Im a JD saleman. I work at a dealership and sell both the D series (Home depot/Lowes) and the Select series. (Heavier duty, 4 yr warranty )
My 2 cents.....
Buy from a dealer. They might be more money, but when your mower does need service, your gunna be surprised when they dont make you a priority because you needed to save $100 by buying at the depot or lowes. Its how it works @ our dealership and we tell our customers that !
a D130 is the mower I would suggest.... 22HP TWIN cylinder... running a 42" deck.... as opposed to 17.5HP SINGLE Cylinder (D110) running the same deck.
Whatever brand you choose.... make sure they have a servicing dealer in the area. Meaning... Toro, JD, Cud cadet...... the reason for that is... any big box store... aafter the sale, couldn't care less about servicing your unit.... They only want the initial sale then its up to you to figure out how to fix the thing. Would you want to wait weeks for a small part ??? grass would get pretty long .
Good luck in your shopping. Hopefully JD is your choice because I feel its the best product out there (in that price point) and the fact you can bring it to a dealer and have it serviced and back to you in a few days in most cases really means something. It also has some value to it... think about that.
Oh ya, and if your dealer has ANY sort of customer support..... usually if your unit does go down because of a major fail.... and if your going to be left with out it for a week... they will give you a used one to take home for the time being. At least thats how we work.