How To Bench Test A Lawn Mower Starter? Here Is The Process. Starter on lawn mower

How To Know If Mower Starter Is Bad

A lawn mower with a bad starter is a hassle to diagnose. It can manifest itself, producing a cracking noise while the engine doesn’t turn over. The mower will even not respond to attempts of starting.

Misshaped spark plug, a gummed-up carburetor, or old gasoline will likely foul up your mowing. But when the problem is a bad starter, the motor stops before the engine starts.

Like other engines, a lawn mower with a bad starter will produce distinct sound clues to a specific problem.

It is therefore recommended you identify a bad starter over other electrical problems. This article is for you if you want to avoid confusion between a bad starter and other issues.

  • How to know if Mower Starter is Bad Using A Few Tests
  • 1. Battery Test
  • 2. Electrical Components and Wiring
  • 3. Starter Solenoid
  • 4. Starter Motor
  • Cautions for Using a Lawn Mower
  • FAQs Determining if Mower Starter is Bad
  • How can I test my lawn mowers starter?
  • How can I start a lawn mower using a bad starter?
  • Why does my riding lawn mower click when starting it?
  • Author

How to know if Mower Starter is Bad Using A Few Tests

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Before you diagnose starter problems in your lawn mower, consider checking other electrical problems. They include:

Battery Test

A battery test should be the first thing to consider before diagnosing your engine starter. That’s because when the lawn mower lacks adequate electricity, you can’t diagnose the engine starter.

You need a properly charged battery to operate a lawn mower electrical system perfectly.

Start by charging the lawn mower battery full using a 6 amp battery charger. It will help while diagnosing the engine starter or other related components.

If you have a riding lawn mower, the battery is 12 volts. Use a multimeter to read their voltage, such that it will be fully charged when it ranges between 12.7 to 12.9 volts.

If the battery reads less than 12.4 volts, replace it and try to start the lawn mower.

Electrical Components and Wiring

The other thing to keep in mind is the electrical connections in the engine. These are mechanical connections having metal connectors soldered or crimped onto a wire.

The wire is then bolted to other electrical components such as starter solenoid, engine starter motor, or a switch.

When starting, charging, or riding an electrical mower, electrical connectors will transfer electricity from the battery to electrical components.

Loose, broken, or corroded electrical connectors and wires will interfere with how electricity will flow.

Your engine will have reduced or no electricity flow to the components, thus improper operation.

Before checking the condition of the starter, clean the electrical connectors using a wire brush. If there are damaged or broken connectors, replace them with other new units.

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Starter Solenoid

A starter solenoid refers to the remotely mounted switch used to energize the engine starter motor.

It has three or four electrical lugs attached to the ignition switch, battery, ground wires, and engine starter.

The mounting ears will act as ground if the engine has a starter solenoid equipped with three lugs.

That said, you can now test your starter solenoid. Attach the jumper wire from where the battery cable is connected to where the engine cable connects.

If the engine motor turns over, then you have to replace the starter solenoid.

On the other hand, when the engine starter motor fails to turn over after connecting the jumper wire, you can replace your engine starter motor.

Starter Motor

An engine starter in the lawn mower is an electrical motor bolted in the engine crankcase. It is used to turn the engine flywheel teeth, therefore, starting the lawn mowers engine.

Test the battery, solenoid, electrical wires, and electrical components to be satisfied they are working properly. Then, there is a higher chance of having a bad engine starter motor.

Over time, the magnets, springs, and brushes in contact with wire winding wear, burn or get dirty. If any of that occurs, it will prevent the starter from working properly.

Once you realize it’s the starter with a problem, you can rebuild or replace a new unit. But electrical starter motor rebuilding is only for professionals equipped with extensive knowledge on repairs.

Cautions for Using a Lawn Mower

If you want to avoid future problems with your lawn mower, there are precaution measures to consider. Check them and consider using them in the future:

Before using your lawn mower, check the user manual and go through it. That gives you an easy task when starting to operate.

Operate your equipment wearing goggles and hand gloves for safety measures.

Wear personal protective clothing to avoid unwanted accidents while mowing the lawn.

Use the screwdrivers and multimeter carefully

Operate or repair your lawn mower without the presence of children.

Hire professionals for technical repairs

Related: How to charge lawn mower battery

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FAQs Determining if Mower Starter is Bad

How can I test my lawn mowers starter?

Use a jumper wire to test a bad starter. Connect one end of the jumper into the battery’s positive lead. The other side of the jumper wire connects on the starter solenoid

– usually marked S on the starter. If the engine starter turns over, you can conclude the starter ignition switch is faulty. Then you must replace it.

How can I start a lawn mower using a bad starter?

Use a jumper cable. Connect the lug at the engine starter cable and the other to the battery cable. Then, rotate the ignition key in your lawn mower.

If it clicks before starting your lawn mower, you may have to replace the solenoid.

Why does my riding lawn mower click when starting it?

When starting your lawn mower, the clicking is from the starter solenoid.

After the solenoid is energized, it will connect the battery to the lawn mowers starter motor.

However, the main cause of clicking is low battery voltage.

That may require you to replace or charge the battery.

Riding mowers are convenient is cutting grass, but they also malfunction. After some tests, you will find an issue with the starter – but how do you know with certainty?

The article above has provided you with the necessary steps of “how to know if mower starter is bad.” Knowing and understanding ways of testing a faulty mower starter is beneficial.

Good luck checking whether your starter is the source of the problem.


Hi, I’m Ricky. I’ve been involved in lawn care and landscaping from when I was 15. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of pushing mowers, collecting grass clippings, and maintaining flowerbeds at the time. But having seem the passion my parents had for gardening and outdoors and the effort they put in maintaining the health and beauty of our landscape, I couldn’t help but not only admire their hard work but also I became a part of it. As someone who loves to spend time with nature’s best, I find myself learning a lot more about gardening and outdoors on a daily basis. Not to mention I love to share the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years with my readers at We Mow Dallas. To be clear, I don’t have a Master’s degree in gardening or anything like that. Everything I’ve learned about gardening, landscaping, and lawn care spring from passion and engagement with my parents. And with a ton of free information out there, plus the ability to run tests and determine what works best for lawn care and landscaping, every day is an opportunity to learn and implement something new. My goal with We Mow Dallas is to teach you exactly how to maintain your lawn and landscape. And since I walk the talk in reality, you shouldn’t hesitate to join me in this wonderful world of landscaping and lawn care. View all posts

How To Bench Test A Lawn Mower Starter? Here Is The Process

Do you plan to cut down the tall grasses of your lawn the next morning? If so, then have a warning for you. And that is, a bad starter can ruin all of your plans!

Okay. don’t get panicked. Rather, let’s try to get the solution.

You know, if you leave the lawnmower for a long time and do not use it, problems may occur in different parts of the mower. The lawnmower starter is one of them. Note that you need to test all the parts before starting mowing.

Now, come to the main fact. What to do if the starter is in trouble? Obviously, you need to test it. The bench test is the solution to test a lawnmower starter.

Have you any idea how to bench test a lawn mower starter? No idea? Ok. No need to be hectic.

You will get all the possible solutions in this regard. Stay with us.

In this content you’ll learn:

A Complete Guideline On Bench Test Of A Lawn Mower Starter

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Before replacing the starter, you must make sure that the current lawnmower starter is totally damaged. You can be sure of this by testing some parts and connections.

The mower battery needs to be checked before checking for any problems with the starter. This is because the power is supplied from the battery to the starter to turn on the mower.

If the battery is not charged properly, it will not be able to supply enough power to the starter. You know most of the lawnmowers use 12 volts batteries. And you can check the battery by using a multimeter.

Starter solenoids play an important role in starting lawn mowers. When the key to the lawnmower is rotated in the keyhole, electricity from the battery is transported to the solenoid. The solenoid then supplies power to the starter motor to turn on the mower.

If the solenoid is faulty, you can not start the lawnmower. And when you attempt to start the mower, it only sounds click but the lawnmower will not be turned on.

The Process Of Bench Test The Lawnmower Starter

When all the parts are good in condition, now it’s time to bench test the lawnmower starter. Follow the steps outlined below to test the starter.

Steps to follow:

Step #1: Prepare The Lawn Mower

Take the lawnmower into a flat surface and enable the parking mode.

Step #2: Remove The Spark Plug

Disconnect the power cable or spark plug from the mower.

Step #3: Remove And Clean The Starter

Remove the starter from the mower. Clean the starter with a cleaning brush to remove all the dirt and debris from the starter.

Step #4: Connect The Jumper Cable

Take a 12 volts battery and a jumper cable to test the starter motor. Jumper cable has two points. One is positive and the other is negative. The red cable indicates the negative points and the black cable indicates the positive points.

Step #5: Connect with Battery

Connect one side of the jumper cable with the battery.

Step #6: Test The Starter Motor

Connect the other negative point with the frame of the starter. Touch the positive point with the terminal of the starter. If all goes well, the starter’s head will start spinning.

You will see the starter’s head rise up to engage with the flywheel.

Step #7: Replace The Damaged Starter Motor

If the starter is damaged, the rotation will automatically stop or sound click. In that case, it is better to change the starter.


Final Verdict

To sum up, we can say that bench testing a lawnmower is not a difficult task. You can do this at home. And eventually, it will save your expenses to call a technician.

Hopefully, following the above-mentioned process has helped you to identify where the problem is and how to bench test a lawn mower starter.

Now it’s your turn. Check the lawnmower every part before operating the mower and enjoy your mowing time.

How to Jump Solenoid on Lawn Mower: Step-by-Step

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Starter issues in a lawnmower can be infuriating, but it happens. The cause of a starting issue can range from a faulty starter motor, battery, ignition key, spark plugs, loose connection, or even a defective solenoid. If you experience it, the next thing is to identify the problem and work towards solving it.

While you can fix some of these faults quickly, you can’t fix others immediately. One of those components you may not be able to fix instantly is a faulty solenoid, and it can be frustrating if you need to work your lawn at that moment.

However, you can jump the solenoid on your mower and start the engine. What does it mean to jump the solenoid, and how do you go about it? This article will provide answers to those questions and more.

Essential Components of Your Lawnmower’s Starter System

To diagnose starting issues in your mower, you need to understand how the whole starter system works. The starter system consists of the motor, solenoids, ignition/button or key, battery, etc. All these components work together to ensure the machine starts well.

Starter Motor

The starter motor is the component in your mower connected to the spark plugs, and it helps you to transfer current to the engine from the starter. It gives the engine the required push to generate air and gas so it can start.


The solenoid’s main task is to send current from the battery to the engine. When you start your machine, the solenoid will click to show you that it’s engaged.


The battery is the part of the machine that produces the needed power to run all the electrical components in your lawn mower. If the battery is faulty, the mower won’t function well.

Ignition Button/Key

The ignition button turns your mower on and off. It can be a key in some mower models. Pressing the “On” switch will activate all the components required to start the mower, while the “off” button will stop the starter system and turn off your machine.

How to Diagnose Starter Issues on Your Lawnmower

Now that you’re conversant with the starter system, the next thing is to diagnose the exact problem with your lawnmower. How do you diagnose starting issues on your mower?

Check the Starter Motor

Observing the sound your mower makes can give you insights into the state of the motor. If the lawnmower clicks when you start it, and the motor terminals are within the required voltage, yet the mower isn’t starting, it’s a sign of a fault.

Check the Solenoid

You can diagnose the solenoid by connecting it to the ground and the terminal of another battery. A working solenoid will click when you start the engine, and a bad one will not.

Sometimes, the solenoid will click, but it’ll make abnormal noises due to damaged internal components. You should only attempt to jump the solenoid if you discover that it’s the faulty part of the machine.

Check the Battery

Luckily, you can check your battery’s voltage using a digital multimeter. A good battery should have a voltage of around 12V; anything significantly less than that is a sign that the battery is faulty. You should charge your mower’s battery if it’s low. However, you’ll have to change the whole thing if it’s damaged.

Check Connections and Fuse

You can jump the solenoid if you check these components and discover that the problem is solenoid related. The following section will teach you the step-by-step process to jump your solenoid.

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Of course, the machine won’t start because that’s the problem that you’re trying to fix in the first instance. However, leave the key in the “On” position and proceed to the next step.

Find the Solenoid

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Finding the solenoid is easy if you can locate the battery. Luckily, the battery is simple to spot, and it’s either located under the hood or seat, depending on your mower model.

If you’ve found the battery, follow its positive cable until you get to a cylindrical-like structure which is your solenoid. Most solenoids will have two or three wires connected to them.

Locate the Appropriate Terminal

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The next step is to locate the strong copper connecting the battery’s positive terminal to the starter’s positive terminal. Once you’ve found it, clean it using sandpaper. You should also ensure that the solenoid is more accessible to enable you to work comfortably on it, remove it and refix it if needed.

Check the Battery’s Voltage

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It’s essential to check the voltage of your battery before you proceed. A battery with less or more than the required voltage won’t do the job perfectly. You can use the millimeter to check the battery voltage.

Jump The Solenoid

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Use the jumper or screwdriver to connect the two copper posts on your solenoid to bypass it. When you perform this step, your lawnmower should start. You might need to try it multiple times before it’ll work.

You should note that the machine may produce some harmless sparks when you carry out the process. Once the mower starts, you’ve successfully jumped the solenoid.

Tips on Jumping Your Solenoid

It’s essential to take necessary preventive measures before you jump the solenoid. One of the best ways to do this is to wear safety equipment like gloves, suits, safety goggles, etc.

Also, you should avoid working the mower near flammable sources due to the risk of fires because of the sparks. Additionally, avoid taking kids or pets near the workplace. If you think any of the above processes is difficult or complex, you should let a technician work on the solenoid for you.


Jumping the solenoid can help if you have a faulty solenoid at the wrong time. If you perform all the steps correctly, it shouldn’t cause any problems. Also, the pieces of equipment you’ll need are simple workplace tools.

You can easily purchase the ones you don’t have at the nearest store. Note that jumping the solenoid won’t just let you start your machine, but it will give you insightful tips on the condition of your solenoid. If the solenoid isn’t the problem, you’ll be able to diagnose the issue with your mower and fix it.

The 8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Michelle Ullman is a home decor expert and product reviewer for home and garden products. She has been writing about home decor for over 10 years for publications like and Better Homes Gardens, among others.

Barbara Gillette is a Master Gardener, herbalist, beekeeper, and journalist. She has 30 years of experience propagating and growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals.

Rich Scherr is a seasoned technology and financial journalist who spent nearly two decades as the editor of Potomac and Bay Area Tech Wire. The Baltimore native also covered the technology scene for and has been a regular contributor to the sports pages of The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.

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For lawns that are 1 acre or more, a riding lawn mower can make turf maintenance less of a chore. Instead of sweating behind a push mower, you’ll ride in comfort while keeping your lawn in tip-top shape. Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, says, “Commonly, homeowners choose a riding lawn mower to save time and/or energy if they have a large lawn area that is too much work to utilize a walk-behind mower. Most ride-on mowers can also be used for other chores around the yard to improve efficiency, such as pulling a trailer or aerator.”

Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, adds, “A riding mower gives you the precision you need to make straight lines and even cuts. Plus, with options like zero-turn technology, you’ll be able to trim around obstacles and corners like a pro. Riding mowers have the power, agility, and versatility to handle it all with ease.”

We’ve tested over a dozen lawn mowers in our own lawns across the country including six riding lawn mowers, using each for three separate mowing sessions. During each session, the mowers were evaluated for ease of operation, comfort while riding, intuitiveness of the controls, battery runtime where applicable. and of course, how well the mower cut the grass. We considered how well the mowers maneuvered around obstacles, the range of accessories available for separate purchase, and the overall value of each mower before compiling our final list of winners.

Best Overall

John Deere S100 42 Inch 17.5 HP Gas Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor

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  • Very easy to maneuver even around tight turns
  • Excellent performance cutting both wet and dry grass
  • Smooth, comfortable ride
  • White Glove Service

Our top-scoring riding mower performed like a Champion on all three mowing sessions at our 10-acre New Jersey yard (although the manufacturer recommends it for yards up to 1 acre in size). We were amazed at how easy it was to maneuver even around tight corners or close to trees. And it did a great job of cleanly cutting both dry and wet grass; remarkably, it did not leave any ruts on the wet grass, just small indentations. The mower provides a comfortable, smooth ride; we drove it down a 500-foot gravel path to reach the lawn without any discomfort or difficulty. This mower has 13 cutting levels ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches, and we found it very easy to set the desired cutting height. Even better, it was delivered already assembled and ready to go thanks to its “White Glove Service.”

The cutting deck is 42 inches, which is a good size for making quick work of the lawn, yet not so large that it’s bulky or hard to steer. It has a tight 18-inch turning radius. And with its 17.5-horsepower Briggs Stratton engine, this is a powerful mower that won’t struggle with slopes, tall grass, or thick weeds. It discharges the clippings to the side, and we found that it also easily cleared away fallen leaves from the grass. John Deere sells clipping bags, mulchers, and several other yard maintenance accessories separately. Like most gasoline-powered riding mowers, you will need to occasionally perform oil changes, but the process is not too difficult. And thanks to the electric start, it’s very easy to power the mower up and get right to work.

We found the seat to be quite comfortable, and you can adjust the position to suit your height. All of the controls are easy to identify and use, although it took us a few minutes to get used to the side-by-side foot pedals for going forward or reversing. The mower’s top speed is 5.5 mph going forward, and 3.2 mph in reverse. It can cut the grass in either direction. It has headlights if you want to mow at dusk or dawn, and a cup holder to keep your favorite beverage close at hand while you work.

This riding mower is covered by John Deere’s 2-year/120-hour bumper-to-bumper warranty. And it’s quite reasonably priced for a riding mower; overall, it’s hard to go wrong with this hard-working mower.

Price at time of publish: 2,399

Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 414 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 1 acre

Best Electric

RYOBI 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Electric Cordless Riding Lawn Tractor

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  • Excellent performance
  • Comfortable and fun to drive
  • Long battery runtime
  • LCD screen and app for tracking battery life

If you are looking for an electric riding lawn mower with all the power of a gas model, but without the fumes or bother of a gas engine, the RYOBI 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Riding Lawn Tractor is our top choice. We found it fun to ride; with a maximum forward speed of 7 mph, this is a zippy mower that speeds up or slows down almost immediately when adjusting your foot on the lever, but we did find it a bit jerky at times. It also was somewhat tricky to assemble, taking us over an hour to have it ready to go. The mower has a 42-inch deck and four steel blades with 13 different cutting height positions to choose from (within 1.5 to 4.5 inches), so you can really fine-tune the look of your lawn. It did a great job cutting the grass, whether wet or dry, at our third-acre Iowa test garden, and even chopped up small sticks, leaves, and weeds very easily. It even features a warning beep when backing up; while we appreciate this safety feature, it admittedly did become tiresome to hear the beep every time we reversed.

According to the manufacturer, it has the equivalent of a 21-horsepower engine, but it runs on the included three 80-volt, 10Ah batteries which allow you to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge (about 60 minutes of runtime) and quickly recharge in less than 2.5 hours thanks to the onboard charger. In our test sessions, the batteries never dropped much below 80 percent capacity, and we appreciated the LCD touchscreen that lets you keep tabs on the battery runtime and charging speed, as well as blade speed, driving speed, and blade height. Other extra features we like include LED headlights, front and back storage compartments, two tow hitches, two cup holders, and two USB ports to charge your phone.

Of course, the most important feature of a lawn mower is how well it cuts grass, and this one left our test lawn looking great, without creating ruts, ridges, or unevenly chopped grass. The mower discharges clippings to the side, but you can purchase a bagger and mulching kit separately, as well as various lawn care attachments. This is a powerful, feature-packed riding lawn tractor so it comes at a bigger price tag than other picks. If you don’t need all of these features, you may want to choose a more budget-friendly model. However, we think if you are looking for a great electric riding mower with all of the features and power you need, this is your best bet. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

Price at time of publish: 4,999

Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 557 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres

Best Gas

Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower

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  • Excellent cutting performance
  • Very comfortable, smooth ride
  • Easy maintenance
  • Zero-turn radius
  • A bit of a learning curve to handle
  • Bagger and mulching kit must be purchased separately
  • No headlights

While we did have a bit of a learning curve with this powerful gas riding mower from Toro, once we got the hang of using the hand levers to control our speed, braking, direction, and blade engagement, we found that it was easy to maneuver between trees and other obstacles on our half-acre Iowa lawn. But if you have a larger property, you’ll be happy to know that this mower is rated for yards up to 4 acres in size. It has a hefty 50-inch cutting deck, so the zero-turn capability comes in handy when swiveling such a large mower around flowerbeds, between trees, or near retaining walls or other obstacles. We also found it very easy to set the cutting height, which ranges from a low of 1.5 inches to a high of 4.5 inches.

On our first mowing session, the grass was wet and the mower’s tires slipped a bit while moving down a slope, but on subsequent sessions, we had little problem in mowing over wet grass, thick grass, leaves, and other small lawn debris. The mower left the grass very evenly cut, with a lush, full appearance. Like many riding mowers, the clippings discharge to the side; if you want a bag or mulching kit, you’ll have to buy them separately. We definitely appreciated Toro’s MyRide suspension system, which keeps the ride smooth and pleasant even when the terrain isn’t completely level. And with a top speed of 7 mph, this mower can get the job done quickly. It has a cup holder to keep a cold beverage close at hand but does not have headlights, unlike many other riding mowers.

One great feature of this gas mower is that while it does require annual oil changes, it’s designed to make the task as easy as possible, so you won’t have to waste your afternoon on maintenance. It also has wash-out ports underneath the deck, so you can quickly blast away caked-on grass, mud, and grunge with your garden hose. And the sturdy construction, including the steel deck, means that this mower can take a beating and keep right on mowing without a pause. It comes with a 3-year residential limited warranty.

Price at time of publish: 4,299

Cutting Width: 50 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 694 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres

Best Lawn Tractor

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor

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  • Comfortable, adjustable seat
  • Reasonable price
  • Excellent performance in cutting grass

We put this gas-powered lawn tractor to the test on a 6-acre Iowa property that once housed horses, and so is rather bumpy, and also has many trees and other obstacles. The mower was easy to assemble, but the instructions for starting it were somewhat unclear, and it took us several tries to get it up and running. Still, once we figured it out, we were very pleased with the mower’s performance. It operated beautifully over wet grass, thick grass, and uneven spots, plus, it maneuvered easily around all obstacles. The mower has a 23-horsepower/725 cc Kohler engine with plenty of power, and the 46-inch deck is big enough for getting the job done quickly but not so large that it’s hard to slip between trees and other obstacles.

The mower has 12 cutting settings ranging from 1.5 inches to 4 inches. We found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, as well as other controls on the mower. It has a 16-inch turn radius, which is tight enough for most lawns, although we couldn’t get quite as close to some trees as we would have liked. The maximum forward speed is 5.5 mph, which is a bit slower than some other models, but more than sufficient for most users. Overall, we felt like our lawn looked great once we finished mowing, and the mower spewed the grass clippings evenly from the side chute. Like most riding mowers, if you want a bagger or mulching kit, you’ll need to purchase them separately. There are quite a few other attachments available for this mower as well.

The seat can be adjusted, which was a definite plus for us, along with the smooth ride. On the downside, this mower does require periodic oil changes, but the process shouldn’t be too difficult or time-intensive. And on the plus side, the mower has cruise control, so once you find a speed that you like, you can easily set the mower to continue at that pace. It also has headlights for mowing in shady spots or at dusk. While riding mowers are undeniably expensive, this one is reasonably priced for the quality and performance it provides. It’s rated for use on lawns up to 4 acres in size and comes with a 3-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: 2,449

Cutting Width: 46 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 575 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres

Best Battery Zero-Turn

Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Electric Cordless Zero Turn Riding Mower

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  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Joystick for steering and speed control
  • Long battery runtime
  • Very clean cut on all types of grass
  • Initially received a defective mower, although customer service was excellent
  • Expensive

We tested this mower on a half-acre property in Iowa. While it was fairly straightforward and quick to assemble the mower and give the batteries an initial charge, it turned out that our first test mower had an electrical problem that required several phone calls and a technician’s visit before determining that the mower was defective. However, we were quickly provided a new mower, which was already assembled and ready to go. Despite this unfortunate start to our testing sessions, we were very impressed with the manufacturer’s customer service, and we loved the performance of this zero-turn mower, which has a 42-inch deck and power that Ryobi claims is equivalent to 31 horsepower.

Unlike many other riding mowers, which have levers, pedals, or steering wheels to control the motion of the machine, this one has Ryobi’s iDrive joystick, which lets you set your speed in forward or reverse, as well as turn and maneuver the mower. Not only was this fun, but it was also very intuitive and easy to use. The mower also has an LCD screen that shows battery life and runtime. This mower comes with four batteries: two 80-volt, 10-amp hour and two 40-volt, 12-amp hour batteries, which can all be charged simultaneously. In our testing sessions, the batteries still had plenty of charge left once mowing was finished. Ryobi claims that you can mow up to 3 acres on a single full charge.

Setting the cutting height, which ranges from 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches, is easily accomplished with a single lever, and with four blades, this mower easily handled wet grass, thick grass, and tall grass, leaving our lawn looking great. The clippings discharge from the side, although you can purchase a bagger or mulching kit separately if desired. While riding the mower, we especially appreciated how quiet it is in comparison to gas mowers—we could actually talk to nearby family members while riding it—and how smooth and comfortable a ride it provides, thanks to the superior seat suspension that absorbs a lot of the bumps and vibrations. The mower also has some nice extra features, including headlights, cup holders, and USB charging ports. While this mower is undeniably a big investment, we felt that its performance, power, and ease of use make it well worth the cost for those with big yards. It has a 5-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: 5,999

Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 700 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 3 acres

Best Gas Zero-Turn

Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 42 in. 22HP Zero-Turn Mower

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  • Seat can be fully adjusted for a comfortable ride
  • Zero-turn
  • Relatively reasonable price
  • Easy to control

While all riding mowers are fairly expensive, particularly zero-turn mowers, the Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 Zero-Turn Mower is relatively reasonable in price, making it even more of a great option for yards up to 4 acres in size. While testing, It took us around 30 minutes to assemble, but it did take us a little longer to figure out the choke. However, once we understood the instructions, we got started mowing a third-acre Iowa lawn that includes hills, several obstacles, and areas of very thick, tall grass. Initially, we took it easy and went slowly while we got used to the handling of the mower, which was a bit touchy. However, once we got the hang of it, we did find the mower to be easy to control, and we really liked being able to make sharp turns around obstacles. We did report some rattling from a belt that needed to be tightened, but that didn’t affect the performance.

While mowing, we found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, which has an impressive range of 1 inch to 4.5 inches. We mowed right through very tall patches of grass without a hitch and liked the way the clippings were ejected far to the side of the mower, so there was no annoying buildup of clumps. It’s easy to speed up or slow down; the more you push the handlebars, the faster you’ll go, up to a top speed of 7 mph. Plus, you can mow both forward and in reverse, which made it easier to reach some trickier spots on the lawn. The mower felt very stable and safe even while mowing on slopes. Initially, we found the ride to be somewhat bumpy, but once we had the fully adjustable seat set to our ideal position, the ride became quite smooth.

With a 22-horsepower Kohler engine, this is a powerful mower with a very sturdy build. Like other gas mowers, it does require periodic oil changes. While we liked its side-discharge function, you’ll have to purchase a bagger or mulching kit separately if that’s your preference. Cub Cadet also sells various attachments that can be added to the mower for other lawn care functions. It has a 3-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: 3,299

Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 580 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres

Best for Hills

Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 in. 19 HP Automatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Mower

bench, test, lawn, mower, starter, here

  • Automatic transmission
  • Good traction on hills
  • Extra leg room
  • Compatible with a variety of accessories

While we were not able to personally test the Bronco 42, we still recommend this 19-horsepower, 42-inch gas mower for yards up to 2 acres in size, especially if your yard has a lot of slopes. This sturdy mower has an automatic transmission and uses a simple foot pedal to control your speed, just like your car. That means you are likely to feel comfortable handling the mower from the start, even if you have never used a riding lawn mower before.

The mower has anti-scalp, 20-inch all-terrain wheels, making it much easier to mow smoothly over uneven terrain or up and down slopes without bogging down or damaging your turf. Note that as with all riding mowers, you should always mow from side to side across a slope, not up and down the slope, to maintain stability. There are five cutting height settings, which are easy to adjust with a single lever, and range from 1.25 inches to 3.75 inches. That’s a smaller cutting range than many other riding mowers, but it easily handles most common lawn grasses, and the double blades, large wheels, and sturdy construction of the mower allow it to plow right through tall or thick turf without a problem.

The Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 has a step-through frame that offers more leg room, and the mid-back seat and rubber footpads keep you comfortable while you work. Its 18-inch turn radius is tight enough to maneuver around most yard obstacles, such as trees, fences, flowerbeds, or playsets. The machine has a rear hitch to pull garden carts, sprayers, and spreaders. It comes with a side-discharge chute for clippings, but if you prefer to bag or mulch the grass clippings, you’ll need to buy those accessories separately. Like all gas mowers, you’ll need to carry out periodic oil changes, usually recommended after every 50 hours of use or annually. It comes with a 2-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: 2,199

Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 520 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres

Best Small

Cub Cadet 30 in. 56-Volt MAX 30 Ah Battery Riding Lawn Tractor

bench, test, lawn, mower, starter, here

Not everyone needs a beast of a mower that can handle yards up to 4 acres in size. If you have a lawn that’s 1 acre or less, or you have a lot of obstacles on your property that require a smaller mower to maneuver between and around them, we recommend this battery-powered mower from Cub Cadet. It has a 30-inch deck that can slip through a 36-inch gate, and which won’t take up a lot of space in your garage or garden shed. While we were unable to test this mower ourselves, it’s still our top choice for smaller yards.

The mower comes with a 56-volt MAX 30 amp-hour battery that can mow up to 1 acre, or for 1 hour, before needing a recharge, which takes roughly 4 hours. It’s supremely quiet compared to gas mowers, and the ride is smooth and comfortable. Plus, no need for oil changes, pouring gasoline into a fuel tank, or smelly fumes. You can adjust the cutting height within a range of 1.5 inches to 4 inches, and no bogging down on tall or thick grass. The 18-inch turning radius is tight enough to easily work your way around most obstacles.

One feature that we especially approve of, and yet isn’t offered on many riding mowers, is this model’s cruise control, which allows you to set your speed up to a maximum of 5.5 mph and then let the mower keep your pace steady; no need to concentrate on maintaining an even speed by pushing pedals or gripping levers. Plus, it has a very comfortable high-back seat with armrests, LED headlights, a cup holder, and two onboard USB ports to power up your phone or music while you ride. Additionally, unlike every other mower on our list, this one includes the mulching kit—all others require you to purchase that separately—so you can turn the grass clippings into fine mulch to help feed your lawn. It comes with a 3-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: 3,599

Cutting Width: 30 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 362 pounds | Cutting Options: Mulch, side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 1 acre

Our top recommendation, the gas-powered John Deere S100 42-Inch Riding Lawn Mower, is supremely easy to maneuver around obstacles while creating a very smooth cut even on thick or tall grass. It comes with “White Glove Service” delivery, so you won’t have to assemble it, and it is easy to operate and maintain. However, if you prefer an electric mower, then we recommend the Ryobi 80V 42-Inch Battery Riding Mower, which has a lot of power and excellent battery runtime; you can get up to an hour of mowing done before needing to recharge. That’s enough for most people to complete the task on just one charge.

How We Tested the Riding Lawn Mowers

After testing eight walk-behind lawn mowers across the country, we tested six riding mowers, including gas, electric, and zero-turn options, each tested on a different property with varying terrain and lawn conditions, including slopes, rough spots, tall grass, and wet areas. We started by recording how long it took to unbox and assemble the riding lawn mower, as well as the difficulty or ease of assembly. (Two of the mowers were delivered assembled and ready to go, however.)

Once the grass was long enough to require mowing, we tested the riding mower on three separate occasions. For each session, we recorded the date and weather conditions, the size of the area to be mowed, the height of grass to be cut, and the length of time it took to accomplish the mowing. At the end of the session, we noted how cleanly and evenly the lawn had been cut, as well as how well the side-discharge chute shot the clippings back onto the lawn. (Only one of our tested mowers included an option other than side-discharge of the clippings; commonly clippings bags and mulching kits are not included with a riding mower, but must be purchased separately if desired.)

As we rode the mowers, we noted how easy it was to speed up or slow down the machine in both forward and reverse, the ease of raising or lowering the cutting height, how well the mower maneuvered around obstacles, and how evenly the mower cut all types of grass, including tall or thick patches as well as wet turf. We also paid attention to the comfort of the seat and the overall comfort of the ride, noting if it was unusually rough, had excessive vibration, or was in any other way uncomfortable to use the mower. We also tried out any extra features on the mowers, including headlights, cupholders, USB charging ports, or onboard storage areas.

At the end of each mowing session, we noted how much battery charge was left on electric mowers, as well as the length of time required for a full recharge. Finally, we summed up each experience with the mower, noting whether or not we felt it was a good value for the performance delivered.

What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower

Power Source

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to buy a gas- or electric-powered riding lawn mower. Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, says, “Like in the automobileworld, battery-powered equipment is popular right now. Electrical mowers on both the residential and professional/commercial side are becoming more preferred over gas powered. You have to take into account that they both require different maintenance schedules, and it’s important to ask questions like ‘How long does the battery last, and what is the cost of a replacement battery’ before making a commitment to electric.”

As a general rule, gas mowers, including our Best Overall choice, the John Deere S100, are more powerful than electric models, but they’re louder, less eco-friendly, and require more maintenance, including regular oil changes. Plus, in some locations, gas mowers have very stringent requirements for emission levels that some models can’t meet. However, Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance notes that the power of a gas mower can be especially useful if your lawn has rough areas, thick weeds, or especially tough grass.

Electric mowers, on the other hand, like our Best Electric Riding Mower, the Ryobi 80V Brushless Electric Riding Mower, are typically less powerful and require you to keep an eye on the battery charge level, but they’re also quieter, easier to start, and better for the environment. Still, while electric mowers require consistent charging, they often don’t require as much maintenance as gas models that have spark plugs, belts, and filters that must be maintained over time.

Deck Size

The deck size of a lawn mower dictates how wide a path it cuts—larger decks cut wider paths on each pass. Most residential riding mowers have decks that are around 42 inches, but if you have a very large property, you might want to consider a mower with deck that’s considerably bigger, like our Best Gas Mower pick, the Toro TimeCutter Zero-Turn Mower, which has a 50-inch deck. And of course, small properties, or lawns with many obstacles, might do best with a mower that has a smaller deck.

Keep in mind that the larger the mower, the harder it will be to maneuver through gates and other obstacles, plus the more space it will require in your garage or shed. Also, a mower’s deck size will impact its turning radius—except for zero-turn mowers, which can manage wider decks thanks to their overall design—and will also make it more challenging to navigate uneven terrain. Our Best Battery Powered Zero-Turn Mower, the Ryobi 80V Electric Zero-Turn Riding Mower, turns on a dime even with its 42-inch deck.

Engine Power

While the typical push mower’s engine is just 2 to 5 horsepower or the equivalent in battery power, a riding mower requires considering more oomph, with most having engine power or equivalent battery power of 13 to 30 horsepower. Noah James says, “Make sure the riding mower you’re considering has enough horsepower to handle your specific needs. A larger engine will be able to handle thicker grass and steeper hills with ease.”

As a rough guideline, a lawn that’s less than an acre can be handled by a riding mower with at least 13 horsepower, but a 3-acre lawn needs at least 18 horsepower to get the job done, and even more if your lawn has slopes or rugged terrain.

Grass Clippings

Don’t forget to consider how the lawn mower handles grass clippings. Just about every riding mower has a side-discharge chute to spit the clippings back out onto your lawn. But many brands also offer mulching kits or clipping bags for their riding mowers; note that you’ll generally have to purchase these separately. However, our Best Small Mower, the Cub Cadet 30-Inch Battery Mower, does include a mulching kit. If you want to mulch or bag your clippings, be sure that any riding mower you are considering offers these options, and remember to add the price of the accessories to the cost of the mower itself.

The defining feature of zero-turn mowers is a zero-degree turning radius, but these mowers are generally also much faster than regular riding mowers. However, keep in mind that it’s easier to maintain control around obstacles at lower speeds, so unless you have a very large, flat lawn, you’re unlikely to be running your mower at top speed very often. Plus, zero-turn mowers are much more expensive than regular riding mowers.

According to Marc Mayer, a riding lawn mower is suited to any type of turf, but because these machines are heavy, they can cause soil compaction, which can affect the health of your grass. You can help prevent this by not mowing when the ground is wet, and by trying to avoid mowing over the same area more than once.

The top speed for standard riding lawnmowers ranges from 4 to 6 mph. Zero-turn mowers are much faster, with some going 8 to 10 mph at full speed. While speed is a great factor to consider if you prefer to quickly complete outdoor tasks, a speedy job does not always result in a better cut, so don’t automatically assume that you need the fastest mower available.

The easiest way to transport a riding lawn mower is with a trailer. Mowers can be driven up a ramp into a low trailer and towed behind a vehicle. You may also transport riding mowers in the bed of a pickup truck, but special ramps are required. Of course, if you are merely loaning the mower to a neighbor or somewhere very close by, you may be able to ride the mower to the location, as long as the terrain permits this and you keep the blade turned off and elevated.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Michelle Ullman is the home improvement/tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs around the house and yard.

For this roundup, she relied on input from our team of testers, but also considered dozens of other riding lawn mowers of various types, evaluating each for features, power, effectiveness, ease of use, and overall value. She also considered feedback from customers, both positive and negative, as well as reviews and information on landscaping websites. Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, and Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, also provided additional expert input.

What Is The Spruce Approved?

Here at The Spruce, we want to ensure we fully stand behind every product we recommend and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all these products ourselves, though occasionally, we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut.

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