Why 48-52 Inch Deck Zero Turn Mowers Are The Best Choice For You.
If you have 3/4 acre to 3 acres or more a 48 to 52-inch zero-turn mower is a great choice. These mowers let you mow your lawn quickly, yet are small enough to get around and through most obstacles. They trim around obstacles a lot better than 42-inch ZTRs, and cut better over dips, bumps and septic mounds better than the larger 54-72 inch ZTRs. The wider frames and larger tires make these ZTRs more agile and turn easier without tearing up the turf.
All the mowers that I list here are in a different class than what Consumer Reports tests. The fabricated deck models all mow very well, mulch well* with optional bolt-in mulch kits and many have available rear baggers. The fabricated deck mowers are built well, rugged and will last you many years. In fact, the heavy-duty models will most likely be the last mower you have to buy.
* My definition of mulching well: For example, Bluegrass/Fescue/Perineal Ryegrass lawns. Set your cut height at 3 to 4 inches. The fabricated deck mowers listed here will cut 1-2 inches of additional growth into fine particles and drop those clippings into the lawn. During late spring and early summer when the grass grows faster you may have to mow more often than once a week for your mower to mulch well. (If you can’t mow that often switch to side-discharge until the grass growth slows.)
Here are some points that will help you decide if a 48-52 inch zero turn is the best choice for you:
- Quicker Mowing: If your lawn is somewhere between 1 and 3 acres.
- A 42-inch lawn tractor will mow about 1 acre an hour at 3-4 MPH.
- A 42-inch zero-turn will mow about 1 1/2 acres an hour at 5-6 MPH.
- A 48-52 inch zero-turn will mow between 2 1/2 and 4 acres an hour at 6-9 MPH.
- The blade speed on zero-turn mowers is faster than on a lawn tractor so you can travel over the lawn faster and still get a great cut. 48-52 inch zero-turns will typically travel faster than 42-inch models and some models will cut grass as fast as 9 MPH!
- A zero-turn is more maneuverable so you can zip around obstacles and change direction significantly faster than with a lawn tractor. This helps to shorten your mowing time.
- A 48-52 inch zero-turns deck sticks out the side of the frame farther than a 42-inch deck. This allows you to get closer to fences and trees and landscaping. A front-deck ZTR lets you get under fences and low hanging bushes. This saves time because you won’t have as much trimming to do.
- Fewer Ruts: 48-52 inch zero-turn mowers generally have larger front and rear tires so they don’t sink into soft ground as quickly and leave fewer ruts in your lawn.
- Better on Slopes: 48-52 inch zero-turn mowers have a wider stance than 42-inch ZTRs so you will feel more comfortable mowing slopes up to 15 degrees.
- Most Stripe Well: Being able to turn around without leaving a strip and mowing in a straight line back and forth you can get the same striping effect as the commercial mowing companies offer. Some brands offer optional striping kits for that baseball field look.
- Reduced Costs: Reduced mowing times also reduces your cost of ownership. You’ll spend less money on fuel, and your engine and mower will last longer. Your wheels, oil, and engine parts will all have longer life spans, adding up to a more efficient long-term investment.
- Beautiful Results: The zero-turn mowers listed here have a higher blade tip speed than lawn tractors and older ZTRs. This, combined with the fact that you can move closely around obstacles and efficiently move back and forth, delivers a cleaner, more even cut.
- Superior Mulching Capability: The higher blade speed, fabricated decks, and bolt-in mulch kits also offer the added benefit of better mulching of leaves and grass clippings. Mulching turns leaves and grass clippings into fine particles that fall back into your lawn and help to fertilize it. For bluegrass, fescue and ryegrasses cut at 3-4 inches weekly and you will see a significant improvement in how your lawn looks over time.
- Pasture Mowing: Many mid-priced fabricated deck 48-52 inch zero-turns today will mow taller grass so you can mow your pasture or field every 3-4 weeks and it will work well. NOTE: Even with mowers that will cut the taller grasses try to cut the grass when it is under 12 inches. Longer grass can get wrapped around the spindles under the deck. That will cause you to burn out your deck belt and possibly overheat the spindle bearings. If you want to mow grass taller than 18 inches I recommend pulling an Acrease rough-cut mower with your ZTR or ATV.
Note: Zero turns are made to mow your lawn. They mow quickly and will save you time trimming around obstacles. Inexpensive 48-52 inch zero-turns are NOT designed to pull heavy loads but mid-priced and high-end residential zero-turns have stronger transmissions and many will pull more than a garden tractor.
Dependable Engines and Hydrostatic Transmissions
Engines: You will find three brands of engines on most 48-52 inch residential zero-turn mowers. OEM Branded, Kohler 7000, and Kawasaki FR. The brands match these engines and engine size to the mower and all engines used currently have great reputations for quality and reliability.
- OEM Branded: Toro, Cub Cadet, and John Deere offer their own engines on select models. These engines all have great reliability and a few now offer EFI and electronic governors. EFI provides reliable starting, better fuel economy, and some will run on E15 fuels. Electronic Governor adds more power quicker, when you need it most and delivers up to 20% more available power to the engine. This results in less bogging down, higher blade tip speed, and a consistent cut when mowing in heavy, wet grass.
- Kohler 7000 series: The 7000 series has quickly gained a reputation as one of the best residential lawnmower engines on the market. Reliable, fuel-efficient, and very responsive to thicker grass. The Kohler 7000 will last you many years.
- Kawasaki FR: The Kawasaki FR is arguably the most popular residential zero turn mower engine. It’s smooth, reliable, and long-lasting.
- Commercial engines are also available in select high-end residential models.
- Briggs Vanguard/Briggs Commercial Turf: (Bradley Mowers) These are commercial-rated engines and will last the life of your mower.
- Kawasaki FX: The FX series is Kawasaki’s commercial series. Ariens and Cub Cadet offers it on the high-end residential ZTRs.
- Yamaha: A few high-end residential models are now offering Yamaha. These are commercial-rated engines and will last the life of your mower.
NOTE: I have no brand preference when it comes to engines on the 48-52 inch zero-turns. Kohler, Kawaski and the OEM Branded engines are all good engines and will last you many years.
Transmissions. Transmissions define what you can pull and how well the mower will last over the years mowing slopes. There are four hydrostatic transmissions commonly used in 48-52 inch zero-turns by all the mower brands. All the brands listed here match the size of the transmission correctly to the ZTR and what you expect the mower to do. The weight of the mower, the rider, a bagger, and how rough your lawn is are all factored in.
- Hydro-Gear ZT 2200 (EZT) up to 215 lb-ft, up to 7 mph, Total Weight 900 LBS, Axle Shaft Diameter 1.00 in. Residential mowers, flat/gently sloping, 2-3 bin baggers, 3-5 acres at a time. (Comparable to the K46 in your lawn tractor but with stronger axles)
- Hydro-Gear ZT 2800 up to 300 lb-ft, up to 8 mph, Total Weight 1000 LBS, Axle Shaft Diameter 1.00 in. Residential mowers, slopes/hills, 3-bin baggers, 5-7 acres at a time. (Comparable to the K58 in your garden tractor)
- Hydro-Gear ZT 3100 up to 350 lb-ft, up to 9 mph, Total Weight 1200 LBS, Axle Shaft Diameter 1.125 in. Entry-Level Commercial, multiple lawns up to 10 acres a day. (Comparable to the K66 in your garden tractor)
- Hydro-Gear ZT 3200 up to 470 lb-ft, up to 9 mph, Total Weight 1500 LBS, Axle Shaft Diameter 1.125 in. Standard-Duty commercial, multiple lawns up to 10 hours a day.
The List of 48-52 inch Zero Turn Mowers
I will break up the list below into three different types of residential zero-turn mowers
- Stamped Decks – Inexpensive – Mow well, bag well and are great for smooth lawns.
- Fabricated Decks – Good value residential mowers – Best for most people that want a mower that cuts well, handles rough lawns, and will last.
- Heavy-Duty Fabricated Decks – Built with many commercial components so the mower will take a beating – Good for acreages, estates, farm lawns, farm ditches, and mowing pastures monthly.
I rate products differently than most sites. I not only look at the products, the price, the craftsmanship, and the quality of cut but also the dealer network, ease of warranty service, and parts networks that support the product. That is what sets these sixteen mowers apart from the one hundred or so 48-52 inch residential zero-turn mowers available on the market for 2020. NOTE: Consumer Reports (CR) does not test most of the models on this list.
48-52 inch Stamped Deck – Up to 2.5 Acres
- Best Cut By CR: John Deere Z355R 48 in. 22 HP John Deere Gas Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Transmissions. Accel deep Deck. This ZTR is lightweight and has one of the best cutting decks in the industry. Because of it’s lighter weight it works well for soft sandy soils and smooth lawns. It is not the best choice for slopes and not as rugged as the models below with fabricated decks. Available at The Home Depot Also available at your local John Deere Dealer.
- Inexpensive: Ariens EDGE 52 Kawasaki® FR651 engine, ZT 2200 Transmissions. If you want a fabricated deck but don’t want to spend a lot of money the Ariens Edge is the best deal. It’s built to last with a heavier 11 ga steel deck but doesn’t have armrests and uses a slightly lighter frame than the Ariens IKON XD above. Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Inexpensive: Troy-Bilt Mustang 50 in. 679 cc V-Twin OHV Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Transmissions Zero-Turn Riding Mower. This is the least expensive 48-52 inch ZTR I can recommend. This ZTR is lightweight and the deck cuts very well for “normal’ weekly mowing. It is not the best choice for slopes and not as rugged as the models below with fabricated decks but still a good mower for your suburban yard. Available at The Home Depot Also available at TroyBilt.com
48-52 inch Fabricated Deck – Up To 3 Acres
- Best New ZTR for the Price: Toro Time Cutter 50 in. 23 HP Model 75750. Iron Forged Deck Kawasaki Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Smart Speed Transmissions. I predict that this mower is going to be one of the most popular ZTRs in the 48-52 inch size. It’s priced right and comes with extra features like armrests and larger tires. The deck uses the same 10 ga steel as the heavy-duty decks below. Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Basic Features with Excellent Cut. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 in. Fabricated Deck 23 HP Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Transmissions. I’m predicting that this will also be one of the most popular ZTRs in the 48-50 inch range. The ZT1 50 offers an excellent cut from the 11 ga. fabricated deck. The fully-welded 2X2 inch frame is the strongest in its price range. Available at The Home Depot Also available online through cubcadet.com.
- Best For Rough Lawns Toro 50 in. 24.5 HP TimeCutter IronForged Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower with MyRIDE. Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Transmissions. This mower is similar to the Toro 50 inch above but has the fully adjustable, fully independent operator platform that isolates you from the mower. This is the best choice if you have a rough lawn. Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Rugged Great Cut: Ariens Ikon XD 52 52” Cutting Width Kohler 7000 V-Twin 24 hp/725cc Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Transmissions. The IKON XD’s 11 ga steel fabricated deck handles taller grass better than most decks in this price range. This has all the features you want like armrests, large tires and easy to use deck height control. I highly recommend it for normal lawns and areas that you let grow to 12-18 inches tall. Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Best New Design: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 50 Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2800 Transmissions. More features than the XT1 like armrests and 4 ply tires. Also available online through cubcadet.com.
- Country Clipper Flip-Up Deck: Country Clipper Boulevard, joystick or twin lever, easy on and off step and handrail. Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2800 Transmissions. The Boulevard is a “mid-level” ZTR meaning it uses thicker steel on the deck larger tires for a great ride and is built to last. It has been around for many years and is constantly updated to make it a really good, long-lasting mower. Find Your Local Dealer:
- Great Cut: Husqvarna Z248F 21.5 HP, 726cc Kawasaki 48 inch Clear Cut Fabricated Deck Dual Hydrostatic ZT-2200 Transmissions.This is Husqvarna’s best cutting fabricated deck. It features a deck made of 10 ga steel, armrests the good Kawaski FR engine. For the best service after the sale I highly recommend your local Husqvarna dealer or Tractor Supply
48-52 Heavy-Duty Fabricated Deck – 5-7 Acres
- Best For Rough Lawns: Toro 48 in. Titan IronForged Deck 24.5 HP Commercial V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower with MyRIDE ZT-2800 Transmissions. This mower has a fully adjustable, fully independent operator platform that isolates you from the mower. It’s one tough mower with a heavy-duty frame, heavy-duty deck, and heavy-duty transmissions. This is the best choice if you have a rough lawn and Toro states it will work well for pasture mowing. Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Best Heavy Duty Residential: Ariens APEX 48 Kohler Model 991161 Kohler® 7000 V-Twin 23 hp/725cc, ZT-3100 Transmissions, and Ariens APEX 52 Kawasaki Model 991159 Kawsaki® FR691 Engine 23 hp/726cc, ZT-3100 Transmissions. This is one of the heaviest built 48-52 inch residential mowers on the market. Heavy frame, heavy deck, large tires, high back seat, and a comfortable ride. I highly recommend this mower if you want the very best ZTR for your property. Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Heavy Duty Residential: Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX4 48 in. Fabricated Deck 23 HP Kohler Pro 7000 Series V-Twin Engine, ZT-3100 Transmissions with Roll Over Protection. 48-inch deck 10-gauge AeroForce Max™ fabricated steel / double plate reinforced spindle mounts / 7-gauge side wraps /skid plate. This new mower is also one of the heaviest duty residential mowers on the market. Fully welded tubular frame, large tires and high back seat. Available at The Home Depot and Tractor Supply Also available online through cubcadet.com.
- Country Clipper Flip-Up Deck – Great for owners with disabilities: Country Clipper XLT, joystick or twin lever, Dual Hydrostatic ZT-3100 Transmissions. Contour DTS gives a comfortable ride and the best quality of cut. If you have a hard time getting on and off a lawnmower CC offers an optional easy on and off step and handrail. The joystick control is also a great choice if you have shoulder issues. (the mower can be built specifically for you with left or right joystick control.) This is Country Clipper’s high-end residential mower. Everything about this mower is built with a great cut and long-lasting durability. I can easily see most homeowners getting 20 years out of this ZTR. Find Your Local Dealer:
- Most Agile -Best Cut Resdiential Mower On The Market: Walker Model R-21. Of all the residential mowers on the market, this is my number one choice! Walker commercial mowers are unarguably the best cutting mowers on the market. The out-front ground-hugging deck follows your ground contours and cuts all the grass evenly without scalping. For 2020 Walker has introduced the Model R residential. It uses the same commercial deck as their $10,000 units. If you want to best-looking lawn possible this is the mower for you. Set up a Demo at your home here: Get A Demo
48-52 Heavy-Duty Stand-On Fabricated Deck
- Best Stand-0n for Homeowners: BRADLEY 48″ or 52″ STAND-ON COMPACT MOWER. ZT-3400 Transmissions Briggs Commercial or Vanguard engines, ZT3400 transmissions. This mower is a true commercial mower but it is priced so many homeowners should consider it. Stand-on’s are a lot more agile for properties with a lot of landscaping and work better on slopes than sit-down models. Located near Kankakee, Il Bradley is a small manufacturer and has been around since the early 90’s. Their design and engineering is always state-of-the-art. Because they are a small manufacturer and don’t have a lot of overhead they can sell commercial quality mowers and a much lower cost than other brands. I highly recommend their products. Check out Bradley here: Bradley Mowers
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