Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Hills and 2 to Avoid
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My lawn care business has recently acquired a new client who’s commissioned us for a few lawn care services, including lawn fertilization, weed control, and routine lawn mowing.
Careful inspection of his sprawling lawn indicates that the cost of lawn care services will be expensive due to the massive size of the lawn and its rough, hilly terrain.
Since a push lawn mower isn’t going to cut it, I’m going to have to use a specialized riding lawn mower for hills for this job.
Riding lawn mowers come in different deck sizes and a variety of great features. This includes options like rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive systems, excellent traction, soft-touch steering, and robust engines such as a Briggs Stratton engine. Most riding lawn mowers do a remarkable job at leaving a cut lawn looking like velvet.
But that doesn’t mean that all riding lawn mowers are suited to every yard and its owner. Some riding mowers are designed to handle extreme mowing conditions like tall grass, wet grass, and overgrown grass. Others work better for mowing grass on slopy and/or bumpy terrain.
I tested over 20 riding lawn mowers for hills to find out how they’d perform on slopes in terms of cutting ability, finish quality, and operator comfort. From all my research, here are the 10 best riding lawn mowers for hills.
In a rush? These are the ones I recommend. But keep reading if you want more info on each.
- Best Riding Mower for Hills:Husqvarna Riding Mowers for Hills
- Best Battery-Powered Mower for Hills:Ryobi Electric Riding Lawnmower
- Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills:Toro Zero-Turn Mower
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The Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills
John Deere X500 Select Series
John Deere is a leading American manufacturer of agricultural machinery, forestry machinery, lawn care equipment, and a wide range of riding mowers.
Of all the John Deere riding lawn mowers, the X500 Select Series is the best. Why you ask? Well, for starters, the Series is available in several different deck sizes, including 48 inches and 58 inches.
Further, the X500 Series boast a 24 HP (17.9 kW) iTorque power system, and an FS730V engine. They also feature a V-twin air-cooled design that offers unmatched power and performance.
Regarding slopes, the X500 Select Series can climb steep inclines without any hiccups, making them one of the best riding lawn mowers for hills.
The John Deere X500 mower comes with 24×9.5-12 turf tires, which provide superior traction on rough and uneven terrain. They are equipped with a K72 hydrostatic transmission integrated with a transaxle.
For peace of mind, they are backed by a 4-year/500-hour bumper-to-bumper warranty.
The Exmark Quest E-Series mowers are in a league of their own and come loaded with innovative features. They allow you to mow at a speed of 2.8 acres per hour, and travel at 7 mph.
Further, the Quest series riding lawn mowers feature zero-turn functionality. This means the turning radius is effectively zero.
Exmark lawn mowers are also more fuel efficient so you won’t use much gas to cut your lawn. The Exmark Quest E-Series feature floating decks that are connected to the frame through a suspension system and respond well to bumps and inconsistencies on any terrain.
But that’s not all – the Exmark Quest mowers can be ordered in 42-inch and 50-inch cutting decks and are powered by a robust 22-horsepower Kohler engine.
In terms of fuel tank capacity, the Exmark Quest lawn mower come with a large 3-gallon tank, so you won’t have to waste time filling up frequently.
Adding to this, the Exmark Quest Series are equipped with commercial-grade tires that provide increased traction and superior handling.
These riding lawn mowers from Exmark come with two Hydro-Gear ZT-2100 hydrostatic transmissions and operator presence controls.
The Bad Boy Maverick riding lawn mower for hills is billed as the first commercial-grade mower with an integrated drive system and features the company’s patented EZ-ride system.
It features a ton of improvements over its predecessor that collectively make for a comfortable ride and cleaner cut lawn.
These improvements include new front forks and a plush padded seat that make long mowing rides a joy. The Bay Boy Maverick riding lawn mower is equipped with a Hydro-Gear 3200 Series integrated drive system and rests sturdily on a heavy-duty, all-steel, all-welded frame.
It comes with an independent front and rear suspension system that makes it easy to cut on uneven terrain.
The Bad Boy Maverick lawn mower is powered by one of three engines:
- Kohler Confidant ZT740 747cc – 25hp
- Kawasaki FS730 726cc – 24hp, or
- Briggs CXI27 810cc – 27hp.
In addition to all that, it comes with maintenance-free spindles and a deck lift pedal complete with a deck dial adjustment system. For a residential riding lawn mower for hills that showcases commercial-grade capabilities, the Bad Boy mower is hard to beat.
Cub Cadet offers a massive range of riding lawn mowers. Most models do a remarkable job of cutting grass on hills and slopy terrain.
The Cub Cadet mowers feature a one-stacked deck that’s made from stamped and fabricated material. They are built the latest electronic fuel-injected technology (EFI), which reduces fuel use by over 25 percent.
Cub Cadet lawn mowers are built for both great performance and total comfort and come with adjustable seating, comfort-grip steering, and excellent ergonomics.
They boast automotive-grade corrosion resistance that protects the machines against wear and tear, and responsive handling.
Most, if not all, Cub Cadet riding lawn mowers are powered by award-worthy KOHLER 7000 Series twin-cylinder engines, so you can expect nothing less than superior performance on the job site.
They are backed by a 3-year/no-hour limit warranty against any manufacturer defects.
Husqvarna is another big name in the lawn and garden tool space and they offer a wide range of mowers. Their gas-powered models are equipped with great features, and some even come with 20-inch, heavy-duty tires and an automatic transmission system.
The Husqvarna TS 354XD riding lawn mower boasts power-packed performance and unbeatable capabilities in its class.
It’s tucked away neatly in a heavy-duty frame that’s made from 11-gauge bolted steel, topped with paint to prevent rust. The hood of the Husqvarna TS 354XD is also crated with solid steel, which greatly reduces the paint fade compared to plastic.
Unlike most other models in this segment, the Husqvarna TS 354XD lawn mower for hills is fitted with an oversized, extra-thick deluxe steering wheel. It features a soft touch inner surface for better ergonomics.
Adding to its long list of features is a handy cruise control system, which allows the user to maintain a consistent speed over uneven and hilly terrain. There’s also a rugged brush guard located at the front and an easy-access fuel cap, so you don’t have to open the engine hood to fuel up.
The Husqvarna TS 354XD lawn mower is factory-fitted with bright LED headlights that allow you to operate the machine in low-light conditions.
It comes with a ClearCut fabricated cutting deck with reinforced steel for maximum durability and a pressure-lubricated, two-cylinder Kawasaki engine with an oil pump and oil filter.
When it comes to comfort, the Husqvarna TS 354XD lawn mower doesn’t disappoint with a high back seat and armrests for added support when mowing.
Other noteworthy features of the Husqvarna TS 354XD riding lawn mower include a deluxe gauge package that includes an ammeter and hour meter gauges and an electronic locking differential.
My neighbor recently invested in a Craftsman lawn mower and after using it a couple of times, I can vouch for its excellent performance and durability. Craftsman lawn mowers are built tough, highly affordable, and do not scrimp on key features.
The Craftsman TURNTIGHT riding lawn mower is one of the company’s top-selling models and provides a 42-inch cutting path. It is equipped with a 19.5 HP KOHLER, single-cylinder engine, and a foot pedal hydrostatic transmission for smooth riding.
The TurnTight lawn mower by Craftsman is engineered for optimized cuts, thanks to its 42-inch stamped steel deck that allows users to cut up to 1-1/2 acres of lawn.
The Craftsman TurnTight comes with a soft-touch steering wheel and a cut-and-sew high back seat that provides superior comfort. It also features shock-absorbing front-end protection with a brush guard to protect the machine against dents and scratches.
The Craftsman TurnTight lawn mower comes with a 3-gallon fuel tank and offers 12 mowing heights to choose from. It is backed by an impressive 3-year warranty against any manufacturer defects.
Remington offers two riding lawn mower models to choose from – a 38-inch riding mower and a 42-inch lawn tractor, both of which come with similar features like bagging and mulching capabilities.
The Remington 42-inch riding lawn tractor is fitted with a CVT – Continous Variable Transmission (aka automatic transmission) so you just have to pedal and go.
It features a powerful 420cc Remington engine and easy toolless deck removal. The 42-inch Remington riding lawn mower also features a deck wash and can be assembled in a few minutes.
The 38-inch Remington mower comes with user-friendly features such as a cup holder and bright LED headlights. It is equipped with a 7-speed transmission and is powered by a Remington 420cc engine.
Both the Remington 38-inch and 42-inch mowers are backed by a 2-year warranty against any manufacturer defects.
Troy-Bilt Riding Lawn Mower for Hills
Troy-Bilt has a sizeable range of mowers for hills, but the Pony 42-inch hits the sweet spot. If you have a larger lawn, you can step it up a few notches to the 46-inch Bronco, which comes with a best-in-class 541cc Kohler engine.
The Troy-Bilt Pony 42 isn’t just a showstopper, it is also loaded with several premium features such as a rugged and reliable 42-inch steel deck.
It is one of the few riding lawn mowers that comes with a step-through frame – making it easy for users of all heights to get on and off the machine.
The Troy-Bilt Pony 42 lawn mower for hills is equipped with a robust 500cc Briggs Stratton engine that is engineered to deliver plenty of power, making it easy to tackle overgrown grass.
It features the company’s patented 7-speed Shift-on-the-Go transmission, which adjusts the speed automatically according to your needs.
The Pony 42 provides an 18-inch turning radius, allowing you to easily get around obstacles in your lawn. It is fitted with a dash panel control and is protected by a limited manufacturer warranty.
There are very few electric models available in the riding lawnmower segment such as the Ryobi battery-powered model. It showcases a sleek footprint and offers up to 2.5 hours of runtime/up to 2.5 acres per charge.
The Ryobi battery-powered mower is a low-maintenance model, given that there are no belts, spark plugs. filters or gas fill-ups to deal with. It is equipped with 3 powerful brushless motors that collectively deliver gas-like power.
Adding to this, the Ryobi electric riding mower comes with cruise control and doesn’t do much more than whisper during operation. It is a multifaceted mower, in that it can mulch, discharge and bag, and comes with an adjustable 12-position manual deck.
Even though the Ryobi is a battery-operated mower, it can travel pretty quickly at 7 mph and provides a 38-inch cutting swath. This electric riding mower for hills comes with a 3-year manufacturer warranty.
Zero-turn mowers are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners, and Toro offers a wide range of models. Toro zero-turn mowers are a great choice for hilly terrain, owing to the integrated MyRide comfort system. Make sure you know the best practices on how to use a zero turn mower on hills and slopes.
This suspension system is equipped with a suspended, full-floating rear and front shock adjustable operator platform that absorbs the bumps so your body doesn’t have to.
Further, Toro zero-turn mowers come with IronForged decks that are crafted from 10-gauge high-strength steel and a reinforced deck shell. The deck shell is equipped with 6-inch spindles and belts that are made from bulletproof material.
Toro zero-turn mowers are designed for commercial use, yet are a perfect choice for residential lawns. The company offers a total of 33 riding mowers to choose from, so you can rest assured there’s a model to suit your needs.
These mowers are available in up to 60-inch cutting widths. The Toro Titan Max is a big bad and powerful zero-turn mower and is built with commercial grade components such as G-force generating hydros.
It comes with integrated LED light bars and rugged Hyper-styled two-toned aluminum alloy wheels. The Toro Titan zero-turn mower is fitted with a pro control damper system, storage areas, and cup holders.
Lawn Mower Horsepower: How to compare lawn mower engine power
Lawn mower horsepower – the power output of a gas powered lawn mower engine – is an important consideration when you are trying to choose the right lawn mower for your needs.
Understanding lawn mower engine power is not straightforward because manufacturers state engine power using different measures. These are usually horsepower, kilowatts, torque, or cubic capacity. They also publish power outputs based on different conditions. For example, power may be stated with the engine turning at various revolutions per minute, or ‘net’ or ‘gross’ according to whether with accessory parts are attached. When comparing lawn mower engine power, it is therefore vital to make sure you compare like with like. This article will show you how to do that.
- Lawn mower engine power for different conditions
- Lawn mower engine power: how to decipher what the manufacturers tell us
- Gross Horsepower vs Net Horsepower
- How much lawn mower horsepower do you need for your conditions?
- Cubic capacity
- What size lawn mower engine in cc do you need for your conditions?
- How much lawn mower power in KW do you need for your conditions?
- How much lawn mower torque do you need for your conditions?
- Comparison of lawn mower engine power
- Honda lawn mower engine power
- Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine power
- If you want to know what I think …
Power output matters because it directly affects the performance, fuel efficiency, and the ability of the mower to handle various lawn conditions.
Put simply, a more powerful engine delivers more power to the critical moving parts – the drive wheels, and the cutting blades (or just the blades on a push mower).
What this means in practice is that a lawn mower with more power capacity can work more effectively than a lower powered mower on tougher terrain, e.g., significantly sloping ground, or uneven, bumpy surfaces. A higher-powered mower can also cut through rough, overgrown lawns and longer grass more effectively than a lower powered mower.
You should bear in mind that the amount of power delivered to the wheels and blades is not only determined by the engine output. It also depends on how efficiently power is delivered to these parts, and that depends upon the quality and efficiency of the mower’s overall design and construction.
However, engine power is the most important factor you need to understand if you want to know if a mower will have the ‘muscle’ for the kinds of conditions you need it for.
As we noted in this post about how to choose a gas powered lawn mower, it is critical think about the size of the areas you need to mow and the kind of ground you’ll be mowing on when you’re determining how powerful your lawn mower needs to be. Consider the size of the lawn, whether you have slopes to deal with, rough or uneven ground, long or lush grass or grass that is mown infrequently. If you have any of those conditions, you’ll need more power.
Lawn mower engine power for different conditions
I’ve set out below under each measure of power some suggested levels of power that you will generally need for the following different kinds of conditions:
- Small gardens: less than 1/4 acre, flat ground, no major obstacles, regularly mown;
- Medium gardens: 1/4 to 1/2 acre, some slopes, some rougher terrain, less frequent mowing;
- Large gardens: than half an acre, obstacles, slopes, less frequent mowing
Note, these are broad guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Your conditions will likely be a bit different from the ‘typical’ conditions that I have used for these definitions, and more likely will fall somewhere on the scale between definitions.
You may also just want a machine with more or less power based on budget or personal preference. So you will need to adjust your thinking accordingly.
Lawn mower engine power: how to decipher what the manufacturers tell us
I’ll start this section by saying that I’m no mechanic or engineer. But I am long standing gardener and lawn mower user, and in this post I feature images from two of the lawn mowers I have owned:
- a John Deere self propelled mower powered by a 190cc 700 series Briggs and Stratton engine and
- a Honda HRU mower powered by a 163cc Honda GXC160 engine.
I also have a background as a practicing lawyer and a Master of Science degree. So, although I’m not technically qualified in mechanics or engineering, I’ve owned mowers powered by engines from the leading engine manufacturers, and I know how to research and sift information and data and how to present it in a way that is comprehensible to non-technicians.
And, when it comes to lawn mower engine power, that is pretty important.
This is because there are several different ways that power can be measure and expressed and it is hard to make comparisons across these different measures. It is especially so, because the lawn mower engine manufactures tend to present the data in different ways.
So with that said, let’s look at how you might see the power of lawn mower engines described when you are looking for the best gas powered lawn mower for your needs.
Horsepower (HP) is one of the units of measurement used to express the power output of a lawn mower engine (or any engine, for that matter). Historically, this is probably the most widely used way of expressing power output. It dates back to the 18 th Century, when James Watt invented the steam engine. He worked out the power output of draft horses in order to compare ‘horse power’ with the steam power of his new engine.
There are different standards of horsepower including imperial and metric versions which differ slightly. But when comparing manufacturers’ information about lawn mower horsepower, it is probably most important to differentiate between two particular types of horsepower: gross horsepower and net horsepower.
Gross Horsepower vs Net Horsepower
Gross horsepower is the total power produced by an engine without taking into account any losses of power due to associated parts, such as an exhaust system or an air filter.
In contrast, net horsepower refers to the actual power output of the engine available for work when accounting for those losses. Net horsepower is therefore often lower than gross horsepower because of the power losses caused by the extra parts.
For example, a lawn mower engine might have a gross horsepower of 6.5 HP, but if it were measured in net horsepower, it might be closer to 6.0 HP.
Net horsepower is a better indication of the power that will actually be available for driving the mower in practice.
How much lawn mower horsepower do you need for your conditions?
- Small lawn:
- A push mower would usually be okay for this type of lawn. These kinds of mowers are fairly lightweight and the engine does not drive the wheels. Therefore, an engine delivering between about 2.5 and 4.5 horsepower will suffice.
- A self-propelled mower with a 4.5 to 7 horsepower will probably do the job on a medium lawn.
- Here is when you are starting to get into the territory of riding mowers, zero-turn mowers and lawn tractors. You’ll need an increasing level of power with every acre you need to cut, e.g., 12 to 14 horsepower for 1/2 acre up to 24 horsepower plus for 3 acres or more.
Cubic capacity, also known as engine displacement, is measured in cubic centimetres (cc) or litres (L). It represents a measurement of the total volume of all the engine cylinders.
Technically, the cubic capacity of a cylinder is a measure of the total volume of air and fuel that is displaced by the piston as it rises up through the cylinder. If the engine has more that one cylinder (as riding mowers may do) the cubic capacity of both cylinders is added together to give the the total size of the engine.
Therefore, cubic capacity is not a measurement of engine power. Rather it indicates the size of the chambers central to the internal combustion process of the engine.
There is is no direct relationship between horsepower and cubic capacity because there may be other aspects of the way an engine is made that affect the power output. In other words, two engines with the same cubic capacity may produce different horsepower outputs.
But, all other things being equal, larger volume cylinders will produce more power. For example, a a 190cc lawn mower engine will likely have more power than 140cc one.
What size lawn mower engine in cc do you need for your conditions?
- Small lawns :
- A push mower with a 125cc to 140cc engine.
- A self-propelled mower with a 140cc to 200cc engine.
- You’ll need a riding mower, zero-turn mower and lawn tractor. The smallest of these have engines around 350cc, the largest have engines up to 750cc.
Kilowatts (KW) is another unit of measurement for power output, similar to horsepower. It is the accepted unit of power under the International System of Units. You will often see it referred to as the SI unit and tends to be used more by European or Asian lawn mower engine makers, such as Honda.
To convert horsepower to kilowatts and vice versa, you can use the following formula conversions:
Thus, an engine producing 5hp output, produces 5 x 0.7355 = 3.68 KW
This conversion might be necessary when comparing lawn mower engines from different manufacturers, as some may list power output in kilowatts and not in horsepower.
How much lawn mower power in KW do you need for your conditions?
- Small lawn:
- A push mower delivering between about 1.8KW and 3.3KW of power.
- A self-propelled mower with a 3.3KW to 5.2KW engine.
- Riding mowers, zero-turn mower or lawn tractor with increasing level of power with every acre you need to cut, e.g., 8KW to 10KW for 1/2 acre up to 18Kw to 20KW plus for 3 acres or more.
Torque is the rotational force that an engine produces and applies to the drive shaft. In cars, torque is an indicator of speed of acceleration. In lawn mower engines, it is also related to the spinning of the blades and, therefore, their effective cutting power.
Torque is usually measured in pound-feet (lb-ft) or Newton-metres (Nm). A higher torque value indicates a more powerful engine capable of working under tougher conditions, such as cutting through thick grass and tackling inclines.
For example, a lawn mower engine with a torque of 7.5 lb-ft might perform better in cutting long thick grass than one with a torque value of 6.0 lb-ft.
How much lawn mower torque do you need for your conditions?
- Small lawn:
- A push mower delivering between about 6.1 Nm (4.5 lb-ft) of torque.
- A self-propelled mower with a 7.46 Nm (5.5 lb-ft) to 10.00 Nm (7.36 lb-ft) of torque.
- Riding mowers, zero-turn mower or lawn tractor with increasing level of power with every acre you need to cut, e.g., 24 Nm (17.0 ft·lb) of torque at 2,500 rpm for 1/2 acre in a 350cc engine up to 50 Nm (36.88 ft-lb) plus for 3 acres or more in a 750cc engine.
Revolutions per minute are not a measure of power output. But they are relevant here because figures given by manufacturers for horsepower, Kws or torque are usually, but not always, published on the basis that the engine is running at a given number of rpms. Usually, but not always, this is 2,500 or 3,600 rpms.
Comparison of lawn mower engine power
With this information you should be better placed to make comparisons between the different engines that are used in the lawn mowers you might be interested in purchasing.
Obviously, it is useful to see the information side by side. But sometimes it is not possible to make direct comparisons because:
- Some manufactures use net horsepower and some use gross horsepower. There is no direct formula for conversion from one measure to the other because the difference depends upon the additional parts and accessories that give rise to a net horsepower measure;
- Manufactures don’t all publish the same information: some publish figures for horsepower and torque, some publish in KWs and torque, some publish cubic capacity and horsepower, and so on;
- Power ratings may be given in the same units but at different rpms.
Nevertheless, as a general guide, here is what a comparison of different types of engine might look like:
The two manufactures that make the vast majority of lawn mower engines are Honda and Briggs and Stratton. So below we’ll cover off the power ratings for some of their most popular engines
Honda lawn mower engine power
Here are the power ratings published by Honda for their popular lawn mower engines:
Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine power
Here are the power ratings published by Briggs and Stratton for some of their popular lawn mower engines:
Engine Data From Briggs and Stratton
If you want to know what I think …
Obviously, the engine is only one part of the package when you are thinking of buying a lawn mower. You can check out the following post to help you choose the gas power lawn mower that is right for you:
And, by the way, if you want to know my opinion, based on my own experience, the Honda engine beat the Briggs and Stratton engine hands down.
Compared to the John Deere, Briggs and Stratton powered mower that I owned, the Honda mower runs much more smoothly, starts more reliably and is much less noisy. And all though it has a smaller engine (163cc vs 190cc) the Honda feels no less powerful.
Unless I had a small flat lawn, I’d choose a Honda mower every time:
The Truth About Electric Lawn Mower Horsepower
For the first time in nearly 20 years, I finally have a real yard to maintain at our new house, after living in apartments since 2000 and then our yardless townhouse since 2007. I’ve been having both fun, and frustration, purchasing lawn and garden equipment! Who knew there would come a time where I’d get so annoyed with lawn mower manufacturers that I’d feel the need to write a blog about them. All I’ll say is that considering the overall topic of my website, cancer support, I guess it’s nice to have some first world problems for a change!
Why Is It So Hard To Shop For An Electric Lawn Mower?
When we moved into our new home in July of 2017, the grass was growing and a lawn mower was the last thing I had time to think about on top of all of the logistics of moving and hectic work schedules. I figured I’d try to be green and buy an electric mower, and save myself the trouble of oil changes and maintenance and all that. Our lot is big for our area at 8800 sq ft, but still relatively small in the grand scheme of things, so how are you supposed to know what you really need with an electric mower?
What makes it difficult to shop for electric lawn mowers is that they only advertise the voltage that the battery and electric motor run at, and not how much power they actually produce. These are two different things. How are you supposed to know the differences between how 20V, 40V, 56V, or even 80V electric lawn mowers perform, compared to what actual gas powered lawn mowers with anywhere from 3 to 6 horsepower will do? It’s apples to oranges, and then you get to the issue of endurance. This is a non-issue with gas mowers, as they typically have more than enough internal fuel capacity for even larger yards, and if you run out you can just refill the tank and keep going. With an electric mower, if you can’t finish mowing your yard on a single battery charge, you either need a very expensive additional battery, or have to wait an hour to recharge the first, which can be a major inconvenience.
Claims of gas-like power or torque of gas, enough battery capacity to cover 90% of yards, and run times of up to 60 minutes or whatever are all incredibly generic weasel words, and highly prone to interpretation and misinterpretation. I guess I thought in my mind that a middle of the range 40V electric lawn mower ought to be enough. Was it? Well, I think you might know where I’m going, but read on to find out!
A 4HP Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower BASELINE
In the 1990’s, Homelite was a very reputable company that produced a full range of highly rated gas powered lawn and garden equipment. They don’t have the full line of products that they used to, but they’re still around, and I still remember my Homelite HSB21P4C mower. That’s Homelite Super Bagger, 21, Self-Propelled, with a 4HP gas engine, and a blade Clutch that allowed you to just idle the engine with the blade stopped while you emptied the bag without having to restart the engine. Don’t ask me how the heck I remembered that, but when you’re a kid and can’t even drive yet, getting a new lawn mower is pretty exciting. It was a pretty darned good mower, too. I was worried that 4 HP might not be enough when there were 5 to 6.5 HP mowers out there, but it was never lacking for power. It propelled itself up hills with a heavy bag filled with clippings just fine, and although it may have bogged down at times in taller grass that might have been a bit wet or required you to slow down a tad, it always kept going and never quit. It had just the right amount of power, not too little and not too much. I guess this was what I was expecting out of my 40V electric lawn mower, which wasn’t even self-propelled, and so all motor energy would be going straight to the blades and none to the wheels. Surely this must be enough, right?
MY 40V/4AHr Electric Lawn Mower
My wife knew I was looking for an electric lawn mower as we were moving. She saw this one come up on Amazon Prime Day on July 11, 2017 for just 199 last year and told me about it. It looked good enough to me, and heck for only 199 why not? I took a leap of faith and just blindly hip-fired the mower and jumped on it, hoping it would be enough. Honestly, it’s a great 3 in 1 mower for the money (rear bagging, side discharge, or mulching), but unfortunately it just couldn’t get the job done.
One of the first things I noticed was that it would shut down in heavier grass, and I was constantly tilting it on its side trying to clear all of the clippings out from under the deck in mulching mode. It just couldn’t maintain the blade RPM needed and would stall all the time, and overall didn’t do the greatest job of mowing. Not only did it not have the power to really mulch well, but it also didn’t have the suction to stand our mix of grass and weeds up straight enough to get a clean cut either. It would always leave rows of grass and weeds that would just get knocked over more than cut, and I’d have to end up going at certain areas again from the opposite direction to get a better cut. Even more frustrating was the lack of manual power control combined with all of the irregularities of our lawn. It would leave itself in high power mode as I exited thick grass, and would drop itself down to normal power mode right as I was hitting thick stuff again, and couldn’t stay in sync. What it really needed was a High, Normal, and an Auto power control lever, but didn’t have one.
As far as yard size and capacity, our house is on an 8800 sq ft lot with a front and rear portion, about half of which is mowable lawn. In the late summer and into the fall when the grass wasn’t really growing that much, it would finish the whole yard on its 4 AHr battery with about 25% or less charge left. I knew this was pretty marginal, and I wondered how it would do in peak growing season or as the battery aged and lost a bit of its natural capacity? The answer came this past spring when the grass started growing like crazy. This forced the mower into its high power mode almost all the time, and then it could only do just over half of our yard on a single charge! I had to wait an hour for it to recharge before finishing the backyard, which was annoying. There’s a slot for a second battery right on the mower itself, but they really kill you on these batteries. 100 for another 40V 4AHr battery was a bit steep for me, especially when the mower was already under-powered and not mowing that well in the first place.
Overall I was pretty disappointed. Clearly I needed more mower, and decided to just cut my losses and get another one.
THe electric lawn mower Marketing Weasel Words
I love all of these claims about gas-like power and torque of gas for electric mowers, and how even the lower end gas mower manufacturers are playing stupid games by only advertising the peak gross torque of their gas engines. None of this tells you a damned thing, and since since when did the lawn mower market become so ridiculous with such deceptive marketing? Really? You can’t just be straightforward with freaking lawn mowers? What on earth??
Hey, I have torque of gas! If I apply my entire 260 pound weight to a bicycle pedal with a 1 foot long crank, I’m making 260 ft-lbs of torque. Sweet! So I can power a car, right? Ha! No, because how quickly can I spin that pedal while applying that force to get actual work done? Not that fast. Just like electric motors, human beings make peak torque at 0 RPM, and then our torque curves rapidly fall off from there. How much power can I really produce?
This isn’t rocket science. There’s a very simple formula for this.
Horsepower = (Torque x RPM) / 5252
Lets say I could still apply 10% of that torque at 100rpm. How much power am I making? Per the formula, (26 ft-lbs x 100 rpm) / 5252 = 0.5 HP!! Right. That’s not powering a car, or even a lawn mower. If I go all out in spinning class at the gym, I can hit a little over 1000 watts for a brief and glorious few completely unsustainable seconds, which is 1.34 horsepower (746 Watts = 1 horsepower). In that burst of glory, that comes out to about 54 ft-lbs of torque at 130 rpm (or 47 ft-lbs at 150 rpm). In reality, most professional cyclists can sustain an output of about 280-300 watts for hours on end, which is around 0.4 horsepower.
Gas torque doesn’t mean that you have gas horsepower. And what does gas-like power even mean? If an electric mower really had gas power they could just advertise the horsepower of the electric mower, right? But they don’t, so obviously they’re hiding something. If you hit a patch of thick grass at a given speed, you need a certain amount of power (not torque) to get through it. If your lawn mower doesn’t have enough power, it’s going to bog down or even stop, unless you reduce your power demands on the mower by slowing down, possibly to a crawl, such that the rate at which you’re demanding power to mow isn’t exceeding the amount of power your lawn mower can deliver.
Lawn Mowing Is An Endurance Race, Not A Drag Race
There’s an old saying that horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races. Well, that can be true for automobiles if we’re talking about runs down the drag strip, and getting a nice hole shot off the line thanks to a mountain of torque (and traction). Watch most any Tesla Model S P85D or higher at the drag strip destroying tons of exotic cars, and you’ll see what I mean. Maybe that’s what the lawn mower manufacturers want you to think, and are preying upon consumer ignorance here by advertising gross torque and not even net torque, and are constantly trying to hide the actual horsepower output! Torque alone tells you nothing.
But we’re not talking about drag racing here. We’re talking about steady state mowing with very small engines or motors running at their maximum operating speeds. Horsepower is what’s going to win this race and get your lawn mowed, without having to slow to a crawl to avoid your engine stalling. What happens to electric cars at higher speeds or from 50 km/h rolls? They make a ton of torque (and power) up to a given speed, but after that they just fall off like a rock and get walked all over by cars that don’t necessarily have more horsepower, but that maintain higher levels of horsepower to higher speeds, and thus can do more work at higher speeds. Horsepower is what you need for mowing your lawn, not gas-like power or torque of gas. That’s total BS!
How Much Horsepower Does This THing Really Have?
When it comes to actual mowing performance, all I can say about my 40V electric mower is that it’s nowhere close to my old Homelite 4 HP gas mower that I used growing up, which I guess is kinda what I was expecting or hoping for. To be fair, the manufacturer, which I’m not singling out here or even identifying, never made any horsepower claims about this mower, but it doesn’t even mow like a low end 3 horsepower gas mower would either. A 3 HP lawn mower will bog down when you start running it through thick grass, but will keep going if you’re gentle enough. This electric mower doesn’t bog down in heavy grass, it just stops. It can’t handle it at all. It will get it done, but you have to be exceedingly gentle with it. So based purely on how it mows, I’d say this 40V electric lawn mower has a best of just 2 horsepower!
I’m an engineer, so I figured I’d try to be a little more scientific than just run what ya brung type butt dyno (grass dyno?) type testing. We can get a ballpark estimate of how much power this thing is cranking out based on the energy content of the battery, and how quickly it can drain itself. The battery is a claimed 40V and 4AHr battery which means it should be able to deliver 4 Amps of current for 1 hour at 40 volts. However, while pretty solidly in high power mode, it will actually go through an entire battery in a matter of 15-20 minutes. Let’s say that it has an endurance of 15 minutes in high power mode. That means it’s drawing about 16 Amps of current. 40V x 16 Amps = 640 Watts of power.
Electrical Horsepower is defined as 746 Watts, so 640 Watts is not even 1 HP.
Umm, Houston, we have a problem here.
I haven’t precisely measured how long the battery will drain if the mower is at high power mode the entire time. Maybe it’s 10 minutes? That would be 24 Amps of current and let’s say a peak power of 1000 Watts, or 1KW. And more than likely, 40 volts is just the nominal rating of the battery, and it’s probably running more like 45 volts. And maybe the battery is really more than about 4 AHr, or there’s a variance to the high power mode that you can’t really tell to give it an extra boost when needed, and assume 100% efficiency all around which isn’t true even with electric motors, and blah blah blah.
Even being as generous as possible and making every assumption in favor of this mower that I can, I can’t get the math to work out with this thing having anything more than about 1.5 peak horsepower!
And the reality is that it’s probably really sub 1-horsepower, as I suspect.
Gas like power? Compared to what? A weed whacker??
A Honda GX35 4-stroke 35cc weed-whacker type engine is rated to make 1.3 net horsepower, so there you go. That’s what they mean by gas-like power.
What a friggin joke.
It’s Not Just Electric Lawn Mower Manufacturers
This isn’t just about electric lawn mowers, though. I have to call out gas mower companies too, for the completely misleading claims that they’re making also. What ever happened to the base model 3 HP gas lawn mowers? Well, when you see a gas mower only advertising gross torque and not horsepower, that’s apparently how they market 3 HP class gas mowers today.
A certain gas lawn mower I saw with an unnamed but very well known brand of engine was advertising itself as having 6.75 ft-lbs of gross torque. What the hell is that? Well if you look up the engine directly at the engine manufacturer’s website, you can get the full torque curve in a PDF and see that it’s actually only making 5.25 ft-lbs of gross torque at the operational speed of 3600 rpm that most gas lawn mower engines have always run at. Using the formula, (5.25 ft-lbs x 3600 rpm) / 5252 = 3.6 gross horsepower. Now keep reading the fine print, and you’ll see that’s without air cleaner or an exhaust or small muffler installed, which is absolutely NOT how gas freaking lawn mowers that can kick up all sorts of dust and debris are ever run. That would be like instant death for a mower. The actual power you’ll be getting to the pavement (the grass) is the net horsepower, so figure maybe 10% lower figures than gross. You now have 3.25 net horsepower.
Boy, 6.75 ft-lbs of gross torque at a lower RPM that the mower never operates at sure sounds a lot better, so that’s what they go with these days, and they figure that consumers are stupid enough to fall for it or just won’t know any better. Better yet, if you end up buying something that ends up not working for you due to confusion, you have to buy another lawn mower, and they love that even more. That’s what they want. They want you to be as confused as possible so that you hopefully buy the wrong thing, and then have to buy again. You see how this little scam works? Yeah (bleep) that.
So yeah, I fell for it, but fortunately was only out 199, and now needed to buy another mower. Too much money for another battery for the electric mower that I bought that doesn’t even do a very good job in the first place isn’t Smart money.
Time To Upgrade, BUt What To Get?
Considering I had done exactly zero research on this mower or electric mowers in general and just sort of hip-fired it off of Amazon and hoped it would work out, I was perfectly willing to give another electric mower a chance, now having a much better idea of what I needed. I’m not biased one way or another, and actually kinda wanted an electric mower to work out. They’re quieter and can be stored vertically and take up a ton less garage space, and ultimately are going to have much lower operational costs than a gas. I wanted an electric mower to work for me, so if I was biased at all, it was actually towards getting another electric mower.
I knew that I clearly needed something with more oomph than a 40V motor could provide, and about double the capacity of the 40V/4AHr battery. Based on a read through Consumer Reports magazine online and other reviews, which I should have checked the first time around (I’m a lifelong subscriber to CR), it looked like the EGO 56V self-propelled lawn mower with a 7.5 AHr battery probably would do the trick for me. This is actually the only electric lawn mower that Consumer Reports magazine recommends, and seems to be at a pretty good price point at 499 with the battery and cooled charger included!
At a 40% higher operating voltage and assuming all other factors are equal, this 56V EGO mower might be equivalent to about a 2.0 to 2.5 HP gas mower on its best day or peak power level. That’s still marginal power at best, but it’s important to FOCUS on how well something actually works, and less on the numbers. The Consumer Reports review was pretty favorable, as were a few YouTube reviews, but I actually saw another YouTube video of this mower grinding to a stop in the same irregular grass that I have. Not exactly confidence inspiring. I was already committing to buying a second mower, and would have been kicking myself if this next one couldn’t hack it either. I felt like I needed a mower with both double the power and double the capacity at the same time. I was confident about the EGO having enough endurance, but only 40% more assumed power just wasn’t what I was looking for. I don’t have a big yard, but definitely need the power to get through grass, crab grass, weeds, and other super thick patches of combinations of all of the above that I have, otherwise a mower will just grind to a stop like my 40V electric was doing all the time.
I was torn and could have gone either way between the 56V EGO mower with 7.5 AHr and a base level Honda lawn mower that had a 160cc engine with a legit 4.5 net horsepower that would run all day for 100 less money. I actually have a Honda powered pressure washer that I’ve owned for years now, so it’s not like I don’t already have a small gas can for it, and oil to change once in awhile.
Our homeowners association ended up making the decision for me!
Electric Would Have Been Fine, but My HOA inadvertently Convinced Me To Get Gas!
This is now a funny story, but yes, my homeowners association mistakenly cited me for grass that was too long, even though I had just mowed it literally hours before we started getting over a week of solid rain. Yes, the grass got quite long, but adding injury to insult, the alleged inspection came during all of the rain when nobody could mow. I was already pretty pissed off about falling prey to deceptive and misleading marketing practices and needing to buy another lawn mower, and now I was double pissed off about being hassled by our HOA, not yet realizing it was a mistake and meant for another property.
My 1.5 horsepower on the best possible day electric mower would have absolutely choked on this grass after all of the rain we got. It literally has weed-whacker levels of power, which explains quite a bit! I would have had to raise the deck height all the way up, and probably run through the battery a few times, and mow a few times just to get it back into HOA spec. Needless to say, I don’t have time for crap like this, and I especially don’t have the patience to be hassled by our HOA for something so absurd! My wife and I are two busy professionals with two young children at home, a dog, and a disabled person that we care for full time, and I’ve had to travel for work quite a bit lately. I just need to be able to mow when I have time to mow, and not think about if it’s dry enough, what the weather forecast says, what time of day it is, or when our HOA might be eyeing our property (we live right across the street from their office!)
So I just said (bleep) it and got a Honda HRX21VKABCDEFG blah blah blah professional grade mower with the bigger 190cc vs 160cc engine, and 5.1 net (3.8kW) all day horsepower rather than 4.4 HP with the slightly smaller engine, and paid 599 for it rather than 399 for the lower tier Honda. Yes, this is total absolute overkill for my yard, but the first time I mowed with it put a smile on my face, and I knew I had made a great choice. It plowed right through even the thickest portions of my tall and still very slightly damp grass with zero bleeps given amounts of power. It has so much power and suction that it stands even the annoying weeds straight up and delivers a nice clean cut. It’s awesome. I can mow whenever I want with my ‘big block’ Honda mower, and if anybody asks me why I’ve gone all ‘eco-terrorist’ and didn’t get an electric mower, I can point right across the street to our HOA’s office, too. 🙂
Ultimately, both I and the HOA realized the mistake at about the same time. This was actually the second fix-it notice that I had received, and there were other fix-it requests on this notice that just made no sense at all, and seemed to fit some nearby properties better. I brought it to the HOA’s attention who had already realized the mistake themselves, and were profusely apologetic about it. It didn’t change the fact that it pissed me off to high heaven at the time, and that I bought fat and happy gas mower because of it. Hey, it’s fate. I was just meant to get a gas mower. 🙂 Even if a better electric would have had enough power, it still wouldn’t have mowed as well with the raw power this gas mower has to stand everything straight up as you mow and give a nice clean cut. Our yard and mixture of grass and weeds is very irregular, which is precisely where extra power comes in handy.
A SUmmary of Electric Lawn Mower Horsepower guEsstimates
In summary, here’s my best guesstimate of actual electric lawn mower horsepower based on some back of the envelope calculations from my 40V electric mower, and comparisons with actual ownership and use of 4 HP and 5 HP gas mowers, watching a few YouTube videos and reading reviews of the 56V EGO mower, and some feedback from someone I know who has an 80V mower.
Less than 40V: don’t even freaking bother. You’re talking sub 1 horsepower here. Maybe there are some lawns out there where this might be enough, but certainly not mine!
40V class: about 1.0 to 1.5 horsepower being as optimistic as possible. Enough if you have nice even grass and few weeds, but consider this the bare minimum, and totally inadequate if you have thicker stuff and/or weeds to get through. You’ll regret it like I did. There’s a reason why none of these lower voltage electric mowers are recommended by Consumer Reports magazine.
56/60V class: maybe about 2.0 to 2.5 horsepower also being very optimistic, but finally kinda like a real gas mower. Although I haven’t used one, they seem to be reasonably powerful and enough to cut through taller grass and some weeds, but YMMV, and the video I saw of one choking on some taller grass wasn’t really confidence inspiring for a 499 investment. Given one bad experience with an electric mower, if this one crapped out on me too I’d have instant buyer’s remorse and kick myself for not just getting a gas!
80V class: I honestly have no idea. The person that I know who has one has never felt like theirs was underpowered, but every yard and perspective is different, and the 80V motors could just be setup to deliver the same amount of power as a 56/60V mower with a bit less current draw from the battery. All other factors being equal, an 80V class mower could maybe be edging closer to 3 horsepower, but who knows? The people who make these aren’t claiming gas power, either!
120V Plug In Electric Mowers: Standard wall outlets in the U.S. are nominally 120V with 15A circuit breakers, but the maximum for continuous loads is 20% below that at 12 Amps, which is just below 1500W (1440W), and why our wives’ hair dryers all have a maximum of 1500W. What’s a few watts between friends? Thus, the theoretical maximum power you can get from a standard outlet for a plug-in electric lawn mower would be 1440W / 746W (per HP) = 1.93 gross electrical horsepower. The reality with all of these electric motors is that they’re not 100% efficient. Assuming 75-80% efficiency, you’re looking at about 1.5 net electrical horsepower at the blades, which is probably a bit better than my 40V mower, as my 1.5 HP estimate for my 40V mower is based on gross consumption and not net power after efficiency losses.
How Much Horsepower Are Those “Gross Peak Torque” Ratings Worth?
What 6.75 ft-lbs of gross torque on a gas engine comes out to
The very well known small engine manufacturer that I called out earlier, and whose initials perhaps not ironically are BS, is only advertising the peak gross torque rating of their engines these days. They have a bunch of engines, but here’s the actual peak net horsepower at 3600 rpm of their engines that I had to hand calculate from their datasheet, because they don’t want you to know. Net figures include the.10% correction going from gross to net.
150cc. 6.25 ft-lbs gross TQ at 2600 rpm but 5.70 ft-lbs @ 3600 rpm = 3.5 HP net163cc. 6.75 ft-lbs gross TQ at 2600 rpm but 5.25 ft-lbs @ 3600 rpm = 3.25 HP net163cc. 7.25 ft-lbs gross TQ at 2600 rpm but 6.00 ft-lbs @ 3600 rpm = 3.7 HP net
Yes, isn’t it interesting that one of the engines with higher advertised peak gross torque actually has LESS peak horsepower than another with less torque? This is because the torque curve drops off like a rock on this engine at higher RPM, and thus it’s less powerful while mowing your lawn with the engine at its high RPM operating speed! This is why advertising lawn mower engines by their peak gross torque ratings at engine speeds they never operate at while mowing is so freaking stupid and totally misleading.
It’s so stupid that I managed to get pissed off enough at just how intentionally deceptive and misleading lawn mower manufacturers are being that I felt the need to go on a big rant and write this blog, but here we are, and here are my final thoughts.
Riding Lawn Mower: Best Riding Lawn Mower (Buying Guide)
ELECTRIC: If you want a pretty good electric lawn mower with a nice combination of both power and endurance, the EGO 56V 7.5AHr seems to be the sweet spot for both of those as of 2018, which is probably why it’s the only electric mower that’s been recommended by Consumer Reports magazine. I probably would have gotten one of these if it weren’t for the mistaken citation by my HOA.
On a final side note, I saw a customer review at the EGO site claiming that this lawn mower out-performed a 6.25 horsepower gas lawn mower. Uhh, with a new blade? And was it running properly? Were they actually running it at full power, unlike certain neighbors of mine that I constantly hear running their gas mower at idle while trying to mow their lawn? (I’m not joking!) Let’s say it actually had the same 5.1 net horsepower as my Honda, and assume 100% efficiency. That’s an output of 3.8kW, which would require 68 amps of current from the 56V battery. Based on the energy content of the battery, you would have 6 minutes of run time at that power level, and it would be smoldering hot when you were done. You would need 4 gauge wiring to handle that much current, which is what they might typically put on large electric furnaces for homes!! Call me skeptical, but this isn’t passing my sniff test at all. I’m sure it’s a great mower, but I can pretty much guarantee you that it doesn’t have anywhere close to 5 or even 6 horsepower, or even gas mower power, and they don’t even claim that it does!
I’m pretty darned sure that this person surely must have confused horsepower with the peak gross torque rating of their gas mower, and that it actually only has around 3 horsepower. That would be far more believable and make sense!
But anyways, the EGO gets a recommendation from CR and a lot of positive reviews elsewhere, so I’m sure it’s a fine mower.
GAS: For gas mowers, I would just get a Honda. The base Honda mowers are very good and highly rated at Consumer Reports, and 4.4 net horsepower is more than enough power. I’m extremely pleased with my 5.1 net horsepower (3.8 kW) Honda HRX21VKA. It will plow through anything, at any time, no questions asked, and with zero bleeps given, and has a solid warranty. It ran right through my super tall grass at full speed, and probably has triple if not quadruple the power of whatever my 40V electric mower has just based on mowing performance alone, so I know my estimate and calculations of about 1.0 to 1.5 HP peak for my electric is probably pretty accurate.
Another thing I like about Honda is that they’re actually being HONEST, and publish the full power and torque curves for the engines, and in NET horsepower and torque rather than gross. Unlike a lot of the other manufacturers, Honda has a very powerful brand name to stand behind, so perhaps they can let the quality of their products and engineering speak for itself, and don’t feel the need, or like it would be beneath them, to resort to cheap lies, dirty tricks, and lying by omission to sell their product. In a world filled with so much BS, I appreciate a company that’s honest. Thanks, Honda. There are cheaper gas mowers out there from reputable brands that I’m sure do a perfectly good job of mowing, but I can’t recommend the products of companies that are marketing their goods in such stupid and misleading ways, even if they work OK in the end.
I hope this helped!
Don’t lie or mislead about technical things to an engineer, because they’ll find you out and call you out! I really can’t believe all of the shenanigans going on in the lawn mower industry, and that I felt the need to write a blog about it, but this is just plain ridiculous. How on earth did the lawn mower industry become so freaking dishonest and misleading? What in the world?? No standards, no shame, but considering the overall topic of my website, it’s nice to have some first world problems to rant about once in awhile. 🙂 Honda is actually being honest, and so I’m happy to give them my money.
If you’re someone who has more technical information about these things, or better ability to test them than I do with insights to share, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.
APRIL 2020 UPDATE
For awhile this has been the #1 blog on my entire website, and it gets thousands of hits per month from early spring through the summer. It’s the first search result for “electric lawn mower horsepower” on most search engines, and I appreciate all of the Комментарии и мнения владельцев and emails that I get. I’m glad so many have found this blog and enjoyed it, and hopefully gotten a laugh or two out of it. So thanks, and I figured I’d post a quick update nearly two years out from this fiasco.
I donated the electric mower to the local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store last year in 2019, so hopefully it went to a good home while contributing to a good non-profit organization, and that the person who bought it didn’t find this blog! LOL!
For the record, I do have a Ryobi 40V string trimmer, that I also got the hedge trimmer, leaf blower, and pole saw attachments for. When it went on sale last year, I also got the Ryobi 40V dedicated chain saw as much for the extra 40V battery as for having a real saw. THOSE I LIKE. They all have an appropriate amount of power, and it’s nice to have a second 40V battery now also. They’re all very nice products, and saves me the trouble of having to have another gas can with 2-cycle fuel-oil mix.
The fire-breathing 190cc Honda “big block VTEC” mower is running great. No regrets on that, but I probably could have saved myself some money by just getting the 160cc model. I was obviously pissed off when I bought the bigger one, but it seriously has “zero fcks given” amounts of power, and it puts a smile on my face whenever I plow through way too tall grass at full speed, and it just takes it. Professional grade, bruh. I bought one for my parents also, the fancier one with the electric start, because their old mower was crap. They love it too and said it’s amazing, and that they can mow their yard in half the time with it, and that it gives them a good workout keeping up with it! Lol! They have a much larger yard, but it’s too hilly and sloped for a rider, so it’s the perfect mower for them. Honda truly makes good stuff.
Thanks again for stopping by and reading!
Make your yard the envy of your neighbors with one of these top lawn mowers.
By Tony Carrick and Mark Wolfe and Glenda Taylor | Updated May 18, 2023 4:59 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
A good lawn mower is crucial for maintaining a lush, well-manicured lawn. With so many options and brands to choose from, selecting a mower that is appropriate for your yard can be challenging. To this task easier for you, we got our hands on some of the most popular options and put them to the test on our own lawns.
Whether you’re replacing an old mower for your current lawn or buying one to maintain a new property, it’s important to choose one that fits the size and terrain of the property. This guide explores the features and factors that are important to consider when shopping for the best lawn mower while reviewing some of the top models on the market.
We tested the following lawn mowers to find out how they would perform in terms of cutting ability, finish quality, and operator comfort. Read on to learn more about the criteria we used to select our picks. Then check out our lawn mower reviews to learn why we consider these models to be some of the best lawn mowers available.
- BEST OVERALL:Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST3-IN-1:DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED:Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
- BEST RIDING LAWN MOWER:John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
- BEST CORDED LAWN MOWER:American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS:Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
- BEST ROBOTIC:Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY:Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
How We Chose the Best Lawn Mowers
All of the mowers included in our list exceeded quality standards established in our shopping criteria and proved worthy through testing. We selected each of the above mowers based on our previously mentioned shopping considerations. After sourcing the mowers and assembling the mowers according to the manufacturer’s instructions, we tested them in an average yard in order to gauge capabilities in several key areas. The most critical aspects we observed included general quality and durability, mowing power and cut quality, and operator comfort and convenience.
We also tested each according to its claimed abilities. Riding mowers were used for larger and sometimes rougher areas and were assessed for power, speed, and comfort. Walk-behind and push mowers were mostly restricted to testing on well-established and well-maintained lawn spaces and closely monitored for cut quality and user convenience. We actually pre-mowed the grass ahead of testing the robot mower since it is intended to maintain rather than reduce grass height.
Our Top Picks
We tested mowers that range from corded lawn mowers for small yards to powerful self-propelled gas lawn mowers for medium-size yards to riding mowers that can handle 3 acres or more. Read on to learn more about these mowers, how they performed during our grass tests, and why we think they are some of the best.
Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
Whether it’s a car, generator, or lawn mower, it’s tough to beat the reliability and durability of Honda engines—and such is the case with this self-propelled gas lawn mower. Its powerful GCV170 engine powers not just one but two blades, giving it a cleaner, more precise cut over most other gas-powered lawn mowers that have just a single blade.
With its rear-wheel drive, this mower is ideal to contend with yards that have slopes and more-rugged terrain. Its engine is formidable, and so are its features. An easy-to-use clip system makes it simple to switch between its three grass-clipping options—mulching, side discharge, and bagging—and the well-designed speed controls add to the quality of this premium self-propelled walk-behind mower.
In our tests, this Honda walk-behind mower’s high-quality components and thoughtful design really stood out. The engine layout and oversize gas gap made fueling up and adding oil easy and can simplify oil and filter changes. After a quick 5-minute assembly of the handle and bagger and adding fuel and oil, the mower started on the first pull. The engine ran smoothly and surprisingly quietly.
The variable-speed controller at first felt awkward until we realized that we could adjust the angle to any of five positions. The mower had plenty of power for mowing and driving the wheels, even in dense, tall grass, and on steep slopes. If the goal is to find a top-quality walk-behind mower that is easy to use and leaves a great-looking finish, this would make an excellent choice.
- Power source: Honda GCV170 gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Twin-blade mowing system for finer mulching
- Auto choke for fast, easy starting
- Variable speed, 0 to 4 miles per hour
- Clip system makes changing cutting modes easy
Get the Honda lawn mower at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mow
Craftsman is a well-established, well-respected brand in the world of lawn mowers, and this gas-powered model is no exception. It boasts a powerful 140-cc engine and an ample 21-inch mowing deck, making it ideal for yards up to ¾ of an acre.
Large 8-inch rear wheels with heavy tread make it easy to push this mower, while six cutting heights offer versatility. The mower also offers three disposal settings: mulch, side discharge, and bag. And while this mower may lack the power assist of other walk-behind mowers, it is significantly cheaper, making it a good choice for those with level yards who may not need a self-propelled mower.
We liked the Craftsman mower’s affordability and simplicity. It only required about 20 minutes of easy assembly. The completed handle configuration was a bit less refined in appearance, the grip area is unpadded metal, and the blade and drive control cables are retained on the handle by heavy-duty cable ties.
After adding oil and gas, the mower started easily on the first pull. It had good power for cutting average lawn grass and pulling uphill, but it bogged down ever so slightly in tall, overgrown grass. The front-wheel-drive feature made turning easy, but a fully loaded bagger could weigh down the rear and cause it to lose traction (we did not experience this). The fuel tank size is adequate to mow about a half acre per fill-up. This could be an excellent value pick for a budget-minded shopper looking for a durable self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 150 cc Briggs Stratton gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Front-wheel drive assists the user while mowing; prevents strain while in use
- Easy to start, no priming or choke required
- Side-discharge, mulch, or bag for ease of cleanup after mowing
- Self-propelled feature is not adjustable; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
- Non-padded grip could lead to hand fatigue with extended use
Get the Craftsman lawn mower at Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, or Blain’s Farm Fleet.
DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
With mulching, bagging, and side-discharge capabilities, the DeWALT 2X20V MAX self-propelled cordless lawn mower has a better-than-average build quality and thoughtful design. Its heavy-duty 21.5-inch, 15-gauge stamped-steel deck adjusts to six different cutting heights from 1.5 to 4 inches. Running on two batteries and offering up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge, this mower is ideal for small to medium yards up to a half acre.
We set up a test area for the DeWALT mower in our yard, with about 10,000 square feet of lawn that included some short but steep slopes, weedy spots, and dense grass. We mowed the test plot three times, requiring just over two full battery charges each time. The DeWALT covered about 5,000 square feet per charge when adjusted to 2.5 inches high with the grass catcher in place. At 3.5 inches, that extended to about 8,000 square feet and 40 minutes of runtime. The controls were well laid out for easy operation, and the cushioned handle felt comfortable while we mowed. Also, this mower is a space saver. With its fold-flat handle and vertical storage capability, it only needs about 2.5 square feet of storage floor space.
The DeWALT 3-in-1 lawn mower features a security-key-enabled push-button start. Its adjustable font-wheel-drive self-propulsion eliminates half the work of mowing, lets you choose your own pace, and works on all kinds of terrain. The motor is equipped with auto-sensing technology that seamlessly increases torque when encountering tougher mowing conditions. In our tests, it was easier to turn than rear-wheel drive mowers. A removable discharge chute, grass catcher, and integrated mulch plug allow for quick conversion to your preferred method of grass-clipping disposal. Overall, the quality of the DeWALT 3-in-1 mower is better than most and is a solid choice for quarter- to half-acre lots.
- Power source: Two 20-volt, 10-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 21.5 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Heavy-duty steel mower deck with 3-way grass-clipping management
- Front-wheel drive self-propel system supports safe operation and smooth turns
- Powered by 2 rechargeable DeWALT XR 20-volt (V) lithium-ion batteries
- 2-stage brushless motor preserves battery life and automatically increases power for tougher mowing conditions
- Ergonomic cushioned hand grip are comfortable to use and reduce operator fatigue
- Heavy and cumbersome to maneuver manually without the self-propel feature engaged
- Takes a long time to recharge the batteries with the included DCB107 battery chargers
- The mower’s battery compartment has an awkward design
Get the DeWALT cordless lawn mower at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot (with 3 batteries), Tractor Supply Co., or Acme Tools.
Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
The Ego Power comes ready to mow, including a battery and Rapid charger. The advancements Ego has made with its battery-powered mower sets it atop the cordless models. It boasts 45 minutes of runtime, thanks to its brushless motor and large 56-volt, 5-Ah battery. With its 21-inch deck, the Ego is suitable for yards up to half an acre. The Ego Power also includes other features that make it an attractive buy, including speed controls that the user operates with an intuitive dial and bagging, mulching, or side-discharge capability.
Overall, the Ego Power cordless mower was easy and comfortable to operate in our tests. The preset self-propelled pace felt comfortably moderate but not leisurely. The mower had no difficulty cutting normal grass and did not bog down noticeably in thick, tall grass. Finish quality was good to excellent.
We did notice that mowing in “push” mode (without the self-propelled motor running) extended battery life by about 20 minutes to as much as 65 minutes per charge. Buying a second battery for extended runtime, or as backup for tougher mowing, may be a wise investment. This mower would be a good choice for small and midsize lawns up to about a half acre and for owners who want to reduce noise, exhaust, and fuel handling.
- Power source: 56-volt, 5-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- 45 minutes of runtime per charge; suitable for small- to large-sized yards
- Battery charges in less than an hour; suitable for multiple uses or yards
- Battery works with many other Ego Power tools
- Emits power similar to a gasoline mower
- Higher cost than gas mower with similar power
- Poor traction on slopes; may not be ideal for hilly yards
- Noisy drive system; may not be ideal for nighttime mowing
Get the Ego lawn mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Lowe’s.
John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
Larger yards from ½ to 2 acres call for a bigger machine for mowing. The John Deere S130, with its 22-horsepower V-twin engine and 42-inch deck, offers excellent mowing ability plus performance and comfort features that extend its range of use. The 20 by 10-8 rear tires and wide stance provide excellent stability and help to cushion the ride. It features hydrostatic operation, single-lever throttle with spring-return choke, ergonomic deck-height adjustment lever, dash-mounted digital fuel gauge, LED headlights, and John Deere’s Easy Change 30-second oil change system. The included drop-pin towing hitch and PTO make it compatible with a wide range of John Deere branded and non-branded yard implements such as utility carts, spreaders, sweepers, snow blowers, and more.
In our extensive test, the S130 lawn tractor proved to be a comfortable, capable riding mower with good maneuverability in a wide range of conditions. It easily handled grassy slopes up to 13 degrees (4.5 vertical feet per 20 linear feet), which is the limit recommended by the manufacturer. Measured against leading competitors, it offered a tighter real-life turning radius thanks to superior weight balance, and a seat base that is 3 inches higher to provide a better operator vantage point.
The high, open-back seat was well cushioned and supportive while allowing excellent ventilation. The deck height, blade engagement, and throttle controls were well positioned for convenience and safe operation. Even with the slightly elevated price tag, this mower offers tons of value, making it an excellent choice for most larger yards.
- Power source: 22-horsepower V-twin gas engine
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Type: Lawn tractor
- High vantage point for optimal viewing of the yard and machine while mowing
- Tight turning radius allows for clean and even cutting paths
- Comfortable seat and controls make it easy for the user to mow the lawn
- Should not require much maintenance to keep running for years
Get the John Deere riding lawn mower at Lowe’s or a local John Deere dealer.
American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
Corded lawn mowers make an easy, affordable choice for smaller yards where a gas-powered mower would be a hassle. This mower from American Lawn Mower Company can keep the yard looking great at a low price point, without worrying about the mess or expense of gasoline or batteries.
Its 14-inch deck suits smaller yards and smaller storage areas. At about 20 pounds, this mower is easy to maneuver for those who might struggle with a heavier model. It also has a surprising range of options, allowing one to bag or mulch clippings (though it oddly has no side-discharge option). It also offers a convenient single lever for height control, eliminating the need to make height adjustments for each wheel individually.
In our tests, this model delivered a rock-solid performance. Assembly, which entailed installation of the handle and cord retainers, took about 10 minutes to complete. It mowed well, even in dense, weedy grass, and the bagger worked well. The small size and lightweight build limit this mower’s practicality more than its corded motor does.
By starting close to the electrical outlet and mowing progressively farther away, we easily minimized the risk of cord damage or entanglement. As an affordable mower for small yards, with arguably the least environmental impact, this quiet, capable corded electric model could be the best choice.
- Durable, maintenance-free electric motor; eco-friendly compared to similar options
- Lightweight and easy to use; offers excellent maneuverability
- Offers bagging and mulching options for easy clean-up after mowing
- Not ideal for large-sized yards; suitable for only the smallest yards
- No side-discharge option; may not be ideal for some users’ needs
Get the American Lawn Mower electric lawn mower at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.
Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
If spending an entire afternoon mowing the lawn isn’t a problem, those with yards that could house a couple of football fields require a mowing deck that can level large swaths of green in a single pass. With its massive 50-inch deck, the aptly named TimeCutter from Toro is ready for a big job. This large mower, which boasts a 24.5-horsepower engine, can reach speeds of up to 7 miles per hour, making it capable of handling yards of 3 acres or more.
Toro also makes sure the operator will be comfortable while covering all that ground with its adjustable MyRIDE suspension system that absorbs bumps in the lawn as well as vibrations from the engine. Plush seating provides support and comfort for longer mowing sessions. Toro also includes other useful features, including a foot-lever-assisted deck-height adjustment, toolless oil-change system, and a cupholder.
When we tested the 50-inch Toro TimeCutter, we timed its performance on a 1-acre area of an old field converted to lawn. The MyRIDE suspension system smoothed out the ruts and bumps for a comfortable ride at near top speed. It mowed the acre in 20 minutes, a blistering 3-acres-per-hour pace. The finish quality was excellent, and it used less than 3 quarts of gasoline. As a point of comparison, a 22-HP, 46-inch lawn tractor that has been used to mow the same area takes nearly an hour and uses more than 1.25 gallons of gas.
Even before factoring in the amazingly comfortable ride, we appreciated the prospect of mowing in one-third the time and reducing fuel and maintenance expenses by half on this large lot. For large grassy areas, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of a zero turn mower, and the TimeCutter makes an excellent pick.
- Huge mowing deck makes this model ideal for medium- to large-sized yards
- Shock-absorbing suspension system integrated; can tackle tough jobs without causing strain to the user
- Large engine is capable of cutting thicker grass varieties
Get the Toro TimeCutter lawn mower at The Home Depot or a local Toro dealer.
Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
Pushing the edge of lawn mower technology further is this robotic lawn mower from Worx. It functions similarly to a robot vacuum cleaner by mowing a preset area of up to a quarter acre on its own. The operator sets up wire barriers that the lawn mower won’t cross, ensuring it only mows in a set area. It has a laser eye that guides it around any obstacles that might be in the yard. A single front caster and two large rear-drive wheels carry it through the yard while allowing it to turn on a dime.
The Worx Landroid M can also connect to a Smart device, through which the user can program daily schedules or direct the mower to stop or start. It runs off the same 20-volt Worx battery that powers the company’s other yard tools and will automatically return to its charging station when the battery gets low.
Testing the Landroid M required a detailed setup process, but then the operation was almost completely hands-off. After installing the Landroid mobile app, the base station, boundary wire, and establishing the mower’s Wi-Fi connection, we programmed the robot for a daily mowing schedule. Setup and programming were straightforward with easy-to-follow instructions and tutorial videos on the Landroid app. The whole process took about 2.5 hours, including time taken to watch videos. The covered area included a sloped section, a narrow corridor, a broad contiguous area, and an off-limits landscape bed.
Landroid mowed on time every time and stayed inbounds without a problem. On an evening when rain moved in during the mowing cycle, Landroid’s rain sensor picked it up and sent the unit back to its base station to wait it out. The only challenge we encountered was that the mower initially did not dock properly after mowing because the base station was not sitting level. After fixing that issue, it simply worked.
A week after we installed the Landroid, the grass it cut still looked freshly mowed with the exception of the edges, while the adjacent lawn outside Landroid’s coverage needed to be cut. Those looking to infuse the time-, fuel-, and labor-saving benefits of robotics into their lawn care routine would do well to consider Landroid.
- Mows up to ¼ of an acre with ease
- Can be controlled via an app through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Brushless motor extends battery life; suitable for small to large yards
- Onboard rain sensor protects the mower from potential damage
Get the Worx robotic lawn mower at Amazon.
Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
The Makita XML03, an 18-inch, battery-powered lawn mower, comes with four included batteries, and the claim that it will mow up to 1/3 acre on a single charge, so we tested that claim. We marked out a 1/3-acre area on our lawn and mowed with the Makita XML03 six times over three weeks.
During testing, the Makita mower completed all but one mowing session without battery depletion—with a small battery charge remaining. However, when we tested the mower on damp grass, we depleted all four batteries before we could finish the session. Keep in mind that the Makita mower is not self-propelled, so ultimately, the mowing area will depend on user speed and grass thickness.
Operating at 3,300 rpm, its single blade matches the speed of gas-powered mowers, but dense grass resistance can hinder spinning speed. The trick to overcoming this issue is to mow more frequently—while the grass height is low enough, you’re not removing any more than 1/3 of the grass leaf.
The height adjustment (a single lever on the back right wheel) is convenient; the mower’s deck height range of 13/16 inch to 3 inches could have been improved. This limitation may impact those with specific grass types or desired cutting heights. Although a typical range of 2-1/2 to 3 inches covers many grass varieties, species such as tall fescue are often mowed at 3-1/2 inches high.
The Makita’s detachable grass-catching bag holds 1.7 bushels (16 gallons), which is on the small side, and we had to empty the clippings frequently. But overall, the Makita XML03 meets its mowing claims with reliable battery performance. It starts at the press of a button and is much quieter than gas-powered mowers, so you won’t upset the neighbors if you mow early on a Saturday morning.
- Power source: Two 18-volt, 4-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 18 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Environmentally friendly battery power eliminates the necessity for carbon-emitting gas and oil
- Produces less noise than gas-powered mowers, ensuring peaceful early morning mowing without disturbing neighbors
- Comes with 4 batteries upon purchase, allowing for convenient swapping of charged sets when 1 set runs out
- Simple push-button start eliminates the need for tugging cords or priming pumps
- The relatively narrow 18-inch swath width may result in time-consuming mowing for larger yards
- The Makita XML03 lacks self-propulsion, making it challenging to push on inclines
- The grass-clipping bag has a small capacity, so frequent emptying may be necessary
Get the Makita Lawn Mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
What to Consider When Choosing a Lawn Mower
In addition to mower type, it’s vital to consider other factors like deck size and fuel requirements when shopping for a lawn mower. Ahead, learn more about these and other important characteristics of lawn mowers.
Types of Lawn Mowers
The first step to selecting the right mower is to decide which type of mower best suits the yard.
Walk-behind mowers consist of two different kinds of mower: push and self-propelled. Self-propelled mowers have power wheels that pull the mower forward. Some self-propelled mowers have an adjustment feature to increase or decrease the travel speed for improved operator comfort and convenience. Manual mowers have no power-assisted wheels and must be pushed manually by the user.
Riding mowers include zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine riding mowers. Zero-turn mowers, the most expensive lawn mowers on the market, have a motor that sits behind the operator and are controlled using two levers. The mowers get their name from their ability to pivot 360 degrees in place. Zero-turn mowers also have very broad mowing decks. Their size and maneuverability make them ideal for cutting large lawns with obstacles the user must drive around.
A lawn tractor looks similar to a farm tractor with its motor in the front of the mower. The user operates the tractor from a driver’s seat using a steering wheel. Lawn tractors have broad mowing decks but do not have the small turning radius of a zero-turn tractor. Because of their balance and traction, lawn tractors are well suited for mowing hilly terrain and may be used for other property management tasks like towing a utility cart or plowing snow.
Rear-engine lawn mowers are similar to lawn tractors but have their engines in the rear. Rear-engine lawn tractors typically have smaller decks, though they allow for greater visibility and nimbler handling for the operator.
The newest type of lawn mower, robotic mowers look similar to robotic vacuum cleaners, only they are larger and have bigger wheels that enable them to move through grass. Robotic lawn mowers can mow a yard automatically while being controlled via a Smart device.
These lawn mowers are powered by a rechargeable battery and can be programmed to mow the lawn at programmed times and intervals. Robotic mowers require the user to set up wires in the yard that create boundaries for the mower so it doesn’t wander away. They also use laser-eye technology that spots obstacles in the yard so the mower can evade them.
5 Best Riding Lawn Mowers 2023 | Best Riding Mower 2023
Self-propelled mowers come in different drive wheel options including front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive.
- Front-wheel drive mowers are easier to turn by allowing the operator to raise the front wheels and use the back wheels to pivot.
- Rear-wheel drive mowers place the bulk of the mower’s weight over the drive wheels, creating better traction for climbing inclines and slopes.
- All-wheel drive mowers are well suited for yards with more extreme slopes and rougher terrain.
Cutting Width and Yard Size
A mower’s deck size determines the width of the swath of grass it can cut with each pass and hence how quickly it can mow the lawn. A wider deck also makes a mower less nimble, which can make it awkward to mow small lawns with flower beds, trees, and gardens to navigate.
A walk-behind mower with a deck up to 22 inches is usually a good size for a smaller yard of up to about half an acre. Riding mowers with decks that range between 30 and 46 inches are a good choice for lawns up to 1 acre. Zero turn mowers and lawn tractors with 48- to 60-inch decks can be efficient choices for larger properties.
Lawn mowers can use three types of fuel sources: corded electricity, gas, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Electric mowers supply a constant source of power; however, they are limited by a cord that connects to a standard wall outlet. This makes corded lawn mowers somewhat awkward to use. However, they are extremely durable, have no batteries to recharge or replace, and are almost entirely maintenance free.
Gas-powered lawn mowers provide the greatest amount of power, run a long time on a single tank, and have no recharge time to worry about. However, gas mowers are loud, require more maintenance to keep in top condition than electric mowers, and produce exhaust fumes.
Battery-powered mowers run on lithium-ion batteries. They are easier to start than gas-powered lawn mowers and create no exhaust fumes; however, they are less powerful and are limited to about 45 minutes of runtime per charge. Battery-powered mowers are also significantly more expensive to purchase than gas mowers, and the batteries typically need to be replaced every 5 years.
Mowers come in two blade types: the more common rotary and the cylinder blade. Rotary blades are the type of blade found on most residential lawn mowers. They consist of a blade or blades that spin on a horizontal plane, cross-cutting the tops of grass blades to trim them to the desired height.
Cylinder blades, which can cut grass to a very low height without damaging it, have historically been confined to use on sports fields and golf courses. They consist of a rotating cylinder that is equipped with blades that wrap around the cylinder in a spiral pattern. The blades cut the grass using a shearing action that creates a cleaner cut than rotary blades, which can tear grass and leave a ragged edge.
While cylinder mowers (also known as reel mowers) make more precise cuts, they are not capable of cutting through taller grass. In fact, their cutting ability ranges from a height of about 1/16 of an inch to 1 inch. This limits this type of mower to varieties of grass that can survive being cut to a low height, such as Bermuda grass.
Mowers offer different grass-disposal options including side discharge, mulching, and bagging. Side discharge ejects the grass clippings out of the side of the mower onto the lawn. Mulching keeps the grass clippings under the deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times to produce a fine mulch that quickly incorporates into the soil. Mowers that support baggers collect the clippings in a bag at the rear of the mower.
Mowers come with additional features that make them easier to operate and maintain. Deck height adjustment allows the user to increase or decrease the mowing height for optimal lawn health. These useful add-ons include mowing decks with built-in wash-out ports that make them easier to clean, switches that make it easy to change between cutting options, and easy-to-operate variable-speed controls for self-propelled mowers.
Many riding mowers have LED headlights for nighttime mowing, drink holders, adjustable plush ergonomic seating, and many other convenient features.
For those who have concerns about maintaining a lawn mower or are wondering how big an engine the mower needs, read on for answers to these and other common questions.
Q. How long should a lawn mower last?
Most mowers can last about 10 years, depending on how often it is used and how well it is maintained.
Q. How powerful of a lawn mower do I need?
Engine sizes for walk-behind mowers range from 140 cc to 190 cc. For tough terrain with thick grass, a larger engine is usually a better choice.
Q. Can I replace the pull cord on a lawn mower?
Yes. In fact, replacing the pull cord on a mower is a fairly simple repair, requiring just a screwdriver and wrench.
Q. How long does a lawn mower’s battery last?
As a general rule of thumb, a riding lawn mower’s battery can last about 4 years. The rechargeable battery on an electric mower can last about 5 years.
Q. How do I clean my lawn mower?
To clean a mower, tip the mower over to access the deck. Remove any grass clippings or debris that may be wrapped around the blade or stuck to the bottom of the deck. Wet the deck with a garden hose, then spray the underside with an all-purpose cleaner. Scrub the deck with a brush, then rinse thoroughly. Turn the mower back upright and use a damp rag or paper towel to wipe down the housing.
Q. How often do I need to change spark plugs in my lawn mower?
Change the spark plugs in the spring at the beginning of the mowing season or after 100 hours of use.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with a background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor-living goods.
Additional research provided by Tony Carrick and Glenda Taylor.
Don’t spend half the day mowing your lawn when you can purchase a riding lawn mower to better manage your expansive yard.
By Tony Carrick and Mark Wolfe | Updated Jun 22, 2023 11:17 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
For yards larger than a half acre, a push lawn mower just doesn’t cut it. Walk-behind lawn mowers are simply too small to mow the yard in a reasonable amount of time. Unless you enjoy spending the better part of a Saturday cutting grass, you need a riding lawn mower. Riding lawn mowers feature powerful engines and wide mowing decks that allow you to mow a large yard more quickly than with a standard push mower.
A riding mower is an invaluable tool for those who live on large pieces of property. But with so many different kinds of riding mowers on the market at a wide range of prices, how do you know which one is right for your yard? We compiled the following recommendations based on hours of research as well as our own riding mower field-test results. Read on to learn more about choosing the right model for your property, followed by our best riding lawn mower in-depth reviews.
- BEST OVERALL:John Deere 42-Inch S130 Lawn Tractor
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Troy-Bilt Pony 42 Riding Lawn Tractor
- UPGRADE PICK:Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 60-Inch 24 HP Zero-Turn Mower
- BEST GAS LAWN TRACTOR:Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 Enduro Lawn Tractor
- BEST GAS ZERO-TURN:Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter MyRIDE Zero-Turn Mower
- BEST BATTERY ZERO-TURN:Ego Power 42-Inch Z6 Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS:Ryobi 30-Inch 50 Ah Electric Riding Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS:Toro 54- Inch TimeCutter MyRIDE Zero-Turn Mower
- BEST FOR ROUGH TERRAIN:Ariens Ikon 52 Kawasaki V-Twin Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
How We Tested the Best Riding Lawn Mowers
With so many different types of riding lawn mowers to choose from, we compiled our list based on a diverse range of buyer needs. We selected the top models from reputable brands, including options for small, midsize, and large-acreage properties. Our choices include lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers, and we included a compact rear-engine model. With the rise in popularity of battery mowers, and the still-strong performance of gas-powered machines in this category, we made sure to include both.
We tested several of these picks, with more testing to come. Our riding lawn mower tests involve multiple-week trials on varied terrain with slopes and bumpy ground, both rough mowing and finish mowing. Several of the mowers below have already been tested; we have mowed at least 16 acres over at least 8 hours. We scored the mowers using a rubric in order to compare measurable specifications, such as deck width, frame steel gauge, and engine horsepower. We also took into account our subjective observations that describe the overall user experience in terms of comfort and convenience, not to mention mowing results.
Our Top Picks
We’ve compiled our top riding lawn mower recommendations based on brand reputation, spec analysis, and our own hands-on testing results. This list includes riding lawn mowers with powerful engines, wide mower decks, and durable construction from some of the most reputable lawn mower manufacturers.
John Deere 42-Inch S130 Lawn Tractor
Our top pick comes from a brand that is synonymous with durable performance, as it boasts a full range of riding lawn mowers built to last for decades. The John Deere S130 combines dependability with operational comfort and convenience. This lawn tractor comes equipped with a 22 horsepower (HP) Briggs Stratton 44 V-twin engine, a TLT 200 hydrostatic transaxle, and 20×10-8 rear tires that will provide many years of mowing service. It also features a single-lever throttle with spring-return choke, electric blade engagement, a dash-mounted fuel gauge, and the John Deere Easy Change 30-second oil-change system to make mowing and caring for the mower significantly easier.
At a glance, this mower may not appear much different from other lawn tractors, but a few key features set it apart. The mower’s frame is fabricated of full-length welded steel with a cast-iron front axle for decades of reliable operation. The engine features a full pressure lubrication system for extended working life. It is also compatible with numerous attachments, including branded and universal baggers, snow blowers, dump carts, and others that expand its usefulness beyond mowing.
In our at-home test of the John Deere S130, one of the first characteristics that stood out was its comfort. The two-piece seat allowed for cooling air circulation between the seat and backrest, unlike other mower seats with a one-piece design. The seat bottom was positioned 32 inches above the ground, providing a vantage point 3 inches higher than many competitors for improved visibility. We also liked the easy-to-use control layout, including push-button blade engagement and the dash-mounted gas gauge, keeping everything right at our fingertips. Plus, hydrostatic operation, controlled by side-by-side pedals, eliminated gear selection—we simply pressed one pedal to go forward and the other to reverse.
As for maneuverability and mowing performance, we could not have been happier. Top speed was about 5.5 miles per hour (mph), which was good for about 2 acres of mowing per hour. The deck shape allowed for extremely close edge cutting to minimize trimming later on. A spring-assisted lever made it easy to raise and lower the deck to any of the 13 preset heights between 1 and 4 inches high. The large tires cushioned the ride across uneven terrain, and the tight turning radius let the mower make surprisingly narrow turns, leaving an uncut diameter of just 25 inches.
In general, we liked the fast speed combined with the slightly narrower deck because it allows the operator to access tight spaces while still mowing a lot of grass quickly. The comfortable ride, ease of operation, and dependable components make this a great choice for those who have medium-to-large-size yards.
- Ideal power and size for properties from 0.5 acre up to 2 acres
- Tight turning radius with a smooth, comfortable ride
- Seat bottom is 32 inches above the ground, which provides a higher vantage point than other mowers
- Easy maintenance with the John Deere Easy Change 30-second oil-change system; compatible with numerous attachments
- Higher price point than competitors in the same size and power range
- Limited capability on hilly terrain
Get the John Deere riding lawn mower at Lowe’s or John Deere.
Troy-Bilt Pony 42 Riding Lawn Tractor
This lawn tractor from Troy-Bilt features a powerful motor and ample mowing deck at a cost lower than that of other riding lawn mowers. The Troy-Bilt Pony 42 features a single-cylinder engine and a 42-inch mowing deck, which is suitable for 1 to 1.5-acre lawns. A twin-blade deck offers ample cutting power. And while the Pony doesn’t include a hydrostatic transmission, its seven-speed shift-on-the-go transmission is smoother than other manual-transmission lawn tractors. An 18-inch turning radius allows for easy maneuverability in the yard, while a 1.36-gallon tank capacity supplies enough fuel for medium-size lawns.
The Pony has a padded high-back seat and soft grips on the steering wheel for comfort. Additional features include LED headlights for mowing in low lighting, a rear hitch for accessories, and an integrated washing port on the deck.
- Type: Lawn tractor
- Powered by: 15.5-HP 1-cylinder gas engine
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Budget-friendly price point for a lawn mower that is built to last
- Low-maintenance Briggs Stratton gas engine with electric start will provide years of dependable service
- 42-inch deck is suitable for mowing up to 2 acres of grass
- 7-speed manual transmission is less convenient than hydrostatic transaxle
- Does not include an anti-scalping deck
Get the Troy-Bilt riding lawn mower at The Home Depot or Troy-Bilt.
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 60-Inch 24 HP Zero-Turn Mower
This high-performance zero-turn mower has plenty of power and features to take on large yards. With its powerful 24-HP Kawasaki twin-cylinder motor, 3.5-gallon gas tank, and a massive 60-inch deck, the Ultima can mow lawns of 3 acres or more. With its hydrostatic transmission, this zero-turn mower smoothly reaches speeds up to 7.5 mph. The large deck features Cub Cadet’s AeroForce cutting system for a top cut along with 15 height adjustments ranging from 1 to 4.5 inches.
Cut the lawn in comfort thanks to a cushioned seat with armrests, a suspension system, adjustable lap bars, and comfortable hand grips. LED headlights allow you to work in low-light conditions, while Cub Cadet’s built-in SmartJet deck pressure-washing system keeps the mowing deck clean.
- Type: Zero-turn mower
- Powered by: 24-HP V-twin Kawasaki gas engine
- Deck size: 60 inches
- Commercial-grade engine and heavy-duty frame will withstand many years of hard use
- 60-inch deck and 7.5 mph mowing speed; cuts up to 4 acres per hour
- Open frame and hinged floor pan allow easy access to the mower deck for maintenance
- Comfort features include padded high-back seat with armrests, cup holder, and 20-inch wheels for a smoother ride
- Premium price point for a residential mower, but value priced for the quality/capability
- The wide deck is too large to navigate walk-through gates and narrow pathways
Get the Cub Cadet Ultima riding lawn mower at The Home Depot.
Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 Enduro Lawn Tractor
There’s a lot to like about the Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 that makes it an excellent all-around riding lawn mower. Let’s start with what’s under the hood: a powerful 24-HP twin-cylinder Kohler engine, which is more than enough to power its 50-inch cutting deck or handle inclines. The engine and deck size make this mower suitable for lawns up to 1.5 acres. A hydrostatic transmission enables smooth speed changes, while a short wheelbase enables an impressive 16-inch turning radius. The cutting deck provides ample cutting power thanks to its three cutting blades and 12 easily adjustable cutting heights. A 3-gallon fuel tank ensures you won’t need a refill, even for large jobs.
Other features that set the Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 apart include a cruise-control feature that maintains a constant speed for the perfect cut and a SmartJet deck pressure-washing system, which allows a garden hose to be attached to the mowing deck to power-wash the interior.
- Type: Lawn tractor
- Powered by: 24-HP Kohler V-twin 7000 gas engine
- Deck size: 50 inches
- Wider deck and bigger engine; mows more grass faster than other lawn tractors
- 15-inch high-back seat with 10-degree incline and slide slope adjustment for outstanding comfort
- Extremely tight turning radius of just 16 inches for best-in-class maneuverability
- Features include push-button cruise control, LED headlights, battery indicator, and translucent fuel tank
Get the Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 riding lawn mower at The Home Depot, Tractor Supply Co., or Blain’s Farm Fleet (with stamped deck).
Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter MyRIDE Zero-Turn Mower
Owners of large properties prefer zero-turn mowers because they cut grass faster and more efficiently than lawn tractors, and they leave a great-looking finish. The Toro 50-inch TimeCutter MyRIDE zero-turn mower is an excellent choice for anyone mowing up to 4 acres of grass. It comes equipped with either a 24.5-HP Toro Commercial V-twin engine or a 23-HP Kawasaki engine, both of which are engineered and manufactured for the rigors of daily use in the professional lawn care industry. The MyRIDE floating suspension allows 3 inches of travel between the seat and the mower frame for an incredibly smooth ride on bumpy lawn areas.
Numerous commercial features make the Toro 50-inch TimeCutter one of the most dependable and convenient mowers for large properties. The dual hydrostatic HG-ZT 2200 transaxles and 10-gauge steel-fabricated triple-blade deck combine for fast mowing—up to 7 mph—with an incredibly clean finished cut from 1.5 to 4.5 inches high. The 3-gallon gas tank is more than adequate for mowing 4 acres of open ground without stopping to refuel. When it comes to maintaining the mower, the built-in deck washout port and toolless oil-change system make it quick and easy.
As for comfort and control of the mower, it offers a nice mix of professional durability with comfort and convenience upgrades that owners will appreciate. Dual wraparound levers with pro-control dampers offer intuitive steering control that even those new to zero-turn mowing will settle into right away. The 18-inch hand-sewn high-back seat includes padded foldaway armrests and adjusts forward and back to fit most users with the simple slide of a lever. A foot lever assists with deck-height adjustments to eliminate arm strain. And operators can stay hydrated while mowing on hot days thanks to a built-in cup holder.
We tested a Toro 50-inch TimeCutter MyRIDE for more than a month. The model we used came equipped with the 24.5-HP Toro Commercial engine. Although it was packed with commercial details, the mower was not quite as fast as a true commercial mower (which would cost at least twice as much). Still, at or near top speed, we were able to mow our 2-acre test area in about 40 minutes, or roughly 3 acres an hour, which is excellent among residential zero-turn mowers. We mowed the property twice per tank of gas, with a little left in the tank after the second cut, so we can confidently say after mowing four times that it will mow 4 acres per tank.
The MyRIDE suspension system was a unique configuration we haven’t seen elsewhere. The “cockpit” of the mower, including the seat and footrest area, is mounted on a floating platform that is attached to the mower frame by a shock absorber. The adjustable system provided more or less resistance as conditions required. It really did provide an outstanding amount of cushioning compared to the spring-seat systems that most zero-turn mowers use.
While we loved the power and comfort of the Toro TimeCutter, this model was a bit too wide to access a gated area on the property, and it could not navigate a narrow pathway to another isolated spot. Also, as with other zero-turn mowers, this one is not rated for use on slopes steeper than about 15 degrees, or 5.5 vertical feet per 20 linear feet, so we avoided those areas as well.
- Type: Zero-turn mower
- Powered by: 24.5-HP Toro Commercial V-twin engine or 23-HP Kawasaki V-twin engine
- Deck size: 50 inches
- Commercial-grade engine is designed for thousands of hours of hard use
- Fast mowing at speeds up to 7 miles per hour; it can mow about 3 acres in an hour
- MyRIDE suspension system offers an incredibly smooth ride over bumpy ground
- 3-gallon fuel capacity, which is enough to mow up to 4 acres per fill-up
- 10-gauge steel frame and forged-steel deck offer outstanding toughness and durability
- Due to the width of the deck, this mower cannot drive through most walk-through gates
- Zero turns in general, and this one included, are not designed for hilly terrain
Get the Toro 50-inch TimeCutter riding lawn mower at The Home Depot (with 24.5-HP Toro Commercial engine), Mowers Direct (with 24.5-HP Toro Commercial engine), or Tractor Supply Co. (with 23-HP Kawasaki engine).
Ego Power 42-Inch Z6 Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Those who measure their yard in acres instead of square feet may have thought a gas-powered mower was the only option. That is no longer the case. The Ego Power zero-turn riding mower mows up to 2 acres per charge and can easily be upgraded to mow more than 3 acres per charge. Many of the features found on gas-powered zero-turn mowers are also found on the Z6, such as adjustable lap bars to control the drive wheels, heavy-duty front swivel casters, and an adjustable high-back seat. Other features include a 42-inch mowing deck with 10 height settings between 1.5 and 4.5 inches and the option to discharge, mulch, or bag the grass clippings.
Independent electric motors drive the wheels and blades. Blade power is adjustable to conserve battery life during normal maintenance or to power through tougher areas. Powered by the included four 56-volt 10-amp-hour (Ah) lithium-ion batteries, the Z6 delivers mowing performance equivalent to that of a 22-HP gas engine. Four batteries mow up to 2 acres per charge, but the Z6 has six battery ports. Add up to two additional batteries (sold separately) to mow more than 3 acres per charge. The Z6 also features bright LED headlights and a battery-life indicator. The included Rapid-charge adapter is reputed to be one of the fastest available, topping off a set of depleted batteries in just 2 hours.
After a month of testing, we were sold on the Z6 as a viable alternative to gas for larger properties. Our test property featured rolling terrain with about 2.25 acres of grass, including a large open acre-plus, and the rest broken up with landscape beds, walkways, and buildings. We tested in the basic four-battery configuration as well as with two additional batteries in order to learn more about top-end functionality.
We were pleased to note that runtime and acres per charge were as advertised in the four-battery configuration. The Rapid-charge system refueled the four batteries in just 2 hours. To test the six-battery configuration, we mowed the entire property at the highest setting, then dropped the deck three notches and started mowing the big field again. With all six batteries, we mowed approximately 3 acres and recharged all six in about 3 hours.
The overall Ego Power Z6 mowing experience was really good. The mower starts easily and reliably. The controls, gauges, and adjustments are fairly intuitive. The sound level is extremely quiet, especially compared to a large gas-powered zero-turn mower. The suspension seat was quite comfortable, but the relatively small rear tires and overall light weight of the machine made for a bouncy ride on the roughest ground. We also noted that it climbed inclines well.
While the performance was really quite good, we did note a few rough spots. We felt a bit of “slop” or looseness in the lap bars and the front casters, particularly when navigating tight spaces, and the machine seemed to have a slight pull to the right when both bars were at full forward speed. Also, while the mower did a great job in “standard” mode (or medium blade speed) while cutting well-maintained grass, it struggled slightly in overgrown areas. In one patch of 12-inch-high crabgrass, we increased to full blade speed and still had to slow down to get a clean cut. But even with those issues, we still agree that the Z6 would make a rock-solid choice for owners of large properties who are seeking an alternative to gas.
- Type: Zero-turn mower
- Powered by: Up to six 56-volt 10Ah batteries (4 included)
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Includes four 56-volt 10Ah lithium-ion batteries with space for 2 additional batteries
- Onboard Rapid battery-charging system
- 10-position 42-inch deck
- Mows at speeds up to 7 miles per hour
- Bright LED headlights for low-light mowing
Get the Ego Power riding lawn mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Lowe’s.