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Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2020

Need a robust mower that makes large lawns and different terrains a breeze? We’ve reviewed the best riding lawn mowers that make quick work of a large lawn.

Best Riding Lawn Mower Reviews of 2020

Best-in-class
Husqvarna Z254

Husqvarna Z254 54 in. 26 HP Kohler Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower

Best zero turn lawn mower

Zero turn radius and wide cutting swath makes this riding mower perfect for large yards.

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1 Husqvarna Z254 Review

The Husqvarna Z254 is an irresistible riding lawn mower designed with landscapers in mind. Perfect for commercial applications, it can help you finish your duties in no time. Unlike traditional lawn tractors, this zero turn mower brings more advantages.

The main is that the zero turn radius allows you to make sharp turns, for quicker mowing of big lawns. The same feature also makes it a breeze to maneuver around obstacles. As such, it’s a much better option that a lawn tractor on properties with lots of trees and flowerbeds.

It comes equipped with a 26HP Kohler engine that starts up instantly and outputs a speed of up to 6.5mph.

Innovative induction mowing technology brings further value. The mower draws air in while passing, lifting the grass blades for more efficient cutting. Mowing, trimming, and clipping in one pass, it also allows you to mulch the clippings, bag them, or discharge.

Comfort is another highlight. The Husqvarna Z254 comes with an ergonomic seat and ergonomic controls, while the oversized wheels provide stability and traction on all terrains.

It doesn’t come cheap but affordable for what it is, an excellent choice for heavy-duty mowing of large lawns for years to come.

Best value
Craftsman T225

Craftsman T225 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Gold 46-Inch Gas Powered Riding Lawn Mower

Best residential lawn tractor

This lawn tractor impresses with a Briggs & Stratton engine suitable for large yard jobs.

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2 Craftsman T225 Review

If you need a reliable riding lawn mower for a sloped terrain or look after a cheaper alternative to our best in class, the Craftsman T225 fits the bill. Equipped with a 19HP Briggs & Stratton Gold engine and a 46-inch cutting deck, it’s large enough to help you mow large areas quickly and effortlessly.

Like our best in class, it can mow, trim, and clip grass in one pass. Ideal for landscapes with turf, it features big wheels and high clearance. This feature, combined with the adjustable cutting height, makes it perfect for maintaining turf blades at an ideal height.

Furthermore, the oversized wheels with rugged tires improve stability and control on all terrains, including on slopes.
Another great feature is that it can mow in both forward and reverse mode.

Most homeowners also like the traditional driving design with steering wheel and foot pedals. Overall, this riding lawn mower is easier to control than a zero turn mower, as it steers just like your car.

Super-easy to maneuver and maintain, comfortable, and dependable, this is the best lawn tractor for sloped terrains as well as professional or residential use.

Also great
Troy-Bilt Pony 42X

Troy-Bilt Pony 42X 547cc Riding Lawn Mower Tractor

A more compact alternative

With a cutting deck of 42 inches, this riding lawn mower is perfect for mid-sized to large yards.

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3 Troy-Bilt Pony 42X Review

Designed with residential users in mind, the Troy-Bilt Pony 42X is a great choice for residential users. The cutting deck is only slightly smaller than the one featured by our best value, while the 547cc Troy-Bilt engine delivers sufficient power and torque for efficient cutting in one go.

Like our best value, it mows and trims the grass without effort. However, it can only discharge the clippings unless you invest in separate kits for bagging and mulching.

The 42-inch cutting swath makes it a better choice for yards with lots of obstacles or awkward corners that require a smaller cutting swath. We particularly like its robust, all-steel construction that adds durability, while seven speeds and five cutting height positions make it suitable to use for all types of grass.

Another highlight is the 18-inch turning radius, that’s narrow enough to help you optimize mowing and get over with the chore relatively fast. Easy to drive and maneuver on most terrains, this riding lawn mower is a great alternative to our best value for yards that require a smaller cutting swath.

Best budget
Troy-Bilt TB30

Troy-Bilt TB30 382cc Premium Neighborhood Riding Lawn Mower

Great value, unbeatable price point

This affordable riding lawn mower is compact enough to use in smaller, suburb yards – perfect for homeowners on a budget.

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4 Troy-Bilt TB30 Review

Whether you’re looking for an affordable riding lawn mower or the best riding lawn mower for small residential yards, the Troy-Bilt Premium might be it. Design-wise, it’s similar to the Troy-Bilt Pony 42X but is more compact and has a smaller cutting deck.

While it can tackle bigger jobs without effort, it’s also great for homeowners with smaller yards but who, for one reason or another, can’t make use of a self-propelled or push lawn mower.

That said, know that you can expect a cutting width of 30 inches and five adjustable deck heights – ideal for all types of grass.

Like our also great, it has an 18-inch turning radius, but a smaller motor that can only drive it at 4.25mph top speed. Combined with the 6-speed transmission, that’s enough for most residential tasks.

A simpler yet ergonomic construction and sturdy, all-terrain wheels also make it easy to maneuver. Reliable and affordable, this is the best riding lawn mower for people on a budget.

1. Lawn tractors vs. zero turn mowers

Both lawn tractors and zero turn mowers are designed to help homeowners and landscapers enjoy a faster and more user-friendly mowing experience. But even if they have the same purpose, the two machines are very different.

Lawn tractors

Appeal to those used to driving a car thanks to their classic appearance. They have a steering wheel and braking pedal, while speed can be controlled either by a foot pedal or hand lever.

These machines typically reach around 4 miles per hour (6.5 km/h) and offer improved stability on slopes steeper than 15%. Due to their bigger turning radius, they are harder to maneuver around obstacles.

Zero turn mowers

Owe their name to the 360° steering on the spot capability. This is possible due to the rear-wheel steering design, and this characteristic enhances the mower’s performance. Mowing a lawn with a zero turn mower is faster both because of the turning radius and wider cutting deck.

The zero turn mower is also faster, with speeds of at least 2 mph (3km/h) higher than the lawn tractor’s. These machines are harder to control at first and are less stable on slopes, but have an excellent performance on flat terrains. We detailed the features and benefits of zero turn mowers in this guide.

Lawn tractors vs. zero turn mowers comparison chart

Use the chart below to compare the features of both machines and see which is a better fit for your garden.

Features

Lawn tractor

Zero turn mower

Steering

Front wheels

Rear wheels

Turning radius

6-30°

Typical engine

Single cylinder

Twin cylinder

Typical power range

15-25 horsepower

15-25 horsepower

Controls

Steering wheel

Steering handles

Braking

Foot pedal

Steering handles

Speed

3-4 mph (5-6.5 km/h)

5-13 mph (8-20 km/h)

Max slope steepness

20%

15%

Cutting swath

30-54 inches (76-137 cm)

34-60 inches (86-152 cm)

Transmission

Manual/Automatic/Hydrostatic

Manual/Automatic/Hydrostatic

Grass clippings management

Mulch/Side discharge/Bagging

Mulch/Side discharge/Bagging

Attachments

Front and rear

Front and rear

Why invest in a riding lawn mower?

The zero turn mower mows faster and is easier to maneuver around obstacles, but a riding lawn mower is a better choice in some circumstances. Here are some advantages of the lawn tractor:

  • Much cheaper than a zero turn mower
  • More user-friendly
  • Increased stability on slopes
  • More suitable for residential use

2. Types of lawn tractors

Lawn tractors are powered by either rechargeable batteries or gas.

  • Electric lawn tractors: Are powered by batteries with a typical runtime of over two hours. The batteries are charged via a standard 120V outlet, and these machines make use of the latest technologies to boost runtime and efficiency. They typically have several brushless motors, need minimal maintenance, are quiet, and environmentally friendly.
  • Gas lawn tractors: The vast majority of the riding lawn mowers on the market are powered by gas engines of different capacities, typically single cylinder OHV; they are louder than the electric style, thus less suitable to use in areas with strict noise regulations. Gas riding are more powerful than the electric riding mowers, better balanced and capable of mowing the lawn faster. Another benefit is that they don’t need to be recharged like the electric ones giving you unlimited runtime (apart from refueling).

Front vs. rear-engine riding mowers

Besides the power supply, you can also choose from the front and rear-engine riding lawn mowers.

  • Front-engine riding lawn mowers: Have the engine placed at the front and boast the typical tractor aspect. These machines are more powerful than the rear-engine models and are typically ideal for yards larger than an acre (0.4 hectares). Thanks to their higher power, these machines also accept multiple attachments.
  • Rear-engine riding lawn mowers: Have the engine positioned under the seat on the back of the machine, and this design promotes better visibility by giving up the front bulk. Ideal for beginners, these machines are very easy to operate, although they are less powerful than their front-engine counterpart. These machines are suitable for smaller yards up to an acre (0.4 hectares) and are typically incompatible with accessories.

3. Best lawn tractor attachments

Lawn tractors serve much more than simply mowing the lawn. Manufacturers produce multiple attachments you can use for plowing, hauling, and even cleaning the snow. The most popular riding lawn mower attachments include:

4. Riding lawn mower power and deck size

Lawn tractors typically output between 12 and 25 horsepower, although there are some exceptions. A lower output of up to 14 horsepower is ideal for areas up to an acre, while the more powerful machines are suitable for larger plots.

The deck size of a riding lawn mower usually exceeds 36 inches (91 cm), with the vast majority of the machines having a deck size of at least 42 inches (107 cm). The wider the cutting deck the faster you can mow in general.

5. Riding lawn mower engine

There are two types of engines typically used in the construction of the riding lawn mowers, single and twin cylinder overhead valve engines (OHV).

  • Single cylinder OHV engines: Equip most lawn tractors and are ideal for smaller yards. These engines generate fewer vibrations, thus provide a smoother ride, and boast better heat management, preventing overheating. They are also cheaper than the twin-cylinder models but less powerful.
  • Twin cylinder OHV engines: Generate more power and last longer than the single-cylinder, but they are more expensive. They provide sufficient muscle to mow thick grass and to easily handle larger lawns. Lawn tractors are rarely equipped with a twin-cylinder engine, and these motors are typically used on zero turn mowers and garden tractors.

Engine maintenance

The best lawn tractor engine must be easy to maintain. Three things to check are the cooling, oil filtering, and air filtering systems.

  • The cooling system keeps the engine’s temperature down, extending the unit’s lifespan. Air-cooling systems are less effective in keeping the engine cool but are lighter and cheaper. Water-coolingsystems will add some heft on the mower and are more expensive but are very effective in cooling the motor, prolonging its lifespan and reducing fuel consumption.
  • An oil filtering system is important if you want to extend the time between oil changes. By delivering cleaner oil, this system also boosts the engine’s performance and lifespan. Besides filtering, also make sure changing the oil is easy.
  • The air filter also improves performance and boosts lifespan; ideally, the filter must be easy to access and change.

Popular engine brands

Riding lawn mower manufacturers typically equip their machines with engines manufactured by one of the following three leading brands.

  • Briggs & Stratton: Is the most popular and perhaps the most reliable engine manufacturers. Their products stand out from the crowd due to unrivaled power, torque, and overall size. These motors boast great performance and are able to handle the most demanding jobs. Most leading riding mower manufacturers, including Poulan and Troy-Built, equip their machines with Briggs & Stratton engines.
  • Kohler: Is another top-class name. These engines are renowned for their power and have a good general performance. Typically employed by Husqvarna and John Deere in the construction of their lawn tractors, Kohler engines will last for many years and are more affordable than Briggs & Stratton.
  • Honda: The Japanese brand manufactures reliable riding lawn mower engines which typically equip the residential lawn tractors manufactured by brands like Husqvarna, Poulan, and John Deere, to name just a few. Honda engines are also synonymous with top quality; these motors output high power and are quite easy to maintain. These engines are also cheaper than both Briggs & Stratton and Kohler, a detail that makes them popular among residential users.

6. The Best Riding Lawn Mowers in 2019 & 2020

7. Riding lawn mower transmission

The transmission system is responsible for transferring power from the engine to the wheels, allowing the lawn tractor to move forward and backward. Today’s riding lawn mowers come with either manual, automatic, or hydrostatic transmissions.

  • Manual transmission: Also called gear-driven, is the simplest and uses a system of gears to switch between speeds. You will have to shift the gear speeds manually to operate the system; the manual transmission is cheap and ideal for flat lawns with few obstacles, but difficult to operate on steep lawns with many obstacles.
  • Automatic transmission: Uses a belt and pulley system to drive the mower, and this type of transmission is easy to operate in both forward and reverse mode. You can easily accelerate by using a foot pedal or fender-mounted lever, and these systems are easy to use on all terrains. However, they are more expensive than manual
  • Hydrostatic transmission: Uses fluids to drive the machine and you don’t have to use a pedal or lever to shift speeds. This is the most reliable type of transmission but also the most expensive. However, the performance and durability will pay off in the long run. On the downside, the hydrostatic transmission requires more maintenance than manual and automatic.

How to choose the right transmission?

The easiest way to choose the right riding lawn mower transmission is by analyzing your circumstances. If you have a flat terrain with few obstacles and look for a cheaper lawn tractor, a model with a manual transmission could be a good fit.

Sloping terrains and many obstacles require automatic or hydrostatic transmission. You can save some bucks with the automatic type if you feel comfortable operating a hand lever or foot pedal. Otherwise, a hydrostatic transmission may cost more but can enhance your experience.

8. Best riding lawn mower for hills

Riding lawn mowers boast better stability on sloped terrains than their zero turn mower counterparts, but knowing how to find the best riding lawn mower for hills is essential if your terrain has slopes over 15%.

Here are the essential features of a riding lawn mower for hills:

  • Wide stance
  • Low center of gravity
  • Great traction

9. Grass clippings management

Grass clippings management include side discharge, bagging, and mulching capabilities.

  • Side discharge: Consists of a chute that throws grass clippings back onto the ground from the side. This is the cheapest system, but you’ll have to rake clippings and bag them manually once you’ve mowed your lawn.
  • Bagging: Riding lawn mowers with bagging capabilities collect the clippings in a reusable collection bag and eliminate the need to rake them when the job is done.
  • Mulching: Machines with mulching capabilities involve more blades to chop the grass clippings finely, and disposes of them back onto the lawn to fertilize the soil.

10. Additional features

A few other features can make the difference when choosing the best lawn tractor:

  • Ergonomic seat: A high-back seat with ergonomic shape is more comfortable than a standard seat.
  • Hour meter: Tells you how much time has passed since the last maintenance or oil change.
  • Cruise control: Works similar to the cruise control of a car and lets you lock the speed for more comfortable operation.

11. The Best Riding Lawn Mower for the Money

Best value
Craftsman T225

Craftsman T225 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Gold 46-Inch Gas Powered Riding Lawn Mower

Best residential lawn tractor

This lawn tractor impresses with a Briggs & Stratton engine suitable for large yard jobs.

Check price

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