The riding lawn mower market can appear daunting at first. However, if you’re familiar with what your lawn needs and with what every riding lawn mower offers, making a decision can be as easy as mowing your lawn will be.
In this guide, we’ll start with a brief explanation of what riding lawn mowers are, their uses, and the size and type of ground they can cover. Then, we’ll discuss the various types of riding mowers and the functions of each one.
We’ll also go over features you should consider before buying, and finally we have a list of the top 8 riding lawn mowers currently available on the market.
What Is a Riding Lawn Mower?
A riding lawn mower is a machine designed specifically to reduce the time you spend mowing large areas. It has a seat on which you can sit and drive to trim your grass, and this seat and levers are situated behind the engine.
You can drive the mower forward, backward, or in place, allowing you to mow grass accurately and around any tight corners or spaces. Moreover, you can use it over various terrains since the blades can be turned off while still running.
What Are They Used For?
Riding lawn mowers are designed to cut large grass areas at high speed in little to no time. Depending on the type, a riding lawn mower can trim lawns as small as a quarter of an acre to lawns as huge as a golf course.
Some models come with mulching blades, so you can trim the grass and get some mulch for your soil at the same time.
Yard Size and Ground Type
The riding lawn mower that’s most suitable for you depends on your yard size and ground type. These are the first things you should consider before you make any purchasing decisions.
Typically, lawns under one acre won’t require heavy machinery to get the job done quickly. However, mowing huge yards can last hours unless you have an efficient and fast riding mower.
Moreover, because most riding lawn mowers offer height adjustment, you can use them on different ground types. Keep in mind that a patchy or a root-burdened ground can dull the blade or cause the mower to get stuck.
Types of Riding Lawn Mowers
The market of riding lawn mowers offers different types, with each one equipped with its capabilities and specialties. Owning the right type can turn a time-consuming chore into a relaxing ride around your yard.
Rear-engine riding lawn mowers are entry-level riding mowers. They’re designed to boost maneuverability and energy by compensating for weight and power, making them lighter. Their engines are less powerful, making them ideal for cutting the grass but not for heavier yard work.
As the name of a rear-engine riding lawn mower would suggest, the engine is situated on the rear of the machine, and it normally has between 11 and 15 horsepower. One advantage to this engine position is that it eliminates the possibility of inhaling any gas fumes.
This lawnmower also has a small deck size, making it best suited for lawns a few acres in size or smaller, as well as safe to ride through flower beds, garden gates, and trellises. In addition, the small deck size and strong front axle allow for more compact storage, for you can place the machine on its rear deck into a storage position.
As a result, rear-engine riding lawn mowers are an economical option for small yard owners. They’re also a middle ground between heavier, more expensive machines and zero-turn lawnmowers.
Every feature of the front-engine riding lawn mower is created to handle more lawn chores. Its front-mounted engine typically has between 18 to 26 horsepower, giving it the strength to operate heavy cutting decks and a demanding workload.
A front-engine riding lawn mower will usually have a larger cutting deck size, with the width ranging from 36 to 54 inches. This enables you to mow a wider area and thus reducing the time required to cut and the amount of passes needed to cover the same ground.
In addition, a front-engine riding lawn mower can do more than just cut grass. With its engine’s strength, you can tow different accessories that can perform various lawn maintenance tasks.
Because of this, it’s understandable that a front-engine riding lawn mower can be pretty expensive—sometimes going over $2000.
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers are called such because they have a turning radius of zero inches, which gives them the ability to turn 180 degrees when needed. This makes them one of the most maneuverable riding mowers as they can rotate quite easily in tight spaces.
A zero-turn riding lawn mower allows you to mow the lawn quickly without compromising the way the ground looks. It’s also so fast that it’s capable of going through acres in no time.
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers typically give their best performance in large, open areas, mowing yards efficiently without any hiccups.
Nevertheless, this speed and power can prove to be limiting on the bumpy or inclined ground, which may increase the risk of toppling over. Moreover, the rapid spinning of the wheels may hinder the zero-turn riding lawn mower from operating well on wet terrain.
The main difference between a riding lawn mower and a lawn tractor is where the cutting deck is situated. In a riding lawn mower the cutting deck is in the front, whereas on lawn tractors it’s mounted in the middle.
Lawn tractors have powerful engines with a cutting deck width of up to 48 inches, making them capable of undertaking any challenging yard work in a short amount of time. Furthermore, their large, powerful engines make lawn tractors fit for towing attachments.
Most lawn tractor decks are detachable, which allows you to attach other accessories. This way, a lawn tractor becomes more versatile. Nevertheless, all these advantages make lawn tractors quite the investment, with prices ranging from $1000 to $2500.
While lawn mowers cut grass and shoot the clippings for you to bag later, mulching mowers take care of this extra chore. The blades of a mulching mower are so sharp that they cut the grass to a very fine degree — thus providing your lawn with many benefits.
There’s almost no need to buy a separate lawn mower designed explicitly for mulching. First of all, most riding lawn mowers come already equipped with a mulching kit, but even if that’s not the case, a zero-turn mower or a tractor can be converted by installing a mulching kit.
Furthermore, if you don’t have a mulching kit, nor does your riding lawn mower, you can still mulch the clippings simply by mowing them twice. This repetitive process can ensure that they’re clipped as finely as if they had been done with a mulching mower.
Features to Consider When Buying
Every riding lawn mower comes with various features. Knowing which of those your lawn needs can make all the difference in your mowing experience.
Cutting Deck Width and Height
The cutting deck width refers to the width of grass that the blades cut from one side to the other. That means that the width of the deck as a whole is wider than the number you’ll find in the description of a riding lawnmower.
Choosing which deck width that’ll ensure that the mowing gets done quickly depends on the size of your lawn. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
- An 18 to 36 inches width works with properties under an acre.
- A 36 to 42 inches deck will cover about an acre to three.
- From three to four acres, a 42 to 54 inches deck width will produce great results.
- Anything above four acres would require a deck width ranging from 60 to 72 inches.
How high or low the cutting deck is depends on the type of grass you’re working with. Ensuring the cutting deck is adjusted to the proper height can encourage the grass to grow and eliminate any weeds or unwelcome grass.
An engine’s horsepower determines how efficient a riding lawn mower is. These machines are not just heavy, but they’re also required to do heavy workloads in a short amount of time.
The horsepower of a riding lawn mower should be proportionate to the size of the mower and lawn. This will ensure that the machine can handle its weight and heavy workload while performing at a reasonable speed.
One thing to keep in mind is that the higher the horsepower an engine has, the more expensive the mower will be.
A riding lawn mower’s fuel capacity determines how much fuel is needed and the number of times you may stop to fill up the tank. Most standard-sized riding lawn mowers have gas tanks that can take between one and four gallons.
Nevertheless, if you’re covering a large area that’ll require a considerable amount of fuel, some huge and high-end lawn mowers can hold six or more gallons.
Riding lawn mowers can be either powered with gas or electricity. Each source has its pros and cons, so there’s no such thing as the right or wrong choice; there’s only the choice that’s most beneficial to your lawn.
Gas-powered riding lawn mowers have incredible power output and can cut through grass smoothly. They’re ideal for bumpy lawns with stones and unyielding grass sprigs. Their runtime depends on fuel capacity, and most machines have between a one and four gallon tank.
These advantages, nevertheless, come at the expense of peace and quiet. They’re noisier than their electric counterparts, and they also emit exhaust fumes that contribute to pollution.
A battery-powered riding lawn mower is a more quiet and environmentally-friendly option than the gas-powered one. It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery that leaves a smaller carbon footprint, and it doesn’t require any high-maintenance cleaning.
It can last long enough to mow an average-sized lawn. However, if you forget to charge it after every use, the battery might run out mid mowing. This would strand your mower in the middle of your lawn until you can sufficiently recharge it.
Moreover, after two to three years, the battery will likely die and need replacing. Lithium batteries are pretty expensive, so the price tag can be a bit shocking.
Ease of maneuverability in a riding lawn mower is essential to ensure that the machine can maneuver around obstacles and speed up the mowing process.
Zero-turn maneuverability saves time by efficiently mowing with speed. In addition, with its turning capabilities, you don’t have to maneuver around to turn back because you can rotate on a dime, as well as cut in reverse.
It also allows you to maneuver your way around any obstacles, such as flower beds and trees.
A four-wheel steering wheel lawn mower has a width of 9 inches. Even though the turning radius isn’t as tight as a zero-turning radius, this steering wheel still provides excellent maneuverability around obstacles and reduces a significant amount of time spent on mowing.
Suspension and Comfort
A comfortable riding lawn mower has a functioning suspension system. This is usually present in vehicles to absorb shock, preventing the driver from feeling every single bump. This system doesn’t just include the style and cover of the mower, but it also includes the mower’s entire structure.
A mower’s suspension system should allow the wheels to move up and down without moving the deck alongside them. This’ll ensure that the rider doesn’t jolt at every bump.
As with dealing with any machinery, it is essential you ensure that the safety regulations are met. Here are some tips to follow when handling a riding lawn mower:
- Read the instruction manual.
- Make sure that there aren’t any stones or debris scattered where you’re mowing.
- Keep children off the lawn, and never allow additional passengers on the machine.
- Wear protective gear, like goggles and earmuffs. Don’t wear short pants or open-toed shoes.
- Don’t cut the grass when it’s wet.
- Turn off the lawnmower and disconnect any plugs before lifting for transport.
- Use a tall stick or broom to remove any debris. Don’t use hands or feet because the blades may forcefully turn once the object is cleared, even when the machine is turned off.
- Don’t refuel before the machine cools down.
- Make sure any safety guards or devices are switched on.
There are many riding lawn mowers that come with a dead man’s switch. This could lessen the risk of a mower turning on by itself.
The prices of riding lawn mowers vary considerably, and they depend on the type of the mower as well as the features included. Here, we have the average prices of a riding lawn mower, according to its type:
- The price of a rear-engine riding lawn mower is somewhere between $1,300 and $4,500.
- A lawn tractor may cost around $1,400, but some can go up to $4,000.
- Zero-turn riding lawn mowers tend to be pricier, ranging from $2,400 to $15,000.
- Mulching mowers can cost as little as $1100, or with the addition of other features, about $2,200.
There’s an abundance of brands in the riding lawn mower market; nevertheless, some brands have established themselves and are present in almost every best riding lawn mower list. Here are some of those top brands:
- Cub Cadet, the most suitable riding lawn mowers overall.
- RYOBI Tools, deemed to have the best electric riding lawn mowers.
- Craftsman, famous for their electric mini riding lawnmower.
- Husqvarna, known for its incredibly high performance.
Reviews For The 8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers
#1. Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT50 FAB Riding Lawn Mower
The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT50 FAB Riding Lawn Mower is the best overall riding mower we’ve come across. Powered by a 24 HP Kohler 7000 series twin cylinder engine, the XT1 Enduro has a 50-inch, triple blade AeroForce deck that is designed to both optimize airflow and maximize suction, so that there is little to no clumping during discharge and an improved bagging performance. Additionally, it boasts a tough, robust cutting system that features stamped and fabricated cutting deck options.
The hydrostatic transmission of the XT1 Enduro offers optimized command and control – no longer do you have to worry about shifting, you simply push the pedal and go. Plus, it has a tight, 16-inch turning radius, allowing for responsive handling within tight spaces and around corners with its optimized steering system. Cub Cadet offers this model with an unlimited hour, 3-year warranty, and a 5-year warranty for the chassis and front axle, so you can use this riding lawn mower as often and as intensely as your lawn requires. Ideal for mowing up to 4 acres of lawn, this mower also is engineered to support a wide variety of versatile, all-season attachments, so you can always get the job done.
#2. Husqvarna Z254 Zero-Turn Mower
The Husqvarna Z254 Zero-Turn Mower is one of the most prestigious products sold by Husqvarna, who are one of the biggest and most popular outdoor power tool manufacturers in the world. This means the Z254 is the real deal, and we would even say it’s the best Zero-Turn riding lawn mower currently available on the market. It boasts a massive 54-inch wide cutting deck – the widest on this list – that is reinforced with heavy flat-stock steel for additional strength and durability. The deck is also able to be lifted and lowered by a spring assisted mechanism with a simple control within reach of the operator.
The 26 HP riding mower features state-of-the-art air induction mowing technology, which draws air from both the top and bottom of the cutting deck, providing a superior cut by improving grass lift. In terms of ease of use, it is one of the most intuitive and comfortable lawn mowers out there, with an ergonomic touch control panel right at your fingertips, a large anti-slip footrest area, and a removable foot plate for easy troubleshooting. Additionally, a new, patent pending automatic park brake system automatically activates and deactivates as steering levers are moved, meaning this mower is safer and less hassle to operate than comparable models.
#3. RYOBI 42 in. 75 AH Battery Electric Riding Zero Turn Mower
- 100 Ah Batteries
- 4 High-Powered Brushless Motors
- Cut up to 2.5 acres on a single charge
The RYOBI 42 in. 75 AH Battery Electric Riding Zero Turn Mower is a fully electric mower that can mow up to 2.5 acres on one single battery charge, and it requires no spark plugs, belts, oil changes, filters, or gas. The 42-inch cutting deck boasts 2 precision cut steel blades, as well as 12 different positions that you can manually adjust it to, giving your grass an accurate and customized cut every time. These 2 blades are powered by 4 high-powered brushless motors, which produce unrelenting torque for superior power and performance in the blades and drivetrain.
This RYOBI ZTR is made for comfort and convenience. Not only is it quieter, CARB compliant, and easier to maintain due to its fully electric setup, it also has a large footrest area, 2 cupholders, and 4-position seat adjustment, so your time mowing is spent comfortably. It also is equipped with an easy-access rear charging port and overnight charging, and the control panel allows you control the entire riding lawn mower from your fingertips – operate the headlights, activate cruise control, monitor battery levels, and even use the USB charger. This mower is also zero-turn, which means it is able to maneuver within very tight spaces and corners with its intuitive and responsive handling.
#4. Troy-Bilt 30-Inch 382cc Riding Lawn Mower
The next riding lawn mower on our list is the Troy-Bilt 30-Inch 382cc Riding Lawn Mower. This model is one of the more compact riding mowers available, saving valuable storage space by taking up the same amount as a wide-cut walk behind mower; you can easily store it in your garage or shed, and it will fit through almost any gate. Due to its smaller size, as well as a narrower cutting deck than the riding lawn mowers mentioned above, the 30-inch Troy-Bilt is ideal for any yard approximately 1.5 acres or less.
This mower comes with Troy-Bilt’s trademarked Shift-on-the-Go transmission, so you can adjust between 6 different speeds easily and without stopping. It is also equipped with an attachable mulching kit, so you can keep your lawn healthier by mulching the grass clippings – this helps to avoid thatch on your grass as well as returns nutrients back into the soil. A rear hitch makes it much more convenient to attach carts, sprayers, and spreaders, and ride your lawn mower in comfort with the vibration-reducing Soft Touch steering wheel.
#5. Snapper 28 inch 344cc “Classic” Rear Engine Riding Mower
The Snapper 28 inch 344cc “Classic” Rear Engine Riding Mower has been a staple on best-of lists for a long time, and for good reason. This famous brand and model has been turning in quality performances for over 60 years, and both regular homeowners and professionals are impressed by its ever-improving quality and technological standards. For one thing, it easily contours to your specific lawn and garden due to its pivoting frame and its low center of gravity. It also has an 11.5 HP Briggs & Stratton 4-cycle engine mounted in its rear, with an efficient 5-speed shift-on-the-go disc drive system.
The Snapper features an incredibly easy-to-use design, with all of its controls within arms length when sitting on the mower, and a reliable electric start. Additionally, it can range from a 1.5-inch to a 4-inch cutting deck height, meaning you can cut your grass at any length you choose, and it can easily maneuver around backyard obstacles with its 28-inch cutting swath. Another primary feature is the vertical stand-on-edge capability, so you can easily look under the hood and troubleshoot and resolve any problems that might arise.
#6. Husqvarna YTH18542 42-Inch Hydro Transmission Riding Lawn Mower
Next we have the Husqvarna YTH18542 42-Inch Hydro Transmission Riding Lawn Mower. Featuring an 18.5 HP, 540 CC Briggs & Stratton Intek engine, this is a powerful machine that will work wonders for your lawn with its heavy flat-stock steel reinforced cutting deck. Your hands never need to leave the steering wheel, because you can operate the hydrostatic transmission, speed, and direction using only foot pedals. The step-through for easy mounting and dismounting and the adjustable sliding seat provide optimal comfort that you can adjust while mowing.
Husqvarna makes their riding lawn mowers to last and to optimize their performance. Features like the innovative Air Induction mowing system – drawing clean air from the top and bottom of the deck – and the cast iron front axle allow for smooth efficient mowing even with thick grass or on uneven terrain. It is also fully safe, equipped with a safety switch directly under the seat, meaning if the driver leaves the seat for any reason the lawn mower automatically switches itself off.
#7. John Deere E130 42-inch Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor
The John Deere E130 42-inch Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor is the best model from Deere’s renowned 100 series. Its primary advantage over other riding mowers is the trademarked Edge cutting system, with its two-spindle, three-in-one blade system giving the E130 superior performance and reliability. It has a rolled lip for more strength and protection, and the deep-deck mower design lifts the grass for a better cut while also displacing it evenly and avoiding potential buildup damage underneath.
This lawn tractor comes with a 22 HP V-Twin smooth running engine that is very powerful and provides enough torque to handle any mowing, mulching, or bagging needs. It also has multiple foot pedals for hydrostatic speed and direction control, plus a cruise control foot lever. The hand controls are color coded and intuitive. And it also has an Easy Change 30-Second Oil Change System so you can change the oil quickly and easily and get right back to mowing.
#8. Ariens Ikon XD V-Twin Dual Hydrostatic 42-in Zero-Turn Mower
Certainly not least, the final riding lawn mower on our list is the Ariens Ikon XD V-Twin Dual Hydrostatic 42-in Zero-Turn Mower. The 18 HP, 603 CC engine is equipped with cast iron cylinder liners that keep it running smoothly for a long time, as well as automatic compression release for an easy startup every time. Additionally, its 42-inch mower deck is triple bladed with 11 gauge steel that gives the grass a perfect cut and optimizes airflow so it doesn’t overheat or get clogged.
The IKON XD has a trademarked Twin EZT hydrostatic Transaxles design to give you a comfortable ride when mowing, even on bumpy terrain or in tight areas. Additional comfort is provided by the high back seat, armrests, and padded control arms that help reduce mowing vibrations.
Lawns can be high maintenance, and the chores may seem endless. Fortunately, riding lawn mowers can significantly reduce the amount of work needed and the time it takes.
Proper lawn mowing can make your grass thrive. However, ensure that you don’t cut the grass too short because that can make it more prone to pests and diseases. Additionally, you should always sharpen your blades during the mowing season. Sharp blades cut the grass smoothly; a dull blade lets pests and diseases into the grass.
If you’re still a bit unsure as to what specific riding lawn mower you should buy, we again recommend the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT50 FAB Riding Lawn Mower. It is a high-performance mower and has any and all features you could need.