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- Citation: 16 CFR Part 1205 copy
- URL: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-16/chapter-II/subchapter-B/part-1205 copy
- Agency :
- Consumer Product Safety Commission
Secs. 2, 3, 7, 9, 14, 19, Pub. L. 92–573, 86 Stat. 1207, 1208, 1212–1217, 1220, 1224; 15 U.S.C. 2051, 2052, 2056, 2058, 2063, 2068; sec. 1212, Pub. L. 97–35, 95 Stat. 357.
44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, unless otherwise noted.
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PART 1205—SAFETY STANDARD FOR WALK-BEHIND POWER LAWN MOWERS
Secs. 2, 3, 7, 9, 14, 19, Pub. L. 92–573, 86 Stat. 1207, 1208, 1212–1217, 1220, 1224; 15 U.S.C. 2051, 2052, 2056, 2058, 2063, 2068; sec. 1212, Pub. L. 97–35, 95 Stat. 357.
44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, unless otherwise noted.
Subpart A—The Standard
§ 1205.1 Scope of the standard.
( a ) General. This subpart A of part 1205 is a consumer product safety standard which prescribes safety requirements for certain walk-behind power lawn mowers, including labeling and performance requirements. The performance requirements of the standard apply to rotary mowers. The labeling requirements apply to both rotary and reel-type mowers. The standard is intended to reduce the risk of injury to consumers caused by contact, primarily of the foot and hand, with the rotating blade of the mower. A detailed discussion of the risk of injury and of the anticipated costs, benefits, and other factors associated with the standard is contained in § 1205.8 Findings.
( 1 ) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, all walk-behind rotary and reel-type power lawn mowers manufactured or imported on or after the effective date of the standard are subject to the requirements of this standard if they are “consumer products”. “Walk behind power lawn mower” is defined as a grass cutting machine with a minimum cutting width of 12 in (305 mm) that employs an engine or motor as a power source. Section 3(a)(1) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (“CPSA”), 15 U.S.C. 2052(a)(1), defines the term consumer product as an “article, or component part thereof, produced or distributed
( i ) for sale to a consumer for use in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise, or
( ii ) for the personal use, consumption or enjoyment of a consumer in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise.” The term does not include products that are not customarily produced or distributed for sale to, or for the use or consumption by, or enjoyment of, a consumer.
( 2 ) It is unlawful to manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the United States any product subject to this standard that is not in conformity with the standard. The Commission is not applying the standard to rental transactions or to the ultimate sale of used rental mowers by rental firms.
( 1 ) General. Mowers that have all three of the following characteristics are not covered by the standard:
( i ) A cutting width of 30 in (762 mm) or greater,
( ii ) A weight of 200 lb (90.7 kg) or more, and
( iii ) For engine-powered mowers, an engine of 8 horsepower (6 kw) or more.
( 2 ) Reel-type mowers. Reel-type power lawn mowers need not meet the performance requirements of the standard but they must be labeled as required by § 1205.6.
§ 1205.2 Effective date.
This standard applies to all rotary walk behind power lawn mowers manufactured after June 30, 1982, except § 1205.6 Warning labels, applies to rotary and reel-type walk-behind power lawn mowers manufactured after December 31, 1979.
[44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, as amended 45 FR 86417, Dec. 31, 1980]
§ 1205.3 Definitions.
( a ) As used in this part 1205:
( 1 ) Blade means any rigid or semi-rigid device or means that is intended to cut grass during mowing operations and includes all blades of a multi-bladed mower.
( 2 ) Blade tip circle means the path described by the outermost point of the blade as it moves about its axis.
( 3 ) Crack means a visible external fissure in a solid body caused by tensile, compressive, or shear forces.
( 4 ) Cutting width means the blade tip circle diameter or, for a multi-bladed mower, the width, measured perpendicular to the forward direction, of a composite of all blade tip circles.
( 5 ) Deform means any visible alteration of shape or dimension of a body caused by stresses induced by external forces.
( 6 ) Engine means a power producing device which converts thermal energy from a fuel into mechanical energy.
( 7 ) Manual starting means starting the mower engine with power obtained from the physical efforts of the operator.
( 8 ) Maximum operating speed means the maximum revolutions per minute (rpm) obtainable by the engine or motor under the conditions of the particular test where the term is used. For an electrically powered mower, it is the speed attained when the mower is energized from a 60 Hz alternating current source that delivers a voltage no greater than 120 V and no less than 115 V at the power input to the mower, with the mower running. For a battery-powered mower, it is the speed attained after the battery has been fully charged in accordance with the mower manufacturer’s instructions.
( 9 ) Motor means a power producing device that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.
( 10 ) Normal starting means is the primary mechanism intended to be actuated by the operator to start a mower’s engine or motor (e.g., the cord mechanism of a manual start engine, the switch of an electric motor, or a power start mechanism).
( 11 ) Operating control zone means the space enclosed by a cylinder with a radius of 15 in (381 mm) having a horizontal axis that is (1) perpendicular to the fore-aft centerline of the mower and (2) tangent to the rearmost part of the mower handle, extending 4 in (102 mm) beyond the outermost portion of each side of the handle (See Fig. 1).
( 12 ) Power source means an engine or motor.
( 13 ) Reel-type mower means a lawn mower which cuts grass by rotating one or more helically formed blades about a horizontal axis to provide a shearing action with a stationary cutter bar or bed knife.
( 14 ) Rotary mower means a power lawn mower in which one or more cutting blades rotate in essentially a horizontal plane about at least one vertical axis.
( 15 ) Separate means to cause to have any apparent relative displacement induced by external forces.
( 16 ) Shield means a part or an assembly which restricts access to a hazardous area. For the purposes of this part 1205, the blade housing is considered a shield.
( 17 ) Stress means a force acting across a unit area in a solid material in resisting separation, compacting, or sliding that tends to be induced by external forces.
( 18 ) Top of the mower’s handles means the uppermost portion(s) of the handle that would be gripped by an operator in the normal operating position.
( 19 ) Walk-behind power lawn mower means a grass cutting machine either pushed or self-propelled, with a minimum cutting width of 12 in (305 mm) that employs an engine or a motor as a power source and is normally controlled by an operator walking behind the mower.
( b ) Where applicable, the definitions in section 3 of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2052) apply to this part 1205.
[44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, as amended at 46 FR 54934, Nov. 5, 1981]
§ 1205.4 Walk-behind rotary power mower protective shields.
( a ) General requirements. Walk-behind rotary power mowers shall meet the following requirements:
( 1 ) When the foot probe of Fig. 2 is inserted under any point within the areas to be probed during the foot probe test of paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the shields shall prevent the foot probe from entering the path of the blade or causing any part of the mower to enter the path of the blade.
( 2 ) Any shield located totally or partly within the areas to be probed, as defined in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, shall not permanently separate, crack, or deform when the shield is subjected to a 50 lb (222 N) static tensile force, uniformly distributed over not less than half the length of the shield. The force shall be applied for at least 10 seconds in the direction which produces the maximum stress on the shield. While being tested, a shield shall be attached to the mower in the manner in which it is intended to be used. (This requirement does not apply to the housing.)
( 3 ) During the obstruction test of paragraph (b)(2) of this section, shields shall not:
( i ) Stop the mower as a result of contact with the raised obstacle,
( ii ) Enter the path of the blade, or
( iii ) Cause more than one wheel at a time to be lifted from the fixture surface.
( i ) The following test conditions shall be observed:
( A ) The test shall be performed on a smooth level surface.
( B ) Pneumatic tires, when present, shall be inflated to the cold pressures recommended by the mower manufacturer.
( C ) The mower housing shall be adjusted to its highest setting relative to the ground.
( D ) The blade shall be adjusted to its lowest position relative to the blade housing.
( E ) The mower shall be secured so that the mower may not move horizontally but is free to move vertically.
( 1 ) The minimum area to be probed shall include an area both 60 degrees to the right and 60 degrees to the left of the rear of the fore-aft centerline of the cutting width. For single-blade mowers, these angles shall be measured from a point on this fore-aft centerline which is at the center of the blade tip circle (see Fig. 3). For multi-blade mowers, these angles shall be measured from a point on the fore-aft centerline of the cutting width which is one half of the cutting width forward of the rearmost point of the composite of all the blade tip circles (See Fig. 4).
( 2 ) For a mower with a swing-over handle, the areas to be probed shall be determined as in paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A)(1) of this section from both possible rear positions. (See Fig. 5.)
( B ) Where a 360 degree foot protective shield is required by § 1205.5(a)(1)(iv)(B) or § 1205.5(c), the entire periphery of the mower shall be probed (including any discharge chute comprising part of the periphery).
( iii ) Procedure. Within the areas specified in paragraph (b)(1)(ii), the foot probe of Fig. 2 shall be inserted under the bottom edge of the blade housing and shields. During each insertion, the “sole” of the probe shall be kept in contact with the supporting surface. Insertion shall stop when the mower housing lifts or the horizontal force used to insert the probe reaches 4 lb (17.8 N), whichever occurs first. As the foot probe is withdrawn after each insertion, the “toe” shall be pivoted upward around the “heel” as much as possible without lifing the mower.
( i ) The following test conditions shall be observed:
( A ) Pneumatic tires, when present, shall be inflated to the cold pressure recommended by the mower manufacturer.
( B ) The mower housing shall be at its highest setting relative to the ground.
( ii ) The test shall be performed on the fixture of Fig. 6, which consists of a level surface having
( A ) a 0.99 in (25 mm) deep depression with a 5.90 in (150 mm) radius of curvature and
( B ) a raised obstacle 0.60 in (15 mm) square, each extending the full width of the fixture. The depression shall be lined with a material having a surface equivalent to a 16- to 36-grit abrasive. The depression and the obstacle shall be located a sufficient distance apart so that the mower contacts only one at a time.
( iii ) The test fixture may be relieved, only to the extent necessary, to prevent interference with any blade retaining device.
( iv ) The mower shall be pushed forward and pulled rearward perpendicular to and across the depression and the raised obstacle on the fixture. The mower shall be pulled and pushed, without lifting, with a horizontal force sufficient to transit the obstruction fixture at a speed not to exceed 2.2 ft/sec (0.7 m/sec).
( 1 ) General. Movable shields must meet the general shield requirements of paragraph (a) of this section. In addition, movable shields which are in any of the areas to be probed defined in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section and which are intended to be movable for the purpose of attaching auxiliary equipment, when deflected to their extreme open position in the manner intended by the manufacturer and released, shall either:
( i ) Return automatically to a position that meets the requirements of subpart A of this part 1205 when the attached equipment is not present, or
( ii ) Prevent operation of the blade(s) unless the attached equipment is present or the movable shield is returned to a position that meets the requirements of subpart A of this part 1205.
( i ) Automatic return of a movable shield shall be determined by manually deflecting the shield to its extreme open position, then releasing the shield and visually observing that it immediately returns to the closed position.
( ii ) Prevention of operation of the blade(s) shall be determined, first by manually deflecting the shield to its extreme open position, then, following the appropriate manufacturer’s instructions, completing the procedures necessary to operate the blade. Observe, using any safe method, that the blade(s) has been prevented from operating.
[44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, as amended at 45 FR 86417, 86418, Dec. 31, 1980; 46 FR 54934, Nov. 5, 1981; 48 FR 6328, Feb. 11, 1983]
§ 1205.5 Walk-behind rotary power mower controls.
( 1 ) Requirements for blade control. A walk-behind rotary power mower shall have a blade control system that will perform the following functions:
( i ) Prevent the blade from operating unless the operator actuates the control.
( ii ) Require continuous contact with the control in order for the blade to continue to be driven.
( iii ) Cause the blade motion in the normal direction of travel to come to a complete stop within 3.0 seconds after release of the control.
( iv ) For a mower with an engine and with only manual starting controls, this blade control shall stop the blade without stopping the engine, unless:
( A ) The engine starting controls for the lawn mower are located within 24 inches from the top of the mower’s handles, or
( B ) The mower has a protective foot shield which extends 360 degrees around the mower housing (see § 1205.4 (b)(1)(ii)(B)). 
( 2 ) All walk-behind rotary power mowers shall have, in addition to any blade control required by paragraph (a)(1) of this section, another means which must be manually actuated before a stopped blade can be restarted. This additional means may be either a control which is separate from the control required by paragraph (a)(1) of this section, or may be incorporated into the control required by paragraph (a)(1) of this section as a double-action device requiring two distinct actions to restart the blade.
( 1 ) General. Any test method that will determine the time between the release of the blade control and the complete stop of the blade motion in the normal direction of travel may be used.
( i ) The mower shall be operated at maximum operating speed for at least 6 minutes immediately prior to the test.
( ii ) The blade must be at maximum operating speed when the blade control is released.
( c ) Starting controls location. Walk-behind mowers with blades that begin operation when the power source starts shall have their normal starting means located within the operating control zone unless the requirements of paragraphs (a)(1)(iv) (A) or (B) of this section apply to the mowers.
[44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, as amended at 46 FR 54934, Nov. 5, 1978]
 Paragraphs (A) and (B) of § 1205.5(a)(1)(iv), permitting mowers that stop the blade by stopping the engine but that do not have power restart, were added to the standard as directed by Sec. 1212 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, Pub. L. 97–35, 95 Stat. 357.
§ 1205.6 Warning label for reel-type and rotary power mowers.
( a ) General. Walk-behind power lawn mowers shall be labeled on the blade housing or, in the absence of a blade housing, on other blade shielding or on an adjacent supporting structure or assembly, with the warning label shown in Fig. 7. The label shall be at least 3.25 in (82.5 mm) high and 4 in (102 mm) wide, and the lettering and symbol shall retain the same size relation to each other and to the label as shown in Fig. 7.
( b ) Rotary mowers. Walk-behind rotary mowers shall have one label as shown in Fig. 7, on the blade housing. The label shall be located as close as possible to any discharge opening, or, if there is no discharge opening, in a position that is conspicuous to an operator in the normal operating position.
( c ) Reel-type mowers. Walk-behind power reel-type mowers shall have one label as shown in Fig. 7, located as close to the center of the cutting width of the blade as possible. However, in the absence of a suitable mounting surface near the center of the cutting width, the label shall be placed on the nearest suitable mounting surface to the center of the cutting width.
[44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, as amended at 45 FR 86417, Dec. 31, 1980]
§ 1205.7 Prohibited stockpiling.
( a ) Stockpiling. Stockpiling means manufacturing or importing a product which is the subject of a consumer product safety rule between the date of issuance of the rule and its effective date at a rate that is significantly greater than the rate at which such product was produced or imported during a base period prescribed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
( b ) Prohibited acts. Stockpiling of power lawn mowers that do not comply with this subpart A of part 1205 at a rate that exceeds by 20% the rate at which the product was produced or imported during the base period described in paragraph (c) of this section is prohibited.
( c ) Base period. The base period for power lawn mowers is, at the option of each manufacturer or importer, any period of 365 consecutive days beginning on or after September 1, 1971, and ending on or before August 31, 1978.
§ 1205.8 Findings.
( a ) General. In order to issue a rule such as part 1205, the Consumer Product Safety Act requires the Commission to consider and make appropriate findings with respect to a number of topics. These findings are discussed below.
( b ) The degree and nature of the risk of injury part 1205 is designed to eliminate or reduce.
( 1 ) The Commission estimates that there are approximately 77,000 injuries to consumers each year caused by contact with the blades of power lawn mowers. From 1977 data, the Commission estimates that each year there are approximately 7,300 finger amputations, 2,600 toe amputations, 2,400 avulsions (the tearing of flesh or a body part), 11,450 fractures, 51,400 lacerations, and 2,300 contusions. Among the lacerations and avulsions, 35,800 were to hands and fingers and 18,000 were to toes and feet. The estimated costs caused by these injuries are 253 million, not counting any monetary damages for pain and suffering. These injuries are caused when consumers accidentally contact the blade, either inadvertently while in the vicinity of the mower, or while intentionally performing some task which they erroneously believe will not bring their hand or foot into the path of the blade.
( 2 ) Part 1205 is expected to eliminate or reduce the severity of about 60,000 blade contact injuries per year, or 77% of all such injuries. The Commission estimates that if all mowers had been in compliance with the standard in 1977, about 6,800 finger amputations, 1,500 toe amputations, 11,000 fractures, 1,800 avulsions, 38,400 lacerations, and several hundred contusions would not have occurred. Of the lacerations and avulsions, 28,300 were finger injuries and 9,400 were toe injuries.
( c ) Consumer products subject to the rule. The products subject to this standard are walk-behind power mowers. Power mowers with rigid or semi-rigid rotary blades are subject to all the provisions of the standard while reel-type and rotary mowers are subject to the labeling requirements. Mowers that in combination have engines of 8 HP or greater, weigh 200 lb or more, and have a cutting width of 30 in or more are excluded from the standard. The Commission estimates that at least 98% of the total annual market (by unit volume) for walk-behind mowers will be affected by the standard, and the Commission estimates that in 1978 this market was 5.4 million units.
( d ) Need of the public for the products subject to the rule. The Commission finds that the public need for walk-behind power mowers, which provide a relatively quick and effective way to cut grass, is substantial. Riding mowers, lawn and garden tractors, hand reel mowers, trimmers and edgers, and sickle-bar mowers also provide grass-cutting services, but walk-behind power rotary mowers are by far the most commonly used devices for maintaining household lawns. There are no devices that can completely substitute for walk-behind power mowers as a group, since they have applications for which other products are not as suitable. Each type of walk-behind power mower has individual properties which meet public needs, although one type of walk-behind is often an acceptable substitute for another. The newly developed monofilament line mower is not included within the scope of the standard and could be a substitute for mowers using rigid or semi-rigid blades under some conditions.
( e ) Probable effect of the rule upon the utility of the product.
( 1 ) The Commission finds that the probable overall effect of the standard on the utility of mowers should be to increase their utility. In the first place, consumers are likely to experience an increased sense of security from having a safer mower. A study of brake-clutch mowers conducted by the Federal Supply Service (GSA) shows that almost all users appreciated the safety features on brake-clutch mowers. In addition, by releasing the blade control and stopping the blade, the operator can then travel over gravel or other surfaces without fear of thrown objects or of the blade striking objects that might damage the mower. Brake-clutch type mowers would also give an increase in utility by virtue of enabling the operator to use the clutch to prevent stalling when the mower bogs down in heavy grass. On the other hand, there may be some minor adverse effects on utility caused by some aspects of complying mowers. For example, in very heavy mowing conditions, there may be some difficulty in engaging the blade in a blade-clutch mower. (However, mowers that are currently on the market that are not equipped with a blade clutch may have difficulty in starting the engine in heavy grass.) Complying mowers may require slightly more time and a few additional actions to operate. Since complying mowers may have more electrical and mechanical parts than current mowers, they may weigh more and require more maintenance than current mowers. No significant increase in mowing time is expected if a brake-clutch device is used to comply with the standard since each engagement of the blade would require only a few seconds. The amount of additional time and expense required for maintenance, if any, will be dependent on the design solution used. Such disutilities are expected to be slight and to be more than balanced by the increased sense of security consumers are likely to experience from having a safer mower.
( 2 ) During the development of the rule, questions were raised about whether changes in the shields necessitated by the foot probe requirements would adversely affect utility by causing mowers to be hard to push in grass or to be unable to mow close to walls. At the time of issuance of this rule, mowers are available that will pass a 360° foot probe and others are available that will pass rear and side foot probing without any significant loss of utility caused by shielding. Therefore, the Commission concludes that this requirement will not adversely affect the utility of mowers. Mowers with swing-over handles, however, may be more difficult to design in this regard, since 120° at each end of the mower are subject to the foot probe requirement. However, since mowers meeting this requirement have already been built without apparent loss of utility, the Commission concludes that shielding can be designed so that there should be no loss of utility even for mowers with swing-over handles.
( 3 ) As required by section 9(b) of the CPSA, the Commission, in considering the issues involved in issuing a power lawn mower safety standard, has considered and taken into account the special needs of elderly and handicapped persons to determine the extent to which such persons may be adversely affected by the rule. The Commission has determined that there will be no significant adverse effect on such persons as a result of this part 1205. In the first place, the rule can affect only those persons who are physically capable of using a power lawn mower. None of the rule’s provisions will make it more difficult to operate a mower that complies with the standard. On the contrary, complying mowers should be easier to use because the need for manually restarting the mower will be less and because, if the mower uses a brake-clutch to comply with the blade control requirement, use of the brake-clutch can reduce the tendency of the engine to stall in heavy grass. Although a person’s ability to hold a device such as a blade control for a long period of time will decline with age, the force required to hold the blade control can be made low enough that it will not be a problem during the length of time that it takes for consumers to mow a lawn.
( 4 ) After considering the possible adverse effects on mowers that could be caused by the standard and balancing them against the increase in utility that is expected, the Commission concludes that, for a typical consumer, the increases in utility should more than offset any decreases.
( f ) Probable effect of the rule upon the cost of the product. The Commission estimates that the retail price impact of the standard will be about 35 for the average walk-behind mower. Based on an average useful mower-life of about 8 years, the additional annual cost to the purchaser is expected to average about 4.40. The probable effect of the standard will differ on the various types of mowers within its scope. Percentage increases in price will vary from about a 7 percent increase for power-restart self-propelled mowers to about a 30 percent increase for gasoline-powered manual start push mowers. The costs attributable to individual requirements of the standard are discussed in paragraph (i) of this section.
( g ) Probable effect of the rule upon the availability of the product.
( 1 ) The Commission finds that the standard is not expected to have a significant impact on the availability of walk-behind rotary mowers, since domestic production capacity appears to be sufficient to handle any increased demand for safety-related components or materials. Although adapting some types of power mowers to the standard may be more costly than others, the effects of the standard on the price or utility of a particular category of power mowers are not expected to cause radical shifts in demand among types of mowers. The Commission finds that all types of power mowers subject to the standard will be available, although some, such as house-current-powered mowers, may increase their market shares becauses they can be brought into compliance with the standard at a lesser cost.
( 2 ) Because some manufacturers may not revise their entire product line before the effective date of the standard, individual mower manufacturers may initially have less varied lines than at present, but there should be no decrease in the overall types and features of mowers available to consumers.
( 1 ) The Commission has considered other means of achieving the objective of the standard. For example, alternatives were considered such as hand probes, “blade harmless” tests, and blade control by engine kill but allowing manual restart. These alternatives have been rejected by the Commission as being either unfeasible or not as effective as the rule which is being issued.
( 2 ) Similarly, the Commission has found no alternative means of achieving the objective of the standard that it believes would have fewer adverse effects on competition or that would cause less disruption or dislocation of manufacturing and other commercial practices, consistent with the public health and safety.
( i ) Unreasonable risk of injury.
( 1 ) The determination of whether a consumer product safety rule is reasonably necessary to reduce an unreasonable risk of injury involves a balancing of the degree and nature of risk of injury addressed by the rule against the probable effect of the rule on the utility, cost, or availability of the product. The factors of utility and availability of the products, adverse effects on competition, and disruption or dislocation of manufacturing and other commercial practices have been discussed above. The following discussion concerns the relationship of anticipated injury reduction and costs for various requirements of the standard. (See the report, Economic Impact of Blade Contact Requirements for Power Mowers, January 1979, for a detailed analysis of the possible effects of discounting and inflation on the computation of the quantifiable benefits associated with this regulation.)
( 2 ) The foot probe and related requirements are expected to reduce the number of blade contact injuries to the foot by 13,000 each year. It is not possible to apportion this injury reduction among the respective requirements. The cost of these requirements is estimated to be about 4.00 per mower, mostly for redesign of the shields. The shield strength requirement is similar to a requirement in the existing voluntary standard that is almost universally complied with, and should comprise only a small portion of the 4.00 retail cost increase compared to pre-standard mowers that is attributable to this related group of requirements. Also, shields complying with the movable shield requirement are featured in some currently produced mowers.
( 3 ) The foot probe and related requirements should result in a cost increase of about 22,000,000 and undiscounted injury savings of about 46,000,000, exclusive of any allowance for pain and suffering.
( 4 ) The starting location control requirement would apply only to mowers with a power restart capability using engine kill to stop the blade. The cost for relocating the power restart switch, if necessary, should be very minor, and more than offset by the elimination of a clutch, as discussed below.
( 5 ) The requirement that the blade stop within 3 seconds of the release of the blade control is supported by
( i ) the requirement that those mowers that stop the blade by stopping the engine must have a power restart (to remove the motivation to disable the blade control because of the inconven- ience of manually starting the mower each time the control is released) and by
( ii ) the requirement for an additional control that must be actuated before the blade can resume operation (to prevent accidental starting of the blade). Together, these requirements are expected to reduce the number of blade contact injuries by 46,500 per year for an undiscounted savings in injury costs of about 165,000,000 per year, exclusive of pain and suffering.
( 6 ) Virtually all mowers will be subjected to a cost increase of about 3 for the blade control actuating means and 1 for the second control required to restart the blade. (The 1 cost could be eliminated for power restart-engine kill mowers that do not start when the blade control is actuated.)
( 7 ) Also, most mowers would require a brake for the blade in order to achieve a 3 second stop time. This would add another 6.50–8.50, depending on the type of mower. Mowers with power restart capability could stop the blade by killing the engine and thus would not need to provide a clutch to disconnect the engine from the blade. Mowers using manual restart would have to provide a clutch or other blade disengagement devices, which would probably be combined with the brake in a unitary brake-clutch mechanism.
( 8 ) The following are the Commission’s estimates of the probable retail price increases associated with certain types of currently produced mowers that will be caused by the blade control requirements.
( 9 ) The weighted average retail price increase of the blade stop requirements is expected to be about 31 per mower for a total retail cost increase of 167,000,000.
( 10 ) The foot probe and blade stop requirements of the standard will obviously not completely protect the users of mowers under all circumstances. It is still essential for consumers to be aware of the hazard of blade contact and take the proper precautions to protect themselves. It is especially important that users not become complacent with the knowledge that the mower incorporates blade contact safety requirements. Accordingly, the Commission has determined that it is desirable that mowers complying with the standard bear a label warning of the danger of blade contact. Such a requirement would result in practically no effect on the retail price of mowers since labels are very inexpensive and practically all currently produced mowers bear some type of warning label. In view of the hazard that will be associated with power mowers even after the effective date of the standard, and the low cost of the label, the Commission concludes there is an unreasonable risk of injury that can be addressed by the label requirements in this part 1205.
( j ) Conclusion. Therefore, after considering the anticipated costs and benefits of part 1205 and the other factors discussed above, and having taken into account the special needs of elderly and handicapped persons to determine the extent to which such persons may be adversely affected by the rule, the Commission finds that part 1205 (including the effective dates) is reasonably necessary to eliminate or reduce the unreasonable risk of injury associated with walk-behind power lawn mowers and that promulgation of the rule is in the public interest.
[44 FR 10024, Feb. 15, 1979, as amended at 45 FR 86417, Dec. 31, 1980]
44 FR 70386, Dec. 6, 1979, unless otherwise noted.
§ 1205.30 Purpose, scope, and application.
( a ) Purpose. Section 14(a) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 2063(a), requires every manufacturer (including importer) and private labeler of a product which is subject to a consumer product safety standard to issue a certificate that the product conforms to the applicable standard, and to base that certificate either on a test of each product or on a “reasonable testing program.” The purpose of this subpart B of part 1205 is to establish requirements that manufacturers and importers of walk-behind rotary power lawn mowers subject to the Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers (16 CFR part 1205, subpart A), shall issue certificates of compliance in the form of specified labeling and shall keep records of the testing program on which the certificates are based.
( 1 ) The provisions of this rule apply to all rotary walk-behind power lawn mowers which are subject to the requirements of the Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers. This rule does not apply to reel-type mowers, which are subject only to the labeling requirements of the standard.
( 2 ) As authorized by section 14(a)(2) of the act, the Commission exempts manufacturers who manufacture or import only component parts, and private labelers, from the requirement to issue certificates. (Private labelers who are also importers must still certify.)
§ 1205.31 Effective date.
Any walk-behind rotary power mower manufactured after December 31, 1981, must meet the standard and must be certified as complying with the standard in accordance with this rule.
§ 1205.32 Definitions.
In addition to the definitions set forth in section 3 of the act (15 U.S.C. 2052) and in § 1205.3 of the standard, the following definitions shall apply to this subpart B of part 1205:
( a ) Manufacturer means any person or firm that manufactures or imports power lawn mowers subject to this standard, and includes those that assemble power lawn mowers from parts manufactured by other firms.
( b ) Manufactured means the earliest point at which the mower is in the form in which it will be sold or offered for sale to the consumer or is in the form in which it will be shipped to a distributor or retailer. In these forms, a “manufactured” mower may still require partial assembly by the consumer or the lawn mower dealer.
( c ) Private labeler means an owner of a brand or trademark which is used on a power lawn mower subject to the standard and which is not the brand or trademark of the manufacturer of the mower, provided the owner of the brand or trademark has caused or authorized the mower to be so labeled and the brand or trademark of the manufacturer of such mower does not appear on the label.
( d ) Production lot means a quantity of mowers from which certain mowers are selected for testing prior to certifying the lot. All mowers in a lot must be essentially identical in those design, construction, and material features which relate to the ability of a mower to comply with the standard.
( e ) Reasonable testing program means any test or series of tests which are identical or equivalent to, or more stringent than, the tests defined in the standard and which are performed on one or more mowers of the production lot for the purpose of determining whether there is reasonable assurance that the mowers in that lot comply with the requirements of the standard.
§ 1205.33 Certification testing.
( a ) General. Manufacturers and importers shall either test each individual rotary walk-behind power lawn mower (or have it tested) or shall rely upon a reasonable testing program to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the standard.
( b ) Reasonable testing program.
( 1 ) A reasonable testing program for rotary walk-behind power mowers is one that provides reasonable assurance that the mowers comply with the standard. Manufacturers and importers may define their own reasonable testing programs. Such reasonable testing programs may, at the option of manufacturers and importers, be conducted by an independent third party qualified to perform such testing programs.
( 2 ) To conduct a reasonable testing program, the mowers shall be divided into production lots. Sample mowers from each production lot shall be tested in accordance with the reasonable testing program so that there is a reasonable assurance that if the mowers selected for testing meet the standard, all mowers in the lot will meet the standard. Where there is a change in parts, suppliers of parts, or production methods that could affect the ability of the mower to comply with the requirements of the standard, the manufacturer should establish a new production lot for testing.
( 3 ) The Commission will test for compliance with the standard by using the test procedures contained in the standard. However, a manufacturer’s reasonable testing program may include either tests prescribed in the standard or any other reasonable test procedures. (For example, in the shield strength test (§ 1205.4), the manufacturer might choose to use a force higher than the 50 lb force specified in the standard.)
( 4 ) If the reasonable testing program shows that a mower does not comply with one or more requirements of the standard, no mower in the production lot can be certified as complying until the noncomplying mowers in the lot have been identified and destroyed or altered by repair, redesign, or use of a different material or components to the extent necessary to make them conform to the standard. The sale or offering for sale of mowers that do not comply with the standard is a prohibited act and a violation of section 19(a)(1) of the CPSA, regardless of whether the mower has been validly certified.
§ 1205.34 Recordkeeping requirements.
( a ) General. Every person issuing certificates of compliance for walk-behind rotary power lawn mowers subject to the standard shall maintain written records which show that the certificates are based on a test of each mower or on a reasonable testing program. The records shall be maintained for a period of at least 3 years from the date of certification of each mower or each production lot. These records shall be available to any designated officer or employee of the Commission upon request in accordance with section 16(b) of the act (15 U.S.C. 2065(b)).
( b ) Content of records. Records shall identify the mower tested and the production lot and describe the tests the mowers have been subjected to and the results of the tests.
( c ) Format for records. The records required to be maintained by this section may be in any appropriate form or format that clearly provides the required information.
§ 1205.35 Product certification and labeling by manufacturers.
( a ) Form of permanent label of certification. Manufacturers (including importers) shall issue certificates of compliance for walk-behind rotary power lawn mowers manufactured after the effective date of the mower standard in the form of a label which can reasonably be expected to remain on the mower during the period the mower is capable of being used. Such labeling shall be deemed to be a “certificate” of compliance as that term is used in section 14 of the act. (15 U.S.C. 2063.)
( b ) Contents of certification label. The certification labels required by this section shall clearly and legibly contain the following information:
( 1 ) The statement “Meets CPSC blade safety requirements.”
( 2 ) An identification of the production lot.
( 3 ) The name of the person or firm issuing the certificate.
( 4 ) The location where the product was principally assembled.
( 5 ) The month and year the product was manufactured.
( c ) Coding. Except for the requirements of paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(3) of this section, all of the information required by § 1205.35 may be in code, provided the person or firm issuing the certificate maintains a written record of the meaning of each symbol used in the code that will be made available to the distributor, retailer, consumer, and the Commission upon request. If a mower is manufactured for sale by a private labeler, and if the name of the private labeler is also on the certification label, the name of the manufacturer or importer issuing the certificate may also be in such a code.
( d ) Placement of label. The label required by this section must be visible and legible to the ultimate purchaser of the lawn mower. For mowers manufactured before January 1, 1984, where the label is not visible to the consumer at the time of sale because of packaging or marketing practices, an additional label or notice, which may be temporary, stating “Meets CPSC blade safety requirements” shall also appear on the container, or, if the container is not so visible, the promotional material, used in connection with the sale of the mowers.
[44 FR 70386, Dec. 6, 1979, as amended at 49 FR 28241, July 11, 1984]
§ 1205.36 Product certification and labeling by importers.
( a ) General. The importer of any rotary walk-behind power lawn mower subject to the standard must issue the certificate of compliance required by section 14(a) of the Act and § 1205.35 of this regulation. If testing of each mower, or a reasonable testing program, meeting the requirements of this subpart B of part 1205 has been performed by or for the foreign manufacturer of the product, the importer may rely in good faith on such tests to support the certificate of compliance provided the importer is a resident of the United States or has a resident agent in the United States and the records of such tests required by § 1205.34 of this part are maintained in the United States.
( b ) Responsibility of importer. If the importer relies on tests by the foreign manufacturer to support the certificate of compliance, the importer bears the responsibility for examining the records supplied by the manufacturer to determine that the records of such tests appear to comply with § 1205.34 of this part.
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.
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 LocalBusiness.com and has been a regular contributor to the sports pages of The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.
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 in. Battery Electric Cordless Riding Lawn Tractor
- Excellent performance
- Comfortable and fun to drive
- Long battery runtime
- LCD screen and app for tracking battery life
If you are looking for an electric riding lawn mower with all the power of a gas model, but without the fumes or bother of a gas engine, the RYOBI 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Riding Lawn Tractor is our top choice. We found it fun to ride; with a maximum forward speed of 7 mph, this is a zippy mower that speeds up or slows down almost immediately when adjusting your foot on the lever, but we did find it a bit jerky at times. It also was somewhat tricky to assemble, taking us over an hour to have it ready to go. The mower has a 42-inch deck and four steel blades with 13 different cutting height positions to choose from (within 1.5 to 4.5 inches), so you can really fine-tune the look of your lawn. It did a great job cutting the grass, whether wet or dry, at our third-acre Iowa test garden, and even chopped up small sticks, leaves, and weeds very easily. It even features a warning beep when backing up; while we appreciate this safety feature, it admittedly did become tiresome to hear the beep every time we reversed.
According to the manufacturer, it has the equivalent of a 21-horsepower engine, but it runs on the included three 80-volt, 10Ah batteries which allow you to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge (about 60 minutes of runtime) and quickly recharge in less than 2.5 hours thanks to the onboard charger. In our test sessions, the batteries never dropped much below 80 percent capacity, and we appreciated the LCD touchscreen that lets you keep tabs on the battery runtime and charging speed, as well as blade speed, driving speed, and blade height. Other extra features we like include LED headlights, front and back storage compartments, two tow hitches, two cup holders, and two USB ports to charge your phone.
Of course, the most important feature of a lawn mower is how well it cuts grass, and this one left our test lawn looking great, without creating ruts, ridges, or unevenly chopped grass. The mower discharges clippings to the side, but you can purchase a bagger and mulching kit separately, as well as various lawn care attachments. This is a powerful, feature-packed riding lawn tractor so it comes at a bigger price tag than other picks. If you don’t need all of these features, you may want to choose a more budget-friendly model. However, we think if you are looking for a great electric riding mower with all of the features and power you need, this is your best bet. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: 4,999
Cutting Width: 42 inches | Power Type: Battery | Weight: 557 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: 1 to 2 acres
Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- Excellent cutting performance
- Very comfortable, smooth ride
- Easy maintenance
- Zero-turn radius
- A bit of a learning curve to handle
- Bagger and mulching kit must be purchased separately
- No headlights
While we did have a bit of a learning curve with this powerful gas riding mower from Toro, once we got the hang of using the hand levers to control our speed, braking, direction, and blade engagement, we found that it was easy to maneuver between trees and other obstacles on our half-acre Iowa lawn. But if you have a larger property, you’ll be happy to know that this mower is rated for yards up to 4 acres in size. It has a hefty 50-inch cutting deck, so the zero-turn capability comes in handy when swiveling such a large mower around flowerbeds, between trees, or near retaining walls or other obstacles. We also found it very easy to set the cutting height, which ranges from a low of 1.5 inches to a high of 4.5 inches.
On our first mowing session, the grass was wet and the mower’s tires slipped a bit while moving down a slope, but on subsequent sessions, we had little problem in mowing over wet grass, thick grass, leaves, and other small lawn debris. The mower left the grass very evenly cut, with a lush, full appearance. Like many riding mowers, the clippings discharge to the side; if you want a bag or mulching kit, you’ll have to buy them separately. We definitely appreciated Toro’s MyRide suspension system, which keeps the ride smooth and pleasant even when the terrain isn’t completely level. And with a top speed of 7 mph, this mower can get the job done quickly. It has a cup holder to keep a cold beverage close at hand but does not have headlights, unlike many other riding mowers.
One great feature of this gas mower is that while it does require annual oil changes, it’s designed to make the task as easy as possible, so you won’t have to waste your afternoon on maintenance. It also has wash-out ports underneath the deck, so you can quickly blast away caked-on grass, mud, and grunge with your garden hose. And the sturdy construction, including the steel deck, means that this mower can take a beating and keep right on mowing without a pause. It comes with a 3-year residential limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: 4,299
Cutting Width: 50 inches | Power Type: Gasoline | Weight: 694 pounds | Cutting Options: Side-discharge | Size of Yard: Up to 4 acres
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor
- Comfortable, adjustable seat
- Reasonable price
- Excellent performance in cutting grass
We put this gas-powered lawn tractor to the test on a 6-acre Iowa property that once housed horses, and so is rather bumpy, and also has many trees and other obstacles. The mower was easy to assemble, but the instructions for starting it were somewhat unclear, and it took us several tries to get it up and running. Still, once we figured it out, we were very pleased with the mower’s performance. It operated beautifully over wet grass, thick grass, and uneven spots, plus, it maneuvered easily around all obstacles. The mower has a 23-horsepower/725 cc Kohler engine with plenty of power, and the 46-inch deck is big enough for getting the job done quickly but not so large that it’s hard to slip between trees and other obstacles.
The mower has 12 cutting settings ranging from 1.5 inches to 4 inches. We found it very easy to adjust the cutting height, as well as other controls on the mower. It has a 16-inch turn radius, which is tight enough for most lawns, although we couldn’t get quite as close to some trees as we would have liked. The maximum forward speed is 5.5 mph, which is a bit slower than some other models, but more than sufficient for most users. Overall, we felt like our lawn looked great once we finished mowing, and the mower spewed the grass clippings evenly from the side chute. Like most riding mowers, if you want a bagger or mulching kit, you’ll need to purchase them separately. There are quite a few other attachments available for this mower as well.
The seat can be adjusted, which was a definite plus for us, along with the smooth ride. On the downside, this mower does require periodic oil changes, but the process shouldn’t be too difficult or time-intensive. And on the plus side, the mower has cruise control, so once you find a speed that you like, you can easily set the mower to continue at that pace. It also has headlights for mowing in shady spots or at dusk. While riding mowers are undeniably expensive, this one is reasonably priced for the quality and performance it provides. It’s rated for use on lawns up to 4 acres in size and comes with a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 2,449
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
- 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 3 acres
Best Gas Zero-Turn
Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 42 in. 22HP 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: 3,299
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
- 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: 3,599
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
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.
Make your yard the envy of your neighbors with one of these top lawn mowers.
By Tony Carrick and Mark Wolfe and Glenda Taylor | Updated May 18, 2023 4:59 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
A good lawn mower is crucial for maintaining a lush, well-manicured lawn. With so many options and brands to choose from, selecting a mower that is appropriate for your yard can be challenging. To this task easier for you, we got our hands on some of the most popular options and put them to the test on our own lawns.
Whether you’re replacing an old mower for your current lawn or buying one to maintain a new property, it’s important to choose one that fits the size and terrain of the property. This guide explores the features and factors that are important to consider when shopping for the best lawn mower while reviewing some of the top models on the market.
We tested the following lawn mowers to find out how they would perform in terms of cutting ability, finish quality, and operator comfort. Read on to learn more about the criteria we used to select our picks. Then check out our lawn mower reviews to learn why we consider these models to be some of the best lawn mowers available.
- BEST OVERALL:Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST3-IN-1:DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED:Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
- BEST RIDING LAWN MOWER:John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
- BEST CORDED LAWN MOWER:American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS:Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
- BEST ROBOTIC:Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY:Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
How We Chose the Best Lawn Mowers
All of the mowers included in our list exceeded quality standards established in our shopping criteria and proved worthy through testing. We selected each of the above mowers based on our previously mentioned shopping considerations. After sourcing the mowers and assembling the mowers according to the manufacturer’s instructions, we tested them in an average yard in order to gauge capabilities in several key areas. The most critical aspects we observed included general quality and durability, mowing power and cut quality, and operator comfort and convenience.
We also tested each according to its claimed abilities. Riding mowers were used for larger and sometimes rougher areas and were assessed for power, speed, and comfort. Walk-behind and push mowers were mostly restricted to testing on well-established and well-maintained lawn spaces and closely monitored for cut quality and user convenience. We actually pre-mowed the grass ahead of testing the robot mower since it is intended to maintain rather than reduce grass height.
Our Top Picks
We tested mowers that range from corded lawn mowers for small yards to powerful self-propelled gas lawn mowers for medium-size yards to riding mowers that can handle 3 acres or more. Read on to learn more about these mowers, how they performed during our grass tests, and why we think they are some of the best.
Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
Whether it’s a car, generator, or lawn mower, it’s tough to beat the reliability and durability of Honda engines—and such is the case with this self-propelled gas lawn mower. Its powerful GCV170 engine powers not just one but two blades, giving it a cleaner, more precise cut over most other gas-powered lawn mowers that have just a single blade.
With its rear-wheel drive, this mower is ideal to contend with yards that have slopes and more-rugged terrain. Its engine is formidable, and so are its features. An easy-to-use clip system makes it simple to switch between its three grass-clipping options—mulching, side discharge, and bagging—and the well-designed speed controls add to the quality of this premium self-propelled walk-behind mower.
In our tests, this Honda walk-behind mower’s high-quality components and thoughtful design really stood out. The engine layout and oversize gas gap made fueling up and adding oil easy and can simplify oil and filter changes. After a quick 5-minute assembly of the handle and bagger and adding fuel and oil, the mower started on the first pull. The engine ran smoothly and surprisingly quietly.
The variable-speed controller at first felt awkward until we realized that we could adjust the angle to any of five positions. The mower had plenty of power for mowing and driving the wheels, even in dense, tall grass, and on steep slopes. If the goal is to find a top-quality walk-behind mower that is easy to use and leaves a great-looking finish, this would make an excellent choice.
- Power source: Honda GCV170 gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Twin-blade mowing system for finer mulching
- Auto choke for fast, easy starting
- Variable speed, 0 to 4 miles per hour
- Clip system makes changing cutting modes easy
Get the Honda lawn mower at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mow
Craftsman is a well-established, well-respected brand in the world of lawn mowers, and this gas-powered model is no exception. It boasts a powerful 140-cc engine and an ample 21-inch mowing deck, making it ideal for yards up to ¾ of an acre.
Large 8-inch rear wheels with heavy tread make it easy to push this mower, while six cutting heights offer versatility. The mower also offers three disposal settings: mulch, side discharge, and bag. And while this mower may lack the power assist of other walk-behind mowers, it is significantly cheaper, making it a good choice for those with level yards who may not need a self-propelled mower.
We liked the Craftsman mower’s affordability and simplicity. It only required about 20 minutes of easy assembly. The completed handle configuration was a bit less refined in appearance, the grip area is unpadded metal, and the blade and drive control cables are retained on the handle by heavy-duty cable ties.
After adding oil and gas, the mower started easily on the first pull. It had good power for cutting average lawn grass and pulling uphill, but it bogged down ever so slightly in tall, overgrown grass. The front-wheel-drive feature made turning easy, but a fully loaded bagger could weigh down the rear and cause it to lose traction (we did not experience this). The fuel tank size is adequate to mow about a half acre per fill-up. This could be an excellent value pick for a budget-minded shopper looking for a durable self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 150 cc Briggs Stratton gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Front-wheel drive assists the user while mowing; prevents strain while in use
- Easy to start, no priming or choke required
- Side-discharge, mulch, or bag for ease of cleanup after mowing
- Self-propelled feature is not adjustable; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
- Non-padded grip could lead to hand fatigue with extended use
Get the Craftsman lawn mower at Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, or Blain’s Farm Fleet.
DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
With mulching, bagging, and side-discharge capabilities, the DeWALT 2X20V MAX self-propelled cordless lawn mower has a better-than-average build quality and thoughtful design. Its heavy-duty 21.5-inch, 15-gauge stamped-steel deck adjusts to six different cutting heights from 1.5 to 4 inches. Running on two batteries and offering up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge, this mower is ideal for small to medium yards up to a half acre.
We set up a test area for the DeWALT mower in our yard, with about 10,000 square feet of lawn that included some short but steep slopes, weedy spots, and dense grass. We mowed the test plot three times, requiring just over two full battery charges each time. The DeWALT covered about 5,000 square feet per charge when adjusted to 2.5 inches high with the grass catcher in place. At 3.5 inches, that extended to about 8,000 square feet and 40 minutes of runtime. The controls were well laid out for easy operation, and the cushioned handle felt comfortable while we mowed. Also, this mower is a space saver. With its fold-flat handle and vertical storage capability, it only needs about 2.5 square feet of storage floor space.
The DeWALT 3-in-1 lawn mower features a security-key-enabled push-button start. Its adjustable font-wheel-drive self-propulsion eliminates half the work of mowing, lets you choose your own pace, and works on all kinds of terrain. The motor is equipped with auto-sensing technology that seamlessly increases torque when encountering tougher mowing conditions. In our tests, it was easier to turn than rear-wheel drive mowers. A removable discharge chute, grass catcher, and integrated mulch plug allow for quick conversion to your preferred method of grass-clipping disposal. Overall, the quality of the DeWALT 3-in-1 mower is better than most and is a solid choice for quarter- to half-acre lots.
- Power source: Two 20-volt, 10-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 21.5 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Heavy-duty steel mower deck with 3-way grass-clipping management
- Front-wheel drive self-propel system supports safe operation and smooth turns
- Powered by 2 rechargeable DeWALT XR 20-volt (V) lithium-ion batteries
- 2-stage brushless motor preserves battery life and automatically increases power for tougher mowing conditions
- Ergonomic cushioned hand grip are comfortable to use and reduce operator fatigue
- Heavy and cumbersome to maneuver manually without the self-propel feature engaged
- Takes a long time to recharge the batteries with the included DCB107 battery chargers
- The mower’s battery compartment has an awkward design
Get the DeWALT cordless lawn mower at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot (with 3 batteries), Tractor Supply Co., or Acme Tools.
Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
The Ego Power comes ready to mow, including a battery and Rapid charger. The advancements Ego has made with its battery-powered mower sets it atop the cordless models. It boasts 45 minutes of runtime, thanks to its brushless motor and large 56-volt, 5-Ah battery. With its 21-inch deck, the Ego is suitable for yards up to half an acre. The Ego Power also includes other features that make it an attractive buy, including speed controls that the user operates with an intuitive dial and bagging, mulching, or side-discharge capability.
Overall, the Ego Power cordless mower was easy and comfortable to operate in our tests. The preset self-propelled pace felt comfortably moderate but not leisurely. The mower had no difficulty cutting normal grass and did not bog down noticeably in thick, tall grass. Finish quality was good to excellent.
We did notice that mowing in “push” mode (without the self-propelled motor running) extended battery life by about 20 minutes to as much as 65 minutes per charge. Buying a second battery for extended runtime, or as backup for tougher mowing, may be a wise investment. This mower would be a good choice for small and midsize lawns up to about a half acre and for owners who want to reduce noise, exhaust, and fuel handling.
- Power source: 56-volt, 5-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- 45 minutes of runtime per charge; suitable for small- to large-sized yards
- Battery charges in less than an hour; suitable for multiple uses or yards
- Battery works with many other Ego Power tools
- Emits power similar to a gasoline mower
- Higher cost than gas mower with similar power
- Poor traction on slopes; may not be ideal for hilly yards
- Noisy drive system; may not be ideal for nighttime mowing
Get the Ego lawn mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Lowe’s.
John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
Larger yards from ½ to 2 acres call for a bigger machine for mowing. The John Deere S130, with its 22-horsepower V-twin engine and 42-inch deck, offers excellent mowing ability plus performance and comfort features that extend its range of use. The 20 by 10-8 rear tires and wide stance provide excellent stability and help to cushion the ride. It features hydrostatic operation, single-lever throttle with spring-return choke, ergonomic deck-height adjustment lever, dash-mounted digital fuel gauge, LED headlights, and John Deere’s Easy Change 30-second oil change system. The included drop-pin towing hitch and PTO make it compatible with a wide range of John Deere branded and non-branded yard implements such as utility carts, spreaders, sweepers, snow blowers, and more.
In our extensive test, the S130 lawn tractor proved to be a comfortable, capable riding mower with good maneuverability in a wide range of conditions. It easily handled grassy slopes up to 13 degrees (4.5 vertical feet per 20 linear feet), which is the limit recommended by the manufacturer. Measured against leading competitors, it offered a tighter real-life turning radius thanks to superior weight balance, and a seat base that is 3 inches higher to provide a better operator vantage point.
The high, open-back seat was well cushioned and supportive while allowing excellent ventilation. The deck height, blade engagement, and throttle controls were well positioned for convenience and safe operation. Even with the slightly elevated price tag, this mower offers tons of value, making it an excellent choice for most larger yards.
- Power source: 22-horsepower V-twin gas engine
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Type: Lawn tractor
- High vantage point for optimal viewing of the yard and machine while mowing
- Tight turning radius allows for clean and even cutting paths
- Comfortable seat and controls make it easy for the user to mow the lawn
- Should not require much maintenance to keep running for years
Get the John Deere riding lawn mower at Lowe’s or a local John Deere dealer.
American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
Corded lawn mowers make an easy, affordable choice for smaller yards where a gas-powered mower would be a hassle. This mower from American Lawn Mower Company can keep the yard looking great at a low price point, without worrying about the mess or expense of gasoline or batteries.
Its 14-inch deck suits smaller yards and smaller storage areas. At about 20 pounds, this mower is easy to maneuver for those who might struggle with a heavier model. It also has a surprising range of options, allowing one to bag or mulch clippings (though it oddly has no side-discharge option). It also offers a convenient single lever for height control, eliminating the need to make height adjustments for each wheel individually.
In our tests, this model delivered a rock-solid performance. Assembly, which entailed installation of the handle and cord retainers, took about 10 minutes to complete. It mowed well, even in dense, weedy grass, and the bagger worked well. The small size and lightweight build limit this mower’s practicality more than its corded motor does.
By starting close to the electrical outlet and mowing progressively farther away, we easily minimized the risk of cord damage or entanglement. As an affordable mower for small yards, with arguably the least environmental impact, this quiet, capable corded electric model could be the best choice.
- Durable, maintenance-free electric motor; eco-friendly compared to similar options
- Lightweight and easy to use; offers excellent maneuverability
- Offers bagging and mulching options for easy clean-up after mowing
- Not ideal for large-sized yards; suitable for only the smallest yards
- No side-discharge option; may not be ideal for some users’ needs
Get the American Lawn Mower electric lawn mower at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.
Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
If spending an entire afternoon mowing the lawn isn’t a problem, those with yards that could house a couple of football fields require a mowing deck that can level large swaths of green in a single pass. With its massive 50-inch deck, the aptly named TimeCutter from Toro is ready for a big job. This large mower, which boasts a 24.5-horsepower engine, can reach speeds of up to 7 miles per hour, making it capable of handling yards of 3 acres or more.
Toro also makes sure the operator will be comfortable while covering all that ground with its adjustable MyRIDE suspension system that absorbs bumps in the lawn as well as vibrations from the engine. Plush seating provides support and comfort for longer mowing sessions. Toro also includes other useful features, including a foot-lever-assisted deck-height adjustment, toolless oil-change system, and a cupholder.
When we tested the 50-inch Toro TimeCutter, we timed its performance on a 1-acre area of an old field converted to lawn. The MyRIDE suspension system smoothed out the ruts and bumps for a comfortable ride at near top speed. It mowed the acre in 20 minutes, a blistering 3-acres-per-hour pace. The finish quality was excellent, and it used less than 3 quarts of gasoline. As a point of comparison, a 22-HP, 46-inch lawn tractor that has been used to mow the same area takes nearly an hour and uses more than 1.25 gallons of gas.
Even before factoring in the amazingly comfortable ride, we appreciated the prospect of mowing in one-third the time and reducing fuel and maintenance expenses by half on this large lot. For large grassy areas, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of a zero turn mower, and the TimeCutter makes an excellent pick.
- Huge mowing deck makes this model ideal for medium- to large-sized yards
- Shock-absorbing suspension system integrated; can tackle tough jobs without causing strain to the user
- Large engine is capable of cutting thicker grass varieties
Get the Toro TimeCutter lawn mower at The Home Depot or a local Toro dealer.
Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
Pushing the edge of lawn mower technology further is this robotic lawn mower from Worx. It functions similarly to a robot vacuum cleaner by mowing a preset area of up to a quarter acre on its own. The operator sets up wire barriers that the lawn mower won’t cross, ensuring it only mows in a set area. It has a laser eye that guides it around any obstacles that might be in the yard. A single front caster and two large rear-drive wheels carry it through the yard while allowing it to turn on a dime.
The Worx Landroid M can also connect to a Smart device, through which the user can program daily schedules or direct the mower to stop or start. It runs off the same 20-volt Worx battery that powers the company’s other yard tools and will automatically return to its charging station when the battery gets low.
Testing the Landroid M required a detailed setup process, but then the operation was almost completely hands-off. After installing the Landroid mobile app, the base station, boundary wire, and establishing the mower’s Wi-Fi connection, we programmed the robot for a daily mowing schedule. Setup and programming were straightforward with easy-to-follow instructions and tutorial videos on the Landroid app. The whole process took about 2.5 hours, including time taken to watch videos. The covered area included a sloped section, a narrow corridor, a broad contiguous area, and an off-limits landscape bed.
Landroid mowed on time every time and stayed inbounds without a problem. On an evening when rain moved in during the mowing cycle, Landroid’s rain sensor picked it up and sent the unit back to its base station to wait it out. The only challenge we encountered was that the mower initially did not dock properly after mowing because the base station was not sitting level. After fixing that issue, it simply worked.
A week after we installed the Landroid, the grass it cut still looked freshly mowed with the exception of the edges, while the adjacent lawn outside Landroid’s coverage needed to be cut. Those looking to infuse the time-, fuel-, and labor-saving benefits of robotics into their lawn care routine would do well to consider Landroid.
- Mows up to ¼ of an acre with ease
- Can be controlled via an app through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Brushless motor extends battery life; suitable for small to large yards
- Onboard rain sensor protects the mower from potential damage
Get the Worx robotic lawn mower at Amazon.
Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
The Makita XML03, an 18-inch, battery-powered lawn mower, comes with four included batteries, and the claim that it will mow up to 1/3 acre on a single charge, so we tested that claim. We marked out a 1/3-acre area on our lawn and mowed with the Makita XML03 six times over three weeks.
During testing, the Makita mower completed all but one mowing session without battery depletion—with a small battery charge remaining. However, when we tested the mower on damp grass, we depleted all four batteries before we could finish the session. Keep in mind that the Makita mower is not self-propelled, so ultimately, the mowing area will depend on user speed and grass thickness.
Operating at 3,300 rpm, its single blade matches the speed of gas-powered mowers, but dense grass resistance can hinder spinning speed. The trick to overcoming this issue is to mow more frequently—while the grass height is low enough, you’re not removing any more than 1/3 of the grass leaf.
The height adjustment (a single lever on the back right wheel) is convenient; the mower’s deck height range of 13/16 inch to 3 inches could have been improved. This limitation may impact those with specific grass types or desired cutting heights. Although a typical range of 2-1/2 to 3 inches covers many grass varieties, species such as tall fescue are often mowed at 3-1/2 inches high.
The Makita’s detachable grass-catching bag holds 1.7 bushels (16 gallons), which is on the small side, and we had to empty the clippings frequently. But overall, the Makita XML03 meets its mowing claims with reliable battery performance. It starts at the press of a button and is much quieter than gas-powered mowers, so you won’t upset the neighbors if you mow early on a Saturday morning.
- Power source: Two 18-volt, 4-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 18 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Environmentally friendly battery power eliminates the necessity for carbon-emitting gas and oil
- Produces less noise than gas-powered mowers, ensuring peaceful early morning mowing without disturbing neighbors
- Comes with 4 batteries upon purchase, allowing for convenient swapping of charged sets when 1 set runs out
- Simple push-button start eliminates the need for tugging cords or priming pumps
- The relatively narrow 18-inch swath width may result in time-consuming mowing for larger yards
- The Makita XML03 lacks self-propulsion, making it challenging to push on inclines
- The grass-clipping bag has a small capacity, so frequent emptying may be necessary
Get the Makita Lawn Mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
What to Consider When Choosing a Lawn Mower
In addition to mower type, it’s vital to consider other factors like deck size and fuel requirements when shopping for a lawn mower. Ahead, learn more about these and other important characteristics of lawn mowers.
Types of Lawn Mowers
The first step to selecting the right mower is to decide which type of mower best suits the yard.
Walk-behind mowers consist of two different kinds of mower: push and self-propelled. Self-propelled mowers have power wheels that pull the mower forward. Some self-propelled mowers have an adjustment feature to increase or decrease the travel speed for improved operator comfort and convenience. Manual mowers have no power-assisted wheels and must be pushed manually by the user.
Riding mowers include zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine riding mowers. Zero-turn mowers, the most expensive lawn mowers on the market, have a motor that sits behind the operator and are controlled using two levers. The mowers get their name from their ability to pivot 360 degrees in place. Zero-turn mowers also have very broad mowing decks. Their size and maneuverability make them ideal for cutting large lawns with obstacles the user must drive around.
A lawn tractor looks similar to a farm tractor with its motor in the front of the mower. The user operates the tractor from a driver’s seat using a steering wheel. Lawn tractors have broad mowing decks but do not have the small turning radius of a zero-turn tractor. Because of their balance and traction, lawn tractors are well suited for mowing hilly terrain and may be used for other property management tasks like towing a utility cart or plowing snow.
Rear-engine lawn mowers are similar to lawn tractors but have their engines in the rear. Rear-engine lawn tractors typically have smaller decks, though they allow for greater visibility and nimbler handling for the operator.
The newest type of lawn mower, robotic mowers look similar to robotic vacuum cleaners, only they are larger and have bigger wheels that enable them to move through grass. Robotic lawn mowers can mow a yard automatically while being controlled via a Smart device.
These lawn mowers are powered by a rechargeable battery and can be programmed to mow the lawn at programmed times and intervals. Robotic mowers require the user to set up wires in the yard that create boundaries for the mower so it doesn’t wander away. They also use laser-eye technology that spots obstacles in the yard so the mower can evade them.
Self-propelled mowers come in different drive wheel options including front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive.
- Front-wheel drive mowers are easier to turn by allowing the operator to raise the front wheels and use the back wheels to pivot.
- Rear-wheel drive mowers place the bulk of the mower’s weight over the drive wheels, creating better traction for climbing inclines and slopes.
- All-wheel drive mowers are well suited for yards with more extreme slopes and rougher terrain.
Cutting Width and Yard Size
A mower’s deck size determines the width of the swath of grass it can cut with each pass and hence how quickly it can mow the lawn. A wider deck also makes a mower less nimble, which can make it awkward to mow small lawns with flower beds, trees, and gardens to navigate.
A walk-behind mower with a deck up to 22 inches is usually a good size for a smaller yard of up to about half an acre. Riding mowers with decks that range between 30 and 46 inches are a good choice for lawns up to 1 acre. Zero turn mowers and lawn tractors with 48- to 60-inch decks can be efficient choices for larger properties.
Lawn mowers can use three types of fuel sources: corded electricity, gas, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Electric mowers supply a constant source of power; however, they are limited by a cord that connects to a standard wall outlet. This makes corded lawn mowers somewhat awkward to use. However, they are extremely durable, have no batteries to recharge or replace, and are almost entirely maintenance free.
Gas-powered lawn mowers provide the greatest amount of power, run a long time on a single tank, and have no recharge time to worry about. However, gas mowers are loud, require more maintenance to keep in top condition than electric mowers, and produce exhaust fumes.
Battery-powered mowers run on lithium-ion batteries. They are easier to start than gas-powered lawn mowers and create no exhaust fumes; however, they are less powerful and are limited to about 45 minutes of runtime per charge. Battery-powered mowers are also significantly more expensive to purchase than gas mowers, and the batteries typically need to be replaced every 5 years.
Mowers come in two blade types: the more common rotary and the cylinder blade. Rotary blades are the type of blade found on most residential lawn mowers. They consist of a blade or blades that spin on a horizontal plane, cross-cutting the tops of grass blades to trim them to the desired height.
Cylinder blades, which can cut grass to a very low height without damaging it, have historically been confined to use on sports fields and golf courses. They consist of a rotating cylinder that is equipped with blades that wrap around the cylinder in a spiral pattern. The blades cut the grass using a shearing action that creates a cleaner cut than rotary blades, which can tear grass and leave a ragged edge.
While cylinder mowers (also known as reel mowers) make more precise cuts, they are not capable of cutting through taller grass. In fact, their cutting ability ranges from a height of about 1/16 of an inch to 1 inch. This limits this type of mower to varieties of grass that can survive being cut to a low height, such as Bermuda grass.
Mowers offer different grass-disposal options including side discharge, mulching, and bagging. Side discharge ejects the grass clippings out of the side of the mower onto the lawn. Mulching keeps the grass clippings under the deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times to produce a fine mulch that quickly incorporates into the soil. Mowers that support baggers collect the clippings in a bag at the rear of the mower.
Mowers come with additional features that make them easier to operate and maintain. Deck height adjustment allows the user to increase or decrease the mowing height for optimal lawn health. These useful add-ons include mowing decks with built-in wash-out ports that make them easier to clean, switches that make it easy to change between cutting options, and easy-to-operate variable-speed controls for self-propelled mowers.
Many riding mowers have LED headlights for nighttime mowing, drink holders, adjustable plush ergonomic seating, and many other convenient features.
For those who have concerns about maintaining a lawn mower or are wondering how big an engine the mower needs, read on for answers to these and other common questions.
Q. How long should a lawn mower last?
Most mowers can last about 10 years, depending on how often it is used and how well it is maintained.
Q. How powerful of a lawn mower do I need?
Engine sizes for walk-behind mowers range from 140 cc to 190 cc. For tough terrain with thick grass, a larger engine is usually a better choice.
Q. Can I replace the pull cord on a lawn mower?
Yes. In fact, replacing the pull cord on a mower is a fairly simple repair, requiring just a screwdriver and wrench.
Q. How long does a lawn mower’s battery last?
As a general rule of thumb, a riding lawn mower’s battery can last about 4 years. The rechargeable battery on an electric mower can last about 5 years.
Q. How do I clean my lawn mower?
To clean a mower, tip the mower over to access the deck. Remove any grass clippings or debris that may be wrapped around the blade or stuck to the bottom of the deck. Wet the deck with a garden hose, then spray the underside with an all-purpose cleaner. Scrub the deck with a brush, then rinse thoroughly. Turn the mower back upright and use a damp rag or paper towel to wipe down the housing.
Q. How often do I need to change spark plugs in my lawn mower?
Change the spark plugs in the spring at the beginning of the mowing season or after 100 hours of use.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with a background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor-living goods.
Additional research provided by Tony Carrick and Glenda Taylor.
The Lawn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Buy the Right Type of Lawn Mower
Not all yards are the same, and not all mowers are either.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: May 5, 2022
Nothing kills the joy of a sunny day like the wrong type of lawn mower. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. The right type of lawn mower can make cutting your lawn a pleasure.
If you know you need a new lawn mower, but aren’t sure how much mower you need or what features you might want, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Use this guide to select the right machine, and happy mowing.
Step 1: Walk or Ride?
The first step is the choice between two basic types of lawn mowers: riding mower and a walk-behind. Any more ground to cover than a 1/4 acre, you’ll want to ride if for no other reason than to get the lawn done faster.
From Popular Mechanics
First, make an approximation of your mowing surface. Simply walk off large rectangles. counting your steps as you go. Add up the areas of the rectangles. No need to get too precise here. An average man’s stride is about 30 inches and a woman’s stride is about 26 inches, or measure your own stride for the most accurate measurement.
An acre is 43,560 square feet, so one-fourth acre is 10,890 square feet. Anything above that threshold, and you’ll likely want to get a riding mower. In fact, the vast majority of people wouldn’t dream of cutting a ¼ acre of grass with a 22-inch walk mower, but we have to start somewhere. So think realistically about how much time you have to mow your lawn on a busy weekend and select your equipment accordingly.
For lawns from ¼ of an acre to 2 acres. you’ll most likely be most comfortable with a rear-engine riding mowers, light-duty lawn tractors, and residential-duty zero-turn mowers. Anything more than two acres and you’ll want a commercial-duty zero turn mower.
Step 2: Selecting Your Features
Once you’ve selected whether you ride or walk, there are two factors that will drive your purchase—your budget and your comfort. The more you spend on a mower, the more durable, versatile, intuitive, and probably, the quicker you’ll get the job done. The opposite is also true.
It doesn’t make as much difference with a small, simple yard. But the larger and more complex the yard, the more thought you need to give to selecting mower features.
We’ll begin with walk mowers. one of the most versatile cutting machines out there.
Walk mowers are somewhat like cars in that they are available with a wide range of options, all of which increase cost and complexity. Look carefully at the product’s hang tag and talk to the sales staff to get a better sense of whether the features are useful to you.
Let’s break down all the major components and what lawnmowers use them:
Look it at this way: You can push a mower, or the mower can push itself, in which case it’s either a front-drive or a rear-drive mower (we’ll get to all-wheel drive in a moment). A self-propelled mower makes your life a lot easier when mowing hills, or when you mow and bag. There’s nothing like pushing a fully loaded mower uphill to make you appreciate a self-propelled machine.
The Lawn and the Short of it
Front-wheel drive is best for level ground with a lot of obstacles. This allows you to push down on the handle, reducing traction on the front wheels and pivot into and out of corners.
Rear-wheel drive works best for for uphill mowing and sidehill mowing. Rear wheel drive works better here because when you push down on the handle going up a hill, the front tires will not lose traction.
Yes, a handful of mowers are all-wheel drive. built for homeowners who cut across washboard surfaces, sidehill mowing, steep uphill and downhill mowing that makes good of AWD. We were dubious when these mowers were introduced several years ago, but when we cut some very rough ground, we were surprised at how much easier AWD made things.
In this section, we’re talking about what the machines actually does with the grass. Mowers can mulch clippings (repeatedly cut and recut them), discharge them to the side or rear, or bag them.
Two-function is a mower that mulches and bags. Mulching is healthier for the lawn in that it returns nitrogen-rich grass clippings into the ground, but it doesn’t work particularly well for tall-grass conditions in the spring and early summer or early fall when the lawn bounces back from summer stress.
A three-function machine bags, mulches, and side discharges. Side discharging is useful for utility mowing (mowing areas with tall weeds and non-turf grasses). It also helps if the lawn gets away from you and you need to set the mower deck to its full height and take the grass down in stages.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of mower features. These are the more common things you’ll find on your average mower’s spec list:
Deck levers come in groupings of one, two, or four. One lever is the most convenient, but it comes with a lot of linkage that adds weight and that you have to keep lubricated if you want it to work well. Two levers are a good compromise between one and four levers. Yes, these mowers have a bit more linkage than a four-lever mower, but it’s easier to get the height right. Four levers is the standard, time-tested design.
The only way to get a sense of whether you’ll like the ground speed control is to actually get your hands on a mower at a dealership, hardware store, or home center.
The control may be integral with the handle. The harder you press forward on the drive control in the handle, the faster the mower goes. Or it may be a separate lever or even a bail (a metal rod). Squeeze the lever to increase ground speed or to activate the mower’s drive system for fixed-speed mowers.
Self-propelled mowers are equipped with three types of transmissions. Hydrostatic is the most expensive and the smoothest operating. It drives hydraulic fluid past an impeller that spins an output shaft, which controls ground speed. This is your smoothest running and most reliable transmission, but it’s also the most expensive.
The typical front or rear drive walk mower uses some form of belt-and-pulley arrangement to direct power from the engine’s output shaft to a gear box on a front or rear axle (or a gear at the wheel). There are several variations of this design, but all work well and are reasonably easy to maintain and repair.
Make Your Lawn Last
Gas engines sizes run from 140 cc to 190 cc. Larger engines produce more torque and are less likely to stall in tall grass at the beginning and end of the cutting season. A larger engine also helps drive self-propelled mowers more effectively uphill.
From least-expensive to most-expensive, mower engines may be traditional side valve design, overhead valve, or overhead cam. expensive engines provide increased durability, reduced noise, and less oil consumption.
The rear wheel size of a walk mower may be larger than the diameter of the front wheels. The wheels’ increased diameter helps it more easily navigate ruts and rough ground.
Ball bearing wheels are easier to push than those with bushing-type wheels. The larger your yard, the more difficult its terrain, or if you’re hauling around a bag of clippings or clippings mixed with mulched leaves, the more you want this option.
A blade-brake clutch is a feature found on high-end walk mowers. It allows you to completely release the operator control handle without stopping the engine. That way, you can pause your mowing, move whatever obstacle out of your way and continue mowing without having to restart the engine.
A range of unusual features have been introduced in the last several years to make mowing easier or the whole mowing experience better.
Some engines require no oil change. like the small gas engines made by Briggs Stratton. The feature is known as “Just Check and Add.” You just add oil periodically to replace the small amount of oil that’s slowly vaporized in the combustion process.
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Toro’s innovations have created mowers that have power-assisted reverse and a vertical-storage design that lets you fold the handle down, tip the mower back, and store it vertically against the wall.
Front caster wheels are great for elaborately-landscaped yards that require a lot of pivoting. Front caster wheels don’t track particularly well on bumpy ground or mowing sidehills. Mowox mowers have replaced dual front casters with a single front caster wheel, perhaps the most maneuverable form of mower you can get. But Cub Cadet has been among the mower manufacturers that pioneered the use of front caster wheels.
Wash-out fittings enable you to hook up a garden hose to wash accumulated grass clippings from under the deck. A clean deck lasts longer because accumulated grass holds moisture and lawn chemical residue, which causes deck corrosion. Our tests show that these fittings do help considerably, but that you still need some under-deck scraping with a putty knife.
Wide-cut mowers with decks that range from 28 to 33 inches are a fast cutting alternative to a 22-inch mower. These are still comparatively rare products made by Cub Cadet, Toro, Troy-Bilt, and Craftsman.
Finally, electric walk mowers are a perfect fit if you have a small yard (under 5,000 square feet of mowing surface) and one that’s quite manicured. However, there are three important things to keep in mind:
- Cordless electric mowers tend to have smaller decks (19 and 20-inch sizes are the most common, though a few have 21-inch decks). That means it takes you longer to mow.
- They tend to be less powerful than their gas engine counterparts. They can struggle with tall grass, wet grass, and thick grass with leaves. For intermediate mowing conditions, cordless mowers do just fine.
- The larger the lawn, the more batteries you need. Manufacturers make recommendations about run time, but that’s very difficult to do accurately. It varies widely depending on your mowing habits and the height or thickness of the grass. We recommend you buy extra batteries so that you’re not compelled to rush the cut.
If you can afford it, a riding mower is the way to go. Don’t get us wrong, we love walk mowers (goodness knows, we’ve used enough of them over the years here). But for speed and efficiency, there’s simply no comparison with a riding mower when you’re talking a large lawn.
When looking at riding mowers, you’ll likely come across three versions—lawn tractor, rear-engine riding mower, and a zero-turn mower. Let’s break them done one by one:
Many people start out with a lawn tractor. With a steering wheel and a front-mounted engine, these look and feel familiar. Engine size range from 18-25 HP and most come with a single cylinder with step-up models having a V twin. Some fancier models also feature engines with electronic fuel injection.
When it comes to transmissions, less expensive models tend to be lever-operated gear transmissions. But a step-up from there comes pedal hydrostatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) operated by a shift-on-the-go hand lever. The CVT is an automatic transmission powered by pulley drive to a sealed and lubricated gear case. You know you’re spending serious money if you’re considering a more expensive tractor with a heavy-duty foot pedal hydrostatic transmission.
Finally, how much can it cut? Well, much more than a push mower. Deck widths range from 42 inches to 54 inches. To know what size you need, divide the mower deck size by 12 to get an approximation of the acreage the mower can handle. So residential-duty a mower with a 54-inch deck can mow up to 4.5 acres. That’s a lot of grass and would result in significant wear and tear on a residential-grade mower in the course of the season. Still, it could do it.
These kind of mowers range anywhere from 1,300 to 3,000.
Rear-Engine Riding Mower
Many people with larger lawns too big for a walk mower but too small for a tractor or a zero turn should go with a rear-engine riding mower. The specifications below apply to deck under the operator’s position and not rear-engine residential/commercial mowers with the deck in front of the operator.
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Most rear-engine mowers a single-cylinder engine ranging in size from 344 to 38 cc, estimated at 10 to 11 HP. The transmission is usually a CVT operated by a shift-on-the-go hand lever. Snapper’s famous rear-engine riding mower uses the company’s time-tested disc drive transmission, but a few rear-engine riders are offered with a hydrostatic transmission.
Deck sizes stretch anywhere from 30 to 33 inches, and operators use a manual hand lever for deck adjustment and deck engagement. That small cutting size also means a smaller price tag, ranging from 1,200 to 2,400.
In the last twenty years or so, zero-turn mowers have proved their worth to homeowners and landscape contractors alike. Their design enables forward speed and steering by means of dual hydrostatic transmissions at the rear wheels, each of which is controlled by a lap bar in front of the seat.
A pulley off the engine spins the impellers on the dual hydrostatic transmissions that power the rear wheels. When you move one of the lap bars farther forward than its neighbor, it acts as a throttle, allowing more hydraulic fluid to flow to the transmission at that wheel. This causes wheel to turn more rapidly than the opposite wheel, allowing you turn corners or pivot.
Engine size can range from 452 cc up to 700 or more, with power estimated from 12 HP to 25 HP. This is powered by either a single cylinder or commercial-duty V twin, and transmissions are either hydrostatic or commercial-duty hydrostatic.
With deck sizes ranging from 32 inches to 60 inches, these mowers cut the most grass in the least amount of time. The decks are either stamped or heavy-duty fabricated, deck adjustment uses a manual hand lever or foot pedal, and deck engagement uses a manual hand lever or an electric PTO
All that grass-cutting power comes with a price, usually ranging between 1,200 to 6,000. But now, you can knock some dollars off thanks to 2023 Memorial Day sales.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.