Many homeowners wonder if it’s worth buying a riding mower. While conventional walk-behind mowers are certainly less expensive and consume less gas, they also require considerably more effort to operate than a rider. But what it really comes down to is your property and your budget. The first thing to consider is price. Even a low-end riding mower is going to cost somewhere around $1,000. And if you’re looking for a mid-range or premium model, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000.
Many homeowners believe that this investment is worth it since a riding mower allows them to tackle the chore of mowing the grass quickly and with minimal effort. The other thing to consider is the type of lawn you’ll be using your riding mower to cut. If you have a medium or large lawn with a decent amount of open space, driving a riding mower will be much quicker than having to push a walk-behind mower along.
These models allow you to sit in the driver’s seat and operate them much like you would a car, with the tool’s cutting blades doing all the hard work for you. But before you rush out and buy a new riding mower, let’s take a look at how riders and push mowers stack up against each other.
Riding Mower vs. Push Mower
Riding and push mowers are two completely different tools. A standard walk-behind mower, even a self-propelled model, will require you to walk behind the tool and guide it across your lawn. Most have a cutting deck around 30” or so wide, meaning they make decent swathes on your lawn but can take a considerable amount of time, and walking, to tackle a larger property. Generally, push mowers are great for relatively flat lawns that are either small or medium in size.
This is because the tool will be relying on you to drive it forward, which can be incredibly exhausting on larger properties. On the other hand, self-propelled models require practically no muscle to advance but do require you to walk behind them. This means that while they’re great for average lawns, using them on lawns that are more than an acre in size can get tiring.
There are several circumstances where a push or self-propelled mower is ideal. One situation is if your lawn has an intricate garden, tight spaces, or sharp corners. Push mowers are better suited for this situation because they’re designed to get in and out of spaces that riding models simply can’t access. Push mowers can also help you mow lawns with a very steep drop.
While riding mowers can certainly tackle rolling hills, they aren’t safe on extremely steep slopes. For this, a conventional walk-behind model will be far easier and safer. The other area of comparison is cost. If you’re looking for an affordable option, a standard push mower can cost you anywhere from $150 to $400.
And for a self-propelled model, you can expect to spend between $500 and $800. Maintenance and operational cost is other factors that differ between these models. Basic push mowers use a small amount of gas and won’t require much maintenance or upkeep. Plus, due to their simple design, even if something does break, the parts will generally be cheaper to replace than a self-propelled or riding mower.
Self-propelled mowers land somewhere between the two models, using more gas and more maintenance cost than a push mower, but slightly less than a riding model. Riding mowers require practically no effort to operate. You steer the tool and let the blades do the work. They also have wider cutting decks that can range from 30” to well over 50”. This means that you can mow even massive lawns in less time and with virtually no effort. These powerful mowers are best for large, flat yards or properties with gentle hills and slopes around 10 to 15 degrees.
Riding mowers are superior to push mowers and other walk-behind models in certain situations. This mower is perfect for lawns of an acre or more – the rider won’t feel the fatigue that a walk-behinds operator will. And a riding mower can plow through thick and damp grass, overgrown lawns, and weedy patches easily, saving the user considerable time and energy compared to slowly pushing a walk-behind model and having to empty the collection bag frequently.
As far as price goes, a riding mower is more of an investment. They can range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the brand and extra features you choose. But for an average of $2,000, homeowners can purchase a quality riding mower with a wide cutting width, smooth performance, and features like cruise control, headlights, and even a cup holder, allowing them to drive across their lawn as easily as they would with a small car.
Zero-Turn Rider Mower vs. Lawn Tractor
If you’ve decided that it’s time to stop pushing that heavy push mower along your lawn and invest in a riding mower, then it’s time to decide between a lawn tractor and a zero-turn radius mower. Both styles of riding mower offer speed, performance, and efficiency that blow conventional push mowers out of the water. But as zero-turn models have become more affordable, they’ve become a viable option for many homeowners for various reasons. Which one is best for you depends on how you’re planning on using your mower and the layout of your lawn.
Both lawn tractors and zero-turn radius mowers tackle large lawns easily, but the way they go about it is different. The major difference between these two styles of riding mowers is how they mow the grass. The tightest turn radius offered by most standard lawn tractors can be around 16” or more. This means that when you reach the end of your swath of grass and turn the rider, you’ll miss some small patches, leaving uncut areas at the end of each pass. A good mower for small yards can help you out here!
Zero-turn mowers can turn on a dime, meaning they’ll never miss a section of grass when you turn to mow in the opposite direction. Since these patches have to be trimmed eventually, owners of lawn tractors hassle with going back and forth until they hit the missed spots. This means that, in most yards, owners of yard tractors spend more time mowing than owners of zero-turn mowers. Another difference is the way the mower is controlled.
While lawn tractors use steering wheels that allow you to operate the machine like an automobile, zero-turn models usually have two handles. These handles allow the operator to turn the mower’s rear wheels, for tight turns, compared to how the steering wheel of a tractor turns the mower’s front wheels. The braking mechanism relies on putting these handles into neutral compared to hitting the pedal on a tractor model.
For some users who are unfamiliar with using riding mowers, operating a lawn tractor is more user-friendly because it operates much like a car. But for individuals who have experience with riders, the learning curve of a zero-turn radius model isn’t that steep. And thanks to the sharp turning ability, these models allow you to mow closer to obstacles like trees and driveways so homeowners can enjoy less trimming time.
While it’s clear that zero-turn radius mowers have the advantage in terms of speed, sharp turns, and their ability to maneuver around landscaping obstacles, they do lose out to yard tractors when it comes to versatility and navigating slopes. Lawn tractors can be fitted with a wide variety of accessories, such as carts, ATV snow plows, leaf mulchers, spreaders, and various other gardening attachments. This means that you can use them in any season.
Lawn tractors are also recommended for properties with hills that slope more than 10 degrees because zero-turn models simply can handle these inclines. They have a greater tendency to slip or, even worse, flip over.
When deciding between a zero-turn radius mower and a yard tractor, it all comes down to your property. If you have plenty of trees and other obstacles to mow around or simply have very flat open spaces, a zero-turn model is a great choice. But for homeowners with hilly terrain and fewer obstacles to steer around, or those who want year-round versatility, a yard tractor is the best option.
Can You Use a Riding Mower to Tow?
One of the greatest advantages of purchasing a riding mower, particularly a lawn tractor, is the machine’s ability to tow objects. While towing objects with your mower are as simple as hitching the attachment to the back, the first thing you need to find out is your model’s towing capacity. Doing this is important if you want to avoid damaging your riding mower. Once you’ve established your riding mower’s towing capacity, there are a variety of accessories that you can safely attach to your mower.
Most brands offer a line of products designed to be compatible with their riding mowers. Some of the most popular options are leaf and grass vacuums and bags, power graders, snow blowers, carts, and even towable stump grinders. Using these great accessories helps you enjoy the full versatility of your lawn tractor, allowing you to not only mow your grass but tackle an endless number of landscapes.