Top Riding Mowers for Larger Gardens

best riding mower reviews

The top riding movers and tractors are a must-have for anyone mowing more than half an acre of lawn.

Every week brands advertise that they have the best riding tractor mower, and that they are far better quality, perform better and safer than all of the others.

We’ve looked at 35 different riding mowers and covered more than 74 hours of research and testing to write these top riding mower reviews which lead us to recommend that the Troy-Bilt 420cc Premium Riding Lawn Mower stands out as the best riding mower to buy for most people. With a quality build, great reliability, and features, as well as a great price, it was always going to do well in testing.

Top Pick:

1. Troy-Bilt 420cc OHV 30-Inch Premium Neighborhood Riding Lawn Mower

Troy-Bilt 420cc OHV 30-Inch Premium Neighborhood Riding Lawn Mower
  • Performance
  • Settings/Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Comfort
  • Durability

This really is a top riding lawn mower with a 30″ cutting deck that will eliminate the need for having a specific person for taking care of your garden. Anyone who has a hobby of cutting their lawn will find this very useful and worth the price tag. We found the Troy-Bilt Neighbourhood Riding Mower to be amazing and the operation to be extremely smooth. The mower was easy to manoeuvre throughout our rides and never once did we encounter an unplanned shutdown. In addition, the seat was comfortable for both the hips and lower back. On top of all this, the compact riding lawn mower comes with a 2 year warranty and an 18-Inch turning radius with 13×5-inch front wheels and 16×6.5-inch rear wheels.

Price: $1,218
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Why our reviews are trustworthy

I have been tasked with covering the garden category including the ultimate gardening glossary, the best hedge trimmers and the best weed trimmers here since my dad decided to buy a house with a couple of acres of land and so was in need of a good lawn tractor mower (and a fair few other things).  He asked me to help him to choose, so I started putting together this review.  Since I first did this a few years ago the review has been updated to include testing of the mowers.  So all in all, I have logged days of research and testing (we had a great time riding around the farm on these great machines this year).

We’ve looked at a large number of riding mowers and consulted lots of experts to create this review. We keep up with reviews from other noteworthy companies that also test or review riding mowers, such as, Popular Mechanics, Amazon and ConsumerReports though we do find that sometimes the coverage is not as comprehensive as it could be. Then we do our own testing of riding mowers on several market out fields over at the farm.

This review covers the best riding mowers on the market before and since the last time we created this guide.

Who should get one

One of the most compelling reason to buy a riding tractor is to cut grass, obviously. But mostly the decision will be about your lawn size. Riding lawn mower buying guides at Home Depot and Lowe’s consider half an acre of lawn ( just over 21,500 square feet) to be the lower limit of a riding mower.  If you’re lower than half an acre, it’s worth considering the benefits of a walk behind mower.

How we conducted the selection and testing process

First off, it’s important to note that riding lawn mowers come in a wide variety of models and features. For example, Husqvarna and Toro have several different riding mowers listed on their websites. To cover as much consumer requirements as possible, most manufacturers offer riding mowers with a range feature combinations to make sure that they’re going to have a model that suits your situation.

After 74 hours spent researching, we concluded that that the best riding mower for lawns larger than half an acre has variable speed control settings. It should also be easy to dispose of the clippings. Other features to look for are a manual power takeoff, a small turning circle and a comfortable seat with back support.

All of the professionals we consulted, and our own testing leads us to recommend rear-wheel drive (RWD) over front-wheel drive (FWD), due to the superior traction. A FWD lawn tractor is usually cheaper, but RWD really does offer enough benefits to justify the increased price tag. The superior traction alone made it worthwhile in our tests on the farm.

If you want to bag your grass, then RWD is definitely the right way to go. When the grass clippings fill the bag, it adds to the weight of the mower at the rear, which in turn helps the rear wheels to get better traction. It’s also easier for a RWD mower to get traction on inclines and hills. On a FWD ride on mower, the grass clippings bags weight, actually lifts the weight off of the drive tires resulting in them having less traction.

For 180-degree turns at the end of your mowing line, is where the variable speed control and rear-wheel drive combined with a and small turning circle come in to make the action as easy as possible. Some people would argue that they think there is not a huge difference in maneuverability between the RWD and FWD. Another great feature is setting to be able to adjust the blade height settings, this allows you to sit the blade at the right height for your cutting needs.

Next up is the the size, make and type of the engine. In most conditions, it doesn’t really matter too much, so unless your garden has steep inclines and hills your good. Consumer Reports warns against getting too caught up in the numbers. One thing to know about engines however, is that an overhead valve engine (OHV) is preferred over the side valve engine. An overhead valve engine will be less likely to give you trouble over it’s lifetime. This is because overhead valve engines have a more efficient design, so they leave less carbon deposits on the inside of the engine, which wears an engine down. They also run quieter (if you like mowing early in the morning).

How we tested

The first thing that had to be tacked was the logistical nighmare we had created.  How to get one of each of the selected finalist in to one location (which was a mamouth task for me to get my head around).  Well the first thing we found was that getting them there on the same day was going to be problematic as we had to arrange this with multiple dealers (who I really have to say thanks to for allowing this to be done and assisting us as best they could to achieve this feat).

So it was decided that we would spread the testing out over the course of a month over the summer.  For each of the mowers we began with the same instructions, the first of which were to take some time to get the basic stats noted down and confirmed. So we timed how long they took to get started, checked the speed settings, cutting width, turn radius, electric start, bagging and mulching options against the maufacturers information. Then we used a mobile app to test the volume of the tractors in decibels.

Then onto the grass cutting tests, we had reserved four grass fields totaling just under 12 acres on the farm for testing early, so the grass was a better length (as the cows had been moved to other fields) and we also ensured there were varying inclines and declines. This way we could test the riding mowers more effectively, so we could ensure we were happy they would work well (or not) in most circumstances you would be faced with in your own garden. We marked out areas (we used length rather than width), so that each mower had it’s own section and we could easily compare the results after we had finished.

Riding mower companies make many different types of mowers and engine combinations. But because we performed our own hands on testing with the final 14, we didn’t have to rely solely on testing data from third parties, information from the manufacturers or customer feedback, like all of the other riding lawnmower reviews we have seen.

After we had finished testing all the riding mowers (and having great fun on them at the same time). We submitted all of our scorecards and waited for the results so we could see which came out as the top rated riding mower to buy. We then got the chance to look at the current prices for each one and were presently surprised to find that our favorite models were not always the most expensive ones, especially with this years results.

The Runners Up

2. Husqvarna YTA18542 Fast Continuously Variable Transmission Pedal Tractor Mower

Price: $1800
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The first thing that excited us was the FAST auto transmission that allowed us to drive the Husqvarna Pedal Tractor without worrying about the maintenance that accompanies manual transmission mowers. This is a worthy contender for the best riding lawn tractor and is a must mention in all riding mower reviews. The air induction mowing technology increased the overall efficiency of the mower by improving the airflow within the deck. The chassis had a 5 year warranty so we weren’t worried too much about the wear and tear.

3. Yard Machines ‘Shift-on-the-go’ 10.5 HP Riding Lawn Mower

Price: $1,800
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This may not be one of the inexpensive riding lawn mowers but it sure does a great job at keeping medium to large sized gardens groomed. We tested the 10.5 HP Briggs & Stratton engine and found it to be extremely durable and versatile, able to make its way through bumpy terrain. The mower’s 38-inch deck size allowed us to make height adjustments in 5 separate positions while the excellent transmission system shifted within 6 different speed ranges.

4. Swisher ZTR2766BS Response 27HP 66-Inch Mower

Price: $5999
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We saved the most expensive for last in the top riding mower reviews. The Swisher Response 66 Inch Mower is a powerhouse in itself and packs the ability to cut grass on hillsides without overheating or running through any problem. Testing it was a true delight; the 27 HP electric start engine was a treat to start and run up as well as it possesses the ability to accelerate very well compared to other mowers. The machine has been made out of commercial grade components and is one of the best riding lawn tractor you’ll find.

5. Poulan Pro P54ZX Briggs V-Twin Pro 24 HP Cutting Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower

Price: $3,000
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The 24 HP,  54 Inch cutting deck zero radius riding mower is another great mower worthy of getting included in riding mower reviews. This is a powerful mower that passed all our tests cutting and mulching through leaves, weeds and grass without lagging at any point. We added a little extra weight while driving the mower and found out that the speed wasn’t effected in any adverse way. The power and durability of the mower is really solid and it is highly recommended for someone who owns a vast garden,, which needs to be maintained on a regular basis.

6. Husqvarna RZ3016 16.5hp 30″ Zero Turn Lawn Mower

Price: $3,475
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The Ariens Zoon Zero Turn Lawn Mower has a 600cc engine that gives it unprecedented torque and power to weed through all kinds of tough overgrowth ruling your garden. The 50 inch cutting width deck also gave us enough volume to cover a lot of ground in any given hour. Nothing was impossible for this best riding lawn tractor.

7. Poulan Pro 960420186 Briggs 24 HP Automatic Hydrostatic Transmission Riding Mower

Price: $2,371
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We were very much excited about the Hydrostatic Transmission of this Riding Mower so when put to the test we found that making speed adjustments to the blade was a whole lot easier with it. By simply moving the level forward we were able to increase the ground speed while reversing the process decreased the speed. Once finished, it was inevitable that we include this in the riding mower reviews list. The mower is powered by a 24 HP Briggs and Stratton Engine that has an inbuilt cooler. We didn’t encounter any problem related to overheating even though we operated it in hot environment.  Finally, the mower comes with a ReadyStart Startling System that eliminates the need for prime or coke. The engine runs automatically with the help of a temperature sensor, adjusting the amount of fuel injected automatically.

8. Husqvarna 26 HP Kohler 7000 V-Twin Zero Turn Mower

Price: $3,450
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Featuring a powerful Kohler 26 HP engine, this is a good riding lawn mower that performed brilliantly in all tests. First of all the design itself was very ergonomic, especially the seat which is very relaxing. It was not only spacious but also very comfortable. As long as cutting grass is concerned, the deck lift system assisted us in more than one ways while the reduced chassis flex made the entire operation efficient. A heavy flat-stock steel adds durability to the mower and overall makes it a compact riding lawn mower.

9. Yard Machines 420cc Riding Lawn Mower

Price: $1,587
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This is one of the comparatively inexpensive riding lawn mowers when compared to the majority of branded lawn mowers out there. The riding mower is a worthy member of the our riding mower reviews and packs a 420cc Powermore engine that helps it get through even the most uneven of terrain. The seven speed gear gives you power as you need it. We tried taking it over a small hill and the lawn mower did quite well in getting to the other side, taking care of the grass along the way. The mower’s Shift on the Go Drive System along with 2 year warranty made it a capable lawn mower that delivers peace of mind.

10. Troy-Bilt 22hp Mustang 46 Lawn Mower

Price: $2,939
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This lawn mower is pretty much like the one mentioned above however this one comes at a lower price for a slight downgrade in terms of specs. The lawn mower has a 46″ cutting width and operated on a 660cc engine. When tested, the engine gave us all the power in the world and never once stopped while operating. Turning it on wasn’t a problem as well so we recommend this compact riding lawn mower to someone who is willing to sacrifice very little tech specs for a chunk of money.

11. Cub Cadet Xt1 Enduro Series Lt 42 Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-engine Riding Mower

Price: $1,918
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This is a state-of-the-art, cutting edge, compact riding lawn mower that may come at a hefty price but offers features that most people have never heard of. Firstly, the mower had an optimized steering system that allowed us mow our test-garden for extended periods of time. Its LED headlights gave us an easy option of using it at night while the high-back seat gave us all the comfort in the world. The mower had a turning radius of 16 inches for ensuring smooth mobility and maneuvering. Finally, a rubberized grip and anti-corrosion coat gave us peace of mind regarding the mower’s lifetime.

12. Weed Eater WE-ONE 26-Inch 190cc Briggs and Stratton 875 Series Gas Powered Lawn Mower

Price: $1,122
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One of the most inexpensive riding lawn mowers in the market right now, the Weed Eater WE-ONE Gas Powered Lawn Mower is no rookie. The lawn mower packs a 190cc engine but still is able to take up against all kinds of tough vegetation in your garden. The 26 inch cutting deck delivers precisely cut grass while the electric switch makes turning on/off a piece of cake. In addition, we also found that the lawn mower operates at three drive speeds we could easily edge, cut or just move from one location to the next.

13. Snapper 2691020 540cc 20HP Gas Powered 42 in. Pedal Operated Lawn Tractor

Price: $2,699
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The Snapper Gas Powered Lawn Tractor is an excellent machine that is built on top of the rugged Briggs & Stratton Engine Series, giving it high performance and horsepower. The lawn tractor had a 42 inch cutting deck that significantly increased its cutting capacity while the hydrostatic transmission allowed us to run the tractor at desired speed. The 14 inch turning ability was the cherry on top as it helped us cover more area without making too big turns. Also, the seat was very comfortable and throughout the operation made sure there wasn’t a single newton of stress on our back.

14. Raven MPV7100 Hybrid Riding Lawnmower Power Generator and Utility Vehicle

Price: $2,500
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The 420cc Hybrid Lawnmower runs on a gasoline with an on-board generator and one of the most powerful lawn mowers you’ll ever drive. The generator produces 7100 watts of power and feeds it into the blades. When tested, the blade cut through literally everything thanks to a 46″ fabricated deck that not only mulches but also discharges waste as it moves. The tractor wasn’t slowed down by added weight and has a 550 pound maximum towing capacity but still didn’t score well with us.

 

Why Buy A Riding Mower?

Whether you have a large yard or whether you are just plain lazy, neatening up the yard can look like quite a chore. No one wants to spend their day off out in the hot sun, trimming grass. If you have to be out in the sun, you’d rather lounge near a pool or sunbathe with a cool drink in your hand. It is no surprise, then, that lawn maintenance makes us groan. However, you don’t have to exert yourself unduly if you have the one tool that will appeal to the laziest gardener – a lawn tractor, also known as a riding lawn mower. Now all you have to do is sit back and guide it and it’ll do all the work for you. You can even carry that drink. Check out other riding mower reviews if you don’t believe me.

When you go to buy a good riding lawn mower you need to consider certain points, the first of which is how large the area you need to mow is. If your lawn is less than two acres, you might want to consider a compact riding lawn mower. It comes with additional features such as the ability to haul small carts and other attachments. This type of mower can also mulch and bag the grass it cuts. This type of lawn tractor may not be as fast or as exact as larger ones, but they make less noise and are more compact. A riding mower review can help you decide if this type of mower is for you.

If your acreage is higher or you plan to use the mower to plow snow in winters or haul wood then a compact riding lawn mower will not do. You will need something larger that is meant for these types of heavy-duty jobs. The best large riding lawn tractors have frames that are hardier, more powerful two-cylinder engines and are more reliable. While they may be more expensive initially, their longer life span means that they are more cost-effective in the long run. Read through riding mower reviews to determine whether a large lawn tractor is for you.

Storage is another factor you have to consider when thinking about buying even the most inexpensive riding lawn mowers. Just because the lawn mower is compact doesn’t mean that you have the space in your garage or shed to accommodate it. You will spend more time in maintenance, spend more money on gas and breathe in more fumes – something that won’t happen with a regular or electric lawn mower. Also if your lawn encompasses a few hills, a riding lawn mower may not be the safest tool to use. Keep all these points in mind when you go through riding mower reviews.

What Should You Look for in a Lawn Tractor?

 A lawn tractor is a useful tool, but only if you keep a few factors in mind. Check out everything we’ve discussed below in riding mower reviews.

Mowing Around Obstacles

If you have a lot of landscaping elements such as trees, fences or maybe even a rock garden, trimming at the edges could become an onerous task, especially if you use the lawn tractor first and then have to follow up with a string trimmer. The best riding lawn tractor will be able to ensure a close cut near these elements. If you have a lot of trees in your yard you may want to consider getting a zero-turn mower. These mowers look different from traditional lawn mowers and are much more maneuverable, although they shouldn’t be used on hills. They can pick up leaves and bag the grass but generally can’t handle attachments such as a cart or fertilizer sprayer. Riding mower reviews can help you decide whether these mowers are meant for you or not.

Safety Features

 The good riding lawn mowers come with safety features such as devices that can turn off the engine if you aren’t riding the mower and it is in park. However, you need a lot more in the way of safety features, especially if you plan to use the lawn tractor on surfaces that slope. The manual that comes with the lawn mower is a good source of information about what you can and cannot safely attempt with even the best riding lawn tractors. Also check if the model you’re considering has been recalled because of fire risks or even lacerations hazards. You can get all this information and more in our riding mower reviews.

Additional Features

Even Cut

When you driving the mower around your lawn, it shouldn’t remove the grass from the lawn completely or leave clearly visible marks. The best rider lawn mowers will take care of the clippings without allowing them to become clumps. They will also not keep wasting clipping bags by requiring you to change the bags when they’re only half-full. Instead, they will allow the bags to fill to near capacity before you need to change them. You can get this information from riding mower reviews that have been written by users of these tools.

Comfortable Ride

The lawn mower should not be awkward for you to operate. Everything should be within easy reach, the seat should be cushioned so that it doesn’t get uncomfortable while you’re riding on the mower and the lawn tractor should move smoothly without too much vibration. All these will ensure that you have the best ride on a lawn mower. Again, the riding mower reviews are the best way for you to find out which mowers will be the most comfortable for you.

A riding lawn mower can be a great convenience for you in terms of your lawn maintenance. However, you need to pay attention to some details in riding mower reviews and factors around you before you make a final decision. If you do decide to go for a lawn tractor, keep in mind all the points and features we discussed above.

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