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Best Riding Lawn Mower to Keep Your Yard Looking Good

Riding Lawn Mower
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updated: July 10, 2024
edited by Alexandra Frost
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Mowing your yard with a push mower is no easy task. When I bought my three-acre property, I knew I had to upgrade to a riding lawn mower. Riding mowers not only make it physically easier to mow larger, hilly, or otherwise challenging spaces, but they speed up the process, too. To get the best results from a riding lawn mower, it’s important to choose a machine that’s well-suited to your yard.

I interviewed landscaping experts who use riding lawn mowers daily and who understand the nuances of these machines. These experts shared their tips on what to look for in a quality mower and how to choose the mower that’s best for your budget and your home. I incorporated their pro tips to compile my recommendations of the best riding lawn mowers on the market.

Our top picks for the best riding lawn mowers

Best for most people: Husqvarna 42 in. 21.5 HP Gas-Powered ClearCut Zero-Turn Mower

Husqvarna 42 in. 21.5 HP Gas-Powered ClearCut Zero-Turn Mower

Husqvarna 42 in. 21.5 HP Gas-Powered ClearCut Zero-Turn Mower

With its no-maintenance hydrostatic transmission and durable steel cutting deck, this mower is suitable for many mowing jobs. The mower is equipped with an innovative parking brake system that automatically activities or deactivates when you move the steering levers, making for easy use. Other features like an ergonomic control panel, anti-slip foot area, adjustable cutting height, headlights, and mulching capability make this a versatile mower.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 21.5 HP
  • Engine Type: Twin cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 42 inches
  • Height Range: 1.5 to 4 inches
  • Transmission Type: Hydrostatic
  • Price on Publish: $3,699.99

Pros:

  • Maximum speed of 6.5 miles-per-hour
  • Discharge, bag, and mulch capabilities
  • Brake system automatically engages and disengages
  • Ergonomic control panel and seat designed for comfort
  • Three-year limited warranty

Cons:

  • Expensive

The bottom line:

This zero-turn mower features a hydrostatic transmission to save you time on maintenance, a braking system that automatically engages and disengages, and a top speed of 6.5 miles-per-hour for versatile, time-saving mowing.

Best for most people - runner up: Craftsman T2400 Turn Tight 46-in 23-HP V-twin Gas Riding Lawn Mower

Craftsman T2400 Turn Tight 46-in 23-HP V-twin Gas Riding Lawn Mower

Craftsman T2400 Turn Tight 46-in 23-HP V-twin Gas Riding Lawn Mower

This mower pairs the convenience of a ride-on machine with a five-inch turning radius, making it one of the more agile mowers available. It’s available in three mower deck size options, with the 46-inch deck being suitable for up to 1.5 acres of land. The foot pedal transmission control makes for smooth gear transitions, and the 23 HP engine is suitable for most mid-sized lawns.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 23 HP
  • Engine Type: Twin cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 46 inches
  • Height Range: 1.5 to 3.75 inches
  • Transmission Type: Hydrostatic
  • Price on Publish: $2,699.00

Pros:

  • Five-inch turning radius
  • 12 deck positions
  • Also available with a 42- or 54-inch cutting deck
  • Soft-touch steering wheel and high-back seat maximize comfort
  • Three-year limited warranty

Cons:

  • Bagger and mulching kit sold separately

The bottom line:

This mower features a tight turning radius for easy maneuverability, while the 46-inch deck can handle lawns of up to 1.5 acres.

Best budget riding lawn mower: Cub Cadet XT1 LT42B Riding Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet XT1 LT42B Riding Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet XT1 LT42B Riding Lawn Mower

This riding lawn mower is designed for yards up to 1.5 acres in size. The foot controlled hydrostatic transmission means there’s no shifting to worry about, and the mower reaches up to 5.5 miles per hour for efficient mowing. While it’s affordably-priced, it still includes other desirable features like a cup holder, cruise control, and operator presence system for safety.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 19 HP
  • Engine Type: Single cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 42 inches
  • Height Range: 1 to 4 inches
  • Transmission Type: Hydrostatic transmission
  • Price on Publish: $2,299.00

Pros:

  • 12 cutting positions
  • Adjustable high back seat for comfort
  • Cast iron pivot bar makes this a strong and durable mower
  • Three-year warranty and five-year chassis and front axle unlimited hour warranty

Cons:

  • Mulching kit sold separately
  • 16-inch turning radius

The bottom line:

This mower can reach up to 5.5 miles per hour and features 12 cutting positions, so it’s ideal for lawns up to 1.5 acres.

Best electric riding lawn mower: EGO Power+ 42-Inch 56-Volt Cordless Zero Turn Radius Mower

EGO Power+ 42-Inch 56-Volt Cordless Zero Turn Radius Mower

EGO Power+ 42-Inch 56-Volt Cordless Zero Turn Radius Mower

This electric mower is capable of mowing up to 2.5 acres in a single battery charge. If you have a larger yard, you can purchase and add on additional batteries to increase the range. The batteries are interchangeable with other EGO platform tools, too. Capable of reaching up to eight miles per hour, this mower is an efficient choice for larger yards, and includes premium features like a steering wheel for precise handling, LED lights, a USB charging port, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: Equivalent of 22 HP
  • Engine Type: Electric
  • Cutting Width: 42 inches
  • Height Range: 1.5 to 4.5 inches
  • Transmission Type: Electric
  • Price on Publish: $5,499.00

Pros:

  • 10 position cutting height adjustments
  • Control, standard, and sport driving modes
  • Option to add on batteries for a greater range
  • Reaches four to eight miles per hour

Cons:

  • Expensive

The bottom line:

With the four included batteries, this electric mower can mow up to 2.5 acres, or you can purchase and add on extra batteries for greater mowing capacity on a single charge.

Best small riding lawn mower: Cub Cadet CC30H Riding Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet CC30H Riding Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet CC30H Riding Lawn Mower

This Cub Cadet riding lawn mower features a compact design that makes it suitable for smaller yards. The hydrostatic drive transmission makes for a smooth ride, while the high back seat helps to maximize your comfort while you mow. This mower even includes a mulcher, so it’s a versatile choice, and it’s equipped with LED headlights and a cup holder.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 10.5 HP
  • Engine Type: Single cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 30 inches
  • Height Range: 1.5 to 4 inches
  • Transmission Type: Hydrostatic transmission
  • Price on Publish: $2,239.00

Pros:

  • High back seat provides elevated back support for comfort
  • Five deck positions
  • Includes a mulch kit
  • Three-year limited warranty

Cons:

  • Low power engine
  • Only reaches four miles per hour

The bottom line:

This compact mower is suitable for smaller yards and features a hydrostatic transmission for easy driving.

Best gas-powered: Craftsman Z5800 54-in 24-HP V-twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower

Craftsman Z5800 54-in 24-HP V-twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower

Craftsman Z5800 54-in 24-HP V-twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower

This gas-powered mower features a 24 horsepower engine, so it’s plenty strong for larger mowing jobs. With its 54-inch deck, it’s recommended for lawns up to four acres. The three-way adjustable lap bar gives you precise control as you work, and the high back seat and rubber foot pad help to minimize vibration for a more comfortable ride.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 24 HP
  • Engine Type: Twin cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 54 inches
  • Height Range: 1.5 to 3.75 inches
  • Transmission Type: Hydrostatic transmission
  • Price on Publish: $3,499.00

Pros:

  • High back seat for comfort
  • Tires maximize traction without causing yard damage
  • Highly durable stamped steel mowing deck
  • Three-year limited manufacturer warranty and five-year frame warranty

Cons:

  • Bagging and mulching kits sold separately

The bottom line:

This gas-powered mower features a 54-inch deck and is capable of handling lawns up to four acres in size for time-saving, efficient mowing.

Best zero-turn: Ariens Apex 60-in 24-HP V-twin Gas Zero-turn Riding Lawn Mower

Ariens Apex 60-in 24-HP V-twin Gas Zero-turn Riding Lawn Mower

Ariens Apex 60-in 24-HP V-twin Gas Zero-turn Riding Lawn Mower

This zero turn mower delivers significant power and a 60-inch cutting width suitable for larger properties that are five acres and up. The deck lift system is foot-operated for convenience, and the deck itself features a reinforced leading edge to maximize airflow when you’re mowing in tough conditions. And, since you’ll probably be spending some significant time mowing, it’s equipped with a high back seat with lumbar support and armrests.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 24 HP
  • Engine Type: Twin cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 60 inches 
  • Height Range: 1.5 to 5 inches
  • Transmission Type: Dual hydrostatic transmission
  • Price on Publish: $6,099.00

Pros:

  • Reaches up to eight miles per hour
  • Self-adjusting belt tension helps to maximize belt life
  • Foot-operated deck lift system provides 15 adjustments
  • Four-year/500-hour limited warranty

Cons:

Expensive

The bottom line:

This zero turn mower is a rugged machine capable of mowing lawns that are five acres and up, plus it includes desirable features like a foot-operated deck lift system.

Best for hills: Cub Cadet ZTS2 60 Zero Turn Mower

Cub Cadet ZTS2 60 Zero Turn Mower

Cub Cadet ZTS2 60 Zero Turn Mower

Navigating hills on riding lawn mowers can get tricky, but this zero turn mower is designed specifically to handle slopes of up to 20 degrees. It features Synchro-Steer™ technology which gives you control of all four wheels and which lets you run the mower with one hand. A fully adjustable high back seat with armrests and seat isolators creates a smoother ride, and the tilted steering column also helps to maximize comfort.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 26 HP
  • Engine Type: Twin cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 60 inches
  • Height Range: 1 to 4.5 inches
  • Transmission Type: Dual hydrostatic transmission
  • Price on Publish: $5,999.00

Pros:

  • Soft-touch steering wheel and vibration-dampening rubber floor mat
  • Designed for slopes up to 20 degrees
  • Speeds of up to seven miles per hour
  • Three-year limited warranty without any hour limit

Cons:

  • Expensive

The bottom line:

This zero turn mower is equipped with Synchro-Steer™ technology, giving you control of all four wheels and helping you navigate hills of up to 20 degrees.

Best lawn tractor: John Deere S100 42-in 17.5-HP Gas Riding Lawn Mower

John Deere S100 42-in 17.5-HP Gas Riding Lawn Mower

John Deere S100 42-in 17.5-HP Gas Riding Lawn Mower

If you’re looking for a versatile mower, this lawn tractor can be paired with all sorts of attachments, including a snowblower, tow-behind spreader, tow-behind cart, and more. Its wide footrest areas feature anti-vibration floor mats to help keep you comfortable, and the lift lever is ergonomically designed for easy operation. This lawn tractor is ideal for lawns up to one acre.

Specifications

  • Engine Power: 17.5 HP
  • Engine Type: Single cylinder
  • Cutting Width: 42 inches
  • Height Range: 1 to 4 inches
  • Transmission Type: Hydrostatic transmission
  • Price on Publish: $2,199.00

Pros:

  • Includes a storage compartment and beverage holder
  • Capable of mulching and bagging
  • Solid one-piece frame is built of solid steel for durability 
  • Two-year limited warranty
  • Many accessories and attachments available

Cons:

Only suitable for lawns up to one acre

The bottom line:

You can pair this lawn tractor with numerous attachments, like a tow-behind spreader and snowblower, for versatile use around your home.

How I selected the best riding lawn mower

To choose the best riding lawn mowers, I considered the criteria that the experts outlined. I tried to include mowers with various engine types, fuel sources, and powers. I also considered the mower deck size, whether additional attachments or replacement parts are available, and features like the cutting height range. Finally, I looked at features that make the mower easy and comfortable to use, like the seat design and transmission type, as well as the mower’s overall price.

What to consider when buying a riding lawn mower

Cutting width

Gavin Warwick, founder of Boise Landscaping Company, notes that one of the most important factors is the mower’s cutting width and the size of your lawn. “If your lawn is more than two acres, you shouldn’t be looking at anything with less than 48 inches of cutting width,” he says. He recommends a cutting width of at least 45 inches for lawns between one and two acres. A cutting width of at least 40 inches is suitable for lawns from half to one acre, while a 30- or 35-inch width mower will work for very small lawns.

Keep in mind that cutting width will affect the amount of time you spend mowing your lawn. A cutting width that is too small will mean mowing takes longer, and since you’ll need to repeatedly mow during the course of the season, you’ll be wasting a lot of time with a mower that’s too small for the job.

Don’t forget to consider how you plan to store the mower when you choose its size, too. If you have a smaller shed or limited space in your garage, you’ll need to make sure that the mower’s dimensions will fit in the space.

Mower engine type and power

Warwick notes that the mower’s engine type and power also need to be suitable for your lawn. Both single-cylinder and twin-cylinder mowers exist. Twin-cylinder mowers are more powerful, but they’re also more expensive. If you can afford it, Warwick recommends choosing a twin-cylinder mower.

”For engine power, if your lawn is larger than two acres, you’ll want at least 25 horsepower (HP),” says Warwick. He says that 21 HP is suitable for lawns from one to two acres, while 18 HP will suffice for a half to one acre. A 15 HP mower should be capable of handling a lawn that’s less than half acre.

Fuel type

Consider the ideal fuel type for your mower, too. Gas mowers are highly popular, but you’ll need to buy and store gasoline and perform engine oil maintenance and changes. Electric mowers are increasingly popular, but have limited battery ranges before you’ll need to recharge. If you’re thinking about buying an electric lawn mower, review the size of your yard and be sure to buy a mower with a large enough battery runtime so that you can mow the yard in one go.

Ease of maintenance

Scott McLeod, owner of McLeod Landscaping Inc., has over three decades of landscaping experience. He explains that it’s important to choose a riding mower that is designed for easy maintenance. “Designs that allow easy access to the engine, filter replacements, and blade maintenance can save a lot of headaches and money, over time.”

Additional features

As you shop, you’ll find that ride-on mowers have a wide range of additional features such as seat suspension, extra comfortable seat designs, Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to charge your phone as you mow.. These features can be nice to have, but they will also drive up the mower’s price. Think about what matters most to you, as well as your budget, when deciding what features are worth paying more for.

Riding lawn mower maintenance for longevity

Warwick notes that riding lawn mowers require significant maintenance. He highlights the importance of sharpening the blades at least a couple of times during each season, cleaning the mower up after each use to help prevent rust, and regularly inspecting the engine oil and air filters. Other maintenance needs, like emptying fuel at the end of the season, changing out engine oil, and replacing worn belts need to be done less frequently. While you can choose to do the maintenance yourself, many retailers and mechanics also offer mower maintenance and repair services.

Best time to buy a riding lawn mower

Warwick explains that it’s often best to buy a riding lawn mower during the off-season, especially in late fall to early winter, since stores often offer discounts to clear out old inventory. However, your selection may be limited during these times, and it might be hard to find the specific mower that you’re looking for. Buying in the spring means you’ll have access to all of the newer models, and retailers may offer discounts or special deals. Also, riding mowers are also often available during end-of-summer clearances, when traditional lawn mowers also go on deep discount.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What brand of riding mower is the most reliable?

McLeod feels that Husqvarna is the most reliable riding lawn mower brand. “Their models have consistently performed well for us across a range of tasks and conditions, from basic lawn care to more demanding landscape maintenance tasks,” he explains. “In terms of durability, they’ve proven themselves time and again, handling the rigorous demands of commercial landscaping without significant downtime.” He believes that a well-maintained Husqvarna mower can last longer than less durable machines.

What is the best type of riding mower?

McLeod recommends a zero-turn riding mower for properties that require precise maneuverability. “These mowers are unmatched in their ability to navigate around obstacles such as trees, garden beds, and other landscaping features efficiently,” he says. “Their speed and agility drastically reduce mowing time, which has been a game-changer for our operations, especially in extensive commercial spaces.”

What is the life expectancy of a riding lawn mower?

“A riding lawn mower should easily last at least five years, and can go up to 10 or even 15 years with proper maintenance,” says Warwick. To maximize the life expectancy of your riding lawn mower, ensure proper care and maintenance to be able to see that type of longevity.

What’s the difference between a riding lawn mower and a lawn tractor?

Warwick explains that while riding lawn mowers and lawn tractors can look very similar, their abilities are different. Tractors tend to be more powerful, have more features, and are larger than riding lawn mowers. They can also be paired with attachments, like lawn carts, making them more versatile than riding mowers.

How fast do riding lawn mowers go?

The speed that a riding lawn mower can reach will depend on the type of mower, says Warwick. “The fastest type, zero-turn mowers, can go up to 10 miles-per-hour, and sometimes even faster,” Warwick explains.

How do you transport a riding mower?

You can transport a riding lawn mower using a utility trailer. Warwick recommends securing the mower with tie-down straps, removing the key and disconnecting the battery so it can’t accidentally start, and turning off the fuel supply.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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