Are you ready to mow your lawn? Spring is already here in most parts of the United States and that means it is time to make sure your riding mower is ready to handle your lawn. If your mower has been giving you problems the last few years or it has just seen better days, it time to research and purchase a new one before fast-growing season arrives. This article will help you learn about the best riding mowers for lawns up to one acre and find out what to look for when picking your machine.
To help you purchase the best lawnmower for you, this article will share some useful terminology, buying tips and riding mower reviews. We’ll also be checking out some of the best top rated riding mowers available on the market today.
Best Riding Mowers – Ride on Mower Buying Tips
A quality mower can make short work of mowing and when you are done leave your lawn looking better than your neighbors. However, it really helps to have the right sized ride on mower for your yard. Too small of a riding mower and it takes extra time. Too large and you can actually create more work for yourself because it can’t go everywhere it needs to mow. Here are some useful tips to help you in making the best purchase.
Choose the mower appropriate for your size property
If your yard is less than 1/2 acre and relatively flat a 30-42 inch mower is a good choice.
If your yard is larger than 1/2 acre but below one acre, a 38-46 inch ride-on mower is an excellent choice. The most common size is 42 inches. These mowers have engines between 14 to 22 horsepower. There are two models available today that are cordless electric and have plenty of run time for a one acre or less yard.
If your yard is larger than 1 acre a riding mower with a larger 48-60 inch deck is a better choice. I will cover those sizes in another article.
I want to caution you that you do get what you pay for. It happens time and time again that you buy a riding mower for the price but find out the mower isn’t adequate for your needs. Many times, people buy a riding mower that is too cheap and it doesn’t last. Riding mowers and lawn tractors for one acre or less in this size cost from $1000 to $3000. The best value mowers that mow very well, have nice features and will last are in the $1500-$2200 range. Quality zero-turn mowers for this size yard will cost $2600-$4000.
If your yard has steep hills and you have very little experience using a riding mower please be very careful when buying a riding mower. All riding mowers are only capable of mowing 15 degree or less slopes. If you have slopes greater than 15 degrees a better choice is a large area (28-36 inch) walk-behind.
Choose the transmission you prefer
Riding mowers and tractors are available with a manual transmission, automatic transmission, and hydrostatic transmission. Automatic-CVT transmissions are now the cheapest to buy and the easiest to repair. Hydrostatic transmissions are the smoothest to operate. Manual transmissions hard to use and are all but obsolete. I no longer recommend them for small riding lawn mowers.
Hydrostatic transmissions use fluid to transfer power from the engine to the ground. Hydrostatic transmissions can have cruise control, which really makes mowing large flat areas simple! CVT/automatic transmissions are very dependable and easy to use but lack cruise control.
Depending on the riding mower hydrostatic transmissions are operated with your right foot or with a lever on the fender. Forward – Reverse is controlled with the same lever/foot pedal. CVT/Automatic transmissions are operated with your right foot. A few CVT models have a Forward-Reverse lever on the left fender of the riding mower.
Choose a reputable brand that you know
Avoid brands you have never heard of. Particularly avoid brands you don’t know at your local big box store or on Amazon. Avoid riding mowers that are incredibly cheap even if you recognize the brand. Why? Just like your car, riding mowers require periodic routine maintenance. If you purchase some unusual or uncommon brand it may be impossible to find parts or even obtain warranty service if something goes wrong when you first buy the machine. A few reputable residential brands that make good riding mowers for a one-acre lawn are Craftsman, John Deere, Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, Husqvarna and Poulan Pro.
About Riding Lawn Mower Reviews
The more you know about online reviews the easier it will be for you to decide on the best riding mower for you. Reading reviews of mowers is different than most other consumer goods. I have many years of experience helping you to find the best riding mower so I will be glad to help you wade through the reviews. Just remember when reading reviews – 80% of the owners who have a problem will write a negative review – 80% of the owners who like their mower will NOT write a review.
Basic riding mowers do not change that often but EPA engine requirements and minor improvements like Bluetooth Smart Lawn Maintenance will require the brands to change the model numbers every year or so. Because of this there are many new riding mowers every spring and they will not have any reviews at the beginning of the season. Riding mowers do not use model years so the same riding mower may be produced for 2-5 years.
Too many reviews or a high number of very positive reviews (over 150) may be a problem. Why?
- There may be paid reviews
- The website is using an Aggregator to collect reviews from other sites and the reviews on that site do not reflect actual sales. (Many people who have a problem will write the same review on more than one website)
- The website may be taking reviews from older riding mowers and using them to “Tilt the Balance” in their favor.
There will always be negative reviews. 10-15% 1 and 2 star reviews is normal. Why?
- Many riding mowers are shipped to your home. They are mounted on a pallet and require 30-90 minutes to take off the pallet and assemble. The process is straightforward and yes you can do it. Many people don’t read the instructions though and incorrectly assemble the riding mower. This causes them to write a negative review when the mower breaks the first or second time they use it.
- Many people use old gas cans that let water into the fuel or they use old stale fuel from last year. Your new mower will not run correctly or won’t even start with this old fuel. This will also cause the new owner to write a bad review.
- A person will have an issue with the company they purchased the riding mower from or the mower was damaged during delivery. They don’t read the packing list and operator’s manual for the correct way to get their riding mower repaired or replaced. This will cause the new owner to write a bad review.
Read the reviews and use your common sense to decide if the riding mower is a smart purchase for you.
Consider repairs and maintenance
While you will get a much better deal if you buy a ride on mower online, having access to a local repair shop is very important. Most retail stores do not repair/warranty the item but leave it up to the brand (manufacturer). Before buying the machine go to the brand’s website and verify there is a local service center where you can get parts, warranty repairs, and service. Sears is the exception and performs all warranty work plus normal maintenance at your home through Sears Repair Services.
Decide on side discharge, mulch or bag
Decide how you want to get handle the lawn clippings. Lawnmowers typically throw lawn clippings out the side and spread them evenly across the lawn. Some mowers offer an optional mulching attachment that cuts those clipping into tiny pieces and drives them down into the cut lawn. These fine clipping decompose faster and actually work as fertilizer for your lawn.
Many/most lawn tractors also offer a bagging attachment. The attachment is primarily meant for collecting leaves in the fall. Most will also collect your normal weekly lawn clippings if you mow when your grass is dry. You can use the clippings in your compost pile or take them to your local yard waste site.
If you will be spending a lot of time operating your riding mower, look for one with easy steering and a high back seat. Almost all models today allow you to step through the center of the tractor so it is easier to get on and off. A few in the $2500-$4000 range offer power steering. Most allow you to easily slide the seat for tall and short operators. Being comfortable allows you to focus more on doing a good and to be safe.
Choose models with quality safety features
All mowers are perfectly safe when used appropriately, but having some additional safety features can reduce your mowing and trimming time. All models that have a blade shut-off switch that is activated when you get off the seat. It’s also a requirement that all riding mowers stop the blades when you reverse the tractor. Many models now offer a “reverse safety switch” that allows you to move the switch and then mow in reverse.
Consider a zero turn mower if your yard has some tricky angles and many objects to trim around.
While a standard ride on mower or lawn tractor is a good choice for most yards, if you have a yard with many obstacles and curves, consider a zero turn mower. They allow you to trim and maneuver at faster speeds. Be aware the residential models ($2400-$4500) do not work well on slopes and hills. I will write another guide soon for residential zero-turn mowers.
Best Riding Mowers Reviews
There are many high-quality ride on mowers available. The following mowers really stand out from the crowd and are an excellent choice for your one acre or less yard. I’ve chosen two or three from each major retailer that I trust. These riding mowers have an excellent reputation and will last you many years with minimal maintenance.
Best Riding Mowers – The Home Depot
1. Cub Cadet XT1 LT 42 Riding Lawn Mower Review
“I bought this mower to replace a 25-year-old rider. My yard is a bit over 1/2 acre so I was looking for a quality mower. This mower exceeded my expectations. The first thing that I noticed was how comfortable the seat was. I’ve had 2 back surgeries so the high back seat gave me great support. All the controls are easy to reach. Love the single pedal hydrostatic drive. The tight turning in the steering is a definite plus. The Kohler engine is very smooth running for a single cylinder motor.”
Engine: 18 horsepower Kohler or 547 cc Cub Cadet with Electronic Fuel Injection
Wheels: 14-inch front wheels, and larger 20 inch rear wheels.
Transmission: Foot Controlled Hydrostatic with cruise
Cub Cadet has established a reputation for quality ride on mowers at a reasonable price. This lawn tractor is no exception. With a 42-inch deck and 18 horsepower engine, this ride on mower is suitable for one acre, flat, sloped or rough yards.
This mower has a 16-inch turning radius, which is normal for small yards with few obstacles. The 12 easily adjustable blade height positions work well for yards with different types of grass lengths and bumpy terrain. The seat is adjustable and lower back support. This lawn tractor can be stored in a small garden shed with a 48-inch door.
This ride on mower has a good engine with cast iron cylinder sleeve. The oil filter is a screw on automotive-type, which makes oil changes easy. The forged steel crankshaft will last for years. In terms of safety, the mower has a seat cut off switch and reverse mow feature.
This is a solid lawn tractor and is a good value. The new EFI engine is the first of its kind and requires no choke or special fuel additives when the tractor is stored.
2. John Deere E120 42 in. 20 HP V-Twin Gas Hydrostatic Lawn Tractor Hydrostatic Front-Engine Riding Mower Riding Lawn Mower Review
“Huge improvement over previous mowers I owned. Mowed today for the first time with the Deere, good quality ride comfort. The machine is extremely quiet when running at full throttle with mower engaged. I should have purchased 7 years ago when I bought another brand.”
Engine: 20 horsepower V-Twin engine
Wheels: 20-Inch rear and 15-inch front tires with an 18-inch turn radius
Transmission: Foot Controlled Hydrostatic with cruise
John Deere makes their own lawn tractors and ZTR’s. The John Deere D125 is Built in Greeneville, TN.
The excellent cutting deck and powerful engine will make light work of your yard. A ride on mower with this cutting deck and engine is ideal for yards of up to one acre. The mower features automatic drive with pedal control, headlights and a solid chassis. Because the company is backed by John Deere, finding assistance with maintenance or repairs is very easy.
This tractor comes assembled and ready to mow.
This mower has excellent ergonomic options with both the steering wheel and seat being highly adjustable. The large wheels can handle tricky or bumpy terrain easily and the pedal foot control makes speed control simple.
3. Ryobi – RM480e 38 in. Battery Electric Riding Lawn Mower Riding Lawn Mower Review
Buy At The Home Depot: Ryobi – RM480e 38 in. Battery Electric Riding Lawn Mower
“The future of riding lawn mowers is here. Quiet, environmentally friendly. A very capable riding mower. Great size for your one-acre lawn with many obstacles.”
Engine: Three brushless electric motors. One for the transmission, 2 for the deck.
Wheels: 16-Inch rear and 15-inch front tires with 18-inch turn radius
Transmission: Foot Controlled Electronic Speed Control with cruise
- Little maintenance: no belts, spark plugs, or filters
- Battery operated: no gas, fumes, charge and go
- Up to 2 hours of runtime: up to 2 acres per charge
- Quiet Cutting Dual high-powered brushless motors
- Cruise control, USB charging port
- LED headlights
- 12 position easy deck adjustment
- 38 in. 2-blade deck
- Charges overnight through standard 120-Volt outlet
4. Poulan Pro 42 in. 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Automatic Gas Front-Engine Lawn Tractor
Buy From the Home Depot: Poulan Pro 42 in. 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Automatic Gas Front-Engine Lawn Tractor
“So far so good. Plenty of speed and power. Tight turn radius is nice for tractor style mower. I like it so far ”
Engine: 17.5 HP single cylinder Briggs & Stratton Intek
Wheels: 20-Inch rear and 15-inch front tires with 16-inch turn radius
Transmission: Foot Controlled automatic/CVT
This model features a powerful Briggs and Stratton 17.5 horsepower engine and vented 46-inch reinforced steel cutting deck. The vented deck allows the user to mow through very long grass effectively. The deck shell comes with a 10-year limited warranty.
This mower operates with foot pedal controls and is capable of reaching 7.5 mph. The 17.5 HP Briggs and Stratton overhead valve engine has an internal oil pump to provide strong oil pressure while on slopes. This engine has the torque required to push up steep hills and through long grass.
The oscillating front axle makes tight turning possible — ideal for properties with many obstacles. 6 cutting positions and a spring assist, easy-too-use height adjustment mechanism make this mower perfect for yards with different kinds of grass.
5. Troy-Bilt 19 HP/540cc 46 inch Briggs & Stratton Intek Automatic Riding Lawn Mower Review
“A solid performer for small-medium yards with many useful features”
Engine: 19 HP/540cc 46 inch Briggs & Stratton Intek
Wheels: 20-Inch rear and 15-inch front tires with 16-inch turn radius
Transmission: Foot Controlled automatic/CVT
This mower is an outstanding performer for small to medium-sized yards (up to 1.5-acres). The Powermore engine features a 7-speed gear shift system to help you tackle slopes on your property. The engine is designed to allow easy maintenance and Powermore have built a reputation for reliability over the years.
This mower is capable of tight cornering which makes it ideal for properties with many obstacles. The seat and steering wheel are both fully adjustable and the seat provides great lower back support. An optional mulching kit is available.
6. Husqvarna 960430211 YTA18542 18.5 hp Fast CVT 42″ Riding Lawn Mower Review
Buy From Amazon: Husqvarna 960430211 YTA18542 18.5 hp Fast CVT 42″ Riding Lawn Mower
“I love this mower its easy to use and cuts greats. I like how strong and solid its made and it goes pretty fast very happy with my purchase.”
Engine: 18.5 HP Briggs & Stratton Intek
Wheels: 20-Inch rear and 15-inch front tires with 16-inch turn radius
Transmission: Foot Controlled fast automatic/CVT
This entry-level Husqvarna riding lawn mower has a 42-inch cutting deck, a step-through driver’s seat design, a manual blade engagement control, a Briggs & Stratton Intek single cylinder motor, and an angled steering wheel. Cruise control, deck wash port for easy clean-up, and a cast-iron front axle all add the convenience and durability of this lawn tractor designed for year-round usage.
- Husqvarna 42-in riding lawn mower features Air Induction technology, ensuring a clean, consistent cut every time
- 18.5-HP, 540cc Briggs & Stratton Intek single cylinder engine offers powerful performance for uneven or flat terrain 1-2 acres
- Pedal-operated automatic CVT transmission allows you to keep both hands on the steering wheel for optimum control and smoother, more responsive performance
- 42-in cutting deck and 16-in turning radius allows you to mow in tighter spaces and navigate around obstacles
- Convenient fender-mounted deck lever is spring-assisted for easy cutting height adjustment
- Adjustable mid-back seat, ergonomic steering wheel and easy step-through design provide comfort and easy operation
- 2 anti-scalp deck wheels protect turf from damage, and cast-iron front axle provides excellent balance and stability
Best Riding Mowers – Sears.com
7. NEW Model 27730 $1499. 42 inch. Kohler 7000 Elite 20HP V-twin. Foot Pedal Auto Trans. Buy Here: Craftsman 27330 42″ 725cc Kohler V-Twin Riding Mower with Smart Lawn Technology
NEW Model 27333. 46 inch, 20 HP B&S Platinum V-twin, foot pedal hydro, NX15 chassis, Reinforced deck system, and Smart lawn connected. Buy Here: Craftsman 46″ 20 HP V-Twin Briggs & Stratton Riding Mower
Perfect for your large acre lawn, this Craftsman riding mower helps you tackle the tough stuff all year round. Whether you’ve got uneven terrain or long overdue grass that needs cutting, you’ll be able to power through it all with the help of a powerful 20 HP V-twin Kohler engine and 5 adjustable cutting heights. Use the Craftsman Smart Lawn app on your phone to check on the weather in real time along with the status of your oil, blades and more. You can even watch troubleshooting videos and purchase replacement parts without any time wasted – purchase of Craftsman Smart Lawn Connect Kit (#07125200) is required
- Ideal for lawns between 3/4 and 1.5 acres with any type of terrain
- Craftsman Smart Lawn capable with purchase of Craftsman Smart Lawn Connect Kit (#07125200)
- Powered by a 20 HP 725cc Kohler 7000 Series V-Twin engine to get through any tough job
- Automatic transmission with foot pedal controls run smoothly like a car
- 42″ cutting deck
- 5 different cutting positions
- A deck wash system connects to your hose to clean out debris underneath
- Attach a compatible snow blade
- Able to haul light equipment
- Drives up to 5.5 mph to speed through your weekly mowing
- High 20″ rear wheels and 15″ front wheels help you take on hilly terrain
- Anti-scalp gauge wheels are easy on your lawn
- A padded, adjustable mid-back seat makes sure you’ll be comfortable the entire ride
- Features a cast iron front axle to handle the roughest terrain
- A 2.0 gallon gas tank with sight gauge gives you plenty of fuel for the job
By the way, if you own a Craftsman, Poulan Pro, Ariens, John Deere, or Husqvarna with the CVT transmission please read this article. Do You Own a Red Craftsman, Ariens, Husqvarna or Poulan Pro Lawn Tractor? Read This!
8. NEW Model 25587 lawn tractor. 42 inch. 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Platinum Single Cylinder Engine. Fender Controlled Hydro. Buy Here: Craftsman 25587 42″ 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Fender Hydro Automatic Riding Mower
NEW Model 25588 lawn tractor. 46 inch. 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Platinum Single Cylinder Engine. Fender Controlled Hydro. Buy Here: Craftsman 46″ 540cc Briggs & Stratton Fender Riding Mower with Smart Lawn Technology
Take the Easy Way to a Perfect Lawn
With the Craftsman 25587 42″ 19 HP Briggs & Stratton hydro automatic riding mower, you can take it easy while getting a perfectly trimmed lawn. Whether cutting down tall grass or rolling across a hilly yard, this powerful riding mower helps you get the job done with a cast-iron front axle. You can mow at your own speed with the fender-controlled hydro transmission and get through your yard faster with a 42″ cutting deck. You’ll be back to enjoying your weekend in no time.
- Craftsman Smart Lawn capable with purchase of Craftsman Smart Lawn Connect Kit #071-25200
- Ideal for mowing and light hauling
- Powered by a Briggs & Statton Platinum Series 19 HP, 540cc OHV engine
- A hydrostatic transmission with fender lever control for a smooth ride
- 42″ cutting deck offers 5 cutting height options
- Deck wash system to maintain a clean deck
- Side discharge with mulching and bagging capabilities
- A maximum speed of 5.5 mph helps you get through the yard faster
- Anti-scalp front gauge wheels to protect your deck and maintain an even cut on rough or sloped terrain
- 15″ high-back seat with auto slide adjust provides comfort on long rides and reduces rider fatigue
- Includes cup holder
- Check the special offers tab on the page link below. Most of the time they offer Online Only! FREE Delivery on this Riding Mower Sold by Sears! Plus 5% off or up to 18 months Special Financing on Riding Mowers & Tractors with qualifying Sears Card.
Yes, You need a new Gas Can!
With today’s fuels you need a gas can that seals tight. It helps the fuel last longer and the escaping vapors won’t wreck the environment. But the biggest problem is find one that works. The cheap ones ($20 or more now) don’t have vents so it takes forever to fill the tank on your lawn tractor. The cheap ones are also flimsy and the spouts break after the first year.
Well, I’ve found two brands that work great! They are vented inside the spout so it pours fuel quickly yet seals tightly when not in use. I’ll give you links at Amazon for two sizes. I suggest buying the size so that you don’t keep more than a month of fuel around the house.
No-Spill 1405 2-1/2-Gallon Poly Gas Can. A good size for snow blowers and push mowers.
No-Spill 1450 5-Gallon Poly Gas Can (CARB Compliant) This one has a second handle in the back so it is very easy to use and hang onto when pouring into your fuel tank. A good size for lawn tractors and zero-turns.
If you have a problem holding a gas can the SureCan is a great can. It’s very comfortable to use to use and built well. SureCan – Gas Can with Rotating Spout.
Fuel Stabilizer: When I go to the gas station and buy fuel I always put fuel stabilizer in the storage tank. It helps keep the fuel fresh and some stabilizers also clean your carb and fuel system without messing it up. There a man good brands but I’ve used SeaFoam for years and it’s always worked well. I use 2 tablespoons per gallon of fuel. Seafoam
Other fuels stabilizers to check out: Fuel Stabilizers
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