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 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.
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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... 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.
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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... 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.
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Willing to spend a little more on a riding lawn mower than can do a lot more? Check out the Cub Cadet RZT-S 50 Zero-Turn riding mower, which boasts a 50-inch triple-blade cutting deck and a 23-horsepower Kohler 7000 Series twin-cylinder engine. Like the Cub Cadet above, it can also mow in reverse, but the zero-turn radius means it can better navigate yards with a lot of flowerbeds or other landscaping features.
Unlike many zero-turn mowers, this Cub Cadet features a traditional steering wheel... instead of lap bars, bolstering ease of use and making your learning curve much less intimidating. Other features include a smooth hydrostatic transmission, eight cutting heights, a smart-jet deck-wash system, and electronic power take-off. Top speeds are 7 mph going forward and 4 mph in reverse. Owners say it’s a stable, highly maneuverable ride, though a few grouse that too many clippings accumulate on the deck while mowing. It’s recommended for yards up to 4 acres and can handle is best for flat or slightly sloped terrain with obstacles. There is a three-year limited warranty.
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Toro’s TimeCutter riding lawn mowers are consistently well-regarded, and the SW4200 is no exception. Like many mowers suited for mid-size yards, it has a 42-inch twin-blade cutting deck, and it’s powered by a Toro 24.5-horsepower twin-cylinder engine. Like the Cub Cadet RZT-S 50, this one is also a highly maneuverable zero-turn mower, and it also features an easy-to-use traditional steering wheel instead of lap bars.
Features on this Toro include dual hydrostatic transmissions, seven cutting... heights, a tilting steering column that allows users to get on the mower more easily, a towing hitch, electric power take-off, and a “smart park” brake system that automatically stops the blades and sets a parking brake when the driver hops off – all while keeping the engine running. Top speeds are 7 mph forward and 3.5 mph in reverse. Owners say this mower makes very quick work of lawns, especially those with a lot of fussy landscaping, and they say cut quality is top-notch. A few say it’s hard to keep the deck level, and there are others who report durability issues. It’s recommended for yards up to 2 acres and can handle both flat and slightly hilly terrain with obstacles. There is a three-year warranty.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Got a really big yard? That’s not a problem for the John Deere D170 traditional lawn tractor, which has a large 54-inch triple-blade cutting deck that can slice through yards 4 acres and up with ease. It’s powered by a beefy 25-horsepower twin-cylinder John Deere engine, and the cruise control feature means this mower is even easier to pilot when you want to keep a steady speed on large expanses of grass.
Other features on this John Deere include hydrostatic transmission, a tow hitch,... fade-resistant hood, a high-back seat with lumbar adjustment, headlights, a cup holder, and a deck clean-out system. Note that the turning radius on this mower is a bit wider at 18 inches, though that might not be an issue on larger, more wide-open yards. Owners appreciate how quickly they can mow a lot of grass on this model, and they say it handles longer and wetter grass just fine without getting bogged down. Despite being recommended for steeper terrain, reviewers with hilly yards give it mixed reviews. It’s backed by a two-year warranty.
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Gas-powered riding mowers still rule the roost, but if you have a smaller yard and don’t want to deal with the maintenance of a gas engine, an electric riding mower like the Ryobi RY48110 could be just the ticket. It has a 38-inch twin-blade cutting deck and is powered by a rechargeable 48-volt battery that lasts up to two hours on a single charge.
This Ryobi includes some nice features, including cruise control, LED headlights, 12 cutting heights, a cell-phone holder and a cup holder. It charges... using a standard 120-volt outlet, and the all-electric engine means a much quieter mowing experience – and zero fumes and emissions, too. Owners love that, as well as the lack of maintenance. A few reviewers say the accelerator pedal for the automatic transmission is a little too sensitive, and some say they dislike having to brake on downhill slopes. The mower is recommended for yards that are mostly flat up to 2 acres. It’s backed by a three-year warranty.
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