Different Types of Lawn Mowers Explained
Lawnmowers are an essential piece of kit for yard maintenance and lawn care, and whether you merely want to keep your lawn from becoming an overgrown wild meadow or you want a neat and manicured lawn, the neighbors will envy, there are several things you will need to consider before making a purchase. To learn all about the different types of lawnmowers and which type will be best suited to your yard, your budget, and your specifications, read our comprehensive list of all of the types of lawnmowers available.
If you have a large lawn to cut, you might want to treat yourself to a ride-on mower. These make light work of mowing lawns, significantly cutting down the time it takes you to cut your grass, and usually making it an easier and more enjoyable experience. In terms of efficiency, ride-on mowers are far superior to walk-along mowers, but they have a price tag to match. There are also many different types to choose from, but most of these can be broken down into three categories. These are:
1.1. Lawn Tractor
Lawn tractors will be familiar to most people, and these front-mounted engines will be what many of us visualize when we think about ride-on mowers. They are a good choice of mower for large lawns, with deck widths typically ranging from between 42 and 54 inches. A good way to work out which size lawn tractor you need is to divide its deck width by 12, and the answer will be the maximum size of lawn it can handle. For example, a 42-inch deck width will be suitable for lawns of up to 4 acres.
When it comes to engine size, lawn tractors range from 18 to 25 horsepower, with entry-level models having a single cylinder and some pricier models benefitting from twin cylinders. Basic lawn tractors will have lever-operated gear transmissions, while upgraded models may have continuously variable transmission, which is a pulley drive powered automatic transmission managed by a shift-on-the-go hand lever.
If you want to really push your budget boundaries, you could choose a lawn tractor with a hydrostatic pedal transmission. Lawn tractors generally range in price from around 1000 to 3000, making them quite reasonably priced compared to other types of ride-on mowers. They are good all-rounders for large lawns, though their main drawback is limited maneuverability. They struggle to turn easily and can not tackle obstacles well, which often results in patches of grass that remain uncut when a lawn tractor has been unable to get tight enough to an edge or an obstacle.
1.2. Zero Turn Mower
Zero-turn mowers, over the last few decades, have become the Ferrari’s of the lawn mowing world. They are controlled by lap bars in the front seat, which operate the dual hydrostatic transmissions at the rear wheels. Their design means that unlike other ride-on mowers, they offer unsurpassed maneuverability. They can pivot, make sharp turns, and give an excellent all-round cutting performance. Zero-turn mowers can get much closer to obstacles than other ride-on mowers, being able to cut tightly against landscaped edges, which will result in a better finish on most lawns. Their steering ability makes for a more efficient mowing experience, especially on lawns of irregular shapes. They typically offer the easiest mowing of all lawnmowers, with the capacity to cut the most grass in the shortest space of time.
Deck widths of zero-turn mowers generally range from 32 inches to 60 inches. They have estimated horsepower of between 12 and 25, from engine sizes ranging between 452 to 700 cc. The cost of a zero-turn mower varies depending on model and specification, with a price range of between 1000 and 6000.
1.3. Rear Engine Riding Mower
These ride-on mowers are a good choice for moderately sized lawns, which may be too small to warrant a lawn tractor, but too big to comfortably use a walk mower. These mowers, as the name suggests, hold the engine at the rear of the machine, underneath the driving seat, and the deck is under the driver’s position. They are typically controlled with a shift-on-the-go hand lever, which operates the continuously variable transmission, and has single-cylinder engines, which can range from 344 to 38 cc, with horsepower estimated to be between 10 and 11.
Deck sizes of rear engine riding mowers tend to range from 30 to 33 inches, making them most suitable for lawns, which are less than 2.5 acres in total. A lawn of this size would cause a fair amount of wear and tear to the mower over a season, so a good maintenance regime would be important, but the rear engine riding mower would be able to handle it. For a lawn much larger than 3 acres, you would need to be looking at a lawn tractor or zero turn mower.
Walk mowers encompass a range of lawnmowers that the user walks along behind. They are best suited to smaller lawns, generally anything up to half an acre in size (although a half-acre lawn might take you a good few hours to mow with a walk mower and you’d be forgiven for choosing a ride-on to tackle a lawn of this size.)Walk mowers offer the greatest variety and versatility when it comes to lawnmowers. They can vary wildly in price, quality, and offer numerous different features. Most walk mowers can be broken down into the following categories.
2.1. Cylinder Mower
Cylinder mowers, also known as reel mowers, have vertically rotating cylindrical blades at the front of the mower, which slices against a fixed blade. They trap the grass between the blades and slice it off, with action not dissimilar to scissors. The vertical blades on a cylinder mower can range in number from three to twelve, with a higher number of blades usually signaling a more precise cut. They are designed for use on flat lawns and don’t cope particularly well with uneven or rough surfaces. They give a neat cut, which works especially well for creating defined stripes on a lawn if this is a look you would like to achieve. They are best suited to soft grass types, as they don’t handle coarse grass well. They also struggle to cut long grass, so if you opt for a cylinder mower, you will need to keep on top of your mowing and cut your grass regularly, as the mower won’t perform well on grass that has become overgrown.
During the growing season, this will mean mowing your lawn at least once a week, ideally twice a week. These types of mowers have blades that are less accessible, making them more difficult to sharpen than a rotary mower, which is unfortunate because they do tend to require the most maintenance. If a cylinder mower is not serviced regularly, it’s blades will start to chew the grass, giving a very poor cut. For this reason, cylinder mowers are best suited to those who are mechanically skilled. They also tend to be less adjustable than other mowers, giving you fewer options when it comes to grass cutting height. They are also generally less common, so if they go wrong, you might struggle to find replacement parts. That being said, these mowers can be affordable and efficient when paired up with the right type of lawn and are enormously popular among those gardeners who take pride in a neat and short lawn cut. They also often come equipped with a roller on the back, offering the user a two-in-one tool. The grass box on a cylinder mower is usually at the front.
2.2. Rotary Mower
These are the most common types of walk-along mower you will find. They have a single blade that rotates at very high speed in a horizontal motion, cutting grass as it comes into contact with it, a lot like a food processor or blender. These mowers work best on medium to long grass, meaning you can leave longer in between mowing sessions without any negative impact. The cut you get from a rotary mower is less precise than a cylinder mower. It tends to bash and thrash the blades of grass around, slicing them on impact due to the high speed of rotation, which results in a less accurate and more uneven cut than you would get from a good cylinder mower. The difference of cut, however, probably wouldn’t be that noticeable to most people, especially on an average lawn with its slopes, bumps, and color and thickness variations. A more manicured lawn, however, may be able to tell the difference between the two cuts, with the cylinder mower offering the more superior cut of the two.
2.3. Push Mower
Push mowers, as the name suggests, requires the user to manually force the machine across the lawn. The motor turns the blades, but the wheel action is all you. These mowers are popular because they are usually the most inexpensive, and they are also lightweight and easy to handle. A push mower offers good maneuverability, allowing the user to direct exactly where it goes, steering around obstacles and corners, and even reversing. The fact that it is lightweight may be useful if you need to lift the mower into a trailer or truck bed, or if you need to carry it up and down steps.
These mowers take some physical exertion, which is great if you’re keen to add some extra exercise into your schedule, but may not be good for people with health complaints or anyone who doesn’t want to get a sweat on. It should be noted that push mowers work best for level lawns because having to push it up a hill can be very labor-intensive, as can chasing it down a hill! They are best suited to small yards due to their strenuous nature and are probably the most simple type of lawnmower you can get. For anyone concerned about the environmental impact of mowing their lawn, push mowers are the best option as they produce no emissions. They also don’t make noise pollution like powered lawnmowers.
2.4. Self Propelled Mower
Self-propelled lawnmowers have a transmission that propels the machine forward, so the user does not need to push it, and instead guides it. These mowers are generally simple to operate and make mowing a lawn a much easier and quicker job, even in small yards. The main advantage of a self-propelled mower is the fact that it doesn’t require any manpower, but there are other advantages too. These mowers tend to give a more consistent lawn cut compared to push mowers, as they are able to maintain a constant speed. Self-propelled mowers are more mechanically technical than push mowers, so they require more maintenance and can be more difficult to fix when things go wrong. These mowers are typically more expensive to buy than push mowers, but many people find that the extra expenditure is worth it to avoid having to manually propel a push mower.
2.5. Hover Mower
These lawnmowers hover a few inches above the ground, sitting on a cushion of air. Due to their reduced contact with the ground, and therefore reduced friction, they are very easy to guide around the lawn. They are able to move in any direction, including sideways, which makes them particularly useful for yards, which are awkward shapes, or for maneuvering around obstacles such as planters, trees, and garden features. They also give the user more control when it comes to edges of the lawn. Hover mowers tend to be fairly inexpensive, which is another factor that makes them quite popular. Though these types of mowers do have their advantages, they also have drawbacks. The main problem with hover mowers is that they lack power, presenting an issue for anyone with a larger sized lawn. They are most often electric-powered, and they are best suited to small lawns.
The type of power source most appropriate for your mower will depend on the size of your lawn, your strength, and your own personal preferences. The options to choose from when it comes to lawnmower power types are:
3.1. Manual Powered Mower
Manual powered mowers essentially push mowers. Though they may have an engine, this only operates the blades and doesn’t provide any momentum. The user is the source of momentum with muscle power, as opposed to an electric, battery, or gas-powered mower, where the momentum is supplied by the engine, and the user just provides directional guidance. These mowers are the quietest, most environmentally friendly, and the most inexpensive. They are also the hardest to use, requiring a good amount of strength and energy to operate. They are best suited to small lawns.
3.2. Electric Powered Mower
These corded mowers are powered by electricity through a cable attached to the mower. They are enormously popular and account for the majority of lawnmowers purchased each year, being especially common in small to medium-sized yards. Their popularity is due to their many advantages. They are lightweight, therefore easy to handle and maneuver. They are smaller than gas-powered mowers, making them easier to store when not in use. They never have to be charged like battery-powered mowers, and they won’t run out of gas. This means that so long as you have electric power, you can run these mowers whenever you like, giving the user ultimate convenience. Electric mowers are simple to use and give good, consistent results. They are also very affordable, typically ranging from around 100 to 250.
The biggest disadvantage of electric mowers is the fact that they are tethered to an electrical outlet. This presents a few problems. The main problem is that if you have a yard that is longer than your cable, then the furthest part of your lawn is not going to cut. It’s vital you measure your lawn and compare it with the cable length of a mower before you buy it to avoid this issue. The second problem, which can be worked around, is having a cable trailing behind you everywhere you mow. You’ll need to be careful not to bring your mower blades into contact with the cable, and take care not to get tangled along the way. This is a minor inconvenience that can be worked around with a bit of practice, but many people find corded mowers too restrictive.
3.3. Gas-Powered Mower
There are a few drawbacks of gas-powered mowers. Firstly, they have engines which, much like vehicle engines, are a cause of pollution. They also need to be regularly maintained and serviced to prevent them from going wrong. You will also need to keep on top of oil and fuel levels. Gas mowers are also very noisy and are typically the most expensive type of walk mower you can get. They generally range in price between 200 and 800.
3.4. Battery-Powered Mower
Battery-powered mowers run off a battery, usually, a lithium-ion battery, which is lightweight and long-lasting. These mowers give the user all the benefits of an electric mower, without the restriction of cable length. As these mowers are not tied down to a power source, they are well suited to gardens of any size. They tend to be slightly heavier than an electric mower, but much lighter than a gas-powered mower. These mowers offer excellent convenience, but this comes at a cost. They are more expensive than electric mowers, usually costing in excess of 500 for a good quality model.
The main drawback of a battery-powered mower is its run time. Many of these mowers will run for about an hour before they need to be re-charged, which could prove quite frustrating if you’re only halfway through mowing your lawn when the battery runs out. Batteries also do not last forever and will need to be replaced every few years.
The drive of your mower is an important consideration that can impact performance, depending on your terrain. Mowers will either be rear-wheel drive (RWD), front-wheel drive (FWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD), with each having pros and cons.
4.1. Rear Wheel Drive
These mowers are pushed forwards by the motion of the back wheels. They work well for wide-open spaces as they can be difficult to maneuver, and therefore you may struggle in small or awkwardly shaped gardens. They can be difficult to turn in order to change direction, and particularly struggle to reverse. However, they are excellent on rough or unsteady terrain, as they will push forward across any bumps or steep inclines.
4.2. Front-Wheel Drive
FWD mowers are propelled by the front wheels, which pull the mower along with their turning motion. These types of mowers work best for level lawns that don’t feature slopes or hills, as they don’t perform well on inclines. Front-wheel drive mowers are easy to steer, and they can be maneuvered well around obstacles or irregularly shaped lawns.
4.3. All Wheel Drive
These mowers have all four wheels connected to their source of power and are all propelled equally, moving together in unison. The main benefits of an all-wheel-drive mover are its speed and power, though it does lack the maneuverability of front-wheel drive mowers.
BEST Riding Lawn Mowers of 2023 [Reviews]
Old-fashioned push lawn mowers are great for small urban and suburban lawns – but they don’t cut the mustard for rural and exurban homeowners. Ride-on mowers are the standard for keeping large lawns beautiful and tidy.
Riding mowers come in all shapes and sizes: commercial-grade zero-turn mowers, compact rear-engine designs, high-tech electric models, and more. Finding the right fit for you can be a hassle.
That’s why we’ve reviewed over two dozen ride-on mowers, and found the top 9 today. We looked at power, width of cutting deck, weight, special features of riding mowers to come up with our ranking. We’ve also included a helpful buying guide and FAQ to make your shopping experience a breeze.
Riding mowers range in cost from less than 2,000 to 4,000 or more. To make your choice easier, we have listed the general price (fluctuate) for each riding mower on our list:
- “Inexpensive” – less than 2,000
- “Moderate” – 2,000 to 4,000
- “Expensive” – Above 4,000
Here are Lawn Love’s picks for the top 10 riding lawn mowers:
Top 10 Riding Lawn Mowers — Reviews
|1. Best Overall: Husqvarna YTH18542
|2. Best Electric Riding Mower: Ryobi RY48111
|3. Best Zero-Turn Mower: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1
|4. Most Bang for your Buck: John Deere S120
|5. Cub Cadet XT1
|6. Troy-Bilt Pony
|7. Ryobi 42-inch Zero Turn Mower
|8. Husqvarna Z254
|9. Toro 42-inch Timecutter
Best Overall: Husqvarna YTH18542
Husqvarna’s YTH18542 riding mower is designed to be compact and durable while providing enough power to cut any medium-to-large sized lawn.
Designed with maneuverability in mind, this tractor-style mower has a tight 16-inch turn radius. A single foot pedal controls a hydrostatic drivetrain for smooth transitions between forward and reverse.
The 18.5-horsepower engine is made by Briggs Stratton, America’s most reliable small engine manufacturer. The YTH18542 can reach a top speed of 7.4 mph, making it one of the fastest tractor-style mowers on the market.
Despite its compact size, Husqvarna has packed a ton of features into this machine. The 42-inch deck uses air induction to keep your grass from flattening under the mower, ensuring a clean cut every time. Dual anti-scalp wheels protect your lawn from the mower deck when passing over uneven terrain.
Husqvarna offers a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty on new mowers.
A clipping bag and mulching kit are sold separately to increase this lawn tractor’s utility. The YTH18542 is also compatible with Husqvarna’s whole line of tow-behind accessories.
Power Source: 18.5 HP Briggs Stratton Intek engineTransmission: Foot-operated hydrostatic transmissionTop Speed: 7.4 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 6 positions, 1.5 to 4 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ Compact for storage and maneuverability✓ Durable steel construction✓ Reliable Briggs Stratton engine✓ High-end hydrostatic transmission✓ 3-year warranty
|✗ Attachments sold separately✗ No fuel gauge
Best Electric Riding Mower: Ryobi RY48111
An improvement on the original RY48110, Ryobi’s new generation of riding mowers features a state-of-the-art 100 amp-hour battery, allowing for up to 2.5 hours of continuous mowing on a single charge.
The 38-inch cutting deck can fit into tight spots and create precise cuts around garden beds and landscape features. Three separate brushless motors power the wheels and two blades, delivering cutting power comparable to a gas-powered mower. The Ryobi RY48111 has a top speed of 8 mph, making it the fastest mower on this list.
The RY48111 also is the quietest riding mower on the market, never exceeding 70 decibels. What this means: You can mow bright and early without disturbing the neighbors.
Other things we liked about this riding mower:
- Active cruise control delivers consistency on long stretches of lawn.
- Mulching capability: This mower comes equipped with mulching capability, with an optional collection bag sold separately.
- Cool features: The RY48111 has LED headlights, a cupholder, and a USB charging port.
- Battery charges overnight with a standard 120V power outlet. This mower is the most energy-efficient choice for yards under 2.5 acres.
Power Source: 100 Ah battery, 3 brushless motorsTransmission: NoneTop Speed: 8 mphDeck Width: 38 inchesCutting Height: 12 positions, 1.5 to 4.5 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ Low-maintenance – no gas, filters, belts, or spark plugs✓ Zero emissions✓ Quiet✓ Compact for storage and maneuvering✓ Mulching included
|✗ Can cut only 2.5 acres per day
Best Zero-Turn Mower: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1
A top-of-the-line mower for residential markets, Cub Cadet’s Ultima series makes short work of the largest lawns. Driven by a 22-horsepower Kohler engine, this machine can reach a forward speed of 7.5 mph.
A fully adjustable racing-style seat provides ultimate comfort while operating the ZT1. The lap bar control is also adjustable in three dimensions to ensure precise maneuvering. Dual LED headlights help you cut in low-light conditions, and the rubberized cockpit floor reduces vibrations.
The 20-inch rear wheels and 11-inch front wheels offer enough traction to tackle gentle hills, and are engineered to protect your turf while pivoting. A 3.5-gallon gas tank lets you spend more time mowing and less time refueling.
Cub Cadet offers a three-year, unlimited hour powertrain warranty and a lifetime warranty on the frame. The ZT1 also comes in a 50-inch version for added efficiency and coverage. Cub Cadet has also recently released the Ultima ZT1 56V MAX60 electric zero-turn.
Power Source: 22 HP, 725 cc Kohler 7000 series twin-cylinder engineTransmission: Dual hydrostatic transmissionsTop Speed: 7.5 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 15 positions, 1 to 4.5 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ Powerful 22 HP engine✓ Fully adjustable seat and controls✓ Best-in-class warranty
|✗ No gas gauge✗ Attachments sold separately
Most Bang for your Buck: John Deere S120
If you have thick grass or heavy brush on your property, the 22-horsepower John Deere S120 delivers heavy-duty power at an affordable price.
The high-torque engine makes the S120 great for cutting thick grass and hauling heavy loads. John Deere makes a wide range of tow-behind and front-mounted accessories, such as spreaders and snow plows. This little lawn tractor does the work of more expensive models with ease.
The S120 has large 22-inch rear wheels and an 18-inch turning radius. The high-back seat is fully adjustable, including lumbar support.
The 100-series also includes the inexpensive S100 and the highly acclaimed S180. The entire line is compliant with the CARB California emissions standards and is backed by John Deere’s 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Power Source: 22 HP V-twin engineTransmission: HydrostaticTop Speed: 5.5 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 13 positions, 1 to 4 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ High horsepower engine✓ California-compliant✓ Easy-to-read gas gauge
|✗ Slow✗ All accessories sold separately
Cub Cadet XT1
The XT1 is Cub Cadet’s most popular lawn tractor. Powered by an 18-horsepower Kohler engine, this machine is designed with comfort in mind. It features a wide-bottomed, high-backed seat with adjustable back support and an ergonomic, anti-vibration steering wheel.
A smooth hydrostatic transmission, responsive steering, and cruise control make the XT1 easy to operate. A proprietary paint protects the tractor from corrosion. A quick-connect deck wash system lets you plug in an ordinary garden hose for easy cleaning.
This Cub Cadet has long-lasting LED headlights and is backed by a three-year powertrain warranty and five-year chassis/axle warranty.
Power Source: 18 HP Kohler 5400 Series single cylinder engineTransmission: HydrostaticTop Speed: 5.5 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 5 positions, 1 to 4 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ Best-in-class warranty✓ California-compliant✓ Comfortable
|✗ Slow✗ All accessories sold separately
If you’re looking for a budget option but still want a tractor-style mower, the Troy-Bilt Pony is your best bet. Though the Pony isn’t the most powerful mower on the market, it has all the features you need to keep a medium- to large-sized lawn neatly mown.
Built around a reliable 15.5-horsepower Briggs Stratton engine, this Troy-Bilt lawn tractor can easily tackle regular mowing jobs. The 7-speed “shift-on-the-go” manual transmission is designed to smoothly move from one gear to the next.
- Automatic headlights that adjust to low-visibility conditions
- A cupholder to help you stay hydrated on hot summer days
- 2-year limited warranty
Power Source: 15.5 HP single cylinder Briggs Stratton engineTransmission: 7-speed manualTop Speed: 5.5 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 5 positions, 1.25 to 3.75 inchesPrice Range: Inexpensive
|✓ Reliable Briggs Stratton engine✓ California compliant✓ Affordable
|✗ Low power output✗ Manual transmission✗ Few cutting height options
Ryobi 42-inch Zero Turn Mower
Ryobi’s mastery of electric power doesn’t end at rear-engine mowers. Ryobi went all-out to design an eco-friendly zero-turn mower that can hold its own against its gas competition.
Powered by four separate motors, one for each driving wheel and one per blade, this zero-turn mower distributes exactly the right amount of power to the components that need it most. The 75 amp-hour battery can last up to 2.5 hours of constant mowing, making short work of yards up to 3 acres.
A 7 mph top speed and fast, responsive turns let you mow farther and faster than other electric mowers. The battery charges overnight from a standard 120-volt outlet. A digital meter keeps track of the battery level and hours of use. This zero-turn mower has powerful LED headlights, two cupholders, and a USB charging port.
This Ryobi mower doesn’t quite produce enough power to tackle thick brush or wild growth, but it is perfectly capable of handling standard grasses. This mower comes with mulching capability, and a bagging system is sold separately.
Power Source: 75 Ah battery, 4 brushless motorsTransmission: NoneTop Speed: 7 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 12 positions, 1.5 to 4.5 inchesPrice Range: Expensive
|✓ Low-maintenance – no gas, filters, belts, or spark plugs✓ Zero-emission✓ Fast and powerful✓ Mulching included
|✗ Narrow mowing deck✗ Can run for only 2.5 hours a day
This Husqvarna zero-turn mower is ready for heavy-duty work with a 26-horsepower engine and a 54-inch cutting deck. With the most powerful engine on this list, the Z254 makes short work of lawns and fields.
Though the Husqvarna Z254 costs more than the Cub Cadet mentioned above, customers with massive yards or dense, wild growth areas can benefit from the added power.
Because of its FOCUS on cutting power, the Husqvarna Z254 is a little slower than other zero-turn models on the market. It has a single-lever deck height adjustment with six positions. The Z254 uses Husqvarna’s air induction system to keep grass upright for a cleaner cut. This zero-turn mower also is equipped with a “ready start” system for easy operation.
Power Source: 26 HP Kohler engineTransmission: HydrostaticTop Speed: 6.5 mphDeck Width: 54 inchesCutting Height: 6 positions, 1.5 to 4 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ Powerful 26 HP engine✓ Wide cutting deck✓ Easy-start
|✗ No gas gauge✗ Seat not adjustable
Toro 42-inch Timecutter
The last entry on our list, the Toro Timecutter series features a “Smart Speed” system that automatically adjusts the lap bars’ sensitivity to your operating pace. How cool is this? It has three modes of operation that redirect engine power:
- Mow mode is focused on speed, topping out at 7 mph.
- Tow mode focuses on wheel torque, with a top speed of 5.5 mph.
- Trim mode directs power to the cutting deck, reducing the top speed to 4 mph to plow through thick brush.
Other things we like about Toro’s Timecutter:
- Cupholder and an under-seat storage cubby in the cab.
- Tire fenders, which protect the engine and the operator from mud and debris.
- Shock-reducing dampers that keep the steering bars steady when you hit bumps.
Toro offers a 3-year, unlimited-hour residential warranty. The Timecutter is compliant with California emissions standards. Owners of larger yards should check out their 23hp 50-inch version and 23hp 54-inch model.
Power Source: 18 HP Kawasaki V-Twin EngineTransmission: HydrostaticTop Speed: 7 mphDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 1.5 to 4.5 inchesPrice Range: Moderate
|✓ Multiple operation modes✓ Comfortable cab
|✗ Low engine power✗ No gas gauge
Buyers Guide: Riding Lawn Mowers
Buying a ride-on mower is a big decision. With so many options available, choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. This buyers guide will walk you through the types of riding mowers on the market and outline the important factors to consider. We’ll also explain how we came up with our rankings.
Types of Riding Lawn Mower
Riding lawn mowers are not all the same. While most ride-on mowers run on gasoline, several electric mowers have hit the market in recent years. Whether gas or electric, riding mowers tend to come in three general body shapes.
Rear-engine riding mowers are the most compact and least expensive model. The engine (or electric motor) is mounted behind the operating seat. This gives rear-engine mowers great front visibility but can affect their turn radius. With smaller cutting decks, rear-engine mowers can fit through gates and are great for medium-sized lawns.
The standard riding lawn mower for over a century, the lawn tractor has a front-mounted engine that powers the wheels and cutting deck. Lawn tractors typically have cutting decks around 42 inches, though higher-horsepower tractors may be larger. Recent models may have automatic or hydrostatic transmissions, though many are manual.
The zero-turn mower has been around since the 1960s and has risen to prominence in the last 20 years. These high-tech machines use a hydraulic system to control the two powered wheels independently, allowing them to rotate on a dime.
Zero-turn mowers are typically controlled by a pair of levers across the operator’s lap and can be tricky to maneuver without practice. Their shape allows zero turns to sport wider decks. Zero-turns are usually a little more expensive but are the best choice for large yards.
With fossil fuels on the decline and rising gas prices, it may be the right time to invest in a battery-powered riding lawn mower. New advancements in green technology have led to some truly impressive eco-friendly lawn mowers from several manufacturers. With batteries that last up to three hours on a single charge, electric mowers can deliver similar power outputs to gas models.
What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower
Riding lawn mowers are complicated machines, and it’s important to consider a variety of specs when comparing them. We looked at several details and features to determine utility and cost-effectiveness for our top 9 picks.
An important stat for any tool, the power of a riding lawn mower’s engine will determine your top speed and your blade torque. Gas engines of this size usually measure in terms of horsepower (HP), while large batteries measure amperage per hour of use (Ah).
Consider a higher-horsepower engine if you plan to cut thick brush or wild growth. Low-to-medium power is usually adequate for standard grass lawns.
A wider machine increases your coverage on each pass across the yard. Wider machines are more efficient, but require more power to operate and are therefore more expensive.
Adjustable decks are standard in modern lawn mowers. Most of them can cut grass between around 1.5 inches and around 4 inches, with several increments in between. This feature is usually more a matter of preference than necessity.
Manufacturers like to add comfort and utility features to their riding lawn mowers to make them stand out. Features like cupholders, USB chargers, and anti-vibration steering wheels are great for getting more enjoyment out of mowing. Some models include mulching kits or leaf bags, while other manufacturers sell them as separate attachments.
The most important factor in choosing the right mower is your budget. Riding mowers are a big purchase, and we recommend you shop at a few different vendors and local dealers to find the best deal. We quantify the above features and compare them to cost, to help you get the best value.
FAQ About Riding Lawn Mowers
Our research shows that the best riding lawn mower is the Husqvarna YTH18542. We chose this as our top riding mower for its reliability and utility relative to price. Other standouts: We also found that the best zero-turn mower is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 and the best rear-engine mower is the electric Ryobi RY48111.
Hydrostatic drivetrains rely on hydraulic fluid to transfer power from the engine to the blade or wheels. Because there are no gearboxes involved, power can smoothly increase and decrease along the drivetrain without the need for manual shifting.
This increases engine efficiency and allows power to flow differently to each part of the machine. Zero-turn mowers use this method to supply power to both wheels independently.
Riding lawn mowers are a big investment. Although some budget riding lawn mowers will cost under 2,000, the majority of residential-use models are priced between 2,000 and 4,000. Plan to spend around 3,000 on a new ride-on mower, or shop around local dealers for discounted on pre-owned machines.
When to Call a Lawn Care Pro
Riding lawn mowers are a hefty investment and they take up space in your garage. If you’d rather a lawn care pro keep your grass green and healthy, we can help. Lawn Love pros can give your yard a professional manicure at affordable prices. Call 800-706-4117 to see how a professional lawn care crew can show your yard some Lawn Love.
Lawn Love participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other retailer affiliate programs. Lawn Love may earn revenue from products promoted in this article.
Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock photo with text overlay
Best Electric Lawn Mowers: Top 5 Brands Most Recommended By Experts
It pays to be kind to the environment. Investing in one of the best electric lawn mowers is an easy way to make a household chore more energy efficient. Cutting the grass with a quality machine can transform your outdoor area into a lush and inviting space with less grueling yard work for you.
Besides, you don’t want to be guilty of ‘greenwashing’. What is greenwashing? It’s a term used to describe when someone pretends to be more environmentally sustainable around others. A survey of 2,000 Americans revealed that half of respondents are guilty of doing this. A whopping 53 percent of survey participants admit to exaggerating their environmentally sustainable practices specifically to impress others. The survey also revealed that 54 percent of respondents are less likely to practice eco-friendly habits if nobody can see them.
Aside from being more sustainable, you also must consider safety when purchasing a new mower. In fact, a recent study finds that lawn mowers are a surprisingly common culprit for adolescent injury in the U.S., sending 13 kids a day to seek emergency treatment. The level of safety comes down to the model you choose and the habits you employ to ensure no one gets hurt while maintaining the lawn.
Whatever your motivation, it’s important to leave this planet in a little bit better shape than we found it. The smallest adjustments to daily living can be beneficial to the environment in the long run. Getting an electric lawn mower is a great first step in becoming eco-friendly. And guess what? Many of them work just as well or even better than their gas-powered counterparts. StudyFinds compiled a list of the top five best electric lawn mowers from ten expert websites to ensure a beautifully cut lawn. As always, we’d like to see your own recommendations in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below!
The List: Best Electric Lawn Mowers, According to Reviews
EGO POWER Select Cut Mower
If you are looking for a powerful mower that doesn’t use gas, this is a top pick from reviewers. The EGO POWER is “a battery-powered, self-propelled mower that can cut grass for about an hour on a single battery charge. Compared with other cordless models, it has a longer run time than most and a faster charge time,” according to The New York Times.
The Spruce notes, the 21-inch cordless mower “maneuvers easily thanks to a self-propelled design, and the cutting power automatically increases on tougher terrain. The self-propel feature can be adjusted between 0.9 and 3.1 miles per hour to match the user’s pace. With six cutting heights, the adjustable blades deliver a precise cut that leaves your lawn looking flawless.”
Forbes adds, its “LED headlights allow you to mow in dim or even dark conditions while this powerhouse transitions from mulching, bagging and discharge with one lever. Flip between deck heights of 1.25 to 4 inches with a single lever. A nice added perk? The battery works on other EGO products, too.” However, some reviewers did point out the battery can drain quickly in self-propel mode. Another possible drawback? The drive motor can get a little noisy.
Greenworks Cordless Lawn Mower
Giving the EGO POWER a run for its money is the Greenworks Cordless Lawn Mower. Popular Mechanics calls the 25223 model, “nicely designed and equipped with features you hardly ever see in this class and price. You get 10-inch rear tires to help it better roll over washboard surfaces, dual batteries, and three-function capability: mulch, side discharge, and bag. Icing on the cake includes its steel deck with seven positions from 1 1⁄8 to 3 inches, all controlled by a single spring-loaded lift mechanism.”
LeafScore notes the variable speed control on the Greenworks PRO 21-Inch 80V Self-Propelled version, “can be set between 0.5-1.5 m/s, which is super helpful if you struggle to push a mower around, especially as it gathers grass clippings.”
The Greenworks 40V Cordless Lawn Mower also gets high marks. “An easy push-button start gets you going without breaking a sweat, and a single spring-loaded lift mechanism provides seven cutting height positions,” adds Good Housekeeping.
RYOBI Electric Lawn Mower
RYOBI’s electric lawn mower options don’t disappoint. Especially, the 40V Self-Propelled Electric Push Mower that features a 21-inch cutting deck. ZDNET points out, it adjusts “to seven different heights to handle mowing in any season, and the deck is covered by a lifetime warranty against damage.”
“RYOBI crushed it with the development of the 40V HP Brushless CrossCut Self-Propelled Lawn Mower, making huge strides over its previous generation of mowers. Matching up very well against EGO’s Select Cut XP, it’s a stacked blade design that offers excellent power and cut quality,” according to Pro Tool Reviews.
The Spruce adds, RYOBI’s 40V Brushless 20-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower, “ can run for up to 42 minutes per charge, which is on the lower end of the spectrum. However, the RYOBI is equipped with an onboard battery storage compartment. If you purchase a second battery, you can swap it out mid-task to extend the runtime.” One note, the side discharge accessory on this model comes separately.
Toro Electric Lawn Mowers
Mowers Direct calls the Toro Recycler SmartStow the ‘Best Electric Self-Propelled Lawn Mower’ noting, “ model 21466 is a great option for any homeowner looking for a quiet, exhaust-free mower that is self-propelled and can not only mulch and bag grass clippings but also leaves a beautifully trimmed lawn.”
As far as running time? You can get about 40 minutes before recharging, with a 60-volt 6-amp hour battery. “This dependable, popular Toro performs as well as other decent self-propelled mowers and stands out for its ability to be stored upright (like the EGOs), saving valuable garage space,” according to The New York Times.
As for Toro’s 60V Stripe Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Lawn Mower? Pro Tool Reviews suggests, it “is probably the most compelling battery-powered lawn mower for 2023. Using its 60V battery platform for power (there are also gas models), it’s making the jump to a stacked two-blade system similar to EGO’s Select Cut and RYOBI’s CrossCut models. What Toro is doing differently is adding a built-in striping feature, leaving your lawn not with just a clean cut, but also a professional finish.”
Sun Joe Electric Lawn Mower
Rounding out our list, is this offering from Sun Joe. Bob Vila calls the MJ401E-PRO 14″ 13 Amp Electric Lawn Mower ‘Best Bang For The Buck’ adding, there’s “ no need to store gasoline or change spark plugs with this plastic mower that is as eco-friendly as it gets. Collect grass clippings in a 10.6-gallon bag or discard them via a rear-mounted side discharge chute. The Sun Joe mower boasts a nonslip grip handle that folds down for easy storage.”
The Spruce notes, “you’ll have to be diligent about keeping the cord from tangling or unplugging–and avoid running it over.” Plus, you’ll need to purchase an extension cord separately. If you don’t want the hassle of an extension cord, Sun Joe also makes cordless options. One in particular is great for smaller lawns. Forbes points out, Sun Joe’s MJ401C 14-Inch 28-Volt Cordless Push Lawn Mower, “ is powered by a battery that can handle up to a 1/4 acre before needing a recharge.”
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.
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.
Rich Scherr is a seasoned technology and financial journalist who spent nearly two decades as the editor of Potomac and Bay Area Tech Wire. The Baltimore native also covered the technology scene for LocalBusiness.com and has been a regular contributor to the sports pages of The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.
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 in. Battery 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
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: 2,449
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 in. 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 3 acres
Best Gas Zero-Turn
Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 42 in. 22HP 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: 3,299
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 580 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 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: 3,599
Cutting Width: 30 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 362 pounds | Cutting Options: Mulch, side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 1 acre
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.