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Selecting a good riding lawn mower requires understanding different mower types, attachment compatibility and useful mower features. Use our guide to research features and choose the best riding lawn mower for you. Finding a mower with the right options helps turn yard work from a chore into an enjoyable hobby.

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What to look for when you buy a riding lawn mower

Riding lawn mower attachments

Front and back attachments give riding lawn mowers gain additional flexibility. The attachments vary between manufacturers, but most have similar basic options.

  • Sweepers: This attachment gathers clippings, leaves, twigs and other small mowing debris.
  • Snow plow: You can use your riding lawn mower during the winter with this front attachment, which gets snow off of driveways and walkways.
  • Aerators: This back attachment automatically aerates the lawn as the mower cuts the grass. Aeration creates holes in the soil to improve drainage and increases the amount of nutrients getting to the grass seed.

Riding lawn mower speed

You can choose from different speed options when using your riding lawn mower.

  • Single speed: These mowers have a single, fixed speed. Single speed mowers are typically less expensive than multi-speed models and work well for homeowners mowing a lawn with few obstacles.
  • Multi-speed: Multi-speed mowers typically have two to seven speed settings. These mowers are excellent for lawns with many obstacles, commercial users dealing with a wide variety of mowing situations and homeowners sharing yard care responsibility with multiple people in the household.

Cutting path size

The cutting path describes the blade deck size and amount of grass cut at a time.

  • 36 to 42-inch deck: This standard size riding mower deck works well for homeowners with yards up to two acres. The deck is wide enough to create an efficient mowing path but not so wide that you’ll need to use a weed whacker to get grass near obstacles.
  • 48 to 72 inch deck: A larger deck speeds up the mowing process and reduces the time needed to mow lawns larger than two acres. These deck sizes are typically used by landscaping companies and other commercial users.
  • Custom deck size: Custom deck sizes apply to commercial mowing or specialty situations, such as golf courses.

Fuel capacity

Riding mowers are powered by gasoline, which is stored in a fuel tank.

  • Standard size: A standard size riding mower gas tank holds up to four gallons of gas.
  • Oversized: Commercial and high-end riding mowers have oversize fuel capacity of six gallons or more.

Handling

Easy-to-control riding mowers make the lawn care process less strenuous. Here are some things to consider when it comes to riding lawn mower handling.

  • Turning radius: Navigating obstacles around a yard is much easier with a tight or zero turning radius.
  • Traction: Steep slopes and slippery yards get addressed with solid traction provided by specialty tires.
  • Suspension: Large areas take hours to mow, even with a fast riding mower, so a smooth suspension increases the comfort level.

Riding mower cost

Riding mowers span across a wide variety of prices, from budget models to high-end commercial vehicles.

  • Sub-$1,000: These riding mowers provide basic features sufficient for homeowners not looking for a lot of bells and whistles.
  • $1,000–$5,000: Mid-range riding mowers provide more powerful engines, attachment compatibility and features designed for homeowner comfort and convenience.
  • Over $5,000: The latest technology, commercial capacity and other features create a high-end riding mower.

What are the different types of riding mowers?

Lawn tractors

Lawn tractors are standard riding mowers with a front engine. Many homeowners and landscapers use these mowers due to their availability and power.

Zero-turn radius mowers

Zero-turn radius mowers have a tight turning radius capable of handling many lawn obstructions. This mower is suited for level yards.

Rear engine

The riding mower's engine sits at the back of the mower. This placement decreases the mower's size, providing a compact option for residential use.

Riding mowers FAQ

How long can you expect a riding lawn mower to last?
With proper maintenance and a quality mower, you can expect your purchase to last 20 years or 1,500 hours of use. However, poor maintenance and rough use can cut that life span in half.

To get the most life out of your riding mower:

  • Don’t let it sit for long periods with a tank full of gas.
  • Clean the blades yearly.
  • Change the oil, air filter and spark plugs yearly.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
What time of year do riding lawn mowers go on sale?
Lawn mowers regularly go on sale at two points in the year:
  • Spring: Many stores put their lawn mowers on sale in the lead-up to mowing season. These sales usually end in mid-May, but holiday weekends around Memorial Day or Father’s Day aren’t a bad time to buy if you missed the early sales.
  • Early fall: The best lawn mower sales of the year are in September, when retail stores need to clear space and mowers are no longer in demand.
Is a riding lawn mower worth it?
It depends on your lawn and your budget. Riding lawn mowers are substantially more expensive than push mowers, usually costing at least $1,000. However, many consumers find this high price tag worth it because of the convenience that riding mowers provide. Consider buying a riding lawn mower if your lawn:
Are cordless lawn mowers any good?
Yes, cordless electric lawn mowers have several advantages over traditional gas-powered mowers, including:
  • Limited environmental impact
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Maneuverability
  • Convenient storage
Do commercial mowers cut better?
Yes, commercial mowers let you cut large areas faster. These machines can also handle exceptional wear and tear, which is important for day in, day out professional use.

However, these machines are usually overkill for homeowners. Only consider buying a commercial mower if you:

  • Have multiple acres of grass that regularly need cutting
  • Spend several hours every week mowing your lawn
  • Don’t mind spending thousands of dollars on a mower
  • Routinely have to navigate your mower on difficult terrain
Are there diesel lawn mowers?
Yes, diesel lawn mowers are popular for commercial or heavy-duty use. Compared with gas mowers, they:
  • Have more powerful engines
  • Are more fuel-efficient
  • Require less maintenance
  • Have longer engine lives

However, these benefits come at the cost of increased upfront prices and higher fuel costs.

How much do riding mowers cost?
Riding mowers are more expensive than push mowers, with prices ranging from at least $1,000 to over $5,000. Most models cost closer to $2,000 to $3,000, though.

Price factors include:

  • Cutting-path size
  • Engine power
  • Features (like cruise control)
  • Optional attachments (like snowplows)

Not sure how to choose?

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    Riding mower author reviews

    Craftsman Riding Mowers

    Craftsman, an 88-year-old tool company, creates quality mowers for residential use. This lawn and garden equipment company, a Sears subsidiary, offers entry-level and mid-range riding mowers and other tools.

    Read more about Craftsman Riding Mowers
    Ariens Riding Mowers

    Ariens has a long history, starting back in 1933 during the Great Depression. This family-owned business focused on innovating the rotary tiller before moving on to other lawn equipment, such as riding mowers.

    Read more about Ariens Riding Mowers
    Cub Cadet

    Cub Cadet has created American-made riding lawn mowers since 1961. They create mid-range to high-end riding mowers for homeowners and landscapers seeking high-end features and mowers capable of handling large yards.

    Read more about Cub Cadet
    Dixie Chopper

    Dixie Chopper got its start in 1980 in Greencastle, Indiana, by creating the first commercial zero-turn mower.

    Read more about Dixie Chopper
    Gravely Riding Mowers

    Gravely started in 1916 when Benjamin Franklin Gravely patented a motor plow. The company focuses on heavy-duty mowers for commercial uses and homeowners who spend a significant amount of time on their lawn maintenance.

    Read more about Gravely Riding Mowers
    Husqvarna

    Husqvarna offers high-quality design with a focus on easy maintenance and long lasting build quality. This Swedish company started manufacturing lawn mowers in 1919 and continues creating innovative designs today.

    Read more about Husqvarna
    John Deere

    The John Deere Company is the oldest lawn care company with a 175-year history. This company's distinctive green and yellow riding mowers offer homeowners feature-rich options for their lawn care needs.

    Read more about John Deere
    MTD

    MTD has an 80-year history with a headquarters in Valley City, Ohio. This riding mower manufacturer focuses on mid-range options for residential customers and commercial usage.

    Read more about MTD
    Poulan Pro

    Poulan Pro creates innovative lawn equipment with a history spanning back to 1944. The company focuses on the homeowner market with 2 and 4 cylinder engine riding mowers.

    Read more about Poulan Pro
    Briggs and Stratton

    Briggs and Stratton Corporation creates the engines used in many riding lawn mowers.

    Read more about Briggs and Stratton
    Toro Lawn Mowers

    Toro develops cutting edge riding mowers and has a 100-year history.

    Read more about Toro Lawn Mowers
    Troy-Bilt

    Troy Bilt created an innovative rototiller design in 1937 and continues to create quality equipment.

    Read more about Troy-Bilt
    Weed Eater

    This company is well known for its lawn care products, which range from manual mowers to riding mowers.

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    Snapper

    Snapper was founded in 1894 as a lumber industry company. Its name comes from their first lawn mower design, which reminded the inventor of a snapping turtle.

    Read more about Snapper
    Kubota

    Kubota brought its products to the United States in 1969 and provides a wide range of lawn and construction equipment.

    Read more about Kubota
    Murray Lawn Mowers

    Murray, founded 90 years ago, creates garden tools and equipment with a focus on affordable pricing and efficient operation.

    Read more about Murray Lawn Mowers
    Huskee

    Huskee creates economical riding mowers for consumers that are simple and well-built.

    Read more about Huskee

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    The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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