No gas and limited maintenance required
Great performance, even in thick grass
Impressive battery life
Questions about longevity
Expensive replacement batteries
There are a number of reasons why an electric yard tool like the RYOBI RM480e Electric Riding Mower might appeal to you when shopping for a lawn mower. Maybe you’re looking for ways to be more eco-friendly, or perhaps you’re tired of doing maintenance on your gas mower. Regardless of your reasoning for considering a battery-powered mower, there’s undoubtedly one big question on your mind: Will it get the job done?
Electric tools are known to be less powerful than their gas-powered counterparts, so you may be wondering if this electric mower can handle your thickest patches of grass. To find out just how the RYOBI Electric Riding Lawn Mower measures up, I put it to the test on a 10-acre farm, consulting with my resident lawn maintenance expert and power tool enthusiast—aka my father—to decide if this battery-powered machine is worth the price.
Setup: Bring your own tools
The RYOBI Electric Riding Lawn Mower is delivered on a metal crate, covered in plastic that we had to cut away. There are only a few major steps required for setup: connecting the battery, installing the seat and steering wheel, and attaching the front bumper. However, this process took us around an hour from start to finish, so be sure you have a chunk of time dedicated to the task.
Setup was fairly straightforward, as the directions were thorough and included easy-to-understand illustrations. There are four small tools included with the mower, but we found it was much faster to use our own tools.
“Overall, it wasn’t complicated if you follow the written instructions,” my father said. “However, I would recommend having a set of metric wrenches handy as a replacement to the small tools provided. They weren’t completely useless, but pretty close.”
We then had to disassemble the metal crate and create a ramp to get the mower off. We ended up using a few spare boards to accomplish this.
Our only complaint about the setup process is that there were a lot of packing materials, and the metal crate has a sticker on it that says to throw it away. Considering that one of the main selling points of an electric lawn mower is its eco-friendly nature, this seemed a bit odd.
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Design: Could be more comfortable
Overall, this lawn mower is easy to use and has a lot of helpful features. It starts right up when you turn the key, and you can easily select forward, backward, or neutral on the control panel next to the seat. The accelerator pedal is on the right side of the steering column and the brake is on the left, and both are extremely easy to push. Similar to an electric golf cart, the machine slows down significantly when you let off the accelerator, so you really only have to touch the brake to stop.
The seat itself is not very comfortable, especially when you’re mowing for a long period of time.
We particularly like the mower’s battery level indicator, which provides you with an idea of how much charge is remaining. This panel also includes an hour meter, which tracks the total number of hours the mower has been used. Additional buttons control the machine’s headlights and cruise control. There’s even a USB connector and electronics holder so you can charge your phone while you mow, as well as a cup holder behind the deck height adjuster.
The mower travels at a maximum speed of 8 mph moving forward and 3 mph in reverse, and when it’s time to start cutting, there’s a small, easy-to-operate knob that starts and stops the mower blades. When the blades are engaged, the machine can go up to 5 mph. We thought the cruise control was a really cool feature—it’s ideal for when you’re working on a large yard, as it effectively holds the mower at a steady speed while you take your foot off the accelerator.
While these features are quite useful, the mower isn’t without its flaws. For one, the seat itself is not very comfortable, especially when you’re mowing for a long period of time. As my father noted, “If you ride it for two hours straight, you definitely feel soreness in your back when you get off—at least this middle-aged man's body did!”
Further, though the machine has a steel frame and rear wheel drive, some of the parts didn’t strike us as particularly durable.
“The parts that connect the front wheels to the steering wheel don’t appear to be rugged enough to handle any rough terrain,” he notes. “It’s fine for a level, straight lawn, but I think cutting on the bumpy ground of a larger property would eventually overtax the materials used.”
Performance: On par with the pros
The major question we had regarding this electric lawn mower is whether it could handle thick, unruly grass. The mower has a 38-inch two-blade deck (a bit smaller than a traditional full-size mower), dual high-powered brushless motors, and a 12-position manual deck adjustment that lets you select mowing heights between 1.5 and 4.5 inches.
We tested the mower’s cutting abilities several times, starting with a two-acre plot in a large field, then moving on to the front yard and a section of heavy, overgrown lawn. In each task, we found that the RYOBI exceeded expectations, cutting and handling just as well as a commercial-grade gas mower.
“I’m quite impressed with the mower’s cutting performance!” my father said. “I took it through an area of heavy, 6-inch grass, and it honestly handled the cutting as well as my commercial Husqvarna zero-turn mower. That’s pretty amazing.”
It handled cutting as well as a commercial Husqvarna zero-turn mower. That’s pretty amazing.
The mower does feature a reverse operation mode—we just stopped the machine, toggled it to reverse, then reengaged the blades—but as a safety precaution, the machine will beep the whole time.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best riding lawn mowers.
Battery Power: Lives up to claims
Our other major question concerned the mower’s battery life. It runs on four 12V batteries, and the manufacturer claims the machine can cut up to two acres or run for 2 hours per charge, so naturally, we wanted to put this to the test. We staked out a two-acre plot, then started cutting. As claimed, the mower was able to cut the whole section in around two hours with battery power left over.
We were similarly impressed with the battery power when cutting thick grass: “When I cut high grass over a 40-minute period, I only used about 25 percent of the available battery power,” my dad said. “I thought I would have used more since I was stressing each of the cutting motors. It is a brand new battery pack, though, so I would expect that power retention to wane over time.”
As claimed, the mower was able to cut a two-acre section in around two hours with battery power left over.
After we drained the battery down, we let it charge overnight to juice back up—the manufacturer recommends charging it for 12 hours. What’s nice is that the charger plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet, so you won’t need to make any electric upgrades to charge the machine.
However, it’s important to note that these batteries won’t last forever. After around six months of regular use on our large property, the battery life already wasn’t lasting quite as long—it wasn’t a dramatic difference, but it was still noticeable. If properly maintained, electric lawn mower batteries typically last around five to seven years, and replacement batteries cost more than $100 each. So if you need to replace all four batteries, it’s going to cost upward of $500—nearly a quarter of the cost of the mower itself.
Noise Level: Sounds like a vacuum
One of the major selling points of electric mowers is that they’re significantly quieter than gas-powered models. The RYOBI Electric Riding Lawn Mower is virtually silent when the blades are off—so much so you may even wonder if it’s on! It reminded us of an electric golf cart or go-kart.
When you turn the mower blades on, there is some noise, similar to that of a heavy-duty vacuum. However, it’s not nearly as loud as a gas-powered mower and would be much less intrusive to your neighbors or sleeping family.
“The decibel level is audible but much less than the heavy whine of a conventional gas-powered mower with the PTO engaged,” my father explained, referring to power take-off, or what drives the belts that spin the blades on a riding mower. “I wear ear protection when I am cutting with my Husqvarna mower, but I didn’t think it was needed when I cut with the RYOBI.”
Price: Pricey, but not outrageous
Riding lawn mowers can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the brand, size, and features. The RYOBI RM480e Electric Riding Mower retails for $2,700, which is quite a bit higher than gas-powered mowers with a similar deck size—you can get a gas-powered riding mower with a 42-inch deck for $1,600 to $2,000. However, the RYOBI’s price is in line with costs for other rear-engine electric mowers.
RYOBI RM480e Electric Riding Mower vs. RYOBI RY40190-Y Brushless Self-Propelled Mower
Not ready to make the large investment required for the RYOBI Electric Riding Lawn Mower? You can test out the abilities of an electric mower at a lower price with a walk-behind model like the RYOBI 20-inch Cordless Self-Propelled Mower. This top-rated option is significantly more affordable at $400, and it’s ideal for yards up to half an acre. While it only has a run time of around 35 minutes, this walk-behind mower has many of the same benefits of the ride-on model, including limited maintenance, no emissions, and low noise level.
Check out our guide to more of the best electric lawn mowers you can buy today.
A competitive option for homeowners.
If you’re sick of lawn mower maintenance, want to be more eco-friendly, or simply want a quieter mower, the RYOBI RM480e Electric Riding Mower is a powerful machine that can handle all sorts of lawn care. It operates quietly and has an impressively long run time, making it a worthwhile investment in our book.
- Product Name RM480e Electric Riding Mower
- Product Brand RYOBI
- MPN RY48110
- Price $2699.00
- Weight 595 lbs.
- Deck Size 38 in.
- Battery Life 2 hours
- What’s Included Mower, charger, manual
- Warranty 3 years limited on mower and parts; 1 year limited on battery