Unless you’re something of a masochist, for lawns of more than a half an acre a riding lawn mower is definitely the way to go. Which type of riding mower you should get will then be dependent on how much more than a half an acre your lawn is and what the layout is.
Riding mowers range from the relatively cheap, 30 inch cutting deck, rear engine types for small, straight forward spaces to top of the range Zero Turn Mowers which display incredible maneuverability in even the tightest of confines. The ZTRs are really a pleasure to drive, though can slide a bit on hills. In between you have what are generally referred to as Lawn Tractors. These are big and powerful machines but very much lack the nimbleness of ZTRs. They are also generally slower too; a ZTR can reach up to 9mph while the average lawn tractor will struggle to get beyond 5, but, importantly, they show far greater stability on hills.
If you have a relatively large yard to mow, like over an acre, then you should go for at least a Lawn Tractor. If it’s extra large and/or has some tricky sections; trees etc. to cut around then you’d be better off in the long run going straight for a Zero Turn mower. If the space includes a lot of hills though, then then the sensible choice is to give up some of the speed and stick with a lawn tractor.
So, out of all the huge range of riding lawn mowers out there, to make the head scratching process of choosing one more simple we have narrowed down the very, very best of each type (the basic, the lawn tractor & the ZTR) for you to buy in 2020.
Best Basic Riding Mower for Smaller Lawns in 2020:
The Troy-Bilt 382cc 30-Inch Premium Neighborhood Riding Lawn MowerCheck Prices & Availability via Amazon.com
First up, the best basic model riding mower to buy in 2020. This could be seen as an entry model for some but for a lawn of less than an acre in size and without much obstacles, eg. trees etc. there won’t be much need to ever upgrade it to the more expensive lawn tractors and ZTR mowers.
The first compliment to give this champion Troy-Bilt mower is that it’s cheap. Cheap not always being a compliment you can read that instead as ‘tremendous value’. It really is a terrific mower, and we would give it top marks even at a much higher price.
It is small, with a 30 inch deck, and so easily stored though of course the narrow size makes it that bit slower at completing the job. It steers impeccably, even in tight corners and has an 18 inch turning radius.
Its 382cc Auto Choke OHV rear engine can reach top speeds of 4.25 MPH and comes with a 6-speed transmission. Some people have reported the little annoyance of getting it into reverse; this is due to a certain safety feature, where the key needs to be turned counter clockwise before the reverse button is pressed. A little different, yes, but it should become intuitive with time.
It cuts grass consistently well and has five different cutting height settings. The seating is solid and comfortable, though some may find the mowing experience a little shaky at first as it, not surprisingly at the price, really doesn’t have a high grade suspension system. The Troy-Bilt requires minimum maintenance, just keep an eye on the gas and oil and give it a clean now and again and you can count on its reliability.
Overall this a superb riding lawn mower. It hasn’t got the frills or extra power and speed of more expensive models, it is a lightweight model which will do a perfect job consistently, and with minimum maintenance, on somewhat smaller lawns with relatively even terrain. On uneven terrain it will do a good job too but you will find it gets more bumpy/shaky than some of the more heavy duty lawn tractors or zero turn mowers.
Best Lawn Tractors in 2020:
The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series V-Twin Kohler Hydro Lawn Mower with Cub Connect Bluetooth (ST 54 in. Fabricated Deck 24 HP)Check Prices & Availability via Amazon.com
Now for the best Lawn Tractor to buy in 2020. As explained above the lawn tractors sit between the basic riding mowers and the super-dooper zero turn mowers. But, they trump the ZTRs in being more stable and better on hills, better at working in bad weather conditions, and their power means they are great for getting odd jobs done around the yard, being able to tow and carry a good amount of fairly heavy duty garden machinery. They are not called lawn tractors for no good reason after all, and even on relatively tough terrain they will be comfortable and easy to handle.
The best lawn tractor to buy in 2020 is the awesome Cub Cadet XT1, which all about ease of use, smoothness and power. It comes with a solid 24 HP Kohler V-Twin OHV engine and hydrostatic transmission which allows superbly simple and smooth operation; just push the pedal and go, and the triple blades are ready to go at the touch of a button too.
It has a 16 inch turning radius, a 54 inch deck and an optimized steering system which makes the handling extremely responsive. The adjustable, intelligently sloped seat is super comfortable and the ‘soft comfort’ steering wheel is exactly as advertised.
One quirky feature of the Cub Cabet XT series is that it is bluetooth enabled, allowing it to send info. to your smart phone about things like time tracking, fuel consumption and regular maintenance reminders etc. I’m not sure how much value they might add for the average person but a cute feature nonetheless.
Best Zero Turn Lawn Mower in 2020:
Swisher ZTR2454BS Response 24HP 54-Inch B&S ZTR MowerCheck Prices & Availability via Amazon.com
The Swisher ZTR2454BS is quite a machine. It has a 24 Horsepower Briggs & Stratton Engine, an 8 gallon fuel tank and a 54 inch wide deck. It’s large, it’s fast (up to 8mph forward & reverse) and it handles beautifully, making short work of any large lawn.
Such is its size and power that it can be seen as more of an industrial model but with such sublime, responsive handling it can also be easily used for average residential lawn cutting.
It has a low center of gravity and its intelligent weight distribution makes it feel very solid on the ride, even with the seat being quite high up compared to most. Slopes can be tricky for most zero turn mowers but the Swisher ZTR2454BS handles them with surprising ease.
Technical specs include an 8 gallon fuel tank (larger than most), a 54 inch 11-gauge fabricated cutting deck, 3 Gator mulching blades, Hydro Gear 2800 transmissions, Ogura clutch, and a cup holder! The frame is heavy duty welded steel and the foot controlled lift allows for easy raising of the mower deck.
This is a top quality lawn mower in so many ways, and it’s very hard to find fault with it. Some may have issues with its large size; it looks unnecessarily big in some ways, but its ease of handling and its incredible maneuverability make this almost irrelevant, except for storage concerns. Some also may have issues with its styling; it does look more like a boy racer type vehicle than more usual sober looking zero turn mowers. And finally, not surprisingly, it doesn’t come cheap, so many might consider it not worth it for a less than 1 acre lawn, but otherwise it really is a fantastic buy.