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Zero Turn Mowers vs. Riding Lawn Mowers – What is the difference?

Zero Turn Mowers vs. Riding Lawn Mowers – What is the difference?

If you have been searching for the best lawn mowers on the market, then you have probably come across two distinct types of mowers: Zero Turn Mowers and Riding Lawn Mowers. There are a number of differences between these two types, but the main ones are manoeuvrability, speed, location, function and cost.

1. Difference in Manoeuvrability

The clearest difference between a riding mower and a zero turn mower is manoeuvrability. Riding lawn mowers have a wider turn radius, which means the operator has to back up or drive over already-cut grass to continue the job.

On the other hand, a zero turn mower can turn 180 degrees so you can continue cutting the lawn without leaving strips of uncut grass and repeating the process over and over again. A zero turn mower will save you time – and time is money.

If you’re cutting a lawn with lots of trees and bushes scattered throughout then a zero turn mower might be better so you can go around objects with ease.

However, a wide open space can be done well with a riding lawn mower so if you’re mowing a sports field or a golf course, then a riding lawn mower might be the better choice.

2. Difference in Terrain

Zero turn mowers and riding lawn mowers – differences

It’s advisable that you think about the angle of the slope before using a riding or zero turn mower. As the operator sits quite high it’s not a good idea to mow sideways across slopes greater than 10 degrees. Anything greater than that is done better with a mower you can walk behind as you have more control.

If you’re mowing on flat grass both a riding mower or a zero turn mower can do this well but again if you need to mow around many obstacles than a zero turn mower will do the job much better as the machine can turn in its own footprint.

3. Difference in Deck Size between Zero Turn & Riding Lawn Mowers

When choosing a mower, the deck size is a crucial factor to consider. Deck size will determine how long it will take to mow the lawn. Regardless of the mower that you choose, getting cuts too narrow a swath means that mowing will take longer.

Typically zero turn mowers have larger deck sizes than riding lawn mowers. That is why zero turn mowers mow faster than riding lawn mowers. When considering deck size, it is crucial to consider the distance between the obstacles in your yard. This will help you avoid buying a lawn mower with a deck size that is too broad for your lawn.

Zero turn mower deck sizes range from 36” to 72”. Riding lawn mower deck sizes typically range from 32” to 52”.

4. Difference in Mowing Speed between Lawn Tractors & Zero Turn Mowers

When it comes to mowing speed, zero turn mowers are much faster at around 8-16 mph, while a riding lawn mower is around 3-7 mph. Not to say riding lawn mowers are slow (you’ll still get it done a lot quicker than a lawn mower you push), but a zero turn mower will get your grass cut in half the time of a riding lawn mower.

5. Difference in Machine Control between Zero Turn & Riding Mowers

When it comes to steering a riding lawn mower is easier to operate because it’s similar to a car with a steering wheel, brake and accelerator. If you are not used to operating a large mower, then it may be advisable to use a riding mower as it’s more straightforward to operate.

The zero turn mower, on the other hand, has an innovative lever system that is used to steer, accelerate and brake the mower. It may take you a few rides to get used to the lever system but after awhile it’ll become second nature and you’ll have more control over the machine. Many people prefer the lever system of the zero turn mower because it can make tight turns, enabling you to manoeuvre easily around trees and other obstacles once you get used to the lever control system.

6. Difference in Ownership Cost. Zero Turn Mowers vs. Lawn Tractors

When it comes to purchase and cost of ownership, riding lawn mowers have the upper hand. The cost of regular maintenance like oil and filter changes, blade replacement of grease points is a bit cheaper for riding lawn mowers than zero turn mowers. The powerful engines in zero turn mowers require more time and maintenance costs. Zero turn mowers have two hydrostatic transmissions at the rear wheels while riding lawn mowers only have one. For both types it is recommended to buy a mower lift.

If you’re on a tight budget than the riding lawn mower might be a better choice for you.

Zero Turn Mower vs. Lawn Tractor Comparison

Riding Mower Zero Turn Mower
Manoeuvrability Wider turn radius – 2 or 4 wheel steer Turns in own footprint – 180-degree turning
Location Best for properties with wide, open space Best for properties with obstacles to navigate
Speed Average speed of 4 MPH Average speed of 8 MPH
Functionality Pair with attachments to haul, dethatch, spray and more Pair with attachments to bag clippings, transport materials, clear snow, and more
Cost of ownership Cheaper More expensive
Deck size Range from 32” to 52” Range from 36” to 72”

Buyer’s checklist to help you decide on the best lawn mower for you to buy

1. Engine’s horsepower (HP)

The engine’s horsepower is crucial when deciding which mower to buy. Horsepower is a measurement that determines the lawn mower’s engine output. The higher the horsepower, the more powerful the mower is. The engine’s output is usually shared between various crucial components of the mower, such as the cutting blades and the drive transmission. So, the more power output that the engine provides, the more power will be distributed between various components.

Horsepower vs Cutting Deck

The deck is the most important part of any mower. If it is designed and built correctly, it will mow your grass in one pass no matter how high it is. You can have the biggest engine available, but if the deck is not designed properly it will not clear the grass. All quality mowers match the horsepower to the deck size. So, the easiest way to know if the mower you are looking fulfills this requirement, is to take it for a spin on a property prior to purchasing. Only after a little test drive you can be sure that the mower will suit your needs.

2. Fuel capacity

This is a very important factor that most people usually overlook. For people cutting grass on a large property you’ll be looking for a mower with a large fuel tank so you don’t have to keep stopping to refuel while you’re out on the farm.

3. Cut width

The cutting width refers to how wide a swath of grass the mower can cut in a single pass, just like on walk behind string trimmers. Cutting width usually differs between mowers. Small lawn mowers have a smaller cutting width of about 36” while larger mowers have a cutting deck width up to 72”.

When determining the cutting width, it is crucial to first decide on the size of your yard. If you have a smaller yard, then there is no point in buying a mower with a large cutting width. For commercial mowers however, a wide cutting deck is great to mow your grass quicker.

4. Transmission

Lawn mower transmission refers to power from the engine to the wheels. Transmission is what allows the mower to move forwards or backwards. When it comes to lawn mower transmission, there are three options available, including:

  • hydrostatic transmission;
  • automatic; and
  • manual.

Each of the three transmissions has its own pros and cons. For instance, the manual transmission has a wide range of speeds while an automatic transmission is easy to control. The hydrostatic transmission is similar to automatic but the only difference is it uses a fluid system to transfer power instead of belts. Hydrostatic transmission usually provides the smoothest ride and also requires less maintenance.

5. Brand reputation

Before you make your final decision, it is essential to consider the brand reputation. If a brand has a good reputation through word of mouth, then you’ll feel confident buying one of their products. However, to be on the safe side we recommend that you buy a lawn mower that can be serviced in your local area, because this could save you lots of hassle later on.

If you don’t know many people who own a mower then hop online and read some reviews. Take your time and find out what other customers have bought and have said about their experiences. Do your research thoroughly before committing to a purchase.

Check out online marketplaces where you can chat to current mower owners who are selling their products to find out why they’re selling it and any more information you need. There are also many forums on Facebook and other social media websites where you can talk to people who are enthusiastic about mowers and aren’t looking to sell you anything.

6. Ease of maintenance

You don’t want to buy a lawn mower that is going to be difficult to maintain when you don’t have the time or energy. Just like any other machine, lawn mower parts usually break down over time, so you need to service and clean them regularly to avoid long-term damage. Before you buy, find out how much it will cost to maintain the machine so you know if you can afford it.

It’s also good to know if spare parts are readily available at your local dealer shop in case you need them. Sometimes you purchase a product only to discover later that the spare parts can only be imported from overseas.

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