Buying a Used Lawnmower: How Not to Buy a Lemon. Refurbished riding lawn mowers

Buying a Used Lawnmower: How Not to Buy a Lemon

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If you’re looking for a lawnmower, perhaps the of new models are a bit overwhelming. If so, you could consider buying a used lawn mower. But when you purchase any kind of used equipment, there’s always the danger that you’ll end up with a dud. Today I’ll walk you through what you need to look for when buying a used mower and highlight warning signs that you should watch out for so you don’t waste your money.

There are used lawnmowers available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and at many different price points.

The type of mower that will work best for you will depend upon your property size, your strength and physical condition, and your lawn goals.

  • I’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of buying a used lawnmower,
  • Share with you some tips for choosing the right mower for your property, and
  • I’ll also discuss what to watch for – the warning signs of a potential lemon.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying a Used Lawnmower

There are certainly a few potential advantages to buying your lawnmower used.

Advantages include:

  • You can buy a larger and more powerful lawnmower for a lower price than you’d pay for a new mower.
  • You can get first-hand knowledge from the previous owner about how well it runs. This can be better than just relying on product descriptions and assurances from the manufacturer. Keep in mind, though, that how honest (or dishonest) the seller is will play a big part in whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage. This is why it’s so important to do your research. Find out all you can about a seller before making a deal.

Disadvantages include:

  • The possibility that the previous owner improperly used the mower and caused damage (and withholds this information).
  • The owner might have used the lawnmower longer or more often than they communicate.
  • If you don’t check the parts when buying a used lawn mower, you could end up with a mower that seems to work well but has a part that is about to wear out and will need to be replaced. If you cannot replace the part, you’ll have to buy another used lawnmower. And even if you can replace a part, they could be expensive and that cost could negate the financial benefits of buying a pre-owned lawnmower in the first place.
  • If you end up with a lemon of a mower, you’ll waste all of the money you saved by maintaining it. It may be worth the time and energy to buy a new lawnmower.
  • A used mower won’t come with the full guarantees and warranties that accompany most new models. This means that you might save money on the mower when buying it, but you could end up having to repair or replace it very soon after your purchase.

It’s also very risky to buy a used mower online if you don’t give the mower a rigorous inspection and test run when you pick it up.

It is important to closely look at and try out a used mower before handing over any money. You should not implicitly trust any descriptions provided online.

What Type of Lawn Mower Should You Buy?

There are a few things you should keep in mind when buying a lawn mower (used or new).

I recommend you consider the following five points before shopping for your mower:

  • How big is your lawn? Large lawns require larger mowers with wider mowing decks unless you want to be mowing all day.
  • How hilly is your lawn? If you have a flat yard you have more options. Hilly properties aren’t great for some riding mowers and push mowers without self-propelled capacity.
  • What is your garage like? If you don’t have space to store a large mower, you can’t realistically get one.
  • What is your physical condition? If you can’t (or don’t want to) physically push a mower around the yard, you’ll want a self-propelled or riding mower.
  • Gas or Electric? There are some amazing electric lawn mower models on the market now, but older used models may not be as reliable as used gas mowers.

I have an article comparing different types of riding mowers, and another article comparing different types of walk-behind mowers to help you choose the best type of used lawn mower to buy.

How to Avoid Buying a Bad Used Lawnmower

If you want to buy a used lawnmower, you probably worry that you’ll end up with a useless or worn out piece of equipment. There are certain things that you can do to avoid this.

In order to get a high-quality used mower that you’ll be able to get use out of for years to come, you will have to invest more time in the shopping process than you would spend on finding a new model.

What to Do When Buying a Used Mower

Here are the steps you can take to make sure you’re not taken in by a dishonest seller:

  • Ensure that you see the used mower in person and are given the time and access to take a close look at it and try it. This is crucial regardless of what kind of mower you want to get, whether it be a riding mower, a gas mower, or an electric or push model. Make sure that you ask the seller very specific questions. Find out the age of the mower. Ask the reason why it’s being sold. Ask if there is any paperwork on the machine, including such things as instructions, warranties, and guarantees). Make an arrangement with the seller so you know what will be done if the mower breaks down after you buy it. Ideally, there should be a written agreement on this.
  • When you test out the mower (you should do this prior to purchase), listen to what it sounds like as it runs and try cutting grass with it. See how well it does its job. Remember that a lawnmower’s blades should always be sharp enough that the grass is cut with the first pass.
  • Don’t be pushed into agreeing to anything too quickly. If the seller seems strangely rushed to get the mower off his or her hands, there could very well be something wrong with it. If it seems like it’s been available for sale for an inordinately long period of time, that could be another red flag.

General Tips for Used Lawnmower Shopping

There are many other tips you should keep in mind when you’re shopping for a lawnmower, whether new or used.

It Can Be Tough to Buy a Used Lawnmower Online

If you have the opportunity to closely inspect and try out a lawnmower, you can find good deals on Craigslist, Marketplace, and elsewhere. But the key is that you have to have the time in-person to evaluate the machine.

Buying a used lawnmower online and having it shipped to you is asking for trouble in my view.

There’s really no substitute for being able to see something, touch it, and try it in real life. If you decide to return a mower that you bought online, it may be an enormous hassle.

Inspect All Parts of the Mower

Make sure to check out the mower’s parts, taking note of the condition of the blade, engine, mowing deck, and mower body.

Fire up the mower, and run it for at least five minutes. If the mower sounds like it’s running as it should and does an efficient and clean cut on grass, you still cannot necessarily assume that it’s in good condition.

When the seller is standing there, it can be easy to feel pressured to make a quick decision and assume the mower works well after a quick demo. But it’s necessary to check the parts.

If any of the parts look very worn, the mower isn’t likely to last you very long after purchase. Also look out for oil leaks and check the spark plug cable. It’s cheap and easy to buy a new plug (about 8), but replacing the cable can be more expensive.

Electric lawn mowers should have batteries that will hold their charge.

Bring an Expert With You

Are you inexperienced with mechanical equipment? A lot of us are, and a lot of us also know someone who is savvy on this subject and knows how to work with small engines.

If you have a friend who knows engines and has owned and maintained lawnmowers for years, try to bring them with you.

This could be a family member, a friend, or your spouse.

Buy the Mower You Need, Not the Mower You Want

Base your decision on how big of a mower to buy on the area you need to mow.

If you have a very large yard or property, you will probably want a larger and more efficient lawn mower. Extremely large properties will need a ride-on mower that has a gas or diesel-powered engine.

Small lawns are usually fine with a small electric or gas model, and homeowners who have a small, flat lot are probably best off buying a new reel mower like this one on Amazon.

Research the Lawn Mower Brand Before You Buy

Even if you buy used, make sure that you do online research on the model you plan to buy.

You want to make sure that there isn’t anything faulty about the model in general that you’ll end up having to deal with later. You also want to be aware of the longevity of mowers from that manufacturer.

Look for reviews from previous purchasers, and check out my article on lawn mower brands to avoid (and what to buy instead).

Buy in the Fall, Not in the Spring

The best time to buy a used lawn mower is when people aren’t buying used lawn mowers.

You’ll get the best price, and you’ll have your pick of the models that are available.

Give yourself as much time as possible to shop around and find the best possible deal on the highest quality mower you can afford.

If you wait until the grass is growing, you’ll have a smaller selection, you’ll pay more, and you’ll be competing with other buyers.

Final Thoughts About Buying a Used Lawn Mower

Remember, a lawn mower is an investment, and when buying a used lawn mower you need to:

  • Do your homework,
  • Give it a test drive,
  • Shop around, and
  • Buy the mower you need (not the mower you want).

When you do buy a mower, I recommend that you read my spring mower maintenance checklist and my tips for preparing your mower for winter storage to maintain your new machine for years to come.

The best riding lawn mower for every size and type of lawn in 2023

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  • Best overall
  • Best budget riding lawn mower
  • Best riding lawn mower for extra-large lawns
  • Best electric riding lawn mower
  • Best small riding lawn mower
  • What else we considered
  • How we research riding lawn mowers
  • How to choose a riding lawn mower
  • Riding lawn mower FAQs
  • Check out our other lawn care guides

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Traditional push mowers are perfectly fine for smaller yards, but if you’re working with anything larger than about half an acre, you’re going to want to upgrade to a riding mower. Featuring extra-wide cutting decks and comfortable seats, these machines allow you to complete the job quickly and easily.

As a former landscaper at a large state park, I was tasked with operating, maintaining, and repairing riding mowers, and used this experience to help assemble this list of options. I also called upon several experts in the field to add additional insight and advice.

Based on my own hands-on experience and the feedback from these experts, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best riding lawn mowers for a wide range of yard sizes and budgets. At the end of this guide, read more about our research methodology and what to consider when shopping for a lawn mower.

The best riding lawn mowers in 2023

Best riding lawn mower overall: Toro Timecutter 75755 Zero-Turn Mower. See at The Home DepotThis Toro Timecutter 75755 zero-turn mower combines comfort with versatility, thanks to its seat suspension system, straightforward controls, and hassle-free maintenance.

Best budget riding lawn mower: Troy-Bilt Pony 42. See at The Home DepotThe Troy-Bilt Pony 42 packs an impressive amount of features into a compact frame, like a 7-speed transmission and anti-scalping wheels, while costing significantly less than similar options.

Best for riding lawn mower for extra large lawns: Toro Titan 60. See at The Home DepotThe size and power of the Toro Titan 60 allow you to quickly and comfortably complete mowing tasks on large yards — up to 7 acres — and it has the bells and whistles to ensure a comfortable and hassle-free ride.

Best electric riding lawn mower: Ryobi 38-inch 100Ah Riding Lawn Mower. See at The Home DepotRyobi’s 38-inch 100Ah Riding Lawn Mower is a low-humming and low-maintenance option that runs for up to 2 hours or 2 acres of mowing.

Best small riding lawn mower: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT42. See at The Home DepotIt might not have the cutting width or power of a larger mower, but the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT42 packs an impressive amount of bells and whistles into a relatively small package.

Best overall: Toro Timecutter 75755 Zero-Turn Mower

Pros: Wide cutting width; durable deck; comfortable ride; maintenance and cleanup is easy

Cons: Not CARB compliant, very expensive

We’re big fans of Toro mowers, which along with the enthusiastic recommendation of our expert Chavez, made the Toro Timecutter 75755 a no-brainer for our top pick. Its price might be significantly higher than our other options, but if you’re planning on doing a lot of mowing and comfort is a top priority, this could be worth the investment.

Chavez’s main reason for recommending Toro riding mowers like this one is the MyRide suspension system — she specifically cited it as a great benefit for those with back pain. By suspending the seat platform with a series of springs and shocks, this system makes for an extremely comfortable ride, and you can even adjust and customize the ride settings to your personal preference. As someone who has bounced and rocked their way across large yards on subpar seats, sitting on the MyRide system is a huge upgrade. Another benefit of this MyRide system is the fact that the seat can be flipped up and out of the way when performing basic maintenance.

The convenient washout ports on the deck also make this Toro model easy to keep clean. Instead of crawling underneath or raising the entire unit, these ports allow you to simply connect a garden hose and blast away dirt, grass, and debris. I’m also a big fan of the heavy-duty 10-gauge steel deck. As someone who spent hours repairing mower decks that were dented and split from hitting large rocks or trees, having a heavy-duty deck can be a huge time-saver down the line.

The large, 50-inch deck is perfect for yards up to 4 acres in size, and the zero-turn steering makes it easy for anyone to maneuver around corners and landscaping elements. A straightforward control panel also allows users to quickly change mowing speeds. These elements all add up to one thing — more time for you. You’ll get finished quicker and back to enjoying your day doing what you really want to be doing.

Best budget riding lawn mower: Troy-Bilt Pony 42

Pros: Cup holder, 5.5 mph speed, five height settings

Cons: Lacks zero-turn capability, 500cc engine may not be powerful enough for some users

If you’re looking for an affordable riding mower that’s capable of efficiently cutting lawns up to two acres, the The Troy-Bilt Pony 42 could be just what you’re looking for. Its 42-inch deck is large enough to make quick work of smaller yards, and also makes this mower compact enough for those who are short on storage space.

The 7-speed transmission is simple to use, and a separate lever allows you to mow in reverse, a feature not found on similar mowers. If you have an awkwardly-shaped yard, or have numerous landscaping elements, you’ll really appreciate this feature. A pair of automatic headlights also make it possible to safely mow when the sun begins to go down.

A pair of anti-scalping wheels on the deck reduce the chances of you ending up with patches of “scalped” grass, which makes this mower especially useful for those who have uneven or hilly yards. Plus, it has a rear-tow hitch included, so you’re all set to haul a small trailer or cart around the yard, for those non-mowing projects.

Its tractor-style body doesn’t have the zero-turn capabilities of our higher-end mowers, but it’s still relatively maneuverable thanks to its slim 18-inch turn radius. It’s also compatible with bagging and mulching kits, as well as sun shades, snow blades, and tire chains, making it a versatile lawn-care tool.

Best riding lawn mower for extra-large lawns: Toro Titan 60

Pros: Dual LED headlights, 3 year warranty/300 hours, comfortable seatCons: Expensive, bulky size might not be ideal for users who don’t have a lot of storage room

Time is obviously a big factor when it comes to mowing oversized lawns, and the Toro Titan 60’s forward and reverse speed are a big reason why we chose it as our top pick in this category.

The hydrostatic rear-wheel transmission allows you to reach speeds of up to 9 mph and 3 mph in reverse. The large, 22-inch rear tires of this mower are also designed to protect your grass from divots, as well as provide enough traction to keep you moving — even on uneven ground. It also features 15 quarter-inch deck adjustments, which are adjusted with a spring-assisted foot pedal, making it quick and easy to customize the deck height as you mow.

I’m most impressed by the heavy-duty frame, which is constructed of square tubular steel. This design not only makes it durable enough to handle the wear and tear that comes from tackling large jobs and heavy use, it also provides the sturdy foundation a large mower like this needs. This FOCUS on durability extends to the deck as well, which is made of 10-gauge steel and coated with a corrosion-resistant finish.

In my experience, open frame mowers like this one are great, not just for how easy they are to jump on and off, but because they are much easier to perform maintenance and repairs. The Toro Titan 60 also has a hinged floor pan, which makes it easier to access the deck and engine.

Best electric riding lawn mower: Ryobi 38-inch 100Ah Riding Lawn Mower

Pros: Eco-friendly, low maintenance, quiet operation

Cons: About two hours of mowing time per charge, batteries are expensive to replace when the time comes

Unlike its gasoline counterparts, the electric Ryobi RY 48111-1A is a hassle-free option void of belts, spark plugs, oil changes, filters, or anything of the like to worry about. Plus, since it lacks a bulky engine, it has a more compact go-kart-style body design that can fit in tighter areas.

The Ryobi RY 48111-1A is also focused on providing a comfortable riding experience, with a quiet fume-free operation, as well as a cruise control function and a USB charger for your phone. When it comes time to recharge the mower’s batteries, it’s not like charging an electric car battery, and you don’t need a fancy electricity upgrade: Just plug it into a regular old 120-volt outlet. It takes about 12 hours to fully charge.

On the subject of batteries, the downside is that over time they will not hold a charge as well; it’s just a fact of life with batteries. Eventually, you’ll need to replace them. The replacement batteries will run you about 150 each.

Best small riding lawn mower: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT42

Pros: Hydrostatic transmission, comfortable seat, 16-inch turning radius

Cons: May be too narrow for extra large yards, lacks zero-turn steering

If your yard is 1 to 2 acres in size, avoid the massive size and bulky frames of larger mowers and go with this compact model from Cub Cadet. Its 42-inch deck is wide enough to efficiently cut a lot of grass in each pass, but is still small enough to for easy storage. This small size also makes it more convenient for maneuvering around obstacles, and combined with a 16-inch turning radius, it is ideal for yards with tight landscaping elements or narrow entryways.

It’s also designed with comfort and hassle-free operating in mind. A push-button cruise control setting allows you to conveniently set your desired pace, and the 12 deck positions make it easy to precisely dial in your preferred cutting height. Plus, the 15-inch high chair provides a sturdy and comfortable seat as you steer.

A digital readout also keeps you notified of any maintenance intervals coming up, so you’ll always know when its time to change the oil or air filter. These reminders can go a long way in extending the lifespan of your mower and prevent you from inadvertently causing damage to the engine or other components. We’re also big fans of the three-year-limited warranty, especially since it doesn’t have a maximum hour limit like most other models.

Editor’s note: We’ve noticed ths model’s stock varies significantly by ZIP code.

Used Riding Lawn Mower Valuation Calculator

Whether you are buying or selling, if you are trying to get a price for a riding lawn mower, garden tractor, or zero turn radius mower, figuring out how much it is worth can feel like a guessing game. The Used Riding Lawn Mower Valuation Calculator can be helpful in determining a lawn mower’s worth. You can read more or skip to the bottom to use the calculator.

How Much Is A Used Lawnmower Worth?

Like cars, the value of a used riding lawn mower is based on depreciation, appearance, condition, hours, class, and region. Riding lawn mowers begin to depreciate the moment they are purchased, and continue to depreciate in value annually. Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity and performance can greatly increase or decrease the price.

Because some mowers are more popular in certain areas of the country than others, region also has an influence of the value of a riding lawn mower.

The best starting point for finding the value of a lawn mower is its age. If the lawnmower is 1-7 years old, you should begin with the original MSRP of the unit and then factor in depreciation rate.

If the mower is more than 7 years old, you should use the average selling price of comparable models in your area. Once you have that value, you increase or decrease the price based on condition.

Lawn Mower Blue Book

The used lawn mower value calculator was created to help you calculate what a lawn mower might be worth based on age, depreciation, condition and class. There are a few other online resources that will provide you with an estimated blue book value for a fee. Our calculator was built to find the value for free.

How Long Do Riding Lawn Tractors Last?

Most residential riding mowers that are well maintained and used within their scope of capabilities can last 10 or more years. Entry level riding mowers are meant for the average residential yard that does not have obstacles such as surface roots or slopes.

How Long Will A Riding Mower Last Based On Hours

According to Consumer Reports, residential riding lawn mowers are manufactured to last 250 to 300 hours, and higher-end mowers are designed to last 400 to 500 hours. Maintenance and use is the primary factor on how long a riding lawn mower will last. A well maintained residential mower that wasn’t pushed beyond its capabilities might have an extra 25 to 50% beyond that.

Cub Cadet, Husqvarna and John Deere are brands that are known to perform well.

If the useful life of a riding mower (for insurance purposes) is 7 years, that would equal an average 42 hours used per year for a standard residential riding mower.

How Many Hours Per Year Is Average For A Lawn Mower

On average, riding mowers will accumulate 35 to 65 hours per year. If the previous owner had a standard residential lawn, it will likely log closer to 20 hours per year. For commercial mowers, 120 hours per year would be considered average.

As an example, the typical level residential yard is.20 acres and should take no more than 40 minutes to mow. If the mowing season is May through November, the lawnmower would be used for 7 months, or weekly for 28 weeks. At 40 minutes a week for 28 weeks, you would expect a mower used on.20 acres to log about 18 hours per year. This specific mower might have a useful life of almost 14-16 years, if well-maintained.

Based on this example, for the average riding mower used on the average.20 acre residential yard, you would want to see about 18 hours logged per year on the hours meter. At 7 years, the hours should be under 130 hours.

But if it’s a standard entry-level riding mower that was used to mow a 2 acre lot running 2 1/4 hours each time once a week for 28 weeks, it would log 60 hours each year. Its useful life might only be 4-6 years. If this 2 acre lot has slopes or surface roots, its useful life could be even lower if the rider is not rated for slopes or uneven terrain.

Riding Lawn Mower Depreciation Rate

How much do riding lawn mowers depreciated each year? The useful life of most residential lawn mowers is considered to be 7 years. For tax purposes, the annual depreciation rate is 14.29%. The depreciation rate is calculated by dividing 100 by 7 years.

After 7 years, the riding mower is considered fully depreciated (for tax purposes) and its value for resale purposes is defined by consumer demand and condition. Items generally aren’t depreciated more than 90%, so 10% of original MSRP may be a good starting point for garden tractors that are more than 7 years old.

Higher-end and commercial models that are built for endurance tend to hold their value longer. For some models, their base resale value can be much higher than comparable lower-end models. For that reason, we add a class-factor into the equation when determining the depreciation rate of mowers.

Depreciation Rates Of Mowers Based On Class

This calculator tiers depreciation rates based on riding mower class. Class I mowers are assigned a higher depreciation rate than Class III mowers.

  • Class I – standard-grade economical riding mower for general residential use, basic features, usually 19 HP or lower, stamped deck, rated for mowing 1 acre or less, commonly available at most lawn and garden stores, attachments usually limited to a bagging system and cart. Usually classified as a Lawn Tractor.
  • Class II – mid-grade riding mower, extra features, 19-24 HP, stamped or fabricated deck, heavier chassis, rated for mowing less than 2 acres, available at select lawn and garden stores and through dealers. Typically classified as a Garden Tractor.
  • Class III – high-grade riding mower, 22 HP or higher, fabricated deck, heavy-duty chassis, rated for 2 or more acres, uneven lawns and slight slopes, available almost exclusively through dealers, full range of attachment options, also applies to commercial mowers and mowers that are regionally popular (sell for higher amounts due to popularity).

Adjustments Based On Riding Mower Condition

The following additions or subtractions can be applied based on the mower’s condition when you inspect it.

There’s a Used Riding Lawn Mower And Garden Tractor Checklist you can use during the inspection to help determine the mower’s condition.

Excellent Condition (Rarely used) – ( 10% to 15%) Like new condition. Well maintained. No mechanical or cosmetic repairs are needed. This is very rare. Above Average Condition – ( 5% to 10%) Above average appearance and only has very minor cosmetic issues (fine scratches). No mechanical issues and mower has been well maintained. Repairs have been made as needed and mower was well cared for. This is not common. Average Condition – (0) Good condition relevant to age and routine use. Runs great and in very good mechanical condition. May have some minor scratches or small dings which do not affect overall appearance. No obvious maintenance or repairs required. Below Average condition (Slightly neglected)- (- 5% to 10%) Runs well but needs a minor repair or two OR needs minor cosmetic repairs. Some evidence of deferred maintenance but mower is otherwise in good mechanical condition. Will require minor repairs. This is common. Poor condition (Badly worn) – (- 15% to 25%) Runs okay but needs moderate mechanical repair before regular use or needs moderate cosmetic repair. Deferred maintenance is obvious. Will require moderate repairs. Rough Condition (Worn Out) – (- 25% to 50%) Runs rough and significant cosmetic work needed, numerous mechanical inadequacies. Excessive deferred maintenance and abuse is obvious. Will require significant repairs.

You can also factor in whether it is a popular model. mass produced (-), or mid-grade/pro

If the mower is 7 years old or newer

  • Begin with the original MSRP
  • To find the original MSRP you can:
  • Search the model number along with MSRP on Google (for example: “2019 Toro LX 460 MSRP”)
  • Search Tractor Blue book or TractorData (free – 83 brands including Kubota, Craftsman, Scotts, Cub Cadet, Simplicity, Toro, Husqvarna, MTD, Troy-Bilt, Wheel Horse, John Deere)
  • We are also developing our own database of used lawn mower original MSRPs. So far, we have most of John Deere added, some Cub Cadet years, and will continue to work on getting all the other brands added. You will be able to drill down to your mower model and can click on the corresponding link to have it automatically fill in the MSRP in this calculator. It’s still a work in progress, but if you would like to test it out, you can find the Used Mower MSRP Finder here.

If the mower is more than 7 years old

  • Use the average selling price of comparable models in your area or (if the mower is 7 or more years old)
  • To find the comparable sales you can:
  • Search the model number on Google (for example: “Toro LX 460 for sale”)
  • Search eBay completed sales, OfferUp, Craigslist, etc.
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