Not only does the humble grass account for 20% of the Earth’s vegetation and most of our lawns, but it’s most probably also in your beer, bread and whiskey. Essential to a whole range of sports and adding aesthetic value to houses everywhere, grass may be one of the most underrated things on the planet after Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in “Endgame”. Consider the fact that grass has been around for nearly 200,000 years and the first lawn mower only came into existence a couple of hundred years ago, if you don’t believe us.
Either way, a well-maintained lawn can add more than just beauty to your lawn. A healthy lawn can help keep the temperature of your house down while also sponging out pollutants like soot, dirt and carbon dioxide from the air around your house. In fact, a square 50x50 inches lawn, provided it is well maintained, can fulfill the oxygen needs of a family of four. Apart from all this, it can increase the value of your house’s property by as much as 15-20%! (Have we finally caught your attention?) However, the average lawn contains 6 plants per square inch, which can mean up to 8 million plants per 1000 square feet, which means a whole lot of maintenance.
Luckily for turf owners everywhere, we have a definitive guide to some of the best riding lawn mowers, which are sure to make your job easier and have your lawn coming in a close second to the center court at Wimbledon! Say goodbye to the hassles of lugging around a heavy gas mower and say hello to powerful yet easy-to-operate machines.
Apart from the fact that gas mowers are heavy and require you to manually operate them (much like reel mowers), riding lawn mowers come with a host of other advantages that make them more appealing, giving them an edge over other traditional options:
With the many, many reputable brands and various specifications that riding mowers come equipped with, deciding which model to get or which manufacturer to choose can be a pretty harrowing experience. You know, like when Ross had to choose between Rachel and Julie. Or Rachel and Emily. Either way, the point is, it was always Rachel. There may be many, many options to choose from on the market (with regard to lawn mowers only), but as long as you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find one that’s perfect for your lawn-mowing needs.
Here are a few features to keep an eye out for:
The first thing to know is that there are many different types of mowers, but we discuss the three main ones today — the lawn tractor (front engine), rear engine and zero-turn lawn mower. The lawn tractor is the most commonly used type of riding mower and is perfect for home lawns as it contains more power, more versatility and wider decks for cutting when compared to rear engines. Rear engines, on the other hand, as the name suggests, have their engines at the rear and are great for budget shoppers, as they are smaller in overall size and with regard to their engine size. They also have smaller cutting decks than their front-engine cousins.
Zero-turn lawn mowers are the Martin Scorseses of the lawn mower industry, being the go-to choice for many professional landscapers and house owners with large lawns alike. The fastest and most powerful, these mowers get their name from the fact that they can turn on the spot. This also makes them super easy to maneuver; however, these riders are controlled with levers and not steering wheels, which beginners may find challenging. Additionally, these mowers are on the expensive side compared to the other two types of mowers.
Quite obviously, this refers to the amount of fuel that a lawn mower can hold in its fuel tank. The bigger the mower, the bigger the size of the fuel tank; ergo, more fuel capacity in a bigger model. Why is this important? Well, you need to ensure that the mower you’re getting can handle the size of your turf without you having to refuel every few meters (we’re exaggerating, of course, but even if it’s only once, why stop to refuel when you can get a mower that can get the job done in one go?) Therefore, if you have a small or medium-sized lawn, a mower with a small tank will do.
Remember when Carroll Shelby said that horsepower sells cars (and torque wins races but that’s not important to us)? Well, turns out that horsepower also sells mowers.
Probably a term you’re quite familiar with, horsepower (HP) refers to the amount of power that a machine’s engine can produce. This power or energy is responsible for the machine’s functioning as different components of the machine use this energy to work efficiently. In a mower, the higher the HP, the more the power that can be shared by various components such as cutting blades, drive transmission, navigation and fast cutting. This means many different jobs get done at once by each component doing its job to the best of its ability, meaning quicker and better results without any compromises.
Look for a mower which can at least give you 20 HP, if you have a small or medium-sized lawn. Of course, larger lawns will require more than 20 HP to be efficiently mowed.
This refers to the mower’s ability to transfer the machine’s horsepower effectively to the wheels, enabling it to move forward or in reverse. In the case of transmission, there are three main types — hydrostatic, manual and automatic. Hydrostatic transmissions transfer energy from the engine to the wheels using fluids as a medium, instead of belts, as is the case in automatic transmissions. The use of fluid makes hydrostatic transmissions super smooth, a quality that translates into the riding of the mower. Additionally, mowers with these transmissions require much less maintenance than mowers with manual or automatic transmissions.
Manual transmissions enable the user to select from a range of riding speeds. Very similar to driving a manual car, some older mowers even have clutches; however, these serve to be more disadvantageous than advantageous, due to the increased effort and time it involves. Therefore, if you want to go with a manual mower, choose one that doesn’t require a clutch to shift speeds while riding.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, automatic transmissions use belts to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. Mowers with this type of transmission allows the rider to control the mower’s speed by using a gas pedal, which lets the rider easily control the ride. Mowers with automatic transmission are a great option if you have a lawn that resembles the green version of an “American Ninja Warrior" obstacle course; it’s peppered with a lot of obstacles like trees, permanent lawn fixtures and ornaments, or hedges.
When we talk about cut width, we’re talking about the width of the lawn that the tool can cut in one trip. If you have a huge open lawn, you’ll need a mower that gets the job done in as few passes as possible, which means you’ll need a mower with a wide cut width, such as anywhere between 30-50 inches or more. A wider cut width also means you’ll get the job done in half the time. However, if you own a small lawn or even a large or medium-sized lawn with many obstacles that you need to maneuver around, a smaller cut width is ideal.
Apart from these factors, it may also do you good to consider your lawn itself and its layout. For example, if you have an uneven terrain in your turf (especially slopes), it may be best to pick a large-sized mower (yard tractor) that has great traction, a stance that’s wide and a low center of gravity, so that the risks of slipping or sliding are minimized while riding up or down the slope. A flat terrain can be perfectly serviced with a zero-turn-radius model.
Also, look for additional features that can make the ride more comfortable, such as an overhead covering option for them sunny days, a cup holder, and a high-back seat. No one ever complained about the extra comfort, right? That apart, also look for features like fuel gauges and hour meters (the latter lets you keep a check on how long the engine has been running since the last servicing of the mower).
Now, onto our definitive guide to the 10 best riding lawn mowers in the market.
Husqvarna’s YTH18542 is a beast; there’s just no other way to put it. Powerful and user friendly, this riding mower comes packed with a wide range of features, an 18.5 HP engine (Briggs & Stratton, no less), a hydrostatic-transmission powered drive that is pedal operated and an auto-choke feature. Its super sturdy build makes it great for large landscapes and the fact that it has a key ignition option means that it’s powerful yet doesn’t require maintenance.
Some of its other features are:
The mower provides great traction due to the rear differential system, making it easy to navigate slopes, wet grass and flat terrain alike. All the mower’s controls, especially the electric cutting blade engagement switch and the fender-mounted deck lever, are within reach of the seat, meaning that a great mowing experience is literally at your fingertips.
With its only con being the relatively small fuel capacity, the YTH18542 is a great purchase due to its power, precise and user friendliness. Although it may seem like a heavy investment (the mower comes at $1,500 at its cheapest), think of all the money you’ll be saving by not employing professional services. The mower’s solid build also ensures its durability and given its other impressive features, we can assure you that this is one of the best picks you’ll find this year.
Another quality offering from the house of Husqvarna that doesn’t fail the reputed brand, the Z254 is a part of the company’s z200 zero turn line, highly acclaimed for its innovativeness. With the promise of an A1-level performance enabled by its powerful engine and state-of-the-art design, the Z254 delivers quick, efficient results. Some of the features that make this a winner are:
Slightly heavier than the previous model on the list (at 678 pounds), the Z254 is the perfect combination of innovation and functionality. The mower delivers efficiency, power and quick results without compromising on the quality of these results. Though slightly pricey at $2,900, this mower is sure to take the monotony out of the chore that mowing can turn out to be.
A great pick, overall.
If you’ve got a relatively even medium or large-sized turf, look no further than the Troy-Bilt 382cc Premium Neighborhood mower. A great example of how a machine can be versatile without compromising on its power and quality, this mower takes the best from riding mowers and push mowers, resulting in a beauty that’s got the technological innovation and standards of a riding mower with the compact nature of a push mower. Some of its other impressive features are:
Pretty light in terms of its weight and its impact on your wallet, this Troy-Bilt mower weighs in at 336 pounds and a price of around $1,800. This makes it easy to control as well as highly affordable for the level of performance it provides, despite a relatively small cutting deck width of 30 inches and low HP (12-HP engine), it’s still a great option for medium-sized turfs.
Cub Cadet’s XT1 Enduro Series Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine riding mower may seem like a lengthy name, but trust us when we say that these guys have the walk to back the talk. Easily one of the most wallet-friendly options out there, the mower delivers a performance that is equivalent to higher-priced models at nearly half the price. Equipped with a hydrostatic transmission that ensures smooth riding and does away with the need of gear shifting, this mower gives one of the cleanest and most accurate cuts, backed by a 42-inch cutting deck and an 18-HP Kohler OHV engine. Some of the other features that make this a great buy are:
If you’ve got a turn that’s slightly uneven, this mower is the best combination of affordability and functionality. However, take note that if you want the manufacturers to send in their experts to assemble the mower on delivery, it could cost you an additional $200. That apart, with a base price around $1,900, sturdy, stylish construction and a great fuel tank capacity, this mower is a great buy.
Compact, stylish and powerful, the Craftsman R105 does the job on any lawn, regardless of the lawn’s size. Despite its compact size, the mower manages to deliver a pretty efficient cutting performance. It also consumes relatively less storage space than other mowers. Its other great features:
Though it doesn’t come with a wide variety of extra features, the R105 gets the job done and gets it done pretty well. Though it can efficiently mow a lawn of any size, its compact nature ensures that you can even mow all those hard-to-reach spots on your turf, with no compromise on the quality of performance despite the relatively small size. It’s also designed in a way that ensures maximum comfort and security while using, which means you can mow for hours together without getting off your bottom! It’s also extremely easy to assemble and easy on the wallet.
Quite popular on our list as well as customers around the world (for reasons well justified!), we have another Husqvarna offering — the YTA24V48. High quality? Check. High performance? Check. High power? Double check! This mower manages to produce impressive results, backed by a 24-HP Briggs & Stratton Intek 2-cylinder engine and FAST automatic transmission. It also has a pedal-controlled hydrostatic transmission with a choke-less start, meaning less power used up in driving and more available for cutting. Some of the other features of the mower are:
Like the other Husqvarna mowers on our list, you can’t go wrong with this guy. Powerful, durable and impressive, this mower could cost you somewhere around $2,500, but it is well worth the investment. Terribly easy to use, one of its standout features is its year-long relevance.
Super efficient and powerful, the “Poulan Pro” is capable of giving you some top-notch features that many other mowers provide, but at a much lesser price. This one’s a definite win if affordability is one of your main priorities. Equipped with a 15.5 HP Briggs & Stratton single-cylinder OHV engine, the mower is efficiently backed by its 42-inch reinforced steel cutting deck, making it a great option for medium and large-sized turfs. Some of its other appealing features are:
Costing a mere $1,200, this mower is easily one of the most affordable buys in the market. The impressive turning radius this mower is capable of makes it a great option for small and hard-to-navigate spots on the lawn. Additionally, rough terrain is a piece of cake and with its price tag, this mower gives the others pretty stiff competition. Simple, efficient, easy to use, this one’s a no brainer!
Super user friendly, great specifications and great performance, this mower from Poulan has it all. Equipped with a 22-HP Briggs & Stratton V-Twin Pro engine and a dual hydro-gear EZT drive system, there’s no doubt that you’ll receive a smooth, easy, durable and efficient experience with this mower, even if the turf is uneven. Some of its other winning features are:
With these impressive features, this mower can easily and efficiently cover up to 2.4 acres in an hour. It’s designed prioritizing the user’s comfort, with its foam-padded levers, zero-turn radius and extra high back seat. It delivers clean and precise cuts and at $2,500, it’s a great investment.
As we said earlier, Husqvarna is quite a popular brand on our list. Considering the brand’s reputation, performance delivery and innovation, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. What also doesn’t come as a surprise is that the YTH24V54 is one of the most efficient mowers in the marker, more than fulfilling the Husqvarna promise of quality and smooth performance. Equipped with a 24-HP Briggs & Stratton Intek V-Twin engine and backed by automatic hydrostatic transmission, this mower is powerful, versatile and smooth, proving a great reverse speed without having to shift gears. Some of the other appealing features of this product are:
This Husqvarna mower offers great performance and is extremely easy to use. Its compact size makes it very easy to store, easy to maneuver and get those hard-to-reach spots on your lawn, without compromising on its power and performance. It is also designed in a way that the user’s comfort is prioritized, with adjustable seating and a well-engineered steering well.
Another popular brand on our list, Poulan’s been winning hearts and turfs since 1944, providing great performance with its reliable models. Poulan Pro 960420170 is just another example of this! Equipped with a 20-HP Briggs and Stratton V-Twin engine, the mower has a ready start and a pedal control to complement its fast auto-drive transmission. Some of its other features are:
If you want power and professional results, this lawn mower is it. It delivers a smooth and efficient performance that could rival professional landscapers. It’s also extremely user friendly and like other Poulan models, wallet friendly as well!
To maximize the efficiency of your riding mower and stay safe while handling these heavy machines, here are a few tips:
Considering that you’ll be investing quite a bit if you want a mower that provides excellent performance, it’s important to go with a trusted, reputable brand; a fool-proof method to picking the right mower. Some of the best brands to rely on are Poulan, Husqvarna and Cub Cadet (all of whose mowers feature on our list). These guys have been around for quite a while, delivering quality performance and making lawn-owners happy the world over. Their mowers come with great specifications, cutting-edge innovation, great engines (Husqvarna and Poulan use Briggs & Stratton engines, while Cub Cadet uses Kohler engine), the option of adding accessories and super-smooth transmissions. This ensures quick, impressive results.
In order to deliver a great performance, the engine needs to have great horsepower, reliability, easy-start options and highly durable. Briggs & Stratton engines tick all these boxes, making them the best riding mower engines in the market, regardless of the kind of mower; this is why these engines are the go-to options for brands such as Poulan and Husqvarna, as mentioned earlier.
Sloping surfaces are hard to mow, which is why they’re harder to maintain than flat terrains. Using a push mower may be easy while going downhill, but definitely not uphill. That’s where riding mowers score. Ensure you get one that’s got great traction and not prone to tipping.
Luckily for most users, most mowers come equipped with easy-start options due to a combination of good technology, great engines and automatic transmissions. Starting a mower merely requires adjusting the cutting deck’s height; this is also made easy due to fender-mounted levers that most models come equipped with. What’s more, most mowers are gearless and clutchless and instead come equipped with foot pedals, making them super easy to operate.
Though all the mowers on our list are pretty great options, our top 3 picks are the Husqvarna YTH18542, the Z254 and the Troy-Bilt 382cc Premium Neighborhood mower. The first of our picks is super reliable, powerful and perfect for any type of terrain, whether flat or hilly. Its powerful engine makes quick work of the lawn and it is hard to beat in its smoothness and durability.
The Z254 zero-turn mower also boasts a great engine and smooth transmission, requiring very little maintenance. Its wide deck ensures quick cutting and the zero-turn technology make it super easy to maneuver. However, if you’re looking for something that’s budget friendly, our pick is the Troy-Bilt 382cc mower which comes at a very reasonable price tag. Compact yet powerful, it gets the job done well and is also easy to store. Its other features (discussed in the review) ensure that your lawn is mowed super smoothly, super efficiently and super quickly.
However, whatever our picks maybe, your pick should meet your mowing needs efficiently. Therefore, keeping in mind the different points we’ve mentioned previously, assess which lawn mower does the job for you. Happy mowing!