Top Tips When Looking For the Best Riding Lawn Mower

Our pick for the best riding lawn mower is the Poulan Pro Automatic Hydrostatic Transmission Drive Riding Lawn Mower. With bagging and mulching attachments, this riding lawn mower helps you get extra gardening tasks out of your mower, but also provides a speedy and efficient mowing. For other great picks for riding lawn mowers, read on to see our other recommendations.

Our Top 5 Recommended Best Riding Lawn Mowers

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Types of Riding Lawn Mowers

Before you purchase a riding lawn mower, you should understand the main differences between the different types. As with any mower, not all riding lawn mowers are perfect for every lawn or rider.

Lawn and Garden Tractors

Lawn and garden tractors are more than just mowers, although they can absolutely be used as such. However, these types of mowers can also handle other gardening tasks, like bagging up leaves, spreading seed, pulling a trailer to haul materials, or even tilling your yard to prepare for gardening.

These mowers typically have more power than other riding lawn mowers, but they also come with a bigger price tag, since they can handle more jobs.

Zero Turn Radius Mowers

Zero turn mowers are best for maneuverability. As the name suggests, these mowers can virtually spin within their own footprint, making it easier to cut a lawn without having to go back over missed spots.

These mowers usually have the fastest speeds, and can allow you to mow your lawn in less time than other riding mowers.

Rear Engine Mowers

Rear engine mowers are usually the most affordable of riding lawn mowers. They provide a ride-on experience, without most of the bells and whistles that zero turn mowers or lawn tractors provide.

These mowers have smaller cutting decks than their larger counterparts, which makes them a convenient choice for smaller yards, and for those without a lot of storage space.

Transmission Types

Riding lawn mowers come with different transmission options, which affect their speed and performance, and may interact differently with engine horsepower.

A manual transmission is typically the cheapest, but you’ll have to switch gears yourself. An automatic transmission changes gears for you, and you control your speed with the gas pedal. A hydrostatic transmission operates similarly to an automatic transmission, but creates a smoother ride with its use of fluid transfer, rather than belts, to move the wheels (source).

This Old House provides a helpful video that shows some of the differences between riding lawn mower models:

What to Look for in the Best Riding Lawn Mower

How can you tell what riding lawn mower will be the best choice for you? First, you need to consider your yard size and terrain. Riding mowers can come in a variety of blade sizes, from 30 inches to 46 inches or more. Smaller lawns can use smaller-sized blades, but mowing an acre or two may be a job for a larger model.

If your yard has a lot of obstacles, like decorations or furniture, you may benefit from a zero turn mower that also offers reverse mowing. However, if your yard is hilly, you’ll need to find a model with good traction, enough power to maneuver slopes, and a good weight distribution to help it maneuver hills and avoid possible tipping (source).

Once you understand what type of mower you may need for your specific lawn, it’s time to weigh your wants and needs. Consider the following before you purchase a riding lawn mower:

  • Safety features. A riding lawn mower should come equipped with features that make it more safe for its user and others in the vicinity. For example, some will have special settings for reverse mowing, to ensure that it isn’t accidentally engaged.
  • Ability to mow around obstacles. If your lawn has obstacles, like fencing or furniture, that can be difficult to maneuver, look for a riding mower with a smaller turning radius, like a zero turn mower.
  • Comfort. Your riding mower should be comfortable for you, especially if you have a large yard. Test out the seat, the steering wheel height, and the gas pedal position on a few models. You may also want to check out models with adjustable seats or steering wheels, if necessary.
  • Attachments and additional features. If you want a basic riding mower, a rear engine mower may be the best choice. However, if you plan to garden, or do other tasks in your yard, a lawn or garden tractor can help make your tasks more efficient.

Safe and Effective Operation of a Riding Lawn Mower

People often equate a walk-behind mower to being unsafe. But, just because you ride on a riding lawn mower, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of harm’s way.

Riding lawn mowers can still be dangerous if you are new to using them and haven’t familiarized yourself with its operation. Even those who use them regularly can be prone to safety mistakes, if not used carefully.

It’s important to always wear protective gear with any lawn mower. Safety goggles and safety earmuffs or earplugs will protect your eyes and ears during mowing. Gripping gloves can also help you ensure that your hands won’t slip during steering from sweat.

Consider taking your mower out for several test drives before you begin cutting grass. You’ll get to understand the slopes and obstacles in your lawn, while getting a better feel for the speed and maneuverability of your mower (source).

Our Recommendation for Best Riding Lawn Mower: Poulan Pro Automatic Hydrostatic Transmission Drive Riding Lawn Mower

The Poulan Pro Automatic Hydrostatic Transmission Drive Riding Lawn Mower is an excellent choice of riding mower for those who have large lawns and seek extra power and maneuverability.

This model comes with mulch and bagging attachments, so you can get even more out of your mower.

Additionally, the hydrostatic transmission offers excellent power with an even smoother ride than most riding lawn mowers offer. The vented cutting deck helps air flow underneath the mower, for less resistance as you cut.

Since this mower offers a lot of power, it’s important to get familiar with its operation before you mow for the first time. Check out its features, such as its ability to adjust speed as you operate it. Drive it near fencing and other obstacles, so you can get a feel for how close you can safely get near other objects.

It’s best to operate this riding lawn mower, and any riding lawn mower, on the slowest speed necessary, both for even grass cutting and safety reasons (source). Slow your speed when making turns or going down slopes in your yard. The wide wheels of this model help keep weight distributed, but taking this precaution will ensure your safety.

Photo by WDnetStudio licensed under CC0

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