2013 Craftsman 54 in Model 25061 Zero-Turn Review | The Best Value Zero-Turn Mower For 2013?

Craftsman has changed the zero turn mower game with this new mower!

For many years I have been wondering why residential zero-turns cost so much. For example the most popular Craftsman yard tractor (Model 28551) costs around $1500.  The same size Husqvanra (RZ4219) zero-turn costs $2400 and the same size John Deere (Z225) costs a whopping $2900!  The zero-turn mowers have fewer parts so they should take less time to assemble. (around 300 for the yard tractor, around 250 for the zero-turns)  The three mowers use basically the same decks so the cut speed and quality is the same. Yes, you can save some time with these zero-turn mowers on a flat, smooth lawn with many obstacles. A residential zero-turn will save you about 25% in time over the Craftsman Yard Tractor with the 6 inch Turn-Tight Steering.  But should that time savings almost double the price you would pay for the product?

by: Paul Sikkema

Introducing the Craftsman 25061.

The first zero-turn that is priced correctly for most homeowners.  This new Craftsman has the features you need to mow your large suburban yard yet costs significantly less than other comparable zero turn mowers. It is priced up to $1700 less than comparable zero-turns!

Buy Here: Craftsman 24HP Kohler V-Twin Zero Turn 54 Riding Mower Non CA Deluxe high back

How is the Craftsman different from the other zero-turns

Unibody Chassis:  All the other zero-turn mowers sold by Craftsman’s competitors use a welded tube chassis.  Welded tube chassis have been used on zero-turns since they became popular in the early 90’s.  A welded tube chassis is very labor intensive to produce.  This style chassis tends to add a lot of cost to the product because they are made of dozens of individual pieces welded together and reinforced at the joints.  Over time if the frame was not welded or reinforced properly the frame will crack.  The new Craftsman 25061 uses a rigid Pan Chassis that eliminates all of those welds and stress points that may fail over time.

Articulated Front Axle: The Craftsman model 25061 features an articulating front axle and floating deck. This combination greatly reduces gouging and scalping over zero-turns where the front casters are welded to the frame.

The best feature though of an articulated front axle is the ride.  It is a much smoother for you. It moves and gives to bumps and dips like the front axle on your lawn tractor. How rough most zero-turns ride is the one unspoken problem.  The stiff, welded frames, rear engines, and poor seat suspension on other zero-turns all factor into a rough jarring ride at anything over 4 mph.  The articulated axle on the Craftsman greatly reduces the jolts and bouncing associated with other zero-turns. In addition Craftsman put nice long springs under the seat to eliminate even more of the bounce.

Fully adjustable suspension seat and lap bars. The seat and steering levers have enough adjustment that almost anyone can comfortably drive this Craftsman zero-turn.  The seat slides forward and back. The lap bars (steering handles) also have a wide range of adjustment.

Weight: A commercial zero-turn capable of mowing 15 degree or steeper slopes weighs in at 1000 lbs or more.  Any zero-turn that weighs less than 600 lbs will have difficulty turning on any type of slope. The Craftsman weighs in at a comfortable 700 lbs. This will give it good traction to mow 10 to 15 degree slopes.

Note: Because zero turn mowers steer by traction of the rear wheels the weight of the zero-turn is an important factor. A heavier machine will have more traction.  (I owned one that weighed in at 4200 lbs and would mow 40 degree slopes) A loss of traction could also reduce your ability to stop. When operating on slopes, a zero turn mower will not steer if you are sliding or skidding. There is no power to the front wheels of a zero-turn mower. If you operate a zero turn mower on slopes lesser than 10 degrees, keep the following recommendations in mind: Keep all movements on the slope slow and gradual. Mow up and down slopes, not across them. Avoid starting, stopping or turning on a slope. Do not mow on wet or drought-dry grass.

6 miles per hour is all the faster you want to go on a residential zero-turn! In other words speed is limited by the deck design, not by the ground speed the zero-turn will mow at: Many manufactures state their residential zero-turn will go 6-8 mph, but it doesn’t matter how fast the zero-turn will go, in reality they can only cut well at about 4-5 mph.  A zero-turn like the Husqvanra RZ5424 will go 8 mph but it will only cut well at about 4 mph.  Why? Residential mowers are limited by the OPEI regulated blade tip speed and at any speed above 6 mph the quality of cut deteriorates considerably. (Commercial machines like an ExMark Lazer on the other hand will mow well at the top speed of the zero-turn.)

Horsepower, 24 hp is plenty at 6 mph. I have driven many zero-turns and in reality 24 hp is plenty of power for this Craftsman.  Even when mowing a nice thick mid-western bluegrass lawn in the spring 24 hp Kohler Courage will do the job for you.

Transmissions: Zero-turn mowers in this price range normally use Hydro-Gear EZT transmissions. These are good transmissions for light duty, flat land mowing.  This Craftsman uses the heavy-duty ZT-2800 transmissions found on machines costing $1000 more.  These transmissions will give you long life and won’t fade when mowing slopes.  EZT trans have a rated output torque 115 ft lbs. Weight capacity 340 lbs per axle, 18 in max tire size. ZT-2800 transmissions have a rated output torque 180 ft lbs. Weight capacity 440 lbs per axle, 20 in max tire.

Here is a short marketing video from Hydro-Gear on the performance characteristics of these heavy-duty residential transmissions


Craftsman 25061 54 in, 24 hp, ZT-2800 drives, Weight 700 lbs. 2999.99 Deck 12-gauge. You can get this for even less as a Shop-Your-Way-Rewards Member. $2699.99

Buy Here: Craftsman 24HP Kohler V-Twin Zero Turn 54 Riding Mower Non CA Deluxe high back

Mulch Kit: MTD Genuine Factory Parts 54″ Blade Mulch Kit

Three Bin Bagger: MTD Genuine Factory Parts 50″/54″ Zero Turn Bagger

Craftsman 24HP Kohler V-Twin Zero Turn 54 Riding Mower Non CA Deluxe high back

Compare the Craftsman to the other popular 54 inch zero-turn mowers in this quality range

Below I listed the other popular zero-turns in this quality range.

Z425 Deere. 54 in, 22 hp, ZT-2800 drives, Weight 660 lbs. $3999.99 Deck 10 gauge, 0.135 in. (3.4 mm)

ExMark Quest S 50 in, 23 hp, ZT-2800 drives, Weight 681 lbs. $4299.99-4799.99 Deck 10-gauge top that is formed and welded, 12-gauge side skirt and 7-gauge welded bumper.

Husqvarna RZ 5424 54 in, 24 hp, EZT drives, Weight 640 lbs. $2999.99 Deck 12-gauge

Cub Cadet Z-Force 54 54in, 24 hp, ZT-2800 drives, Weight 740 lbs. $4799.99 Deck 11-gauge

EZT output torque 115 ft lbs. Weight capacity 340 lbs per axle, 18 in max tire

Craftsman 24HP Kohler V-Twin Zero Turn 54 Riding Mower Non CA Deluxe high back Craftsman 24HP Kohler V-Twin Zero Turn 54 Riding Mower Non CA Deluxe high backThe Craftsman zero-turn tractor features a 24HP* V-Twin engine and Dual HydroGear ZT-2800 transmission.

Please give your city and state when you comment

  1. Located in Maple Valley, Washington, have recently purchased a new home with about 5 acres, with flat land with some uneven area’s, grass is a little wild. Been reading a ton of articles on your side and others and have narrowed down my selection to either the “Craftsman 54” 24hp V-Twin Kohler “, which I think is the newer version of the one you are recommending here, or the “Husqvarna RZ5424 (54″) 24HP Kawasaki”. I was hoping to be able to bag the clippings so ensuring decent performance there is somewhat important, though I’m not sure required. Budget would be <$4000 ideally, as this is up from my $2000 that I thought I would spend before reading your fine articles.

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thank you for your input. I ended up buying the 25061 and mowed for the first time. So, I think it will work well for my yard and it really did cut my mowing time, even without being used to a zero turn. I have a few questions about whether or no it is functioning correctly. First, the the blades do not seem to spin with a smooth whir. There seems like there is a pulsating sound/feel. (The local store wouldnt allow me to start the blades and limited runing time) My ingersoll had a smooth sound/feel. There also seems to be little difference between idle and fast. My ingersoll has a substantial difference. Finally, it seems substantially louder than I experienced with the ingersoll, especially under load. I’m wondering if the factory set up was wrong and if I should call service. Once again, thanks for the input.

    • @Michael, I would call 1-800-4MY-HOME and have a tech come out. This time of year the techs are busy so it may be a week or two before they can come out. Also, since your mower is brand new, customer service may try and tell you to just return it. Just be firm and ask for the tech. Have him look at the throttle adjustment and listen to the deck mowing.

      Your new deck will sound different than your Ingersoll. The blades spin faster and have more lift. There are also air intakes around the spindles. This causes a lot of air to get into the deck creating better lift, but it also makes the deck noisier. Some decks actually whistle at certain speeds. All this will make the deck sound louder.

      I have also noticed the mufflers on these engines are louder. Lastly, Kohler V-Twins have their own unique sound. They have a “lope” similar to a Harley. If you had 4 mowers out mowing grass, I could tell you which one is the Kohler V-Twin just by the sound.

  3. Thanks Paul. Actually I am even unsure of the size I need. I am now mowing with an Ingersoll Case 226. I have a short hill, about 2.5 tractor lengths that is about 30 – 35 degrees. I can mow up or down in four or five swipes with my 44 inch deck. It is more convenient to go up the hill to get to my back yard from my garage. I am considering the 25061 or the Deere 425, because of the heavier drive motors. I realize I probably don’t need the larger deck. However, my 1.5 acre yard is a little rough (with many obstacles) and I thought the larger wheels (plus the front suspension on the 25061) on both machines would help. The 25061 is about $11000 cheaper which makes me lean in that direction. I thought that with the zero turn’s center of gravity, I would have to back up the hill, plus one tight spot that will be hard to turn in, made me wonder if it would be not the right brand mower for me because of the reverse mowing issue.

    • @Michael, Yes, both of the mowers are overkill for the size of your yard, but for the dependability I understand why you want this size. One thing I learned with a zero-turn, if the hill was too steep to mow comfortably up and down I could usually mow it diagonally and the mower would handle the hill better. It does sound like you don’t have a lot of room though to mow diagonally.

      The reverse mow is a feature that I won’t tell you how to disengage but there are many videos and tractor forums where someone would be helpful enough. It’s a simple task, I just don’t want to be liable if you back over your cat.

      Zero-turn mowers don’t like to back up a hill. The weight distribution is all wrong. They go up the hill better and the Craftsman is weighted so it won’t get light in the front going up the hill.

      In short, I have no issues recommending both machines, but I especially like the Craftsman because it has all the features of the JD for a lot less money. You can put Sears 5 year protection plan on it and still come out ahead.

  4. Thanks for the info on this mower. I have been considering it for weeks. I am concerned about not being able to mow in reverse. I do not have a zero turn now, so sometimes I am mowing in reverse. It seems like this would be an issue. I spoke with another customer at a Sears store who had a Sear ZT. He said his machine bogs down some when he is in backs up. Can the “safety” mechanism be easily defeated if this becomes a problem for me. The reverse issue is the only thing that has kept me from buying this machine.

    • @Michael, I won’t tell you how to disable safety switches. There is always someone on the internet who is willing to tell you how though and these are right out in the open.

      If the customer “had” a Sears ZT he did not have this one. Of the dozens I have sold this year no one has had any complaints about the machine. It mows well, it does not have any issues when you pick it up and has plenty of power. If the mower is the right size for you I would have no issues buying this zero-turn.

  5. Hi…thanks for all the valuable info. Really impressive. Here is my question. I have about 2.5 acres of mowing. Fairly flat land but a bit rough. Is this CRAFTSMAN a better machine than Bad Boy® 60 in. 27 HP ZT Elite Zero-Turn Mower which sells for 5000 at tractor supply. I am looking for DURABILITY and QUALITY. I am willing to pay more for the better machine but your review here makes me think that this CRAFTSMAN might be the way to go? Also, there is a lot of talk about a HUSKY 60 inch cut for around 5000 dollars that people really like. So what do you think?

    • @Jeremy, I don’t know anything about the Husqvarna 60 inch. I do know the MZ-6128 and it compares well to the Craftsman. The PZ models are a lot more expensive than the Craftsman or the Bad Boy.

      The Bad Boy Elite is priced right for a 60 inch machine and if you are mowing less than 20 acres a week I feel it is a good choice. The machine is quite a bit stronger all around than the Craftsman and well worth the extra money you will have to spend. The Kohler Courage Pro is a small step up from the Kohler Courage in the Craftsman. 27 hp is plenty for a 60 inch.

      The Craftsman is aimed towards the residential machines like the Husqvarna RZ5424, Toro TimeCutter and Deere Z425. It would do well on 2.5 acres but it is in a different class than the estate/light commercial Bad Boy Elite, Toro TITAN® ZX6020 and Husqvarna PZ

  6. Pingback: 2012 Husqvarna 54 in 24 hp Zero-Turn Review - TodaysMower.com | TodaysMower.com

  7. Pingback: 2011 Craftsman 52 inch Model 28007 Zero-Turn Review - TodaysMower.com | TodaysMower.com

  8. i think you are a bit off with your pricing quotes. the ZTL8000 or 25061 retails at $3749 and sale prices so far of $2999. Which is more than the the Husky and JD you mention

    • @Walt, In my opinion the retail price for a Craftsman is so you can compare the item to other brands and is not reflective of the actual price you will pay. It is the advertised price that you will pay. In the case of the 25061 the advertised price of $2999 will be through May. In addition, there are deals using the Sears card (additional 5% off or no interest for 12 months) and points you can accumulate with the Shop Your Way Rewards Program that allow you to get it for even less. When you are ready to buy at Sears.com ALWAYS look under the “special offers” tab. For example this morning (2/25/13) the following additional offers are available which gives you another $150 off: Free Home Delivery on Riding Mowers and Tractors over $1299 Sold by Sears. Offer ends 02-Mar-2013 See details.
      Online Only! Extra 10% off all tractor attachments sold by Sears. Offer ends 02-Mar-2013 See details.
      Online only! Extra 5% off Lawn & Garden sold by Sears. Offer ends 02-Mar-2013 See details.

      Other retailers and manufactures price their items differently so it can be confusing at times.

    • @Rick, And here lies the problem. Many of the residential zero-turns under 54 inches get too light and only work on flat land.