The 6 Best Riding Lawn Mowers to Buy in 2018
Whether you’ve got a larger yard or simply don’t have the ability to move around or want 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 or one with a zero-turn radius – as its name suggests, the last thing just mentioned type of riding mower can “turn on a dime” around and is usually faster, 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 (area of land about 200 feet X 220 feet), riding mowers with a 42-inch cutting deck or smaller should be enough; for up to 2 (areas of land about 200 feet X 220 feet), upgrade to a 46- or 48-inch model. If you’ve got more than 2 (areas of land about 200 feet X 220 feet), 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.
Here are six of our favorite riding lawn mowers.
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 discharge, 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.
Money might be tight, but you can still get a quality riding mower for under $1,000 as long as your yard isn’t huge. The Poulan PRO 960460075 gets solid reviews from users who say it brags 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-tube engine.
Unlike more expensive mowers, this Poulan PRO has a six-speed gear-drive manual transmission that doesn’t offer the exact control of an automatic or hydrostatic transmission. But it has most of the other extremely important things, 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. There is a two-year warranty.
Willing to spend a little more on a riding lawn mower that can do a lot more? Check out the Cub (trainee at a military academy) RZT-S 50 Zero-Turn riding mower, which brags a 50-inch triple-blade cutting deck and a 23-horsepower Kohler 7000 Series twin-tube engine.
Like the Cub (trainee at a military academy) above, it can also mow in reverse, but the zero-turn radius means it can better travel safely through 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, helping 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. There is a three-year limited warranty.
Toro’s TimeCutter riding lawn mowers are regularly 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-tube engine. Like the Cub Cadet RZT-S 50, this one is also a highly controllable 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. There is a three-year warranty.
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 and up with ease. It’s powered by a strong 25-horsepower twin-tube 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 wide areas of grass.
Other features on this John Deere include hydrostatic transmission, a tow hitch, fade-resistant hood, high-back seat with lumbar adjustments, 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. It’s supported by a two-year warranty.
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. The mower is recommended for yards that are mostly flat up to 2 acres. It’s backed by a three-year warranty.