The 8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers
This wiki has been updated 24 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 a lot 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 landscape. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best riding lawn mower on Amazon.
A Brief History Of The Lawn Mower
It's remarkable to think just how much our daily lives have been shaped by the ability to quickly and easily trim grass.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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