The 9 Best Riding Lawn Mowers
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in April of 2015. If you've got to mow the grass, you might as well do it the easy way. Check out these riding lawn mowers and cruise along your green highway in style. Although none of them can be called cheap, they are considerably less expensive than paying someone else to do the work every week, and they let you finish the job quickly, so you can get back to enjoying your landscaping (or football on TV). When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 24, 2019:
Riding lawnmowers can make what would otherwise be a laborious, time-consuming job feel like a walk in the park. Of course, it is important to get the model best-suited to your needs if you really want the most efficient experience possible.
When it comes to maneuverability, nothing compares to zero-turn mowers, like the Ariens Ikon-X 52, Husqvarna Z254, Husqvarna MZ61,Ariens Apex 60, Ariens Zoom 34, and Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP 50. While many people think these are generally only intended for commercial lawn care companies, this isn't true. The Ariens Zoom 34, with its relatively compact size and 34-inch deck, is well-suited to small- and medium-sized lawns. And, anyone with a large property will find that the Ariens Ikon-X 52 and Ariens Apex 60, with their seven- and eight-mile per hour land speeds, respectively, can help them make short work of their mowing duties.
That being said, we do realize the average homeowner may find driving a zero-turn mower to be somewhat intimidating, as they rely on two handles to control their direction and, some may say, require a bit more coordination. If you fall into this category, you might be happier with a tractor-style mower, like the Craftsman T225, Husqvarna LTH1738, and Snapper 2911525BVE Classic RER. Not only are these models cheaper than your average zero-turn mower, they have very little learning curve for beginners. Of these, the Snapper 2911525BVE Classic RER is best for those with small yards and little storage space to spare, while the Craftsman T225 boasts a 42-inch deck that makes it suitable for larger lawns. It also has the ability to mow in forwards and reverse, so you aren't wasting any time when maneuvering out of tight spaces.
John Deere Z970R The Z970R is equipped with an integrated roll bar to keep the operator safe in the unfortunate event of a roll over, and a cross-porting hydrostatic drivetrain to keep the internal components cool while it operates. Running on a commercial-grade, 35-horsepower engine, it can easily stand up to the demands of professional lawn care companies. deere.com
Poulan Pro PP19A42 The Poulan Pro PP19A42 is powered by a reliable Briggs & Stratton engine that is controlled by a pedal-operated transmission for ease of use. Those with tight spaces in their yard will appreciate its 16-inch turning radius, and it features a spring-assisted deck lift that can be adjusted to six cutting heights poulanpro.com
A Brief History Of The Lawn Mower
Keeping grass at a manageable level meant you could see danger approaching, whether in the form of a vicious predator or an approaching army.
Lawns — or a reasonable facsimile thereof — have served a valuable purpose throughout much of human history. Keeping grass at a manageable level meant you could see danger approaching, whether in the form of a vicious predator or an approaching army. As a result, most stationary civilizations placed a premium on lawn management.
For the most part, this meant planting low-lying vegetation, so that it wouldn't grow to a height where it would obstruct viewpoints. Any plants that grew too tall were cut down with hand scythes, or kept at a manageable height through the use of grazing animals.
Around the 12th or 13th century, European nobility began to enjoy outdoor sports such as croquet and lawn bowling. This required the installation and upkeep of turf grasses, which were kept clipped so that they wouldn't interfere with the paths of the balls. Having a lawn of grass became a sign of wealth, as poorer subjects used their grass as common areas to feed livestock.
In 1830, however, an Englishman named Edwin Budding invented the first mechanical lawn mower. Made of wrought iron, it worked by transmitting energy from the motion of its wheels to a cutting cylinder, which would lop off the top of the grass and deposit it into a box at the front of the mower. The skeleton of Budding's invention can still be seen in modern push-mowers, as the basic design hasn't changed much in 200 years.
Budding couldn't have anticipated his new invention's impact. Suddenly, it was possible to play a great many more sports, as it became feasible to keep larger areas well-manicured. Public parks also benefited from the mower, and as a result less affluent people had the opportunity to enjoyed mowed grass.
In the subsequent decades, several different improvements and advancements were made, including animal- and steam-powered models. After the turn of the 20th century, gasoline-powered mowers became available, and the first riding option was released just after WWI.
The first commercially-successful rotary mower was released in 1952. By this time, in the post-WWII economic boom, the American Dream meant owning your own home, complete with yard. Accordingly, having a mower became expected, as well, and the technology had advanced to the point where they had become reliable and affordable.
The riding mower began to grow in popularity around this same time, as fuel prices were low enough to make running larger gas engines cost-effective. This made it easier than ever to maintain large swaths of grass, from stadiums and parks to expansive lawns.
It's remarkable to think just how much our daily lives have been shaped by the ability to quickly and easily trim grass. Without the mower, we wouldn't have many sports, well-managed public spaces, or the ability to quickly spot our deadbeat neighbors.
Benefits Of A Riding Lawn Mower
The convenience of the riding mower is obvious — you can let the machine do all the work, instead of slaving away in the hot sun. This is especially important if you suffer from any health-related issues that could make manual labor dangerous, or if you're hoping to avoid heatstroke in the scorching summer heat.
Similarly, if you own a landscaping or maintenance company, giving your employees riding mowers will help them knock out more work in much less time.
However, it's not just about taking a load off. A riding mower can also drastically boost your productivity, allowing you to knock out a chore in a fraction of the time. This translates directly into more opportunities to do the things you'd really rather be doing, like working on hobbies or, as a last resort, spending time with your family.
Similarly, if you own a landscaping or maintenance company, giving your employees riding mowers will help them knock out more work in much less time. This means that you'll have to spend less in wages, or you'll be able to fulfill more orders in a regular workweek. Your workers will no doubt be happier, as well.
Riding mowers are also more versatile than their push counterparts. If you want a machine that's capable of doing more than just slicing up grass, riding mower attachments can help you spread seed, de-thatch, and even move snow.
Not everyone needs to have one, of course, but if you have a lot of lawn to cover, a riding mower can be worth every penny. And hey, it may even pay for itself if you win first prize at the lawn mower racing world championships.
How To Choose The Right Mower For You
Buying a riding mower can be intimidating. It's a considerable expense, and there are so many options that it can be hard to decide which one's best for you.
This is completely dependent on your personal situation, but think about what you really need before going overboard.
The first thing to look at is your lawn itself. If you'll need to work well in cramped spaces, or if you need to navigate around trees and other obstacles, you might want to consider a zero-turn-radius model. These often have independent levers that give you total control over your steering, and you'll be amazed at how easily you can pilot these machines through tight quarters.
Extremely dense lawns, or those with steep hills, will require mowers with more horsepower than flat, sparse yards. You'll also need to decide if you want a manual or automatic transmission; manual gives you more control, while automatic is more convenient, especially if you need to shift gears often.
Finally, think about what attachments you might need. Do you want to collect the clippings, leave them on the lawn, or mulch them? You can also add on baggers, carts, tillers, bumpers, and more. This is completely dependent on your personal situation, but think about what you really need before going overboard.
Ultimately, getting a riding mower should relieve stress, not add to it, so don't fret about the decision too much. Just about any option you choose will be better than slaving over a push mower, and you'll have more time to enjoy your lush, beautiful lawn.
More importantly, though, they'll give you a backup plan for getting to work if your car ever breaks down.