Choosing the best riding lawn mower to spend your hard-earned money on is no small decision. Even if you opt for one of the more budget-friendly options, you’re still looking at a significant investment, so it pays to do your research and find a model that not only represents great value for money but also perfectly suits your needs.
Of course, as you may have already discovered, this is much easier said than done.
Start shopping around for a good quality ride-on mower, and you’ll find yourself inundated with options from top brands like Cub Cadet and Husqvarna, each one boasting unique features such as zero-turn transmission and an array of cutting heights.
Before you know it, the whole process can become so overwhelming that you’re tempted to abandon the idea altogether and stick to the mower you already have.
If that sounds familiar, we’ve got some good news for you:
We’re here to help. Before you go digging that old reel mower out of the shed and mowing the lawn the old fashioned way, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to this year’s very best riding mowers to help you find the one model that’s perfectly suited to your needs, your lawn, and, of course, your budget.
To put this all together, we tried out scores of best-selling mowers to separate the merely good models from the really outstanding ones and reviewed what we truly believe to be the very best of the best.
Below, you’ll find our honest take on the pros and cons of what we consider to be the top mowers on the market, as well as a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help make your purchasing decision that much easier.
The best riding mowers can make light work out of even the largest of lawn spaces, but choosing the right one can be a challenge if you’re not sure what to look for.
Why Buy a Riding Lawn Mower?
A riding mower is one of those big-ticket items you buy maybe once or twice in a lifetime, but choose right, and that mower will serve you well for years to come.
Riding mowers may not exactly be cheap, but for many homeowners, they represent a solid investment that makes their life -or at least their lawn care- much easier.
The most obvious advantage is that they take out all the hassle and hard work of maintaining a large lawn. If your garden space takes up several acres, you’ll already know that keeping the grass under control can take hours of back-breaking work and, let’s be honest, nobody wants that.
Of course, you don’t need a garden the size of a national park to benefit from a riding mower. They also prove remarkably helpful for elderly people or those with mobility issues. If that’s you, a ride-on mower can prove invaluable in allowing you to maintain your independence and continue working on that garden that you’ve invested so much time and effort into, even if physical limitations make using other gardening tools difficult.
Then there’s the versatility.
With the right add-ons and attachments, a riding mower is much more than just a riding mower, it’s an all-purpose property maintenance machine. Add a lawn sweeper, for example, and when Fall comes, you can ride around clearing up fallen leaves and debris with ease.
When winter comes, tractor-style mowers can even be converted into a snowplow providing you have the proper accessories.
In other words, that high price tag is more than justified when you consider that buying a ride-on mower means buying a powerful, adaptable machine that you could benefit from all year round for many years to come.
With that being said, let’s look at the top mowers that are actually worth spending your money on.
What is the Best Riding Lawn Mower? Our Top 10 Picks
|Mower||Horsepower||Cutting Width||Why We Love it|
|1.||Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series||18 HP||42”||Best all-round Mower|
|2.||Husqvarna Z254 26 HP Mower||26 HP||54”||Best zero-turn mower|
|3.||Snapper Classic 344cc Mower||11.5 HP||28”||Best rear-engine mower|
|4.||Troy-Bilt H42 Hydrostatic Mower||18 HP||42”||Best budget mower|
|5.||Ryobi Electric Riding Lawn Mower||n/a||38”||Best electric mower|
|6.||Husqvarna GTH52XLS Tractor Mower||24 HP||52”||Best mower for hills|
|7.||Husqvarna Z242F Zero Turn Mower||18 HP||42”||Best for beginners|
|8.||Swisher ZT2760B Zero Turn Riding Mower||27 HP||60”||Best for commercial use|
|9.||Troy-Bilt Super Bronco XP||26 HP||54″||Best for rough terrain|
|10.||Simplicity Prestige Mower||27 HP||52”||Best garden tractor|
1. Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series Riding Mower – Best All-Round Mower
In our in-depth test, the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower scored top marks in terms of performance, handling, and features, making it the clear winner for our pick of the very best riding mower on the market today.
The 18 horsepower Kohler OHV engine provides an impressive amount of power that’s more than sufficient for most residential lawns, even those on the larger side, while the 3-gallon gas tank means you’ll have no problem mowing your entire lawn without having to fill up the tank again.
In terms of handling, hydrostatic transmission and cruise control capability make mowing your lawn practically effortless, and the 16″ turning radius allows you to get into tight spaces and around sharp corners smoothly.
The best part? All that’s just for starters.
The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series comes with an excellent 42″ cutting deck, which means it’s capable of mowing a larger area much faster than many of its competitors. There are also 12 different cutting height options, perfect for those pesky, uneven lawns, or simply for giving you the freedom to experiment and find the perfect cut.
Still, even though the XT1 Enduro Series might help you mow your lawn quickly, you’re still going to be spending a decent amount of time on it, so it’s important that it’s comfortable too. Fortunately, it delivers in that regard too.
The adjustable seat comes with a padded base and a high back with added lower-lumbar support, plus there’s a comfort-grip cushion on the steering wheel to stave off hand fatigue even after hours of use.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the price point. Make no mistake about it, it’s rare to find a ride-on mower that offers this much performance, and this many useful features for such a low cost, making this a truly exceptional value-for-money option.
- Affordable price
- 12 cutting heights
- 42″ cutting deck
- Cruise control capability
- Reversing can be a hassle
2. Husqvarna Z254 26 HP Mower – Best Zero Turn Mower
Husqvarna are one of the biggest outdoor power tool brands in the world, earning a reputation for excellence by delivering premium quality and durability in everything from chainsaws to weed whackers and everything in between.
Yet if there’s one area where the brand truly excels, it’s in their range of remarkable garden tractors and ride-on mowers, with the Husqvarna Z254 26 HP Mower encapsulating everything that makes the brand so special.
The 54″ reinforced steel cutting deck is just about the biggest we’ve come across, making light work out of even the most troublesome of lawns, and although it doesn’t offer as many cutting height options like the aforementioned Cub Cadet model, the innovative air induction mowing technology means that air is drawn from both the top and bottom of the cutting deck for a neater mow that leaves your lawn looking immaculate.
Then there’s the 26 HP Kohler 7000 Series Engine capable of reaching up to 6.5 miles per hour. Sure, that may not break any world records for lawn mower speeds, but it does at least mean you’ll be able to zip around your lawn quickly so that you can spend less time maintaining your garden and more time enjoying it.
That being said, the highlight of this one is the zero-turn transmission which improves maneuverability and makes the whole thing easier to handle, even at top speed.
Finally, we love how well-built this mower is. Solid, powerful, and incredibly reliable, this is one mower that will truly stand the test of time.
- Zero-turn transmission for increased speed and maneuverability
- 54” steel reinforced cutting deck
- Requires very little maintenance.
- Doesn’t perform well on hills.
3. Snapper HP 344cc Riding Mower – Best Rear Engine Mower
Typically smaller and less powerful than other types of mower, rear engine rider mowers are often the best options for smaller lawns totally less than an acre.
Of all the rear engine models out there, the Snapper Classic RER 34CC Riding Mower earns its place in this guide as it packs a surprising amount of power into such a compact size.
Though the 11.5 HP 4-Cycle OHV Engine may not seem like much compared to some of the larger models out there, it’s more than enough for zapping your way around smaller gardens. Meanwhile, the Snapper’s smaller frame lends it an agility that few other mowers can match, making it perfect for cutting the grass between trees and narrow passageways.
Best of all, this one handles like a charm, with simple controls that make changing speed and reversing as easy as you could imagine.
On the downside, smaller mowers like this one aren’t so great for adding attachments such as lawn sweepers, but if all you want is a simple, affordable mower for keeping on top of a small lawn, you won’t do much better than the Snapper.
- Small size makes for easier storage
- 28” cutting deck
- Fuel efficient.
- Not suitable for larger lawns
- Not suitable for adding attachments.
4. Troy-Bilt H42 Hydrostatic Lawn Riding Mower – Best Budget-Friendly Mower
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Not everyone wants to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on a new riding mower. If you’re on the lookout for a decent model that will get the job done without breaking the bank, the Troy-Bilt Hydrostatic Lawn Riding Mower may be just the thing.
Although it proves to be much more affordable than many other models out there, this one doesn’t scrimp on the important stuff.
The 42″ twin-blade cutting deck performs just as well as the deck of the same size featured in our first-placed pick, the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series, while the 18 HP Troy-Bilt OHV engine rivals other premium brand mowers and makes it a great choice for conquering multi-acre lawns with ease.
What’s more, because this is such a strong, powerful machine, it’s great for adding attachments such as lawn spreaders or tow-behind fertilizers, giving it a versatility that adds even more value for money.
Before we move on, we should also talk about the 7-speed transmission, the 18” turning radius, and the five different cutting height options, all of which help ensure the Troy-Bilt Hydrostatic Lawn Riding Mower is more than up to the task of tackling difficult terrain.
All in all, a beast of a mower at a budget-friendly price.
- Low cost
- 5 different cutting height options
- 42” cutting deck.
- Manual transmission
You don’t need a large lawn to use a riding mower. Smaller gardens will still benefit from a smooth, flawless cut done in half the time it takes for a regular mower.
5. Ryobi Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower – Best Electric Mower
For over 75 years, Ryobi has been the leading brand in battery-operated power tools, lending their name to everything from awesome angle grinders to brilliant brushcutters and all kinds of high-quality tools in between.
So it’s no surprise to discover that their ride-on mower is another exceptional product that makes the perfect choice for anyone looking to lessen the environmental impact of their gardening equipment.
Sure, the Ryobi Electric Riding Lawn Mower may not boast the same kind of power that you’d get with other models on this list, nor will the electric charge provide the same amount of run time as a tank full of gasoline. Yet what it lacks in those departments it more than makes up for in many others.
Not only is the Ryobi Electric Riding mower much more environmentally friendly, but it’s also much quieter, meaning you no longer have to annoy the neighbors every time your lawn needs tending to.
It’s also much easier to maintain. There are no tanks to refill, no oil to change, and no belts, plugs, or filters to think about. Instead, just plug it in a 120-volt outlet, recharge the battery, and get back out on the lawn.
The only disadvantage here is that getting the battery from zero to full charge takes roughly 12 hours and delivers a maximum of two hours run time, or enough to cover 2 acres.
If you’ve got a much larger space to cover then, this might not be for you. Otherwise, its economical, efficient, and eco-friendly design make it a worthy contender.
- Low maintenance
- Only 2 hours per charge
- Battery takes a long time to charge.
6. Husqvarna GTH52XLS Tractor Mower – Best Mower for Hills
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Sloping hills can really add a dramatic look to your property, but they can also be a chore to maintain. Sure, the whole process gets much easier if you use a riding mower, but even then you need to know that your mower has all the power you need to get up and down those hills while still maintaining a perfect cut.
For that purpose, we recommend the Husqvarna GTH52XLS Tractor Mower, a strong, powerful machine with a 52″ cutting deck and multiple cutting options that make it our choice of the best mower for hills.
What we love this is that it handles much better than its size would have you believe. The GTH52XLS Tractor Mower is built like a tank, with a substantial 24 HP Briggs & Stratton engine and a heavy-duty chassis that ensure its capable of driving up even the steepest of slopes without breaking a sweat. It’s also plenty strong enough that you can hitch a trailer or other attachment to the back and still blast your way up the hill at top speed.
Yet at the same time, the intuitive steering, pedal-operated hydrostatic transmission, and simple controls mean you’ll have no problems with maneuverability.
Of course, for a hill mower, what really matters is that the garden tractor can hold its own in less than ideal conditions, and in that regard, Husqvarna once again scores top marks.
The TH52XLS Tractor Mower comes with a locking rear differential to provide ample grip in wet or slippery conditions, so you can tend to your lawn safely without worrying about tipping over.
- Pedal-operated hydrostatic transmission means you can drive without shifting gears.
- 52″ cutting deck for cutting large areas of grass.
- Locking rear differential for added traction on wet grass.
- Cutting options are limited compared to other models.
7. Husqvarna Z242F Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower – Best for Beginners
Yes, Husqvarna are at it again with another deluxe riding mower, this one boasting an 18 HP Kawasaki engine for a top speed of 6.5 miles per hour, an impressive 42″ cutting deck, and hydrostatic, no-maintenance transmission.
Best of all, the Husqvarna Z242F Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower has an awesome zero turn radius which makes turning a breeze and helps you navigate through small spaces and around obstacles like it were nothing.
This combination of zero turn, hydrostatic gears, and simple controls make it a great choice if you’re buying a riding mower for the first time. There’s practically no learning curve, and, thanks to the 6 cutting height options, you’re guaranteed to get a great-looking lawn even if you’ve never ridden a mower before.
- Zero turn transmission
- 6 cutting height options
- Mows in reverse with ease.
- Can be expensive compared to other models.
8. Swisher ZT2760B Zero Turn Riding Mower – Best for Commercial use
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Several of the riding mowers we’ve looked at today would be perfectly suited to mowing even the largest of residential lawns, but what about when you’re tasked with tackling something even bigger like a sports field, a park, or some other commercial lawn space?
You opt for the Swisher ZT2760B Zero Turn Riding Mower, that’s what.
The best professional-grade riding mower we’ve ever come across, everything about the Swisher ZT2760B is bigger and more powerful than the other mowers on this list.
The engine is a 27 HP Briggs & Stratton Extended Life Series V-Twin Electric Start Engine, so you’re guaranteed plenty of power.
The tank has an 8-gallon fuel capacity so that you can keep going for miles without having to refuel, and the cutting deck measures a mammoth 60″, so even if you do have a whole lot of ground to cover, you’ll still be done in no time.
While this might be too excessive for most residential properties, there’s nothing better if you need a professional set up for commercial use.
- Zero-turn radius
- 60″ cutting deck
- 8-gallon fuel tank
- Not for sale in California as it isn’t CARB compliant
9. Troy-Bilt Super Bronco XP – Best for Rough Terrain
Hills aren’t the only thing that can give you a headache when mowing your lawn. Uneven surfaces, patches of weeds, and other rough terrains can all make the job much harder.
Fortunately, that’s where the Troy-Bilt Super Bronco XP really comes into its own.
Built around a dynamic 26HP Twin Kohler 7000 Series Push Button Electric Start Engine, the Super Bronco XP is as mighty as they come, effortlessly rolling over those rough, tough surfaces that other mowers struggle to handle.
As that 26 HP powers the whole thing along, the super-sized 54″ fabricated cutting deck and choice of 12 different cutting heights mean you’ll have no problem tackling even the largest expanses of stubborn terrain.
There’s more too, the Super Bronco is purpose-built for large-scale residential lawns that require a lot of TLC, so there’s everything here that you’d want and expect from a mower you were going to use often. The high-back seat, armrests and padded steering wheel offer a good level of comfort, so you don’t have to worry about getting sore after spending lots of time mowing. Meanwhile, the 3-gallon fuel tank means this one can keep going for hours without needing to be refilled.
Finally, we love that despite its impressive performance, the mower handles surprisingly well, with a 16-inch turning radius and foot-controlled transmission helping you maneuver in a way that you’d normally only be able to do with a much smaller model.
- 16-inch turning radius
- Extra-large 54″ cutting deck
- Cruise control.
- More expensive than other models.
10. Simplicity Prestige Mower – Best Garden Tractor
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Last but by no means least, we reach the Simplicity Prestige Mower, a heavy duty yard tractor that combines plenty of power and precision into one mighty machine.
Another good option for larger spaces, this one comes with a 27 HP Briggs & Stratton commercial Series v-twin engine with electronic fuel management (Efm) and a generous 52″ cutting deck.
Still, you can find those things in other mowers too. So what makes this one so special?
For starters, there’s the fact that this is one of the best options out there if you’re planning to add attachments to your mower. There’s a useful dash-mounted hydraulic lift lever, so you can add those fertilizers, plows, and lawn sweepers easily and securely.
Then there’s the brand’s innovative Free Floating Mower Deck that enables the cutting deck to trace the outline off your lawn for a smooth finish with minimum turning.
Finally, there’s the comfort level. The Simplicity Prestige Mower uses a patented suspension system which the brand promises us means you’ll feel 25% less impact than on other mowers, making for a smoother, more comfortable ride.
- Power steering
- Automatic Controlled Traction for better grip
- Hydraulic Tractor Attachment Lift
- Not suitable for smaller yards.
Choosing a Riding Lawn Mower: What to Look For
Riding mowers can be fitted with attachments to make them a versatile, year-round gardening tool.
You’ve seen what we consider to be the very best riding mowers on the market, but if you still haven’t decided which mower to invest in, keeping the following key factors in mind should help you make your mind up:
We’ve referred to the cutting deck a lot throughout this article though you may have seen it referred to elsewhere as the cutting width. Either way, it means essentially the same thing:
How much of your lawn the blades can cut into one single pass. A 28″ cutting deck, for example, will cut a width of grass measuring 28″, while a 50″ will, naturally, cut a 50″ width.
The cutting width has a bigger influence on which mower you buy than you might first imagine. Mowers with larger cutting decks tend to be more expensive, so you might be cheaper to opt for one that’s on the low side.
Do that, however, and you’re only making more work for yourself if you have a large lawn as a 28″ – 32″ cutting deck will take much longer to finish the job than a 40″ – 50+” version.
Don’t rule out small cutting decks just yet though. If you have a small garden with lots of obstacles to move around, choosing a mower with a smaller width is your best option.
Horsepower (HP) is the term used for the power output of the mower’s engine. That power does more than just enable the machine to move. It’s also distributed to the blades.
As such, the harder you need your mower to work, the more horsepower you’re going to need for it to work effectively. If you have a large garden with lots of hills and rough terrain, then you’ll need more power than if you simply had to go up and down a flat, moderately sized lawn a couple of times.
As a rough guide, 18 – 20 HP is sufficient for smaller gardens, while for large gardens and rough areas you should be looking at something with at least 25 – 30 HP.
All but one of the riding mowers in our list are fuelled by gasoline and it really does make a difference how much gasoline each one can hold in its tank
If you have a large garden then you need to be sure that the tank has enough fuel capacity to get you around the entire thing in one go. After all, there are few things more frustrating than having your riding mower splutter to a stop halfway through a job and only starting again after you’ve filled it back up again.
Frequently Asked Questions About Buying a Riding Lawn Mower
A zero-turn mower like this one allows for effortless 360-degree turning and better maneuverability, making them perfect for gardens with sharp edges or obstacles to navigate.
What’s the Difference Between a Riding Mower and a Garden Tractor?
On the surface, a riding mower and garden tractor may seem nearly identical. Look under the hood, however, and you’ll soon see a difference.
Riding mowers have the cutting deck mounted at the front of the mower which improves maneuverability and makes it easier to move around trees and shrubs, as well as cutting grass underneath garden benches, patio furniture and similar objects.
A garden tractor positions the cutting deck in the middle of the machine, which is better for mowing large areas with ease.
How Long Does a Riding Mower Last?
Providing you look after it well, your riding mower should last for at least 1,000 hours of use, if not much longer.
Though you may occasionally need to replace the belt and other under-the-hood components, there’s no reason why a mower that you buy today wouldn’t continue to serve you well for the next 15 – 20 years which is another reason why it really pays to do your research before making such a long-term investment.
Can I Adjust the Cut Height on My Riding Mower?
Absolutely. Much like modern standard lawn mowers, the best riding mowers tend to come with multiple cut height options. This is perfect for uneven terrain, or simply to help ensure the perfect cut for your lawn.
Some models even come with a feature that allows you to change the cut height while the mower is motion while others require a more manual approach that means you have to turn off the machine, adjust the height and restart it.
What Type of Mower Should I Pick If I Have a Lot of Trees on My Property?
With their impressive maneuverability, zero-turn riding mowers are generally best suited for getting between trees and other small spaces with ease.
At first, buying a riding lawn mower can be a daunting task, not only because the number of available options can be overwhelming, but because, however you look at it, this is a serious investment that’s going to last you for a long time to come.
Yet if you’ve read this far, you’ve successfully armed yourself with all the knowledge and insight you need to make an easy, informed purchasing decision. You know, for example, that if you have a large, flat lawn with few obstacles, then you’ll need a much different machine than you would for a smaller space with plenty of trees to get around.
You’ll also have a good idea about the size of cutting deck that’s best suited to a garden of your space, how much horsepower you’re going to need, and, if we’ve done our job well, which riding mower is the best choice to help make your life easier for many years to come.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.