Buyer's Guides Lawn Mowers

Best Riding Lawn Mower in 2021: Complete Buyer’s Guide & Top 3 Models

landscaper using a riding lawnmower

Cutting the grass usually feels like a chore, but if you have to cut up to two acres of land using a push mower, it can feel like an overwhelming task. Fortunately, with the best riding lawn mower you can cut down on the energy and time it takes to keep up with lawn maintenance this summer. Some models can even make mowing your lawn enjoyable.

Whether you’re looking for a zero-turn mower, battery-powered mower, or a gas-powered riding mower, I’ve tested and researched the leading riding mowers available this season. I’ve also put together this buyer’s guide, which includes all of the information you’ll need to know so you can choose your mower wisely.

Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the riding mowers I reviewed, their top features, and how each model rated.

Riding Lawn Mower Comparison Chart

Husqvarna Z254
Riding Mower

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6.5 MPH26Hydrostatic
Troy-Bilt Neighborhood
Riding Lawn Mower

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4.25 MPH14Belt-Driven
Craftsman Z525 Zero Turn
Gas Powered Lawn Mower

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8 MPH22Hydrostatic

Best Riding Lawn Mower-Husqvarna Z254 Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower

Our Rating: (5/5)

This zero-turn lawn tractor from Husqvarna is packing serious power, offering 26 HPs with a max speed of 6.5 miles per hour. The riding mower’s park brake system will automatically deactivate or activate as you move the steering lever inward or outward. These lawn tractors feature air induction technology that draws air in from the bottom and top of the deck, providing a superior cut. The cutting deck itself is made out of durable flat-stock steel for improved durability. The cut grass can be bagged, mulched, or discharged, allowing you to mulch as you go. The hydrostatic transmission is maintenance-free, making it easy to care for this lawn tractor, season after season. The powerful motor and transmission also make this model perfect for larger lawns, beginners, and professionals.


  • Hydrostatic transmission
  • Adjustable seat
  • 5 MPH for maximum speed
  • Bags yard debris as you go
  • Commercial-grade power
  • 54-inch mower deck


  • Does not have a gas gauge


This lawn tractor can handle it all, including tall grass, large yards, and challenging terrain. The maintenance-free design and durable build make this zero-turn lawn mower easy to use, beginner-friendly, and one of the best riding lawn mowers on the market.

Best Zero Turn Riding Mower-Troy-Bilt Riding Mower

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This lawn tractor by Troy-Bilt features a 6-speed transmission and a 382 cc auto choke engine that can reach a top speed of 4.25 miles per hour. The 30-inch deck features 5 setting options. The 18-inch turning radius will allow you to easily maneuver around obstacles on your lawn, allowing you to cut grass like a pro.


  • Durable rear engine mower
  • 30-inch deck
  • Thick rear wheels
  • Large mowing deck size
  • High back seat
  • Powerful
  • Perfect for a large yard


  • Small capacity clippings bag


This Troy Bilt ride-on lawn mower features manual power take-off, allowing for easy and fast blade replacement, zero-turn handling, and an adjustable deck with five setting options so you can adjust the mower for flat lawns, sloping lawns, or hilly terrain.

Like other best-selling rear engine mowers, this Troy Bilt zero-turn model offers a tight turning radius and a powerful engine that offers the type of speed you need to get the job done in a fraction of the time it would take using push mowers.

Best Gas-Powered Lawn Tractor-Craftsman Z525 Zero Turn Lawn Mower

Our Rating: (4/5)

This gas-powered ride-on mower is equipped with an auto choke 679 cc twin engine that’s perfect for larger yards. The auto choke feature offers a faster and more efficient start-up, so you get to work and finish the job in no time. The cutting deck comes in at 46-inches so you can clip grass in one fast sweep. These gas lawn mowers can also mow in reverse, so you won’t have to pause your work to turn the mower around for an additional pass. With this zero turn mower, you can change direction instantly, using its 360-degree turning radius.


  • 360-degree turning radius
  • Can mow in reverse
  • High backed seat
  • Auto choke capabilities
  • 46-inch deck


  • Can be difficult to start
  • Loud


This zero-turn riding mower also comes with a high back seat, zero-turn capabilities, and an EZT drive system, complete with dual levers that you can use for tight corners and turns. The 46-inch mowing deck offers larger passes, making this riding mower perfect for large lawns.

This is a gas-powered lawn mower, so it can get pretty noisy, which can limit you in terms of how early you can get a jump on your yard maintenance duties. However, this model comes loaded with a powerful engine and all the features you need if you have a larger property.

Riding Lawn Mowers Buyer’s Guide

In the past, homeowners on a budget simply couldn’t afford the high cost associated with a riding lawn mower, but these days, riding mowers are more affordable than ever before. This buyer’s guide will go over which features to look for in your new mower, including power needs, maneuverability, transmission type, and more. I’ll start this buyer’s guide off by going over some of the benefits this type of mower has to offer.

Benefits of Riding Lawn Mowers

best riding lawnmower in action

  • A walk-behind mower doesn’t have the necessary deck width needed to finish a big job in a reasonable amount of time.
  • If you have a large property and use an electric walk-behind mower, you’ll need to use several extension cords to reach every corner of your yard.
  • With a battery-powered push mower, the mower won’t have enough juice to finish the job.
  • A gas-powered mower may have a large deck size, compared to other types of push mowers, but it will usually run out of fuel when you’re trying to mow a larger property.
  • Additionally, if you have to push a mower over uneven terrain or up and down hills, it can wear you out quickly. Mowing the lawn should never leave you feeling exhausted and beat for the day. With a wide selection of riding lawn mowers that are available on the market today, you won’t have to.
  • Compared to a standard push mower, a riding lawn mower can allow you to cut the grass 50% to 60% faster.

Types of Riding Lawn Mowers

There are three basic types of riding mowers to choose from:

  • Zero-turn
  • Front-engine lawn tractors
  • Rear-engine

Zero Turn Mowers

Zero-turn models have a mowing deck located on the front, instead of under the body, like on a traditional tractor. These mowers are very easy to maneuver, making them very beginner-friendly.

Front Engine Mowers

A front-engine mower has a large engine between 18-26 HPs. These bigger engines can handle a heavier workload.

Rear Engine Mowers

Rear-engine ride-on lawn mowers are often the best choice for a property up to two acres, while the other two options are a better fit for larger properties.

The type of lawn tractors you choose will depend on the size of your property, terrain type, and your general mowing needs.

Other Important Features

There are many factors to consider when you’re shopping for new ride-on lawn mowers, including:

  • Terrain type
  • Deck size and cutting width
  • Power
  • Transmission
  • Deck height adjustability
  • Fuel tank size
  • Single or twin engines
  • Brushed or brushless motors
  • Runtime/battery life
  • Seat
  • Controls
  • Tires
  • Maneuverability
  • Number of blades
  • Mulch
  • Blade speed
  • Accessories

Below, I’ll cover all of these features and more.

Terrain Type

mowing grass

Cutting grass on an even surface or flat terrain is much easier on a mower, than sloping or hilly terrain.  unfortunately, not all properties are flat. If you have uneven terrain, then choose a mower with a more powerful motor and one that’s easy to maneuver.

Maneuverability will especially important if you have flower beds, trees, or other obstacles on your property that you need to mow around.

If your property slopes, choose a model that features a small size deck so it’s easier to maneuver and there’s less chance of the blades digging into the ground.

Deck Size & Cutting Width

A riding lawn tractor’s cutting width represents the amount of grass a mower can cut in one pass. The cutting widths of mowers can range from 30 inches up to 55 inches. Models with a 40-inch deck are a great choice for lawns that are up to half an acre. This type of cutting width will allow you to cut your lawn using just 12 passes. Mowers that have a deck that measures 42-48 inches can allow you to cut up to half an acre of grass in just eight passes. A cutting width of 50 inches or more can allow you to mow half an acre in just 6 passes.


Riding lawn tractors have engine power that comes in at 16-23 HP. 16 is perfect for smaller lawns ranging from half up to one acre, while 20 HP is a good choice for medium-sized lawns, and 24 HP is a must for larger properties.

An engine with more horsepower can distribute more power among the motor’s components to perform the job. This means an engine with more horsepower will allow you to mow up and down hills and cutting thick grass quickly and easily.

If you have a larger yard, up to four acres, then you need a riding mower that’s more powerful, one that won’t overheat on you when you’re in the middle of mowing your lawn.


A transmission helps a riding lawn tractor to transfer its power from the engine to its wheels, making the machine move back and forth. There are a few different types of transmissions to choose from:

  • Manual
  • Automatic
  • Hydrostatic


A manual transmission offers a range of set speeds that the user can choose based on their needs. If you decide to go with a manual transmission mower, look for one that allows you to easily shift without using a clutch.


An automatic transmission allows users to easily control the speed of the mower by using a pedal. This is the best choice for people who are looking for a riding mower that allows for easy control over the ride or the user that has to frequently slow down while driving around obstacles.


A hydrostatic transmission system uses fluid instead of belts. The fluid is used to transfer the power from the engine to the mower’s wheels. This type of fluid-based system delivers a smoother ride and needs the least amount of maintenance.

Deck Height Adjustability

The best riding lawn mowers have adjustable cutting decks, so you can avoid scalping the lawn. An adjustable deck allows the user to elevate or lower the deck to make it perfectly suited for a specific area. For example, if you have a flat portion of land, then you would adjust the deck to the lowest setting to mow the area for a cleaner cut.

Other areas in your yard may be uneven or sloped, in which case you would need to raise the height of the cutting deck to prevent scalping the lawn. This will prevent damage to the lower blades.

Unfortunately, not all models come equipped with adjustable deck height. Instead, you’ll find that most models need a manual approach, requiring the user to turn off the mower to adjust the height and then restart the engine.

Fuel Tank Size

For gas mowers, the fuel tank’s capacity is an essential feature and one that you should consider when you’re shopping for a gas-powered model. Riding mowers that have a smaller fuel tank capacity are a better choice for smaller properties, while mowers that have large fuel tank capacity are a better choice for larger properties. On average, a riding mower can hold around 2 gallons of gas. Models that have a larger fuel tank can carry 4 to 5 gallons of gas.

Single or Twin Engines

Some mowers will have a single-engine while others will have a twin-engine design that provides more power and cutting efficiency. Single engine mowers will use a single-cylinder, while a twin-engine mower comes equipped with two. Mowers that have a twin-engine design are more powerful, allowing the user to tackle larger properties and more challenging terrain. Additionally, twin-engine models can also handle other duties such as plowing snow and hauling carts. Single engine mowers are not quite as powerful but they consume less fuel.

Brushed and Brushless Motors

If you’re looking at electric-powered riding lawn mowers then you’ll have your choice between brushless or brushed motors. A brushless motor is designed without brushes and produces less friction compared to a standard brushed motor. Additionally, the reduced friction results in improved efficiency. Brushed motors provide 80% efficiency to the mower, while a brushless motor provides 90% of generated energy to power the mower.

Runtime/Battery Life

Battery-powered lawn mowers are quickly becoming popular thanks to constant improvements to battery technology. The battery-powered electric mower runtime can vary from model to model and depends on a variety of factors such as the battery size of the electric mower, terrain type, and the size of the lawn. Battery life can range from thirty minutes up to two hours, depending on the model.


A riding lawn mower that’s equipped with a comfortable seat allows the user to mow the lawn in total comfort. Lawn tractors that are equipped with high back thickly padded seats provide excellent support and comfort.

Lawn Tractor Controls

Lawn tractors, as well as rear engine riding mowers, will use a steering wheel to control where the mower goes and usually come equipped with cruise control.

Zero Turn Controls

On zero turn mowers, pulling or pushing the levers controls the mower’s speed and helps them turn efficiently. When both levers are pushed it will increase the speed. Pulling the lever on the left will cause zero turn mowers to go to the left while pulling the lever on the right causes the mower to turn right.

Rear-Engine Controls

Similar to a manual transmission vehicle, this type of mower will come with a gear system. The user will have to shift gears to adjust the mower’s speed.

Lawn Mower Tractors Controls

A lawn mower tractor comes with a throttle to adjust the speed. This type of mower features a hydrostatic transmission which makes changing the speed smoother compared to other types of mowers.


Pneumatic air-filled tires are the most common type of tires found on riding lawn mowers. These air-filled tires provide shock absorption, traction, and proper movement. Some lawn mowers will use turf tires that feature just enough tread to offer traction to grip the lawn on either flat terrain or an incline, however, too much tread in the tires can damage a lawn.


Smaller machines are easier to maneuver so they’re a good choice if you have structures, tight corners, or flower beds. Mowers with smaller decks are best suited for lawns with a lot of obstacles or trees. Mowers with a commercial-sized cutting deck aren’t able to mow in tight or narrow spaces. However, using a mower with a smaller deck for a larger property can be very time-consuming. In these situations, a zero-turn riding lawn mower is the best option since they work efficiently and are easy to maneuver.

Number of Blades

The number of cutting blades you’ll need depends on the size of your lawn and the type of grass you have. For example, lawns with tough weeds or high grass can benefit from a one-blade model. Most smaller riding lawn mowers will come with a single blade, which is suitable for shorter grass and smaller yards.

Mulch and Discharge

A lawn mower that can mulch grass clippings, will turn the grass into tiny pieces that can be collected in a bag and spread across the lawn as fertilizer. If a lawn mower has a discharge feature, this will allow the mower to spread the glass grass clippings across the lawn with each pass. Low-quality models will leave the grass clippings in large clumps, while high-quality lawn mowers will chop the grass up into fine bits, evenly spreading them throughout the lawn. Some riding lawn mowers come with mulching as an additional feature, while others will not.

Blade Speed

A lawn mower’s blade speed is given in RPMs. Mowers come with cutting blade speeds that range from 1500 up to 200 RPMs. Mowers that have a blade speed of 2000 RPMs are the better option. This is because higher blade speeds result in even and smoother cuts without any issues, even if you’re dealing with high or very thick grass.


A zero-turn mower can cut grass on uneven terrain, may come equipped with a massive cutting-inch deck, cruise control, and can turn at the drop of a dime, but they can also come equipped with some great extras that can make your time mowing feel more enjoyable and even relaxing.

These accessories can include:

  • Automatic headlights
  • Top-of-the-line air filter
  • Ergonomic steering wheels
  • Mulching kit for
  • Cruise control
  • Solid cast iron components
  • Cup holder
  • Rear hitch
  • Ergonomic steering wheel
  • Foot-operated deck lift

And more.

Whether or not you really need some of these accessories on your new zero turn or rear engine mower can depend on your personal preference, lawn care needs, and budget.

Top Riding Mower Manufacturers

John Deere, Troy Bilt, Cub Cadet, and Husqvarna are some of the top brands of zero-turn mower manufacturers that offer the latest in mower technology.

John Deere is a manufacturer that’s known for producing a wide range of power tools, skid steers, and ride-on mowers, but John Deere also produces some of the most expensive ride-on lawn mowers on the market, followed closely by Cub Cadet.

Cub Cadet competes with both John Deere and Husqvarna, selling gas-powered and electric mowers in a wide variety of price points, but Husqvarna offers ride-on mowers that are just as powerful, but much more affordable, making them a better option for the homeowner or pro landscaper on a tight budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Average Life of a Riding Lawn Mower?

On average, a riding mower lasts 8-10 years with proper care and maintenance. If a zero-turn mower is not serviced regularly, it will only last 4-5 years.

How Often Should You Change Oil in a Riding Lawn Mower?

Oil should be changed in a riding lawn mower every 50 hours or at least once every summer or spring.

What Happens if You Don’t Change Oil in Lawn Mower?

As the oil becomes dirty, the engine begins to wear at a faster rate. If you don’t change the oil for several months the mower’s engine will run dry, which will ruin it.

Should I Buy a New or Used Riding Lawn Mower?

You can save plenty of cash purchasing a used riding lawn mower, but you may end up spending more on repair costs or motor replacement if the previous owner did not service their mower regularly. With a new model, you can ensure the motor is well taken care of. Additionally, a new model will be covered under warranty.

Final Thoughts

A riding mower can save you the time and hassle that comes with mowing the grass using walk-behind models. If you have a large property, a riding mower will help you get the job done efficiently and quickly, so you can spend your day off relaxing, instead of dedicating most of it to lawn care. The mowers I’ve reviewed, and this buyer’s guide will help you choose a riding mower that meets your lawn maintenance needs, one that’s compatible with your lawn size and terrain type, and a model that won’t hit your wallet too hard.