The 7 Best Riding Mowers to Mow the Lawn with Comfort and Ease
A good riding mower is a must for large lawns of an acre or more. After all, it can be the difference between loathing lawn maintenance or actually looking forward to the task. While there are a few different types of riding lawn mowers available to buy—the main ones being either lawn tractors or zero-turn mowers—the best riding mower for you depends on the size of your yard, the type of terrain, and your budget.
"With buying a good riding mower, you are essentially investing in your home, which is one of the biggest and best investments people can make," says Don Quinn, who has over 30 years of experience handling riding lawn mowers and working on several farms, including his own 1.5- and 3-acre properties. "A good riding mower or tractor is going to make the work that you have to do on your property easier, safer, and more efficient."
To help you decide the best riding lawn mower for your home, we researched a variety of picks, keeping in mind each unit's power, ideal lawn size, speed, deck height, and deck width. We also consulted Don Quinn.
Overall, we recommend the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-Inch Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower. This riding lawn mower is perfect for lawns of up to 4 acres thanks to its large cutting deck of 50 inches. Its zero-turn capabilities let it zip around obstacles effortlessly while creating straight, clean lines for a perfectly manicured lawn.
Here are the best riding lawn mowers.
- Best Overall: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-Inch Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
- Best Budget: Troy-Bilt Pony 42K Riding Lawn Mower
- Best Gas: Husqvarna YTH18542 Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Mower
- Best Electric: Greenworks Pro 60V 42-Inch CrossoverZ Zero Turn Lawn Mower
- Best Zero-Turn: Ego Power+ 42-Inch Z6 Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- Best Heavy Duty: Toro Titan Max 60-Inch Zero-Turn Mower
- Best Rear Engine: Ryobi 48V Brushless 42-Inch 100Ah Battery Electric Riding Zero-Turn Mower
What We Recommend
Best Overall: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-Inch Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Best Budget: Troy-Bilt Pony 42K Riding Lawn Mower
Best Gas: Husqvarna YTH18542 Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Mower
Best Electric: Greenworks Pro 60V 42-Inch CrossoverZ Zero Turn Lawn Mower
Best Zero-Turn: Ego Power+ 42-Inch Z6 Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Best Heavy Duty: Toro Titan Max 60-Inch Zero-Turn Mower
Best Rear Engine: Ryobi 48V Brushless 42-Inch 100Ah Battery Electric Riding Zero-Turn Mower
The Bottom Line
The powerful, sturdy, and durable Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-Inch Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower with its 50-inch cutting deck, 23-horsepower Kawasaki engine, and comfy high-back cushioned seat is our top pick for the best riding lawn mower. A zero-degree turning radius means you can easily maneuver around obstacles, get up and down large lawns of up to 4 acres with no downtime, and can create awesome landscaping designs too. For a less-expensive option, consider the Troy-Bilt Pony 42K Riding Lawn Mower. The riding mower is compact and is ideal for up to 2 acres of land.
What to Know About Riding Mowers Before Shopping
The main two types of riding lawn mowers available are lawn tractors and zero-turn riding mowers. Lawn tractors come in a great variety of sizes and options of mower deck attachments. Each model is designed to mow up to a certain size lawn, usually from .5 to 2 acres and beyond. As the mower's ability to cut larger lots increases so does the price, as well as the overall size of the mower and mower deck.
Zero-turn lawn mowers have two levers (as opposed to the steering wheel on lawn tractors, which most people are familiar with), and there is a little bit of a learning curve if you've never operated one before. These levers must be turned in or pushed in opposite directions to steer the mower.
The benefit of a zero-turn mower is that you can maneuver around objects or obstacles quickly and easily and can make perfectly straight rows or intricate patterns that you wouldn't be able to create with a standard ride-on mower. Zero-turn mowers come in many different sizes to accommodate just about any type or size of lawn. Zero turn mowers are generally much more expensive than lawn tractors, however, so that's something to keep in mind if you're looking to stick within a certain budget.
Ride-on lawn mowers either come in gas or cordless battery-powered options. Battery-powered lawn mowers run on batteries, and each mower's runtime is different depending on its voltage and battery amp. Generally speaking, the higher the voltage, the longer the mower will last on one charge. In addition, the type of terrain, as well as the grass height and its type can factor into a lawn mower's run time. Some battery-operated models provide quick charging of around one to two hours, but cheaper models could take up to 20 hours to fully charge.
Gas ride-on mowers are powered by fuel, emit fumes, and are usually the most powerful type of mowers, making them the preferred choice of professionals. Gas lawn mowers require more maintenance than other types, and yearly servicing (fuel, oil, and spark plugs) is highly recommended in order to maximize the life of the tool.
Buying the right size mower for the job is important so that with proper maintenance, it will last you a long time. Every new riding lawn mower has the ideal property size clearly written out in its description so you can be sure to buy the best riding mower for your yard.
"Many people make the mistake of buying too small of a riding mower and then end up overworking it on a bigger property," Quinn says. "This can cause major issues with maintenance and shorten the mower's life in the long run."
The height and the width of a cutting deck let you know how much lawn can be mowed by the machine in a single pass and also how long the grass will be once it's cut. The cutting width is also known as the swath. Most riding lawn mowers have adjustable height decks with numerous positions that give you the option of different grass lengths, usually ranging between 1 to 4.5 inches.
There are many available accessories that can be bought along with, or in addition to, your riding mower, such as kits that can mulch, fertilize, aerate, till, and cultivate the soil. In addition, you can buy snow clearing machinery like snow blowers that can be attached to your mower as well as accessories that can load and dump soil. Accessories allow you to get more use from your riding lawn mower throughout the year.
Your Questions, Answered
How do you clean a riding lawn mower?
Riding lawn mowers are typically heavy-duty machines that are designed to cut grass and get messy and muddy, so thoroughly cleaning them is not a necessity. A hard brush taken to the wheels and around the deck to get rid of thick mud and stray clippings is usually all that's needed. Hosing the whole thing down with water is not advised. Many riding mowers do come with their own cleaning apparatus, such as deck cleaning tools and an attachment that can hook up to a garden hose for cleaning the deck.
How often should you mow your lawn?
"Cut your lawn when it is over 3 inches long," Quinn advises. "Set your mower height to 3 to 3.5 inches to ensure that you're cutting it in a manner that allows for a strong root system and creates a healthier, thicker lawn. This will also reduce the number of times you have to water it. Cutting your grass below 2 inches creates a thinner lawn that will be more susceptible to damage from the summer sun."
In addition, it is highly advisable to not cut off more than a third of the grass blade's length at a time so as not to damage it.
Are riding mowers safe to use?
Riding mowers are designed to be safe if used properly, but they should be kept away from children. Most manufacturers recommend that children under 16 should not use them without adult supervision. Though these machines look fun and rather toy-like, they can be dangerous if not handled correctly.
"The center of gravity on most riding mowers is very high, so the chance of rollover is greatly increased," Quinn says. "The user should be aware of what types of hills could potentially cause a rollover."
To avoid an accident on a hill, Quinn advises mowing perpendicular to the grade of the hill and avoiding cutting parallel to the grade. "In other words, cut uphill and downhill but not across," he says.
Most modern riding mowers are equipped with rollover safety devices that stop the spinning of the blades and shut off the mower as soon as a rollover occurs, or even if the operator stands up and leaves the seat. Another great feature in some riding mowers is a button that is located behind the driver that must be pushed in order to go in reverse.
"The idea behind this is to create a habit within the operator to look over their shoulder before backing up so that you never go in reverse without looking," Quinn says.
Who We Are
This article was written by Kat de Naoum, who has over 10 years of commerce writing experience. Kat is also the Commerce Editor-at-Large at Thomas-Xometry, the leading US online platform for supplier discovery and product sourcing. For this article, Kat researched and reviewed multiple riding mowers and considered factors such as each riding lawn mower's power, cutting deck width and height, speed, comfort, noise-level, durability, and value for money. She also consulted Don Quinn, who has over 30 years of experience handling riding lawn mowers and working on several farms.