If you’re thinking of getting a tow-behind lawn sweeper, it is important to also spend time on choosing the right riding lawn mower.
Riding lawn mowers (or lawn tractors) are no longer solely used by professional gardeners or landscapers.
Prices have gone down enough to make them affordable for home owners with yards sized a half acre or beyond.
And you don’t need to look far in order to buy one: all major sellers of gardening equipment have a range of these machines available. You can also buy them online, on sites such as Amazon.com.
The time and energy riding lawn mowers save in maintaining your lawn is significant.
While riding lawn mowers are now more affordable than several years ago, they’re still not cheap (often hovering in the $1000 or above price range).
So it’s important to do your research and select the right one for you and your yard.
We’ve put together a clear and concise guide below that will help you choose the best riding lawn mower, or help you decide if you need to replace the one you currently have. As much as possible, avoiding getting a new one, so you can save on additional expenses and be kinder to the environment.
Here are a few things to consider when selecting a riding lawn mower:
Are you better off buying a zero-turn lawn mower?
If the shape and lay of your yard is not easy to navigate, and if there are obstacles such as trees and flower beds on your lawn, it’s a good idea to bypass a riding lawn mower in favour of a zero-turn lawn mower.
Zero-turn lawn mowers, as the name suggests, are able to perform a 180-degree turn without needing to “back-up” so that you don’t create a gap in the mowing pattern.
Here’s a car-driving analogy: if you were to perform a 180-degree turn in a street that was only the width of two cars, you’d most likely have to do a half-turn, then reverse, before completing the full manoeuvre. If your car had zero-turn ability however, there’d be no need to reverse. You’d be able to turn 180-degrees on the spot.
Apply the car-driving analogy to lawn mowing, and you see the benefits of not having to do a 3-point manoeuvre in a riding lawn mower.
You’d save a lot of time and get a cleaner cut.
A zero-turn mower also helps with sharp-angled edges of your lawn. Also, zero-turn mowers generally move at faster speeds compared to riding lawn mowers.
The main disadvantages of zero-turn mowers is that they struggle on slopes greater than 15 degrees, and they are more expensive than regular riding mowers. Also, regular riding mowers have steering wheels to manoeuvre them, which most people are familiar with. Zero-turn mowers have two handles on the left and right side of the driver’s seat, which makes them a bit trickier to learn how to drive.
Are you better off buying a garden tractor?
Garden tractors are larger and more powerful than riding mowers. Therefore if you have a particularly large lawn (several acres), a garden tractor might be a better option.
Due to stronger engines, garden tractors are also able to tow heavier duty attachments such as larger utility carts or even soil ploughs. And they will be able to navigate a hilly or bumpy lawn much more easily than the best riding lawn mower.
Garden tractors are amongst the most expensive types of garden equipment, so you should only invest in them if the size of you lawn warrants it.
Like cars, riding lawn mowers come with both manual and automatic transmission systems. The latter are especially helpful if your lawn has obstacles to navigate, such as trees or flower beds. An automatic transmission will make it much easier to slow down and speed up when mowing.
Despite this, it’s worth noting that some mowers with manual transmission allow you to change gears without needing to use a clutch or stop altogether, so an automatic transmission mower may not be needed.
The very best riding lawn mower will have something called a hydrostatic transmission, which is akin to an automatic transmission except it uses liquid to transfer energy to the mower’s wheels. Without the requirement of belts, it makes the mower more reliable and cheaper to maintain.
The power of your riding mower’s engine should be dictated by the size and type of your lawn, as well as the attachments you want to use.
Most mower engines can be classified as either single cylinder or the more powerful twin cylinder, and the best riding lawn mower will usually have the latter.
Twin cylinders have added benefits beyond just being more powerful. They tend to last longer, mostly because they cause less vibration (which leads to reduced wear and tear), as well as operating at cooler temperatures and providing cleaner fuel consumption.
In theory, even riding lawn mowers with a comparatively low horse power will still be good enough to mow most lawns. However, a more powerful engine tends to give the mower a better balance and will better support a large cutting deck. Which brings us to…
Size of cutting deck
At first, it may seem like a larger cutting deck is more advantageous because you get more bang for your buck, while using a riding lawn mower with a smaller deck will take longer to cut the same area.
Again, this is not such a straightforward matter as it depends on what your lawn looks like. Manoeuvring around fences, trees, outbuildings etc. will require a narrower cutting deck which will help you get closer to, and around, the edges of your lawn.
The one exception is a zero-turn lawn mower which has a wide cutting deck but is still able to maneuver around objects as its wheels can turn on the spot.
The torque of the engine is what powers the mowing blades.
If your lawn grows quickly, the grass can get quite long within a couple of weeks after a mow. Also, if you’re lucky enough to have a thick lawn, this, coupled with long grass, can put pressure on a riding mower with a lower range of engine torque.
For an overgrown or thick lawn, the higher the torque, the better the cut.
Powerful blades (a higher engine torque) will mean you get a cleaner and sharper cut the first time around, and will not have to go back over areas that you’ve already covered.
Make sure to assess the growth rate of your lawn and select engine torque accordingly.
Where to buy riding lawn mowers
If you’re in the market for a new riding mower or lawn tractor, consider the factors described above to help you choose the best riding lawn mower for your yard. Riding mowers are fantastic investments and the variety of attachments that compliment them will transform the way you take care of your lawn.
For a selection of riding lawn mowers at good prices, check out Amazon.com.
Consider getting an all-electric version to save on gas, such as the recently released Ryobi electric riding mower.