What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower?

There’s a wide variety of riding mowers available on the market with different features, specs, sizes, and accessories available. That’s not to mention the fact that you need to take your own property and how you intend to use your riding mower into account. Add this all up, and choosing the right lawn mower for your yard can be incredibly frustrating. Luckily, there are some very basic things that you should look at when it’s time to purchase a rider.

The main factors that you need to consider are what size riding mower you’ll need, the terrain that you’ll be mowing, and what kind of transmission is best for your needs By taking each of these factors into consideration, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to narrow down your options and decide which riding mower is perfect for your specific needs.

What Size Riding Lawn Mower Do I Need?

Riding mowers come in a variety of sizes. From compact riders to large yard tractors, there is a perfect option for everyone. The reason that size is so important is that it relates to the width of the mower’s cutting deck. Compact riders can have cutting decks as small as 30” wide. This measurement is comparable to some of the larger walk-behind gas mowers that are available on the market. On the other side of the spectrum, there are large riding mowers that offer cutting decks that measure 50” wide or more.

The most important thing to think about when determining the size of the mower that you should purchase is your lawn. You want the mower to be suited to both the size and layout of your lawn because working with the wrong mower for your yard can be ineffective and actually increase the time you spend mowing your grass.

The general rule of thumb is that if your lawn is large and fairly open, you want a riding mower that offers a generous cutting width. For these wide open spaces, a model with a cutting deck that is at least 50” is perfect because it will make wide cutting swathes across your lawn, making what was once a time-consuming task incredibly quick and easy.

On the other hand, if your property has a lot of obstructions such as trees, shrubs, and gates, you’re better off buying a riding mower that is compact enough to fit through these tight passes and easily handle sharp turns and curves. For these situations, a mower that measures between 30” and 40” is probably the best bet for you.

What Type of Riding Lawn Mower for Uneven Ground?

Lawn Mower for Uneven GroundThe next thing to consider is your property’s condition. If it’s relatively flat, then you can feel free to purchase any model including a zero-turn-radius (ZTR) model or a larger yard tractor. But if your yard has sloping hills and uneven terrain, your best bet is a riding mower with a wide stance, a lower center of gravity, and impressive traction because the last thing you want is for your mower to slide or slip when you’re going uphill or downhill.

For this reason, a yard tractor is likely the best model that you can buy for uneven terrain. These powerful workhorses feature wide cutting decks and sturdy, low-profile frames that are great for optimum balance on sloping terrain. Look for models like Husqvarna’s GTH52XLS Yard Tractor. This riding mower features a sturdy build, a solid 815 lb weight, a 52” wide cutting deck, and rear differential which delivers improved traction when operation on wet grass on slopes over 15 degrees.

Which is Better: Gear-Driven, Automatic, or Hydrostatic?

A transmission transfers power from the mower’s engine to its wheels, allowing it to move forward or in reverse. Without it, you’re not going anywhere. Years ago, the only transmission style available in riders and yard tractors was gear driven, or manual. But today, consumers can choose from manual, automatic, and hydrostatic formats. Which style is best for you will depend on the layout of your lawn, how often you’ll be mowing, and how experienced you are at operating a riding mower.

A manual, or gear-driven, transmission is the most basic style out there.  This transmission style uses a series of gears to change the speed of your rider. To operate a gear-driven riding lawn mower, you need to manually shift gear speeds yourself. Due to their simplistic design, they are incredibly durable and can usually last the life of your mower but the design does present some problems as well.

Manual riding mowers can be difficult to operate on lawns that require frequent turning such as properties with steep slopes or numerous trees and shrubs. This means that you’ll have to change speeds often and have to deal with stopping the mower, engaging the clutch, and switching gears frequently. Despite these issues, manual transmission models are perfect for some homeowners.  First, they are generally much more affordable than other models on the market, making them a great choice for the budget-conscious.

Second, for anyone with a large yard with a wide-open layout, these mowers are great since, because you don’t have tons of obstacles on your lawn to steer around, you won’t have to do much gear shifting anyway. Automatic transmissions make the task of driving your mower much easier. Automatic transmissions use a belt and variable pulley system to transfer power from the engine to the mower’s wheels.  These models make operating your mower forward or in reverse easy since you don’t have to shift gears or use the clutch.

Gear Driven Lawn MowerMost of these models allow you to accelerate into a different gear with the touch of a foot pedal or the push of a fender-mounted lever. The same action is used for switching to a reverse motion. This means that you don’t have to stop your mower to change gears, allowing for quicker, easier when navigating difficult terrain or maneuvering around trees and shrubs. The downside of these models is that they tend to be slightly more expensive than manual transmission riding mowers.

So if you’re looking for the best deal possible, these models might not be right for you.  But, since these models make switching speeds so much easier, they’re perfect for yards with slopes, frequent turns, or obstacles because they’ll save you quite a bit of time compared to manual transmission models. Hydrostatic transmissions are the most powerful formats on the market today. These models use fluids to shift power from the engine to the wheels of the riding mower.

Since there are no belts and you don’t need to use a pedal to shift speeds, this models offer the smoothest ride on the market and an incredibly long transmission life. The drawback to these models is that riding mowers with a hydrostatic transmission are also the most expensive riders on the market. So you need to weigh out what’s more important to you: durability and a smoother ride or cost. They also tend to require more gas and maintenance than their manual and automatic counterparts.

But for anyone making frequent turns and changes of speed, these are remarkable machines which deliver impressively smooth performance and a simple operation that is perfect for a user who is unfamiliar with operating a riding mower. By taking your ability to operate a riding mower and the layout of your lawn into account, it’s simple to find the riding mower that is perfect for your needs. Smaller lawns are well-suited for compact models while large properties would best be served with a wide cutting deck.

After that, just take your landscape into consideration. If you have sloping terrain and tons of trees and other obstacles, a durable automatic or hydrostatic model is likely the best model for you. While a manual transmission model is perfect for tackling large yards with a relatively flat grading and a minimal amount of obstacles.

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