If you have a lawn bigger than half an acre, chances are you’re thinking about, shopping for or already using a riding lawn mower. They require less effort than push lawn mowers and can get the job done in a fraction of the time. They’re also significantly more expensive, so let us help you spend wisely. Our riding mower buying guide will show you how to pick a riding lawn mower.
Buying a riding mower
There are several factors to consider before you buy a riding lawn mower:
How big is your lawn? Investing in a riding mower probably isn’t necessary unless you have at least half an acre. Larger lawns typically require more horsepower — 14.5 hp for less than one acre, up to 20-plus hp for three or more acres.
Layout and topography
If trees, flower beds and other obstacles will be an issue, consider a riding mower with zero-radius turning. If you’ll be mowing on a slope, on the other hand, some of those zero-turn mowers might struggle with slippage.
Will you want to attach an aerator, spreader or detacher to the back of the mower or tow a cart or flatbed extension? Most mowers can handle attachments, but not all. Check to make sure they’ll be easy to change without requiring too many tools. If you’re planning to pull out stumps or drag trees and bushes around, you’ll need to go big and get a garden tractor with plenty of horsepower.
What is your budget? You’ll pay at least $1,000 for the smallest, most basic riding mower, and the top-of-the-line mowers can cost well past $10,000. Most homeowners can find a riding mower that meets their needs for $1,500-4,000.
It’s easy to get seduced by deck size and the opportunity to cut more grass with each pass, but the importance of 6 or even 10 extra inches is relative to the size of your lawn. Going with the 54-inch deck instead of the 42-inch deck won’t save much time if you’re only mowing one acre. But if you’ve got several acres to get through, those extra 12 inches add up quickly and can save you a lot of time.
Also note that deck width is only part of the equation of how long the mowing will take you. Consider as well how fast the tractor is moving and how fast the blades are spinning.
Hydrostatic mowers, which transmit all power hydraulically, are the strongest and typically the most expensive. For most homeowners, though, a more conventional automatic or manual transmission will definitely do the job.
Where do you want the clippings to go? Most mowers have plenty of options for bagging, mulching or discharge to the side or rear. Side discharge is most common for riding lawn mowers.
Do you have room to store a riding mower? Most likely you do if you have a lawn large enough to require one, but you’ll definitely want to ensure such an expensive piece of equipment stays well protected from the elements when not in use.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on The Goods and was written by Viewpoints Reviewer jcrhoo.