The Difference Between Riding Mowers and Lawn Tractors

The Toro Timecutter (image) is a riding mower. It is considered zero-turn.

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Whether you're the type of person who looks at mowing the grass as a giant chore or it's your time to take a mental break, the tool you use makes a big difference in how you approach the task. For first-time homeowners, the prospect of having a lawn seems exciting, but once you get to buying a mower—that task alone seems daunting. How do you choose from push and riding lawn mowers and lawn and garden tractors?

In general, tractors are more heavy-duty and do much more than mowers. Before deciding, think about several factors. How big is the area that needs mowing? Is it large enough that you fear push mowing would be too much strain on your back? Other considerations include the attachments, mulching capabilities, double duty as a snow removal device, and so much more.

Read on to navigate the world of push and riding lawn mowers and lawn and garden tractors and learn about the differences, pros, cons, and buying tips.

Lawn Tractors vs. Garden Tractors

The creme de la creme of grass maintenance machinery is a garden tractor. It has the most functionality and is the most expensive piece of equipment you can get. Still, it does it all from hauling heavy materials, cultivating soil, plowing snow, and more with its stronger engine and sturdier construction. Most have tillers, seeders, snow throwers, front loaders, backhoes, and it has a cutting width of up to 54 inches wide, covering wider swaths than all the other machines. You can expect to pay about $2,200 to $8,000 for one. Also, it's the largest to store.

One step down from a garden tractor is a lawn tractor. Lawn tractors usually have more power than a riding lawn mower, offering cutting widths of up to 48 inches, much more than a riding lawn mower but less than a garden tractor. You can also see a difference in power levels between them. A garden tractor operates at about 24 to 29 horsepower (hp), a lawn tractor averages between 15 and 29 hp, and a riding mower has about the same power as a lawn tractor. A lawn tractor costs about $1,200 to $2,200 and can usually tow a cart. It may have some attachments, like a snow thrower. It's also a large piece of equipment.

A riding lawn tractor
A lawn tractor

IStockphoto_RAW / Getty Images

Lawn Mowers vs. Riding Lawn Mowers

Before we get into the differences between riding lawn mowers and push mowers, let's review the difference between riding lawn mowers and lawn tractors. Lawn tractors have a mid-mounted cutting deck, while a riding lawn mower's cutting deck is under the front of the vehicle. Riding lawn mowers are more maneuverable with the cutting deck at the front. Maneuverability is essential when a lawn is dotted with shrubs and trees. Riding lawn mowers are usually a little more affordable than tractors, priced between $800 and $1,400. Riding lawn mowers may also have some snow removal and spring cleaning attachments, and they are a little smaller than tractors.


Riding and push mowers are cutting tools with sharp blades and are potentially hazardous around children. Providing a child a “vehicle” may seem like a great way to the lawned mowed, but only mature, responsible adolescents should be tasked to handle heavy equipment.

However, if storage space is an issue, and if your yard isn't very large, then a riding lawn mower may be a little much for what you need. Next to consider are walk-behind mowers, including electric push mowers and self-propelled push mowers. If your yard is on the smaller side, an electric push mower may be a good fit for you. But, if you want some help getting the task done, then a self-propelled mower might be the better option.

Generally, a battery-powered electric push mower is adequate for yards up to a quarter of an acre. It is not as loud as a gasoline-powered model and can handle mowing up to a quarter of an acre on a single charge. Electic mowers come in battery-powered and corded models and are more eco-friendly than gas models. A cordless mower is best if you have about 1/4 an acre, but if you have a much smaller yard that's only about 100 feet from the house, a corded mower might work best for you. A corded model costs about $100 to $300. A cordless starts about $120 and up. Gas-powered models are $300 and up.

A self-propelling lawn mower is suitable for a yard that's between a quarter to a half-acre (or you detest the thought of mowing the yard). If a self-propelling mower with powered wheels is more your speed, they come in electric or gas-powered models. Prices start at about $350 for an electric self-propelled mower and $400 for a gas-powered one.

The Toro Timecutter (image) is a riding mower. It is considered zero-turn.
A riding lawnmower

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Tips for Shopping for a Mower

  • As when shopping for any product, avoid impulse buying. Research the various types of lawn mowers on Consumer Search before you buy.
  • Draw up your list of pros and cons for the mowers as it applies to your space and your needs. For example, if you live in a wintery weather locale, do you need a mower that can also do snow removal duty? Use the process of elimination to help you.
  • Online reviews can be helpful, but beware that more people write negative reviews than positive ones, and a perfectly great product may be characterized inaccurately.
  • If you're on a tight budget, search the online marketplace for a used mower. Also, look into machine rentals at home improvement stores like Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware supplier.
  • Spending more upfront may pay off in the long run. Pricier machines usually have more extended warranties for a reason; quality has a price.
  • If you're getting a lawn tractor, make sure it has a bumper. It will help protect your investment.