The 6 Best Riding Lawn Mowers to Buy in 2018

Keep your lawn pristine with riding lawn mowers from Cub Cadet, Toro, and more

Young Man Riding Lawn Mower At Grassy Field
Jaak Nilson / EyeEm / Getty Images

Whether you’ve got a larger yard or simply don’t have the mobility or desire to walk behind a traditional mower, a riding lawn mower can make quick work of overgrown lawns. Your main decision before buying should be whether you want a traditional mower (sometimes called a lawn tractor) or one with a zero-turn radius – as its name suggests, the latter type of riding mower can “turn on a dime” around obstacles and is typically speedier, especially for big yards. But traditional mowers are often...MORE more stable on slopes and more versatile, with several available attachments and towing abilities.

Size is another big consideration. For lawns up to an acre, riding mowers with a 42-inch cutting deck or smaller should suffice; for up to 2 acres, upgrade to a 46- or 48-inch model. If you’ve got more than 2 acres, look for a 50- to 54-inch cutting deck. Just note that the larger you go, the harder it will be to get an even cut on anything but a mostly flat lawn.

Need help choosing? Here are six of our favorite riding lawn mowers. 

  • XT1 Enduro Series LT 46 in. 22-HP V-Twin KOHLER Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower

    Best Overall: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series LT46 Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower

    If you want a reliable, reasonably priced riding lawn mower that can easily handle most yards, look no further than the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series LT46. This traditional front-engine lawn tractor has a 46-inch twin-blade cutting deck and a 22-horsepower Kohler 7000 Series twin-cylinder engine. It has certainly caught reviewers’ eyes, earning raves from both experts and owners, and gets high marks for mulching, bagging, side discharging, handling and ease of use in expert testing.

    This Cub Cadet...MORE has a smooth, long-lasting hydrostatic transmission and can mow in reverse. It has 12 cutting heights, a lever-engaged power take-off, LED headlights, push-button cruise control, a quick-connect deck-wash system, a cup holder, and a tow hitch. Top speed is 5.5 mph, or 2.5 mph in reverse. Experts knock its lack of an electric power take-off, but most owners don’t seem to mind not having it. While a few report durability issues just after buying the mower, most say they’ve been more than satisfied, and they’re especially pleased with the tight 16-inch turning radius and clean cutting. It’s recommended for yards up to 2 acres and can handle uneven terrain and obstacles. There is a three-year limited warranty.

  • Poulan PRO 42 in. 17-1/2 HP Briggs & Stratton 6-Speed Gear Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower

    Best Budget: Poulan PRO 960460075 Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower

    Money might be tight, but you can still get a quality riding mower for under $1,000 as long as your yard isn’t massive. The Poulan PRO 960460075 gets solid reviews from users who say it boasts a good amount of power and features for the price – and it sure beats a push mower. This traditional riding mower has a 42-inch twin-blade cutting deck and a 17.5-horsepower Briggs & Stratton single-cylinder engine.

    Unlike pricier mowers, this Poulan PRO has a six-speed gear-drive manual transmission...MORE that doesn’t offer the precise control of an automatic or hydrostatic transmission. But it has most of the other essentials, including six cutting heights, a tight 16-inch turning radius, headlights, and a cup holder. It can also mow in reverse. Top speeds are 5.1 mph going forward and 1.6 mph in reverse. Most owners say it does its job just as well as pricier mowers, and some even prefer the simplicity and durability of a manual transmission, but others say there are quality-control issues and report problems with this mower right out of the box. It’s recommended for yards up to 2 acres and can handle both flat and slightly hilly terrain with obstacles. There is a two-year warranty. 

  • john-deere-lawn-mower

    Best High-End: John Deere E160

    When you simply need the best riding lawn mower, high-end options can provide more capabilities and features that will save you time. High-end mowers come with better engines, larger/more adjustable cutting decks, and advanced features like reverse mowing and mulching. Whether you need to cut a larger yard or just want something that will last, this type of riding mower is a great, long-term investment.

    Painted with the signature John Deere green finish, the E160 is the newest model and it has...MORE some cool features like a 30-second quick oil change so you can service your tractor in a jiffy. You can lower the deck easily at increments between 1 and 4-inches at 1/4-inch intervals given you the customizable option for your preferred level of grass. ​You'll also get a seat with plenty of lumbar support and a powerful new battery that starts even after lengthy storage. 

  • Best for Mid-Size Lawns: Troy-Bilt 382cc Premium

    Many people assume that small-to-medium yards aren’t large enough to warrant the use of a riding lawnmower. While a large riding mower may be overkill for the typical neighborhood yard, a mid-size mower with a smaller cutting deck can be a perfect match. Using a small frame and tight turning radius, a mid-size mower like the Troy-Bilt Premium makes mowing much faster than using its push mower cousin.

    Powered by a 382cc Auto Choke OHV engine, the Premium hides a lot of power in its small frame....MORE The 30-inch cutting deck is perfect for small-to-medium size yards, especially if the yard’s layout has awkward curves and corners to navigate. With an 18-inch turning radius, the small profile of this mower will maneuver around obstacles and patios while you sit in comfort on the padded, durable mid-back seat. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • cub-cadet-st1

    Best for Large Yards: Cub Cadet XT1 Series ST

    Large yards are where riding lawn mowers truly shine. It is difficult to underestimate how much time and effort you can save when riding around a 24 horsepower mower with a comfortable, padded seat. Unfortunately, not all riding mowers are capable of handling larger yards with ease. To really get the most efficiency from the mower, you need a large, adjustable cutting deck with multiple blades.

    When a maximum cutting area is required, the best choice is the Cub Cadet XT1 ST mower. With a 54-inch...MORE fabricated deck, three spinning blades will make short work of large yards. Powered by a 24 horsepower V-Twin gas engine, the ST can cut and mulch around steep angles, tight turns, and obstacle-laden yards. To keep maintenance quick and simple, the mower will even connect ​to your smartphone so you can access maintenance reminders, mower settings, log reports, and more. 

  • ryobi-electric-law-mower

    Best Electric: Ryobi RM480E

    In recent years, electric riding mowers have become a great alternative to traditional gas-powered engines. Easier to operate and maintain, the combination of a battery and electric motor is plenty for the average household yard. Better still, without the need for refilling the tank, electric riding mowers will save you money in the long run. Using this type of mower is easy: ride the mower when you need; park it and plug it in when you don’t.

    The 48-volt Ryobi RM480E provides a silent ride and...MORE large cutting swathe using its 38-inch two-blade deck. Lacking many of the common small parts like belts and spark plugs, the all-electric drivetrain of this mower is easier to maintain. The 48-volt battery provides up to two hours of running time and charges through a standard 120-volt wall outlet. For convenience, you will also find an easy-to-use cruise control and USB charging port. 

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