Mowing the lawn can be quite a chore. And if you have a large lawn, it can be exhausting and time-consuming. In many cases, a ride-on mower is your best option. But before ordering yours, it’s important to make sure it’s the right choice. Various factors affect what kind of mower you should invest in – and even whether you should get one at all.
Let’s have a look at what you should consider before deciding if a ride-on lawnmower is the right choice for your lawn. From there, we’ll weigh some factors to consider before choosing one. Finally, we’ll offer information and reviews of a few of the best models on the market.
Evaluating Your Landscape
The first step to deciding if you need a ride-on mower is to evaluate your lawn.
It’s probably not worth the expense of a ride-on mower if your lawn is under half an acre. Sure, it will work, but you won’t save that much time and fuel getting the job done. If you have more than a half-acre to cut, though, it’s worth considering, unless you love the great workout you’ll get pushing a mower.
If your lawn is flat and without obstacles, your choices are wide open. There aren’t many concerns about whether a ride-on mower will work for you, or even about the type you need.
However, if you need to cut on a slope, you have to exercise a bit of discretion. A mower with a lower center of gravity and a wider base will provide more stability on uneven ground. If the lawn is very steep, though, a ride-on mower probably isn’t a good choice, as it’s likely to tip over. And the last thing you want is to get caught under the weight of a mower – and a spinning blade.
You should also take into account the obstacles on your lawn. If you have trees, rocks, or other objects that you have to move around, you want to be sure that your mower can handle the turns. There are plenty of ride-on mowers that can handle the turns. But if the amount of obstacles is excessive, it might be more practical to use a push mower, at least in the more complicated areas.
Zero-turn-radius mowers do make maneuvering around obstacles easier. They have rear-wheel drive and allow you to handle turns tightly. They do tend to cost more, though, and the cut isn’t always as good.
Do you still think a ride-on mower is the choice for you? Read on! We’ll get into more details to help you choose.
Have a small space where you can’t fit your ride-on mower won’t fit? A reel mower might work for you.
What Size Blade Do I Want in a Ride-On Mower?
One of the major choices to make when picking your mower is how wide a blade you need. A bigger blade, or “deck,” cuts more grass at a time, of course. That means you can finish more quickly.
At the same time, you don’t need to overdo it. A larger machine is going to cost more. So it’s a matter of judgment of how to balance out the time you save with the cost of the mower.
A larger deck isn’t going to hurt, of course, except for navigating around obstacles or having a place to store the unit.
We make these suggestions for deck size based on the size of your lawn. Again, they’re recommendations that will get your lawn done quickly without being overkill. But it’s mostly a matter of personal preference.
- ½ to 1 ½ acre: up to 42-inch blade
- 1 ½ to 2 ½ acres: 42- to 50-inch blade
- 2 ½ to 4 acres: 50- to 60-inch blade
- 5 acres and up: 60-inch blade or larger
Ride-on Mower Transmission Types
Like many motor vehicles, ride-on mowers are available with automatic or manual transmissions.
Automatic is easier to start. It’s also easier to keep running, especially if you have a lot of obstacles to maneuver around.
Manual is tougher to start but can save on fuel costs in the long run. However, it can be taxing to constantly have to shift gears over uneven ground or to navigate around trees, rocks, or other obstructions.
Other Factors To Consider
The power of your mower matters, of course. Whether it’s measured in horsepower or engine displacement, a higher number is better. It means your mower can spin the blade faster, creating a cleaner cut.
The steering mechanism is another major factor. Many mowers have steering wheels, but others use levers. Steering wheels are simpler and you’re probably more accustomed to them. But if you can get used to levers, they’re easier to steer. Most zero-radius-turn models are only available with levers.
Of course, comfort is another factor. If you’re too tall, it might be difficult to ride the machine. The seats fit a “standard”-sized rear end, so they may be uncomfortable for some, too. Still, they beat the pain of handling a walk-behind mower.
Even the best ride-on mower can’t hug walls or trees. A string trimmer is great for cleaning up those tight spots.
Our Picks for the Best Ride-On Lawn Mowers
Let’s have a look now at some of the best ride-on mowers available. We’ve broken them down by size to make it easier to find one appropriate for your lawn.
This is another zero-radius-turn mower from Toro. It has a 60” deck and features the company’s MyRide suspension system that should help you feel more comfortable in the seat.
This unit is slightly less powerful than the other two reviewed in this class. It has 24.5 horsepower (708 cc engine displacement). Still, it’s got enough torque and speed to get the job done well and without hassle.
All of this makes it a great mower from large, flat areas with obstacles. You can set it to cut the grass to 1.5 to 4.5 inches tall.
The unit measures 83 inches long, 46 inches high, and 66 inches wide overall. The front wheels are 13 inches, making them a little lower than the two above. The rear wheels are 22 inches.
The MyRide system receives a lot of high praise from purchasers of this model. It’s very comfortable and makes the job less of a pain in the behind, literally.
The tire fenders are a nice touch and do a decent job keeping cuttings and mud from splash onto the main body of the vehicle.
The warranty is 3 years or 300 use hours – longer than the other models above.
Medium Deck (48 to 54”)
Cub Cadet offers this great zero-radius-turn ride-on mower with a 50-inch deck. The Kawasaki engine runs at 23 hp (726cc) to make your cutting a pleasure.
This is a good unit, again, for flat surfaces without a lot of obstacles. It can handle slight slopes but nothing too challenging. Max speed is 7.5 mph; the reverse max is 3.5 mph.
You get some nice extra back support with this unit. The seat is more like a short seat from a car than a typical flat mower seat.
As for cutting height, you can set it in ¼-inch increments from 1 inch up to 4 ½ inches.
The tires are 11 inches (front) and 20 inches (rear).
There are dual headlights, too, which are great for when you want to start early or late.
The unit is 82 inches long, 35 inches high, and 57 inches wide.
Cub Cadet also offers this with a smaller deck size. If you go to the link above, you can find boxes to click for 46- and 42-inch versions.
There’s a three-year warranty.
This mower from Ariens has a similar motor to the Cub Cadet above. They both offer 23 hp (726cc) Kawasaki FR-series engines that will help you get the job done right.
The Ariens IKON can cut a swathe 52-inches wide with 13 height settings from 1 ½ to 4 ½ inches (that is, they’re ¼-inch settings). And it does a great job of leaving your grass looking great.
This is considered a consumer product, not commercial. But many users say it’s right on the borderline. The deck is more commercial style, as it’s welded, not stamped.
The top forward speed is 7 inches; in reverse, it can go 3 mph.
It is, as the product name states, a zero-radius-turn model, The rear-wheel-drive works well to let you maneuver around obstacles. Flat or nearly-flat surfaces are the recommended area for use.
The body is made of durable 11-gauge steel.
The overall size of the unit is 77.5 inches long, 63.4 inches wide, and 40.9 inches high. The front tires are 11 inches and the rear tires are 18 inches.
The limited warranty covers consumer use for up to three years. The deck and shell have a five-year limited warranty.
Another great zero-radius-turn mower from John Deere, this model with a 48-inch deck will help you keep your grass nicely trimmed. And it will do it quickly, which is the whole point of a ride-on mower.
This mower can cut with a forward speed up to 7 mph and manages 3.5 mph in reverse. The rear (drive) wheels are 20 inches, with 13-inch counterparts on the front.
Like most zero-radius-turn models, this is fantastic for working your way around any obstacles you have to navigate.
A separate mulching unit can be added on.
The unit measures 75.1 inches long and 60.5 inches wide. It’s 36.3 inches high. The body is sturdy; it’s made of 10-gauge steel.
The cutting height can be adjusted between 1 and 4 inches.
John Deere’s warranty is for 2 years or 120 hours, whichever comes first.
Small deck (under 46”)
This ride-on mower from Ryobi is great for smaller yards. It’s also battery-powered, making it unique on our list of two picks.
Ryobi gives an optimistic projection of two-hour battery life or up to 2 acres of mowing. We did find it comes close to that most of the time, although it depends on conditions. The slope of your yard, the thickness of your grass, and other challenges can have a big effect on how much you can get done without stopping to recharge.
This is a 100 Ah version which could give you up to a half-acre or half-hour more.
You don’t lose anything here except a lot of noise that comes with a gas engine. You’ll get a quieter ride and still be able to enjoy cruise control. You even get headlights – and a USB charger to keep your phone going!
To recharge, you just have to plug into a standard 120-volt outlet.
The front wheels are 15 inches and the rear wheels measure 16 inches. The overall size of the unit is 63 inches long and 38.5 inches wide. It’s 46 inches high, mainly because of the long steering column.
You can cut your grass to heights from 1.5 to 4.5 inches, with quarter-inch steps.
Bigger units have 3 blades, but this one only has 2. Still, it provides a clean cut. It can move forward at 8 mph and in reverse at 3 mph.
The biggest issue we have with this mower is that it’s a bouncy ride. As one owner put it, it’s like riding a go-cart. Prepare to be jostled around a bit.
Some users also report issues with the battery discharging too quickly. We didn’t see that, and it’s not overly common. However, there may have been a bad batch somewhere along the line.
The warranty is for 3 years, although the battery is only covered for one.
This entry from John Deere has a 42-inch deck. It’s a more compact mower at a good price,
The engine roars along with 22 horsepower – great for its size!
The cutting height can be set from 1 to 4 inches, and the mower can move at 5.5 mph forward or 3.2 mph reverse. That’s a bit slower than most others, but it is for smaller lawns, after all. It cuts with two blades, helping you get through the chores more quickly and back to the game!
This model measures 69.7 inches long, 54.9 inches wide, and 44.5 inches high. The deck is made of 13-gauge steel. It’s not the best, but not bad for a smaller mower, either.
The seat is adjustable and has 10 positions. It’s a decent 15″ high. As usual, the very short or very tall aren’t going to feel completely comfortable, but it’s decent for a good range of “average”-sized users.
At some point, it seems there was a problem with the starter. We saw several reviews that said they couldn’t get it to start after the first use. However, they’re all from the same period several years ago, so we suspect the issue was in a particular batch.
Overall, though, it’s a comfortable ride and seems to get the job done well. It’s best for flat yards without a lot of obstacles – remember, this is not a zero-turn-radius mower. It’s small enough that it can work its way around. But it’s not as agile as the zero-turn type.
A California-compliant version is also available here.
The warranty is for 2 years or 120 use hours.
Nineteen horsepower might seem a little low, but on this Troy-Bilt machine, it still gets the job done! It won’t slow you down, and you’ll be able to take full advantage of its 42-inch-wide deck to get your yard trimmed and looking great in no time.
We can’t call it inexpensive, but the Bronco has a decent price compared to competitors in its size range. It’ll pay off in time saved and more freetime – very quickly!
The rear wheels are 20 inches high; the front, 15. That makes it great for handling bumps and even hills.
It’ll cut grass anywhere from 1.25 to 3.75 inches tall. That’s perfect whether you’re in mid-summer growth or helping it prepare for winter hibernation. It can even mow in reverse! (No, it doesn’t make grass longer. It cuts it while the mower is moving backward!)
If you order online (or from a sales rep in the store), your mower comes completely crated. It will require a bit of work to uncrate it and assemble it.
A two-year waranty protects you when you buy this mower.
A ride-on mower can be an incredible timesaver. It will help keep your lawn looking great without you having to suffer all day long under the sun. They work best on flat yards or if there’s a slight slope. Many – especially those with zero-radius turning – can easily navigate the rocks and trees scattered throughout the yard. The deck size is the primary factor to consider and normally should align with the size of your yard. There are many great options in all sizes and you’ll soon find yourself enjoying the chore instead of dreading it!