4 Steps to Choosing the Best Riding Lawn Mower

best-riding-lawn-mower-buyers-guide

If you want a relaxing and comfortable mowing experience, you may want to consider a riding lawn mower.

Riding lawn mowers are great for people who have large yards or no longer have the stamina to use a walk-behind mower anymore. Even the slowest riding lawn mowers will cut lawns faster than most walk-behind models, and they can be more affordable than you’d think.

Before you go to the store to pick one up, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for. With that in mind, we’ve created this riding lawn mower buyer’s guide. More information can be found below the infographic.

But Before Choosing Your Riding Lawn Mower…

Before we begin, it’s a good idea to know if you actually need a walk-behind mower, or if you should upgrade to a riding mower, instead. Obviously, this highly depends on your health and stamina, but here’s a good rule of thumb to help you decide:


If your yard is ½ acre or less get a walk-behind mower. Get a riding mower if your lawn is more than ½ acre.

riding-lawn-mower-infographic

1. Mower Types:

There are 3 types of riding lawn mowers. They are:

  • Rear Engine Mowers
  • Tractors
  • Zero-Turn Mowers

Rear engine mowers tend to be the cheapest type of riding mower available. They have smaller cutting decks than tractors or zero-turns, making them ideal for narrow passes like fenced-in areas. They also have a low center of gravity, which makes them very stable on hills

However, they’re also the most limited. Unlike tractors or zero-turns, rear engine mowers aren’t designed to pull heavy attachments. They also don’t move very fast, usually <5 mph.

Tractors are more versatile than rear engine mowers. They’re designed to pull heavy attachments and are great multitaskers (more on that later). There are 2 types of tractors: lawn tractors and garden tractors

Lawn tractors usually have a 2-blade cutting system. Typical deck sizes range between 30-54″. Lawn tractors are less powerful and less expensive than garden tractors, but are still very capable.

Most garden tractors feature a 3-blade cutting system. Typical deck sizes can range between 45-54″. In addition to a more powerful engine and wider deck, most garden tractors feature larger back tires for extra stability on slopes and inclines.

Zero-turn mowers are the fastest type of riding lawn mower. Most residential models can zip around at up to 8mph and can make 360° with ease, making them great for manuevering around obstacles. However, that power can be problematic: zero-turns do not handle slopes as well as rear engine mowers or tractors. They are also prone to sliding, which can rip up your carefully manicured grass, if you’re not careful. They also tend to be the most expensive type of riding lawn mower on the market.

2. Deck Size:

Once you have an idea on what kind of mower you want, you’ll need to decide on what deck size is most appropriate for your yard. Your deck houses the mower’s cutting blades, and the larger your deck size, the more grass you’ll cut at a time. It’s important to get the right deck size: too small a deck size means you’ll be mowing longer, but too big a deck size means you won’t be able to navigate your yard efficiently.

The best way to figure out what deck size is right for you, start by taking a walk through your yard with a tape measure. You can use it to measure out any tight areas in your yard, like gates. Don’t worry about really small areas. You can always use a line trimmer to reach them. When you go to the store with your measurements, bring your tape measure with you there, too. Many mowers have chutes that stick out the sides that you’ll have to compensate for.

Also consider slopes, ditches and mounds. In general, the more of these you have, the smaller the deck size you’ll want. Otherwise your cutting blades could gouge those areas.

3. Attachments:

If you want a powerful multitasking tool, then you’ll want to know what attachments your riding lawn mower can use before purchasing. Even a powerful mower won’t be able to multitask unless the company supports attachments for that model. Depending on the mower, you can get attachments that:

  • Bag clippings with a double or triple bagger
  • Clear snow with a snow blower or snow plow
  • Flatten lawns with a lawn roller
  • Aerate lawns with a spike or core aerator
  • Detatch grass with a dethatcher or power brush
  • Cultivate the ground with a tiller
  • Fertilize the yard or salt ice with a spreader
  • Tow equipment with a cart
  • Clean hardscapes with a power brush
  • Planning ahead when purchasing your riding lawn mower means you may save money down the road by not having to buy other equipment. You can save a lot of space in you garage by having less equipment, too.

    4. Protective Gear:

    Don’t forget to purchase safety gear when you go shopping for your mower. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself by using a mower unprotected! Some important accessories to wear while mowing include:

    Ear muffs or Ear Plugs to protect your ears from the noise pollution
    Shoes and pants to protect your legs from flying debris
    A visor to protect your eyes from any flying debris

    Bonus! Features

    As a special bonus we’ve created a list to help explain many terms that are used when talking about mowers. Many of these features are useful and it helps to know exactly what they mean when picking which walk-behind mower to buy.

    • Transmission: Mowers come with one of 3 types of transmission: manual, automatic, and hydrostatic. Manual transmissions let you set between a range of speeds and go. Automatic and hydrostatic transmissions are similar to a car, where you control speed with a gas pedal. Automatic transmissions rely on belts to change speeds, whereas hydrostatic transmissions use fluid for a smoother ride.
    • Washout Port: Like in walk-behind mowers, this lets you clean under your mower by connecting a hose.
    • Cruise Control: Similar to a car, cruise control lets you lock your current speed.
    • Electric Power Takeoff Switch: Allows you to engage the blades without pulling a lever, extending the life of the belts.
    • Informs you how long the engine has run since its last oil change and maintenance.
    • Safety Switch: Makes you engage the switch before you can go in reverse, to help prevent accidents.
    • Translucent Fuel Tank: Allows you to see exactly how much fuel you have left.
    • Turning radius: Tells you how tight of turns your mower can make. All zero-turn mowers will make 360° turns.
    • Power Steering: Similar to a car, assists you in turning and steering.

    For more buyer’s guides, click here

  • Jack

    I am old school and just love something about pushing my lawn mower. I recently just upgraded to a self propelled version from https://lawntoolslist.com and am really enjoying my yard work even more. I might be the only person whom loves a push mower but it gives me real joy.