The Best Riding Lawn Mowers
Thinking of upgrading to a riding mower? One of these great options may be perfect for you and your lawn.
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Buying a Riding Lawn Mower
For DIYers with large lawns but little patience for pushing a lawnmower, consider upgrading to a riding lawn mower. You know the deal: Instead of walking behind the lawnmower, the operator sits on top as the blades whirl in the cutting deck below.
Riding lawn mowers come in many sizes and styles, offering plenty of options to fit your budget and needs.
Types of riding lawn mowers
Riding lawn mowers fall into four types:
- Lawn tractors: The classic front-engine riding mower, controlled much like an automobile, with a steering wheel and a brake. Many models offer accessories like baggers and lawn sweepers.
- Rear-engine ride: These are lighter and more agile than lawn tractors. The engine, mounted in the back, clears the operator’s line of sight and allows for tighter turns and precise cut lines. Like lawn tractors, rear-engine riders employ a standard steering wheel and brake pedal.
- Zero-turn radius mowers: Instead of a steering wheel, these mowers feature a pair of levers called “lap bars” that let the two drive wheels turn at different rates for exceptionally precise turning and cutting. If you need to cut along an arcing flower bed, a zero-turn mower may be for you.
- Garden tractor: The line between lawn and garden tractors can be fuzzy. But garden tractors often have more power, better stability and optional attachments for everything from tilling to snow plowing. They also cost more than other riding mowers.
What to consider when shopping for a riding mower
To find the right model for you, look at these factors:
- Attachments: Many DIYers find baggers and mulchers particularly helpful to clear grass clippings and waste material. Be sure the model you choose accepts attachments.
- Terrain: Each type of mower suits specific types of lawns. Zero-turn mowers navigate tight spaces, but their speed really shines on large, flat lawns. Rugged, uneven terrain demands a garden tractor, while small lawns or lawns with lots of curves and corners will do well with a rear-engine rider. A lawn tractor works for the average lawn.
- Comfort: Look for a high-back seat to provide lower back support, as well as vibration reduction to absorb the bumps and shakes of the job.
- Engine: Consider the power source — generally gas, though some cordless riders are available — as well as horsepower (hp).
- Cutting deck size: This determines the mower’s cutting swath. A large deck cuts a lawn in fewer passes, but a narrow deck makes maneuvering through tight spaces easier. Don’t make the mistake of buying a mower with a deck too large to pass through your gate!
- Maintenance: All gas-powered riding mowers require maintenance, but some make it easier than others. Look for easily-accessible oil filters and spark plugs. You’ll need to clear out grass clippings to prevent clogs. A cutting deck with a garden hose attachment saves time by letting you blast the deck and blades with water to free clippings.
- Noise: Most manufacturers don’t make the noise levels of their mowers easy to find. Gas mowers are particularly loud, requiring hearing protection. To avoid excessive noise, consider an electric riding mower. They aren’t silent, but they’re far quieter than even the least noisy gas mowers.
- Cost: The price depends on brand and features. A good starting budget is $2,000. The mowers on this list run between $1,300 and $4,200.
Best Lawn Tractor
The Cub Cadet XT1 LT42 Riding Lawn Mower can handle various of landscapes with its 42-inch cutting deck and 19.5 hp Kohler engine.
The cushioned seat features a 15-inch back, and Cub Cadet offers a range of accessories to help keep your yard looking great. It’s all backed by a three-year warranty (five years on the frame) and a nationwide network of Cub Cadet dealers and service centers.
Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Many zero-turn riding lawn mowers are marketed at professional landscapers. The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 Riding Lawn Mower features popular zero-turn traits without the industrial upgrades that make pro-level mowers so expensive.
It offers a 50-inch deck and a 23-hp, V-Twin Kawasaki engine. The foot-controlled deck height adjusts in 1/4-in. increments, and a seat suspension system reduces fatigue.
The dual-LED headlights let you work into the evening. The 3-1/2-gallon fuel tank means you won’t have to stop mowing to refuel before finishing an average sized yard. Cub Cadet offers baggers and mulchers compatible with this machine.
Best Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower
If you crave nimble, zero-turn type control without the high price, consider a rear-engine rider like the Troy-Bilt TB30R CA Riding Lawn Mower.
The 30-inch cutting deck puts it closer to a wide push mower than the enormous widths of some other riding mowers. But for all that compact size, this Troy-Bilt can still tackle big yards; the manufacturer recommends it for up to 1-1/2-acres.
It ships with a kit to facilitate easy switching between side discharge and mulching. Bagging kits are sold separately. This mower is covered by a two-year warranty.
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Best Budget Riding Lawn Mower
The LTH1738 comes with a 17-hp Loncin engine and a 38-inch cutting deck that’s reinforced with heavy steel for added durability. It offers LED headlights, a 13-inch seat back and a hose port on the deck for easy removal of collected grass clippings.
Best Electric Riding Lawn Mower
The cordless Ryobi RY48130 Riding Lawn Mower lets you get on with yard work without sacrificing the power of a gas engine. Electric riding mowers require a little more oomph than push mowers, and the Ryobi RY48130 steps up via a 48-volt battery with impressive 50Ah life. That means that a single charge should be enough to mow most lawns of an acre or less.
The 30-inch twin-blade cutting deck is wide enough to reduce passes but small enough to be nimble around obstacles. This mower has a trio of brushless motors. It also comes with a bagger and, for those hot summer days, a cup holder.
Best Garden Tractor Riding Lawn Mower
Want to step up the power? A garden tractor like the Husqvarna TS 248XD may be the way to go. It features a 23-hp Kawasaki V-Twin engine, a three-blade 48-inch cutting deck and a washout hose port.
The 15-inch seat back, anti-vibration system and cruise control help reduce operator fatigue. Accessories include a triple-bagger, mulcher and front scoop for moving snow, gravel, loose soil and debris. The scoop offers a phenomenal way to haul bags of mulch to the far side of the yard.
Best Riding Lawn Mower for Small Yards
It’s the smallest mower on this list with a 28-inch cutting deck. While it lacks the “on a dime” turn capability of a zero-turn mower, the Snapper’s small deck and a relatively tight 20-inch turn radius allows it to weave in and out of tight spots in even the smallest yard.
The 11.5-hp Briggs and Stratton engine provides plenty of power, and the included mulching option (or the separate bagging system) takes care of clippings. The Snapper comes with a three-year warranty.
Best Riding Lawn Mower for Large Yards
For the biggest yards, we love the Toro Timecutter 75756 Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower. The sizable 54-inch cutting deck dramatically reduces the number of passes needed, and the mower comes stacked with features. You can find larger zero-turn radius mowers than this, but those are better for the pros.
Toro has been in business for more than 100 years, so it’s no surprise they’ve found ways to make mowing more enjoyable. Toro’s MyRide suspension system reduces the bumps and bounces that come with uneven terrain, and its Smart Speed settings let you choose among straight-out mowing (top speed), towing (medium speed) or trimming (low speed).
This mower ships with a padded back seat, arm rests and a cup holder. It’s backed by a three-year warranty.
Best Traditional Steering Riding Lawn Mower for Large Yards
Not everyone finds the lap bars of a zero-turn mower comfortable to steer. For a more car-like experience for your big yard, look at the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro ST Riding Lawn Mower.
Powered by a 24-hp V-Twin Kohler engine, the 54-inch cutting deck and wide range of accessories (including twin baggers, snow blower, sun shade, snow blade, mulch kit and more) puts this mower right on the line between lawn tractor and garden tractor. It comes with a three-year warranty.
Best Overall Value Riding Lawn Mower
For a riding mower that balances the features most homeowners need with a mid-range price, look to the John Deere S100 Riding Lawn Mower. With a 42-inch deck and 17.5-hp single cylinder engine, this U.S.-made mower can handle a good-sized yard.
It comes with adjustable controls and an 11-inch-high seat. Plus, it’s covered by a two-year John Deere warranty.