Data obtained April 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Types of riding mowers
There are three main types of riding lawn mowers. The right pick for you will depend on the size and layout of your yard, your budget and your personal preferences.
Rear-engine. These are the smallest of your riding mower options, making them a good fit for narrow spaces and smaller yards. But they’re also the slowest option and can’t pull attachments.
Lawn and garden tractor. One of the most popular options, lawn and garden tractors are larger and more versatile than rear-engine mowers. You can also purchase separate attachments such as box scrapers, dethatchers and dump carts for odd jobs around the house or farm.
Zero-turn. These mowers are the high-performance option of the bunch. They can reach the fastest top speeds and have impeccable maneuverability, making them great for very large areas with few narrow spaces.
How to compare riding mowers
When buying a new riding mower, consider these important features:
Price. New riding mowers can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 and up, depending on the size, type and model. While you can often find used mowers for much cheaper, consider the cost of repairs that may be necessary to figure out if it’s really a bargain or not.
Cutting width. The size of the deck on your riding mower will determine how wide of a strip it can mow in one pass. The larger the cutting width, the more you can mow at a time. But larger mowers can be more difficult to maneuver than smaller, speedier models.
Speed. Mowers come with various top speeds, which can be anywhere from five to 10 miles per hour and over. Consider a faster mower if you have large acreage to mow. Slower mowers can be a good fit for smaller yards with tight spaces.
Engine. Most riding mowers come equipped with anywhere from a 14- to a 37-horsepower engine. Generally, higher horsepower engines are better for larger tractors with wide decks and those used to pull attachments.
Transmission. There are three types of transmissions that you might find in a riding mower: manual, automatic and hydrostatic.
Manual transmissions come with a set of speeds that you select by hand.
Automatic transmissions are similar to the ones in your car — you control the speed with a gas pedal.
Hydrostatic transmissions are the smoothest and tend to last the longest, but they’re also the most expensive.
Deck engagement. You’ll need to engage the mower deck in order to cut the grass. Some models have a simple push-button deck engagement, while others are more complicated to use.
Extra features. If you have the budget for bells and whistles, consider extra features like a front bumper, digital hour meter, gas gauge, cruise control, cup holders and arm rests.
Riding mower safety tips
Riding mowers are quick, convenient tools to have around the house, but they can also result in nasty injuries if not used properly. Follow these basic safety tips to prevent injuries:
Always wear protective eyewear, closed-toe shoes or boots and clothing when mowing.
Never remove or disengage safety features.
Know how to stop the mower in case of an emergency.
Remove large debris, toys and other obstacles from the area before mowing.
Never let children drive or ride on the mower.
Always start your mower from the seat. Never start it while standing on the ground.
Use extra caution when mowing on hills and slopes.
Never operate a mower while under the influence of alcohol.
Riding mowers can make your yard work a breeze, but they’re pricey pieces of equipment. Do your homework before buying to make sure you’re getting the best deal and the right mower for your yard size and needs.
To create our list of the best riding mowers, we conducted our own Internet research, comparing the price, size, type and overall features of some of the most popular models currently available. We also factored in our own personal experiences, as well as third-party product reviews.
Frequently asked questions
The average riding mower lasts around 10 years with proper maintenance.
Just a few of the most popular riding mower brands are:
The answer comes down to your budget, the size of your yard and your personal preferences. Riding mowers can save a lot of time when cutting large areas, but may not be worth the investment if you have a small space to cut.
Gabrielle Pastorek is the shopping and travel publisher at Finder, helping readers to round up the best deals, coupons, retailers, products and services to make sound financial decisions. She's contributed more than 800 articles to the site and is a quoted expert in Best Company and DealNews. She earned an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, with essays and short stories published in The Collagist, Blue Monday Review, Blotterature and others. When she’s not writing, Gabrielle can be found out in the barn with her horse, Lucy.
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