How to Choose a New Riding Mower – Buying Guide
Why Buy a New Riding Mower?
Riding mowers are the workhorse of lawn care. They can handle a wide variety of tasks including snow removal, tilling, aerating, fertilizing, seeding and hauling debris. If you have a large yard over a ½ acre or it takes you more than two hours to mow your lawn with a traditional push mower, then a riding mower is right for you and your landscape.
When choosing a riding mower, consider your landscape. Do you have a flat yard or uneven terrain? Are there a lot of obstacles you’ll need to maneuver around like trees and flowerbeds? How large is your landscape? Zero-turn radius mowers and yard/lawn tractors are ideal for ½ acre or larger, but if you have a larger lot, a heavy-duty garden tractor would be a better fit.
Zero-Turn Radius Mowers
- For lawns that are ½ acre or larger
- Precision steering and maneuverability to navigate obstacles
- Better for flat landscapes
- Cut maintenance time in half compared to standard tractors
Yard Tractors and Lawn Tractors
- For lawns that are ½ acre to 2 acres
- Traditional design with steering wheel and smaller wheels for increased maneuverability
- Less horse power (15-25 HP) so great for traditional lawn care
- Can tow light yard trailers and can accept some small seeding and yard fertilization attachments
- Ideal for yards with lots of acreage requiring heavy-duty care
- Traditional design with steering wheel and often equipped with locking differentials for better traction
- More horsepower (20-30 HP) so ideal for hilly terrain and tough yardwork
- Great for hauling material and have a wide variety of attachments such as grading, blading and snow removal
Consider what mower features work best for your needs.
- Cruise control – so you can use one speed to mow long, straight stretches
- Cut width – related to the blade number, describes how wide of a patch of grass the mower cuts in a single pass
- Deck wheels – maintains mowing height over uneven terrain
- Speed – lawn and garden tractors move as fast as 5-1/2 mph, while ZTR mowers can go 8 mph
- Automatic parking brakes – a ZTR mower feature for safety and convenience
- Comfort – high-backed, adjustable seats, cup holders and rubber foot pads all contribute to making you comfortable
- Riding mower attachments – options available that help you maintain your yard year-round by spreading fertilizer, aerating, dethatching, spreading seed, hauling away debris, clearing snow and much more
Type of Transmissions
Riding mowers come in three different types of transmissions. A manual transmission offers a range of speeds and requires you to shift. An automatic transmission works more like a car where you control speed with the gas pedal. A hydrostatic transmission works like an automatic, but offers an even smoother ride and requires less maintenance.
Grass Clipping Options
Consider your grass clippings. Side-discharge mowers are ideal for taller, coarser grass types. Bagger-capable mowers make for easy cleanup by collecting the clippings for disposal, and are also great for clearing leaves. Mulching-capable mowers turn your clippings into mulch as you go, but may require additional attachments to function optimally.