Ultimately the best, most advanced, mower you can buy is the zero turn mower, something which will generally cut your mowing time at least in half. This is for two reasons; number one, they go fast, up to 9mph in fact, but more importantly they display vastly superior maneuverability.
With a zero turn mower you’ll find cutting borders, corners and edges much less tricky and as they can turn, or pivot, on their own axis it removes the need to circle around to catch the un-mowed spaces that regular mowers leave behind. Thus the whole experience is rather neat and satisfying, with every section cut to perfection as you move along.
On the downside, there are naturally extra cost issues with zero turns; they are the most expensive lawn mowers on the market, with top of the range ride on zero turn mowers running into the thousands of dollars and so your lawn would have to be reasonably large and/or obstacle filled to deserve such an investment. Plus, though they are definitely more enjoyable to ride, they do need some extra practice to get the hang of, and they may dig a little going up steep hills (greater than 15 degrees). Finally, with any mower it is generally a bad idea to cut grass while it’s wet and with a zero turn even more so as they have a tendency to slide on wet patches, especially on slopes.
Even in the dry in fact ZTRs are not a good idea if you have lots of hills to mow, a skilled user, who plans his or her route carefully can do it but generally in this case it would be better to stick to the more workmanlike (but slower and less nimble) lawn tractors.
Like in any review site there is a temptation to list a huge range of these machines but after much research and testing we can confidently narrow down the list to just three. You can be certain all of the below ZTRs will make excellent purchases, which one of the three is best for you depends on your individual needs. Read on to see which is the best fit for you.
The Best Residential Zero Turn Lawn Mowers to Buy in 2020:
Best Overall Zero Turn Mower:
Swisher ZTR2454BS Response 24HP 54-Inch B&S ZTR Mower
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.
Best Entry Level Zero Turn Mower:
Poulan Pro P46ZX Briggs V-Twin Pro 22 HP Cutting Deck Zero Turn Radius Riding Mower, 46-Inch
The excellent value Poulan Pro P46ZX is equipped with a solidly good 22hp Briggs engine and packs a lot of power into its 430 lb weight and compact design. The 46 inch deck size, and indeed its max speed of 6mph, means it will be relatively slower at completing large open lawns and therefore not suitable as a commercial, but it will be slicker, and quicker, in cutting in and around tight spaces and therefore ideal as a residential mower.
Though with less maximum speed, 6mph (3mph in reverse), than some of the more powerful riding mowers it can cut around 2.5 acres per hour in the right hands, and is very accommodating for newbie users once they get the hang of its two lever steering and accelerator system.
Riding the Poulan Pro P46ZX is a thoroughly pleasant experience; the 15 inch high seat is comfortable, especially for those of us with lower back issues, and offers good vision. The padded levers are also comfortable and intuitive, the engine is surprisingly quiet for a 22 hp, the precise blades make the cuts nice and even, and finally, the anti scalp rollers do an excellent job in preventing lawn tearing.
On the down side, its compact size, and lack of weight, make it a little tricky on slopes, tending to slide a little going downhill and to the side when traversing a hill horizontally. Also, its front wheels can dig in a little, especially on the hills, leaving some marks. Though it has a tow hitch and can tow a surprising amount of weight it will not be enough for heavy duty gardening machinery.
The Poulan Pro P46ZX’s tidy little deck can be easily adjusted in half inch increments from 1.5 inches to 4 inches. It is also tough; the steel reinforcement giving it extra protection against rocks and other surprise obstacles on the lawn. Difficulty in cleaning the deck is a common complaint with many mowers but not with the P46ZX, which is made very straightforward by its special deck washout port.
The grass is sent out the side and well away from the mower. It doesn’t come with a mulching or bagging kit but they can be bought separately from either the Poulan or Husqvarna brands which have compatible, interchangeable accessories.
Best of the Rest:
Husqvarna MZ61 27 HP Zero Turn Mower, 61-Inch.
Husqvarna is a solidly reliable brand and their MZ61 zero-turn mower is one of their best lawn mowers yet. It has great power with a 27HP Briggs & Stratton engine and a commercial grade hydraulic system.
Its super strong steel frame and deck can mulch and collect with ease. There is a manual, pedal operated, cutting deck lift to avoid any surprise rocks etc. and a pair of reinforced anti-scalp rollers to avoid lawn tearing. The deck is 61 inches wide, one of the largest around, which, with a little practice, quickens the lawn mowing process considerably.
It is also very responsive, maybe not as much as the Swisher ZTR2454BS but, then again nothing really is. But, its adjustable ergonomic steering levers are awfully easy to handle. Comfort too is second to none, the seat is high and offers good vision but not high enough to be ungainly or feel unstable, and the arm rests are nicely set up for extra comfort.
It gets work done fast, mowing up to roughly 4 acres per hour and can easily work at speeds of up to 8.5 mph, 5mph in reverse. As with pretty much all zero turns, be careful on slopes though; going up is fine, it shows great traction on the up in fact, but on the down the weight can shift a bit which leads to some sliding, so, again as with all zero turn mowers, plan your path on hilly lawns. The 61 inch wide deck adjustable cutting height ranging from 1.5″ to 4.5″ and overall the MZ61 produces consistently well cropped grass.
It is strong enough to take pull most basic garden equipment though it doesn’t come with a hitch as standard (This can be bought separately though of course). Mulching and bagging kits aren’t included either but again they can generally be bought through Amazon and easily attached.
Overall the Husqvarna MZ61 stands right between the awesome, though maybe unnecessarily awesome for many, Swisher ZTR2454BS and the light, easy to handle, perfect entry level ZTR, Poulan Pro P46ZX. It is therefore pretty much a perfect compromise between the two.
P.S. For a practically similar but smaller (46 inch) and less powerful (23HP) version go for the Husqvarna Z246 23HP 747cc Kohler Confidant Engine 46″ Z-Turn Mower.