How Do I Choose a Riding Lawn Mower? (Solved!)

The right mower can make it much easier to cut your lawn. You can choose between a garden tractor, zero-turn radius mower, and rear-engine riding mower depending on the size and requirements of your lawn. Other key considerations include costs, and features like cutting method, engine horsepower, and cut-width.

Types of lawn mowers to consider

In the market, you will come across three main types of riding lawn mowers. Each of the mowers has its own characteristics and uses. Picking the right one according to your specific needs is important. 

These three versions are:

  • lawn tractor
  • zero-turn mower
  • rear-engine riding mower.

In the next sections, we will take a look at each one of them and break down their main features. 

Lawn Tractor

With a powerful front-mounted engine, a steering wheel, and a single-cylinder, these are big machines that can help you with more than just mowing. Lawn tractors or garden tractors can help you accomplish other tasks like snow-plowing and dethatching as well. They come with heavy attachments to assist you in big tasks. 

The size of their engine ranges from 18 to 25 hp. So, they are quite big and sturdy machines, albeit not the fastest of them all. 

If you’re looking for an agile option that can handle obstacles- you should steer clear of tractors. But if you want a heavy-duty. all-in-one machine with multiple purposes, you would benefit from getting one.

Rear-Engine Riding Mower

If your lawn is too big for a push mower but too small for a tractor, you might want to consider getting a rear-engine riding mower. This machine has the sole purpose of cutting lawn and it is very effective at doing so. It is lightweight, agile, and quicker compared to a tractor. 

At the same time, it has a traditional wheel steering system and a single-cylinder engine. The engine size usually ranges from 344 to 38cc and has an estimated horsepower of around 10 to 11 hp. 

You can also find rear-engine riding mowers that are battery-powered instead of gas. Electric mowers are perfect for those who want a quieter machine. 

Zero-Turn Radius Mowers

Finally, you can also opt for a zero-turn radius mower. This type of mower allows you to control the speed using a pair of levers. You can also use them for braking, and changing the direction. At first, it may seem intimidating to use this type of mower. But most users find it fairly easy to learn the controls quickly. 

The major advantage of zero-turn mowers is their high performance and speed. They can zip around at a speed up to 10 mph, and save plenty of time.

You can choose from different grades of zero-turn mowers, depending on your needs and application. There are mid-grade, semi-pro as well as commercial models.  

Choosing a transmission

One important consideration for anyone looking to buy a lawn mower is the transmission. You can either opt for manual transmission or hydrostatic transmission. With manual, you have to change gears by stopping the tractor each time. 

In contrast, the hydrostatic transmission allows you to comfortably make adjustments while driving. This makes hydrostatic transmission mowers much easier to operate. 

With hydrostatic transmission, you get two options. The first one is pedal-operated transmission, which allows for maximum comfort. For forward and reverse movements, you will have separate pedals to control the direction and speed. 

Your second option is the lever-operated hydrostatic transmission. You can access the hand-controlled lever easily from the seat. 

Riding Mower Buying Considerations 

There are two very important factors to consider in the selection of your ideal riding mower. First is the size of your lawn and second is your budget.

You will need a more robust mower for a larger, more rugged lawn. To make sure you find the right model, always take a close look at the unit’s specifications.

If your lawn has a rugged uneven terrain, your best option is a garden tractor. If your lawn has a large, flat space, you should go for a zero-turn mower for its time-saving abilities and speed. 

Riding mower costs

Now, let’s take a look at the average prices of each type of riding lawn mower so you can see which one is most likely to fit your budget.

Generally, you should be prepared to spend at least $1,500 to $3,000 on a lawn tractor. Rear-engine riders have smaller price tags as they also have a small cutting size. These mowers can cost you around $1,200 to $1,900. 

And finally, the zero-turn mower with its high agility and power is more expensive. You can expect it to have a price range of $1,200 to $6,000. 

If you are looking to save some money, you can also find refurbished or used models that are available at discounted prices.

Collection, side discharge, or mulch?

One important factor we must mention is the cutting method. Most lawn mowers come with different cutting methods and you should assess which one suits your lawn best. Some models are equipped with all the cutting options.  

So, what are the three main cutting methods?

  • Collection: This gives you neat results and saves additional time. With bin collection systems, the grass clippings gather inside the mower, and then you can discard them. This is also useful for clearing leaves during fall.
  • Side discharge: This method is suitable for wider, coarser, and taller grass.
  • Mulching: This method is ideal for a pristine-looking lawn. It works well if you mow regularly and want a pristine-looking lawn. It helps to return nutrients to the lawn by finely chopping the grass and utilizing them as a fertilizer. 

Riding Mower Features 

When you’re in the market for a new riding lawn mower, you will be looking at a number of features and specs while selecting your model. These are some important terms to look out for:

Engine horsepower (hp): This value depicts the power output of the mower’s engine.  

Engine displacement (cc): This refers to the size of the cylinder placed in the engine. A higher cc means a more powerful engine. 

Cruise control: This option is usually available in some automatic and hydrostatic transmissions. It allows you to run the mower at one speed for long stretches.

Cut width: This measures the width of grass that the mower can cut at one time. With a higher blade number, you get more cut width. 

Lastly, you can also look at other features for added comfort, such as a cup-holder, armrests, leg space, rubber foot pads, a high back seat, and lumbar support.

What is a riding mower?

A riding mower has a large engine and wide mowing deck to help cut large areas of grass. The main difference between a riding mower and a regular lawn mower is that you can ride and maneuver it, rather than push it. These machines are also quicker and easier to use.

Should you get a Riding Mower?

Homeowners with large lawns are the best candidates for a riding mower. For such large areas, a push lawn mower simply isn’t enough. According to experts, riding lawn mowers have powerful engines, equipped to handle larger patches of grass. 

They are also an excellent option for people who suffer from backache or fatigue and are unable to physically push the lawnmower.

However, if your yard is smaller than half an acre, you would be better off with a push lawnmower. In smaller areas, riding lawn mowers can end up making the process more tedious rather than quick. So, you must compare the size of the machine to the size of your yard. 

If you have more than three-fourths of an acre of lawn, we highly suggest you consider getting a riding lawn mower.