If you’re looking to tackle your lawn, you’ll find a wide variety of riding mowers on the market with different features, specs, sizes, and accessories available. But it’s not just about the mower – you also need to take your property and how you intend to use your riding mower into account! Add all this up, and choosing the right lawn mower for your yard can become incredibly frustrating.
Luckily, we are here to help!
The main factors to consider include the size of the riding mower, the terrain 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 by how easy it is to narrow down your options and decide which riding mower is right for you.
What Size Riding Lawn Mower Do I Need?
Riding mowers come in a variety of sizes. From compact riders to large yard tractors, there’s a perfect option for everyone. Size is important because it relates to the width of the mower’s cutting deck. Compact riders can feature cutting decks as small as 30” wide. This measurement is comparable to some larger walk-behind gas mowers available on the market. There are also large riding mowers that offer cutting decks measuring 50” wide or more.
The most important thing to think about when determining the size of the mower is your lawn. You’ll want the mower to be suited to your lawn’s size and layout – working with the wrong mower for your yard will be ineffective and actually increase mowing time.
The general rule of thumb is that if your lawn is large and fairly open, you’ll need a riding mower that offers a generous cutting width. A model with a cutting deck that’s at least 50” is perfect for these wide open spaces; it’ll make wide cutting swathes across your lawn, turning what was once a time-consuming task into something 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’s compact enough to handle sharp turns and curves and fit through tight passes. A mower that measures between 30” and 40” is probably the best bet for this situation.
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What Type of Riding Lawn Mower Should I Use for Uneven Ground?
The next thing to consider is your property’s condition. If it’s relatively flat, feel free to purchase any model, including a zero-turn radius (ZTR) 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. The last thing you want is for your mower to slip or slide when you’re going uphill or down.
For this reason, a yard tractor is likely the best model for uneven ground. 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 durable build, a solid 815 lb weight, a 52” wide cutting deck, and rear differential that delivers improved traction when operating on wet grass or slopes over 15 degrees.
Which is Better: Gear-Driven, Automatic, or Hydrostatic?
The 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 shift gear speeds yourself manually. Due to their simplistic design, they’re incredibly durable and can usually last the life of your mower.
However, the design can present some problems as well.
Manual riding mowers can be difficult to operate on lawns that require a lot of turning, such as properties with steep slopes or numerous trees and shrubs. This means you’ll have to change speeds often. You’ll also have to deal with stopping the mower, engaging the clutch, and switching the 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, these mowers are great for anyone with a large yard with a wide-open layout. Since 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. They use a belt and variable pulley system to transfer power from the engine to the mower’s wheels. These models make operating your mower easy since you don’t have to shift gears or use the clutch.
Most of these models allow you to change gears with the touch of a foot pedal or the push of a fender-mounted lever. You can use the same action for switching to a reverse motion. This means that you don’t have to stop your mower to change gears, allowing for ease 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 they make switching speeds so much easier, they’re perfect for yards with slopes, frequent turns, or obstacles. They’ll also save you a lot of time compared to manual transmission models. Hydrostatic transmissions are the most powerful formats on the market today – they 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, these models offer the smoothest ride on the market and an incredibly long transmission life. The drawback is that riding mowers with a hydrostatic transmission are also the most expensive. You need to weigh out what’s more important to you: durability and a smoother ride or the cost. These machines also tend to require more gas and maintenance than their manual and automatic counterparts.
But for anyone making frequent turns and speed changes, they deliver an impressively smooth performance and a simple operation – perfect for users who are unfamiliar with operating a riding mower. If you take your ability to operate the mower and the layout of your lawn into account, it’s simple to find the riding mower that’s perfect for you. Smaller lawns are well-suited for compact models, while large properties would best be served with a wide cutting deck.
After that, you just need to think about your landscape. If you have sloping terrain and tons of trees and other obstacles, a durable automatic or hydrostatic model is likely the best mower for you, while a manual transmission model is perfect for tackling large yards with a relatively flat grading and a minimal amount of obstacles.