You know it’s time to upgrade to a riding mower.
Mowing large areas of land with a walking mower requires you to keep your nose to the grindstone and work your fingers to the bone, which is probably why you’ve been ducking and dodging this tiresome task for the past god-knows-how-long.
There are different types of riding lawn mowers on the market. It can be quite challenging to figure out which one is suited for your property. From rear-engine mowers and lawn tractors to zero-turn-radius mowers, it looks like it’s going to require quite a bit of research. But no worries, we’ve done that on your behalf.
In this article, we help break down the various types of riding lawn mowers and point out the few factors that should be taken into consideration before going out to buy one. But first, let’s reveal our top choice for the title of the best riding lawnmower.
The John Deere E180 is arguably one of the most rugged lawn mowers on the market today. It’s equipped with a 54″ cutting deck and a front-mounted, V-twin engine that’s capable of mustering up to 25HP. While it carries a pretty steep price tag, it’s very well worth it. Let’s find out why.
Off the bat, you’ll notice the E180’s adjustable seat. The seat offers ideal lumbar support that you can easily control using a knob located on the left-hand side of the seat, which allows for a fairly enjoyable ride. However, there’s an exception.
Unless you’re operating this mower on flat ground, your ride can be a little rough and bumpy. To counteract this, you can either add a suspension seat or lower the PSI in your tires a bit. This is something that you’re likely to experience in all mowers. It’s just the nature of the beast.
On the right-hand side of the machine, you’ll find a level that activates cruise control mode. Yes, cruise control! Sounds exciting, huh? This is especially helpful when you’re operating on quite a large and open piece of land and you just don’t want to be bothered with the accelerator pedal.
The E180 is capable of mowing on a maximum forward speed of 5.5 MPH and 3.2 MPH when in reverse mode. The manufacturer claims that this mower is rated for land that’s 4 acres or more and that it’s ideal for steep and uneven terrain, which is partially true.
Despite being a very popular transaxle in a lot of lawnmower models, the Tuff Torq K46AC isn’t the best in climbing constant uphills. It can perform such climbs when used on a smaller cutting deck and rear tires, but with the E180’s 54″ deck and 22″ tires, it just doesn’t perform very well.
That being said, this mower performs pretty well in tight circles, thanks to its 18″ turning radius. Not only that, but if you couple the weight of this mower (523lbs) with its tire size, you shouldn’t run into any issues when it comes to traction.
The thing that John Deere is well-known for is that their machines provide quality cuts, the E180 being no exception. Under the 54″ cutting, deck lies 3 blades that are patiently waiting to rip and tear away at your grass. Moreover, the deck is equipped with 4 anti-scalping wheels that keep the deck leveled for mowing.
The blade engagement on this mower is pulled off via a PTO knob switch, rather than traditional lever engagement. The cutting levels that you can get ranges between 1″ and 4″, with the ability to adjust it using the level on the left-hand side.
We can probably keep talking about the John Deere E180 for days on end, but the bottom line is that if you’re in the market for a riding lawn mower that will last you for years and years to come, then the E180 is the ideal product for you to use on flat terrain.
- Powerful 25-HP V-twin motor
- Remarkably wide 54″ cutting deck
- Hydrostatic transmission
- 30-second oil exchange
- Features an ergonomic design
- Limited 2.4-gal gas tank
- Not the best trans-axle
- Very steep price tag
Husqvarna is a Swedish company that specializes in outdoor power products and was founded way back in 1689. We’ll give you a minute to process many years they’ve been in the business. With well over 300 years of experience under their belt, Husqvarna is on a league of their own.
The Z254 zero-turn riding lawn mower is looked at by many as the ultimate lawnmower. With its incredible array of features, this mower can serve you very well in almost any lawn-care service. To understand how brilliant this piece of machinery is, let’s dive deep into its features.
This lawnmower from Husqvarna features a rugged construction that seems like it just can’t be tipped over, making this zero-turn riding lawn mower a great choice for climbing uneven terrain. Such a notable level of stability is pivotal for the operator’s comfort and safety.
The 54″ cutting deck is completely reinforced with steel, which makes it significantly durable and ready to tackle all terrain with ease. This also allows the cutting blades to function smoothly and without worry on your end. Not to mention that with 6.5 MPH, your mowing will be done quickly.
The Z254 is equipped with a powerful fan that helps enhance its mowing ability by blowing air to the bottom of the cutting deck, which makes it easier for the grass to move. As a result, you end up with a cohesive and good-looking lawn. The engine’s air filtration system allows for improved airflow that can help prolong the mower’s life.
Another thing that Husqvarna has added to ensure the longevity of this mower is its rear-engine guard which helps add an additional layer of protection to your mower. But they didn’t stop there alone, they also incorporated their new auto-parking brake system, which is self-explanatory.
In terms of operation, the clutch is pretty simple and easy to use. It’s less likely to cause you any sort of annoyance or fatigue. Also, knowing that Husqvarna has gone the extra mile to increase the longevity of this mower, you can have some peace of mind when driving it on any terrain.
- Powerful 26-HP Kohler engine
- A superior air filtration system
- Extremely rugged construction
- Maintenance-free transmission
- Features zero-turn operation
- Occasional buildup of grass
- Not suitable for sharp angles
- Quite expensive price point – but sometimes you get what you pay for
Since its release day, the XT1 has stood out amidst the competition as one of the very best lawnmowers to ever bless the market. The wide range of features and aspects that this machine has just doesn’t make sense when you look at its highly affordable price.
The Cub Cadet XT1 features a nice-sized, 42″ cutting deck that’s equipped with twin blades that can hold their own against all types of grass. The XT1 is housing an 18HP Kohler OHV engine that provides a comfortable performance when coupled with the hydrostatic transmission.
One of the best attributes of this riding lawn mower is that you can easily adjust its cutting height position to whatever height you prefer between 12 different preset positions. This feature helps ensure that the machine will not face any struggle when encountering short or tall grass.
The XT1 is pretty easy to get used to and operate. It features a highly optimized steering system that offers very responsive handling. Additionally, when you couple the steering system with the cruise control function, you suddenly have nothing to worry about while mowing your yard.
The mower is equipped with a powerful water jet that keeps it clean from grass and debris. This is a great addition because most mowers tend to get clogged up and unusable after a few uses. This easy-clean system prevents that and grants your machine great longevity.
In addition to all of these great features, the XT1 features headlights that will help you work until late at night. You can also start mowing in reverse by lowering the deck, engaging the PTO, and turning the key into the yellow region.
Another strong selling point is the 16″ turning radius, which allows for smooth maneuvers and a pleasant cutting quality. Couple this turning radius the machine’s big size, and you’re ensured a very stable and safe performance with very little risk of flipping.
The XT1 has a sturdy construction that’s made of top-notch materials. The outer part of the unit is made of extremely stress-resistant materials that help keep your blades safe from all outdoor elements and climate changes. It’s also equipped with an e-coat corrosion defense system that gives it superior protection against wear and tear.
All the above considered, the XT1 from Cub Cadet is every homeowner’s dream lawnmower. It features all the necessary features to get the job done perfectly without being too expensive that it puts a serious dent in your pocket. Highly recommended product.
- Very smooth cuts and maneuvers
- Great resistance against wear and tear
- 12 different cutting height positions
- Headlights and cruise control function
- Extremely rugged construction
- Requires some assembly
- Doesn’t have an electric clutch
- Doesn’t feature a bumper bar
Ariens riding lawn mowers are most known for their great handling and their ability to cover a lot of ground. With a 2.8-gal tank and a 23-HP Kawasaki, the IKON-X is the best-suited riding lawn mower for working larger areas with comfort and ease.
When it comes to cut quality, you have the option to choose between 13 different cutting heights that have a ¼” difference from one another. You can easily make this adjustment with the turn of a dial in the mower’s control panel.
The IKON-X features a 52″ cutting deck and a 23-HP Kawasaki motor that grants it great power. Knowing that the Kawasaki FR series is one of the most powerful and reliable series in this field, you’re ensured a long-lasting performance that’s second to none.
The 52″, 4-point, hanging deck enables cut grass evenly on surfaces that aren’t really even. And as a zero-turn lawn mower, the IKON-X allows you to cut through extremely sharp turns by just moving your hands. The machine is also very capable of handling moderate slopes with ease.
Mowing the lawn isn’t a very abusive task on lawn mowers, but if there needs to be any, you can depend on the IKON-X to hold its own and withstand the most vigorous beating. The steel deck makes this machine ideal for working on uneven rocky areas without being subjected to serious issues along the way.
With that being said, you shouldn’t just start hammering your mower with all types of abuse just because it can handle it. Taking good care of your mower and keeping regular maintenance will ensure the machine’s longevity for years to come.
When it comes to comfort, the IKON-X features extra padding for the seat, which makes it pretty comfortable on your back and buttocks. The seat also has armrests that help in reducing fatigue when working for extended periods of time.
If you’re not just looking for a reliable performance and want a riding lawn mower that has a very sleek design that will have you feeling like your sitting in a Formula One car, the Ariens IKON-X is definitely the right product for you.
- Features 13 different cutting positions
- Can easily make very sharp turns
- Houses a reliable Kawasaki engine
- Extremely comfortable seat and armrests
- Rugged and very stable construction
- Limited fuel tank capacity
Not the most affordable mower
If you’ve gone through our list and thought that 52″ and 42″ cutting decks are just way over your needs and you’re simply looking for an affordable riding lawn mower that can help you cut a few layers off the lawn around the house, then the Troy-Bilt 30″ Neighborhood Mower is exactly what you’re looking for.
This riding lawn mower is powered by a 382cc, auto-choke, OHV engine that provides it enough power to tackle thick patches of grass. The mower features 6-speed transmission and can reach a top speed of 4.25 MPH. It’s worth mentioning that this mower is much easier to store than the rest of the names on this list.
The Troy-Bilt 382cc comes with a 30” cutting deck that’s ideal for cutting grass in small acreage areas such as around your house. You can adjust the cutting height between 5 height settings. The mower also features manual power take-off for the quick engagement of the blade.
Handling curves and sharp turns with this machine is fairly easy, thanks to its 18” turning radius. The wheels on this machine also grant it great stability and very smooth riding. And since this is a mower designed for small acreage, it comes with a 1.3-gal fuel tank.
You need to keep in mind that the 382cc isn’t designed to ride across or up hilly terrain, it’s only designed to zip across flat terrain. Riding this lawnmower up some significant slopes can lead to a very wobbly balance that may eventually tip it over.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this riding lawn mower requires about an hour of assembly at first before being able to take it for a run around your lawn. You’ll basically need to attach the steering wheel, the seat, and also the battery after uncrating it, then follow it all by making a few adjustments and adding some gas.
Overall, the Troy-Bilt 382cc is a very reliable and convenient little mower that’s great for small to medium-sized yards. For the reasonable price you pay for this machine, you get yourself a very comfortable, powerful, and easy-to-store machine that will last you for quite some time.
- Compact and lightweight design
- Great performance on flat terrain
- Has 5 adjustable height settings
- Can make sharp turns very well
- Steering and cutting is smooth
- Pretty loud performance
- Not suited for steep terrain
- Requires some time to assemble
Common Types of Riding Lawn Mowers
There are 3 different categories of riding lawn mowers on the market that often to get mixed up. It’s highly imperative to distinguish between them because each type serves a different purpose than the other.
Lawn & Garden Tractors
A lawn tractor is probably everyone’s first experience with outdoor power equipment. This sort of mowers come with a steering wheel and an engine mounted in the front, with power that ranges from 18 to 25 HP. Tractor engines tend to be single-cylinder or V-twin models. You may also find models that are housing engines with electronic fuel injection.
In terms of transmission, low-end tractors tend to have a lever-operated transmission, while the more advanced step-up models feature hydrostatic or CVT transmission that’s operated using a hand lever. What exactly is CVT transmission? It stands for continuously variable transmission, which is an automatic transmission system that’s powered by a pulley drive and linked to a gear case that’s sealed and lubricated.
The cutting deck widths on lawn and garden tractors tend to range between 42” to 54”. To get a fairly reliable estimation of the acreage the mower can handle, simply divide its deck size by 12, and that should indicate the deck size you need. For instance, a mower that has a deck width of 42” can mow up to 3.5 acres of land, which is a lot of grass.
Rear-Engine Riding Mowers
If your lawn is considered too big of an area for a walk mower but too small for a tractor or even a zero-turn lawn mower, then you should definitely purchase a rear-engine mower. Most models in this category are housing single-cylinder engines that range from 344 to 38 cc, with power at around 10 HP. Transmission within these models is most likely CVT operated by a hand level.
Cutting deck sizes on these models tend to range anywhere between 30” to 33”. Adjustments to the deck and deck engagement are achieved using a manual hand lever. For such small cutting deck sizes, the prices of mowers in this category don’t usually exceed $2,400. The 382cc riding lawn mower from Troy-Bilt belongs to the rear-engine category and it has proved to be one of the most competent riding mowers on our list.
Zero-Turn Riding Mowers
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers tend to have dual-hydrostatic transmission systems located at the rear wheels, each wheel is controlled by a bar located in front of the seat. Both steering and forward motion are achieved through this transmission system. A bit confused about how this whole system works? We have a zero turn mower buying guide available that goes into much more detail. Here’s a brief explanation.
The impellers on the dual-hydrostatic transmissions are spun by a pulley off the engine, which is how the rear wheels are powered. Moving one of the lap bars away from the other creates some sort of throttle action, which allows additional hydraulic fluid to flow right to the transmission. The rapid turning of one wheel caused by this action is usually faster than the other wheel, which is how you can turn corners or pivot.
Zero-turn mowers tend to have engines between 452 and 700 cc in terms of size, and power is usually ranging between 12 and 25 HP. These engines are usually single-cylinder or something known as commercial-duty V twin engines. Further, transmission systems are hydrostatic. Deck sizes range from 32” all the way up to 60”. These mowers are ideal for cutting large terrain in a small amount of time.
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers tend to fall short when it comes to versatility. You can’t really hook up any sort of attachments onto any of them, and so they’re not really fit for handling anything else apart from cutting large areas of grass. Most lawn mowers used by landscaping companies belong to this category because of their forward speeds and their unparalleled maneuverability. These models can turn and pivot at sharp angles as they’re equipped with front caster wheels.
Cutting decks on zero-turn riding lawn mowers are either stamped or fabricated. Using a manual hand level or sometimes a foot pedal, the operator can make deck adjustments. However, deck engagement is achieved via a manual lever or an electric PTO. Zero-turn mowers usually have the steepest price tags, their prices can range anywhere between $1,200 to $6,000.
Riding Lawn Mower Buying Guide
Before heading out to buy your new riding lawn mower, there are a few factors that you need to take into consideration to ensure getting the best bang for your buck.
Cutting Deck Size
Like we’ve already discussed, riding lawn mowers usually have deck sizes that range anywhere between 30” and 60”. Generally, the larger the deck size, the more land you’ll be able to mow in a short period of time. Having a large deck size means that you’ll have to make fewer passes to mow your lawn, which is less time and less energy.
While the power and speed that larger machines with larger deck sizes are tempting, it’s not the best idea to go for the largest cutting deck size because as the deck size increases, your ability to maneuver the lawn mower becomes more difficult. Unless you’re a professional landscaper, you probably won’t need a very large deck size. You’ll be better off with a smaller riding lawnmower.
Ideally, you shouldn’t store your lawnmower outdoors at all costs. Harsh weather conditions can render it completely useless and we don’t want that. Owning a riding lawn mower with a cutting deck size of around 50” requires you to have a fairly commodious storage space to keep it in. It can be stored in a storage shed or inside your garage. This is extremely important to consider if you’re planning on buying a large riding lawnmower.
The power and torque that the engine can muster heavily dictates the performance of the lawnmower. A powerful engine will allow the machine to cut through a thicker variety of grass with ease and beauty. Also, the engine determines how versatile the machine can be and what sort of landscaping tasks it can do. Invest in a riding lawn mower that houses a reliable and powerful engine so that it can perform efficiently at all times.
One of the things that make riding lawn mowers a better choice over walk-behind mowers it the ability to incorporate a very wide range of attachments. Most riding mowers have enough power to support accessories such as snow blowers and snowplows. You can attach hauling tools like dump carts and ATV carts. Not only that, but debris loaders, baggers, sprayers, spreaders, lawn vacuums, detachers, aerators, lawn rollers, sweepers, the list goes on and on.