Best Riding Lawn Mower Reviews 2023
Tired of spending the best part of your Saturday walking behind a lawn mower? You’re not alone and our team has pulled together our recommendations for the best riding lawn mower in 2023. Whether you’re a homeowner or commercial Pro, or you’re on the hunt for a lawn tractor or zero-turn mower, we have you covered. Thinking about making the switch to battery power? We have thoughts on electric riding lawnmowers as well.
Considering walk-behind mowers? Check out our Best Lawn Mower main page.
- Best Commercial Riding Mower (Find a Dealer)
- Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Acme Tools)
- Best Lawn Tractor (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Consumer Electric Riding Lawn Mower (available at Lowes or Home Depot)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns (Buy at Lowes)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
- Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Best Commercial Riding Lawn Mower
Hustler Hyperdrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Professional lawn care crews who FOCUS on residential lawns (affectionately known aa “mow and blow” crews) have to hit a lot of lawns every day during the mowing season and they’re tough on their equipment. Exmark, Hustler, and Scag all come up frequently in conversations about the best commercial mower, and our top choice is the Hustler Hyperdrive series.
While the Super Z series is likely more popular, the Hyperdrive series adds additional durability to the transmission system, keeping your downtime to a minimum.
Deck sizes range from 60 to 72 inches and there are 35 to 40 HP engine options from Kawasaki and Vanguard. For those of you who like to mow at speed, you can run up to 16 MPH on this model. No matter what your mowing style is, Hustler has a 3,000-hour warranty on the hydraulic system and a 5-year/1200-hour warranty on the full mower.
Price: Contact your local dealer
Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower
Toro Timecutter Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
For residential use, we recommend Toro’s TimeCutter as the best residential riding lawn mower for a variety of reasons. What it boils down to is that you get an excellent balance of performance, comfort, and reliability for the price.
The line currently includes 17 models (including CARB-friendly options). Deck sizes start at 34 inches for small lawns and run up to 60 inches for those of you with acreage to maintain. The base-level models are an excellent value for most people, but if comfort is a high priority, step up to the MyDrive models to get an upgraded suspension and easier ride.
Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX6 Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
While Toro earns our pick as the best overall riding mower for residential use, Cub Cadet’s Ultima ZTX6 series is the creme de la creme for those of you with a bigger budget. Earning our choice as the best residential zero-turn riding lawn mower, the ZTX6 is at the top of Cub Cadet’s residential-focuses Ultima line.
These mowers bridge the gap between residential and Pro needs, giving you a ride and performance that feels more professional while keeping the overall price down from premium professional mowers. The ZTX6 comes with a 25HP Kawasaki commercial-grade engine and either a 54 or 60-inch deck size. If you prefer a steering wheel over lap bars, there’s now a ZTXS6 option that has you covered.
Price: 8999.00 – 9299.00 (10299.00 for the 60-inch ZTXS6)
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro FAB Series Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet lawn tractors are very popular and consistently earn high ratings from owners. If you’re looking for the best lawn tractor among them, we recommend the XT1 Enduro FAB series. They’re a bit more expensive than others in the XT1 line, but they upgrade from a 13-gauge stamped steel deck to an 11-gauge fabricated steel one, improving the long-term durability.
Available with a 50 or 54-inch deck, these mowers are suitable for covering larger lawns than lawn tractors in the 30 – 48-inch range. Thanks to a Kohler 24HP engine, they have better overall performance than most of its competition as well. While they don’t turn as tight as a zero-turn, they do have a 16-inch turning radius that gives them a tighter turn than others.
Best Electric Riding Lawn Mower
Try as we may, we couldn’t pick just one electric ride-on lawn mower as the best. However, we do have three that stand out from the rest.
Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 82V OptimusZ Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
Greenworks was one of the first to push into the commercial electric zero-turn lawn mower market and they have learned a lot over the years. The culmination of that experience and the best of today’s technology come together in the Greenworks OptimusZ zero-turn and earns our recommendation as the best electric commercial riding lawn mower.
The line includes both ride-on and stand-on models, and we even got to see an operational prototype of a fully-autonomous version. Focusing on the ride-on models, there are 48 – 60-inch deck sizes with either 18KWh or 24KWh battery packages. On the 60-inch mower, the larger battery bank can run up to 8 hours on a charge.
The top speed is impressive, reaching up to 16 MPH with the blades on. Security is already onboard thanks to the combination of 4G and GPS connections. If all that sounds great, but you’re still not sure it can hold up, keep in mind that Greenworks backs these mowers with a 5-year/2,000-hour warranty.
Residential: EGO 56V E-Steer Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
EGO is making it easier to transition from gas to battery power and into the zero-turn market with the 56V E-Steer riding lawn mower. It takes the lap bars and exchanges them for a steering wheel, making for a much more approachable mower if you’re not used to traditional ZT steering. Beyond that, the design team shifted the controls/info screen onto the steering wheel where they’re easy to keep an eye on while you’re mowing.
The mower sports a 42-inch deck with cutting speeds between 4 and 8 MPH and matches the power of a 22HP gas engine. For the power source, EGO uses the same 556V batteries that power its other mowers and handheld tools. With a full load of six 12.0Ah batteries, expect to cut nearly four acres on a charge. With the four batteries that come with the mower, there’s enough juice to cover 2.5 acres.
2023 John Deer Zero Turn z315E Review
Price: 5999.00 with four 12.0Ah batteries and onboard charger (scheduled for May 2023 launch)
Residential: Ryobi 80V iDrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Ryobi’s iDrive zero-turn lawn mowers break the mold of lap bars, but not with a steering wheel. It uses joystick controls, making you feel a bit more like a lawn-cutting fighter pilot (without the missiles, of course). While it certainly breaks the norm, our crew was able to adjust to the steering quickly.
There are three deck sizes covering 30 to 54 inches and they primarily use 80V suitcase-style batteries for power. These mowers also have slots to use Ryobi’s 40V batteries if you need to extend your runtime beyond what the 80V packs offer.
The power ranges from a 28HP – 42HP gas equivalent with runtime covering 1 – 4 acres, depending on which model you go with. Plus, this mower uses the CrossCut stacked blade system to give you better cut quality than you’d get with single blades.
Price: 5999.00 – 7999.00 ready to mow
Take a look through our full list of Best Electric Lawn Mower recommendations!
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns
John Deere S130 Lawn Tractor
Lawn tractors are great for small to medium-sized lawns and the John Deere S130 lawn tractor is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for small lawns. The S100 comes in at a lower price, but moving up to the S130 is worth it in our opinion.
Both feature a 42-inch mowing deck, but the S130 has a significantly stronger 22HP V-twin engine and it has John Deere’s super-easy 30-Second Oil Change system. The S130 also upgrades with cruise control and an electronic PTO system. Overall, it balances ease of ownership and performance well while keeping a safe distance away from the price of zero-turn mowers.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns 1 Acre to 5 Acres
Husqvarna Xcite Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
The best riding lawn mower for medium-sized lawns is the Husqvarna Xcite. There are two models available featuring a 54-inch 10-gauge deck that’s a great size for those 1 – 5–acre properties.
What’s exciting about the Xcite is a combination of innovative features and a design that feels more Pro even though these target residential users. Starting from the top, your start/stop and blade engagement controls are on the lap bar ends where you can easily reach them with your thumbs. Then there’s the suspension system. 4 bar links and 10 adjustment settings let you customize the setup based on your size, weight, and preferences to dial in a comfortable ride.
Depending on the model, you get either a 24HP or 26HP Kohler engine with a top speed of either 7 or 9 MPH. On the business end, Husqvarna puts stock blades that can go up to 5 years without needing to be sharpened. Husqvarna targeted a Pro feel with the convenience and ease of ownership homeowners crave with the Xcite and they nailed it.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
Exmark Lazer Z Series Deisel Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
When it comes to maintaining large areas where you need a cleaner cut than a bush hog leaves behind, there are a few large-deck options. Leading the pack in size and with a robust professional resume’, the Exmark Lazer Z Deisel is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for large properties.
When we say large, we mean it. The Lazer Z diesel line includes 60, 72, and 96-inch options along with a monstrous 144-inch model. Ang get this—Exmark rates the largest mower’s cutting rate at up to 11.5 acres per hour! In terms of productivity, that’s going to be tough to beat.
These mowers aren’t cheap, though. They start at just over 27,000 and the 144-inch model is over 35,000.
Price: Starting at 27,099.00
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
If you have hills, you need both power and traction to mow effectively. In our team’s opinion, the best riding lawn mower for hills is the Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 series SD/SDL models. What sets these mowers apart is a combination of their dually rear wheel and steering wheel designs.
Four rear wheels help prevent the back end from slipping, even in wet conditions. The steering wheel makes it easier to manage on slopes and there’s an option for a pivoting seat that keeps you more upright on those hills. As part of Cub Cadet’s commercial mower lineup, you can expect a commercial-level build and high-end comfort features as part of the package.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money
Toro Timecutter 42-Inch Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
What’s the best riding lawn mower for the money? For that, we return to the Toro TimeCutter series. Specifically, it’s the 42-inch 75746. This isn’t the least expensive 42-inch in the line, and it’s not the most expensive, either. By upgrading from the entry-level version (3299), you’re moving from a 15.5 HP Briggs Stratton engine to a much stronger 22HP Kohler engine. up to a more durable 10-gauge fabricated steel deck.
If your lawn is 2 acres or less, this model offers the best balance of performance, durability, comfort, and price. But what if you have more then 2 acres? Stick with the Toro TimeCutter and move up in deck size to match your lawn.
What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
Lawn Tractor or Zero Turn?
When you’re choosing the best riding lawn mower for your lawn, the first thing to decide is which style you want.
Lawn tractors have several advantages. They tend to be a smaller overall size, are less expensive, and are easy to use with their steering wheel/pedal control systems. The downsides are that they tend to be slower and don’t reach larger deck sizes. They also aren’t as efficient in your mowing pattern because they require a larger turning radius.
Zero-turn lawn mowers make it easier to efficiently mow straight lines. While they’re more expensive, larger, and can take some time to get used to lap bar controls, you can get larger deck sizes, they have higher speeds, and they’re better for large properties. If comfort is a high priority for you, you’ll find better options with ZTs and lawn tractors.
Gas or Battery?
Now that battery-powered riding lawn mowers are at a point where they really can replace gas, the conversation is shifting away from just power and runtime.
Gas mowers tend to be less expensive and you can usually find someone to service/repair them within a reasonable drive of your home. The trade-off is the noise, emissions, managing fuel and oil, and more required maintenance.
Battery-powered mowers have a push-button start system that’s ready when you are, assuming you charged the batteries. They’re remarkably quiet compared to gas, have no emissions, and your HOA isn’t going to suddenly rewrite the rules to eliminate them. Maintenance primarily boils down to blowing off the deck and maybe rinsing under the deck. The primary downsides at this stage are that you don’t have as wide of a selection as gas, they’re more expensive, the batteries need replacing every 3 – 5 years, and there aren’t nearly as many service centers close by.
Durability and Reliability
As you go up in price from entry-level riding lawn mowers to mid-range and high-end models, there are significant changes. A more powerful engine is only part of it. The design of the engine and its quality typically improves as you move up the line, giving you a more reliable engine to go along with the higher performance of more horsepower.
You also see the strength of the build improve. Some of it is the thickness of the metal or moving from stamped steel to fabricated steel on the deck. Other components come into play as well, with higher quality transmissions and electronics packages improving.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking at an entry-level model, see if your budget has room to move up into the middle or even high end of the line. The durability and reliability you gain are worth it in the long run.
The deck size you need depends on the property you’re mowing. 42-inch riding lawn mowers are a good starting point for lawns up to an acre or where you need to squeeze through a narrow gate. If you have more than an acre, go ahead and look at models up to 60 inches.
Realistically, it’s a matter of finding the right balance between how much lawn you have to cut, how much storage space you have available, and what your budget is.
Speed is primarily a concern for professional lawn crews who need to move from one property to the next quickly or on campuses with significant travel distance between the shop and where they’re mowing. They usually want a mower with a top speed over 10 MPH.
Even homeowners can make their mowing chores more efficient with some decent top-end speed, though. 7 MPH or more is a good benchmark for those models. If you tend to take your mowing more casually, 5 – 6 MPH is just fine.
The larger your lawn, the more time you need to spend in the driver’s seat of your riding lawn mower, and the more comfort comes into play. Entry-level mowers are going to bounce you around more than mid-range and high-end models. Look for a seat with plenty of cushioning, an adjustable tension knob, and enough travel for you to sit without having to scrunch up.
Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Ever check out a “review” site and you can’t tell if they actually tested anything or if they’re just “recommending” the Amazon top sellers? That’s not us. We won’t recommend anything unless we’d actually use it ourselves, and we don’t really care who the primary retailer is. It’s all about giving you a legitimate recommendation and our honest opinion of each product.
We’ve been in business since 2008 covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.
Each year, we bring in and review more than 350 individual products. Our team will put our hands on hundreds of additional tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.
Pro Tool Reviews consults with innovators in the technology and design of tools to gain a broader grasp of where these products fit and how they work.
We work with more than two dozen professional contractors around the United States who review products for us on real job sites. We consult with them extensively on testing methods, categories, and practical applications.
Our site will provide more than 500 pieces of new content this year absolutely free for our readers. That includes objective evaluations of individual tools and products.
The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.
Difference Between Hydrostatic and Automatic Riding Lawn Mowers
Nowadays, buyers have various options when shopping for a riding lawnmower. Many models have flooded the market, and each manufacturer claims to have the best equipment.
However, hydrostatic and automatic transmission are two of the most common categories among the many riding mowers on sale. Both of these two options boast exceptional features with distinct capabilities.
So the option you choose depends on your lawn’s layout, your preference but just before that, what is the difference between hydrostatic and automatic riding lawn mowers?
In this guide, we discuss the characteristics of both hydrostatic transmission and automatic transmission, allowing you to make an informed decision on the riding mower that meets your demands.
Difference Between Hydrostatic and Automatic Riding Lawn Mowers
The main difference between hydrostatic and automatic riding mowers lies in their power supply mechanism. Hydrostatic transmission uses fluid to deliver power from the engine to the wheels, whereas automatic transmission uses belts to attain the same objective. Besides, hydrostatic riding mowers also offer more power and better acceleration than automatic riding mowers.
Are Hydrostatic Mowers Better?
Yes, hydrostatic mowers are better because you can adjust the driving speed to meet the relevant working conditions.
The hydrostatic transmissions also incorporate powerful engines with an optional cruise control function, allowing you to set the pace you want to mow your yard.
The body parts of these lawn tractors are also contrived from quality materials to enhance durability.
However, there is a cost for all these benefits as hydrostatic riding mowers are very expensive compared to their correlatives.
Hydrostatic lawn mowers also offer the best maneuverability for lawns with complicated topography. They turn around better around obstacles which saves time.
What Is the Advantage of Hydrostatic Transmission?
Hydrostatic transmission also has the following advantages besides improving maneuverability on various applications.
- Hydrostatic transmission mower works with a wide range of speed ratios. The transmission plays a critical role in handling speed such that your machine’s speed is continuously variable from zero to maximum. Continuously variable transmissions are more convenient than direct-drive transmissions, requiring you to shift the transmission to a lower ratio to increase the machine’s speed once the engine speed is maximum.
- With hydrostatic transmission, you don’t have to apply clutch and gear shifting. This assures you no disturbance in transmission.
- The hydrostatic transmission uses a single lever to adjust speed and direction.
- This transmission system has very few linkages; therefore, there is little maintenance other than annual oil and filter replacements.
- You can use the high-pressure oil from the pump to operate power steering or the dynamic brak ing system.
- Hydrostatic transmission has less response time than gear transmission due to fewer linkages.
- Considering that hydrostatic transmission doesn’t incorporate gear shifting, the power loss caused by friction is minimized.
What Are the Disadvantages of Hydrostatic Transmission?
Despite the many benefits of hydrostatic transmission, it also has faults. Read on for more.
A hydrostatic transmission is known to be less efficient than sliding gear transmission.
That means vehicles or riding tractors with hydrostatic transmissions subject extra load on the engine, as the machine is prone to frequent damage.
Hydrostatic transmissions are expensive to maintain because they use costly oil. Their body parts are also high-quality, adding to the cost.
Is Motor Oil the Same As Hydrostatic Oil?
Motor oil and hydrostatic oil fulfill the same functions but slightly differ in their formulation.
Motor oil contains additives that often degrade and shear down with time. These degraded additives can lead to oil foaming, comprising wear control.
Hydrostatic transmission oil is designed to fight oxidation and corrosion better than motor oil. These two attributes contribute to longer service life and improved protection during storage.
Additionally, hydrostatic transmission oil has a thicker consistency than motor oil. That tells you hydrostatic oil can withstand gear lubrication much more than motor oil, providing reliable wear protection over time.
How Do You Change Oil In a Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Mower?
The hydrostatic transmission in your lawn tractor needs servicing, including changing the filter, draining the old hydrostatic oil, and adding new oil.
Read below to learn how to change your hydrostatic riding mower oil in a few steps.
- Socket wrench
- A clean shop towel
- Torque wrench
- Oil filter wrench
- Hydrostatic transmission oil filter
- Fresh hydrostatic transmission oil
- Oil catch drain pan
Since this is a service procedure, you will need to move your lawn tractor to a flat-level working surface.
Then turn the key off, withdraw it from the ignition, wait for all moving parts to stop, and let the engine cool before proceeding.
After that, engage the parking brake to prevent your riding lawn mower from shifting gears while working.
Lift the rear of your riding lawn mower so the wheels are slightly raised, then place jack stands in two locations on the left and right sides of the mower frame.
Ensure the mower is stable before proceeding. Next, uninstall the wheel from the hub of the transaxle being serviced.
Doing this gives you enough exposure to the hydrostatic transmission oil area. Uninstall the transaxle oil filter guard from the transaxle.
Place an oil-catch drain pan below the hydrostatic transmission oil drain plug to capture the old transmission oil.
The oil drain plug is found beside the transmission mowers towards the bottom.
Some hydrostatic mowers incorporate one or more transmission oil drain plugs: one for the differential gear side, the other for the hydrostatic transmission side.
Clean all dirt and debris surrounding the hydrostatic transmission oil reservoir cap using a clean shop towel.
This is critical as it prevents the hydrostatic transmission and oiling system from contamination.
After that, loosen the hydrostatic transmission oil reservoir cap by hand to drain the transmission oil.
A loose cap permits fresh air to enter the oiling system, restricting air vacuum to enhance better oil flow drainage.
Next, unfasten the hydrostatic transmission oil drain plugs using a socket wrench to allow the transmission oil to drain completely for a few minutes.
Next, unscrew the hydrostatic transmission oil filter from the transmission oil filter housing using an oil filter wrench.
Place the oil filter wrench onto the oil filter and turn it counterclockwise to unscrew the transmission oil filter from its housing.
Install the new oil filter onto the transaxle by hand. Use your fingers to apply a thin layer of oil around the new transmission oil filter seal.
The new filter should swivel until it contacts the oil filter housing. If not, you may be cross-threading the new oil filter.
After that, finish tightening the oil filter with an oil filter wrench about ¾ of a complete turn.
Remove the fill cap from the oil expansion tank and place a funnel into the tank. Add new oil to the expansion tank until full by hand.
In the process, you will want to wait for a few minutes for the oil level to drop, then slowly add more oil until it once again fills to the top line.
As you add oil into the reservoir tank, pay close attention to the vent port beside the transaxle. If oil drips from the vent port, stop adding oil.
Tighten the vent plug with caution and wipe any residual oil with a clean rag. Since there is no torque specification for the vent plug, you will want to tighten it until you feel a stiff amount of resistance on the vent plug.
Check the oil level on the reservoir tank. If the oil level has not reached the cold fill line on the tank, add more oil until it touches that line.
Next, remove the oil funnel from the tank, wipe the remaining oil from the tank exterior and reinstall the tank cap.
Follow with removing your oil drain pan under the transaxle and returning the oil filter guard with its original hardware.
Disconnect the transaxle by pulling out the bypass lever, then set the mower to the parking brake to start the engine. After the engine ignites, release the parking brake.
Move the steering lever that controls the transaxle, which was serviced back and forth slowly around 4 to 5 times to clear air from the transaxle.
Then slide the transaxle bypassed lever in to reconnect the transaxle. After that, repeat moving the steering lever slowly back and forth 4 to 5 times.
Then stop the engine and wait for all moving components to stop and hot parts to cool. Reinstall the rear wheel and secure it with its original nuts.
You then torque the nuts to the specs inscribed in the user’s manual for your mower.
- This procedure is more intensive, so it’s best to ask your local dealer for assistance.
- It’s wise to check the hydraulic oil level when the engine is cool. That’s because hydrostatic transmission oil expands with heat, which can give you inaccurate reading when hot.
- Before starting this project for hydrostatic transmissions, read the safety instructions in the user’s manual.
What Happens If You Don’t Change the Transmission Fluid?
Transmission fluid is essential as it helps lubricate all moving parts reducing wear and tear caused by excess heat and friction.
So if you don’t change your transmission fluid frequently, it will become dirty and won’t serve as an effective lubricant.
What Are the Signs Of Low Transmission Fluid?
Checking if your mower has low transmission fluid can save you from costly repairs caused by insufficient fluid to lubricate the moving parts.
Here are some common signs that your mower needs transmission fluid:
If your transmission starts overheating, it implies that trouble is brewing. So it’s essential to keep your fluid temperature from exceeding 200 degrees since it will affect your mower’s performance.
Check out these temperatures that can damage your transmission.
- 220 degrees: varnish begins to establish on the metal parts.
- 240 degrees: the seals begin hardening.
- 260 degrees: the transmission bands begin to slip.
- 295 degrees: your mower breaks down.
Transmission fluid leakage
Another sign of low transmission fluid is leakage. You can tell if your mower transmission fluid leaks by carrying out frequent checks below the mower and the engine’s compartment.
If you notice a bright red color leaking, you will know things are not good. However, it’s even worse if it smells burnt and has a dark color.
Failing to address this leakage means more fluid will be discharged, affecting how internal components are lubricated.
Other common signs of low transmission fluid in your mower include warning lights, transmission slipping problems, and the generation of unusual sounds.
How Do Hydrostatic Lawn Mowers Work?
Hydrostatic transmissions provide high power in a compact size. This mechanism lets you mow through various speeds rather than operating with preset gear rations.
These riding mowers are powered with standard engines and incorporate hydrostatic pumps that use pressurized oil to move pistons into the hydrostatic drive system.
This piston movement delivers power to the hydrostatic transmissions, which engages the drive wheels.
Additionally, hydrostatic transmissions provide more power and improved acceleration in a smaller package.
They also have a quicker response time with unmatched maneuverability than the belt-driven lawn tractors, allowing the operator to change direction and speed quickly.
The wheel rotating speed and the truck mower speed are controlled smoothly, using the optional cruise control, according to the amount of oil delivered by the hydraulic pump.
The oil flow increases instantly by tilting the swashplate to a larger angle, speeding the lmower.
But decreasing the swashplate angle decelerates the hydrostatic transmissions without causing any mechanical wear or requiring a separate break.
When the swashplate sits neutral, the pump doesn’t deliver oil, and the mower remains stationary.
However, most users dislike these hydrostatic transmissions because they use complicated systems with additional components.
That translates to a higher price than its prevalent counterparts. Maintaining a hydrostatic riding mower is also expensive, especially if not taken care of well.
Here’s How Hydrostatic Transmissions Work In a Lawn Mower:
Can You Push Start a Hydrostatic Mower?
Hydrostatic mowers use transmissions that are fluid-driven. This permits you to steer the mower by changing the flow of hydrostatic fluid to individual wheels.
But can you push start a hydrostatic riding mower ? Yes, you can push start a hydrostatic riding mower, but this causes the fluid to move backward through the pump, damaging the seals.
Therefore, you must disengage the drive before push-starting your lawn tractor.
Push-starting a hydrostatic mower only works on riding mowers with a clutch. If you don’t have a long steep hill in your yard, call a friend to help you push the mower.
This can be very dangerous, so you must use your best safety tool: common sense. Ensure nobody walks in front of the path you plan to push-start. And also, ensure no obstacles are on the way.
So assuming you have a suitable hill, push the mower to the top. You can achieve this quickly with your friend’s help.
Once you reach the hill’s peak, turn your mower to face downwards, ensuring the parking brake is engaged before turning on the ignition.
You have to implement the following steps smoothly. Begin by depressing the clutch and shifting the transmission into the lowest gear shifting.
You then hold the clutch down and release the parking brake. If your mower doesn’t immediately go down the hill, give yourself a little push with the free foot.
This should get you going. When you feel you’ve reached top speed, release the clutch. At this point, the mower should start.
If you have a friend, you will need to push the mower rather than roll it down a hill. Follow the same basic procedure and remember to pop the clutch at high speed.
Which Is Better Hydrostatic or Shuttle Shift?
Lawn tractor manufacturers are gradually upgrading and improving transmissions to make their equipment last a lifetime, become more fuel-efficient, and help users accomplish tasks efficiently.
These transmissions include power shuttle transmission, hydrostatic transmission, and geared speed transmission.
Power shuttle transmission is an upgrade to the commonly known gear-shifting transmission.
This transmission incorporates a forward-reverse shuttle lever that automatically clutches the tractor when shifted from one position, makes a shift, and re-engages the clutch.
This transmission is best if you do lots of forward and reverse gear shifting.
The clutches in power shuttle transmission machines are usually soaked in oil and hydraulically activated for long life, smooth control and lengthier transmission duration.
On the other hand, hydrostatic transmission relies on pressurized hydraulic oil to roll the rear output shaft and the wheels.
This mechanism allows you to control the speed by adjusting the hydraulic motor’s amount of oil. That said, which is better: hydrostatic or shuttle shift?
Ideally, hydrostatic is better than shuttle shift because of the super slick operation. However, this transmission system needs a high engine RPM to keep up with the transmission pump.
This causes the engine to get hot faster, burning more fuel. Also, the hydrostatic machine is costly, making a shuttle shift a better pick for those with budget constraints.
Why Is My Hydrostatic Mower Not Moving?
A hydrostatic mower may not move due to a faulty tensioner spring, low hydraulic fluid, and the rest, which we will unfold in this guide.
Drive release handle not in operating mode
Hydrostatic lawn mowers integrate a drive release for the mower to roll free. The drive release may be in the form of a knob, push/pull button, or lever.
So for you to move your mower forward, you must set these drive release handles in the operating position. You can refer to your user manual on the location of your release handle.
Low hydraulic fluid level
You must practice consistent hydraulic oil change at the intervals listed by the manufacturer for your mower transmission system to run as expected.
Running the transmission with low oil can cause your mower not to move forward or backward.
Air in the hydraulic system
After changing the hydraulic fluid, you must drive out all the air in the transmission system.
You can achieve this by keeping your mower rear tires elevated and allowing them to spin back and forth until the excessive noise disappears when the wheels run at average speeds.
Missing key in axle
If you recently replaced a tire on your hydrostatic riding mower, you may have lost a minor key that fell off the axle.
This key seems like a small narrow bar and must be installed for your lower wheel to move.
However, not all riding mowers have a key in the axle, but if yours has one and it’s not in place, your mower won’t move.
Levels operate hydrostatic mowers instead of shifting gears. So if any obstacle prevents the pedal’s forward or reverse control, your mower won’t move.
You will have to examine the pedals for obstruction or damage. If you depress the parking brake and it doesn’t release well, check for obstructions or damage to the linkage.
Also, confirm if the parking brake is engaged because this condition can prevent your hydrostatic mower from moving.
How to Check the Hydraulic Oil Level in Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Mower
It’s important to always check the hydraulic fluid level in your hydrostatic mower to ensure your equipment runs at peak performance. Use the steps below to accomplish this job.
First, place your riding mower in a service position. Then check the oil level in the expansion tanks on both sides by first removing the caps. The oil level should reach the cold fill indicator mark.
Reminder: Y our riding mower’s engine should be cold when checking the engine oil level. That’s because a warm engine will give you a faulty reading.
After checking the initial oil level, carefully realign the thread to secure the cap to the extension tank.
Next, run the engine for one minute, then reconfigure your mower to service mode to recheck the hydraulic fluid level.
If your oil level is below the cold line, remove the expansion tank caps and fill the tank with fresh oil until it reaches the cold fill indicator mark.
Lastly, reinstall the expansion tank caps.
How Do You Troubleshoot a Hydrostatic Transmission?
Hydrostatic transmissions are found in various equipment ranging from lawn mowers to tractors. So for you to diagnose any problems, you need to know how the transmission system of riding mowers work.
After that, you will learn how to troubleshoot your hydrostatic mower when it breaks down. Below are some general troubleshooting tips to fix your hydrostatic mower.
Purge your hydraulic drive system
Some transmission problems are caused by air in the system, limiting the pressure needed to provide power. A quick fix to this is to follow the steps below:
First, park your mower on level ground, engage the parking brake, and elevate the rear. Ensure the oil reservoir is filled correctly according to the user’s manual.
Next, disconnect the transmission, sit on the driver’s seat, and ignite the engine. While the engine runs, move the throttle control to a slow position.
Place the motion control levers in neutral mode and disengage the brake pedal. Then push the motion control levers forward and hold for five seconds. This should purge air from the transmission system.
Check the system
Another troubleshooting tip is to check the hydraulic system visually. Check the hydraulic fluid level and add if necessary.
Examine the hoses and other connections for damage or leakage. Then clean the pump cooling fins with a clean cloth, brush, or compressed air.
You will also want to check the steering fluids and replace them if needed. Running your mower with old or overused fluid can compromise its performance.
Lastly, you can call an expert to fix any issues because some repairs are beyond DIY.
What Kind of Fluid Goes In Hydrostatic Transmission?
Due to the range of environments in which hydrostatic equipment is used, it’s not easy to give specific advice on oil types for hydrostatic transmission.
Ideally, the air temperature range in which hydrostatic equipment is used must be factored in when determining the consistency of replacement oil.
Operating outside the suggested oil air temperature range can cause premature hydrostatic transmission failure.
And for that, it’s wise to select the perfect oil for both your machine and the location. For instance, it’s advisable to use SAE 20W-50 oil in temperatures between minus 4 degrees and 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
Changing your hydraulic oil is crucial as old oil loses its anti-foam and hydraulic properties, meaning your transmission system won’t function optimally.
At worst, old oil can make your machine fail to self-propel.
As stated in his guide, both hydrostatic and automatic transmission are excellent choices for homeowners planning to improve the visual appeal of their homes.
Hydrostatic and automatic transmission comes with contemporary features that enhance your mowing experience.
Other than automatic and hydrostatic transmissions, other options to look for are electric mowers and even manual transmissions.
Electric mowers are environmentally friendly, and manual transmission offers more control as it puts you in charge of the equipment.
Even as we wind up this article, I hope you found the content helpful to your quest of understanding between hydrostatic transmission and automatic transmission.
Do you have a question, opinion, or suggestion that you would love to share regarding hydrostatic or automatic transmission? Kindly do so in the comment section below.
Rhys is a passionate landscaper, a self-proclaimed barbecue expert and the author of this site. He combines his lawnmowing expertise with his engineering background to teach you about how to not just take care of grass, but also the equipment you use.
Explore Riding Lawn Mowers
A complete lineup of zero-turn mowers, lawn and garden tractors, and electric mowers, all featuring the strength and durability that bring your lawn to life.
Lawn Garden Tractors
Built in America since ‘61 and backed by the industry’s strongest warranty, Cub Cadet® lawn and garden tractors all come standard with the strongest cutting systems for mowing performance, refined ergonomics designed around you and an array of attachments and accessories for year-round versatility and utility.
Designed with strength, comfort and the ability to get the job done 50% faster than riding tractors, each Cub Cadet zero-turn riding mower is engineered to handle a range of terrain and cover up to 5 acres, with steering wheel options that increase ease.
Electric Riding Mowers
We took the proven strength and performance of our gas-powered machines and combined them with a powerful and convenient lithium-ion battery to create electric lawn mowers with no power fade and reduced noise for a more enjoyable ride.
How to Choose a Riding Lawn Mower
With so many options and features available on riding lawn mowers, how can you make an informed decision about what type of mower to buy? There are two popular options when it comes to riding lawn mowers, both of which provide all-season functionality:
Most lawn and garden tractors look like a traditional riding lawn mower and have an engine mounted in the front and a steering wheel that steers using the front wheels, like a car. Some have the engine in the back with a simple steering column in front, allowing for increased viability and increased maneuverability for the driver. Zero-turn riding mowers pivot on the rear wheels, meaning there is zero-degree turning radius, and the mower can actually spin in a circle to cut one area or maneuver around obstacles.
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers are available in both gas-powered and electric.
Types of Riding Mowers
Looking like the stereotypical riding lawn mower, a lawn and garden tractor is the best compromise between performance and cost. Much smaller than zero-turn counterparts, they’re easy to store in a garage or a shed and have plenty of power and maneuverability for small to medium sized yard, all without breaking a sweat like you would with a push mower or walk-behind mower.
Garden tractors look very similar to a lawn tractor or traditional riding lawn mower, however they are usually a bit larger due to their more powerful engines and transmissions. This added power allows for more utility work and ground-engaging jobs, such as use with plows and other attachments. The added weight of a garden tractor also makes it better on hills, but it will have less maneuverability than a lawn tractor.
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers
If you have a large yard, or a yard with a lot of obstacles and tight corners, a zero-turn riding lawn mower is the right mower for you. Zero-turn mowers are available with a wide range of deck sizes and turn more quickly than both lawn and garden tractors and walk-behind mowers, meaning that mowing your lawn will take about half the time with a zero-turn riding lawn mower. Zero-turn mowers come with a lap bar or steering wheel control. Lap bar steering is the most common way to steer, while steering wheel control has little to no learning curve and is needed for mowing along the side edges of slopes and hills due to increased control in the front wheels.
Gas mowers vs. Electric mowers
No matter whether you decide on a tractor riding lawn mower or a zero-turn mower, either can be purchased in either gas or electric. Our electric mowers have a cutting time of 1 hour or more, making this the ideal choice for small to medium sized yards. If you’re environmentally conscious, or live in a city with noise ordinances, place your trust in one of our electric riding lawn mowers. With no spark plugs, fuel, or oil changes, electric mowers require less maintenance than their gas counterparts.
The Best Riding Mowers for Different Yard Types
Small to Medium Yards
For small to medium yards, both lawn and garden tractors are recommended. These are two high-performing, yet cost-effective options for those who don’t want to hassle with a push mower. Lawn tractors and garden tractors also allow for much more utility with attachments like snow blowers, leaf collectors, and pull carts.
Medium to large yards
As the yard and the mowing job gets bigger, it’s worth considering additional options other than a lawn and garden tractor. A zero-turn riding lawn mower will allow you to get the job done faster and with more maneuverability.
Yards with obstacles
For yards with obstacles, such as landscaping, trees, rocks, and so on, we highly recommend a zero-turn mower. Trying to cut around landscaping and trees can be frustrating and time-consuming without the highly maneuverable zero-turn mower. For yards with fences, be sure to compare the deck size of the mower with the fence opening size to be sure it will fit. Even for residential homes, professional mowers can be a great option, as they’re designed for spaces with landscaping and other obstacles. With professional and commercial models, you also have different configuration models, such as stand-on and stand-behind mowers with excellent maneuverability.
If your yard has a notable incline or decline, there are a couple very important factors to consider: traction control and stability. Meeting these needs will allow you to safely negotiate your yard’s hills and slopes. For sloped yards, you should consider a steering wheel zero-turn as the steering wheel provides more control when mowing along slopes, compared to lap bar steering.
Types of Attachments for Riding Lawn Mowers
There are a variety of attachments for your riding lawn mower to make your lawn care a breeze: Baggers. Double and triple baggers are available for all models of tractor and zero-turn riding mowers. Baggers collect the cut grass from the discharge for easy disposal.
- Snow blowers. You can attach a snow blower to the front of your tractor and turn your riding lawn mower into a riding snow blower. They have an auger that feeds snow into the discharge, moving the snow away from walking or driving paths.
- Snow cabs. Snow cabs are like tents that attach to your mower and cover the top and sides so you can plow or snow blow without getting covered in snow. These can also be used in warmer months to help prevent bug bites.
- All-season plows. Plows are available for tractors and zero-turns, and can push dirt, snow, or gravel. There’s no discharge with a plow attachment, just pushing to displace.
- Mulchers. Mulchers take the grass clippings that usually come with cutting grass, and instead of collecting the grass from the discharge chute, the mulcher cuts the grass into fine pieces, which falls into the soil and breaks down, giving nutrients back to the soil.
- Striping kits. On zero-turn mowers, you have the option of adding a striping kit. This adds those classic manicured stripes into your lawn while you cut.
- Leaf collectors. With a larger chute, a leaf collector picks up leaves and debris from under your mower and collects it all into a bag for easy disposal.
- Pull carts. These attach to the back of your riding lawn mower, allowing you to transport tools, soil, or mulch.
Attachments are available for lawn tractors, garden tractors, and zero-turn riding lawn mowers. Be sure to check specifications on the attachments you’re interested in to see what mowers it’s compatible with.
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The 5 Best Riding Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Rachel has written for Dotdash Meredith’s Ecommerce team since 2020, covering home goods, tech, fashion, beauty, and more. She’s interviewed dozens of experts and is always on top of the latest trends and product releases.
Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics that range from film and beauty to science and the automobile industry. Her plant biology degree has a FOCUS on sustainable agriculture, and she’s an expert on growing your own food, environmental sciences, and all topics relating to houseplants.
In This Article
Keeping your home’s lawn looking neat and tidy takes a whole lot of hard work, especially if you have a traditional lawn mower that requires you to spend serious time and effort pushing it across the grass. But with a riding lawn mower, you can achieve the same great results with far less hassle, provided you have the right yard for one.
“A riding lawn mower is a great option for those who have yards that are 3/4-acre or larger,” says Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s. “In contrast, a push mower or a robotic mower would be more suited for a smaller lawn of an acre or less.”
If a riding mower sounds right for you, good news—we tested out many of the best options on the market, evaluating them on performance, design, value, and more factors. We also received expert advice from McCoy on what to look for when shopping for riding mowers and tips on how to maintain them.
Best Electric Riding Mower
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Battery Electric Cordless Zero Turn Riding Mower
For a top-quality electric riding mower that you’ll use year after year, look no further than this option from Ryobi. It’s a battery-operated, zero-turn mower with serious power, and it comes with four brushless mowers, a sensitive steering system, a helpful LCD screen, and much more.
Setup was simple, and although it took a bit of time to get comfortable using the joystick, it wasn’t long before we were operating it smoothly (and sitting comfortably in the seat). As far as performance goes, this mower cut even paths through damp grass effortlessly (and quietly!), and overall felt extremely intuitive and easy to operate. The LCD screen kept us aware of the mower’s battery life and run time, and we could pick both the machine’s speed and cutting height from a wide variety of options. We also liked that the mower comes with headlights that illuminate the path when you start to lose daylight.
Additionally, the mower has a long-lasting battery life, so you don’t have to waste time constantly recharging it before every mow. Plus, it comes with fun features like USB ports, storage compartments, and Bluetooth, so you can monitor the mower via an app. On the downside, it’s quite pricey, and the amount of torque means that you have to accelerate carefully, at least until you get a better feel for the joystick. Still, there’s a lot to love about this excellent mower.
Price at time of publish: 6,999
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Battery | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Best Gas Riding Mower
Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower
If you prefer a gas mower to an electric one, make sure to consider this fantastic pick from Toro. It’s a zero-turn mower with consistent speed and a strong suspension system, among other features, so you can take the mower over rough terrain without worry.
Getting used to this mower can take a bit of time, as there are no pedals like you might expect, just a joystick that lets you control speed, braking, and direction. But once you’ve settled in, you’ll be in for a great ride. We found the mower easy to control, especially when it came to adjusting the speed, cutting height, and the seat’s firmness (you can choose how bouncy you want it to be). It cut grass evenly and neatly, and discharged the clippings far away from the mowing area, which was quite helpful.
Maneuvering the mower around the lawn was easy, no matter the terrain or number of turns, and even when it was going fast, the mower didn’t feel like it was unstable. As far as negatives go, we wish the mower came with a bagging option, as well as headlights for nighttime work, but really, those are small quibbles considering how solid an option this mower is overall.
Price at time of publish: 4,299
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 50 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Best Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42-Inch 22 HP Zero-Turn Mower
Zero-turn mowers can be great options as they can maneuver more quickly and smoothly than many other types of mowers, and we love this pick from Cub Cadet. It’s a powerful machine that runs on a twin-cylinder gas engine, and features an ultra-comfortable seat with adjustable lap bars, hand grips, a rubber mat, and plenty of legroom.
This mower did take some time to set up, but once we got it ready, it started up quickly and moved smoothly. It mows and makes turns faster than many other models we’ve tried, and it doesn’t take long to get used to the different speeds and start feeling in control as you go. Additionally, you can adjust the mower’s seat and arms to make sure it’s a comfortable fit, and we also liked that the side discharge leaves the grass clippings far away from the mower itself. It also features headlights, as a helpful bonus, and you can choose from several cutting heights and other settings.
We would’ve liked it if the mower’s handles were able to be lined up equally, as it can be a bit tricky to ensure that you’re turning at the same speed on both sides. All in all, though, we had few complaints about this zero-turn mower.
Price at time of publish: 3,499
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Easiest to Maneuver
John Deere S100 42-Inch 17.5 HP Gas Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor
We can’t say enough good things about this gas-operated riding mower from John Deere, especially in terms of how well it maneuvers. When we tested it out, we were amazed by how effortlessly it made its way around trees and other impediments, thanks to the responsive pedal and above-average turning radius (as well as the mower’s notably small size).
We discovered that this mower operates smoothly on rocky terrain, too, and its size makes it easier than many other mowers to store in a shed or garage when not in use. Setting it up is a quick, simple process, and you can change the cutting heights via a helpful lever, while you can switch up the speeds through a pedal.
We also love this mower’s side discharge, which is strong enough to blow leaves out of the way (almost doubling as a leaf blower), as well as its convenient headlights. Plus, it comes with a large and easy-to-empty bagger, and we found that the mower’s seat is both comfortable and adjustable.
It would be nice if this mower had a wider deck, as John Deere only recommends it for yards up to 1 acre, but if you’re looking for a small yet highly effective mower, you’ll surely be happy with this top-tier choice–especially considering that it’s the least expensive mower on our list.
Price at time of publish: 2,399
Type: Lawn tractor | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4 inches
Best for Thick Grass
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor
If you want a riding mower that can easily handle even the thickest grass, then take a look at this powerful option from Cub Cadet. It’s a gas-operated mower that cuts evenly through areas with long, thick grass without any issue and in a much quicker time period than other mowers we’ve tried.
This mower takes a good amount of time to set up and get started, due to an unfortunate lack of user-friendly instructions. But once you figure it out the first time, you’ll be good for all future mows, and the actual controls, such as for changing the cutting height, are much more intuitive. Additionally, we’re big fans of this mower’s adjustable, comfortable, and shock-absorbing seat, as well as the big, thick tires that make for a smooth ride.
The maneuverability of this mower is top-notch, too, allowing it to move easily around trees and other objects, and we were impressed by how fast the mower goes at its top speed. The discharge chute spread the grass clippings far enough away, and the mower’s headlights are a helpful added bonus.
Although this mower’s turning abilities don’t quite compare to zero-turn mowers, and it doesn’t come with fancier features like an LED screen or Bluetooth, we were still highly satisfied with its performance and think you will be, too.
Price at time of publish: 2,574
Type: Lawn tractor | Deck Width: 46 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4 inches
If you’re looking for a great electric mower, the Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Lithium Electric Zero-Turn Riding Mower is our top pick. It’s fast, effective, quiet, and has multiple handy features. For an equally strong gas-powered option, we recommend the Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter MyRIDE Zero-Turn Mower, due to its consistent speed, smooth ride, and easy maneuverability.
Our Testing Process
To determine the best riding lawn mowers, we tested models from reputable brands in our own yards (spanning four cities and two states) over three weeks. To begin, we timed how long it took to unbox and assemble each lawn mower (for battery-powered models, we took note of how long it took to charge, but we did not include this in our setup time). During the testing period, we used each lawn mower a minimum of three times, taking into account weather conditions, how much grass was cut off, and how much surface area was being mowed. While mowing, we considered things like comfortability, adjustability, battery life (when applicable) maneuverability, how evenly the mower cuts, and more. We also tested any additional features, including side discharge, bagging, mulching, various cutting height options, headlights, various speeds, and cup holders. We are still testing riding mowers and will continue to update this piece with the fresh insights as we have them.
How to Shop for Riding Mowers Like a Pro
There are multiple types of riding mowers, including zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine mowers.
Zero-turn mowers have a zero-inch turning radius and a mowing deck in front, rather than underneath, the machine. This causes them to turn quickly and easily, and have greater maneuverability and speed than other types of mowers. They tend to be pricey, though, and relatively small.
Lawn tractors, meanwhile, have their cutting decks in the middle, rather than underneath the front, and tend to be pretty large. They’re less maneuverable than other types of riding mowers due to their size, but they’re quite powerful and particularly good for large lawns.
Then there are rear-engine mowers, which are usually very small and less powerful than other options. They’re best used on tiny lawns, and they aren’t great at going up hills and rocky terrain. Still, they’re often less expensive than the other types.
Deck width refers to the amount of acreage the mower can cut in one go, and it ranges from about 30 to 60 inches. “A mower’s cutting deck determines how many passes it’ll take to mow the grass, so you should match the deck size to your acreage for a speedier cut,” says Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s. “If you’re working with smaller yards up to two acres, look for options in the 30-inch to 52-inch deck range,” he adds. “Two to four-acre yards will benefit from 50-inch decks to 54-inch decks, and anything over five acres will need 60 inches or more.”
Riding mowers run on either gasoline or electricity. Gas-powered mowers “feature the traditional riding design we’re familiar with and operate similarly to a car, using a steering wheel and foot pedal,” says McCoy. If you opt for a gas mower, make sure to “check the level of ethanol your equipment can safely use, and never buy more than you can use in 30 days, as older gasoline can lead to corrosion in your engine,” he adds.
Electric riding mowers, on the other hand, “are battery-powered machines that offer a similar performance to gas models without the fuel requirements,” says McCoy. “They run a bit quieter than gas mowers with less vibration.” They do require some time to charge up before use, which can be frustrating, but they get rid of the smell and hassle of gasoline.
When determining which riding mower is right for you, it’s important to think about the size of your yard. Yards on the very small size, under 3/4 of an acre, might be better off with traditional push mowers, says McCoy. Otherwise, follow this guide from Lowe’s:
- 3/4- to 1-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 30-42-inch cut width.
- 1- to 2-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 42-52-inch cut width.
- 2- to 3-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 50-54-inch cut width.
- 3- to 5-Acre Lawn:s Look for a mower with a 54-62-inch cut width.
- 5-Acre Lawns or Larger: Look for a mower with a 60-inch or greater cut width.
Riding mowers can come with some seriously helpful features, including:
- Zero-turn radius: This can “allow the mower to pivot at sharper angles than lawn or garden tractors,” says McCoy.
- Cruise control: So you can “lock in on one speed and mow long, straight stretches more easily,” he notes.
- Mulch kits, dump carts, and lawn sweepers to “help you maintain your landscape not only during mowing season but year-round,” McCoy says.
Other less essential, but still beneficial, features include cup holders, USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, armrests, headlights, and extended leg room. The more features a mower has, the more expensive it’ll likely be, though, so be sure you’re prioritizing your top picks.
Riding Mowers to Consider
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Cordless Electric Riding Lawn Tractor: This battery-operated mower is a quiet, fast-charging machine that cuts grass evenly, and has a helpful digital display menu so you can adjust the speed easily. Still, it has some frustrating features, like a beep every time you back up or get off the seat, as well as a jerky accelerator pedal.
Questions You Might Ask
Are stand-up or sit-down riding mowers better?
That depends on your specific needs, says McCoy. “Stand-up mowers work well in smaller yards and on uneven terrain, whereas riding mowers can handle larger surface areas and are generally more powerful,” he explains. Additionally, stand-up mowers can be better for your back (albeit less comfortable to use). Stand-up mowers also offer better visibility than sit-down riding mowers, but on the downside, they usually don’t have bagging systems.
How much should you expect to spend on a riding mower?
The price of a riding mower can “range from 2,000 up to 8,000, depending on the type of mower and attachments included,” says McCoy. If you’re looking to save costs, opt for basic models that don’t have features like LED screens, Bluetooth capability, zero-turn radius, and more. But if those features and others matter greatly to you, then prepare to shell out a pretty penny.
What kind of maintenance does a riding mower need?
The type of maintenance a riding mower needs depends on the specific model, says McCoy. However, for most mowers, he suggests that you regularly “inspect the mower’s shield and deflectors, check its tire pressure, remove dirt from the machine, check the oil and fuel, and reconnect the battery or spark plug” for day-to-day maintenance.
Throughout the mowing season McCoy suggests lubricating the mower, checking the air filter and mower blades, and changing the engine oil and filter. “At the end of the season, you’ll want to prepare your mower for the next spring. That entails doing a general inspection of the machine, replacing the fuel filter, and maintaining the mower blades,” says McCoy.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Rachel Simon, a writer for Real Simple, Better Homes Gardens, The New York Times, and many other publications. To write this article, we tested riding mowers over a span of several weeks and evaluated them on performance, value, design, and more. For expert insight, we spoke to Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s.
What Is Real Simple Selects?
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.
Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.