With spring right around the corner, many people have found themselves thinking about a new lawnmower. But choosing the right machine for the job can be a challenging task. Although there are several types of mowers available, riding mowers can make lawn chores much easier. But they are not suitable for all lawns, and people often find themselves wondering if they should buy a riding mower.
Although they are a bit more expensive, riding mowers can help homeowners save time and energy by mowing more grass in a shorter amount of time. If you have a large lawn, a riding mower might be the right choice for you.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of riding lawn mowers, including how to choose the best machine for your mowing needs.
Types of Riding Lawn Mowers
From manual push mowers to large pull-behind machines, homeowners can find a mower to suit any lawn care need. However, when it comes to riding lawn mowers, there are three main types that people can choose from—the lawn tractor, the zero-turn mower, and the rear engine riding mower.
#1. Lawn Tractor
With its blocky front-engine design, the lawn tractor is what most people envision when they think about a riding mower. And with deck sizes that range from 36” to 54”, they are perfect for larger lawns and people who want to mow more lawn in a shorter amount of time.
#2. Rear Engine Riding Mower
Rear engine mowers are not quite as popular among homeowners but work well for yards that are too small for a riding mower and too large for a push mower.
These durable little machines often have smaller decks (1 – 2 inches skinnier than other riding mowers) and less powerful engines.
#3. Zero-Turn Mower
Zero-turn mowers have a turning radius of zero degrees and are often used by landscapers, people with large lawns, or homeowners whose lawns have complicated terrain. Because of their maneuverability, it is easy to get around shrubs, trees, and rocks with ease.
These mowers are often the more expensive of the three, and the mowing deck is in front rather than underneath the machine.
Riding Mower Comparison Chart
|Lawn Tractor||36 – 54 Inches||18 – 26 HP||½ to 4 ½ Acres||Average Price $2,500|
|Rear Engine Mower||30 – 33 Inches||10 – 11 HP||Several Acres||Average Price $2,000|
|Zero-Turn Mower||32 – 60 Inches||12 – 25 HP||1 to 3 Acres||Average Price $3,000|
What Kind of Lawn Mower Should I Buy?
There are many factors that should be considered when trying to decide which lawn mower is the right one for you. These factors include:
- How big is your lawn? Riding mowers are best suited for lawns that are between ¼ of an acre and 4.5 acres in size. Anything smaller than that, and you should consider a smaller push mower or a rear engine riding mower. Larger, and you may want to investigate a more industrial option.
- How much do you want to spend? Although prices can vary quite dramatically between brands, shoppers can typically find a push mower for somewhere between $80 and $600, while a riding mower will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. Fuel costs should also be calculated into your decision, especially with the price of gas increasing each day.
- What are your physical capabilities? While lawn size and price are both important, neither will make a difference if your physical capabilities do not match the machine you buy. People who have medical conditions that limit their range of movement will likely not do well with a push mower, and even some riding mowers can be hard on the back. Make sure you get a machine that is comfortable and does not put you at risk of harm.
- What does your lawn look like? Riding mowers might be better for large lawns, but they may be dangerous to operate on a lawn full of hills. A self-propelled push mower may be better suited for hilly terrain. Additionally, a zero-turn mower will get around trees and rocks much better than a typical riding mower.
Guide To Choosing the Right Mower
Below you can find a chart that, according to Lowe’s, should help you decide which mower is right based on the type of lawn that you have.
|Acreage||Flat Lawn||Hilly or Uneven Lawn||Lawn with Many Obstacles|
|Up to ¼ Acre||Small Gas Mower Corded Electric Mower||Push Mower with High Rear Wheels Self-Propelled RWD Mower||Reel Mower Self-Propelled FWD Mower Cordless Electric Mower|
|1/4 to 1/3 Acre||Gas Push Mower Self-Propelled FWD||Self-Propelled RWD Mower (Gas or Electric)||RWD or FWD Self-Propelled Mower (Gas or Electric)|
|1/3 to 1/2 Acre||Self-Propelled RWD Mower Self-Propelled FWD Mower||Self-Propelled RWD Mower (Gas or Electric)||Riding Lawn Tractor with a 30’ – 42′ Deck Rear Engine Mower|
|1/2 Acre or More||Riding Lawn Tractor with a 42’- 54’ Deck||Riding Tractor with 42’ – 54’ Deck Deck Wheels (optional attachment)||Riding Tractor with a 42’ – 60’ Deck Zero – Turn Mower Hydrostatic Transmission (optional)|
Source: Lowe’s Canada
It should be noted that this is a guide created by Lowe’s to help their customers and you might find guides that vary slightly on acreage and deck size suggestions.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Riding Mower
If you are on the fence about buying a new mower, this list of pros and cons might help you decide if a riding mower is the right machine for you.
Rear Engine Mower
As described above, rear-engine mowers are the perfect in-between option for people whose lawn is too large for a push mower and too small for a large riding mower. You will find the pros and cons of these machines below.
- Cheaper than most other riding mowers
- The heat and noise from the engine are located behind you
- With no engine in front of you, you have better visibility
- Its smaller size means it needs less storage space
- Can fit in areas that other riding mowers might not fit
- Smaller engine makes them more fuel-efficient than other lawn tractors
- More expensive than push mowers
- Fewer accessories available
- Less powerful than other riding mowers
- Slower than some other riding options (1.5 to 4.5 mph)
- Smaller deck sizes and a narrower cutting width
These machines are what most people envision when they think about a riding mower. They are best suited for large flat lawns and can also be used for other gardening and landscaping chores. Below you will find both the pros and cons of a riding mower.
- Wide range of accessory options
- Hydrostatic transmission, which comes standard on most models, allows riders to control the speed with a pedal instead of a lever
- Faster than rear engine mowers (average speed of 5.2 mph)
- More powerful than push or rear engine mowers
- Allows users to cut more grass in less time
- More deck size options available
- Operated with minimal effort
- Can be used for a variety of outdoor chores
- Reduced visibility because of front engine
- May not fit in places smaller mowers can
- Larger size means more storage space is needed
- More expensive than push mowers or rear engine mowers
- Clunky navigation and handling make it harder to get around obstacles
- Heavier than other smaller options
- May be dangerous on hills or steep slopes because of tipping
Zero-turn mowers are one of the most efficient options available in terms of speed, and because they have a zero-degree turn radius, getting around obstacles is a breeze. Check out the pros and cons of a zero-turn mower.
- Faster than other riding options (up to 7 mph)
- Deck sizes available up to 60 inches
- Zero degree turn radius
- Easy to navigate around obstacles and get close to shrubs and gardens
- Better visibility than a lawn tractor
- Capable of mowing large areas quickly
- Fun to drive
- There is a learning curve when driving these machines as they use lap bars to steer instead of your standard steering wheel
- More expensive than most other riding mowers
- Larger engines burn more fuel making it a less fuel-efficient choice
- Do not handle hills as well as other options because the casters dig into the ground
- Fewer accessory options available
Riding mowers are an excellent choice for most homeowners because there are many different options to choose from. People with a small lawn might opt for a rear engine riding mower, while people with large lawns might enjoy a zero-turn mower.
However, most people will find that a front-engine mower or garden tractor will suit their needs perfectly. If you consider your lawn type and lawn care needs when choosing which mower to buy, you will have no problem finding a riding mower that is perfect for you.
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- About the Author
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer at Lawnmowerfixed.com.
He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and shares his know-how and hands-on experience in our DIY repair guides.
Johns’s fluff-free How-to guides help homeowners fix lawnmowers, tractor mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, power washers, generators, snow blowers, and more.