If you’re lucky enough to have a big garden, you’ll know that the downside can be a lot of hard work. So why not let technology take the strain? Here’s our list of the best riding lawn mowers to tidy your own private Eden in a fraction of the time.
Best Riding Lawn Mower Comparison Chart 2019
Ariens IKON-X (52") Zero Turn Riding Mower
Husqvarna Z254 (54”) Zero Turn Riding Mower
Troy-Bilt 382cc Rear-Engine Riding Mower
Ryobi (38”) Battery Electric Riding Lawn Mower
Husqvarna TS348 Riding Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 (42”) Riding Lawn Tractor
Troy-Bilt (46”) 540cc Riding Lawn Tractor
Poulan Pro P46ZX Zero Turn Riding Mower
Husqvarna MZ61 Zero Turn Riding Mower
Swisher ZTR2454BS Response Zero Turn Riding Mower
If you’re anything like us, you’ll love spending time in your garden. There’s nothing so relaxing as sitting outside on a warm day, a glass of something cold in your hand.
And for us, a garden really isn’t a garden without a lawn. But whether bowling-green-perfect, or somewhere for the kids to kick a football, all lawns have one thing in common. They need maintenance.
Let’s be honest, cutting the grass is a chore. And if you have a large garden, it can feel like mowing takes up far too much time. It’s worst of all when the sun is out. All you want is to relax with a book, but the grass you cut last week is knee-high once again.
We spent years struggling with lawn mowers of all shapes and sizes, hoping to get the perfect cut. The sad truth was that they all took hours to do the job. The lawn looked great for a few days, but then it was time to get the mower out again. And because we knew it would take so long to finish, we put it off.
The results were predictable. All too often the lawn turned into a straggly wilderness. We didn’t even want to go out there, because it just made us feel guilty.
Eventually, we decided to invest in a riding lawn mower. Yes, it was a lot of money – but it’s been worth its weight in gold. Our mowing time has been cut in half, and it’s changed our whole relationship with our garden. Believe it or not, these days we actually enjoy cutting the grass!
If you’re considering buying a riding lawn mower, you may be wondering the same things we were. Is it worth it? What kind of features should I be looking for? How much do I need to spend to get a good result?
That’s where we can help. We’re going to take you through our list of the best riding lawn mowers out there.
The Best Riding Lawn Mower Reviews of 2019
1. Husqvarna Z254 (54”) 26HP Kohler Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Zero turn mower for easy maneuvering
- Powerful 26HP engine will cut around 2.8 acres an hour
- Optional bagging attachment avoids back-breaking raking
The first thing to say about this great machine from Husqvarna is that it’s a zero turn mower. What does that mean? Well, as soon as you’ve finished one strip of mowing, you can turn on a pin and go right back. It’s also brilliant for cutting around obstacles like flower beds.
It has a powerful 26HP engine from Kohler. It’s durable and fast too. It will handle up to 2.8 acres an hour, at a speed of up to 6.5 miles per hour. If you’re looking for a mower to cover a large area fast, it’s a great choice. It’s surprisingly quiet too – a real bonus if you’re spending ages mowing.
A lot of thought has gone into the hydrostatic transmission. This is designed not to use hydraulic hoses, so there’s no issue with leaks. Each drive wheel has its own wheel motor and fan-cooled 10cc pumps. The result is smooth acceleration and bags of torque that will deal easily with hills and uneven terrain.
The mower deck here is a generous 54 inches and can be set at any one of six positions. The three blades are made of 12-gauge stamped steel, and there’s a wash-out port to help with cleaning. A particularly nice touch are the four anti-scalp wheels, designed to avoid messing up your turf on uneven ground.
This is the kind of mower you’re likely to be using for hours at a time. That means, of course, that it needs to be comfortable – and it is. The chassis is made of welded steel, reducing vibration as you mow. It also helps keep all four wheels on the ground when you’re on bumpy terrain.
The seat is ergonomically designed, and 15 inches high to provide effective lumbar support. The ignition, throttle and choke are located together and easy to reach. There’s an hour meter to help you keep track of time. You even get a cup holder so you can stay hydrated as you mow.
The Z254 has a bunch of optional accessories too. Top of our list is the rear bagger to collect grass cuttings as you go. You’ll have to stop and empty it every so often, but we’ve found it massively reduces labor time. Other options include a mulcher kit, headlights and hitch.
2. Ariens IKON-X (52") Zero Turn Mower 23HP Kawasaki FR691 (Our Top Recommended)
- Thirteen different cutting positions
- Ultra-comfortable seat, with armrests included as standard
- Zero radius turn, with a deck design allowing you to cut right up to the curb
The Ariens IKON-X 52 has a slightly smaller engine and cutting deck than Husqvarna’s Z254. Here you get a 23HP Kawasaki engine capable of around 7 miles per hour, and 3 miles per hour in reverse. The mower deck is 52 inches wide and made of 10-gauge steel. It’s designed to optimize airflow to provide a precise cut.
Like the Husky, this is a mower with three steel cutting blades. You can choose from no fewer than 13 different cutting positions simply by turning a dial. Choose 4.5 inches for the first cut of overgrown grass, or reduce to just 1.5 inches for a manicured finish.
The Ariens is designed to handle uneven terrain, with a commercial-style hanging deck. No matter how lumpy and bumpy the ground, it will still give you an even cut. The frame is made entirely of tubular steel, making it both tough and stable, and the whole thing comes with a three-year limited warranty.
This is another mower with a zero turn radius. If you’ve got a large plot with lots of garden features to navigate, it should make your short-list. We particularly like the way the deck protrudes on one side, allowing you to cut right up to the curb. Hydro-Gear EZT transaxles provide a smooth ride.
For us, though, the seat is the real selling point of this model. It’s very comfortable, with loads of padding and an adjustable high-back seat. And unlike the Husky, here the armrests come as standard. There’s even an insulated rubber foot mat to reduce vibrations.
And if you want your machine to do more than cut grass, a range of accessories are available. Choose from a mulching kit, headlights, sunshade, spreader kit, roller, aerator, de-thatcher, and sprayer.
The one thing you won’t find, though, is a bagging attachment. If this is the mower you choose, be prepared to spend some time raking up those cuttings.
3. Troy-Bilt 382cc (30”) Premium Neighborhood Riding Lawn Mower (Best Budget for Home)
- Light and easy to maneuver
- Five cutting heights
- Small enough to be stored in a standard garden shed or garage
If you’re looking for a machine for weekend mowing of smaller areas, consider Troy-Bilt’s Premium Neighborhood model.
This is considerably smaller than other mowers on this list, and it doesn’t have as much power. But it’s still no slouch. Its 382cc auto-choke engine will deliver speeds of up to 4.5 miles per hour, and is built to last.
The mowing deck here is just 30 inches wide. It won’t be the best choice if you have large areas to cover, but its trimmer dimensions make it very easy to maneuver. Whilst not designed as a zero turn mower, its turn radius is still just 18 inches. And it’s small enough to be easily stored in a standard garden shed.
There are some nice features too. The mowing deck can be adjusted to five different heights, and there’s a six-speed transmission. The engine is designed to offer clean performance, and there’s a 1.3-gallon fuel tank. A nice touch is the fuel sight window, allowing you to check the level of the gas easily.
There’s manual power take-off, to engage the cutting blade quickly and easily. And although you’re unlikely to be using this mower for hours and hours, thought has still gone into making it comfortable. The seat rises to mid-back, and the height of the steering column can be adjusted too.
There are some limitations. Its limited power means this is a mower best suited to gardens where the ground is fairly level. Any incline above 12 degrees will cause it to struggle. And while it has a reverse gear, it’s not recommended to mow in reverse.
If you’ve got a larger garden or one with slopes and rough patches, this won’t be the mower for you. But if you’re looking for a machine that will significantly reduce the time you spend on a smaller, level lawn, it’s well worth considering. And it will make a much smaller dent in your wallet than larger riding lawn mowers.
4. Ryobi (38”) 100 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower
- Electric mower with long-lasting charge
- 12 different cutting heights
- Cruise control and headlights as standard
With a 38-inch cutting deck, Ryobi’s RY48111 falls squarely between Troy-Bilt’s neighborhood scale mower, and larger options from Husqvarna. It has plenty of other distinctive features too.
The first thing that strikes you is its appearance. It looks more like a go-kart than a traditional riding lawn mower. The finish is striking: a black frame with bright yellow-green accents. If you want to cut a dash while you’re in the garden, this might be the mower for you.
But the bigger difference is its fuel source. Ryobi’s riding lawn mowers are 100 percent electric powered. That means no carbon emissions and a healthier environment – exactly what you want in a garden.
The mower will run for around two hours on a single charge. That means you’ll be able to mow around 2 acres before having to pause to recharge. It’s not as powerful as a larger petrol engine, but it will still handle 15-degree slopes with ease. For steeper inclines, you’ll need to go slower – and better to mow downhill.
The top speed when you’re going forward is 8 miles per hour, but that reduces to 5 miles per hour when you’re mowing. Move into reverse, and that drops to a still-respectable 3 miles per hour.
You can choose from 12 different cutting heights, ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 inches. There are two precision-cut steel blades, each with direct drive brushless blade motors.
When it comes to the grass cuttings, they’re discharged from the side. There is an option to buy a separate bagging attachment. For us, that’s a sensible investment. Optional mulching blades are available too.
The control panel features cruise control and a battery level indicator to warn you when you’re running out of charge. There’s also an hour meter, and – a lovely touch – a USB phone charger and phone holder. And if you tend to mow in the evenings, you’ll appreciate the headlights which come as standard.
There’s also an adjustable seat and a cup holder. it’s much quieter than a gas powered mower.
On the negative side, the batteries mean this is a very heavy machine. Go out on soft ground, and you’re likely to leave track marks. It’s also a bumpier ride than some. All in all, though, these are minor negatives for a powerful, eco-friendly mower.
5. Husqvarna TS348 (48") 24HP Kohler Lawn Tractor
- Hydrostatic transmission for smooth acceleration and low maintenance
- Air induction system prevents grass clumping during cutting
- Headlights, armrests and hitch included as standard
Another powerful lawn tractor from Husqvarna, the TS348 offers 24HP from its Kohler KT735 V-Twin 4-cycle OHV engine. Fuel consumption is efficient and it’s designed to power through even tall, wet grass without breaking a sweat.
The transmission is hydrostatic, and it automatically adjusts speed to give the kind of smooth acceleration you’d expect in a car. It’s resilient too, requiring lower levels of maintenance than automatic or manual systems.
The mower deck is 48 inches wide and is made of welded steel. It’s so tough that Husky offers a 10-year warranty. There are three mower blades, with washout ports for easy cleaning, and greaseable mandrels. You can choose from seven deck positions, with a cutting height of between 1.5 and 4 inches.
An air induction system blows air from the top to the bottom of the deck during cutting. This prevents the grass from clumping up and enables even distribution of clippings. It also has the same anti-scalp wheels as the Z254, keeping the mower even on bumpy ground.
This isn’t a zero turn mower, but it still has an impressive 18-inch turning radius. That should be enough to maneuver easily, even in tight areas. It’s a little slower than some other mowers on the list, with a top forward speed of 5.5 miles per hour, dropping to 2.1 in reverse.
The TS348 does, though, have some advantages over its zero turn cousin.
Perhaps in the expectation that you’ll need to spend longer mowing, the seat back is six inches higher. The arrests come as standard too. The seat is padded with thick cushions, and there’s something called EVC – elastomeric vibration control. Everything, in fact, that you could want for a comfortable ride.
It comes with headlights, and there’s even a hitch included as standard. If you want them, a mulching kit and that all-important rear bagger are sold separately. The whole package comes with a 3-year warranty for peace of mind.
6. Cub Cadet XT1 (42”) 18HP Enduro Series Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower
- Super-easy to maneuver, with light and comfortable steering
- Choice of 12 cutting levels
- Patented SmartJet deck cleaning system
The funky yellow Cub Cadet XT1 features an 18HP Courage KS540 engine from Kohler. The reference to “courage” is a clue: it’s designed to give consistent performance in all conditions. There’s also an innovative touch with the oil filter. It’s inverted, making it easy to change the oil without any spillages.
This is another mower that uses hydrostatic transmission. Just push down on the pedal, and you’re off. With cruise control too, it’s an easy drive.
The mower deck is 42 inches wide and features two blades cut from stamped steel.
It’s spring assisted, and you can choose from any of its 12 levels using a simple lever. It’s so easy to use that you can adjust to take account of obstacles like tree roots as you mow. And with a minimum cut of just an inch, you can get that grass bowling green smooth.
The easy operation extends to the approach to putting it into reverse. On the right-hand side of the mower, there are two pedals. The one in front is to move forward, the one behind – close enough to press with your heel – is for reverse.
The steering wheel is molded to be comfortable to use, and the steering is light. It’s easy on your hands, even after hours of mowing. Add to all this a turning radius of a mere 16 inches, and this is a mower that’s exceptionally simple to maneuver.
There are four anti-scalp wheels to maintain stability and stop the mower churning up turf in uneven conditions. We particularly like the patented cleaning system for the deck. Called the SmartJet, it uses a high-pressure stream of water to keep the deck free of dust and grass clippings.
The frame is fully welded, and there’s an anti-corrosion coating for durability. It comes with headlights as standard. High illumination LEDs will give great visibility well into the night.
The seat has a high back for comfort. It can also be inclined and slid into different positions to suit drivers of different heights and preferences.
A trailer hitch, hour meter, and headlights are included as standard. If you like your accessories, a rear bagger, mulching kit, armrests, and front bumper are available separately.
7. Troy-Bilt (46”) 540cc Briggs & Stratton Intek Automatic Riding lawn mower
- 540cc Briggs and Stratton engine
- 13-gauge steel mowing deck with integrated washer system
- Step-thru frame for easy mounting and dismounting
The second Troy-Bilt machine to make our list, the Intek is a different proposition to the Premium Neighborhood model. Designed for gardens over 0.5 acres, its 46-inch wide mowing deck and 500cc engine are bigger and more powerful.
Like the Swisher, the engine here is made by Briggs and Stratton, so you know it’s going to be reliable. There’s full pressure lubrication with a spin on oil filter to keep it running smoothly. The top speed is a respectable 5.2 miles per hour, and the overall build quality is good.
The transmission is operated by a foot pedal. In this case, it’s CVT – continuously variable transmission – and you won’t get the smooth acceleration of mowers using hydrostatic systems. If you’re new to riding lawn mowers, you’ll want to take it nice and steady until you get used to it.
There are two anti-scalp wheels – again like the Swisher – and a slightly wider turning radius at 18 inches. That’s still pretty maneuverable for a machine that’s not a zero turn mower.
It has a top speed of 5.2 miles per hour, and a relatively modest fuel capacity of 1.36 gallons. We think that means it’s best suited to gardens around the one-acre mark.
The mowing deck can be adjusted to five different levels. It’s made of 13-gauge steel, making it robust enough to stand up to heavy use. Grass cuttings are ejected at the side, and there’s a clever deck washing system to keep everything clean.
An interesting touch is the step-thru frame, designed to make it easy to mount and dismount the mower. Optional extras include a soft-touch steering wheel, mulching kit, bagger and bumper. We love the way the mulcher attaches quickly, without the need for any tools.
If you live in colder climes, you’ll be pleased to know about one other optional accessory. This lawn mower is compatible with a 46-inch snow blade attachment. So next time your car is snowed in on your driveway, you’ll know what to do!
8. Poulan Pro P46ZX (46”) 22HP Briggs & Stratton Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Vented deck keeps grass moving through the mower, even in humid weather
- Welded steel deck with 10-year warranty
- Top speed of 6.5 miles per hour, and capable of cutting 2.4 acres of grass per hour
Equipped with a 22HP v-twin pro engine manufactured by Briggs and Stratton, Poulan Pro’s P46ZX offers power and resilience.
The mowing deck is 46 inches wide, and comes with a 10-year warranty. Its twin blades can be adjusted to six different cutting heights, from 1.5 to 4 inches in half inch increments. Although the range may not be as wide as some, that’s sufficient for all but the most demanding domestic uses.
Deck height is changed by a lever. The mechanism is assisted by a spring, so you won’t have to be a powerlifter to make it work. And the deck is vented too, allowing air to circulate during mowing. It will keep the grass moving freely through the mower, even in humid conditions.
The fuel capacity is significantly greater than the Troy-Bilt Intek model, at 3.5 gallons. That’s paired with a top speed of 6.5 miles per hour, or 3.5 miles per hour in reverse. The combination means it can cut an impressive 2.4 acres of grass in an hour.
All that pace goes along with a mower that’s easy to maneuver. This is another zero turning model, making it as easy as pie to negotiate obstacles like benches or flower beds.
There’s no steering wheel here. Instead, the mower is operated by two levers, positioned at hand height. The foam padded grips are designed to be comfortable to use and easy to control.
The other controls are located together within easy reach. A single panel includes the ignition (a key switch), the throttle, and a button for the electric blade engagement.
The transmission is hydrostatic, giving you a smooth ride without any of the jerkiness of CVT options. There’s a digital hour meter and yes, the cup holder is present and correct. If you want headlights, though, you’re out of luck. You can’t buy them separately, and there’s nowhere to install them if you did.
9. Husqvarna MZ61 (61”) 27HP Briggs & Stratton Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Excellent mower for people with serious amounts of land, mowing up to 4.2 acres an hour
- 27HP Briggs and Stratton engine offers high performance with low noise levels
- Designed for serviceability and easy maintenance, this can last a lifetime
Last but by no means least is the Husqvarna MZ61. This veritable behemoth of a mower has a huge 61-inch mowing deck. So big is it, that you’ll need a forklift truck to move the thing when it’s delivered.
Deal with that minor inconvenience, and you’ll get some genuinely amazing features.
First up, of course, is that enormous mowing deck. If you’ve got a garden so big it’s better described as “grounds”, this could be the mower for you.
A machine so big needs a serious engine, and with the 27HP Briggs and Stratton, that’s what it’s got. It powers along at a top speed of 8.5 miles per hour. At that rate, you’ll be finishing the lower paddock in no time.
As you might expect, these kinds of specifications don’t come cheap. It’s reassuring, then, that this is a mower that’s built to last.
Plenty of features have been included to make maintenance quick and easy. The spindle assemblies are greasable and easy to access, while the floor pan can be removed in seconds. That, in turn, makes it easy to reach the belt for checks and repairs. The transmission pumps can also be serviced to keep them in tip-top condition.
With a deck mower this wide, extra protection is in order. This comes in the form of three deck rollers that stop it from getting grounded on uneven terrain. The chassis is commercial-grade steel, reducing vibration and minimizing wear and tear on both mower and driver.
There’s a comfortable seat with a high back, extra cushioning and armrests. And the PTO engagement (which reduces shock on the engine) is located with the ignition, throttle and hour meter in a user-friendly control panel.
Other features include a hydrostatic transmission for smooth acceleration, an impact-resistant discharge shield, and a pedal-assisted deck lift. That enormous engine is amazingly quiet – and the best bit? You’ll be able to mow a whopping 4.2 acres an hour.
10. Swisher ZTR2454BS Response (54”) 24HP Zero Turn Mower
- High-quality Briggs and Stratton engine
- Superior mulching with no need for the additional mulching kit
- Rapid Response Control System for comfort and control during mowing
Powered by a 24HP engine by American manufacturers Briggs and Stratton, the Swisher ZTR2454BS is a very serious riding lawn mower. It’s a zero turn model, with a low center of gravity to keep it stable. Unusually, it has the same top speed in forward and reverses gears: an impressive eight miles per hour.
There’s a fuel capacity of eight gallons and robust fenders incorporating storage, a battery compartment, and that all-important cup holder.
The mowing deck is made of 11-gauge fabricated steel and offers cutting heights between 1.5 and 4.5 inches. The foot-assisted deck-lift makes it easy to operate, while three Gator mulching blades will cut through even tough foliage.
Those blades mean there’s no need to buy an additional mulching kit. The blades have raised teeth that direct air to the center. That air pushes the grass clippings back and forth an average of four times over the cutting edge. The result is a superior mulch, requiring no add-ons.
A shield at the front stops debris from escaping and blowing back on you. If you’ve tried other riding lawn mowers and found yourself covered in dust and grass clippings, that’s a feature you’ll love. The shield also assists airflow, helping to stop the grass from clumping together.
Swisher has developed a patented Rapid Response Control System, designed to give better comfort and control during mowing. It means you can reach all the controls you need to easily, whilst your arms stay in a comfortable position. If you’re going to be mowing for long periods, it’s a real plus.
The whole frame is made of commercial-grade steel, keeping it rigid and reducing vibration.
It doesn’t have all the features you’ll find on some mowers. There are two castors, as against the Husky’s four anti-scalp wheels, and the seat isn’t as comfy as the Ariens. It is, though, a reliable riding lawn mower that combines powerful performance with ease of maneuverability.
It’s not the cheapest, but if you have deep enough pockets, we think it’s well worth checking out.
What need to consider when buying the Riding Lawn Mower?
If all those different features sound a little confusing, our buying guide is here to help. We’ll take you through the questions to consider so that you select the riding lawn mower that’s best for you.
The first thing to think about is how big space you want to mow. We’re assuming here that your garden is pretty big, or you wouldn’t be considering a riding lawn mower in the first place. But how big is “big”? And what does that mean for your choice of mower?
At the lower end of the scale, common sense rules. If it’s going to be more hassle to store and maintain your riding lawn mower than to use a standard one, don’t bother. It might look fun, but if you’re only riding for a few minutes, the novelty will quickly wear off.
A reasonable rule of thumb is that a riding mower is great for areas of half an acre upwards.
If you’ve got a smaller patch, though, don’t despair. Rear engine riding mowers are considerably smaller than other kinds. In fact, some are no wider than a standard walk-behind mower. Options like the Troy-Bilt Premium Neighborhood mower reviewed in our list can fit into tighter spaces and side returns.
Don’t forget you’ll need somewhere big enough to store your mower. They need to be protected from bad weather, and any light-fingered opportunists. These are, after all, expensive pieces of kit. The bigger the mower, the larger the shed, garage or outbuilding you’ll need.
And remember to consider the route between your garden and wherever you’re storing your mower. If you need to pass through any narrow gateways, a wide deck may be a problem. On the other hand, if you’ve got ten acres to mow, it’s probably worth widening that pesky gateway.
On the level
Next, think about the characteristics of your green space. Is it level or sloping? Is the ground smooth or rocky? Are there obstructions like annoying tree roots? And will you need to navigate around features like flower beds, patios or garden ornaments? All these things will affect the kind of mower you need.
If your lawn is as flat as a pancake – lucky you! Not only will you be sure of a secure ride, you needn’t invest in a mower with a large engine. That will mean that lower cost options will be just as capable of giving you good results.
If you’ve got a slope to contend with, though, make sure you check the specifications of your mower carefully. It’s important that the engine is powerful enough to keep cutting without slowing to a crawl. And you’ll need something with a low center of gravity to keep it good and stable while you mow.
Some mowers are specific about the limits that apply to them. Troy-Bilt’s Premium Neighborhood model, for example, won’t work on slopes of more than 12 degrees.
Others will handle steeper inclines, but may have particular foibles to be aware of. Electric mowers like Ryobi’s will handle slopes, but you’ll need to brake as you’re going downhill. Others are better at cutting steeper slopes when they’re going down. You might be able to accommodate that in your mowing pattern.
Think too about the mowing deck. If you have uneven ground, consider a model with anti-scalping wheels. These are smaller wheels that sit alongside the deck and stop it from grounding on uneven terrain. They’ll also prevent the mower from tearing up the grass when the ground is heavy.
And if you have bigger obstacles, it’s worth checking how easy it is to raise and lower the mowing deck.
A friend of mine had a garden full of tree roots that stuck up from the ground. She loved her Cub Cadet because it was so easy to deal with them. Whenever she encountered a tree root, she simply raised the spring-assisted deck and kept on going.
Customer reviews are often a good source of advice on issues like this. People who’ve got gardens with awkward terrain will often talk about how their mower measures up. So do your research before you buy and learn from their experience.
Don't forget about comfort
It’s easy to get caught up in discussions about torque and horsepower, but remember your own comfort too. If your garden is big enough for a riding lawn mower, the chances are you’ll be spending hours sitting on it. If it isn’t comfortable you won’t want to use it, and you’ll have spent a lot of money for nothing.
So what features do you need to consider?
Start by looking at the seat. Generally speaking, a seat with a higher back will be more comfortable if you’re mowing for long periods. Basic seats will often be described as “mid-height” – which we’ve found usually means they’re actually quite low.
Check for armrests too. In some cases, like the Ariens IKON-X, they’ll come as standard. But that’s not always the case, even for expensive mowers. We love Husqvarna’s Z254 zero turn mower, but if you want armrests you have to buy them separately.
Also, check to see if the seat can be adjusted. In some cases, it will slide back and forward, and you can tilt it too. That kind of flexibility will give a more comfortable ride whatever your height or natural posture.
In other mowers, the seat position will have been carefully fixed so that the controls are easy to reach. That’s the case for the Poulan Pro P46ZX, for example, which users levers in place of a steering wheel. The seat is positioned so that the levers are placed right where your hands naturally rest.
Then there’s cushioning. There’s a surprising amount of variation between riding mowers here. For a fantastically comfortable seat, we think the Ariens IKON-X is hard to beat. But if you can get to a dealer, do. Trying out some options for yourself is the best way to check what suits you.
Important though it is, the seat isn’t the only feature that will make a difference to your comfort. Noise and vibration will have a big impact too.
Look for a mower with a high-quality steel chassis. It will keep the machine rigid and reduce vibrations through your body. Some manufacturers have even designed systems specifically to address this issue. Husqvarna’s TS348 features elastomeric vibration control, using elastic polymers to dampen shocks.
Test noise levels too. Electric mowers like Ryobi’s perform well here, but even powerful petrol engines can be surprisingly quiet if they’re well designed.
If you’re going to splash your hard-earned cash on something as expensive as a riding lawn mower, you’ll want it to last. That means considering the ease and costs of maintenance.
Examining the warranty is a good start. Often, different mowers may have a number of different warranties. The length of the warranty on the steel chassis, for example, may be different from that on the engine. Check carefully to see what’s covered and for how long.
And if you’re buying from somewhere that isn’t local, check what the options are if something goes wrong. You may have to meet delivery costs yourself. For something as large and heavy as a riding lawn mower, those costs can be significant.
Don’t assume that if you’re buying a brand name from one store, another dealer will automatically honor the warranty. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way. And remember that zero turn mowers are technically a different category to riding lawn mowers. Different warranties may apply, even from the same manufacturer.
A good visual check can be a surprisingly accurate way of predicting where problems are likely to occur. Look carefully at the mower. Are there any components that look flimsy? Plastic where you’d expect to see metal?
Look in particular for thin plastic strips around levers. They’re are a tell-tale sign of a component that may not stand the test of time.
Another area to check is whether any of the components can be serviced. Parts that are subject to significant wear and tear will have a far longer life if they can be. Husqvarna’s MZ61, with its serviceable transmission pumps, is a great example of a mower that’s built to last.
Any part that moves has the potential to wear out – so look for features that will help it to last. Find out how the engine is lubricated, and whether the spindle assemblies can be greased. Take a look at the manual and see what it says about maintenance. How easy is it to access the different parts of the mower?
Finally, check those customer reviews. Durability is really important to most of us, and people will post reviews long after their initial purchase. Check for customers waxing lyrical about their mowers’ years of faithful service. And look out for the ones with tales of fragile parts and warranties that haven’t been honored.
Riding lawn mowers and garden tractors can be very versatile machines. Many are real workhorses for the garden – so consider what you need your mower to do.
The obvious answer, of course, is to cut the grass – but it doesn’t need to stop there.
Mulchers reduce the volume of garden waste. Even better, applied to the soil mulch conserves moisture and adds nutrients.
Lots of mowers have mulching attachments, either included as standard or available for purchase separately. The Swisher ZTR2454BS goes one better, and mulches as it cuts without any add-ons at all.
Perhaps you live in an area where the weather gets pretty cold in winter. A robust riding mower can also make a fantastic snow plow with the right attachment. If this would be useful for you, check whether there’s a compatible accessory before you buy.
If you’re looking for a fabulous lawn, you might also be interested in a scarifier. These can be attached to the mower to pierce holes into the ground as you go. The holes let in air and water, promoting strong root growth for your grass.
Then there are de-thatchers. These pull out the old dead grass from around the new stalks, giving the fresh grass room to grow.
Last, but definitely not least is one accessory we’d always recommend considering: a bagger. These, as the name suggests, collect the grass cuttings as you mow.
Personally, we’ve never seen the point of speedy mowing, followed by hours spent raking up the cuttings. It’s true that bagging isn’t perfect. You’ll have to stop when the bags are full to empty them. But for our money, it’s a million times better than all that raking!
Astonishingly, there are one or two riding mowers out there that don’t have compatible baggers at all. And many – perhaps even most – require you to buy them separately. Check out prices before you make your final decision.
Know your own habits
Last but not least, consider what time of the day you’re most likely to mow. Will you be sitting there in blazing sunshine? If so, you may want a mower with a sunshade and cupholder to keep your thirst at bay.
Or perhaps you take to the garden when you’ve finished work for the day? If you’re likely to be mowing into the evening, you’ll probably want a model with headlights.
Ready, get set – mow!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the best riding lawn mowers on the market today. Whether you want to speed up the weekend’s gardening, or manage your country estate, there’s a model to suit.
Think about the way you’ll use your mower, and the characteristics of the ground you’ll be mowing. Check out customer reviews, and remember – sometimes more expensive options can prove cheaper in the longer term.
There are some great mowers out there, but our favorite is Ariens IKON-X 52" Zero Turn Mower. Its combination of speed, powe, and maneuverability make it a real winner.
Whichever one you choose, we wish you many hours of happy mowing. And many more hours of enjoying the results!
My name is Peter Weeks, Writer of The Daily Gardener. Gardening has always been my passion, nothing gives me quite the satisfaction that feeling the soil sift through my fingers does. Give me a spade, a shovel, and a rake, and I can happily while away the day transforming a patch of land into a beautiful oasis. To me, gardening is life. It’s not a career. It’s not a job. It’s something that I truly love doing. It’s a way of life, a passion that I’ve no intention of ever giving up.