ZTR and lawn tractor brands.