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Mähroboter: Rasenmäher-Roboter im Test
Mähroboter schonen die Umwelt, wenn sie richtig eingesetzt werden, aber insbesondere sind sie bequem und zeitsparend. Ein weiterer Vorteil: Rasenmäher-Roboter fördern durch ihre Art des Mähens die Artenvielfalt im Garten. CHIP hat im Mähroboter-Test neun aktuelle Geräte unter die Lupe genommen. Besonders hat uns dabei interessiert, wie sicher die Mähroboter für Mensch und Tier sind und was die angebotenen Sprachassistenten und Apps zu ihrer Bedienung wirklich taugen. Nach unserer Kaufberatung geben wir Ihnen zudem Tipps zum sicheren und ökologisch richtigen Einsatz des Rasenroboters.
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Spielplatz, Liegewiese, Lebensraum, Nahrungsquelle – das grüne Vorzimmer hat zahlreiche Nutzmöglichkeiten. Dafür gehört es belüftet, gejätet, entmoost, gedüngt. Viele Arbeitsstunden, wenn man alles selber in die Hand nimmt. Kein Wunder, dass Mähroboter immer beliebter werden – mit Rasenmäher-Robotern erledigt sich die Rasenpflege fast von selbst. Weil sie mulchen, fällt bei ihnen kein abzuräumendes Schnittgut an. Sie düngen mit dem gemähten Gras den Boden, fördern so nachweislich die Artenvielfalt und beugen Moos und Verfilzung vor. Zur Freude aller Nachbarn sogar fast geräuschlos und ohne Abgase. Selbst um die Installation und das Verlegen des Begrenzungsdrahtes müssen Sie sich nicht kümmern, wenn Sie den Rasenroboter beim Fachhändler kaufen und geschickt verhandeln. Es gibt inzwischen zwar schon Modelle, die ohne Begrenzungsdraht auskommen, aber das sind Geräte für sehr spezielle Anwendungsfälle. Mehr dazu am Ende des Beitrags. Alle Ergebnisse zum Mähroboter-Test finden Sie in unserer Mähroboter-Bestenliste.
Das lesen Sie in diesem Beitrag: Zuerst stellen wir Ihnen die wichtigsten Mähroboter im Test im Detail vor. Insgesamt haben wir aktuell 8 Produkte getestet. Danach erklären wir die wichtigen Vor- und Nachteile von Rasenrobotern und fassen Kauf- sowie Betriebstipps in einer Kaufberatung zusammen. Abschließend gehen wir auf unser Testverfahren ein.
Die besten Mähroboter im Test (Auswahl aus 8 getesteten Modellen)
STIHL RMI 522C
Bosch Indego S 400
Indego S 400
Sehr gut (1,1)
Sehr gut (1,5)
Husqvarna awd lawnmower self propel not working.
Testsieger: STIHL RMI 522C
Gesamtnote: 1,1 (Sehr gut) Mit seinem robusten Balkenmähwerk ist der STIHL RMI 522C der Mähroboter für’s Grobe. Deshalb sollte man bei ihm auch ein besonderes Augenmerk auf die Sicherheit legen. Vier Räder machen ihn sehr geländegängig. Dank Anti-Stuck-Mode kämpft er sich auch aus schwierigen Situationen frei. Seine Akkulaufzeit ist dafür relativ kurz.
Energie Effizienzklasse: Klasse
Ausgelegt für 2.100 Quadratmeter, ist der STIHL RMI 522C das Kraftpaket in unserem Vergleich. Mit einem massiven Balkenmesser ausgerüstet, macht sein Mähwerk auch vor kleinen Ästen nicht halt. Daher ist er der Richtige für Flächen mit viel Baumbestand. Um so wichtiger ist es bei seinem Einsatz allerdings auch, das Gelände etwa von Kinderspielzeug oder Kleingetier freizuhalten. Aus Rücksicht auf Igel und sonstiges dämmerungsaktives Getier sollte man ihn nicht in der Dämmerung oder gar nachts auf die Weide schicken. Was sich aber über seinen Mähkalender für jeden Tag detailliert einstellen lässt. Auch er benötigt einen Signaldraht, der ihm sein Arbeitsgebiet abgrenzt. Ein entsprechendes Installationskit ist nicht im Lieferumfang enthalten. Da dieser Mähroboter vor allem über Fachhändler verkauft wird, geht STIHL davon aus, dass die meisten Kaufenden das Mähgelände auch gleich von Fachkundigen einrichten lassen. Zumal diese in der Regel über eine Verlegeeinrichtung verfügen, die den Draht gleich unter der Grasnarbe verschwinden lässt. Die Ladestation steht im rechten Winkel zur Mähfläche. Sie kann auch versetzt in einem Korridor oder etwa unter einer Terrasse aufgestellt werden.
Mit zwei grobstolligen Antriebsreifen und zwei Stützrädern ist der STIHL RMI 522C auch in unwegsamem Gelände sicher unterwegs. Er bewältigt spielend Steigungen bis zu 40 Prozent. Sollte er doch einmal stecken bleiben, so hilft ihm sein „Anti-Stuck-Modus”, sich aus der misslichen Lage wieder zu befreien. Um auch entfernt gelegene Flächen gründlich zu mähen, können vier verschiedene Startpunkte definiert werden. Ein Regensensor verhindert auf Wunsch, dass er bei zu nassen Böden losfährt. Etwas enttäuschend ist die nicht besonders lange Akkulaufzeit von im Schnitt 77 Minuten. Allerdings dauert der Boxenstopp auch nur 84 Minuten, bis der Akku wieder voll geladen ist.
Der Mähroboter lässt sich nicht nur über sein Klartextmenü am Gerät, sondern noch komfortabler per App mit dem Smartphone einstellen und bedienen. Da der RMI 522C über ein eigenes GSM-Modul verfügt, ist dazu nicht einmal ein WLAN nötig. In Kombination mit dem integrierten GPS-Empfänger kann man auch aus der Ferne sehen, wo sich der Mähroboter gerade befindet. Er verfügt über einen Untergreifschutz sowie einen Anhebesensor, der das Mähwerk augenblicklich stoppt, wenn er hochgehoben wird. Zudem erkennt er, wenn beispielsweise Kinder ihn als Spielzeug missbrauchen und ihn mehrmals an der gleichen Stelle stoppen. Dann stellt er sein Mähwerk ab und sucht das Weite. Trotzdem sollte man aber sicherstellen, dass keine Unbefugten sich in seinem Mähgebiet aufhalten. Gegen Diebstahl ist er mit einer PIN gesichert. Außerdem kann ein bestimmter GPS-Bereich festgelegt werden, außerhalb dessen er Alarm schlägt.
Preistipp: Worx Landroid M700Plus
Gesamtnote: 1,5 (Sehr gut) Der Worx M700Plus ist ein leistungsstarker Mähroboter für Flächen bis 700 Quadratmeter. Er kann mit einer ganzen Serie zusätzlicher Module aufgerüstet werden. Sein Wechselakku passt praktischerweise auch in andere Akku-Werkzeuge des Herstellers und umgekehrt. Ein Vorteil bei der verhältnismäßig langen Ladedauer.
Energie Effizienzklasse: Klasse
The 8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Michelle Ullman is a home decor expert and product reviewer for home and garden products. She has been writing about home decor for over 10 years for publications like BobVila.com and Better Homes Gardens, among others.
Barbara Gillette is a Master Gardener, herbalist, beekeeper, and journalist. She has 30 years of experience propagating and growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals.
Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics including environmental science and houseplants.
For lawns that are 1 acre or more, a riding lawn mower can make turf maintenance less of a chore. Instead of sweating behind a push mower, you’ll ride in comfort while keeping your lawn in tip-top shape. Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, says, Commonly, homeowners choose a riding lawn mower to save time and/or energy if they have a large lawn area that is too much work to utilize a walk-behind mower. Most ride-on mowers can also be used for other chores around the yard to improve efficiency, such as pulling a trailer or aerator.
Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, adds, A riding mower gives you the precision you need to make straight lines and even cuts. Plus, with options like zero-turn technology, you’ll be able to trim around obstacles and corners like a pro. Riding mowers have the power, agility, and versatility to handle it all with ease.
We’ve tested over a dozen lawn mowers in our own lawns across the country including six riding lawn mowers, using each for three separate mowing sessions. During each session, the mowers were evaluated for ease of operation, comfort while riding, intuitiveness of the controls, battery runtime where applicable. and of course, how well the mower cut the grass. We considered how well the mowers maneuvered around obstacles, the range of accessories available for separate purchase, and the overall value of each mower before compiling our final list of winners.
John Deere S100 42-Inch 17.5 HP Gas Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor
- Very easy to maneuver even around tight turns
- Excellent performance cutting both wet and dry grass
- Smooth, comfortable ride
- White Glove Service
Our top-scoring riding mower performed like a Champion on all three mowing sessions at our 10-acre New Jersey yard (although the manufacturer recommends it for yards up to 1 acre in size). We were amazed at how easy it was to maneuver even around tight corners or close to trees. And it did a great job of cleanly cutting both dry and wet grass; remarkably, it did not leave any ruts on the wet grass, just small indentations. The mower provides a comfortable, smooth ride; we drove it down a 500-foot gravel path to reach the lawn without any discomfort or difficulty. This mower has 13 cutting levels ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches, and we found it very easy to set the desired cutting height. Even better, it was delivered already assembled and ready to go thanks to its White Glove Service.
The cutting deck is 42 inches, which is a good size for making quick work of the lawn, yet not so large that it’s bulky or hard to steer. It has a tight 18-inch turning radius. And with its 17.5-horsepower Briggs Stratton engine, this is a powerful mower that won’t struggle with slopes, tall grass, or thick weeds. It discharges the clippings to the side, and we found that it also easily cleared away fallen leaves from the grass. John Deere sells clipping bags, mulchers, and several other yard maintenance accessories separately. Like most gasoline-powered riding mowers, you will need to occasionally perform oil changes, but the process is not too difficult. And thanks to the electric start, it’s very easy to power the mower up and get right to work.
We found the seat to be quite comfortable, and you can adjust the position to suit your height. All of the controls are easy to identify and use, although it took us a few minutes to get used to the side-by-side foot pedals for going forward or reversing. The mower’s top speed is 5.5 mph going forward, and 3.2 mph in reverse. It can cut the grass in either direction. It has headlights if you want to mow at dusk or dawn, and a cup holder to keep your favorite beverage close at hand while you work.
This riding mower is covered by John Deere’s 2-year/120-hour bumper-to-bumper warranty. And it’s quite reasonably priced for a riding mower; overall, it’s hard to go wrong with this hard-working mower.
Price at time of publish: 2,399
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 414 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 1 acre
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Electric Cordless Riding Lawn Tractor
- Excellent performance
- Comfortable and fun to drive
- Long battery runtime
- LCD screen and app for tracking battery life
If you are looking for an electric riding lawn mower with all the power of a gas model, but without the fumes or bother of a gas engine, the RYOBI 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Riding Lawn Tractor is our top choice. We found it fun to ride; with a maximum forward speed of 7 mph, this is a zippy mower that speeds up or slows down almost immediately when adjusting your foot on the lever, but we did find it a bit jerky at times. It also was somewhat tricky to assemble, taking us over an hour to have it ready to go. The mower has a 42-inch deck and four steel blades with 13 different cutting height positions to choose from (within 1.5 to 4.5 inches), so you can really fine-tune the look of your lawn. It did a great job cutting the grass, whether wet or dry, at our third-acre Iowa test garden, and even chopped up small sticks, leaves, and weeds very easily. It even features a warning beep when backing up; while we appreciate this safety feature, it admittedly did become tiresome to hear the beep every time we reversed.
Husqvarna AWD Push Mower Belt Replacement, Maintenance & Repair
According to the manufacturer, it has the equivalent of a 21-horsepower engine, but it runs on the included three 80-volt, 10Ah batteries which allow you to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge (about 60 minutes of runtime) and quickly recharge in less than 2.5 hours thanks to the onboard charger. In our test sessions, the batteries never dropped much below 80 percent capacity, and we appreciated the LCD touchscreen that lets you keep tabs on the battery runtime and charging speed, as well as blade speed, driving speed, and blade height. Other extra features we like include LED headlights, front and back storage compartments, two tow hitches, two cup holders, and two USB ports to charge your phone.
Of course, the most important feature of a lawn mower is how well it cuts grass, and this one left our test lawn looking great, without creating ruts, ridges, or unevenly chopped grass. The mower discharges clippings to the side, but you can purchase a bagger and mulching kit separately, as well as various lawn care attachments. This is a powerful, feature-packed riding lawn tractor so it comes at a bigger price tag than other picks. If you don’t need all of these features, you may want to choose a more budget-friendly model. However, we think if you are looking for a great electric riding mower with all of the features and power you need, this is your best bet. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: 4,999
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 557 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres
Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- Excellent cutting performance
- Very comfortable, smooth ride
- Easy maintenance
- Zero-turn radius
- A bit of a learning curve to handle
- Bagger and mulching kit must be purchased separately
- No headlights
While we did have a bit of a learning curve with this powerful gas riding mower from Toro, once we got the hang of using the hand levers to control our speed, braking, direction, and blade engagement, we found that it was easy to maneuver between trees and other obstacles on our half-acre Iowa lawn. But if you have a larger property, you’ll be happy to know that this mower is rated for yards up to 4 acres in size. It has a hefty 50-inch cutting deck, so the zero-turn capability comes in handy when swiveling such a large mower around flowerbeds, between trees, or near retaining walls or other obstacles. We also found it very easy to set the cutting height, which ranges from a low of 1.5 inches to a high of 4.5 inches.
On our first mowing session, the grass was wet and the mower’s tires slipped a bit while moving down a slope, but on subsequent sessions, we had little problem in mowing over wet grass, thick grass, leaves, and other small lawn debris. The mower left the grass very evenly cut, with a lush, full appearance. Like many riding mowers, the clippings discharge to the side; if you want a bag or mulching kit, you’ll have to buy them separately. We definitely appreciated Toro’s MyRide suspension system, which keeps the ride smooth and pleasant even when the terrain isn’t completely level. And with a top speed of 7 mph, this mower can get the job done quickly. It has a cup holder to keep a cold beverage close at hand but does not have headlights, unlike many other riding mowers.
One great feature of this gas mower is that while it does require annual oil changes, it’s designed to make the task as easy as possible, so you won’t have to waste your afternoon on maintenance. It also has wash-out ports underneath the deck, so you can quickly blast away caked-on grass, mud, and grunge with your garden hose. And the sturdy construction, including the steel deck, means that this mower can take a beating and keep right on mowing without a pause. It comes with a 3-year residential limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: 4,299
Cutting Width: 50 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 694 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor
- Comfortable, adjustable seat
- Reasonable price
- Excellent performance in cutting grass
We put this gas-powered lawn tractor to the test on a 6-acre Iowa property that once housed horses, and so is rather bumpy, and also has many trees and other obstacles. The mower was easy to assemble, but the instructions for starting it were somewhat unclear, and it took us several tries to get it up and running. Still, once we figured it out, we were very pleased with the mower’s performance. It operated beautifully over wet grass, thick grass, and uneven spots, plus, it maneuvered easily around all obstacles. The mower has a 23-horsepower/725 cc Kohler engine with plenty of power, and the 46-inch deck is big enough for getting the job done quickly but not so large that it’s hard to slip between trees and other obstacles.
The mower has 12 cutting settings ranging from 1.5 inches to 4 inches. We found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, as well as other controls on the mower. It has a 16-inch turn radius, which is tight enough for most lawns, although we couldn’t get quite as close to some trees as we would have liked. The maximum forward speed is 5.5 mph, which is a bit slower than some other models, but more than sufficient for most users. Overall, we felt like our lawn looked great once we finished mowing, and the mower spewed the grass clippings evenly from the side chute. Like most riding mowers, if you want a bagger or mulching kit, you’ll need to purchase them separately. There are quite a few other attachments available for this mower as well.
The seat can be adjusted, which was a definite plus for us, along with the smooth ride. On the downside, this mower does require periodic oil changes, but the process shouldn’t be too difficult or time-intensive. And on the plus side, the mower has cruise control, so once you find a speed that you like, you can easily set the mower to continue at that pace. It also has headlights for mowing in shady spots or at dusk. While riding mowers are undeniably expensive, this one is reasonably priced for the quality and performance it provides. It’s rated for use on lawns up to 4 acres in size and comes with a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 2,574
Cutting Width: 46 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 575 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Battery Zero-Turn
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Battery Electric Cordless Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Intuitive and easy to use
- Joystick for steering and speed control
- Long battery runtime
- Very clean cut on all types of grass
- Initially received a defective mower, although customer service was excellent
We tested this mower on a half-acre property in Iowa. While it was fairly straightforward and quick to assemble the mower and give the batteries an initial charge, it turned out that our first test mower had an electrical problem that required several phone calls and a technician’s visit before determining that the mower was defective. However, we were quickly provided a new mower, which was already assembled and ready to go. Despite this unfortunate start to our testing sessions, we were very impressed with the manufacturer’s customer service, and we loved the performance of this zero-turn mower, which has a 42-inch deck and power that Ryobi claims is equivalent to 31 horsepower.
Unlike many other riding mowers, which have levers, pedals, or steering wheels to control the motion of the machine, this one has Ryobi’s iDrive joystick, which lets you set your speed in forward or reverse, as well as turn and maneuver the mower. Not only was this fun, but it was also very intuitive and easy to use. The mower also has an LCD screen that shows battery life and runtime. This mower comes with four batteries: two 80-volt, 10-amp hour and two 40-volt, 12-amp hour batteries, which can all be charged simultaneously. In our testing sessions, the batteries still had plenty of charge left once mowing was finished. Ryobi claims that you can mow up to 3 acres on a single full charge.
Setting the cutting height, which ranges from 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches, is easily accomplished with a single lever, and with four blades, this mower easily handled wet grass, thick grass, and tall grass, leaving our lawn looking great. The clippings discharge from the side, although you can purchase a bagger or mulching kit separately if desired. While riding the mower, we especially appreciated how quiet it is in comparison to gas mowers—we could actually talk to nearby family members while riding it—and how smooth and comfortable a ride it provides, thanks to the superior seat suspension that absorbs a lot of the bumps and vibrations. The mower also has some nice extra features, including headlights, cup holders, and USB charging ports. While this mower is undeniably a big investment, we felt that its performance, power, and ease of use make it well worth the cost for those with big yards. It has a 5-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 5,999
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 700 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Gas Zero-Turn
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42-Inch 22 HP Zero-Turn Mower
- Seat can be fully adjusted for a comfortable ride
- Relatively reasonable price
- Easy to control
While all riding mowers are fairly expensive, particularly zero-turn mowers, the Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 Zero-Turn Mower is relatively reasonable in price, making it even more of a great option for yards up to 4 acres in size. While testing, It took us around 30 minutes to assemble, but it did take us a little longer to figure out the choke. However, once we understood the instructions, we got started mowing a third-acre Iowa lawn that includes hills, several obstacles, and areas of very thick, tall grass. Initially, we took it easy and went slowly while we got used to the handling of the mower, which was a bit touchy. However, once we got the hang of it, we did find the mower to be easy to control, and we really liked being able to make sharp turns around obstacles. We did report some rattling from a belt that needed to be tightened, but that didn’t affect the performance.
While mowing, we found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, which has an impressive range of 1 inch to 4.5 inches. We mowed right through very tall patches of grass without a hitch and liked the way the clippings were ejected far to the side of the mower, so there was no annoying buildup of clumps. It’s easy to speed up or slow down; the more you push the handlebars, the faster you’ll go, up to a top speed of 7 mph. Plus, you can mow both forward and in reverse, which made it easier to reach some trickier spots on the lawn. The mower felt very stable and safe even while mowing on slopes. Initially, we found the ride to be somewhat bumpy, but once we had the fully adjustable seat set to our ideal position, the ride became quite smooth.
With a 22-horsepower Kohler engine, this is a powerful mower with a very sturdy build. Like other gas mowers, it does require periodic oil changes. While we liked its side-discharge function, you’ll have to purchase a bagger or mulching kit separately if that’s your preference. Cub Cadet also sells various attachments that can be added to the mower for other lawn care functions. It has a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 3,499
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 580 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 3 acres
Best for Hills
Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 in. 19 HP Automatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Mower
- Automatic transmission
- Good traction on hills
- Extra leg room
- Compatible with a variety of accessories
While we were not able to personally test the Bronco 42, we still recommend this 19-horsepower, 42-inch gas mower for yards up to 2 acres in size, especially if your yard has a lot of slopes. This sturdy mower has an automatic transmission and uses a simple foot pedal to control your speed, just like your car. That means you are likely to feel comfortable handling the mower from the start, even if you have never used a riding lawn mower before.
The mower has anti-scalp, 20-inch all-terrain wheels, making it much easier to mow smoothly over uneven terrain or up and down slopes without bogging down or damaging your turf. Note that as with all riding mowers, you should always mow from side to side across a slope, not up and down the slope, to maintain stability. There are five cutting height settings, which are easy to adjust with a single lever, and range from 1.25 inches to 3.75 inches. That’s a smaller cutting range than many other riding mowers, but it easily handles most common lawn grasses, and the double blades, large wheels, and sturdy construction of the mower allow it to plow right through tall or thick turf without a problem.
The Troy-Bilt Bronco 42 has a step-through frame that offers more leg room, and the mid-back seat and rubber footpads keep you comfortable while you work. Its 18-inch turn radius is tight enough to maneuver around most yard obstacles, such as trees, fences, flowerbeds, or playsets. The machine has a rear hitch to pull garden carts, sprayers, and spreaders. It comes with a side-discharge chute for clippings, but if you prefer to bag or mulch the grass clippings, you’ll need to buy those accessories separately. Like all gas mowers, you’ll need to carry out periodic oil changes, usually recommended after every 50 hours of use or annually. It comes with a 2-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 2,199
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 520 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres
Cub Cadet 30 in. 56-Volt MAX 30 Ah Battery Riding Lawn Tractor
Not everyone needs a beast of a mower that can handle yards up to 4 acres in size. If you have a lawn that’s 1 acre or less, or you have a lot of obstacles on your property that require a smaller mower to maneuver between and around them, we recommend this battery-powered mower from Cub Cadet. It has a 30-inch deck that can slip through a 36-inch gate, and which won’t take up a lot of space in your garage or garden shed. While we were unable to test this mower ourselves, it’s still our top choice for smaller yards.
The mower comes with a 56-volt MAX 30 amp-hour battery that can mow up to 1 acre, or for 1 hour, before needing a recharge, which takes roughly 4 hours. It’s supremely quiet compared to gas mowers, and the ride is smooth and comfortable. Plus, no need for oil changes, pouring gasoline into a fuel tank, or smelly fumes. You can adjust the cutting height within a range of 1.5 inches to 4 inches, and no bogging down on tall or thick grass. The 18-inch turning radius is tight enough to easily work your way around most obstacles.
One feature that we especially approve of, and yet isn’t offered on many riding mowers, is this model’s cruise control, which allows you to set your speed up to a maximum of 5.5 mph and then let the mower keep your pace steady; no need to concentrate on maintaining an even speed by pushing pedals or gripping levers. Plus, it has a very comfortable high-back seat with armrests, LED headlights, a cup holder, and two onboard USB ports to power up your phone or music while you ride. Additionally, unlike every other mower on our list, this one includes the mulching kit—all others require you to purchase that separately—so you can turn the grass clippings into fine mulch to help feed your lawn. It comes with a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 3,600
Cutting Width: 30 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 362 pounds | Cutting Options: Mulch, side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 2 acres
Our top recommendation, the gas-powered John Deere S100 42-Inch Riding Lawn Mower, is supremely easy to maneuver around obstacles while creating a very smooth cut even on thick or tall grass. It comes with “White Glove Service” delivery, so you won’t have to assemble it, and it is easy to operate and maintain. However, if you prefer an electric mower, then we recommend the Ryobi 80V 42-Inch Battery Riding Mower, which has a lot of power and excellent battery runtime; you can get up to an hour of mowing done before needing to recharge. That’s enough for most people to complete the task on just one charge.
How We Tested the Riding Lawn Mowers
After testing eight walk-behind lawn mowers across the country, we tested six riding mowers, including gas, electric, and zero-turn options, each tested on a different property with varying terrain and lawn conditions, including slopes, rough spots, tall grass, and wet areas. We started by recording how long it took to unbox and assemble the riding lawn mower, as well as the difficulty or ease of assembly. (Two of the mowers were delivered assembled and ready to go, however.)
Once the grass was long enough to require mowing, we tested the riding mower on three separate occasions. For each session, we recorded the date and weather conditions, the size of the area to be mowed, the height of grass to be cut, and the length of time it took to accomplish the mowing. At the end of the session, we noted how cleanly and evenly the lawn had been cut, as well as how well the side-discharge chute shot the clippings back onto the lawn. (Only one of our tested mowers included an option other than side-discharge of the clippings; commonly clippings bags and mulching kits are not included with a riding mower, but must be purchased separately if desired.)
As we rode the mowers, we noted how easy it was to speed up or slow down the machine in both forward and reverse, the ease of raising or lowering the cutting height, how well the mower maneuvered around obstacles, and how evenly the mower cut all types of grass, including tall or thick patches as well as wet turf. We also paid attention to the comfort of the seat and the overall comfort of the ride, noting if it was unusually rough, had excessive vibration, or was in any other way uncomfortable to use the mower. We also tried out any extra features on the mowers, including headlights, cupholders, USB charging ports, or onboard storage areas.
At the end of each mowing session, we noted how much battery charge was left on electric mowers, as well as the length of time required for a full recharge. Finally, we summed up each experience with the mower, noting whether or not we felt it was a good value for the performance delivered.
What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to buy a gas- or electric-powered riding lawn mower. Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, says, Like in the automobileworld, battery-powered equipment is popular right now. Electrical mowers on both the residential and professional/commercial side are becoming more preferred over gas powered. You have to take into account that they both require different maintenance schedules, and it’s important to ask questions like ‘How long does the battery last, and what is the cost of a replacement battery’ before making a commitment to electric.
As a general rule, gas mowers, including our Best Overall choice, the John Deere S100, are more powerful than electric models, but they’re louder, less eco-friendly, and require more maintenance, including regular oil changes. Plus, in some locations, gas mowers have very stringent requirements for emission levels that some models can’t meet. However, Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance notes that the power of a gas mower can be especially useful if your lawn has rough areas, thick weeds, or especially tough grass.
Electric mowers, on the other hand, like our Best Electric Riding Mower, the Ryobi 80V Brushless Electric Riding Mower, are typically less powerful and require you to keep an eye on the battery charge level, but they’re also quieter, easier to start, and better for the environment. Still, while electric mowers require consistent charging, they often don’t require as much maintenance as gas models that have spark plugs, belts, and filters that must be maintained over time.
The deck size of a lawn mower dictates how wide a path it cuts—larger decks cut wider paths on each pass. Most residential riding mowers have decks that are around 42 inches, but if you have a very large property, you might want to consider a mower with deck that’s considerably bigger, like our Best Gas Mower pick, the Toro TimeCutter Zero-Turn Mower, which has a 50-inch deck. And of course, small properties, or lawns with many obstacles, might do best with a mower that has a smaller deck.
Keep in mind that the larger the mower, the harder it will be to maneuver through gates and other obstacles, plus the more space it will require in your garage or shed. Also, a mower’s deck size will impact its turning radius—except for zero-turn mowers, which can manage wider decks thanks to their overall design—and will also make it more challenging to navigate uneven terrain. Our Best Battery Powered Zero-Turn Mower, the Ryobi 80V Electric Zero-Turn Riding Mower, turns on a dime even with its 42-inch deck.
While the typical push mower‘s engine is just 2 to 5 horsepower or the equivalent in battery power, a riding mower requires considering more oomph, with most having engine power or equivalent battery power of 13 to 30 horsepower. Noah James says, Make sure the riding mower you’re considering has enough horsepower to handle your specific needs. A larger engine will be able to handle thicker grass and steeper hills with ease.
As a rough guideline, a lawn that’s less than an acre can be handled by a riding mower with at least 13 horsepower, but a 3-acre lawn needs at least 18 horsepower to get the job done, and even more if your lawn has slopes or rugged terrain.
Don’t forget to consider how the lawn mower handles grass clippings. Just about every riding mower has a side-discharge chute to spit the clippings back out onto your lawn. But many brands also offer mulching kits or clipping bags for their riding mowers; note that you’ll generally have to purchase these separately. However, our Best Small Mower, the Cub Cadet 30-Inch Battery Mower, does include a mulching kit. If you want to mulch or bag your clippings, be sure that any riding mower you are considering offers these options, and remember to add the price of the accessories to the cost of the mower itself.
The defining feature of zero-turn mowers is a zero-degree turning radius, but these mowers are generally also much faster than regular riding mowers. However, keep in mind that it’s easier to maintain control around obstacles at lower speeds, so unless you have a very large, flat lawn, you’re unlikely to be running your mower at top speed very often. Plus, zero-turn mowers are much more expensive than regular riding mowers.
According to Marc Mayer, a riding lawn mower is suited to any type of turf, but because these machines are heavy, they can cause soil compaction, which can affect the health of your grass. You can help prevent this by not mowing when the ground is wet, and by trying to avoid mowing over the same area more than once.
The top speed for standard riding lawnmowers ranges from 4 to 6 mph. Zero-turn mowers are much faster, with some going 8 to 10 mph at full speed. While speed is a great factor to consider if you prefer to quickly complete outdoor tasks, a speedy job does not always result in a better cut, so don’t automatically assume that you need the fastest mower available.
The easiest way to transport a riding lawn mower is with a trailer. Mowers can be driven up a ramp into a low trailer and towed behind a vehicle. You may also transport riding mowers in the bed of a pickup truck, but special ramps are required. Of course, if you are merely loaning the mower to a neighbor or somewhere very close by, you may be able to ride the mower to the location, as long as the terrain permits this and you keep the blade turned off and elevated.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Michelle Ullman is the home improvement/tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs around the house and yard.
For this roundup, she relied on input from our team of testers, but also considered dozens of other riding lawn mowers of various types, evaluating each for features, power, effectiveness, ease of use, and overall value. She also considered feedback from customers, both positive and negative, as well as reviews and information on landscaping websites. Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, and Marc Mayer, Director of Technical Operations at TruGreen, also provided additional expert input.
What Is The Spruce Approved?
Here at The Spruce, we want to ensure we fully stand behind every product we recommend and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all these products ourselves, though occasionally, we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut.
The Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers in 2023 for Making Your Yard Work Easier
These lawn mowers drive themselves, taking the load off you in the process.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: Mar 21, 2023
One of the perks of the warm-weather season is getting to spend time outside. If you own your own home and have a yard, it’s very likely that in order to enjoy your outdoor space, you need to mow the lawn. The larger the yard, the more work it will be to maintain. If you have a lot of grass to cut, you’d be wise to consider a self-propelled lawn mower especially now that there are a ton of sales just in time for Memorial Day.
The primary difference between a standard push mower and a self-propelled mower is that the former moves when you push it, and the latter essentially moves itself with only your guidance. Once the engine is running, all you have to do is squeeze a handle or push a lever and the mower will start moving forward with you as you walk.
Turning the mower around is your job, but once you have your heading, just keep the drive handle squeezed and escort the mower down the path, no pushing necessary.
Self-propelled law mowers take power off the engine and route it via a belt to a pulley on the transmission and axle. When you move the drive control lever on the mower handle, you tension the belt, causing the pulley to turn, and this drives the transmission, moving the mower forward.
Move the drive control lever back and the tension is released, the pulley stops turning, and the mower stops moving forward. The belt-driven transmission is a time-tested design to power the mower and take the load off you in the process.
What to Consider
A mower is like many consumer products in that the more features a manufacturer adds, the more expensive it becomes. But a longer or more eye-catching list of features isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Here are the most important to keep in mind.
Front-wheel drive mowers tend to be less expensive than rear-wheel drive units. They can be easier to turn because you don’t have to disengage the drive wheels to do so. Simply push down on the handlebar to raise the front wheels off the ground. However, their traction isn’t as strong on hills or when the bag is full, as there isn’t as much weight over the drive wheels.
Rear-wheel drive mowers do cost more and aren’t as easy to turn, as you do need to disengage the drive—but this isn’t too much of a hassle. Rear-wheel drive mowers shine on hills and inclines, and when the grass bag is full. In either scenario, weight is shifted rearward and over the drive wheels, which enables superior traction, thus making the self-propel more effective.
An engine as small as 125 cc can power a mower, but most are somewhere in the 140 cc to 190 cc range. A large engine helps when powering through tall, lush grass or in extreme conditions, such as with a side discharge chute in place and mowing tall weeds in a border area. Also, the extra torque provided by a larger engine can improve bagging when the going gets tough (tall, leaf-covered grass in the fall). But if you mow sensibly and pay attention to deck height—and especially if you don’t let your lawn get out of control—an engine between 140 and 160 cc has more than enough power to get the job done.
A mower can have all four wheels the same diameter (7 to 8 inches), or it may have rear wheels that range from 9.5 inches to 12 inches in diameter. Larger rear wheels help the mower roll more easily over bumpy ground.
With some mowers you can start the engine with the twist of a key or the press of a button. It’s a great option, but a luxury. Keep the mower engine tuned and use fresh fuel with stabilizer added to it, and you’ll never have trouble starting.
Any number of mechanisms can control a mower’s ground speed—a squeeze handle, a drive bar that you press forward, even a dial. There’s no single right answer here. Look at the design and think about how you like to work. For example, if more than one person will be using the mower (and not all of them are right-handed), a drive control like that on a Toro Personal Pace mower might be the answer. Just push down on the bar to make it go faster. Let up on the bar to slow down.
A mower that can bag, mulch, and side discharge is known as a three-function mower, the most versatile kind. Two-function mowers bag and mulch or mulch and side discharge.
Mowers will typically have one, two, or four levers to control the deck height. Single-lever adjustment is the easiest to use, but it requires more linkage, which adds weight and complexity. If, for some reason, you find yourself varying deck height frequently, it’s a good option. Otherwise, two or four levers work just fine.
Only Honda makes a gas-engine mower with a high-impact plastic deck (there are battery mowers that have plastic decks). Otherwise, mowers generally have a steel deck, and a few manufacturers—Toro, for one—offer a corrosion-resistant aluminum deck. An aluminum deck won’t rot the way a steel deck will, but you still need to keep it clean.
This is a hose fitting mounted on top of the mower’s deck. When you’re done mowing, hook up a hose and run the mower to power wash the underside of the deck. We’ve had mixed results with these, but they’re better than just letting a mass of dried grass clippings accumulate.
expensive mowers come with a more durable bag with more dust-blocking capability. If you bag a lot, especially leaves or other lawn debris in the fall, then you need a mower with a higher quality dust-blocking bag. Having said that, if you rarely bag, the standard one that comes with a mower will last you the life of the mower.
Also called wide-area mowers, machines in this subgroup help homeowners better reconcile their need for more power and speed with the fact that they may not have enough storage for a tractor or zero-turn mower. A typical residential walk mower has a single-blade deck that cuts a swath from 20 to 22 inches wide. Wide-cut mowers (built for homeowner use) have either a single blade or, more typically, a pair of blades, cutting from 26 to 30 inches with each pass. Some of these are rated for light commercial use and have larger decks, in the 32-inch range, and engines that start at 223 cc and go up to about 337 cc.
Wide-cut mowers typically employ gear or hydrostatic drive transmissions, and they have top speeds of about 4 to 6 miles per hour. At their fastest, they move so quickly you have to trot to keep up with them. Needless to say, they’re overkill for small yards; only opt for one of these if you’ve got a significant plot of land that you need to keep tidy, but not one so large that you’d be better off going with a full-on riding mower.
How We Tested and Selected
We compiled this list based on Popular Mechanics mower testing and our knowledge of the lawn mower market at large. For our testing, we put mowers through the paces using our standard Popular Mechanics methodology: We cut turf grasses such as fescues and blue grass and rougher non-turf grasses like Timothy, clover, orchard grass, and wild oats, all in both normal and shin-deep heights. We mow uphill, downhill, and across the faces of hills. The maximum slope we cut is about 30 degrees.
That may not sound like much, but it’s about all you can do to stand on it, let alone push a mower up it or across it. We mow damp and wet grass to test general cutting performance and whether clippings accumulate on the tires. And we cut dry and dusty surfaces to see how well the bag filters under less-than-optimal conditions.
Honda HRN 216VKA
Honda mowers enjoy a sterling reputation. Having tested their walk and self-propelled mowers for the last 30 years, we feel confident that Honda’s entry level mower is a great choice for homeowners looking for power and durability. The HRN features a GCV 170 gas engine that’s built to withstand long hours of operation.
If you do your own maintenance (and most owners who buy this class of product do), you’ll appreciate the easily accessible spark plug and the fuel shutoff valve that enables better winter storage. Close the fuel shutoff and run the mower until it sputters to a halt. This will clear the carburetor of any gasoline, which will prevent the ethanol in it from disintegrating and causing running issues later on. Open the shutoff valve in the spring, add some fresh gasoline, and the mower should start easily.
All this maintenance stuff is great, but we can also tell you that our past test findings on other Hondas prove that their cut quality is outstanding for cleanliness. Sharp blades deliver a velvet-like finish. And their bagging ability is also quite good, in the same league with other well-bagging mowers from Toro.
In all, if you take mowing seriously, you should enjoy this Honda. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, consider the Honda HRX, which features a mower powerful engine and a composite deck that won’t rust and is renowned for its durability.
One note is that Honda has announced that it will cease selling lawn mowers in the United States after this year—so if you’re considering buying one, best do it sooner rather than later.
Toro Recycler 60-Volt Max Lithium-Ion
Toro mowers have garnered more recommendations from us than any other brand for two reasons: build quality and cut quality. These were amply demonstrated in our testing as the Recycler turned in the best ratio of cut area per amp-hour of battery in the self-propelled category, while at the same time not skimping on cutting, mulching, or bagging quality.
We attribute this outstanding mower performance to three features, all upgrades to the previous version of this machine. First, the air vent at the front of the mower deck seems to improve mulching and bagging performance. Toro calls it Vortex technology, a design that increases air flow under the deck. This helps to stand the grass for a cleaner cut, which improves mulching performance, and also allows better airflow into the bag when collecting the clippings.
Next, the company’s redesigned “Atomic” blade configuration appears to assist the air flow and clipping movement. Finally, the three-phase, 60-volt motor is exceptionally efficient, resulting in a large cut area for a single battery.
Toro has maintained features that make this mower work: rear wheel drive, a one-piece deck that’s all steel (no plastic nose), 11-inch wheels to help it roll over roots and crevices, and the same fold-forward handle that was an industry breakthrough when it was introduced some years ago.
Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Self-Propelled Mower
This is one of Ryobi’s top-of-the-line mowers, and it’s American-made construction is something we wish we saw more of. It delivers a tremendous cut area with its two 6-Ah batteries providing a total of 12-Ah of capacity, and its X-shaped blade leaves a pristine surface in its wake.
Ryobi estimates the design should provide 70 minutes of run time; we didn’t time our cut, but it strikes as plausible. Its rear-wheel drive and reasonably aggressive tire tread pattern provide good hill climbing and sidehill cutting performance, and its bagging on all surfaces (level, sidehill, and uphill) is also commendable.
Other ease-of-use features include an easily installed or removed bag that mounts and dismounts straight up and down through the handle; deck adjustment is quick and easy thanks to a single-level deck height adjustment. The straight edge deck is polypropylene; it will never rust and needs very little care other than basic cleaning.
Toro TimeMaster 30 in. Briggs Stratton Personal Pace
The Toro Timemaster 30-in. mower has been around for several years and has earned a reputation as a sturdy workhorse for homeowners who want to cut down on their mowing time. It’s also used by some professionals as well. A few years ago the Timemaster got a slightly more powerful Briggs and Stratton gas engine, so it should have no issues powering through most demanding mowing jobs.
The Timemaster is rear-wheel drive and features Toro’s Personal Pace drive system that’s used on many of its self-propelled mowers. This allows the mower to move at your speed by simply pushing down or releasing the handle, which is spring-tensioned.
With a 30-in. deck, Toro claims the Timemaster will help you reduce your mowing time by about 40% compared to using a standard-sized mower. You can mulch, back, or side discharge with the Timemaster, and the handlebar can be locked in a fully vertical position to reduce space consumption in storage.
If you have half an acre to a full acre of lawn to mow and prefer the experience of a walk-behind mower versus a tractor or zero-turn, the Timemaster is worth a look.
Craftsman mowers have been doing very well in our tests, so we can recommend this one because it’s so much like the many other of the brand’s models that we’ve tested. If you’re looking for a good blend of maneuverability and power, you’ll get it with this mower. Its front drive helps move it along and makes it easy to turn.
It’s important to note that front-drive mowers do lose some traction when running uphill, particularly with a full grass bag. But if your slope is less than 20 degrees, and you’re not bagging uphill, you’ll be fine. The side discharge will also help you handle tall grass. Adjust the two deck levers to bring the mower up to full height and have at the rough stuff.
The fact that this mower bags, mulches, and side discharges is a plus, enabling you to handle a wide range of mowing conditions, from early spring and late into the fall. Three-function mowers like this are our preference for that versatility.
Toro Super Recycler Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
This is a beauty of a mower, with a cast-aluminum deck and a smooth-running Briggs Stratton 163-cc engine. We tested the Honda engine-equipped version, and it was effective at both bagging and mulching, even in moist grass.
Equipped with rear-wheel drive and the Personal Pace system (the farther you push the drive bar, the faster the mower goes), it’s an effective hill climber and moderately effective on sidehill cutting. It has relatively small 7.5-inch tires on all four corners, which causes this Toro to bump up and down a bit on washboard surfaces. But the good news is that it’s equipped with a far higher quality tire than we’re used to seeing these days. We didn’t notice them pick up any grass on moist surfaces.
Other features we like include its forward-fold handle that has a built-in shock absorber that Toro calls a Flex Handle Suspension, and a high-quality grass bag that loads through the handle, from the top.
Are there special maintenance considerations with self-propelled mowers?
Yes. Both front- and rear-wheel drive mowers typically feature a drive belt, which can crack or wear out over time. Fortunately these belts are not difficult or particularly expensive to replace.
Secondly, you may have to replace the drive wheels occasionally. These wheels are driven with gears. there are typically teeth on the inside diameter of the drive wheel that line up with a gear on the axle. These teeth can wear out, especially if they are made of plastic. Higher-end mowers may feature drive wheels with a metal gear that meets the metal axle gear, which improves longevity of these components.
My lawnmower says I don’t ever have to change the oil, but just add oil when needed. Is this OK?
It’s not a good idea to never change the oil in your lawn mower. In a lawn mower, same as a car, oil degrades over time and is less effective at reducing heat and friction in metal components. Changing the oil in your lawn mower is easy to do and will significantly increase its service life. For most homeowners, changing the oil at the beginning or end of each mowing season should be sufficient, though there is certainly no harm in doing it more often.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.