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Is a Riding Mower or a Lawn Tractor the Right Choice For You?

Jul 25, 2008
If you have a large lawn that is getting too much to handle with a walk-behind mower you may be considering buying a lawn tractor or a riding mower. A lawn tractor may have various attachments available and can be used for hauling materials about your yard in addition to mowing your lawn. More expensive than riding mowers they have multiple uses. You should also be looking for mowing decks that are easily adjustable and have mulching capabilities.

Choosing the Type of Mower

Zero Turn Mowers

For a lawn that is more than 1/2 acre with multiple objects a zero turn mower would be a good choice. The time taken to mow your lawn can be cut in half with a zero turn mower as these mowers are more efficient. The excellent maneuverability allows you to easily mow around all size objects without having to back up and turn repeatedly. The rear wheels are used for both power and steering and operate independently so one wheel can reverse while the other wheel rotates forward allowing zero to 360 degree turns. In addition these mowers are fast, up to 6.5 mph so you can quickly cover a large lawn.

Riding Mowers

For a lawn of between 1/2 to 1 acre a riding mower will be ideal. They have few attachments as they are primarily built to do one thin wheel and that is to cut the lawn!

Lawn Tractors

With higher horsepower engines lawn tractors are better for larger lawns and rougher terrain. They also have a good range of optional attachments so if you want to use your mower as a snowblower, an aerator, a machine to move material around your yard you should choose a lawn tractor.

Garden Tractors

The toughest of these machines with the highest horsepower, garden tractors usually have two-cylinder engines and sturdy transmissions. For a very large garden or yard with rough terrain choose a garden tractor.

Factors to consider before you purchase a lawn tractor or riding mower

Size of Lawn

The first thing to take into account is the power of the engine and the cutting width and to ensure that these are suitable for the size of your lawn. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose. Be aware of the width between any obstacles as a larger deck may cut down the time to mow a large area but be unable to mow between obstacles.

1/2 to 1 acre lawn: You will need a mower with at least a 14 hp engine and a 42" cutting width

1 to 2 acres lawn: A cutting width of between 42" and 46" with a 14 to 16hp engine should be adequate

3 Acres and above: For this size lawn area an engine size of between 18 and 24 hp and a 46" to 54" cutting deck would be the best buy


A wide range of attachments are available for lawn tractors including snowblowers, front blades, tractor shovel, electric spreaders, baggers etc. Check that attachments that you might need now or in the future are available for the model you are considering. Riding mowers generally have very few attachments but are cheaper to buy so if all you want to do is mow your lawn a riding mower would be the best buy.


Gear Driven or Automatic?

Consider the layout of the lawn area to be cut with your lawn tractor or riding mower. A gear driven mower will be better on open areas with few obstacles such as flower beds or bird baths. Choose an automatic transmission for areas that have obstacles so that you can easily vary the speed around the objects. Most of the lawn tractors with automatic transmission also have cruise control so you can set this in areas that are clearer.

Bagging, Mulching or Side Discharging

Many lawn mowers have the options to easily switch between mulching or side discharging. Most have optional bagging attachments.

Safety Concerns

The higher speed of lawn tractors and riding mowers leads to some concern for safety and operators should be aware of these factors before they use the machines.

Obstacles: Care must be taken with obstacles on the lawn as hitting a solid object will do severe damage to the machine at these speeds.

Scattering objects: Any small objects, for instance stones, twigs, household objects left on the lawn will be picked up by the mower and projected at high speed. Always ensure there are no people or pets in the area when operating the machines.

Noise: Some of these mowers can be very noisy. Wear ear protection if this applies to your model

Advantages and Disadvantages

Lawn Tractors

Advantages: Durable, built to last, attachments to do many other tasks

Disadvantages: Expensive, leaves uncut areas at the end of turns, needs a large storage area, difficult to take in for repairs

Zero Turn Mowers

Advantages: Fast, best for a lawn with many obstacles, no uncut areas at the end of turns, few attachments

Disadvantages: Expensive, needs a large storage area, difficult to take in for repairs, few attachments, some safety concerns due to the high speed.

Riding Mowers

Advantages: Cheaper than lawn tractors, reasonably fast, leaves uncut areas at the end of turns,few attachments

Disadvantages: Awkward to steer around obstacles and leaves uncut grass close to obstacles.
About the Author
Read more and find some great deals in new and used lawnmowers and lawn Tractors at Toro Lawnmowers and Snowblowers or John Deere lawn Tractors and Snowblowers
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