Why 54-72 Inch Deck Residential Zero Turn Mower May Be The Best Choice For You.
If you have 3 acres or more a 54 to 72-inch zero-turn mower can be a great choice. These mowers allow you to mow a lot of lawn quickly. They trim around obstacles a lot better than smaller ZTRs mainly because the deck sticks out the side of the mower more. The wider frames and larger tires ZTRs allow you to feel more comfortable mowing slopes up to 15 degrees. Most have large rear tires and front casters so they ride better on rough turf.
Large decks are not for everyone. The 54-61 inch deck cuts faster but they will scalp and leave grass if you have dips, bumps and septic mounds. 72-inch ZTRs work well for wide-open flat areas best. I highly recommend that you test one of these larger units on your property before you buy it. They are all heavy machines – weighing 750 to 1200 lbs. They will leave ruts and grooves in soft, sandy soil and get stuck in areas with poor drainage.
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 a few have available powered 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 54-72 inch zero turn is the best choice for you:
Quicker Mowing: If your lawn is over 3 acres. Speeds here are based on 80% overlap and a fairly smooth lawn.
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.
A 60-inch zero-turn will mow between 3 and 5 acres an hour at 6-10 MPH
A 72-inch zero-turn will mow between 3.5 and 6 acres an hour at 6-10 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. 60-72 inch zero-turns will typically travel faster than smaller models and some models will cut grass as fast as 10 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.
Better on Slopes: 60 inch and larger zero-turn mowers have a wider stance than 42-48-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.
Pasture Mowing: Many mid-priced fabricated deck 54-72 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 60-72 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 54-72 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 the 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.
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 54-72 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 54-72 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.
Inexpensive 54 inch stamped deck ONLY! 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)
All of the models with fabricated decks use the stronger hydrostatic transmissions listed below.
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.
Hydro-Gear ZT 3400 up to 500 lb-ft, up to 10 mph, Total Weight 1600 LBS, Axle Shaft Diameter 1.125 in. Heavy-Duty commercial, You won’t be able to wear it out mowing residential lawns. Most commercial mowers in the $7000-$12,000 price range use this transmission.
If you still can’t get done fast enough with a 54-72 inch mower you can always add a wing mower. My rig from the 90’s – 60-inch ZTR and two Acrease 60-inch wing mowers. 15 acres of lawn in ONE HOUR!
The List of 54-72 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 don’t list any commercial mowers. Commercial mowers that can handle, multiple properties, going on and off trailers many times a day and multiple operators is a whole different topic.
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 54-72 inch residential zero-turn mowers available on the market for 2020. NOTE: Consumer Reports (CR) only tests stamped deck models on this list.
One More Thing: Do You Really Need a Large Zero-Turn Mower?
As you know by now zero-turn mowers do a lot better job of mowing your lawn than they do mowing high weeds, pastures, wildlife areas, etc. If you have only an acre or so of lawn and 2 or more acres of “pasture” using a rough cut mower on the rough stuff may be a better choice for you. Any old garden tractor, an ATV or even your zero-turn will work well for pulling a rough cut mower. They work very well for road ditches and fence lines.
Acrease Kunz Engineering has a great line of high quality, heavy-duty finish and rough-cut mowers. The finish mowers are designed to pull behind or alongside your existing mower. The rough-cut mower can easily be pulled with your existing mower, ATV, UTV, or Compact Tractor to mow your pastures and set-aside. With the optional floatation tire kit, you can mow in areas you can’t go with other mowers. (I used a rough cut offset behind my pickup to mow levees at power plant cooling lakes one year.)
The Acrease is more expensive than the Swisher, Agri-Fab and Stanley wing mowers, but made-in-the-U.S.A. (Mendota, IL) and they are worth every penny in increased productivity and strength. Their rough-cut mowers are the best for fields, roadways, ditches, horse pastures, and areas with poor drainage. What I really like about Acrease is when you pull them offset you can mow under trees and bushes without the tree trying to knock you off your ride.
54-62 Inch Deck
John Deere 535M
54-62 inch Stamped Deck – 3-5 Acres
Best Cut By CR: John Deere Z375R 54 in. 25 HP Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower. Available at The Home Depot
Best Cut By CR, Stronger transmissions than Z375R: John Deere Z525E 54 in. 24 HP Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower. Available at The Home Depot
Lightweight For Soft Soil, Flat Lawns: John Deere Z535M 62 in. 25 HP Dual -Hydrostatic Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower. Available at The Home Depot
Great Price: Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 in. 24 HP V-Twin Zero Turn Riding Mower Available atThe Home Depot Also available at TroyBilt.com
54-62 inch Fabricated Deck – Up To 3-7 Acres
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 54 in. Fabricated Deck 23 HP Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin Gas Engine Zero Turn Mower with Lap Bar Control Available at The Home Depot Also available online through cubcadet.com.
IKON XD 60 Kawasaki Model 915273 Kawasaki® FR691 engine 23 hp/691cc Find Your Local Dealer:Ariens Dealer Locator
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 60 in. Fabricated Deck 24 HP Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin Gas Engine Zero Turn Mower with Lap Bar Control Available at The Home Depot Also available online through cubcadet.com.
About Paul Sikkema
Paul Sikkema has been writing about snow blowers, riding mowers, and other lawn and garden equipment for over 10 years. Paul does most of his writing out in his workshop where he feeds the wildlife and birds in the yard.
He spends as much time with his granddaughter as he can.
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