Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mowers (2019)
A zero-turn riding lawn mower is a traditional riding lawn mower with ‘zero’ turning radius. To accomplish this attribute, manufacturers use differing methods, but the widely used conventional way is by controlling the hydraulic speed of each driving wheel. These riding lawn mowers have been targeted for commercial users as well as for enthusiastic gardening homeowners. A zero-turn riding lawn mower usually works faster, but has a higher price, compared to equally sized standard riding mowers, that have steerable front wheels instead.
The basic structure of these zero-turn riding mowers comprises two twisting front wheels and two driving back wheels. The driving wheels rotate individually based on the driver's input and may rotate in opposite directions if need be. A point midway between the driving wheels can be the pivoting point for the mower, which would result in the zero-turn, or either one of the driving wheels can be the pivoting point if one of the wheels is fixed. The mower can also turn in a circle of any radius. Some mowers can be navigated by a steering wheel or joystick. But most zero-turn mowers have two throttles that regulate the direction and rotational speed of each driving wheel. However, the engine throttle is different and is regulated separately.
Nothing compares to zero-turn riding lawn mowers for their speed, power, and maneuverability. They are ideal for mowing large plots which would be otherwise exhausting to be mowed by hand. As these mowers can rotate to about any angle, it is ensured that there is no loop of grass uncut when driving. They can even neatly cut areas surrounding objects, like bushes, trees, sculptures, etc. and can be as speedy as 7 miles per hour. Despite their hefty price, these mowers are totally worth it for individuals passionate about maintaining a perfect yard as these are not just your average riding lawn mowers.
Our top pick is the Husqvarna Z254 26 HP. It is equipped with a 26 horsepower (HP) Kohler engine and a 54-inch reinforced steel cutting deck. It has the Air Induction Mowing Technology which draws air from the top and bottom of the deck resulting in a n impressive grass lift and efficient cutting.
Our budget pick is the Ariens Zoom19 HP V-Twin. This features a professional-grade 19 HP, 660 cc Kohler 6600 V-Twin engine. It also has a 34-inch stamped deck composed of 12-gauge steel. It has seven cutting positions and altogether holds a good value for money
Product Comparison Table
1) Husqvarna Z254 26 HP Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower
Our top choice judging overall performance, price and reviews
Husqvarna proudly lives up to its brand name and this product is no different too. The Z254 26 HP Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower comes with an impressive 7000 series Kohler engine and delivers 26 HP. Its air induction mowing technology confirms effective cutting and a maintenance-free transmission. It has a stamped cutting deck which is fortified with heavy flat-stock steel for increased endurance on the leading edge and trim side. Overall, the mower is quite sturdy and fantastic appearance wise.
The engine is shielded with a guard and the control system is protected from debris or dust by rubber bellows. The exclusive tube style chassis holds a removable foot pan so that the cutting deck can be accessed easily. The Z254 has a patent pending park brake system which automatically activates or deactivates according to the steering levers facing outward or inward.
The manufacturers have also kept comfort in mind by adding a footrest area with non-slip surface and a convenient deck lift with spring assistance. The mower has a 15-inch high back vinyl seat with seat springs along with arm rests and cup holders to make sure you can have a pleasant experience on the whole.
There are two very similar models to this mower. The Z254 (967 32 41-01) which has a 24 HP Briggs & Stratton engine. It weighs and costs slightly less. Other than these, there are very small differences between the two models which does not really make up for the reduced price. Another model, the Z254F (967 84 49-01), with the same power output but different engine series, has some upgraded features and so is available for a higher price.
The Husqvarna Z254 comes with a 3-year homeowner warranty.
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2) Ariens IKON-X 915223 23 HP Zero Turn Mower
Best beginner friendly & comfortable choice
The Ariens Ikon-X 915223 features a brilliant 23 HP, 726 cc Kawasaki FR V-Twin engine with instant ignition. It encompasses a 52-inch fabricated deck which is 4.5 inches deep and made of 11-gauge steel. The entire frame is made out of tubular steel and has a commercial approach 4-point dual-arm deck hanging system which enables you to work on uneven surfaces, of up to 15 degrees inclination. The grass cutting height can be adjusted by a dial operated system.
This product is for residential use but has commercial grade quality. It is beginner friendly and can withstand significant amounts of stress. The machine is relatively quiet and has a pressurized lubrication system, single stage air filtration system along with weatherproof cylinder liners.
The mower is very comfortable to use, having adjustable, padded high-back seats with armrests. The controls are well within reach and overall functions very smoothly.
The product comes with a 3-year limited consumer warranty for the machine and a 5-year limited warranty for the deck and frame.
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3) Swisher ZTR2454BS-CA Response Gen 24 HP Zero Turn Mower
Best Environment Friendly choice made in uSA
The Swisher ZTR2454BS comes with a 24 HP, 724cc Briggs & Stratton engine and offers the ability to easily turn a full 360 degrees. Plus, it has a low center of gravity that gives it tremendous grip and maneuverability. The engine has a 24-hour meter and notifies the user when the machine requires maintenance. The new Rapid Response Control System it is equipped with ensures the rider full control with a lot of comfort. It has a 54-inch, 11-gauge fabricated, adjustable cutting deck with 3 Gator mulching blades and can mow up to 5 acres of land. The cutting height ranges from 1.5 to 4.5 inches and can be adjusted via the foot lever, providing 8 cutting positions.
The automatic hydro gear transmissions and ogura clutch allows you to ride and mow at varying speeds. The mower has a pressurized engine lubrication system and remote throttle adjustment. It owns a rather robust, commercial grade, fully welded steel body frame and composite fenders; typical USA built. The air-cooled cooling system keeps the unit running smoothly and is compatible with uneven terrains, even with obstacles.
It has a front & rear hitch, storage and battery compartments, cup holders and a 12V adapter. The deluxe high back, adjustable seats with arm rest ensures the rider is snugly seated. To tie it all up, the product is CARB compliant, as it has a 4-cycle engine which makes it environment friendly.
Swisher comes with a 3-year limited general warranty.
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4) Husqvarna MZ61 27 HP Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower
Best Semi-Professional choice for large scale tasks
- Model: MZ61 (967 27 75-01)
- Weight: 770 Lbs.
- Speed: 8 mph
- Cutting width: 61 inches
- Cutting height: 1.5 to 4.5 inches
- Fuel tank (with reserve): 5 gallons
- Hydrostatic transmission
- Fan cooled pumps
The Husqvarna MZ61 is a semi-professional zero-turn riding mower. It is a high-end product built with an oversized chassis and pneumatic tires for smooth riding, even on turfs. It has an 810 cc Briggs & Stratton Endurance Series V-Twin engine with a 27 HP output. The engine also comprises a full pressure lubrication system with a spin-on oil filter, premium air filtration and an advanced debris management system which maintains the engine by expelling grass and debris. The chrome plated valves, super finished bearing surfaces and an oversized cooling fan adds up to the engine’s strength and performance. The 61-inch fabricated 11-gauge steel cutting deck is equipped with a triple-blade cutting system. The cutting height has 12 settings and ranges from 1.5 to 4.5 inches, which can mow up to 4.2 acres per hour.
This riding mower also includes Hydrostatic Gear Transmission which frees you from the hassle of changing gears manually and so has all your focus on steering and mowing only. The frame of the mower is made of heavy-duty steel and has a high-back vinyl seat with armrests. Shout out to the cup holders too. Some users even commented that it is almost like sitting in a luxury-style car; yes, it is that comfortable. The machine has dual levers with foam-padded hand grips and thick dampers that reduce vibration. Husqvarna makes sure that mowing your yard doesn’t feel like a chore and that you have a good time all the while.
The MZ61 has easy-pull parking brake and an array of safety features that some may find unnecessary. But since it is mainly for commercial use, these added features should come in handy. Firstly, in order to start the engine, the mower deck must be disengaged, and the steering controls should be in the neutral position with the parking brake on. Secondly, of course, the rider has to be seated. Without these, the mower doesn’t ignite. Pretty smart for a gardening appliance. This mower also reminds you when it’s time for servicing.
Husqvarna markets another very similar mower in the same series, the MZ61 (967 27 7503) which has a 24 HP Kawasaki FR 730V engine. Apart from this, the differences are trivial but sells for a much higher price.
This product comes with a 4-year or 400 hours (whichever occurs first) Homeowner as well as Commercial warranty.
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5) Ariens Zoom 19 HP V-Twin Zero Turn Lawn Mower
Best budget friendly choice ideal for small & private lawns
The Ariens Zoom V-Twin Zero Turn Lawn Mower, driven by a professional grade 19 HP, 660 cc Kohler 6600 Series V-Twin engine, is an overall lighter and smaller riding lawn mower compared to its fellow competitors. Equipped with SmartChoke technology for easy and reliable starting every time, the mower has an overhead valve design which enables cool and tidy running of the machine at up to 6 miles per hour. The fully integrated hydrostatic transmission system makes gear shifting needless and helps the user ride it seamlessly. This mower also has a 4-point deck hanging system and a mechanical foot-lift which lets you switch between the 7 different cutting heights, in half inch increments.
This model too has a fully welded steel frame and a mid-back padded seat with seat springs. It has plugs for both mulching and bagging and these accessories are sold separately. It can bag clippings very well and only starts to drop the clippings to the side once the bag is full, or if the deck is clogged for any reason. Wet grass tends to clog up the deck, so be careful with that. With 2 gallons fuel capacity, you can mow about a quarter of an acre easily. This is more of a beginner friendly mower and suitable for smaller, fairly flat yards.
The product comes with a 3-year limited consumer warranty for the machine and a 5-year limited warranty for the deck and frame.
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Why should i buy a zero-Turn riding mower?
Because of its Speed
Zero-turn riding lawn mowers have been reported to reduce mowing time by up to 50%. They have faster ground speeds than other types of mowers and due to a low center of gravity, these mowers are safe too. They have large decks which covers a greater area of cutting and highly efficient maneuverability reduces the turning time taken to reach from one end to the other.
On account of its Maneuverability
Presence of lap sticks in a zero-turn mower makes going backward from forward so much easier. These can also turn around in tighter circles owing to the dual wheel motors. As each wheel is controlled independently, moving forward, in reverse, right or left is much more agile in a zero-turn riding lawn mower.
Due its Efficiency
As most zero-turn riding lawn mowers have a higher blade speed than the conventional ones, cleaner cuts are guaranteed. This attribute is important for homeowners but crucial for professional landscapers. Because of their increased maneuverability as mentioned above, difficult areas with obstacles and edges of your lawn can be worked on easily. Nearly all models have a horsepower ranging from 5 to 30 with a very high cutting speed. This gives a zero-turn mower the power to work over substantial areas of land swiftly. The long blade radius and wide mowing deck gets a lot done in a much shorter time, increasing efficiency all the more.
Because of its Ease
Steering a zero-turn riding lawn mower is easy, although it may seem otherwise without the steering wheel. Imagine steering a shopping cart. To drive in a straight line just make sure that the same amount of pressure is applied to each lever. Most zero-turn mowers do not have a foot-pedal brake and the direction/speed of the machine is controlled by the steering handles. Pushing the handles forward will increase the speed and vice versa. Emergency brakes are also present to avoid accidents. Enabling you to sit and ride simultaneously while mowing, that too on comfortable seats with armrests, makes mowing your lawn less strenuous and more convenient.
Owing to its Versatility
Zero-turn mowers are attachment capable, and different brands offer varieties of attachments which, when bought separately, can enhance your machine to a multi-tasking one. Clipping bags of various kinds is the most popular, followed by dump carts, spreader, plug aerator, roller or sprayer. Additionally, some zero-turn mowers can affix a front-mounted blade or a snow blower for clearing out snow or debris. Most models provide a kit that lets you mulch your lawn as you cut, as the cut grass is consistently spread over the lawn as organic manure. Altogether, these add up to the versatility of the zero-turn riding lawn mower.
Because it is Cost effective
Even though zero-turn riding lawn mowers are priced more than traditional mowing equipment, over the long run your overall cost for lawn maintenance will be significantly reduced. Shorter mowing time and higher efficiency ensures low fuel cost and less wear & tear of the product. Also, the strain on your wallet is considerably reduced as the mower can be transformed into a multi-tasking machine by purchasing the attachments only instead of the individual tools.
Our elaborate guide will give you an insight on the important factors that make up a good zero-turn riding lawn mower
1) Engine & Horsepower
The engine type and horsepower together indicate how strong the machine is. An engine’s power output is denoted by the unit horsepower (HP). This power output does not only drive the machine, but is distributed among various elements of a mower, such as the transmission and the cutting blades. A higher HP means more power for the machine to feed on and more work to be done. Engines can be of two types depending on the number of cylinders - single or V-twin cylinder engines. Single cylinder engines are feasible but lacks the powerful torque needed for rigorous mowing. Few models feature a single cylinder engine while generally all others equip a double or a V-twin cylinder engine. The V-twin cylinders are expensive than the single cylinder ones but are worth it due to their performance. They deliver better torque and gas mileage with reduced noise and vibration. Additionally they have a longer life.
While clearing out the lawn along with driving, not to mention climbing up and down on uneven terrains, requires a substantial amount of power. Larger areas and thick grasses also call for a higher performing engine with increased HP. Cutting thick grasses over long areas with a low HP mower will not only take longer but will also wear out the machine, decreasing its durability. Therefore, mowers having V-Twin cylinders and an output of 20 HP or more would be ideal for moderately or greater sized lands with an array of grass types. Other smaller areas can be worked upon by single cylinder engines with a lower horsepower.
2) Fuel Capacity
Fuel capacity of riding mowers tells you how much gasoline can be stored to the maximum. This feature is usually dependent on the size of the machine and should be taken into consideration depending on your yard size. Always opt for capacities which can cover your lawn entirely or more. It is better to have fuel remaining after working than having to refuel midway working. Mowers with fuel capacity on the lower end are good for small or medium yards but for larger properties, it is advised to go for a higher fuel capacity even if it means paying extra.
The transmission of a mower refers to the method by which the power from the engine is transferred to the wheels, allowing the machine to drive. There are three options available - manual, automatic, and hydrostatic transmissions. Manual transmissions have a scale of fixed speeds which you can choose by using a clutch or even stopping. Quite impractical and troublesome. If you would still go for a manual transmission mower, settle for one which allows you to shift between speeds easily without using a clutch.
Like that in a car, an automatic transmission enables you to regulate the speed of the mower with a gas pedal. A hydrostatic transmission works similarly to an automatic one. The difference being that these systems use fluid instead of belts to transfer power from the engines to the wheels. This fluid-based system conveys smooth ride and requires very less maintenance. Most zero-turn mowers use the hydrostatic hydro gear EZT transmission from the 2200, 2800 and 3100 series, which have been time tested and are well known for their durability, maneuverability and ease. The rear wheels function independent of the each other and this accounts for the zero turning capability of the mower.
The hydro gear EZT 2200 has a transaxle featuring a 10cc variable displacement 7 piston axial pump and a 10cc fixed displacement 5 piston motor. These are sealed units which do not require oil or filter changes. But it also means that if the unit is damaged or worn out, the entire unit has to be replaced. These transmissions are appropriate for flat terrains and light mowing.
The hydro gear EZT 2800 units are more consistent than the former and has an integrated transaxle featuring a 10cc variable displacement 7 piston pump with a 16cc fixed displacement 7 piston motor. Their maintenance is easy, and their oil filter is located outside. These are well suited for slopes or uneven terrains and can withstand a moderate load.
The hydro gear EZT 3100 leans more towards commercial purposes. They have heavier parts, an overhead relieve valve and a charge pump. This ensures better protection while delivering speed and durability.
4) Deck size or cutting width
The deck size, interchangeably the cutting width, is another key feature to look into. A larger deck implies that a bigger amount of grass can be cut each pass. Larger lawns require larger decks nut for narrow lawns you need to think about a cutting width which can be easily moved about. Since a large deck gets more work done, it would require a higher strength engine. But some models come with such decks accompanied by low strength engines to cut down on cost. Don’t be fooled by this scheme and buy it the moment you see the low price. Those machines would eventually prove that indeed you get what you pay for. Choose the one with a deck size depending on your lawn size and a hefty engine to support it.
Less than 42 inches decks would be unstable on slopes. It is better not to use one of these on inclinations and around obstacles. 42 to 46 inches decks would suffice for 1-acre, somewhat uneven yards. 48 inches decks can mow your lawn about 20% quicker than a 42-inch one, making them suitable for up to 3 acres.
For even larger areas with spaces between obstacles and frequent slopes, 52 to 54 inches deck size are suggested which can save your time by up to 30 to 40 percent. 60 to 62 inches deck sizes are common for professionals and can function at 5 acres per hour. There are 72 inches deck sized mowers available but those are recommended for flat areas of land of over 5 acres in size. These huge decks are most fitting for large-scale commercial properties or farms where the importance of quantity of grass cut surpasses quality.
The material with which the deck is made is as vital as the size. Mower decks can be fabricated or stamped. The fabricated decks are made by welding heavy steel while the stamped decks are made by long presses of lighter gauge steel. Fabricated decks are sturdy and can endure rough prolonged mowing, and so chosen by professionals, but are more costly. Stamped decks are lighter, permit better air flow and are more suited for mulching and bagging. They are economic and thus used in entry level mowers.
Having mentioned these factors, depending on your yard size and the intensity of task, choose the appropriate deck size and material to decide on a mower.
5) Additional features
Speed come in various options in these zero-turn mowers. If you are a professional looking to buy one, time is of the essence for you and so, a mower with a good speed is what you need. This would allow you to complete a task well ahead of time and move on to the next. For residential users, this means you get to have a longer weekend. Entry level to mid-grade mowers offer speeds up to 7 mph while semi commercials can reach up to 9 mph. This range is sufficient to reduce your time by up to 50% or more.
Controls in zero-turn mowers are made of two levers, each one controlling the power distribution for each wheel. When the power is equal on the two levers, the mower runs straight. Increasing the power on one lever will move the machine in a curve. And doing so, while the power is zero on the other lever, will cause the mower to pivot on its central axis. This method of control is fairly alright, but some users find it difficult and does require practice. However, recent designs of zero-turn mowers have been taken over by the more ergonomic joystick control. The joystick allows the user to operate the mower using one hand, keeping the other free. They are much more responsive than dual lever systems, which enhances overall maneuverability.
Features, like mulching and bagging, compatible with your mower is also important. Depending on how you plan on disposing the trimmings, we would recommend choosing mowers with these features and with a deck wash port for easy cleaning.
Comfort should not be ignored as a factor when buying a zero-turn riding lawn mower. The seat, the handles, the type and reachability of the controls and the view from the operator's seat all play a role in making the task more enjoyable than tiring. Adjustable handles or lap bars and a comfortable seat with ample lumbar support should be taken into consideration. It is also imperative that you are able to clearly see the ground in front you and that your sight is not blocked by the deck.
Before buying one, do check out these additional features in person to help you decide which mower can make the whole mowing process pleasant and safe.
Make your machine live longer
Fuel your mower correctly
Experts recommend fueling mowers with gasoline which has less than 10% ethanol (E10). And when it is time to keep away the mowers for the season, a fuel stabilizer should be used to avoid water and gasoline from separating. Most stabilizers can last from 6 to 12 months which helps the fuel stay in good condition until you restart the mower. Without fuel stabilizer, as the water and gasoline separates, the mower will suck up water first instead of gas when restarted after a long time. This can cause corrosion and harm internal engine parts.
Clean air filters
Air filters are not as frequently checked up on as oil or spark plugs. Air filters can definitely become clogged with dirt and debris over time, which can cause your fuel to burn less efficiently and overwork your engine. Therefore, for proper maintenance, regularly check and clean air filters.
Clean mower deck
Clippings and debris can accumulate on the mower deck. They retain moisture and other corrosive agents which can trigger rusting on the deck. Accumulated clippings can also clog the discharge chute and constrain airflow. For these reasons, it is important to clean the deck thoroughly after every use to ensure top notch performance every time.
Like any other blade, mower blades also dull out over time. When dull, the blade only tears the grass instead of cutting it sharply. Sharpening your blades 2-3 times a year will assist you in providing your lawn with nice, detailed cuts.
Check tire pressure
Check your tire pressure regularly to make sure that one tire is not lower than the other and that the machine is even. Differing tire pressures can cause your mower deck to be unbalanced and thus deliver an uneven cut.
After each use and at the end of the mowing season, your mower should be stored correctly. Parking mowers out in the open can result it being difficult to restart. It is important to keep your mower away from water or other contaminants which can enter the machine and render it useless. Also, during winter, stray animals or rodents tend to take shelter in it which might end up clogging any part of the mower. Waterproof covers of various types and materials are readily available which can help you to cover up the machine and store it properly.
Do you own any of the riding lawn mowers mentioned here? Did you choose a different one? Let us know in the comments!