Craftsman 42″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower
B oasting a top speed of 7.5 miles per hour (26% faster than the competition), a 42 inch cutting deck, and a 6 inch turning radius – the Craftsman 42” Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower embodies the company’s new motto: “Kicking Grass and Taking Names” to a T. You see, the new Craftsman 42” Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower harnesses the power of a beefy two cylinder 724cc Briggs Stratton Platinum engine to produce 22 horsepower – making it ideal for homeowners with over sized yards and undulating terrain. While push mowers are sufficient for small lawns with little to no hills at all, when it comes to big yards with daunting hills, you need something with more power, a bigger cutting deck and the agility to navigate tight spaces and obstacles.
To fill that checklist we bring you the new 22 HP 42″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower from Craftsman. Recently we were given the exciting opportunity to test this 22HP speed demon on our own turf over the past month. As an owner of several hand-me-down lawn tractors over the years it was a blessing to be able to put a shiny new rider through the paces on some unforgiving terrain.
For a up close look at the Craftsman 42″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower from every angle, take a peek at the embedded video below…
Throughout testing we put more than 80 hours on this riding mower to fully test its merits on the turf. Not only did we test it across smoothly manicured lawns and perfectly landscaped yards – we also tested it for traction on some serious grades and unforgiving terrain. In dry conditions and wet, during the day and at dark. We threw everything we could at this mower, and today we’re excited to share our opinions. Enjoy…
From the outset the Craftsman 42″ Turn Tight Fast is by far one of the best looking riding mowers we’ve ever laid eyes one. Its classic Craftsman Red pant job and aggressive lines look down-right fast – even when the mower is sitting still. A welcome upgrade from the traditional riding mower your dad, and his dad tooled around on for all those years.
Beyond its stellar good looks, this riding mower is also outfitted with all the bells and whistles you could ask for, starting with an hour meter on the dash to keep track of maintenance intervals, an adjustable seat, headlights for early morning or late night lawn care and best of all… an integrated cup holder. Yes, we said it… this mower comes equipped with a built-in cup holder! While we could go on and on about the 42″ cutting deck that adjusts at 10 different heights, or its 6″ turning radius, or the fact that this riding mower can mow in forward and reverse. At the end of the day, the cup holder is the design feature we utilized the most and was praised by anyone who tested this little tractor. I think one of our reviewers said it best… “like a best friend, the Craftsman cup holder is there for you when you need it.”
The only drawback we can point out is the woefully under powered reverse gear… it’s painfully slow. I’m sure this is a safety feature (which we’ll talk about more soon), but seriously, can we get a little more speed? At 2.9 MPH you won’t want to use reverse much if you don’t have to. After about 30 hours into testing we all but forgot about reverse and kept the tractor moving forward as much as possible.
After checking the oil (suggested before every cut) putting this riding mower to work is as easy as turning a key and the Briggs Stratton Platinum engine purrs like a kitten! Throughout testing were truly impressed with the intuitive controls and easy operation that Craftsman put into this mower. To start from cold, simply hold down the brake, put the speed lever into the “choke” position and turn the key over. Once she kicks over and begins to run, throttle back to “full power” and let it run for about a minute. Once you’ve had the mower running for a minute it’s ready to do work.
At this point the tractor is read to devour some grass. A few things you’ll want to dial in straight away is the deck height, travel speed and cutting pattern. To be honest it all takes a few tours of your yard to get perfect, so we suggest you experiment with different speeds and patterns until you find the perfect fit for your yard. As for the deck height, that’s a personal preference. With 10 different setting it can be a daunting task, we suggest starting high and easing your way lower as needed. Luckily Craftsman has outfitted the deck lever with an adjustable red indicator so once you find the perfect cutting height you can set the indicator as a quick reference reminder for yourself or anyone else who might be cutting the lawn.
To engage the cutting blades there is a lever located just above the steering wheel, push this lever up and the dual blades will begin spinning. There is also a cruise control setting located under the steering wheel. We didn’t have much use for it where we were testing, but could see it being a very useful feature for homeowners with XXL sized lawns.
When it comes to operating machinery, of any kind, safety is the name of the game and Craftsman hasn’t skimped-out in this department one bit. For example, to start the mower you must have the parking brake engaged. This prevents run-away tractor accidents. To put the mower into drive you must be sitting on the seat. The tractor seat has a weight sensor in it, if someone isn’t int the seat, it won’t run. Additionally, there is a locking mechanism just above the rear axle at the rear of the mower which allows you to lock the axle during transport. If you plan to tow this puppy around town it’s a great safety feature to have.
It’s safety features like this that can be a little annoying when you need jump off the tractor to pick up a fallen tree limb and the whole mower shuts down, but it’s safety features like this that in the long run will save you from yourself. So embrace them!
With a 42″ cutting deck, this riding mower makes short work of most lawns. The dual cutting blades mulch incredibly well and deliver a crisp cut that is razor sharp. Take a look at the image below to see the inner workings of the mower including the blades and cutting deck.
While the cut is exceptional, another impressive performance feature is that 22HP Briggs motor. It’s a bruiser, and is capable of handling some steep inclines with ease. The tires grip well and put the power to the turf even in damp or dewy conditions. And as far as gas consumption goes we were pretty happy all-in-all. With a 3 gallon capacity, on average we got about 2 hours of cutting time out of a full tank. That’s nothing to write home about in our book, but ends up being pretty efficient overall.
We’re happy to report the 6″ turning radius that Craftsman brags so boldly about on their Turn Tight line of mowers is no joke ! This lawn tractor is by no means a zero-turn mower, but it does in fact turn on a dime – making post-mowing edge trimming and weed wacking all but a distant memory. When it comes to maneuvering around trees, bird baths and other tricky landscaping, the Craftsman 42″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower handles it surprisingly well. With a turning radius of just 6 inches this riding mower makes turns that are 66% tighter than the competition. If maneuverability is a sticking point for you, this tractor is for you.
Priced between 1,500 and 2,000 online and in stores this riding mower would be considered a serious purchase for any homeowner. Not everyone can just throw that kind of money around. That being said, throughout our testing Craftsman 42″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower proved to be everything we expected and more. We could have used a little more juice in the reverse gear, but besides that, this riding mower turned out to be an excellent value.
Without question, we highly recommend this mower to anyone who is looking to upgrade or even purchase their first riding mower. It’s a solid machine that comes with an impressive warranty, the rock solid Craftsman name and safety features that’ll give you piece of mind. Okay, so that’s how justify this purchase to that penny-pinching banker in your head, but what you really need to know is that this mower is a beast! We’re talking 7.5 MPH top speed, a 6 turning radius, a fully integrated cup holder and a 22HP Briggs Stratton power plant. If you’re shopping around for a new riding mower this Summer and you don’t consider the Craftsman 42 Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower you are making a mistake. this riding lawn mower preforms like a champ and looks just as good parked in the garage as it does out in the yard making turns and all of your neighbors green with envy.
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.
Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics including environmental science and houseplants.
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-Inch 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: 2,574
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-Inch 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 4 acres
Best Gas Zero-Turn
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42-Inch 22 HP 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: 3,499
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 580 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 3 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.
Craftsman 22HP 42″ Turn Tight Fast Riding Mower
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: 3,600
Cutting Width: 30 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 362 pounds | Cutting Options: Mulch, side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 2 acres
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.
Correct Mulching Blades and Cover Plug for Craftsman T2200 42″ Riding Lawn Mower
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.
The Best Zero-Turn Mowers of 2023
These achieve the rare feat of making lawn mowing fun.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: Mar 1, 2023
When it comes to yard work, zero turn mowers do the impossible. They make lawn mowing fun. They accomplish this by putting unprecedented speed, control and maneuverability at the disposal of the person mowing the lawn. The so-called “zero turn” feature of these mowers converts a grass cutting machine into something akin to an amusement park ride. You steer the machine with two levers—the left lever controls the left wheel, the right lever the right wheel. With that steering setup, you can zoom over the landscape cutting straight lines, curves, or pivot the mower into and out of a corner. What’s not to like?
Read on to understand how these agile grass cutters work, how we go about testing them, and see some candidates that we’ve recently tested as well as some that we haven’t but that we think look particularly promising.
How Zero-Turn Mowers Work
A zero-turn riding mower consists of an operator platform, a frame and wheels, an engine (or battery bank), transmissions (or motors), and a pair of control levers commonly known as lap bars. In gas mowers, the engine powers a pulley system. One group of pulleys drives the blades, another group powers a pair of transmissions–one at each rear wheel. When you move the lap bar forward or back, you are directing the transmission to go faster, slower, or even turn the opposite way. When one drive wheel turns clockwise and the other counter clockwise, the mower pivots. When the wheels rotate at different rates, the mower turns in an arc-shaped path. When the lap bars are in the neutral position, the mower stops. Aside from a parking brake, there’s no other braking mechanism. Battery-powered zero-turn mowers work the same way, but have separate motors to drive the rear wheels and one for each blade inside the mower deck.
When it comes to transmission, most mowers have a Hydrogear EZT—a well-known and cost-effective residential-grade transaxle with a reputation for durability.
Some mowers use a deck stamped from one piece of steel, others use a deck fabricated from multiple pieces and welded together. A fabricated deck can be built from thicker steel at a lower cost than it would be able to be built otherwise. Once you’re talking about stamping metal as thick as 10 gauge (about 1⁄8 inch thick), the cost of stamping such a deck would push up the mower’s price beyond what most people are willing to pay. The decks in the mowers below range from 42 to 52 inches, a typical size in this class of product. When powered by these engines and the Hydrogear, these mowers will deliver a decent cut quality at their rated top speed of 7 mph. Note, however, that cut quality declines steeply if you maintain that speed in very thick grass or on uneven terrain.
As to the electric mowers, they represent the leading edge of the technology in this category. These are remarkable and expensive mowers powered by large-voltage lithium-ion batteries. If you’re interested in reducing mowing noise and simplifying your maintenance routine by eliminating gas and oil, they’re worth a look.
Selecting a Zero-Turn Mower
Everyone would like to select the biggest possible zero-turn mower with the hope of whittling a big grass cutting job down to size as quickly as possible. Reality usually intercedes because these machines are expensive and the wide range of options available today quickly drive up the cost. Roughly speaking, you start somewhere in the range of a mower with a 42-inch deck costing in the vicinity of 3200 to 3500 and move up in increments of 1000 to 1500 until you reach entry-level commercial-grade equipment that costs 7000 to 8000.
Again, speaking in terms of approximation, a mower with a 42-inch deck will cut a two-acre lot (that takes into account that the house, driveway, outbuildings and various landscape features are taking up some of that space). Use a mower with a larger deck to cut anything over two acres. But here’s the caveat. That entry-level ZTR mower (3200, say) with a 42-inch deck will wear out faster and need more maintenance than a mower with a 50-inch deck, a heavier frame, larger engine and higher quality transmissions, and thicker deck with more robust blade spindles, costing 4500.
In the simplest possible terms, you can cut a smaller area with a larger mower and expect more longevity out of the machine (not to mention a nicer mowing experience) or you can cut a larger area with a smaller machine and encounter more maintenance and a mowing experience that will be, we might say, a bit more rugged.
But there are still other factors to consider, in selecting a mower other than deck size and your budget. Larger mowers take more space in a garage or outbuilding. And a mower with a 50-inch or even 60-inch deck, as useful as it might be in getting the job done more quickly, may not fit through a fence’s gate, and it might be more difficult to maneuver in tight spots without creating scalp marks on the lawn from a lot of close-quarter pivoting.
Carefully consider all these factors when shopping for a mower: your budget, maintenance and whether you will perform that work yourself, mowing speed and time, maneuverability and trimming in tight areas, the importance that you place on your comfort while mowing, cut quality, longevity, storage, and access to the landscape.
How We Select and Test
There’s only one way to test a mower, and that’s to cut grass with it. But we also do more than mow.
We raise and lower the deck and adjust the seat. We look at service point access (the air filter, the spark plug, and the oil filter) and how easy it is to remove the deck. We mow approximately an acre with each mower, considering cut and mulching quality while running uphill, downhill, across washboard, and along sidehills. (On sidehills, we’ll mow surfaces pitched up to approximately 20 degrees; manufacturers generally recommend not going steeper than 10 degrees, but we like to be thorough.) We evaluate power and speed relative to cut quality—we investigate whether the mower delivers a decent cut mowing at full speed. When mowing in damp conditions, we look at whether the mower’s tires accumulate grass and how effectively it discharges moist clippings. Finally, we test maneuverability (these machines are, generally, very nimble) and how readily they come to a stop when you back off the lap bar control levers.
We tested the Craftsman electric riding lawnmower — Our honest review
New York Post may be compensated and/or receive an affiliate commission if you buy through our links.
As a recent suburban transplant from NYC, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my years of city living had not prepared me for the realities of homeownership – more specifically, lawn care.
No longer could I rely on my superintendent to keep the grounds neat and tidy; instead, I found myself facing nearly an acre of unruly grass that demanded constant attention. In my search for a simple solution, I found myself gravitating towards a mower of the riding type. On top of that, I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with gas cans and spark plugs and oil changes – I have enough of that on the car I also had to acquire with this move.
On: product reviews
We put 1,289 worth of Drunk Elephant products to the test: Our brand review, plus an interview with the founder
That’s when I landed on the Craftsman 56V MAX 42-Inch Battery-Powered Brushless Riding Mower, and I must say, it has been a game-changer.
OK, full disclosure, I have been a loyal Craftsman man for as long as I can remember. I have memories of my dad getting the Craftsman tools he needed from Sears and commenting he wouldn’t go with any other brand due to their incredible warranty and, well, craftsmanship.
Do I currently have my grandfather’s steel Craftsman toolbox housing the various sets of Craftsman tools my father passed down to me nestled by my tool bench in the garage? Why, yes, yes, I do.
How to choose an electric lawn mower
Craftsman 56V MAX Battery-Powered Brushless Riding Mower, 4,899
When choosing an electric mower, it’s important to consider factors such as the size of your lawn, the power of the motor, the length of the battery life, and the ease of maintenance. The Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower ticks all these boxes for me, making it an attractive option for those who want a reliable and efficient lawn mower for an average-sized lawn.
Depending on where you live, the average lawn size in America ranges from.25 acres to.75 acres, with Angi highlighting data from the U.S. Census Bureau that states the average lot size for a new single-family was at a record low of 13,896 square feet in 2020. If you are on the higher end of the range, maybe an electric lawnmower isn’t the best lawnmower for you quite yet.
First, decide whether you want a corded or cordless model. Corded mowers require an electrical outlet and may limit your range of motion, while cordless models offer greater flexibility but may have shorter battery life.
Next, consider the size of your yard and choose a mower with an appropriate cutting width and battery capacity. Residential lawnmowers cutting widths typically range from as short as 21 inches to as large as 54 inches, with the average falling between 30 inches and 42 inches.
Finally, look for features that are important to you, such as adjustable cutting height, bagging or mulching capabilities, and ease of maneuverability. Personally, I was less concerned with bagging while looking because I don’t need to bag grass clippings. However, I soon realized how convenient having that option would be when I want to mow some overgrown areas or during the fall for leaf collection.
How much is an electric lawn mower?
The price of an electric lawn mower varies depending on the model and features. Corded models are generally less expensive, with starting as low as 100 up to 300. Cordless models can range from 200 to 500 or more, depending on battery capacity and other features. Premium models, like the Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower, may cost upwards of 3,000. Professional models can run you well over 10,000.
How long does an electric lawn mower charge last?
The battery life of an electric lawn mower depends on the capacity of the battery and the demands of the cutting job. The Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower boasts a 5.0 Ah battery that can last up to 90 minutes on a single charge. This is plenty of time to mow my entire.75-acre yard, with enough juice left over for some light trimming.
The size and density of your yard play a key role in the efficiency of your battery. If your yard is full of dense, long grass, or it has lots of areas requiring maneuvering, the battery will run on the shorter side of the range advertised. If your lawn is flat and relatively easy on your mower, your battery will likely make it to the maximum shown.
The higher the voltage, the longer the battery life. It’s fairly obvious the Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower boasts a 56-volt battery, which falls well within the standard range.
How to clean an electric lawn mower
To clean an electric lawn mower, first, make sure it is turned off, and the battery is removed if possible. The Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower battery does not come out. Then, use a brush and/or air compressor to remove any clippings or debris from the underside of the deck. Next, wipe down the mower with a damp cloth, being careful not to get any electrical components wet. Finally, if you took it out, replace the battery and store the mower in a dry, protected area.
I have been using the Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower for several months now, and I must say, it has exceeded my expectations. The mower cuts well at every setting, from the lowest height of 1 inch for a clean, golf course-style lawn to the highest height of 4 inches for more lush terrain.
The length settings are set in quarter-inch increments and can be adjusted quickly and easily with the lever located directly beside the seat on the right side of the body of the mower. This makes customizing the length for different parts of my lawn quite easy. So far, this sounds like any other riding lawnmower, right?
Well, it’s what it sounds like that really sets it apart – or, I should say, the lack thereof. When this Craftsman 56V MAX battery-powered brushless riding mower isn’t in mow mode, it’s silent.
No, no, I don’t mean quiet, I mean zero sound. One of the starkest differences is its complete lack of sound when powered on. Sometimes I don’t know if I turned it on or not. If I miss the two beeps indicating it’s on, I might never know.
To turn it on, the break must be depressed, which is easy to forget, given the aforementioned silence upon ignition. However, it doesn’t stay silent forever. Once those blades get going, we’re up and running, and I would say the cutting force feels comparable to that of a gas-powered motor.
That said, the noise level is less than that of its gassed-up counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s loud, but not like you expect a lawnmower to be. My decibel levels are more than fine with my noise-canceling Airpods at mid-volume.
The battery life is impressive, lasting for the entirety of my.75-acre yard with power to spare. And because it’s cordless, I have the freedom to roam without worrying about getting tangled up or limited by cord length.
However, I must mention that in areas of dense, weedy grass, the mower can slow down or even shut off, requiring some extra maneuvering to get through. Additionally, the propel pedal (it’s not a “gas” pedal) and the reverse pedal are very sensitive, so it’s easy to take off pretty quickly if you press a little too hard too fast.
The blades cut the lawn just like I would expect. Rarely did I have to visit a spot twice, and those few times were when I had let the grass get exceedingly long for the purposes of this review. On my normal weekly mowing schedule, I never saw rouge rough spots in need of another run.
Craftsman 56V MAX Battery-Powered Brushless Riding Mower Pros and Cons
- Easy to use and maintain
- Widely adjustable cutting height
- Blade width is generous
- Tight turning radius
- Battery life up to 90 minutes
- Fast charging time of 2 hours
- Price comparable to gas mowers the same size
- Suitable for average suburban-sized lawns
- Somewhat tight legroom across the knees
- Not a zero turn
- Motor can slow down mowing tall, dense, weedy areas
- Very sensitive acceleration and deceleration until one gets comfortable with it