Riding mowers are generally the way to go for lawns of half an acre or more. And your options fall into one of three broad categories. There are rear-engine riders, which are the smallest and are usually built with a 30-inch cutting deck. They also tend to be cheapest and are a smart choice if you have limited storage space.
Traditional lawn tractors feature a 42-inch cutting deck and typically top out around 4 to 5 mph. They also tend to be more stable than zero-turn-radius (ZTR) mowers on hills.
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Riding Lawn Mower Guide: What to Know Before Buying a Riding Lawn Mower
Here are some of the specifications to keep an eye on before making the plunge and dropping cash on a riding lawn mower or garden tractor. The best riding lawn mower will depend on what your purposes and requirements are, there is no one size fits all. If you’ve got a very small patch of grass or working with a very strict budget, you may want to consider a trimmer as an alternative to a riding lawn mower or push mower.
- Tractor Brand: Toro, John Deere, Craftsman, Husqvarna, Massey Furguson, Cub Cadet, or other
- Deck Size: The larger the deck size the shorter your total amount of mowing time will be. A mowing deck size of 38 inches or over is ideal
- Transmission Type: Hydrostatic, Gear, or Belt
- Engine Brand: Kohler, Briggs and Stratton, Honda, Tecumseh, or other
- Horsepower: Garden tractors usually a minimum of 15 hp and on average are 20-25 hp
- Price: Garden tractors start at about $2000 and can go up to $8000 or more
- Reverse Mow: A very helpful feature if you miss a spot and/or are working with a tricky landscape
- Wheelbase: The distance between the front and rear axles of the garden tractor
- Weight: Most garden tractors weigh around 600-800 pounds
- Uncut Circle Diameter: This is the circle of grass that is left uncut after a sharp left turn
- Fuel Tank Size: 3, 4, 5+ gallon size
- Traction Control & Differential Lock: Helps prevent slippage on upward climbs and manage slopes greater than 15 percent
- Warranty: As a general rule of thumb a longer warranty means greater manufacturer confidence in the machine
Features to look for in a riding lawn mower: speed
The speed of a ride-on lawn mower is one of the most important aspects to consider. How fast the lawn mower can travel impacts how long it will take to complete the job. High speed is important if, like a professional groundskeeper or landscaper, you have large tracts of land to mow. The faster you mow the lawn, the quicker you can focus on other landscaping projects.
The cutting width of ride on mower blades
A wider blade cuts a larger area with each pass, which allows you to get the job done faster. However, as the blade width increases, so does the size of the ride-on lawn mower. This means that some lawn mowers might be too wide to maneuver comfortably through your property. Measure the areas you need to mow and maintain to choose the mower that is most suitable for space. There is nothing worse than having a mower that can’t get in the smaller, tighter spaces.
Ride on mower cruise control
Some of the more well-designed riding lawn mowers come with cruise control built in, that let you control the speed of the lawnmower. This is the ultimate ease of use function, that allows you to maintain the best speed for even cut.
Zero-turn lawn mowers have the tightest turning radius, which translates to excellent maneuverability and makes it easy to get around trees, shrubs and lawn statues. However, they do have some difficulty maneuvering on hills because they tend to turn too sharply on steep terrain.
Ride on mower engine placement
In general, the mower’s engine placement determines its power. Rear-engine models are smaller and have less power, and zero-turn mowers normally have rear engines. Front-engine tractor models have larger engines and more power and cutting ability.
Just like a car’s transmission, a manual transmission on a mower means more work for you. If you prefer to focus on steering instead of shifting, you’ll want a riding mower with an automatic transmission.
When you’re making a purchase as expensive as a ride-on lawnmower, the warranty period becomes increasingly important. If something goes wrong early in the lifespan of your lawnmower, the warranty can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on replacing parts or the whole unit. And from our experience, the longer the warranty period, the longer you can expect your products to last.