If you’re looking for the ultimate in speed and maneuverability, a zero turn mower is a great choice. They don’t come cheap, though, so check out this guide before you buy. I’ll show you how to get the best zero turn mower for your conditions. And I’ll review seven of the top models to help you choose.
At a glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Zero Turn Mower
Best Zero Turn Mower on the market 2019
1. Ariens Zoom Kohler 6000 Series Zero Turn Lawn Mower (Best zero turn mower for the money)
The Zoom 34 from Ariens is as nippy as you’d expect from its name. Its 34 inches wide cutting deck is just the ticket for gardens of between half an acre and two acres.
The construction here is high quality. It comes with a three-year limited warranty for the machine, with five years for the deck and frame. That deck is made of tough 12-gauge steel, so it will cope with uneven terrain without buckling. The spindles and bearings are made of steel too.
There are seven cutting heights to choose from, ranging from 4 inches to just an inch. So whether you’re making the first cut of the season or the last, there’s a setting to suit. The deck lift is foot operated, making it fast and simple to change cutting heights.
The engine is made by Kohler and offers 660cc of power. It gives a ground speed of six miles per hour going forward, with three miles per hour in reverse.
There are no headlights or hour meter with this mower, so if they’re important to you look elsewhere. And the seat back is a little lower than the other Ariens on our list, the IKON-X.
But this is a well-built mower that will give you great results in gardens up to the two-acre mark.
- Sturdy construction in 12-gauge steel
- Choice of seven cutting heights from one to four inches
- Foot operated deck lift
- No headlights or hour meter
- The seat isn’t the most comfortable out there
2. Swisher ZTR2454BS Response Zero Turn Mower
An altogether larger option than the Ariens Zoom 34, Swisher’s zero turn mower has a generous 54-inch cutting deck. That makes it a good choice for larger plots.
It’s fast too. The 24 horsepower engine by American manufacturers Briggs and Stratton powers it along at up to eight miles per hour. And unusually, it will attain that speed in both forward and reverse gears.
The frame is made of commercial grade welded steel. The cutting heights are a little higher than the Zoom 34, ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 inches. Again, the deck is raised and lowered with your foot.
This is a particularly good mower if you want to mulch your garden debris. It comes equipped with three Gator mulching blades, so there’s no need to buy a separate mulching kit.
There’s a debris shield at the front, so you won’t be covered in dust and cuttings. The design also assists air flow to stop the chopped up grass from clumping together.
The cutting deck is made of 11-gauge fabricated steel and there are heavy-duty fenders to protect it from knocks. There are some neat extras too: integrated storage, an hour meter, 12V adaptor, and even a cup holder!
The seat is comfortable, with a high back and well-positioned armrests. And there’s a patented Rapid Response Control System. This is designed to allow you to reach all the controls easily for confident mowing.
- Patented Rapid Response Control System for effortless mowing
- Impressive top speed of 8 miles per hour in both forward and reverse gears
- Great for mulching, with no separate kit required
- Fairly bulky, so better for larger plots
- It’s not the cheapest, so you’ll need deep pockets.
3. Husqvarna MZ61 Kawasaki Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower (Best commercial zero turn mower)
If you’ve got serious acreage, the MZ61 from Husqvarna – aka “Husky” to those in the know – should make your shortlist. Its 61-inch cutting deck will make short work of large plots, cutting around 4.2 acres an hour.
A machine this size needs some special arrangements. Its shipping weight is 800 pounds, and you’ll need a forklift truck to move it when it’s delivered. Deal with that, though, and you’ll be getting a top-notch mower.
It’s powered by a 24 horsepower Kawasaki engine with a top speed of 8.5 miles per hour going forward. You can go at up to five miles per hour in reverse too.
The MZ61 is also available with a 26 horsepower engine by Briggs and Stratton, retailing at a slightly lower price point. Despite its larger capacity, it doesn’t generate as much torque as the Kawasaki. If you need something with more heft, it’s worth paying the extra.
The deck lifting system is easy to operate from the driver’s seat, using a simple pedal. You can choose from 12 settings, cutting your grass from 1.5 to 4.5 inches. The deck is made from strong 11-gauge steel, with cast aluminum spindles.
Cuttings can be discharged to the side, mulched, or collected. The bagger attachment is sold separately, but in my view, it’s a must. Who wants to finish mowing and then spend hours collecting cuttings? The bag is generous too, holding nine bushels – so you won’t have to empty it every five minutes.
This is a mower designed to be comfortable over long periods of use. The seat has plenty of padding, a nice high back, and armrests. There are even vibration dampeners to minimize the impact on your hands and arms.
And with all this power, Husky has put a premium on safety. The mower comes with a roll-over protection system or ROPS. This is essentially a large bar to protect you in the unlikely event that the mower tips over.
- Generous 61-inch cutting deck is great for large plots
- Powerful and reliable Kawasaki engine
- Option to purchase separate bagger attachment for easier grass collection
- You’ll really need a forklift to take delivery
- One of the most expensive mowers on our list
4. Husqvarna Z254 Kohler Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower (Best Residential Zero Turn Mower)
The second Husky to make our list, the cutting deck of the Z254 is a little smaller at 54 inches. And while it’s not quite as speedy, the 26 horsepower engine still delivers a top speed of 6.5 miles per hour. It will handle an area of around 2.8 acres an hour, making it a good option for medium sized areas.
The mower deck can be set to six different cutting heights. There are three blades, each made of 12-gauge stamped steel. And there’s a handy wash-out port to make cleaning easy.
If you’ve got uneven ground, the four anti-scalp wheels will be a major bonus. They keep the mower steady on bumpy surfaces, preventing the blades from tearing up the grass.
A great feature of the Z254 is its hydrostatic transmission. This avoids the need for hydraulic hoses, so there’s nothing to spring a leak. There’s a wheel motor for each drive wheel, with 10cc pumps cooled by fans. Together, they give you smooth acceleration and enough torque to handle hills and uneven terrain.
There’s a welded steel chassis to reduce vibration, and the seat is ergonomically designed to give effective lumbar support. You won’t need to stretch for the controls either: the ignition, throttle, and choke are located together within easy reach.
If you like some bells and whistles, you’ll enjoy the hour meter and cup holder. And there are a range of optional extras too. The all-important bagger attachment is available, as are a mulcher kit, headlights, and hitch.
- Anti-scalp wheels for even mowing on bumpy ground
- Hydrostatic transmission gives smooth acceleration and plenty of torque
- Washout port for easy cleaning
- Not as fast as other mowers with this size cutting deck
5. Ariens IKON-X (52") Zero Turn Mower
Slightly smaller again in the deck department, Arien’s IKON-X offers a cutting width of 52 inches. A powerful and reliable Kawasaki engine provides a top forward speed of around seven miles per hour. In reverse, you can go up to three miles per hour.
The mower deck is a little lighter than other mowers on our list, made of 10-gauge steel. It’s carefully designed to optimize airflow to prevent cuttings clogging up the three steel blades. The result is a crisp, smooth cut at any of the thirteen cutting heights.
Choose from a cut of 1.5 to 4.5 inches by turning a dial. A particularly nice feature of the deck design is the way it protrudes on one side. If you have stone curbs you want to cut up against, it will give you a good, neat finish.
This is another mower designed to cope with the bumpy ground. The tubular steel frame is tough and stable, with a smooth ride provided by the Hydro-Gear EZT transaxles.
The seat here is a cut above the one you’ll find on many mowers. It’s fully padded and can be adjusted to respond to your personal preferences. Arm-rests are provided as standard, and a foot mat made from insulated rubber reduces vibrations.
There are plenty of accessories available to allow you to use the IKON-X in a whole range of ways. Get the headlights to mow at night, or the sunshade to cope with the heat of the day. Mulching, rolling, spreading, de-thatching, aerating and spraying can all be done with their own bespoke attachment.
But despite this impressive range of options, there is – inexplicably – no sign of a bagger. If you’re not mulching, expect to spend plenty of time raking up those cuttings.
- Hydro-Gear EZT transaxles offer a smooth ride, even on bumpy ground
- Deck design allows neat cutting around curbs
- Ultra-comfortable seat
- The mowing deck is a lighter gauge than some
- No optional bagger attachment means you’ll be doing plenty of raking
6. Mowox MNA152613 Zero-Turn Radius Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
If you thought all zero turn mowers were ride-on, think again. The Mowox MNA152613 is a self-propelled walk-behind model, good for people with less extensive areas to mow.
Powered by gas, there’s a handy electric starter to avoid having to pull a starter cord. It’s a particularly useful feature for anyone with lower levels of upper body strength. Just remember to charge the battery before you try to start it up.
The front wheel rotates through 360 degrees to make it easy to maneuver. There’s no need to lift the mower in order to turn it. And you get a choice of six different cutting heights.
The self-propelling feature takes the strain from up-hill mowing. Beware, though: if you’re cutting on steep slopes, you may have to deal with it slipping from time to time.
At a fraction of the price of ride-on mowers, this is well worth considering for gardens of up to half an acre. You will, though, need to be ready to do a bit of self-assembly when it arrives.
- Electric starter button for easy start-up
- The self-propelling function takes the hard work out of walk-behind mowing
- Hard work on gardens above half an acre or so
- Liable to slipping on steeper slopes
- Some self-assembly needed
7. Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP Riding Lawn Mower
The Super Mustang XP from Troy-Bilt combines a slim-line design with a 50-inch cutting deck. It’s a good combination for people looking to cut large areas efficiently, but with limited storage space. And the price is competitive too.
You’ll be able to choose from six cutting heights, with three blades giving a smooth finish. There’s also an integrated deck wash for easy cleaning.
The top speed in forwarding gear is 7 miles per hour, which reduces to 2.5 miles per hour in reverse. You’ll be able to cover around 2.5 acres in an hour’s mowing.
It’s operated with lap bars that are designed to suit drivers of all sizes. Push them out of the way to dismount, and the movement will automatically engage the parking brake. So there’s no danger of finding yourself with a runaway mower!
And if you’re looking for a machine to do more than cut grass, there are plenty of accessories on offer. They include a bagger with Troy-Bilt’s FastAttach technology, designed to connect in seconds without tools.
- Slim-line design requires less storage space
- Easy-use lap bars automatically engage the brake on the dismount
- Handy FastAttach system connects accessories in seconds
- The cutting deck isn’t as durable as some.
Still not sure which mower is right for you? Never fear! Read on to learn how to match your garden to the mower that will suit it best.
How big should your mower be?
There are a couple of things to bear in mind here. First and most obvious is the area of grass you need to cut.
For anything above half an acre, a ride-on mower is a good choice. If your patch of greenery is smaller than that, a ride-on won’t represent value for money. And you’ll have to maneuver a bulkier machine than you need. Opt instead for a walk-behind mower like the self-propelled Mowox MNA152613.
Supposing you have a garden of more than half an acre, next consider the cutting deck width. Ride-on mowers will vary widely here – those on our list range from 34 to 61 inches wide. The wider the deck, the greater the area it will cover in a single pass. But it will generally be more expensive too.
The second thing to bear in mind is that you’ll need somewhere to store your mower. You’re going to be spending a lot of money, so it needs to be secure and protected from the weather. That means you’re going to need a lockable outbuilding.
Make sure you check the dimensions of your mower so you’re confident it will fit in your shed or garage! And if you need to pass gates or narrow passages to reach your lawn, don’t forget to measure those too. A slightly smaller mower might be a better option than tearing up gateposts and fences!
As well as size, think about the characteristics of the area you’ll be mowing. Some mowers will cope better than others with slopes. Lighter machines, in particular, can be prone to tipping over. Check the specifications for recommended gradients.
Zero turn mowers are great for cutting around obstacles like flower beds or ponds, but even here there are differences. If you want to cut neatly around a low barrier, the IKON-X from Ariens is a good choice. The cutting deck here protrudes on one side, allowing you to cut right up against the boundary.
Comfort is key
Whether you’re using a ride-on or walk-behind zero turn mower, comfort is important. Sitting or standing awkwardly can lead to joint pain. And if the controls are too heavy or awkward to use easily, you won’t get a good result.
If possible, sit in the seat of a ride-on mower before you buy. Check that you can reach the ignition, choke and throttle easily.
Try out the deck lift. If it’s operated by a pedal, is it close enough? If it’s a dial, is it simple to turn? Can you adjust it whilst sat in the operator’s seat, or will you have to interrupt your mowing to make changes?
What about the seat itself? Is there sufficient padding to avoid aches and pains after long periods of mowing? Is the backrest comfortable? Does it support your lumbar region?
Vibrations can cause serious discomfort, particularly if you’re mowing on uneven ground, so look for features that reduce them. A robust chassis and rubber footwell will both help. And some mowers will have dampeners incorporated into the design.
Ready to choose?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of the best zero turn lawn mowers out there. Invest in the right one for your garden, and you’ll find grass-cutting becomes a pleasure instead of a chore.
To do that, think about the conditions your mower will need to handle. Is it flat or bumpy? Are there curbs to cut around? How big a cutting deck do you need?
My top pick is the Husqvarba MZ61 zero turn lawn mower. Its quality construction, multiple cutting heights and ultra-comfortable seat make it a winner. A machine this size, though, is best suited to a large garden.
Whichever mower you choose, here’s to the smooth, neat lawn of your dreams!