If you have a property that spans a half-acre or more, you will do well to invest in a riding lawn mower. Using a push mower over that distance takes forever and wears you out, plus requires stopping frequently to empty the collection bag. A riding lawn mower solves all of these problems. But even better than your standard lawn or garden tractor, a zero turn mower allows you to make 360 degree turns. That means no “correcting” to meet back up with your previous pass. The superior maneuverability of these mowers also makes it a snap to navigate around landscaping and trees. You want one, don’t you? We have reviewed five great models and feel confident that you can find the best zero turn riding lawn mower for your needs, right here.
About Zero Turn Mowers
These mowers are high-performance machines known for superior maneuverability. They typically feature two handlebars – one for each powered wheel – rather than a traditional steering column and wheel. It is that ability to control each of the wheels individually that allows ZTR mowers to achieve a zero degree turn. This set-up also generally presents a learning curve for people new to the technology.
ZTRs are often faster than traditional lawn and garden tractors, mowing up to 8 mph in both forward and reverse. That can save you a lot of time in mowing. However, one downside to a ZTR mower is that they typically cannot be relied upon to tow attachments. They have relatively delicate hydrostatic transmissions that just can’t support a lot of extra weight. But some of the mowers on our list do have a limited ability to tow and can even be used a snow plow during the winter months.
If your yard is large and has a lot of obstacles to mow around, a ZTR mower is a great choice. On the other hand, one of the disadvantages of zero turn mowers is that they struggle to retain traction on steep grades. If your terrain is really hilly, you’ll experience better traction with a regular lawn or garden tractor.
Features to Consider
Different brands of zero turn mowers have cutting decks of varying size as well as different ergonomic features. What is most important to you depends on the size and features of your yard, whether you need the mower to perform any other tasks, and how important it is to you to be comfortable while mowing. Following are some specifications and features to keep in mind as you shop.
The cutting deck houses the mower blades and dictates how large an area of grass may be cut on each pass. Generally speaking, you want to get the mowing done in a few passes as possible. But if you are looking at a ZTR because you need precise navigation around obstacles, the number of passes or turns necessary to complete the job is less relevant.
A general guideline for cutting deck depends on the size of your yard:
- 1 Acre = 36-42” deck
- 1-2 Acres = 42-46” deck
- 2+ Acres = 48”+ deck
These numbers indicate the minimum size of cutting deck you should consider for your yard, but you can certainly go bigger to reduce cutting time. The only word of caution applies if your yard, regardless of size, is difficult to navigate due to a lot of trees or landscaping. You don’t want to get a mower that is too big to fit between and around these features.
Your ZTR mower will typically have a transmission that falls into one of several related types. Unless you’re a real gearhead, all you probably need to know is the broader term that encompasses them all: hydrostatic.
Hydrostatic transmissions are high end parts that use fluid (usually oil) to push power from the engine to the wheels of your riding lawn mower. You get a very smooth ride with a hydrostatic transmission because there are no belts and no need to shift gears via a clutch pedal. There is no reduction in power as you change speeds, like that which occurs with both manual and automatic transmissions.
You will pay more for a hydrostatic transmission. But remember that these transmissions require very little maintenance other than changing the oil and oil filter. They also boast superior longevity compared to both manual and automatic transmissions.
A couple of limitations should be noted.
- A hydrostatic transmission has a slightly lower efficiency, approximately 80 - 85%, than a mechanical transmission, which has an efficiency rating of 93 - 95%.
- These transmissions generate high torque that may cause wheel-spinning on soft surfaces. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you can avoid mowing when the ground is wet.
- A ZTR mower should not be towed behind any other vehicle because this can damage the seals within the pump by creating back pressure.
Ergonomics of ZTR Riding Mowers
Ergonomic features are simply those that are included in the design to make operation of the mower easier and more comfortable for you. Remember that you’ll likely be spending a lot of time on your lawn mower, so it is important that it doesn’t hurt. Following are some things to consider before making your purchase.
Full suspension seats
You can certainly tell in your car when the shocks are wearing out, because the ride becomes very rough. The same is true with riding lawn mowers, especially if you have lots of dips and swells across your land. A full suspension seat can help absorb the shock of those bumps before they jolt your spine. It is important because over time, being jostled like this can cause lasting physical damage.
High, padded seatbacks
Stability in your seat is an important consideration. Some mowers have seats that are basically just perches. But if you have to constantly engage your back and core muscles just to remain in place on your mower, you’ll be prone to soreness and cramping after you dismount. Look for a mower with a seat back that reaches at least to your mid-back, so as to provide some lumbar support. Thick padding and arm rests also help keep you stable and comfortable upon your mower.
Padded steering wheel
Riding mowers (and push mowers, for that matter) vibrate a lot when the motor is running. Add that to the bumps inherent in grass lawns and your body will take a lot of vibration as you mow. One of the places that this can actually be dangerous is in your hands and wrists. Extended exposure can cause numbness and ultimately lead to nerve damage. A padded steering wheel absorbs a lot of this vibration so that what you feel in your body is blunted.
Are you ready to dig into some zero turn riding lawn mowers? Following are five great products that have been highly rated by users.
TOP 5 Best Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower
75.5 x 76 x 42 in.
78 x 41 x 64 in.
79 x 63 x 45 in.
72 x 59 x 42 in.
83.5 x 35.5 x 60.8 in.
TOP 5 Best Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Now let’s dig deeper with in-depth zero turn mower reviews.
1 Husqvarna MZ61, 61 in. 27 HP Briggs & Stratton Zero Turn Riding Mower
Let’s jump right into it with a Husqvarna mower that features a powerful combination of utility and ergonomics. It has a huge 61” cutting deck and a three-blade system to slice cleanly through grass without chewing it up. The engine is a Briggs and Stratton Endurance V-Twin that offers 27 HP. This mower has the most powerful engine and largest cutting deck of any on our list.
But it doesn’t end there. This Husqvarna also has a pedal-assisted cutting deck lift that allows you to precisely set your preferred cutting height right from the driver’s seat. The frame is built to last with an oversized chassis supporting oversized tires that provide superior strength and a smooth ride. It also has a commercial-grade hydraulic system.
The ergonomic extras are also quite impressive. You will enjoy a high seatback with armrests. The steering levers feature rubber isolators that separate the rider from the frame, which means significantly less operator fatigue. One potential downside is that this mower does not feature a spring-mounted seat, so you may experience some bumps over rough terrain. However, the hydrostatic transmission makes this less of an issue.
The rear mounted collection bag can hold an ample 9 bushels of clippings before needing to be emptied. Maintenance is easy to manage with this mower because the foot pan is removable, revealing the deck belt pulleys and spindles. The mower has an hours meter that lets you know how long it has been in operation and when service is due.
This mower is great for personal use but is also classified as an entry-level commercial zero turn mower. You get a three year warranty for personal use, but that reduces to one year if you are using it for a commercial application.
75.5 x 76 x 42 inches
3 year warranty (personal); 1 year commercial
- Handles and maneuvers beautifully
- Comfortable seat with armrests
- Huge 61” cutting swath
- May slide on steep downgrades
- No low gas indicator or washout hose connectors
- Skid marks possible with inexperienced users
2 Ariens IKON-X 52" Zero Turn Mower 23hp Kawasaki FR691 - Series #915223
Ariens offers another great zero turn mower with their IKON-X. The engine is a powerful 23 HP/726 cc Kawasaki FR V-Twin. It has a sturdy 10-gauge steel frame and a sizable 52” cutting deck. The blades are offset, extending further out on one side than the other. This allows you to mow right up to the edges of your fence line or landscaping. For cutting height selection, there is a 4-point dual arm deck hanging system controlled by a dial.
For comfort, you will enjoy a high-backed padded seat with armrests. The control levers are also padded. One negative point for some people is that this mower is not available for sale in California. That means that it is not the most fuel-efficient model around; there are greener options. However, users have no complaints about the way it does its job, describing the results as maintaining the lawn “like a carpet.”
There is a mulching kit available for purchase separately, but no collection bag. If you are okay with its limitations, this Ariens is priced low and is a solid riding lawn mower for the money. The product arrives fully assembled and handles beautifully right out of the box. It comes with a nice 3-year warranty.
78 x 41 x 64 inches
871 pounds3 year warranty
- Easy to edge mow
- Beautiful results
- Comfortable seat and padded grips
- No bag available
- Poorer fuel efficiency
- Mulching kit sold separately
3 Swisher ZTR2454BS Response 24 HP 54" Zero Turn Mower
If you have a really large yard with a lot of trees and/or landscaping, you may want a zero turn mower for rough terrain. This one from Swisher is built tough out of commercial-grade steel so that it can take a beating and keep on mowing. It has an ample 54” cutting deck with 3 Gator mulching blades for a clean cut. The engine is a powerful 24 HP Briggs & Stratton coupled with a hydrostatic transmission; the mower fires up quickly with an electric assist starter.
Because it is a ZTR mower, there is no steering wheel but rather two joystick controls positioned on either side of the seat. Other ZTR mowers have these levers arch up and over the user’s lap, which feels a bit closer to a steering wheel, at least in terms of hand position.
The side-mounted controls on this Swisher can take some getting used to, but once you have navigated the learning curve, you’ll find that it is a much more responsive mower that can move with greater nuance than traditional tractors. In fact, Swisher has patented their Rapid Response Control System.
The mower deck easily adjusts to heights between 1.5” and 4.5” with the foot-assisted deck lift. A debris shield in the front is designed to prevent grass clippings from escaping from the front of the mower and blowing back onto the operator. It’s one of those things you might not realize you need until you experience the difference in mowing comfort.
But while you will be comfortable, you won’t have to be on the mower for very long. It can power through the job quickly, with an 8 mph top speed that can be achieved in both forward and reverse! Unlike many ZTR mowers, this one also features hitches on the front and back to either tow or push attachments.
There are plenty of extra features to enjoy with this Swisher, including a full seatback, a cup holder, and a storage bin. The 8 gallon gas tank gives you plenty of time between fill-ups. Swisher mowers are made in the USA with both domestic and international parts. They come with a nice 3-year warranty.
79 x 63 x 45 inches
3 year warranty
- Plenty of ergonomic features
- Front and back hitches
- Large cutting deck
- Much larger than traditional tractors
- Requires regular maintenance
4 Snapper 2691319 360z Mower, Riding, Zero Turn, Red
Snapper offers another ZTR mower that can haul or tow things. It has an integrated cargo bed behind the seat that can carry up to 50 pounds. There are also rails that support the attachment of certain aftermarket ATV accessories. The entire body is sturdy, with a fully welded steel frame, thick walled front axle, and ball bearings in the caster spindles.
The Briggs & Stratton Professional series engine has a respectable 23 HP. The ReadyStart technology makes it easy to fire up, and the hydrostatic transmission guarantees a smooth ride. The cut is reliably beautiful, and the cutting height can be adjusted between 1.5” to 4.5” with 13 stop positions. The commercial-style, foot operated lift makes this a breeze.
This ZTR has a high seat back for superior user comfort. You will also appreciate dual cup holders and a handy storage bin for keys or cell phones. Of course, there is a much larger cargo area directly behind your seat, too. The 48” cutting deck is ample, though it falls slightly behind the Swisher at 54”. Remember that a smaller cutting deck can actually be good if you have a lot of landscaping to navigate around.
72 x 59 x 42 inches
3 year warranty
- Plenty of cargo space
- Powerful engine and smooth hydrostatic transmission
- Manufacturer is great about honoring warranty
- Bagger is somewhat awkward to install
- No hour counter
- Optional mulching kit may leave a strip that needs a second pass
5 Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 25HP 54-Inch Zero-Turn Mower
Troy-Bilt offers a solid ZTR mower called Mustang. It has a 25 HP Briggs & Stratton Intek Twin Cylinder Engine with an added oil filter. Performance is further improved by a dual hydrostatic transmission, which means that each rear wheel is controlled independently.
The 54” cutting deck is supported by 4 caster wheels. That plus a floating front axle adds to the stability and smoothness of the ride. You will also appreciate the comfortable high-back seat with dual suspension springs. Bumps are no big deal on this Troy-Bilt.
The Electric Power Take-Off (PTO) function makes for fast and easy blade engagement. You can operate this mower at a top forward speed of 7 mph and a reverse speed for 2.5 mph. Choose between 8 cutting heights to get just the right cut every time.
The Dual Deck Wash is a nice feature that makes it easy to keep your mower clean. Built-up grass clippings and dirt can be rinsed with a standard garden hose attached to the cutting deck. Another convenient feature is the fuel gauge – not all riding mowers make it this easy to know when it is time to refuel.
Troy-Bilt offers a generous 3-year limited warranty on the internal parts for personal use. You also get limited lifetime warranty on the frame.
83.5 x 35.5 x 60.8 inches
3 year warranty
- Incredibly smooth ride
- Dual hydrostatic transmission
- Integrated deck washout port
- Lower top speed in reverse
- No armrests
- Collection bag is sold separately
Regular Riding Mower Maintenance
There are certain types of maintenance that you’ll need to do at the beginning and end of each cutting season. This includes changing the spark plugs and air filter and having the blades sharpened. It’s also good to drain the gas and oil before putting the mower in storage.
But there is additional maintenance that is important to do before each mow throughout the season. Read on for more about that.
Steps to Take Before Each Mow
- Check all shields and deflectors to verify that they are in place and undamaged. Replace damaged or worn parts.
- Ensure that the tires are properly inflated.
- Brush away any accumulated dust or grime, especially from the areas around the fuel tank and oil compartment.
- Check fuel and oil levels; top up if necessary.
- Tighten any loose screws or bolts.
Disconnect the battery or spark plug wires before doing any work on the internal components.
Mowing a huge lawn can be time consuming and dull, but these sweet zero turn riding mowers can make the job fun. They zip around and turn on a dime – there is no creeping along as you would on a regular lawn or garden tractor. For lawns with significant acreage, rolling terrain, and lots of landscaping, you definitely need a ZTR. We have looked at five highly reviewed models; depending on your specific property, at least one of them should fit the bill. It is getting warm outside, so don’t hesitate. Go order your best zero turn riding lawn mower today!