Best Lawn Tractor Mower For Most People
Do you want to mow 1 or 2 or even 3 acres without breaking a sweat? Yes? Then a lawn tractor is for you. There’s two types to choose from:
- Light-duty Lawn Tractor – Suited for mowing large lawns and light-duty attachments.
- Heavy-duty Garden Tractor – For mowing large lawns and heavier duty attachments to assist with garden/landscaping work.
The Best Riding Lawn Tractor Mower
1) Husqvarna YTH2042 42-Inch 540cc 20 HP Briggs Stratton Engine Lawn Tractor
The best lawn tractor mower for most people is the single cylinder 20 HP by Husqvarna.
It has a top speed of 5.2MPH, which means you could mow 2 acres in 75 minutes. And with its hydrostatic transmission, you won’t have to worry about stalling, a clutch or braking – it’s like a forklift in that you just release your foot from the pedal and it comes to a stop.
It has a heavy-duty cast iron front axle, and incorporates Husqvarna’s Air Induction technology, which helps lift the grass as it’s being cut (kinda like how when you’re getting your hair cut the barber pulls your hair between their fingers to clip).
The Best Garden Tractor Mower
1) Husqvarna YTH23V48 48-Inch 724cc 23 HP V-Twin Lawn Tractor
This mower is considered garden-duty because it has a 23 HP 2-cylinder engine, instead of just one cylinder.
With that extra strength you’ll be able to attach things like snow blades to clear your driveway even if it’s dense deep snow.
Check out the 33 second video below to see the snow blade attachment at work:
This Husqvarna has a 48-inch deck to further increase overall lawn mowing speed over the light-duty above. All up it’s the same unit as the light-duty above just that for an additional few hundred dollars you’re getting a bigger engine and 6-inch wider cut width. So if you want that extra power and speed, this is a great riding lawn tractor to look at.
How to Choose Between Tractor Sizes
The garden tractors have 2-cylinder OHV engines whereas the lawn tractors have single cylinders so if you want access to a wide-range of attachments you’ll want the garden-duty. The lawn-duty is only meant for light attachments like a trailer to put branches in or tow materials across your property.
In general, the lawn tractors are 1500 and the garden tractors 2000 and up. So your budget will play a big part in your decision. If you want to get attachments and not be limited, a garden tractor is your best bet.
You may also want to check out the rear-engine riding mowers if you’re looking for the most affordable option.
Garden tractors have bigger wheels and more rigid axles – they can handle hard terrain like bumps and slopes. This is not to say the lawn tractor is bad, cause it’s not. Both will easily handle most terrain with ease.
Sources and Useful Links
Husqvarna garden tractor product page was used to review the riding lawn tractor and riding garden tractor features and engine types.
Flow chart buying page from this website was used to obtain classes of riding tractor to present the best of each type.
PED.com has a great overview of the different tractors available. It was my starting point.
Check out the zero turn mowers page if speed and agility are your main buying factors.
About your guide: Jamey Kramar is a certified Lawn Care Manager (NALP) and a Mechanical Engineer by trade. He has been writing about outdoor power equipment for 11 years and has been quoted in NYTimes, Popular Mechanics, HowStuffWorks, iFixit, Realtor.com, and more. He spends his spare time disassembling things and also building an off-grid cabin at his 200-acre property.
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.
The Lawn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Buy the Right Type of Lawn Mower
Not all yards are the same, and not all mowers are either.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: May 5, 2022
Nothing kills the joy of a sunny day like the wrong type of lawn mower. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. The right type of lawn mower can make cutting your lawn a pleasure.
If you know you need a new lawn mower, but aren’t sure how much mower you need or what features you might want, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Use this guide to select the right machine, and happy mowing.
Step 1: Walk or Ride?
The first step is the choice between two basic types of lawn mowers: riding mower and a walk-behind. Any more ground to cover than a 1/4 acre, you’ll want to ride if for no other reason than to get the lawn done faster.
First, make an approximation of your mowing surface. Simply walk off large rectangles. counting your steps as you go. Add up the areas of the rectangles. No need to get too precise here. An average man’s stride is about 30 inches and a woman’s stride is about 26 inches, or measure your own stride for the most accurate measurement.
An acre is 43,560 square feet, so one-fourth acre is 10,890 square feet. Anything above that threshold, and you’ll likely want to get a riding mower. In fact, the vast majority of people wouldn’t dream of cutting a ¼ acre of grass with a 22-inch walk mower, but we have to start somewhere. So think realistically about how much time you have to mow your lawn on a busy weekend and select your equipment accordingly.
For lawns from ¼ of an acre to 2 acres. you’ll most likely be most comfortable with a rear-engine riding mowers, light-duty lawn tractors, and residential-duty zero-turn mowers. Anything more than two acres and you’ll want a commercial-duty zero turn mower.
Step 2: Selecting Your Features
Once you’ve selected whether you ride or walk, there are two factors that will drive your purchase—your budget and your comfort. The more you spend on a mower, the more durable, versatile, intuitive, and probably, the quicker you’ll get the job done. The opposite is also true.
It doesn’t make as much difference with a small, simple yard. But the larger and more complex the yard, the more thought you need to give to selecting mower features.
We’ll begin with walk mowers. one of the most versatile cutting machines out there.
Walk mowers are somewhat like cars in that they are available with a wide range of options, all of which increase cost and complexity. Look carefully at the product’s hang tag and talk to the sales staff to get a better sense of whether the features are useful to you.
Let’s break down all the major components and what lawnmowers use them:
Look it at this way: You can push a mower, or the mower can push itself, in which case it’s either a front-drive or a rear-drive mower (we’ll get to all-wheel drive in a moment). A self-propelled mower makes your life a lot easier when mowing hills, or when you mow and bag. There’s nothing like pushing a fully loaded mower uphill to make you appreciate a self-propelled machine.
The Lawn and the Short of it
Front-wheel drive is best for level ground with a lot of obstacles. This allows you to push down on the handle, reducing traction on the front wheels and pivot into and out of corners.
Rear-wheel drive works best for for uphill mowing and sidehill mowing. Rear wheel drive works better here because when you push down on the handle going up a hill, the front tires will not lose traction.
Yes, a handful of mowers are all-wheel drive. built for homeowners who cut across washboard surfaces, sidehill mowing, steep uphill and downhill mowing that makes good of AWD. We were dubious when these mowers were introduced several years ago, but when we cut some very rough ground, we were surprised at how much easier AWD made things.
In this section, we’re talking about what the machines actually does with the grass. Mowers can mulch clippings (repeatedly cut and recut them), discharge them to the side or rear, or bag them.
Two-function is a mower that mulches and bags. Mulching is healthier for the lawn in that it returns nitrogen-rich grass clippings into the ground, but it doesn’t work particularly well for tall-grass conditions in the spring and early summer or early fall when the lawn bounces back from summer stress.
A three-function machine bags, mulches, and side discharges. Side discharging is useful for utility mowing (mowing areas with tall weeds and non-turf grasses). It also helps if the lawn gets away from you and you need to set the mower deck to its full height and take the grass down in stages.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of mower features. These are the more common things you’ll find on your average mower’s spec list:
Deck levers come in groupings of one, two, or four. One lever is the most convenient, but it comes with a lot of linkage that adds weight and that you have to keep lubricated if you want it to work well. Two levers are a good compromise between one and four levers. Yes, these mowers have a bit more linkage than a four-lever mower, but it’s easier to get the height right. Four levers is the standard, time-tested design.
The only way to get a sense of whether you’ll like the ground speed control is to actually get your hands on a mower at a dealership, hardware store, or home center.
The control may be integral with the handle. The harder you press forward on the drive control in the handle, the faster the mower goes. Or it may be a separate lever or even a bail (a metal rod). Squeeze the lever to increase ground speed or to activate the mower’s drive system for fixed-speed mowers.
Self-propelled mowers are equipped with three types of transmissions. Hydrostatic is the most expensive and the smoothest operating. It drives hydraulic fluid past an impeller that spins an output shaft, which controls ground speed. This is your smoothest running and most reliable transmission, but it’s also the most expensive.
The typical front or rear drive walk mower uses some form of belt-and-pulley arrangement to direct power from the engine’s output shaft to a gear box on a front or rear axle (or a gear at the wheel). There are several variations of this design, but all work well and are reasonably easy to maintain and repair.
Make Your Lawn Last
Gas engines sizes run from 140 cc to 190 cc. Larger engines produce more torque and are less likely to stall in tall grass at the beginning and end of the cutting season. A larger engine also helps drive self-propelled mowers more effectively uphill.
From least-expensive to most-expensive, mower engines may be traditional side valve design, overhead valve, or overhead cam. expensive engines provide increased durability, reduced noise, and less oil consumption.
The rear wheel size of a walk mower may be larger than the diameter of the front wheels. The wheels’ increased diameter helps it more easily navigate ruts and rough ground.
Ball bearing wheels are easier to push than those with bushing-type wheels. The larger your yard, the more difficult its terrain, or if you’re hauling around a bag of clippings or clippings mixed with mulched leaves, the more you want this option.
A blade-brake clutch is a feature found on high-end walk mowers. It allows you to completely release the operator control handle without stopping the engine. That way, you can pause your mowing, move whatever obstacle out of your way and continue mowing without having to restart the engine.
A range of unusual features have been introduced in the last several years to make mowing easier or the whole mowing experience better.
Some engines require no oil change. like the small gas engines made by Briggs Stratton. The feature is known as “Just Check and Add.” You just add oil periodically to replace the small amount of oil that’s slowly vaporized in the combustion process.
Need a Recommendation?
Toro’s innovations have created mowers that have power-assisted reverse and a vertical-storage design that lets you fold the handle down, tip the mower back, and store it vertically against the wall.
Front caster wheels are great for elaborately-landscaped yards that require a lot of pivoting. Front caster wheels don’t track particularly well on bumpy ground or mowing sidehills. Mowox mowers have replaced dual front casters with a single front caster wheel, perhaps the most maneuverable form of mower you can get. But Cub Cadet has been among the mower manufacturers that pioneered the use of front caster wheels.
Wash-out fittings enable you to hook up a garden hose to wash accumulated grass clippings from under the deck. A clean deck lasts longer because accumulated grass holds moisture and lawn chemical residue, which causes deck corrosion. Our tests show that these fittings do help considerably, but that you still need some under-deck scraping with a putty knife.
Wide-cut mowers with decks that range from 28 to 33 inches are a fast cutting alternative to a 22-inch mower. These are still comparatively rare products made by Cub Cadet, Toro, Troy-Bilt, and Craftsman.
Finally, electric walk mowers are a perfect fit if you have a small yard (under 5,000 square feet of mowing surface) and one that’s quite manicured. However, there are three important things to keep in mind:
- Cordless electric mowers tend to have smaller decks (19 and 20-inch sizes are the most common, though a few have 21-inch decks). That means it takes you longer to mow.
- They tend to be less powerful than their gas engine counterparts. They can struggle with tall grass, wet grass, and thick grass with leaves. For intermediate mowing conditions, cordless mowers do just fine.
- The larger the lawn, the more batteries you need. Manufacturers make recommendations about run time, but that’s very difficult to do accurately. It varies widely depending on your mowing habits and the height or thickness of the grass. We recommend you buy extra batteries so that you’re not compelled to rush the cut.
If you can afford it, a riding mower is the way to go. Don’t get us wrong, we love walk mowers (goodness knows, we’ve used enough of them over the years here). But for speed and efficiency, there’s simply no comparison with a riding mower when you’re talking a large lawn.
When looking at riding mowers, you’ll likely come across three versions—lawn tractor, rear-engine riding mower, and a zero-turn mower. Let’s break them done one by one:
Many people start out with a lawn tractor. With a steering wheel and a front-mounted engine, these look and feel familiar. Engine size range from 18-25 HP and most come with a single cylinder with step-up models having a V twin. Some fancier models also feature engines with electronic fuel injection.
When it comes to transmissions, less expensive models tend to be lever-operated gear transmissions. But a step-up from there comes pedal hydrostatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) operated by a shift-on-the-go hand lever. The CVT is an automatic transmission powered by pulley drive to a sealed and lubricated gear case. You know you’re spending serious money if you’re considering a more expensive tractor with a heavy-duty foot pedal hydrostatic transmission.
Finally, how much can it cut? Well, much more than a push mower. Deck widths range from 42 inches to 54 inches. To know what size you need, divide the mower deck size by 12 to get an approximation of the acreage the mower can handle. So residential-duty a mower with a 54-inch deck can mow up to 4.5 acres. That’s a lot of grass and would result in significant wear and tear on a residential-grade mower in the course of the season. Still, it could do it.
These kind of mowers range anywhere from 1,300 to 3,000.
Rear-Engine Riding Mower
Many people with larger lawns too big for a walk mower but too small for a tractor or a zero turn should go with a rear-engine riding mower. The specifications below apply to deck under the operator’s position and not rear-engine residential/commercial mowers with the deck in front of the operator.
Need a Recommendation?
Most rear-engine mowers a single-cylinder engine ranging in size from 344 to 38 cc, estimated at 10 to 11 HP. The transmission is usually a CVT operated by a shift-on-the-go hand lever. Snapper’s famous rear-engine riding mower uses the company’s time-tested disc drive transmission, but a few rear-engine riders are offered with a hydrostatic transmission.
Deck sizes stretch anywhere from 30 to 33 inches, and operators use a manual hand lever for deck adjustment and deck engagement. That small cutting size also means a smaller price tag, ranging from 1,200 to 2,400.
In the last twenty years or so, zero-turn mowers have proved their worth to homeowners and landscape contractors alike. Their design enables forward speed and steering by means of dual hydrostatic transmissions at the rear wheels, each of which is controlled by a lap bar in front of the seat.
A pulley off the engine spins the impellers on the dual hydrostatic transmissions that power the rear wheels. When you move one of the lap bars farther forward than its neighbor, it acts as a throttle, allowing more hydraulic fluid to flow to the transmission at that wheel. This causes wheel to turn more rapidly than the opposite wheel, allowing you turn corners or pivot.
Engine size can range from 452 cc up to 700 or more, with power estimated from 12 HP to 25 HP. This is powered by either a single cylinder or commercial-duty V twin, and transmissions are either hydrostatic or commercial-duty hydrostatic.
With deck sizes ranging from 32 inches to 60 inches, these mowers cut the most grass in the least amount of time. The decks are either stamped or heavy-duty fabricated, deck adjustment uses a manual hand lever or foot pedal, and deck engagement uses a manual hand lever or an electric PTO
All that grass-cutting power comes with a price, usually ranging between 1,200 to 6,000. But now, you can knock some dollars off thanks to 2023 Memorial Day sales.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.
Which Lawn Tractor is Best for Hills?
Not all properties are level, which means most people have to mow on slight slopes or hills. While this might not be the first thought when looking to purchase a new mower, it should be. Not all mowers are created equal when it comes to mowing on slopes or hills and safety should be a priority in those situations. Continue reading for tips, insights, and mower recommendations for mowing hills.
How to choose the best lawn tractor for hills
The first option that comes to mind when needing to mow a slope or hill is usually a push mower. While push mowers are the best options in some situations, that may not always be the case. The versatility of a John Deere lawn tractor or residential mower makes them the best mowers for hills. John Deere lawn tractors and residential mowers are built with durability in mind and can cover different terrain while maintaining a clean, even cut to keep your lawn looking its best.
Tips for operating a riding mower on a hill
When operating a riding mower on a hillside or slope, it is important to make sure you do so safely. Here are a few tips for making sure you are safe while mowing a hill or slope.
- Only mow when the grass is completely dry.
- Turn around or change directions at the top or bottom of the hill where the ground is flat.
- Operate at a slower speed for better traction and response time.
- Mow vertically, not horizontally, to avoid rolling over.
- Ensure the area is cleared from toys, rocks, wires, and other obstacles, so it doesn’t get thrown by mower blades.
- Add weights to the front of the lawn tractor.
- Do not stop in the middle of the hill.
Best riding mowers for hills
John Deere offers a full lineup of lawn and garden tractors to help you tackle the hills on your property. The models within the X300 Series, X500 Series, and X700 Series mowers offer power and stability to get the job done. Some specific model recommendations include:
The larger wheels and tires on the John Deere X380 make it a great choice for varied terrains, including slopes. With a 54-in. Accel Deep™ mower deck and 22 HP engine, the X380 is designed with maneuverability in mind. This model is for homeowners that mow up to 3.5 acres and is built to handle light-to-moderate duty tasks around the yard.
The John Deere X570 model comes with heavy-duty tires and a hydrostatic transaxle with traction assist, both of which provide safety and durability for mowing slopes. The X570 is perfect for helping you tackle various landscaping jobs with a steel frame, low-effort steering, and 24 HP engine.
When it comes to steeper mowing jobs, the John Deere X739 lineup reigns supreme with four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, electronic fuel injection, and heavy-duty tires. All of these features, along with 25.5 HP make the X739 mower a fit for some of the steepest slopes. With the addition of heavy-duty attachments, the John Deere X739 makes landscaping jobs throughout the year a breeze.
Where can I find riding mowers for hills around me?
At Koenig Equipment, our priority is making sure you have the right mower that works best for you and your terrain to ensure you can get the job done, all while being safe. Our trained sales staff will work with you to understand your needs and the terrain of your property to help you select the best mower for any slopes or hills you mow. Visit your local Koenig Equipment to learn more about the mowers we have to offer to help you mow your hills today!