An Old 3 Wheel Lawn Mower Has a Lot of History
An old 3 wheel lawn mower has a lot of history. The first powered mowers were made in the 1920s, and used vertical shaft gasoline/petrol engines. However, rotary mowers soon replaced them, and now you can buy a walk behind model. This type of lawn mower is much greener and best for small lawns. If you are looking to purchase a vintage one, it is best to check eBay for local listings.
The most popular types of riding reel lawn mowers have cutting reels in front of the main wheels that cut the grass before the wheels push it to the ground. The cutting reel is usually hydraulically powered. The blade reel/cylinder contains three to seven helical blades that rotate against a bed knife. This bed knife is fixed to the body frame. Whether you choose a hand-powered or self-propelled mower, you’ll be able to cut through a variety of grass types.
Old 3 Wheel Lawn Mower
The push type of mower is quieter than electric models and won’t disturb neighbors. The battery-powered version also uses less energy. Compared to the push type, the riding mower requires less space. Unlike a push model, a riding mower occupies more room. In addition, it is more expensive to store. The push mower is more durable than other types of lawn mowers. The riding lawn tractor has a rear grass catcher.
Almost all riding mowers use a cutting reel ahead of the main wheels. This cuts the grass before the wheels push it to the ground. Many are hydraulically powered. The blade is rotated against a bed knife, which is a fixed horizontal blade mounted to the body frame. The riding mower is still an essential piece of equipment for lawn care. Its history is surprisingly rich in history. The first self-propelled machine was manufactured in 1893 by Ransomes’ Automaton Company.
These mowers are also known as riding reel mowers. The cutting reels are located ahead of the main wheels, and they cut the grass before the wheels push it to the ground. They often use hydraulic power. In addition to the motor, they have a blade reel/cylinder that consists of three to seven helical blades. These helical blades turn against a bed knife, which is a fixed horizontal cutting mechanism mounted to the body frame.
There are three types of rotary mowers with internal combustion engines. The cheapest ones use older technology, with smaller motors and lighter steel decks. They are intended for residential use, and the price ranges of these machines are low. A rotary lawn mower is a good choice for small to medium sized lawns. It can be used on hillsides, in areas with access difficulties, and in city parks. There are a number of different models, but most of them have their advantages.
The biggest disadvantage of an old 3 wheel lawn mower is that it may not cut tall weeds and dandelions. These lawn mowers may also not have a strong enough blade to cut these weeds. Some models do not have a sharp blade and they cannot cut grass with their blades. Another disadvantage of an old push mower is that they may not be able to handle the height of a lawn. A rotary mower’s wheels are designed to turn a circular motion and the engine is mounted on the crankshaft.
Despite its limited capabilities, a rotary mower is still the best choice for mowing a large lawn. It has a rear grass catcher and a seat that allows the operator to operate it comfortably. The only disadvantage of a reel-powered mower is that it cannot cut grass that is close to obstacles. It is hard to make clean cuts on uneven terrain. If you’re worried about the quality of your lawn, a rotary mower might not be the best choice for you.
An old 3 wheel lawn mower is probably the least expensive way to mow a lawn. If you are considering buying one, make sure you buy a used one, and take care of it. It’ll last longer and be more durable than a brand new model. While it is possible to find a good second-hand version of an old mower, it’s best to consider buying one of the best rotary mowers available on the market.
Buying an Old 3 Wheel Riding Lawn Mower
There are many different reasons to have an old 3 wheel riding lawn mower. For one thing, it will save you a ton of money. You won’t have to worry about buying a new one every year. You can save a ton of money by renting one. And because of their low maintenance, you can use them year after year. The best part of having an old rider mower is that you’ll be able to use it without any major repairs.
However, if you’re in the market for a new lawn mower, you might want to consider buying a used one. The reason for this is that older models aren’t as durable as newer models. These mowers can also be tricky to start. If they don’t work, you may need to buy a new one. If you’re in the market for a used one, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.
If you’re looking for a used mower, look online. The most common types are the craftman 3-wheel riding lawn mower and the Lastec Articulator. While both of these models have unique features, they are still very popular. The Craftsman 3 wheel riding lawn tractor, as well as other similar models, are very unique and have a long history in the industry. These mowers are available locally in Wisconsin, and shipping is not an issue.
For more information, consider the following factors. How big is your lawn? How steep is it? Will you be using your lawn frequently? The size of your lawn will help determine which model you need. Remember that if you have slopes or a sloping yard, a riding lawn mower with traction control will be the best choice. And don’t forget about the accessories! With a bagger, you can easily collect the grass cut during your workday.
If you’re looking for an old 3 wheel riding lawn mower, you may want to consider a rotary mower instead. The rotary version is better for small yards and is much more efficient. If you’re looking to buy a rotary lawn mower, be sure to check out the acreage of your lawn before you purchase it. If it’s too large to ship, you can choose a walk behind mower.
Another option is a rotary mower. These are better for the environment and are not as heavy as a traditional lawn mower. In addition, they can be a great value for an old 3 wheel riding lawn mower. If you’re looking to buy one, it might be best to consider a walk behind mower. This type is better for small lawns and can be a better option if you have a smaller yard.
The best option for a rotary lawn mower is an old 3-wheel riding lawn mower. Typically, a rotary lawn mower has two or three wheels, but can also be a zero-turn mower. If you’re looking for a more traditional riding lawn machine, consider the articulating one. A rotary riding lawn mower will also have a bagger. These are the most common attachments on a 3-wheel riding garden tractor.
You can also buy a zero-turn riding lawn mower if you have a lawn tractor. These are more environmentally-friendly and more affordable. They are also great for small lawns. There are many different types of old 3 wheel riding lawn mowers for sale. A classic Craftsman 3-wheel riding-lawn mower is a perfect example of a vintage mower. It may need some cleaning, but the price is right. You don’t have to ship the old three-wheel rider anywhere.
A Ferris 3-wheel riding lawn mower is one of the best options. It’s not expensive and is a versatile machine. You can mow any size lawn, but you might need to take it to the mechanic first. A reconditioned mower will need some minor work, but you can probably get it for less than half the price if you don’t want to spend the extra money. If you need to get a brand new machine, you should consider purchasing a lastec articulator.
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.
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
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SCAG 3-WHEEL 61″ COMMERCIAL LAWN MOWER demo / walk around Kohler 22hp oil cooled Turf Tiger
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John Deere F525 Mower: Taking a Look Back in Time
Those who are responsible for maintaining a highly landscaped lawn can turn to John Deere for a mower that suits all of their needs. The John Deere F525 is one example of a mower that, upon its release in the ‘90s, catered to casual and professional landscapers alike.
John Deere F525 Mower: Features Specs
Best-suited for customers that worked with 1/2 to 3 acres of land, the John Deere F525 Mower – which was in production between 1990 and 2002 – was designed for easy maneuverability and came with features that made it optimal for trimming. Let’s take a look back at some of the features of this memorable John Deere lawn tractor.
The 3-wheel design of the John Deere F525 was designed to provide excellent maneuverability while the mower was in use. The steering tire stayed within the path cut by the mower deck. This gave users one less thing to worry about as they worked around obstacles that came in contact with the machine. The steering wheel of the machine also provided operators with the familiarity they enjoy.
Engine and Transmission
The 17 horsepower KHI engine of the mower was pressurized and had filtered lubrication for a longer life. It also had a fixed jet carburetor for precise control of the air-to-fuel ratio. The KHI hydrostatic transmission allowed for fast, easy control of the mower’s direction and speed. An internal charge pump maintained a constant oil supply to the transmission for proper lubrication during use. Together, the engine and transmission had a low center of gravity, providing operators with more stability, especially on slopes.
The foot controls of the John Deere F525 made the mower simple to use and maneuver. Two pedals were all operators needed to select speed and direction without removing their hands from the steering wheel. There was also a master stop brake to return hydrostatic foot control to neutral and disengage PTO when necessary.
The operator of the John Deere F525 had a high back seat, which could be adjusted up to six inches fore-and-aft. Low fuel, oil pressure, and charge lights appeared on the front of the mower where operators could monitor them while working. Lights were also positioned for the utmost visibility, even in bright sunlight.
Mower Deck Options
The 38-inch mower deck had a narrow width, which was optimal for operators who wanted to pass through areas, such as gates. It also required minimal storage space when the mower was not in use. The 48-inch deck enhanced trimming capabilities and could be easily removed or mounted without the need for tools.
For more information about the F525 or other lawn tractor models, contact your local John Deere dealer today.
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The 8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Michelle Ullman is a home decor expert and product reviewer for home and garden products. She has been writing about home decor for over 10 years for publications like BobVila.com and Better Homes Gardens, among others.
Barbara Gillette is a Master Gardener, herbalist, beekeeper, and journalist. She has 30 years of experience propagating and growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals.
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 including environmental science and houseplants.
For lawns that are 1 acre or more, a riding lawn mower can make turf maintenance less of a chore. Instead of sweating behind a push mower, you’ll ride in comfort while keeping your lawn in tip-top shape. Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, says, Commonly, homeowners choose a riding lawn mower to save time and/or energy if they have a large lawn area that is too much work to utilize a walk-behind mower. Most ride-on mowers can also be used for other chores around the yard to improve efficiency, such as pulling a trailer or aerator.
Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, adds, A riding mower gives you the precision you need to make straight lines and even cuts. Plus, with options like zero-turn technology, you’ll be able to trim around obstacles and corners like a pro. Riding mowers have the power, agility, and versatility to handle it all with ease.
We’ve tested over a dozen lawn mowers in our own lawns across the country including six riding lawn mowers, using each for three separate mowing sessions. During each session, the mowers were evaluated for ease of operation, comfort while riding, intuitiveness of the controls, battery runtime where applicable. and of course, how well the mower cut the grass. We considered how well the mowers maneuvered around obstacles, the range of accessories available for separate purchase, and the overall value of each mower before compiling our final list of winners.
John Deere S100 42-Inch 17.5 HP Gas Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor
- Very easy to maneuver even around tight turns
- Excellent performance cutting both wet and dry grass
- Smooth, comfortable ride
- White Glove Service
Our top-scoring riding mower performed like a Champion on all three mowing sessions at our 10-acre New Jersey yard (although the manufacturer recommends it for yards up to 1 acre in size). We were amazed at how easy it was to maneuver even around tight corners or close to trees. And it did a great job of cleanly cutting both dry and wet grass; remarkably, it did not leave any ruts on the wet grass, just small indentations. The mower provides a comfortable, smooth ride; we drove it down a 500-foot gravel path to reach the lawn without any discomfort or difficulty. This mower has 13 cutting levels ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches, and we found it very easy to set the desired cutting height. Even better, it was delivered already assembled and ready to go thanks to its White Glove Service.
The cutting deck is 42 inches, which is a good size for making quick work of the lawn, yet not so large that it’s bulky or hard to steer. It has a tight 18-inch turning radius. And with its 17.5-horsepower Briggs Stratton engine, this is a powerful mower that won’t struggle with slopes, tall grass, or thick weeds. It discharges the clippings to the side, and we found that it also easily cleared away fallen leaves from the grass. John Deere sells clipping bags, mulchers, and several other yard maintenance accessories separately. Like most gasoline-powered riding mowers, you will need to occasionally perform oil changes, but the process is not too difficult. And thanks to the electric start, it’s very easy to power the mower up and get right to work.
We found the seat to be quite comfortable, and you can adjust the position to suit your height. All of the controls are easy to identify and use, although it took us a few minutes to get used to the side-by-side foot pedals for going forward or reversing. The mower’s top speed is 5.5 mph going forward, and 3.2 mph in reverse. It can cut the grass in either direction. It has headlights if you want to mow at dusk or dawn, and a cup holder to keep your favorite beverage close at hand while you work.
This riding mower is covered by John Deere’s 2-year/120-hour bumper-to-bumper warranty. And it’s quite reasonably priced for a riding mower; overall, it’s hard to go wrong with this hard-working mower.
Price at time of publish: 2,399
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 414 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 1 acre
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Electric Cordless Riding Lawn Tractor
- Excellent performance
- Comfortable and fun to drive
- Long battery runtime
- LCD screen and app for tracking battery life
If you are looking for an electric riding lawn mower with all the power of a gas model, but without the fumes or bother of a gas engine, the RYOBI 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Riding Lawn Tractor is our top choice. We found it fun to ride; with a maximum forward speed of 7 mph, this is a zippy mower that speeds up or slows down almost immediately when adjusting your foot on the lever, but we did find it a bit jerky at times. It also was somewhat tricky to assemble, taking us over an hour to have it ready to go. The mower has a 42-inch deck and four steel blades with 13 different cutting height positions to choose from (within 1.5 to 4.5 inches), so you can really fine-tune the look of your lawn. It did a great job cutting the grass, whether wet or dry, at our third-acre Iowa test garden, and even chopped up small sticks, leaves, and weeds very easily. It even features a warning beep when backing up; while we appreciate this safety feature, it admittedly did become tiresome to hear the beep every time we reversed.
According to the manufacturer, it has the equivalent of a 21-horsepower engine, but it runs on the included three 80-volt, 10Ah batteries which allow you to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge (about 60 minutes of runtime) and quickly recharge in less than 2.5 hours thanks to the onboard charger. In our test sessions, the batteries never dropped much below 80 percent capacity, and we appreciated the LCD touchscreen that lets you keep tabs on the battery runtime and charging speed, as well as blade speed, driving speed, and blade height. Other extra features we like include LED headlights, front and back storage compartments, two tow hitches, two cup holders, and two USB ports to charge your phone.
Of course, the most important feature of a lawn mower is how well it cuts grass, and this one left our test lawn looking great, without creating ruts, ridges, or unevenly chopped grass. The mower discharges clippings to the side, but you can purchase a bagger and mulching kit separately, as well as various lawn care attachments. This is a powerful, feature-packed riding lawn tractor so it comes at a bigger price tag than other picks. If you don’t need all of these features, you may want to choose a more budget-friendly model. However, we think if you are looking for a great electric riding mower with all of the features and power you need, this is your best bet. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: 4,999
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 557 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres
Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- Excellent cutting performance
- Very comfortable, smooth ride
- Easy maintenance
- Zero-turn radius
- A bit of a learning curve to handle
- Bagger and mulching kit must be purchased separately
- No headlights
While we did have a bit of a learning curve with this powerful gas riding mower from Toro, once we got the hang of using the hand levers to control our speed, braking, direction, and blade engagement, we found that it was easy to maneuver between trees and other obstacles on our half-acre Iowa lawn. But if you have a larger property, you’ll be happy to know that this mower is rated for yards up to 4 acres in size. It has a hefty 50-inch cutting deck, so the zero-turn capability comes in handy when swiveling such a large mower around flowerbeds, between trees, or near retaining walls or other obstacles. We also found it very easy to set the cutting height, which ranges from a low of 1.5 inches to a high of 4.5 inches.
On our first mowing session, the grass was wet and the mower’s tires slipped a bit while moving down a slope, but on subsequent sessions, we had little problem in mowing over wet grass, thick grass, leaves, and other small lawn debris. The mower left the grass very evenly cut, with a lush, full appearance. Like many riding mowers, the clippings discharge to the side; if you want a bag or mulching kit, you’ll have to buy them separately. We definitely appreciated Toro’s MyRide suspension system, which keeps the ride smooth and pleasant even when the terrain isn’t completely level. And with a top speed of 7 mph, this mower can get the job done quickly. It has a cup holder to keep a cold beverage close at hand but does not have headlights, unlike many other riding mowers.
One great feature of this gas mower is that while it does require annual oil changes, it’s designed to make the task as easy as possible, so you won’t have to waste your afternoon on maintenance. It also has wash-out ports underneath the deck, so you can quickly blast away caked-on grass, mud, and grunge with your garden hose. And the sturdy construction, including the steel deck, means that this mower can take a beating and keep right on mowing without a pause. It comes with a 3-year residential limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: 4,299
Scag STHM Three-Wheel Front-Mount Rider. 2008
Cutting Width: 50 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 694 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor
- Comfortable, adjustable seat
- Reasonable price
- Excellent performance in cutting grass
We put this gas-powered lawn tractor to the test on a 6-acre Iowa property that once housed horses, and so is rather bumpy, and also has many trees and other obstacles. The mower was easy to assemble, but the instructions for starting it were somewhat unclear, and it took us several tries to get it up and running. Still, once we figured it out, we were very pleased with the mower’s performance. It operated beautifully over wet grass, thick grass, and uneven spots, plus, it maneuvered easily around all obstacles. The mower has a 23-horsepower/725 cc Kohler engine with plenty of power, and the 46-inch deck is big enough for getting the job done quickly but not so large that it’s hard to slip between trees and other obstacles.
The mower has 12 cutting settings ranging from 1.5 inches to 4 inches. We found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, as well as other controls on the mower. It has a 16-inch turn radius, which is tight enough for most lawns, although we couldn’t get quite as close to some trees as we would have liked. The maximum forward speed is 5.5 mph, which is a bit slower than some other models, but more than sufficient for most users. Overall, we felt like our lawn looked great once we finished mowing, and the mower spewed the grass clippings evenly from the side chute. Like most riding mowers, if you want a bagger or mulching kit, you’ll need to purchase them separately. There are quite a few other attachments available for this mower as well.
The seat can be adjusted, which was a definite plus for us, along with the smooth ride. On the downside, this mower does require periodic oil changes, but the process shouldn’t be too difficult or time-intensive. And on the plus side, the mower has cruise control, so once you find a speed that you like, you can easily set the mower to continue at that pace. It also has headlights for mowing in shady spots or at dusk. While riding mowers are undeniably expensive, this one is reasonably priced for the quality and performance it provides. It’s rated for use on lawns up to 4 acres in size and comes with a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 2,574
Cutting Width: 46 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 575 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Battery Zero-Turn
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Battery Electric Cordless Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Intuitive and easy to use
- Joystick for steering and speed control
- Long battery runtime
- Very clean cut on all types of grass
- Initially received a defective mower, although customer service was excellent
We tested this mower on a half-acre property in Iowa. While it was fairly straightforward and quick to assemble the mower and give the batteries an initial charge, it turned out that our first test mower had an electrical problem that required several phone calls and a technician’s visit before determining that the mower was defective. However, we were quickly provided a new mower, which was already assembled and ready to go. Despite this unfortunate start to our testing sessions, we were very impressed with the manufacturer’s customer service, and we loved the performance of this zero-turn mower, which has a 42-inch deck and power that Ryobi claims is equivalent to 31 horsepower.
Unlike many other riding mowers, which have levers, pedals, or steering wheels to control the motion of the machine, this one has Ryobi’s iDrive joystick, which lets you set your speed in forward or reverse, as well as turn and maneuver the mower. Not only was this fun, but it was also very intuitive and easy to use. The mower also has an LCD screen that shows battery life and runtime. This mower comes with four batteries: two 80-volt, 10-amp hour and two 40-volt, 12-amp hour batteries, which can all be charged simultaneously. In our testing sessions, the batteries still had plenty of charge left once mowing was finished. Ryobi claims that you can mow up to 3 acres on a single full charge.
Setting the cutting height, which ranges from 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches, is easily accomplished with a single lever, and with four blades, this mower easily handled wet grass, thick grass, and tall grass, leaving our lawn looking great. The clippings discharge from the side, although you can purchase a bagger or mulching kit separately if desired. While riding the mower, we especially appreciated how quiet it is in comparison to gas mowers—we could actually talk to nearby family members while riding it—and how smooth and comfortable a ride it provides, thanks to the superior seat suspension that absorbs a lot of the bumps and vibrations. The mower also has some nice extra features, including headlights, cup holders, and USB charging ports. While this mower is undeniably a big investment, we felt that its performance, power, and ease of use make it well worth the cost for those with big yards. It has a 5-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 5,999
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 700 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Gas Zero-Turn
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42-Inch 22 HP Zero-Turn Mower
- Seat can be fully adjusted for a comfortable ride
- Relatively reasonable price
- Easy to control
While all riding mowers are fairly expensive, particularly zero-turn mowers, the Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 Zero-Turn Mower is relatively reasonable in price, making it even more of a great option for yards up to 4 acres in size. While testing, It took us around 30 minutes to assemble, but it did take us a little longer to figure out the choke. However, once we understood the instructions, we got started mowing a third-acre Iowa lawn that includes hills, several obstacles, and areas of very thick, tall grass. Initially, we took it easy and went slowly while we got used to the handling of the mower, which was a bit touchy. However, once we got the hang of it, we did find the mower to be easy to control, and we really liked being able to make sharp turns around obstacles. We did report some rattling from a belt that needed to be tightened, but that didn’t affect the performance.
While mowing, we found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, which has an impressive range of 1 inch to 4.5 inches. We mowed right through very tall patches of grass without a hitch and liked the way the clippings were ejected far to the side of the mower, so there was no annoying buildup of clumps. It’s easy to speed up or slow down; the more you push the handlebars, the faster you’ll go, up to a top speed of 7 mph. Plus, you can mow both forward and in reverse, which made it easier to reach some trickier spots on the lawn. The mower felt very stable and safe even while mowing on slopes. Initially, we found the ride to be somewhat bumpy, but once we had the fully adjustable seat set to our ideal position, the ride became quite smooth.
With a 22-horsepower Kohler engine, this is a powerful mower with a very sturdy build. Like other gas mowers, it does require periodic oil changes. While we liked its side-discharge function, you’ll have to purchase a bagger or mulching kit separately if that’s your preference. Cub Cadet also sells various attachments that can be added to the mower for other lawn care functions. It has a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 3,499
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 580 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 3 acres
Best for Hills
Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 in. 19 HP Automatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Mower
- Automatic transmission
- Good traction on hills
- Extra leg room
- Compatible with a variety of accessories
While we were not able to personally test the Bronco 42, we still recommend this 19-horsepower, 42-inch gas mower for yards up to 2 acres in size, especially if your yard has a lot of slopes. This sturdy mower has an automatic transmission and uses a simple foot pedal to control your speed, just like your car. That means you are likely to feel comfortable handling the mower from the start, even if you have never used a riding lawn mower before.
The mower has anti-scalp, 20-inch all-terrain wheels, making it much easier to mow smoothly over uneven terrain or up and down slopes without bogging down or damaging your turf. Note that as with all riding mowers, you should always mow from side to side across a slope, not up and down the slope, to maintain stability. There are five cutting height settings, which are easy to adjust with a single lever, and range from 1.25 inches to 3.75 inches. That’s a smaller cutting range than many other riding mowers, but it easily handles most common lawn grasses, and the double blades, large wheels, and sturdy construction of the mower allow it to plow right through tall or thick turf without a problem.
The Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 has a step-through frame that offers more leg room, and the mid-back seat and rubber footpads keep you comfortable while you work. Its 18-inch turn radius is tight enough to maneuver around most yard obstacles, such as trees, fences, flowerbeds, or playsets. The machine has a rear hitch to pull garden carts, sprayers, and spreaders. It comes with a side-discharge chute for clippings, but if you prefer to bag or mulch the grass clippings, you’ll need to buy those accessories separately. Like all gas mowers, you’ll need to carry out periodic oil changes, usually recommended after every 50 hours of use or annually. It comes with a 2-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 2,199
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 520 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres
Cub Cadet 30 in. 56-Volt MAX 30 Ah Battery Riding Lawn Tractor
Not everyone needs a beast of a mower that can handle yards up to 4 acres in size. If you have a lawn that’s 1 acre or less, or you have a lot of obstacles on your property that require a smaller mower to maneuver between and around them, we recommend this battery-powered mower from Cub Cadet. It has a 30-inch deck that can slip through a 36-inch gate, and which won’t take up a lot of space in your garage or garden shed. While we were unable to test this mower ourselves, it’s still our top choice for smaller yards.
The mower comes with a 56-volt MAX 30 amp-hour battery that can mow up to 1 acre, or for 1 hour, before needing a recharge, which takes roughly 4 hours. It’s supremely quiet compared to gas mowers, and the ride is smooth and comfortable. Plus, no need for oil changes, pouring gasoline into a fuel tank, or smelly fumes. You can adjust the cutting height within a range of 1.5 inches to 4 inches, and no bogging down on tall or thick grass. The 18-inch turning radius is tight enough to easily work your way around most obstacles.
One feature that we especially approve of, and yet isn’t offered on many riding mowers, is this model’s cruise control, which allows you to set your speed up to a maximum of 5.5 mph and then let the mower keep your pace steady; no need to concentrate on maintaining an even speed by pushing pedals or gripping levers. Plus, it has a very comfortable high-back seat with armrests, LED headlights, a cup holder, and two onboard USB ports to power up your phone or music while you ride. Additionally, unlike every other mower on our list, this one includes the mulching kit—all others require you to purchase that separately—so you can turn the grass clippings into fine mulch to help feed your lawn. It comes with a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 3,600
Cutting Width: 30 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 362 pounds | Cutting Options: Mulch, side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 2 acres
Our top recommendation, the gas-powered John Deere S100 42-Inch Riding Lawn Mower, is supremely easy to maneuver around obstacles while creating a very smooth cut even on thick or tall grass. It comes with “White Glove Service” delivery, so you won’t have to assemble it, and it is easy to operate and maintain. However, if you prefer an electric mower, then we recommend the Ryobi 80V 42-Inch Battery Riding Mower, which has a lot of power and excellent battery runtime; you can get up to an hour of mowing done before needing to recharge. That’s enough for most people to complete the task on just one charge.
How We Tested the Riding Lawn Mowers
After testing eight walk-behind lawn mowers across the country, we tested six riding mowers, including gas, electric, and zero-turn options, each tested on a different property with varying terrain and lawn conditions, including slopes, rough spots, tall grass, and wet areas. We started by recording how long it took to unbox and assemble the riding lawn mower, as well as the difficulty or ease of assembly. (Two of the mowers were delivered assembled and ready to go, however.)
Once the grass was long enough to require mowing, we tested the riding mower on three separate occasions. For each session, we recorded the date and weather conditions, the size of the area to be mowed, the height of grass to be cut, and the length of time it took to accomplish the mowing. At the end of the session, we noted how cleanly and evenly the lawn had been cut, as well as how well the side-discharge chute shot the clippings back onto the lawn. (Only one of our tested mowers included an option other than side-discharge of the clippings; commonly clippings bags and mulching kits are not included with a riding mower, but must be purchased separately if desired.)
As we rode the mowers, we noted how easy it was to speed up or slow down the machine in both forward and reverse, the ease of raising or lowering the cutting height, how well the mower maneuvered around obstacles, and how evenly the mower cut all types of grass, including tall or thick patches as well as wet turf. We also paid attention to the comfort of the seat and the overall comfort of the ride, noting if it was unusually rough, had excessive vibration, or was in any other way uncomfortable to use the mower. We also tried out any extra features on the mowers, including headlights, cupholders, USB charging ports, or onboard storage areas.
At the end of each mowing session, we noted how much battery charge was left on electric mowers, as well as the length of time required for a full recharge. Finally, we summed up each experience with the mower, noting whether or not we felt it was a good value for the performance delivered.
What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to buy a gas- or electric-powered riding lawn mower. Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, says, Like in the automobileworld, battery-powered equipment is popular right now. Electrical mowers on both the residential and professional/commercial side are becoming more preferred over gas powered. You have to take into account that they both require different maintenance schedules, and it’s important to ask questions like ‘How long does the battery last, and what is the cost of a replacement battery’ before making a commitment to electric.
As a general rule, gas mowers, including our Best Overall choice, the John Deere S100, are more powerful than electric models, but they’re louder, less eco-friendly, and require more maintenance, including regular oil changes. Plus, in some locations, gas mowers have very stringent requirements for emission levels that some models can’t meet. However, Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance notes that the power of a gas mower can be especially useful if your lawn has rough areas, thick weeds, or especially tough grass.
Electric mowers, on the other hand, like our Best Electric Riding Mower, the Ryobi 80V Brushless Electric Riding Mower, are typically less powerful and require you to keep an eye on the battery charge level, but they’re also quieter, easier to start, and better for the environment. Still, while electric mowers require consistent charging, they often don’t require as much maintenance as gas models that have spark plugs, belts, and filters that must be maintained over time.
The deck size of a lawn mower dictates how wide a path it cuts—larger decks cut wider paths on each pass. Most residential riding mowers have decks that are around 42 inches, but if you have a very large property, you might want to consider a mower with deck that’s considerably bigger, like our Best Gas Mower pick, the Toro TimeCutter Zero-Turn Mower, which has a 50-inch deck. And of course, small properties, or lawns with many obstacles, might do best with a mower that has a smaller deck.
Keep in mind that the larger the mower, the harder it will be to maneuver through gates and other obstacles, plus the more space it will require in your garage or shed. Also, a mower’s deck size will impact its turning radius—except for zero-turn mowers, which can manage wider decks thanks to their overall design—and will also make it more challenging to navigate uneven terrain. Our Best Battery Powered Zero-Turn Mower, the Ryobi 80V Electric Zero-Turn Riding Mower, turns on a dime even with its 42-inch deck.
While the typical push mower’s engine is just 2 to 5 horsepower or the equivalent in battery power, a riding mower requires considering more oomph, with most having engine power or equivalent battery power of 13 to 30 horsepower. Noah James says, Make sure the riding mower you’re considering has enough horsepower to handle your specific needs. A larger engine will be able to handle thicker grass and steeper hills with ease.
As a rough guideline, a lawn that’s less than an acre can be handled by a riding mower with at least 13 horsepower, but a 3-acre lawn needs at least 18 horsepower to get the job done, and even more if your lawn has slopes or rugged terrain.
Don’t forget to consider how the lawn mower handles grass clippings. Just about every riding mower has a side-discharge chute to spit the clippings back out onto your lawn. But many brands also offer mulching kits or clipping bags for their riding mowers; note that you’ll generally have to purchase these separately. However, our Best Small Mower, the Cub Cadet 30-Inch Battery Mower, does include a mulching kit. If you want to mulch or bag your clippings, be sure that any riding mower you are considering offers these options, and remember to add the price of the accessories to the cost of the mower itself.
The defining feature of zero-turn mowers is a zero-degree turning radius, but these mowers are generally also much faster than regular riding mowers. However, keep in mind that it’s easier to maintain control around obstacles at lower speeds, so unless you have a very large, flat lawn, you’re unlikely to be running your mower at top speed very often. Plus, zero-turn mowers are much more expensive than regular riding mowers.
According to Marc Mayer, a riding lawn mower is suited to any type of turf, but because these machines are heavy, they can cause soil compaction, which can affect the health of your grass. You can help prevent this by not mowing when the ground is wet, and by trying to avoid mowing over the same area more than once.
The top speed for standard riding lawnmowers ranges from 4 to 6 mph. Zero-turn mowers are much faster, with some going 8 to 10 mph at full speed. While speed is a great factor to consider if you prefer to quickly complete outdoor tasks, a speedy job does not always result in a better cut, so don’t automatically assume that you need the fastest mower available.
The easiest way to transport a riding lawn mower is with a trailer. Mowers can be driven up a ramp into a low trailer and towed behind a vehicle. You may also transport riding mowers in the bed of a pickup truck, but special ramps are required. Of course, if you are merely loaning the mower to a neighbor or somewhere very close by, you may be able to ride the mower to the location, as long as the terrain permits this and you keep the blade turned off and elevated.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Michelle Ullman is the home improvement/tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs around the house and yard.
For this roundup, she relied on input from our team of testers, but also considered dozens of other riding lawn mowers of various types, evaluating each for features, power, effectiveness, ease of use, and overall value. She also considered feedback from customers, both positive and negative, as well as reviews and information on landscaping websites. Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, and Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, also provided additional expert input.
What Is The Spruce Approved?
Here at The Spruce, we want to ensure we fully stand behind every product we recommend and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all these products ourselves, though occasionally, we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut.
The Best Zero-Turn Mowers of 2023
These achieve the rare feat of making lawn mowing fun.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: Mar 1, 2023
When it comes to yard work, zero turn mowers do the impossible. They make lawn mowing fun. They accomplish this by putting unprecedented speed, control and maneuverability at the disposal of the person mowing the lawn. The so-called “zero turn” feature of these mowers converts a grass cutting machine into something akin to an amusement park ride. You steer the machine with two levers—the left lever controls the left wheel, the right lever the right wheel. With that steering setup, you can zoom over the landscape cutting straight lines, curves, or pivot the mower into and out of a corner. What’s not to like?
Read on to understand how these agile grass cutters work, how we go about testing them, and see some candidates that we’ve recently tested as well as some that we haven’t but that we think look particularly promising.
How Zero-Turn Mowers Work
A zero-turn riding mower consists of an operator platform, a frame and wheels, an engine (or battery bank), transmissions (or motors), and a pair of control levers commonly known as lap bars. In gas mowers, the engine powers a pulley system. One group of pulleys drives the blades, another group powers a pair of transmissions–one at each rear wheel. When you move the lap bar forward or back, you are directing the transmission to go faster, slower, or even turn the opposite way. When one drive wheel turns clockwise and the other counter clockwise, the mower pivots. When the wheels rotate at different rates, the mower turns in an arc-shaped path. When the lap bars are in the neutral position, the mower stops. Aside from a parking brake, there’s no other braking mechanism. Battery-powered zero-turn mowers work the same way, but have separate motors to drive the rear wheels and one for each blade inside the mower deck.
When it comes to transmission, most mowers have a Hydrogear EZT—a well-known and cost-effective residential-grade transaxle with a reputation for durability.
Some mowers use a deck stamped from one piece of steel, others use a deck fabricated from multiple pieces and welded together. A fabricated deck can be built from thicker steel at a lower cost than it would be able to be built otherwise. Once you’re talking about stamping metal as thick as 10 gauge (about 1⁄8 inch thick), the cost of stamping such a deck would push up the mower’s price beyond what most people are willing to pay. The decks in the mowers below range from 42 to 52 inches, a typical size in this class of product. When powered by these engines and the Hydrogear, these mowers will deliver a decent cut quality at their rated top speed of 7 mph. Note, however, that cut quality declines steeply if you maintain that speed in very thick grass or on uneven terrain.
As to the electric mowers, they represent the leading edge of the technology in this category. These are remarkable and expensive mowers powered by large-voltage lithium-ion batteries. If you’re interested in reducing mowing noise and simplifying your maintenance routine by eliminating gas and oil, they’re worth a look.
Selecting a Zero-Turn Mower
Everyone would like to select the biggest possible zero-turn mower with the hope of whittling a big grass cutting job down to size as quickly as possible. Reality usually intercedes because these machines are expensive and the wide range of options available today quickly drive up the cost. Roughly speaking, you start somewhere in the range of a mower with a 42-inch deck costing in the vicinity of 3200 to 3500 and move up in increments of 1000 to 1500 until you reach entry-level commercial-grade equipment that costs 7000 to 8000.
Again, speaking in terms of approximation, a mower with a 42-inch deck will cut a two-acre lot (that takes into account that the house, driveway, outbuildings and various landscape features are taking up some of that space). Use a mower with a larger deck to cut anything over two acres. But here’s the caveat. That entry-level ZTR mower (3200, say) with a 42-inch deck will wear out faster and need more maintenance than a mower with a 50-inch deck, a heavier frame, larger engine and higher quality transmissions, and thicker deck with more robust blade spindles, costing 4500.
In the simplest possible terms, you can cut a smaller area with a larger mower and expect more longevity out of the machine (not to mention a nicer mowing experience) or you can cut a larger area with a smaller machine and encounter more maintenance and a mowing experience that will be, we might say, a bit more rugged.
But there are still other factors to consider, in selecting a mower other than deck size and your budget. Larger mowers take more space in a garage or outbuilding. And a mower with a 50-inch or even 60-inch deck, as useful as it might be in getting the job done more quickly, may not fit through a fence’s gate, and it might be more difficult to maneuver in tight spots without creating scalp marks on the lawn from a lot of close-quarter pivoting.
Carefully consider all these factors when shopping for a mower: your budget, maintenance and whether you will perform that work yourself, mowing speed and time, maneuverability and trimming in tight areas, the importance that you place on your comfort while mowing, cut quality, longevity, storage, and access to the landscape.
How We Select and Test
There’s only one way to test a mower, and that’s to cut grass with it. But we also do more than mow.
We raise and lower the deck and adjust the seat. We look at service point access (the air filter, the spark plug, and the oil filter) and how easy it is to remove the deck. We mow approximately an acre with each mower, considering cut and mulching quality while running uphill, downhill, across washboard, and along sidehills. (On sidehills, we’ll mow surfaces pitched up to approximately 20 degrees; manufacturers generally recommend not going steeper than 10 degrees, but we like to be thorough.) We evaluate power and speed relative to cut quality—we investigate whether the mower delivers a decent cut mowing at full speed. When mowing in damp conditions, we look at whether the mower’s tires accumulate grass and how effectively it discharges moist clippings. Finally, we test maneuverability (these machines are, generally, very nimble) and how readily they come to a stop when you back off the lap bar control levers.