Best Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers of 2023 [Reviews]
Zero-turn mowers are the most efficient style of lawn mower available today — they’re fast and maneuverable, make short work of large lawns, and they are trusted by pros and homeowners alike. But what is the best zero turn lawn mower for your yard?
We reviewed over two dozen zero-turn mowers to come up with our top eight picks based on power, cutting deck size, deck height, special features, and price. We’ve also included a handy buyers guide and FAQ to help make your shopping experience easier.
But first, what is a zero-turn lawn mower? Using hydraulic transmissions, the engine of a zero-turn lawn mower supplies power independently to the two drive wheels. This lets the operator spin the machine on a dime, or stop a wheel to create a seamless U-turn.
Zero-turn mowers aren’t cheap. Compared to other riding lawn mowers, zero turns generally fall at the higher end of the cost spectrum.If you plan to invest in a high-quality zero-turn mower, it’s important to choose the right one.
Because of zero-turn mowers fluctuate with sales and availability, we’ve provided a general idea of price.
- “Inexpensive” – Under 3,500
- “Moderate” – 3,500-4,000
- “Expensive” – 4,000 and above
We also have listed multiple buying options, when available, to make it easy to compare prices.
Top 8 Zero-Turn Mowers — Reviews
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1
A top-of-the-line zero-turn mower for residential markets, Cub Cadet’s Ultima series makes short work of the largest lawns. Driven by a 22-horsepower Kohler engine, this machine can reach a forward speed of 7.5 mph.
The ZT1 provides ultimate comfort with a fully adjustable racing-style seat. The lap bar control is also adjustable to ensure precise maneuverability. Dual LED headlights help you cut in low-light conditions, and the rubberized cockpit floor reduces vibrations.
The 20-inch rear wheels and 11-inch front wheels offer enough traction to tackle gentle hills, and are engineered to protect your turf while pivoting. A 3.5-gallon gas tank lets you spend more time mowing and less time refueling.
Cub Cadet offers a three-year, unlimited hour powertrain warranty and a lifetime warranty on the frame. The ZT1 also comes in a 50-inch version for added efficiency and coverage. Cub Cadet has also recently released the Ultima ZT1 56V Max 60 electric zero-turn.
Power Source: 22 HP 725cc Kohler 7000 series twin-cylinder engineTop Speed: 7.5 mphTransmission: HydrostaticDeck Width: 42 inchesCutting Height: 15 positions, 1 to 4.5 inchesPrice Range: Inexpensive
✓ Powerful 22hp engine✓ Fully adjustable seat and controls✓ Best-in-class warranty
✗ No gas gauge✗ Attachments sold separately
Best Riding Lawn Mower Reviews 2023
Tired of spending the best part of your Saturday walking behind a lawn mower? You’re not alone and our team has pulled together our recommendations for the best riding lawn mower in 2023. Whether you’re a homeowner or commercial Pro, or you’re on the hunt for a lawn tractor or zero-turn mower, we have you covered. Thinking about making the switch to battery power? We have thoughts on electric riding lawnmowers as well.
Considering walk-behind mowers? Check out our Best Lawn Mower main page.
- Best Commercial Riding Mower (Find a Dealer)
- Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Acme Tools)
- Best Lawn Tractor (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Consumer Electric Riding Lawn Mower (available at Lowes or Home Depot)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns (Buy at Lowes)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
- Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Best Commercial Riding Lawn Mower
Hustler Hyperdrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Professional lawn care crews who FOCUS on residential lawns (affectionately known aa “mow and blow” crews) have to hit a lot of lawns every day during the mowing season and they’re tough on their equipment. Exmark, Hustler, and Scag all come up frequently in conversations about the best commercial mower, and our top choice is the Hustler Hyperdrive series.
While the Super Z series is likely more popular, the Hyperdrive series adds additional durability to the transmission system, keeping your downtime to a minimum.
Deck sizes range from 60 to 72 inches and there are 35 to 40 HP engine options from Kawasaki and Vanguard. For those of you who like to mow at speed, you can run up to 16 MPH on this model. No matter what your mowing style is, Hustler has a 3,000-hour warranty on the hydraulic system and a 5-year/1200-hour warranty on the full mower.
Price: Contact your local dealer
Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower
Toro Timecutter Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
For residential use, we recommend Toro’s TimeCutter as the best residential riding lawn mower for a variety of reasons. What it boils down to is that you get an excellent balance of performance, comfort, and reliability for the price.
The line currently includes 17 models (including CARB-friendly options). Deck sizes start at 34 inches for small lawns and run up to 60 inches for those of you with acreage to maintain. The base-level models are an excellent value for most people, but if comfort is a high priority, step up to the MyDrive models to get an upgraded suspension and easier ride.
Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX6 Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
While Toro earns our pick as the best overall riding mower for residential use, Cub Cadet’s Ultima ZTX6 series is the creme de la creme for those of you with a bigger budget. Earning our choice as the best residential zero-turn riding lawn mower, the ZTX6 is at the top of Cub Cadet’s residential-focuses Ultima line.
These mowers bridge the gap between residential and Pro needs, giving you a ride and performance that feels more professional while keeping the overall price down from premium professional mowers. The ZTX6 comes with a 25HP Kawasaki commercial-grade engine and either a 54 or 60-inch deck size. If you prefer a steering wheel over lap bars, there’s now a ZTXS6 option that has you covered.
Price: 8999.00 – 9299.00 (10299.00 for the 60-inch ZTXS6)
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro FAB Series Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet lawn tractors are very popular and consistently earn high ratings from owners. If you’re looking for the best lawn tractor among them, we recommend the XT1 Enduro FAB series. They’re a bit more expensive than others in the XT1 line, but they upgrade from a 13-gauge stamped steel deck to an 11-gauge fabricated steel one, improving the long-term durability.
Available with a 50 or 54-inch deck, these mowers are suitable for covering larger lawns than lawn tractors in the 30 – 48-inch range. Thanks to a Kohler 24HP engine, they have better overall performance than most of its competition as well. While they don’t turn as tight as a zero-turn, they do have a 16-inch turning radius that gives them a tighter turn than others.
Best Electric Riding Lawn Mower
Try as we may, we couldn’t pick just one electric ride-on lawn mower as the best. However, we do have three that stand out from the rest.
Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 82V OptimusZ Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
Greenworks was one of the first to push into the commercial electric zero-turn lawn mower market and they have learned a lot over the years. The culmination of that experience and the best of today’s technology come together in the Greenworks OptimusZ zero-turn and earns our recommendation as the best electric commercial riding lawn mower.
The line includes both ride-on and stand-on models, and we even got to see an operational prototype of a fully-autonomous version. Focusing on the ride-on models, there are 48 – 60-inch deck sizes with either 18KWh or 24KWh battery packages. On the 60-inch mower, the larger battery bank can run up to 8 hours on a charge.
The top speed is impressive, reaching up to 16 MPH with the blades on. Security is already onboard thanks to the combination of 4G and GPS connections. If all that sounds great, but you’re still not sure it can hold up, keep in mind that Greenworks backs these mowers with a 5-year/2,000-hour warranty.
Residential: EGO 56V E-Steer Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
EGO is making it easier to transition from gas to battery power and into the zero-turn market with the 56V E-Steer riding lawn mower. It takes the lap bars and exchanges them for a steering wheel, making for a much more approachable mower if you’re not used to traditional ZT steering. Beyond that, the design team shifted the controls/info screen onto the steering wheel where they’re easy to keep an eye on while you’re mowing.
The mower sports a 42-inch deck with cutting speeds between 4 and 8 MPH and matches the power of a 22HP gas engine. For the power source, EGO uses the same 556V batteries that power its other mowers and handheld tools. With a full load of six 12.0Ah batteries, expect to cut nearly four acres on a charge. With the four batteries that come with the mower, there’s enough juice to cover 2.5 acres.
Price: 5999.00 with four 12.0Ah batteries and onboard charger (scheduled for May 2023 launch)
Residential: Ryobi 80V iDrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Ryobi’s iDrive zero-turn lawn mowers break the mold of lap bars, but not with a steering wheel. It uses joystick controls, making you feel a bit more like a lawn-cutting fighter pilot (without the missiles, of course). While it certainly breaks the norm, our crew was able to adjust to the steering quickly.
There are three deck sizes covering 30 to 54 inches and they primarily use 80V suitcase-style batteries for power. These mowers also have slots to use Ryobi’s 40V batteries if you need to extend your runtime beyond what the 80V packs offer.
The power ranges from a 28HP – 42HP gas equivalent with runtime covering 1 – 4 acres, depending on which model you go with. Plus, this mower uses the CrossCut stacked blade system to give you better cut quality than you’d get with single blades.
Price: 5999.00 – 7999.00 ready to mow
Take a look through our full list of Best Electric Lawn Mower recommendations!
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns
John Deere S130 Lawn Tractor
Lawn tractors are great for small to medium-sized lawns and the John Deere S130 lawn tractor is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for small lawns. The S100 comes in at a lower price, but moving up to the S130 is worth it in our opinion.
Both feature a 42-inch mowing deck, but the S130 has a significantly stronger 22HP V-twin engine and it has John Deere’s super-easy 30-Second Oil Change system. The S130 also upgrades with cruise control and an electronic PTO system. Overall, it balances ease of ownership and performance well while keeping a safe distance away from the price of zero-turn mowers.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns 1 Acre to 5 Acres
Husqvarna Xcite Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
The best riding lawn mower for medium-sized lawns is the Husqvarna Xcite. There are two models available featuring a 54-inch 10-gauge deck that’s a great size for those 1 – 5–acre properties.
What’s exciting about the Xcite is a combination of innovative features and a design that feels more Pro even though these target residential users. Starting from the top, your start/stop and blade engagement controls are on the lap bar ends where you can easily reach them with your thumbs. Then there’s the suspension system. 4 bar links and 10 adjustment settings let you customize the setup based on your size, weight, and preferences to dial in a comfortable ride.
Depending on the model, you get either a 24HP or 26HP Kohler engine with a top speed of either 7 or 9 MPH. On the business end, Husqvarna puts stock blades that can go up to 5 years without needing to be sharpened. Husqvarna targeted a Pro feel with the convenience and ease of ownership homeowners crave with the Xcite and they nailed it.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
Exmark Lazer Z Series Deisel Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
When it comes to maintaining large areas where you need a cleaner cut than a bush hog leaves behind, there are a few large-deck options. Leading the pack in size and with a robust professional resume’, the Exmark Lazer Z Deisel is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for large properties.
When we say large, we mean it. The Lazer Z diesel line includes 60, 72, and 96-inch options along with a monstrous 144-inch model. Ang get this—Exmark rates the largest mower’s cutting rate at up to 11.5 acres per hour! In terms of productivity, that’s going to be tough to beat.
These mowers aren’t cheap, though. They start at just over 27,000 and the 144-inch model is over 35,000.
Price: Starting at 27,099.00
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
If you have hills, you need both power and traction to mow effectively. In our team’s opinion, the best riding lawn mower for hills is the Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 series SD/SDL models. What sets these mowers apart is a combination of their dually rear wheel and steering wheel designs.
Four rear wheels help prevent the back end from slipping, even in wet conditions. The steering wheel makes it easier to manage on slopes and there’s an option for a pivoting seat that keeps you more upright on those hills. As part of Cub Cadet’s commercial mower lineup, you can expect a commercial-level build and high-end comfort features as part of the package.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money
Toro Timecutter 42-Inch Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
What’s the best riding lawn mower for the money? For that, we return to the Toro TimeCutter series. Specifically, it’s the 42-inch 75746. This isn’t the least expensive 42-inch in the line, and it’s not the most expensive, either. By upgrading from the entry-level version (3299), you’re moving from a 15.5 HP Briggs Stratton engine to a much stronger 22HP Kohler engine. up to a more durable 10-gauge fabricated steel deck.
If your lawn is 2 acres or less, this model offers the best balance of performance, durability, comfort, and price. But what if you have more then 2 acres? Stick with the Toro TimeCutter and move up in deck size to match your lawn.
What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
Lawn Tractor or Zero Turn?
When you’re choosing the best riding lawn mower for your lawn, the first thing to decide is which style you want.
Lawn tractors have several advantages. They tend to be a smaller overall size, are less expensive, and are easy to use with their steering wheel/pedal control systems. The downsides are that they tend to be slower and don’t reach larger deck sizes. They also aren’t as efficient in your mowing pattern because they require a larger turning radius.
Zero-turn lawn mowers make it easier to efficiently mow straight lines. While they’re more expensive, larger, and can take some time to get used to lap bar controls, you can get larger deck sizes, they have higher speeds, and they’re better for large properties. If comfort is a high priority for you, you’ll find better options with ZTs and lawn tractors.
Gas or Battery?
Now that battery-powered riding lawn mowers are at a point where they really can replace gas, the conversation is shifting away from just power and runtime.
Gas mowers tend to be less expensive and you can usually find someone to service/repair them within a reasonable drive of your home. The trade-off is the noise, emissions, managing fuel and oil, and more required maintenance.
Battery-powered mowers have a push-button start system that’s ready when you are, assuming you charged the batteries. They’re remarkably quiet compared to gas, have no emissions, and your HOA isn’t going to suddenly rewrite the rules to eliminate them. Maintenance primarily boils down to blowing off the deck and maybe rinsing under the deck. The primary downsides at this stage are that you don’t have as wide of a selection as gas, they’re more expensive, the batteries need replacing every 3 – 5 years, and there aren’t nearly as many service centers close by.
Durability and Reliability
As you go up in price from entry-level riding lawn mowers to mid-range and high-end models, there are significant changes. A more powerful engine is only part of it. The design of the engine and its quality typically improves as you move up the line, giving you a more reliable engine to go along with the higher performance of more horsepower.
You also see the strength of the build improve. Some of it is the thickness of the metal or moving from stamped steel to fabricated steel on the deck. Other components come into play as well, with higher quality transmissions and electronics packages improving.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking at an entry-level model, see if your budget has room to move up into the middle or even high end of the line. The durability and reliability you gain are worth it in the long run.
The deck size you need depends on the property you’re mowing. 42-inch riding lawn mowers are a good starting point for lawns up to an acre or where you need to squeeze through a narrow gate. If you have more than an acre, go ahead and look at models up to 60 inches.
Realistically, it’s a matter of finding the right balance between how much lawn you have to cut, how much storage space you have available, and what your budget is.
Speed is primarily a concern for professional lawn crews who need to move from one property to the next quickly or on campuses with significant travel distance between the shop and where they’re mowing. They usually want a mower with a top speed over 10 MPH.
Even homeowners can make their mowing chores more efficient with some decent top-end speed, though. 7 MPH or more is a good benchmark for those models. If you tend to take your mowing more casually, 5 – 6 MPH is just fine.
The larger your lawn, the more time you need to spend in the driver’s seat of your riding lawn mower, and the more comfort comes into play. Entry-level mowers are going to bounce you around more than mid-range and high-end models. Look for a seat with plenty of cushioning, an adjustable tension knob, and enough travel for you to sit without having to scrunch up.
Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
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We’ve been in business since 2008 covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.
Each year, we bring in and review more than 350 individual products. Our team will put our hands on hundreds of additional tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.
Pro Tool Reviews consults with innovators in the technology and design of tools to gain a broader grasp of where these products fit and how they work.
We work with more than two dozen professional contractors around the United States who review products for us on real job sites. We consult with them extensively on testing methods, categories, and practical applications.
Our site will provide more than 500 pieces of new content this year absolutely free for our readers. That includes objective evaluations of individual tools and products.
The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower Review
By now, there’s a good chance you’re aware of the Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower. Its unusual drive system has caught the attention of nearly everyone who’s seen it.
than 5 years ago Ryobi released its first battery-powered riding mower, the RM480E. It featured a lead-acid battery and a 38-inch stamped steel deck. That was followed by a Ryobi RY48ZTR100 48-inch zero turn mower and, eventually, the 54-inch brushless ZT with a fabricated deck. So this isn’t Ryobi’s first rodeo with a battery-powered riding lawn mower and the design team has plenty of real-world experience to draw from.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower Size Options
Let’s start with the models and deck sizes. You can get a Ryobi 80V iDrive zero-turn with a 30-, 42-, or 54-inch deck.
Ryobi continued the use of a fabricated steel deck on the 54-inch mower and uses 10-gauge steel for it. The 30-inch and 42-inch models use a stamped steel design made from 12-gauge steel.
The blades on the 54-inch and 42-inch models include CrossCut stacked blades. That means you have six 18-inch blades in the 54-inch and four 21-inch blades in the 42-inch. The result is an extra-fine cut that grabs a lot more grass during bagging and leaves finer clippings when mulching.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower Power Source
These mowers operated using an 80V battery platform that has an interesting twist. Each 80V pack resembles a small suitcase and features 100 individual battery cells. A small LCD screen next to the handle shows you the percentage of the charge remaining.
The 42-inch and 54-inch models support up to three 80V batteries and four 40V auxiliary batteries. The 30-inch mower supports two 80V batteries and two 40V auxiliary batteries. That’s the twist—you can use Ryobi’s 40V batteries to boost the overall capacity and supplement the 80V packs.
So how do the Ryobi 80V riding mowers mix 40V and 80V batteries together? That’s a great question. While the mowers prioritize the 80V packs for operation, they use any additional 40V packs to add more runtime.
And lest you think it needs to operate these 40V batteries in pairs—it doesn’t. Ryobi uses electronics to step up their 40V packs to 80V and deliver the required voltage. Think of it as doubling the voltage and cutting the amp-hour capacity in half. The point is, you can add just a single 40V battery and extend your runtime.
Each Ryobi 80V Lithium-ion battery pack operates at 72 nominal volts and specs out at 10Ah (amp-hours). That gives it a capacity of 720 Wh (watt-hours). Each 12Ah 40V battery pack yields 432 Wh once you factor in the 36V nominal voltage.
Do the math, and you can fully load either a Z42Li or Z54Li with 3,888 Wh of lithium-ion battery power!
Since the 30-inch only holds two 80V and two 40V batteries, its highest capacity is 2304 Wh. That’s not a big concern considering it’s made for smaller lawns.
Where the older lead-acid battery-powered mowers took a long time to charge, the new 30-, 42-, and 54-inch zero-turns use a 120V external fast charger that you can mount on your garage or shed wall. It’s super quick—and yes, it charges both the 80V batteries and the 40V batteries at the same time. Here’s what those charge times look like:
Even if you don’t plan to use the 40V ports to extend your runtime it might make sense to make use of the fast charger for the rest of your handheld 40V power tools.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower Drive System
Right off the bat you can’t help but notice these mowers don’t use either a steering wheel or lap bars. Instead, Ryobi spent over a year developing a single iDrive joystick that lets you maneuver the mower quickly and easily. You have complete 360° control in your right hand, including direction, acceleration, and speed adjustments.
Ryobi dialed in the sensitivity and control to help make it an easier transition from other riding mower styles. At a launch event, we were able to run through slaloms, maintain straight lines, and even execute 360-degree turns in place without much of a learning curve.
Back at our shop with more hands-on time to work with, we dug deeper. The controls are very natural for folks used to using a joystick or analog sticks on a game controller. Drone operators also have an easy time getting used to the system. For those folks, 15 – 30 minutes of practice time should have you in good shape to mow comfortably. For others, give yourself 1 – 2 hours for the muscles in your hands and arms to get used to the movements.
At first, it’s best to make your turns, arcs, and cuts close to equipment and vehicles slowly while you get used to the sensitivity of the joystick. We found that after 2 or 3 mowings, our team was pretty well dialed in and comfortable with the iDrive system.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower Controls
If that weren’t enough, Ryobi updated the control system on these mowers as well. Now, an LCD screen lets you independently configure Low, Medium, and High drive and blade speeds. The screen shows you the remaining runtime and battery life. It also displays whether the vehicle is in Drive or whether the center-mounted golf cart-style parking brake is engaged.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower Design Features
The air-ride seat suspension on the 42-inch and 54-inch models makes for a very comfortable ride. A dial on the front lets you adjust for your weight—which works well since I weigh significantly less than Kenny and we both have been using the mower regularly.
You pull up on a red knob to activate the blades—just as you would with a gas zero turn. It’s also keyed, so not just anyone can jump on and start it up.
Deck height is adjustable using a side pull lever from 1.5 to 4.5 inches. You also get LED headlights that activate with the push of a button underneath the LCD panel. Finally, a USB port lets you recharge your smartphone or other electronics as needed. And, yes, you get a couple of cupholders.
Ryobi 80V iDrive Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower Bagging Options
Ryobi is offering several bagging systems and releasing them alongside the mowers. Notably, there’s a “Bagger Boost” system. Bagger Boost works with both the 30-inch and 42-inch models (the 54-inch does not have a bagging option):
- 30-inch ZTR Bagger Boost Model Number: ACRM018
- 42-inch ZTR Bagger Boost Model Number: ACRM026
The Bagger Boost button is located on the control panel. With just the press of a button, Bagger Boost sends a powerful gust of 700 CFM into the bagger chute. This helps clear out clogs and clumps of grass. This keeps you from having to stop mowing and manually clear out the chute.
The Ryobi Bagger Boost accessories are sold separately and run 599 for the 42-inch or 500 for the 30-inch.
Ryobi iDrive 80V Riding Zero-Turn Mower Price
Below is a breakdown of the pricing and the batteries that come with each mower. Keep in mind that the mowers have a 5-year warranty. The 80V batteries have a 5-year warranty if you register them and a 3-year warranty if you don’t. At 899 each, they’re worth registering to get the extra two years of coverage. The 40V batteries have a 3-year warranty.
Ryobi iDrive 80V Riding Zero-Turn Mower Comparison
Ryobi Z30Li 30-inch Riding Mower
The Ryobi Z30Li 30-inch mower fits through most gates and presents a great solution for delivering a rider that fits where most zero turns can’t. Ryobi even designed the bagging system to fit completely within the width of the body so it doesn’t expand the footprint. The side-discharge grass chute is made from rubber and won’t damage your shed or gates when you get too close. It’s a solid solution for anyone who wants a smaller battery-powered zero-turn mower that can tackle properties up to an acre in size.
Ryobi Z42Li 42-inch Riding Mower
Stepping up to the 42-inch Ryobi Z42Li, you get a mid-size option with all of the same great controls, max battery loadout, and features of the 54-inch but with a lighter-gauge stamped deck. Out of the box, it’s a good fit for lawns up to 3 acres and we expect it to be the most popular size of the three.
Ryobi Z54Li 54-inch Riding Mower
The 54-inch Z54Li is the way to go when you want to get your lawn cut the fastest thanks to its larger cutting deck. It’s the most expensive, but you get a fully-loaded battery set and the ability to cut up to 4 acres on a charge.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a battery-powered riding mower with zero-turn capabilities, there aren’t many options on the market. Fortunately, the Ryobi iDrive series has you covered not only with joystick controls but with three size options to cover multiple lawn sizes. While the joystick drive system does take some time to get used to, it’s not a steep or long learning curve.
Shared Specs for all Ryobi 80V Zero-turn Riding Mowers
- LCD control screen
- Low/Med/High blade speed
- Low/Med/High drive speed
- Remaining battery and cut time
- Plugs into rear of mower
- Chargers both 80v and 40v simultaneously
Ryobi Z30Li 80V Zero-turn Riding Mower Specs
- 30-inch stamped steel deck
- Max cut area: 1 acre
- Batteries: 2 x 80V Lithium-ion
- Spare 40V battery ports: 2
- Charge time (w/Rapid charger): 2 hours
- Price: 4,999
Z42Li Ryobi 80V Zero-turn Riding Mower Specs
- 42-inch stamped steel deck
- Max cut area: 2 acres
- Batteries: 3 x 80V Lithium-ion
- Spare 40V battery ports: 4
- Charge time (w/Rapid charger): 3 hours
- Price: 5,999
Ryobi Z54Li 80V Zero-turn Riding Mower Specs
- 54-inch fabricated steel deck
- Max cut area: 4 acres
- Batteries: 3 x 80V Lithium-ion
- Spare 40V battery ports: 4
- Charge time (w/Rapid charger): 4 hours
- Price: 6,999
When he’s not playing with the latest power tool, Clint DeBoer enjoys life as a husband, father, and avid reader—especially the Bible. He loves Jesus, has a degree in recording engineering, and has been involved in multimedia and/or online publishing in one form or another since 1992.
Clint’s career has covered nearly the entire realm of audio and video production. After graduating at the top of his class with an Associates Degree in Recording Engineering, he began working for the famed Soundelux studios in 1994, one of the largest post-production companies specializing in audio for feature films television. Working on a myriad of feature films, Clint honed his skills as a dialogue editor, foley editor, and sound designer. Years later, he moved into the expanding area of video editing, where he served as the company’s senior AVID video editor for three years.
Working for such clients as Universal Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment, NASA, Universal Studios, Planet Hollywood, SEGA, NASCAR, and others, Clint DeBoer dealt extensively with client management as well as film video editing, color correction, and digital video MPEG compression. He also carries several THX certifications (Technician I and II, THX Video), and is ISF Level II Certified.
After founding the CD Media, Inc. publishing company in 1996, he went on to help start or grow several successful online publications, including Audioholics (as Editor-in-Chief for 12 years), Audiogurus, and AV Gadgets. In 2008, Clint founded Pro Tool Reviews followed by the landscape and outdoor power equipment-focused OPE Reviews in 2017. He also heads up the Pro Tool Innovation Awards, an annual awards program honoring innovative tools and accessories across the trades.
Crediting God and his excellent staff for the success of what is now the largest power tool review publication in the industry, Clint DeBoer hopes to see continued growth for the company as it rapidly expands its reach. Pro Tool Reviews critically reviews hundreds of hand tools, power tools, and accessories each year to help inform users about the best and newest products in the industry. Reaching everyone from the construction industry professional and tradesman to the serious DIYer, Pro Tool Reviews helps tool consumers shop better, work smarter, and stay aware of what tools and products can help put them at the top of their game.
The 5 Best Riding Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Rachel has written for Dotdash Meredith’s Ecommerce team since 2020, covering home goods, tech, fashion, beauty, and more. She’s interviewed dozens of experts and is always on top of the latest trends and product releases.
Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics that range from film and beauty to science and the automobile industry. Her plant biology degree has a FOCUS on sustainable agriculture, and she’s an expert on growing your own food, environmental sciences, and all topics relating to houseplants.
In This Article
Keeping your home’s lawn looking neat and tidy takes a whole lot of hard work, especially if you have a traditional lawn mower that requires you to spend serious time and effort pushing it across the grass. But with a riding lawn mower, you can achieve the same great results with far less hassle, provided you have the right yard for one.
“A riding lawn mower is a great option for those who have yards that are 3/4-acre or larger,” says Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s. “In contrast, a push mower or a robotic mower would be more suited for a smaller lawn of an acre or less.”
If a riding mower sounds right for you, good news—we tested out many of the best options on the market, evaluating them on performance, design, value, and more factors. We also received expert advice from McCoy on what to look for when shopping for riding mowers and tips on how to maintain them.
Best Electric Riding Mower
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Battery Electric Cordless Zero Turn Riding Mower
For a top-quality electric riding mower that you’ll use year after year, look no further than this option from Ryobi. It’s a battery-operated, zero-turn mower with serious power, and it comes with four brushless mowers, a sensitive steering system, a helpful LCD screen, and much more.
Setup was simple, and although it took a bit of time to get comfortable using the joystick, it wasn’t long before we were operating it smoothly (and sitting comfortably in the seat). As far as performance goes, this mower cut even paths through damp grass effortlessly (and quietly!), and overall felt extremely intuitive and easy to operate. The LCD screen kept us aware of the mower’s battery life and run time, and we could pick both the machine’s speed and cutting height from a wide variety of options. We also liked that the mower comes with headlights that illuminate the path when you start to lose daylight.
Additionally, the mower has a long-lasting battery life, so you don’t have to waste time constantly recharging it before every mow. Plus, it comes with fun features like USB ports, storage compartments, and Bluetooth, so you can monitor the mower via an app. On the downside, it’s quite pricey, and the amount of torque means that you have to accelerate carefully, at least until you get a better feel for the joystick. Still, there’s a lot to love about this excellent mower.
Price at time of publish: 6,999
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Battery | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Best Gas Riding Mower
Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower
If you prefer a gas mower to an electric one, make sure to consider this fantastic pick from Toro. It’s a zero-turn mower with consistent speed and a strong suspension system, among other features, so you can take the mower over rough terrain without worry.
Getting used to this mower can take a bit of time, as there are no pedals like you might expect, just a joystick that lets you control speed, braking, and direction. But once you’ve settled in, you’ll be in for a great ride. We found the mower easy to control, especially when it came to adjusting the speed, cutting height, and the seat’s firmness (you can choose how bouncy you want it to be). It cut grass evenly and neatly, and discharged the clippings far away from the mowing area, which was quite helpful.
Maneuvering the mower around the lawn was easy, no matter the terrain or number of turns, and even when it was going fast, the mower didn’t feel like it was unstable. As far as negatives go, we wish the mower came with a bagging option, as well as headlights for nighttime work, but really, those are small quibbles considering how solid an option this mower is overall.
Price at time of publish: 4,299
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 50 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Best Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42-Inch 22 HP Zero-Turn Mower
Zero-turn mowers can be great options as they can maneuver more quickly and smoothly than many other types of mowers, and we love this pick from Cub Cadet. It’s a powerful machine that runs on a twin-cylinder gas engine, and features an ultra-comfortable seat with adjustable lap bars, hand grips, a rubber mat, and plenty of legroom.
This mower did take some time to set up, but once we got it ready, it started up quickly and moved smoothly. It mows and makes turns faster than many other models we’ve tried, and it doesn’t take long to get used to the different speeds and start feeling in control as you go. Additionally, you can adjust the mower’s seat and arms to make sure it’s a comfortable fit, and we also liked that the side discharge leaves the grass clippings far away from the mower itself. It also features headlights, as a helpful bonus, and you can choose from several cutting heights and other settings.
We would’ve liked it if the mower’s handles were able to be lined up equally, as it can be a bit tricky to ensure that you’re turning at the same speed on both sides. All in all, though, we had few complaints about this zero-turn mower.
Price at time of publish: 3,499
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Easiest to Maneuver
John Deere S100 42-Inch 17.5 HP Gas Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor
We can’t say enough good things about this gas-operated riding mower from John Deere, especially in terms of how well it maneuvers. When we tested it out, we were amazed by how effortlessly it made its way around trees and other impediments, thanks to the responsive pedal and above-average turning radius (as well as the mower’s notably small size).
We discovered that this mower operates smoothly on rocky terrain, too, and its size makes it easier than many other mowers to store in a shed or garage when not in use. Setting it up is a quick, simple process, and you can change the cutting heights via a helpful lever, while you can switch up the speeds through a pedal.
We also love this mower’s side discharge, which is strong enough to blow leaves out of the way (almost doubling as a leaf blower), as well as its convenient headlights. Plus, it comes with a large and easy-to-empty bagger, and we found that the mower’s seat is both comfortable and adjustable.
It would be nice if this mower had a wider deck, as John Deere only recommends it for yards up to 1 acre, but if you’re looking for a small yet highly effective mower, you’ll surely be happy with this top-tier choice–especially considering that it’s the least expensive mower on our list.
Price at time of publish: 2,399
Type: Lawn tractor | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4 inches
Best for Thick Grass
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor
If you want a riding mower that can easily handle even the thickest grass, then take a look at this powerful option from Cub Cadet. It’s a gas-operated mower that cuts evenly through areas with long, thick grass without any issue and in a much quicker time period than other mowers we’ve tried.
This mower takes a good amount of time to set up and get started, due to an unfortunate lack of user-friendly instructions. But once you figure it out the first time, you’ll be good for all future mows, and the actual controls, such as for changing the cutting height, are much more intuitive. Additionally, we’re big fans of this mower’s adjustable, comfortable, and shock-absorbing seat, as well as the big, thick tires that make for a smooth ride.
The maneuverability of this mower is top-notch, too, allowing it to move easily around trees and other objects, and we were impressed by how fast the mower goes at its top speed. The discharge chute spread the grass clippings far enough away, and the mower’s headlights are a helpful added bonus.
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Although this mower’s turning abilities don’t quite compare to zero-turn mowers, and it doesn’t come with fancier features like an LED screen or Bluetooth, we were still highly satisfied with its performance and think you will be, too.
Price at time of publish: 2,574
Type: Lawn tractor | Deck Width: 46 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4 inches
If you’re looking for a great electric mower, the Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Lithium Electric Zero-Turn Riding Mower is our top pick. It’s fast, effective, quiet, and has multiple handy features. For an equally strong gas-powered option, we recommend the Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter MyRIDE Zero-Turn Mower, due to its consistent speed, smooth ride, and easy maneuverability.
Our Testing Process
To determine the best riding lawn mowers, we tested models from reputable brands in our own yards (spanning four cities and two states) over three weeks. To begin, we timed how long it took to unbox and assemble each lawn mower (for battery-powered models, we took note of how long it took to charge, but we did not include this in our setup time). During the testing period, we used each lawn mower a minimum of three times, taking into account weather conditions, how much grass was cut off, and how much surface area was being mowed. While mowing, we considered things like comfortability, adjustability, battery life (when applicable) maneuverability, how evenly the mower cuts, and more. We also tested any additional features, including side discharge, bagging, mulching, various cutting height options, headlights, various speeds, and cup holders. We are still testing riding mowers and will continue to update this piece with the fresh insights as we have them.
How to Shop for Riding Mowers Like a Pro
There are multiple types of riding mowers, including zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine mowers.
Zero-turn mowers have a zero-inch turning radius and a mowing deck in front, rather than underneath, the machine. This causes them to turn quickly and easily, and have greater maneuverability and speed than other types of mowers. They tend to be pricey, though, and relatively small.
Lawn tractors, meanwhile, have their cutting decks in the middle, rather than underneath the front, and tend to be pretty large. They’re less maneuverable than other types of riding mowers due to their size, but they’re quite powerful and particularly good for large lawns.
Then there are rear-engine mowers, which are usually very small and less powerful than other options. They’re best used on tiny lawns, and they aren’t great at going up hills and rocky terrain. Still, they’re often less expensive than the other types.
Deck width refers to the amount of acreage the mower can cut in one go, and it ranges from about 30 to 60 inches. “A mower’s cutting deck determines how many passes it’ll take to mow the grass, so you should match the deck size to your acreage for a speedier cut,” says Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s. “If you’re working with smaller yards up to two acres, look for options in the 30-inch to 52-inch deck range,” he adds. “Two to four-acre yards will benefit from 50-inch decks to 54-inch decks, and anything over five acres will need 60 inches or more.”
Riding mowers run on either gasoline or electricity. Gas-powered mowers “feature the traditional riding design we’re familiar with and operate similarly to a car, using a steering wheel and foot pedal,” says McCoy. If you opt for a gas mower, make sure to “check the level of ethanol your equipment can safely use, and never buy more than you can use in 30 days, as older gasoline can lead to corrosion in your engine,” he adds.
Electric riding mowers, on the other hand, “are battery-powered machines that offer a similar performance to gas models without the fuel requirements,” says McCoy. “They run a bit quieter than gas mowers with less vibration.” They do require some time to charge up before use, which can be frustrating, but they get rid of the smell and hassle of gasoline.
When determining which riding mower is right for you, it’s important to think about the size of your yard. Yards on the very small size, under 3/4 of an acre, might be better off with traditional push mowers, says McCoy. Otherwise, follow this guide from Lowe’s:
- 3/4- to 1-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 30-42-inch cut width.
- 1- to 2-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 42-52-inch cut width.
- 2- to 3-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 50-54-inch cut width.
- 3- to 5-Acre Lawn:s Look for a mower with a 54-62-inch cut width.
- 5-Acre Lawns or Larger: Look for a mower with a 60-inch or greater cut width.
Riding mowers can come with some seriously helpful features, including:
- Zero-turn radius: This can “allow the mower to pivot at sharper angles than lawn or garden tractors,” says McCoy.
- Cruise control: So you can “lock in on one speed and mow long, straight stretches more easily,” he notes.
- Mulch kits, dump carts, and lawn sweepers to “help you maintain your landscape not only during mowing season but year-round,” McCoy says.
Other less essential, but still beneficial, features include cup holders, USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, armrests, headlights, and extended leg room. The more features a mower has, the more expensive it’ll likely be, though, so be sure you’re prioritizing your top picks.
Riding Mowers to Consider
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Cordless Electric Riding Lawn Tractor: This battery-operated mower is a quiet, fast-charging machine that cuts grass evenly, and has a helpful digital display menu so you can adjust the speed easily. Still, it has some frustrating features, like a beep every time you back up or get off the seat, as well as a jerky accelerator pedal.
Questions You Might Ask
Are stand-up or sit-down riding mowers better?
That depends on your specific needs, says McCoy. “Stand-up mowers work well in smaller yards and on uneven terrain, whereas riding mowers can handle larger surface areas and are generally more powerful,” he explains. Additionally, stand-up mowers can be better for your back (albeit less comfortable to use). Stand-up mowers also offer better visibility than sit-down riding mowers, but on the downside, they usually don’t have bagging systems.
How much should you expect to spend on a riding mower?
The price of a riding mower can “range from 2,000 up to 8,000, depending on the type of mower and attachments included,” says McCoy. If you’re looking to save costs, opt for basic models that don’t have features like LED screens, Bluetooth capability, zero-turn radius, and more. But if those features and others matter greatly to you, then prepare to shell out a pretty penny.
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What kind of maintenance does a riding mower need?
The type of maintenance a riding mower needs depends on the specific model, says McCoy. However, for most mowers, he suggests that you regularly “inspect the mower’s shield and deflectors, check its tire pressure, remove dirt from the machine, check the oil and fuel, and reconnect the battery or spark plug” for day-to-day maintenance.
Throughout the mowing season McCoy suggests lubricating the mower, checking the air filter and mower blades, and changing the engine oil and filter. “At the end of the season, you’ll want to prepare your mower for the next spring. That entails doing a general inspection of the machine, replacing the fuel filter, and maintaining the mower blades,” says McCoy.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Rachel Simon, a writer for Real Simple, Better Homes Gardens, The New York Times, and many other publications. To write this article, we tested riding mowers over a span of several weeks and evaluated them on performance, value, design, and more. For expert insight, we spoke to Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s.
What Is Real Simple Selects?
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.
Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.
Zero-turn mowers and lawn tractors provide the wide decks and speed needed to maintain large yards. However, they have their pros and cons, which could make one a better choice for your yard.
By Stacey L Nash and Bob Vila | Updated Jun 9, 2020 3:58 PM
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Lawns over half an acre give you plenty of space to play and lounge in the great outdoors. However, when it’s time to mow, you’re looking at a major commitment. Factor in landscaping like flower beds and trees, and you’ll likely add some trimming and spot mowing to your to-do list. The power machines of the landscaping world—zero turn vs. lawn tractor—can keep you from spending the better part of every Saturday behind a lawn mower.
A lot of factors go into determining which type of mower would be best suited for your lawn. Your yard’s size, incline, and landscaping all come into play. Before choosing between the two most common lawn mower types for large yards, get to know the biggest differences between zero-turn mowers and lawn tractors. This guide lays out the pros and cons of each to help you avoid making a mowing mistake with the wrong mower.
Zero-turn mowers are better for lawns with curves.
If your yard spans ½ an acre or more and is dotted with trees, bushes, and flower beds, a zero-turn mower will save you time when it comes to your lawn care routine. Zero-turn mowers have dual-hydrostatic transmissions controlled by two levers, which are key factors in their responsiveness and tight turning radius.
To move forward in a straight line, you press both levers forward, making sure to keep them even. To turn the mower, you either slow or stop power to one side by pulling the lever back, while the other side continues to move forward, giving the mower the ability to do a zero (or near zero) radius turn. This gives zero-turn mowers a mowing pattern that leaves far fewer missed patches of grass at the end of the swath or around curves and corners.
In comparison, lawn tractors have a wide turn radius, which leaves a patch of grass at the end of every swath. You can either come back around on a second pass to get those missed patches or stop and reverse to cut every blade of grass.
Lawn tractors power over slopes and hills.
Lawn tractors have a front-wheel drive that allows them to inch up slopes and hills with relative ease. In contrast, a zero-turn mower’s rear-wheel drive may be difficult to control or lose traction on uneven ground.
However, a word of caution: Both types of mowers can tip over on extreme slopes, which is anything over 15 degrees. Some lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers have roll bars and seat belts, but you’re better off using a push mower or a trimmer on extreme slopes.
A lawn tractor’s steering wheel provides intuitive control.
For those who want to jump on the lawn mower and go, a lawn tractor’s familiar steering wheel and gas pedal will take little if any time to get used to. Basically, you push the gas pedal and go, just like you would in a car. When you want to slow down, you release the gas and press the brake.
The differential speed control offered by a zero-turn machine’s dual-hydrostatic transmission, on the other hand, can take some practice. On these models, you control the speed by pressing the control levers forward rather than using a foot pedal. Hydrostatic transmissions can be touchy, so there may be some lurching and sudden stops until you get a feel for the speed control.
You also have to learn how to time the manipulation of the levers (one pressing forward, the other pulling back) when making turns. Considering that zero-turn mowers can go faster than lawn tractors as well means you’ll be trying to learn how to control the machine at higher speeds.
If you’re nervous about controlling a zero-turn model, a few newer machines have joystick control, which is much easier to use but still requires practice to master.
Deck size makes a difference, but the winner will depend on your yard.
The wider the deck, the fewer swaths it will take to cover the lawn, and the faster you can mow your full property. Lawn tractors have decks that range from 42 to 54 inches, while zero-turn mowers have decks from 42 to over 60 inches.
Choosing the appropriate deck size (and the mower or tractor that provides it) not only involves considering the size of your yard but also the width of the narrowest spaces you’ll need to mow in between or around. To maintain tight spaces between trees or flower beds, you’ll need a narrower deck. However, if you have a flat yard that’s 2 or 3 acres without obstacles, choose the machine with the widest deck you can afford.
Zero-turn mowers go faster, but slower speeds leave a cleaner cut.
Zero-turn mowers offer clean cuts at 5 miles per hour (mph) and can reach speeds of more than 10 mph. In comparison, lawn tractors mow at about 4 mph with a top speed of around 7 mph. However, in some circumstances, such as on sloped or hilly terrain, lawn tractors may be able to maintain their traction and speed better and, therefore, may occasionally mow faster under certain circumstances.
Know that cut quality goes down the faster you mow, whether you’re on a zero-turn or lawn tractor. Even if you have a zero-turn mower, the top speeds are generally used for traveling to another part of the yard rather than actually mow the lawn.
Both types of mowers are pricey, but zero-turn models rise to the top.
When it comes to price—zero turn vs. lawn tractors—both top the price charts. However, lawn tractors are the more affordable of the two, and they’ll earn their keep. They may also be used to pull carts, sprayers, spreaders, and other yard equipment. For the right buyer, a lawn tractor may be a Smart investment. A base model starts around 1,200, but any extra accessories like a bagging kit, trailer, or sprayers must be purchased separately.
Zero-turn mowers start around 2,500 and go well above 5,000, and you may have to buy a bagging kit separately. If your yard spans several acres and/or has a wide range of trees and flowers you need to mow around, a zero-turn model may be well worth it for the time it saves.