The riding lawn mower is a great innovation in the area of lawn care and landscaping. It does not only help you clear your lawn, but it does it in the least time possible.
Finding the best riding mower and lawn tractor for your needs would therefore be essential so as to efficiently perform and reduce the amount of work that you’d need to put on the lawn.
Here are some of the best rated riding lawn mowers and garden tractors available today.
What is a Lawn Mower?
A lawn mower is a piece of equipment that utilizes one or more revolving blades to cut grasses and even the surface height.
Most mowers nowadays are designed to cut grass at a fixed height. For the most part, the height is easily adjusted by the operator through a nut and bolt on each of the machine’s wheels or by a single master lever.
The blades of the mower may be generally powered by wheels that are mechanically connected to the cutting blades. Once the mower is pushed forward, the blades spin.
Other mowers may also be powered by battery or by a plug-in electric motor.
What could be the most popular source of power for lawn mowers is a small cylinder internal combustion engine.
Meanwhile, lawn mowers commonly use two styles of blades. Rotary mowers use a single blade that rotates about a single vertical axis, while cylinder or reel mowers make use of a multiple blade assembly or a cutting bar.
There are three notable types of lawn mowers:
Tractor-pulled mowers are mostly in the form of an attachment to a tractor. The attachment functions through the movement of the tractor just like manual push cylinder mowers.
Riding mowers, also referred to as ride-on mowers, are generally used for large lawns. As the name suggests, the operator has a seat so he can ride on and control the mower.
Most riding mowers make use of a horizontal rotating blade system — commonly with multiple blades.
Mulching mowers are, most of the time, rotary mowers that utilize special mulching blades. The blades are designed to let clippings circulate underneath the mower until the clippings are chopped to very small pieces.
Just like several other mechanical devices, lawn rotary mowers also have their share of safety issues.
Rotary mowers are known to throw out debris with tremendous energy and velocity. The blades of self-powered push mowers can likewise inflict injuries if users get careless.
For this reason, a couple of rotary mowers are now designed with a so called “dead man’s switch.” Automatically, the blade rotation gets disabled when the operator no longer has the handle of the mower.
U.S. statistical data shows there are more than 10,000 people who get hospitalized due to lawn mower-related accidents.
What is a Riding Lawn Mower?
A riding mower is a kind of lawn mower in which the user rides on it to operate.
It’s generally bigger than push mowers in terms of size, thus making it highly suitable for wider lawns.
Meanwhile, commercial-type riding mowers often bear very little resemblance to residential lawn tractors. The difference in the design is due in part to its heavy-duty purposes. Commercial riding lawn mowers are designed to mow very wide areas at high speed in the least time possible.
Because of this, experts have strict recommendations to operators of ride on mowers. Users are asked to wear eye protection, heavy footwear, hearing protection, and other protective gears so as to ensure safety.
Moreover, children below 12 years old are strictly not allowed to operate this type of machine by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What is a Tractor?
A tractor is an engineering vehicle that’s widely used to deliver torque or a high tractive effort at slow speeds. It is commonly utilized to haul a trailer or machinery employed in construction and agriculture.
When used to perform some agricultural tasks, an attachment may be mounted or towed behind it. The tractor itself may also be used as a power source with the addition of another mechanized equipment.
One of its most popular types is the lawn tractor. It is often a gas-powered, front-engine riding machine. Its price is usually comparable to the smaller and older rear-engine riders.
One advantage of using a lawn tractor is that it can mow easily a 42 to 48-inch swath. It can likewise mulch and then side-discharge the clippings.
Lawn Tractors vs. Riding Lawn Mowers
The difference between lawn tractors and riding lawn mowers lies mainly in the location of the cutting deck.
A lawn tractor comes equipped with a mid-mounted cutting deck, while a riding lawn mower has its cutting deck situated under the front.
When it comes to maneuverability, the riding lawn mower has the advantage. Thanks to the front-end location of the cutting deck. This makes it highly usable on lawns that are dotted with trees and shrubs.
Meanwhile, there are several attachments that can be used on both lawn tractors and riding lawn mowers. Accessories may range from tools used to remove snow to brushes utilized for spring cleaning.
What to Look For When Buying a Riding Lawn Mower
A riding lawn mower is practically used if you’re working on a large area. The same goes if you’re operating on a smooth, hilly, or sloped lawn.
Here, we’ll list down some common factors that need to be considered when choosing a riding lawn mower.
- Garden Tractors
- A garden tractor is mostly bigger than a standard riding mower, thus it has larger transmissions and has more power.
- It is likewise widely used to perform light to heavy-duty works like heavy hauling and removing shrubs or small trees.
- Zero-Turn Riding Mowers
- A zero-turn riding mower is designed with a pivoting front axle that allows excellent maneuverability. This makes it a first choice among users who have to work on lawns that are covered with lots of flower beds, trees, and other known obstacles.
- Unlike a riding lawn mower, a zero-turn riding mower pivots and turns to quickly perform turns with precision. It therefore does not require anymore to constantly back up and move forward.
- Standard Riding Mower
- A standard riding mower is ideal for basic yard work as it can be used to mow the lawn and carry lightweight implements such as aerators, baggers, carts, and more.
- 42-Inch Deck
- This deck size is best suited for lawns that are about 0.5-1 acre in size.
- 42-Inch to 46-Inch Deck
- This deck size is likewise suggested for lawns that measure about 1-2 acres.
- 46-Inch Deck to 54-Inch Deck
- This deck size is best suited for lawns that are about 2-3 acres in size.
- Blade Height Adjustment
- The blade height adjustment allows an operator to cut the grass to his liking. If he wants to cut grasses longer or shorter depending on the season, he can by all means with the help of the blade height adjustment.
- Multiple Speeds
- With this, an operator can quickly adjust the speed based on the condition of the lawn. A slower speed may be necessary if grasses are thick and tall or if they are wet.
- The fast setting would also be helpful in getting a lawn task done as quickly as possible.
- Quick Brakes
- Internal wet brakes are essential for unexpected quick stops.
- Maintenance Indicator
- Some mowers come equipped with a maintenance indicator which tells users the approximate number of hours left before the machine needs to be checked by a service technician.
- Gas Level Indicator
- Transparent gas tanks allow operators to easily check their machine’s gas level. Some units likewise use gauges that are similar to those used in cars.
Type of Transmissions
- Hydrostatic Transmission – The hydrostatic transmission is mostly used on compact and garden tractors. Just like the automatic transmission in a car, it keeps a pre-configured speed on uneven spots and rough terrains.
- Belt Transmission – Available in garden tractors and in small riding lawn mowers, it is the simplest and easiest type of lawn mower transmission. Some mowers use a fixed speed belt and they can be driven with three to five gears. Some also use variable speed.
- Gear Transmission – Gear transmission provides 3-5 forward and reverse speeds. It is highly reliable, yet it is very cost-efficient. Moreover, it does not offer an infinite speed mechanism. In most cases, a gear transmission is controlled by a lever. It likewise requires manually pressing the clutch pedal before shifting.
Some accessories like the bagging kit are useful as they save time in collecting grass clippings.
An umbrella likewise shields an operator from heat, while a bumper kit protects the mower from bumps and dents.
Other essential accessories you can have are the mulcher, chipper kits, and the cup holder.
How to Use a Riding Lawn Mower
Prior to using a riding lawn mower, make sure to thoroughly read the user manual and the important safety precautions. Also make sure that you’ve understood some of the terminologies being used like the zero turn radius, throttle, maneuverability, and more.
This will not only ensure your safety, but will likewise make you a more efficient user.
Steps you can follow to start a riding mower and start operation
- Start the riding mower
- Sit comfortably on the mower and then step on its clutch or brake lever. This is mostly situated on the left side of the mower.
- Move the gear into the “N” or neutral position.
- Pull the control, otherwise called choke knob, into an open position.
- The throttle of several mowers often has a picture of a turtle or a rabbit to represent the speed. With these images to guide you, simply position the throttle at the middle of the turtle and the rabbit.
- Insert the ignition key and turn it towards the right side. After which, you can wait for at least 15 seconds to allow the starter to crank the engine of the mower.
- Note: If it doesn’t start, turn off the ignition key and then wait for at least 10 seconds before your turn the ignition key again.
- Push in the knob slowly back into its place after the engine starts. After which, set the throttle towards the faster option and allow the engine to warm-up.
- Note: By allowing your engine to warm-up, the chance of experiencing hitches is significantly reduced.
- Try moving each of the control arms in both hands in the forward and backward direction. This will give you a feel on how exactly the unit moves based on the controls you’ve made.
- Pushing the control forward would move the mower forward, while the pulling it back would likewise move the mower in the reverse direction.
- Push the control handles in the forward direction. Do this slowly and keep them equally advanced. This will help the mower move smoothly in a straight path.
- If the mower turns left, try to advance the left arm even more to compensate. Do the opposite if the mower turns right.
- Advance the opposite control stick so that you can turn your mower in either the left and right direction.
- Pull your control arms backwards to try backing.
- Note: In doing so, make sure to set your engine speed to LOW. Also, you’ll notice that the mower moves faster the farther you pull back or advance the control arms.
- If you want to try making some sharp turns, practice reversing the control arm to the side where you would wish to turn around. Make sure to do this while you’re advancing to the opposite side.
- You’ll notice that the reverse wheel is pulling one side of the mower backwards, while the forward wheel is pushing that same side. This causes the mower to spin on its own axis.
- Familiarize the cutting path of your mower. Pay attention to the width of the deck in relation to the mower’s drive wheels. Also, make sure to consider the discharge angle of the mower blades.
Note: Sharp turns in close quarters may cause the mower deck to suddenly jam against an obstacle.
Benefits of Using a Riding Lawn Mower
The riding lawn mower is obviously more expensive than push mowers. However, it’s still a very popular choice among homeowners who own a very large garden that has lots of trees or shrubs.
There are a couple of options like a zero turning radius (ZTR) mower which would allow you to cut trees on a single pass or a tractor mower which can be very useful with the attachments.
Here are the very common advantages of using a riding mower:
Fast and efficient work
By using a riding mower, you’ll be able to mow a big area in the least amount of time possible. This is regardless of the type of tractor mower or zero turning radius mower that you’re using.
Therefore, this is very advantageous among those who have health issues or who can’t stand pushing mowers for extended periods of time.
Much more, you’ll get to comfortably sit and drive your way to the lawn as if you’re just driving a car.
Tractor models offer the option to integrate very helpful accessories like trailers used to haul feeds for animals or plows for eliminating snow during winter.
Other popular attachments are used to collect leaves. Some even have grind features that convert leaves or roots into manure.
If cutting around trees and shrubs is what you like, then a zero turn riding mower is all you need.
Larger Fuel Capacity
Riding mowers have a bigger fuel capacity than electric mowers or push mowers. You’ll therefore have plenty of time to spend mowing trees of varying sizes.
If there’s something that greatly separates riding mowers from push mowers, it would be the attachments.
Regular push mowers merely cut grasses, while riding mowers can be transformed into a multi-purpose machine with the addition of an attachment.
Riding mowers can help spread fertilizer and grass seed. It can also be used to break land with dethatcher attachments or plow snow during winter.
The latter is most helpful in some states where unpredictable weather or snow may easily and quickly build up.
Some rear engine riding mowers even offer more than nine blade height settings to suit various lawn types and vegetations.
Riding mowers are far more comfortable than push mowers for several obvious reasons.
Most riding mowers nowadays are designed with high or mid back seat where operators can sit comfortably for long periods of time. Unlike a push mower, the riding mower can be operated like a car so that you can easily maneuver on the ground.
Depending on your mower’s model type, you may also add an umbrella so you’ll be able to keep yourself protected from extreme heat and other harsh weather conditions.
Most riding mowers have a turning radius that’s less than six inches. This makes it very capable of trimming lawn right up to retaining walls and the edge of driveways.
Rear engine riding mowers, for example, have tucked-in front and rear wheels, thus movement is very smooth and easy.
Riding mowers, like the rear engine models, can be quickly cleaned while it’s in its storage position. You can likewise sharpen its blades in no time and lubricate the blade attachment, steering column, and wheels more accurately and more easily.
Precautions and Safety Tips
Choose a “safe” lawn mower whenever possible
There’s technically no “safe” lawn mower for everyone. Like any other power machines, it can always be dangerous when not handled correctly or cautiously.
Still, it pays to be mindful on some safety features.
Some lawn mowers are designed to stop when its handle is released, while others’ blade disengages when they’re put in reverse.
Read and understand the user manual
Always read the user manual that comes along with your riding mower. Make sure you understand its operation before finally deciding to use it.
There may be some jargons or terminologies that can be very technical for regular users. Therefore, do some research or ask an expert to learn more about them.
Never let your kids operate or ride the mower
The riding mower is a power machine that entails utmost carefulness and safety.
Make sure you don’t let your children ride as passengers to prevent untoward incidents.
Also, keep them away from the lawn or work area as there may be some debris that could get thrown away.
Thoroughly check your yard
The blades of your lawn mower may throw small objects like rocks, woodchips, twigs, and other things. It’s therefore a helpful idea to survey the lawn or yard that you’re about to mow.
Moreover, be cautious when operating your mower on near drop offs or on hills. Be mindful, not just on the obstructions that come your way, but also on the approaching corners.
Wear the proper attire
Never take for granted any type of mowing job. Much more, never get complacent.
Make sure to put on your wraparound sunglasses or safety glasses. Also wear long pants and comfortable dresses to protect yourself from heat.
Close-toed shoes that are strong and durable are likewise highly preferred. Avoid using sandals or sneakers as they may be easily worn out.
A hearing protection would likewise be a very good addition.
Do not wear portable music players
While mowing can be boring at best, it’s still not enough reason to wear gadgets or portable music players. They can be a distraction which may eventually cause accidents.
Prepare the mower
Make sure the mower and any necessary attachments are all in good operating condition. Check the blades if they are sharp and are in a secure position.
Double check the chains, drive belts, gears, and other important parts. Make sure they are all properly guarded. If there’s something that needs to be repaired or replaced, have it checked by a qualified technician.
Take things slow at first
If possible, run the engine first at its lowest speed. This will minimize the likelihood of objects being thrown away.
Turn off engine when adding gasoline
Make sure you have your mower turned off when adding gasoline. It’s also a safe idea to wait for your engine to cool down before adding fuel.
Moreover, never smoke or keep away from smoke when refueling.
Note: In order to avoid igniting vapors, do not restart the engine within 25 feet from where you refueled your mower. Gasoline should also be stored away from any sources of heat.
Mow only in broad daylight
While it’s a good idea to do overtime work, it’s never advisable to mow at night for safety reasons. The surface and obstructions may also not be very visible.
Always allow the blade to completely stop
When turning off the riding mower, make sure not to leave it before its blades have completely stopped.
Recommendations and Buying Tips
Riding mowers or lawn tractors are the best options when it comes to doing quick work of your lawn.
Here are some of the things that need to be put in mind when you’re still planning to purchase your preferred riding mower.
Determine the right riding mower or lawn tractor based on the size of your lawn.
Typically, a 0.5-1 acre yard may require a riding mower with at least 14-HP engine and a cutting width of up to 42 inches.
For yards that measure 1-2 acres, a 16-HP engine and a 42-inch or 46-inch deck may be advisable.
For yards that are over 3 acres, a garden tractor that has at least a 46-inch deck and a minimum of 18-HP engine is ideal.
Riding Mower or Garden Tractor?
If you’re merely looking for a machine that can cut grasses, a riding lawn mower should be enough as it already offers a couple of attachment options. However, do note that you won’t be able to perform heavy duty chores with it like pulling or lifting heavy loads.
If you think there’s a need for you to use pull-ground engaging attachments like a disc harrow, plow, or tiller, then the garden tractor would be the best option.
A garden tractor has a sturdier frame and a heavier transmission. It also has larger rear wheels and better engine specifications which make it more appropriate for larger mowing tasks.
Residential garden tractors may be used to pull a cultivator, tiller, and other ground-engaging tools behind it.
Ways to Get the Best Riding Lawn Mower Deals
- Buy during the off-season
- Lawn mowers are often times very pricy in the summer and spring. Therefore, purchasing a new riding mower in the fall and winter would be the best bet.
- Although riding mowers are likely not very usable during fall or winter, you’ll be able to save a lot of money and be able to use something very affordable, yet durable in the coming summer and spring seasons.
- Shop patiently
- Store owners offer lawn tractors at varying prices. This is often true even on same-model lawn tractors.
- It therefore makes sense to compare the price tags of each of the stores. You’ll soon find out that you’ll be able to save hundreds of bucks and discounts once you’ve spotted that right store.
- Look for close-out sales
- Prices of older models change every year, thus stores always do inventories. Stores have to move old models to give room to the newer ones.
- As you can expect, this older models would be offered with huge discounts. This doesn’t mean though that they’re not good enough anymore. They just have to be separated from the newer models which are more profitable at higher prices.
- Talk to a sales person or manager
- Who says a sales person has to do all the talking?
- You can be more in control of a transaction if you also do your own big share of talking.
- Talk to a sales person and ask them to beat the price of other stores. If he or she doesn’t agree with you, politely ask for their manager or supervisor. The manager often has the last say, thus he’s always in the best position to negotiate pricing deals and options.
- Tell the manager about the price you’ve discovered on the other stores and let them quote theirs at the same rate or preferably at a much lesser amount
Riding mowers or lawn tractors are quite costly compared to push mowers. It’s therefore necessary that you invest your money on a unit that would serve you better and longer.
By properly and patiently performing some research, you’re likely to pick a riding mower or lawn tractor that’s high-quality, yet very affordable.
Aside from shopping different stores, you can read honest reviews from reputable sites online or talk to an expert.
Moreover, make sure to purchase only from trusted sellers.
Our Recommendation: Troy-Bilt 420cc Riding Lawn Mower
Riding Lawn Mower Video Reviews
These are some helpful video reviews featuring the Husqvarna Riding Mower and Poulan Pro Riding Lawn Mower.
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