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Riding Mower Buying Guide

The right mower makes taking care of your lawn easier and more efficient and helps you maintain a healthy, manicured lawn. If you have a large landscape, a riding lawn mower might be the best choice.

Riding Mower with Bagger.

Riding Mower Types

Lawn Tractor, Zero-Turn Radius Mower and Articulating Mower.

Riding mowers for the home landscape are available in two main styles. When deciding on a style, consider the size of your lawn as well as whether or not you want a machine that will tackle jobs in addition to mowing.

Lawn / Garden Tractors

Designed for mowing lawns 1/2 acre or larger, lawn tractors and garden tractors range in size and cutting widths. With optional attachments, they can perform a variety of other outdoor chores year-round, including hauling, spraying, and leaf pickup in addition to mowing. Some models accept attachments for heavy-duty chores like aerating, dethatching and snow removal.

Zero-Turn-Radius (ZTR) Mowers

Fast and maneuverable, these mowers can navigate a variety of obstacles. Rather than using a steering wheel and foot pedals, you control a ZTR mower with a pair of levers. While a ZTR mower doesn't handle the variety of tasks a tractor does, it can quickly maneuver around flower beds, trees and landscaping, reducing cutting time.

In addition to these main types, articulating mowers are also available. On these models, the rear portion of the mower pivots to steer the machine, offering high maneuverability. This type of mower combines some of the features of tractors, such as a steering wheel and foot pedals and features of ZTR mowers, such as a forward-mounted cutting deck and rear-mounted engine. These mowers can also accept some attachments.

Match Your Riding Mower to Your Lawn

Mower Size Comparison Chart.

The size of your lawn is an important factor in choosing a riding mower, but you should also consider the type of terrain – whether it's level or hilly – and the obstacles you'll need to work around.

Good to Know

Gate entries in your landscape and storage space are important to think about when considering a tractor that has a large deck width.

Riding Mower Features and Options

In addition to mower style, there is a wide range of features and options you can look for to find the perfect mower for your landscape and your work:

  • Engine horsepower (HP) measures the power output of the engine that is available to share among mower components such as the transmission, blades, etc. A higher HP indicates a more powerful engine.
  • Engine displacement describes the size of the cylinder in the engine. Manufacturers measure displacement in cubic centimeters (ccs). A higher cc measurement means a more powerful engine.
  • Engine torque measures, in foot-pounds (ft-lbs), the force that keeps mower blades spinning. Higher torque offers a more even cut in tall, thick or wet grass.
  • Single-cylinder engines can be effective and efficient in smaller lawn tractors.
  • V-twin engines on larger tractors and ZTR mowers provide more power and reduced vibration. Less vibration means less wear, quieter operation and better comfort. V-twin engines also run cooler and burn fuel cleaner, extending engine life.
  • Manual transmissions offer a range of set speeds you from which you can select. Look for models that let you shift up or down, speed to speed while you drive.
  • Automatic transmissions perform much like the transmission in a car. You control speed with the gas pedal.
  • Hydrostatic transmissions work like automatic transmissions, but use fluids rather than belts to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. This transmission offers a smoother ride, requires less maintenance and lasts longer.
  • Cruise control is available with some automatic and hydrostatic transmissions, allowing you to engage one speed to mow long, straight stretches.
  • Cut width describes how wide a swath of grass the mower cuts in a single pass.
  • Blade number directly relates to the cut width. Some small tractors may have only one, but two or three blades are typical for tractors and ZTR mowers.
  • Deck wheels help maintain mowing height over uneven terrain.
  • Turning radius is particularly important if your landscape has obstacles around which you have to navigate. A smaller turning radius means you can make sharper turns.
  • Speed varies by model, but typically ZTR mowers offer faster speeds.
  • Mulching / bagger capabilities describe whether you can use mulching or bagger attachments with a mower. Riding mowers typically don't come with these attachments, but may be able to accept them.
  • Comfort features like in-seat-adjustment, a cup holder, a high-back seat, extended leg room and rubber foot pads make your mowing less tiresome.

Shop for Riding Lawn Mowers

Seasonal Yard Care with Lawn / Garden Tractor Attachments

Riding Mower with Dump Cart.

With the right tractor and the right attachments, you can maintain your landscape year-round. You can purchase optional attachments like baggers, mulching kits, spreaders, sweepers, aerators, dump carts and more to maximize your investment in a tractor. Just make sure you know the capabilities of a tractor before you make your purchase.

Spring

Get the lawn off to a fresh start by aerating it, rolling out uneven turf, spreading nutrients, hauling bedding plants and mulch and bagging the early growth.

Summer

Through the summer months, bag when the grass grows too tall and mulch the rest of the time. While mowing, catch a little relief from the sun with a canopy.

Fall

Rejuvenate your lawn by dethatching the turf, sweeping leaves, aerating the soil and spreading seed and nutrients.

Winter

Clear away refuse with a dump cart, disk-cultivate the garden, spread nutrients and plow or blow snow.

Shop for Lawn Mower Attachments

Caution

Always follow the mower, attachment and accessory manufacturers' operating, maintenance and safety instructions, including instructions on safety gear.