My Top Residential Zero Turn Mowers For 2022
I’m starting off this article with a list of my choice for the best zero-turn mowers for 2022. Remember – What I think is the best may not be the best for you so please take the time and read the entire article before you buy your mower. Below that list, I discuss the more popular brands and why buying a certain brand may be the best choice for you. As always, if you have any questions please ask them in the comment section at the end of this article.
There are over 400 different Zero-Turn Mowers available for your residential lawn. Of those 400 there are actually quite a few good zero-turn mowers on the market right now. Ariens, Toro, Cub Cadet, and Walker have all made major improvements in their ZTR lines. The models I list here cut great, bag well and have great parts and service networks.
By Paul Sikkema. Please Subscribe to my YouTube Channel Please Note: If you click on most of the links in this article and buy any product I will make a small commission from that sale. This is how I make money to keep this website up and running. Read more here: How to Support TodaysMower.com
I will list below 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 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.
How I rate mowers.
I rate products differently than most sites. I not only look at 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.
42-46 Inch Deck
42-46 inch Stamped Deck – 1/3 to 1 acre
- Best Value: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42 in. 22 HP Kohler V-Twin Zero Turn Mower Model# ULTIMA ZT1-42 Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- Best Electric: Cub Cadet ZT1 42E 56 volt, 60 Ah Brushless Zero-Turn Mower. Available at CubCadet.com, The Home Depot, Local Dealer
- Best All-Around: Toro 42 in. 22.5 HP Time Cutter V-Twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Speed Model# 75742 Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Inexpensive: Toro 42″ TimeCutter® 452cc Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Speed® Model# 75740 Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Inexpensive: Troy-Bilt 42 in. 679 cc V-Twin Zero Turn Riding Mower Model# Z42 Available at The Home Depot Also available at TroyBilt.com
- Best Cut By CR: John Deere Z335M 42 in. 20 HP Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Mower Model# BG21127 Available at The Home Depot Also available at your local John Deere Dealer
- Inexpensive: Troy-Bilt 46 in. 679 cc V-Twin Zero Turn Riding Mower Model# Mustang Z46 Available at The Home Depot Also available at TroyBilt.com
- Best Steering Wheel: Cub Cadet 42 in. 679 cc Fuel Injected (EFI) V-Twin ZeroTurn Riding Mower with Steering Wheel Control Model# RZT-SX 42 EFI Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
42-46 inch Fabricated Deck – 1/2 to 1 1/2 Acres
- Most Comfortable Ride Great Fabricated Deck 42 inch Mower: Toro 42″ (107 cm) TimeCutter® MyRIDE® Zero Turn Mower (75745) Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Best Value Fabricated Deck: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 46 in. Fabricated Deck 679 cc V-Twin Zero Turn Mower Model# ULTIMA ZT1-46 Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- Inexpensive Fabricated Deck: Ariens Edge 42 Briggs Model 915253 Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Best Fabricated: Ariens IKON XD 42 Kawasaki Model 915268 Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
42-46 inch Heavy-Duty 10 ga Fabricated Decks
- Best Heavy-Duty, Most Agile Residential Mower On The Market: Walker Model R 42 or 48-inch commercial deck. Set up a Demo at your home here: Get A Demo
You can find a lot more information on the 42-46 inch ZTRs here: 2022 The Thirteen Best 42-46 Inch Zero Turn Mowers
48-52 Inch Deck
48-52 inch Stamped Deck – Up to 2.5 Acres
- Best Cut By CR: John Deere Z355R 48 in. 22 HP Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower. Available at The Home Depot
- Inexpensive: Troy-Bilt Mustang 50 in. 679 cc V-Twin OHV Zero-Turn Riding Mower Available at The Home Depot Also available at TroyBilt.com
48-52 inch Fabricated Deck – Up To 3 Acres
- Basic Features with Great Cut. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 in. Fabricated Deck 23 HP Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin Gas Engine Zero Turn Mower with Lap Bar Control. available at The Home Depot
- Best New ZTR for the Price: Toro Time Cutter Toro 50 in. 23 HP TimeCutter IronForged Deck Kawasaki Zero-Turn Riding Mower Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
Best For Rough Lawns Toro 50 in. 24.5 HP TimeCutter IronForged Deck Zero Turn Riding Mower with MyRIDE Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Most Rugged with Great Cut: Ariens Ikon XD 52 52” Cutting Width Kohler 7000 V-Twin 24 hp/725cc Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 in. Fabricated Deck 23 HP Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin Gas Engine Zero Turn Mower with Lap Bar Control Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- Best New Design: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 50 Available online through cubcadet.com.
- Great Cut: Husqvarna Z248F 21.5 HP, 726cc Kawasaki 48 inch Clear Cut Fabricated Deck available at Northern Tool
- Best Overall with Flip-Up Deck: Country Clipper XLT, joystick or twin lever, easy on and off step and handrail. Contour DTS gives a comfortable ride and the best quality of cut. Find Your Local Dealer: Country Clipper
48-52 Heavy-Duty Fabricated Deck – 5-7 Acres
- Heavy-Duty, Most Agile Residential Mower On The Market: Walker Model R Set up a Demo at your home here: Get A Demo
- Commercial Grade Stand-On at a Residential Price: BRADLEY 48″ STAND-ON COMPACT MOWER Find Your Local Dealer: Bradley Mowers
- 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 Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Ariens APEX 48 Kohler Model 991161 Kohler® 7000 V-Twin 23 hp/725cc Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Ariens APEX 52 Kawasaki Model 991159 Kawsaki® FR691 Engine 23 hp/726cc Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX4 48 in. Fabricated Deck 23 HP Kohler Pro 7000 Series V-Twin Engine Zero Turn Mower with Roll Over Protection Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
48-52 Heavy-Duty Stand-On Fabricated Deck
- Best Stand-On for Homeowners: BRADLEY 48″ or 52″ STAND-ON COMPACT MOWER. Briggs Commercial or Vangard 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. Check out Bradley here: Bradley Mowers
You can find a lot more information on the 48-52 inch ZTRs here: 2022 The Sixteen Best 48-52 Inch Zero Turn Mowers
54-62 Inch Deck
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 at The Home Depot Also available at TroyBilt.com
54-62 inch Fabricated Deck – Up To 3-7 Acres
- 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 Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- 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 Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- Toro 60 in. 24.5 HP TimeCutter IronForged Deck Commercial V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
54-62 inch Heavy-Duty Fabricated Deck – Up To 10 acres or more
- Toro TITAN 54 in. IronForged Deck 24.5 HP Commercial V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- Toro 60 in. Titan IronForged Deck 24.5 HP Commercial V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower with MyRIDE Available at The Home Depot Also available at Tractor Supply, ACME Tools and your local Toro Dealer.
- APEX 60 Kawasaki Model 991163 Kawasaki® FR730 engine 24 hp/726cc Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZT3 60 in. Fabricated Deck 24 HP Kawasaki FS Series Engine with Front Wheel Suspension Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX4 54 in. Fabricated Deck 24 HP Kohler Pro 7000 Series Engine with Roll Over Protection Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered online through cubcadet.com.
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX4 60 in. Fabricated Deck 24 HP Kohler Pro 7000 Series Engine with Roll Over Protection Available at The Home Depot Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com.
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX5 60 in. Fab Deck 24 HP Kawasaki FR V-Twin with Roll Over Protection and Front Wheel Suspension Available assembled and delivered through cubcadet.com. Also available at The Home Depot
- Ariens APEX 60 Kawasaki Model 991163 60” Cutting Width Kawasaki® FR730 engine 24 hp/726cc Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
Ariens ZENITH 60 Kawasaki Model 991158 Kawasaki® FX730V engine 24 hp/726cc Find Your Local Dealer: Ariens Dealer Locator
You can find a lot more information on the 54-72 inch ZTRs here: 2022 The Sixteen Best 54-72 Inch Residential Zero Turn Mowers
Yes, You need a new Gas Can!
Remember – DO NOT buy E15 fuel. It will ruin your engine! With today’s ethanol-blended fuel you need a gas can that seals tight. It helps the fuel last longer and the escaping vapors won’t wreck the environment. But the biggest problem is to find one that works. The cheap ones ($20 or more now) don’t have vents so it takes forever to fill the tank on your lawn tractor. The cheap ones are also flimsy and the spouts break after the first year.
Well, I’ve found two brands that work great! I have both brands and I use them all the time. They are vented inside the spout so the fuel pours quickly yet seals tightly when not in use. I’ll give you links at Amazon for two sizes. I suggest buying the size so that you don’t keep more than a month of fuel around the house.
“recommended” No-Spill 1405 2-1/2-Gallon Poly Gas Can. A good size for snow blowers and push mowers.
“recommended” No-Spill 1450 5-Gallon Poly Gas Can (CARB Compliant) This one has a second handle in the back so it is very easy to use and hang onto when pouring into your fuel tank. A good size for lawn tractors and zero-turns.
If you have a problem holding a gas can the SureCan is a great can. It’s very comfortable to use and built well.
SureCan – Gas Can with Rotating Spout.
Fuel Stabilizer: When I go to the gas station and buy fuel I always put fuel stabilizer in the storage tank. It helps keep the fuel fresh and some stabilizers also clean your carb and fuel system without messing it up. There a many good brands but I’ve used SeaFoam for years and it’s always worked well. I use 2 tablespoons per gallon of fuel.
I also recommend K100
Other fuels stabilizers to check out: Fuel Stabilizers
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I need a ZTR that can perform well on slopes. I can spend up to $8,000. There are Exmark, Hustler, John Deere and Toro dealers near me. The JD dealers seems good and I looked at the Z700 series. What are your thoughts about those in comparison to the other. I just want something that will give me the best cut on slopes.
Earl, Depends on the slope. Residential ZTRs are rated for no more than 15-degree slopes. Commercial ZTRs 60 inches or wider are also rated for 15 degrees but because of the weight, a few can run on 20-degree slopes.
1. Walker brand ZTRs can typically handle steeper slopes because of their low center of gravity. Walker will gladly come out and demo one on your property.
2. 60 inch Standon ZTRs (my favorite) can handle slopes because if you get in trouble you just step off the mower and let it slide down the slope. Exmark, Hustler, John Deere and Toro all make standon ZTRs.
3. Cub Cadet ZTS (steering wheel ZTR) 50 inch and larger can handle 20-degree slopes because the front steering wheels help to hold the mower on the slope.
4. Ventrac’s can handle 30-degree slopes ($25,000)
5. KutKwick ZTR’s can handle 45-degree slopes (start at $30,000)
I’m looking at the Ariens IKON XD 52 vs John Deer z375r. What would you recommend?
Hi Walter, The Ariens. The Ariens company also makes the Gravely ZT XL. It’s the same mower as the IKON XD with the stronger ZT 2800 transmissions.
I live in NZ and have been reading reviews on Zero Turn mowers, checking specs against each other etc, etc,etc. Nz is slowly importing a few US mowers. I am looking at Scag Liberty z 48 and Bobcat ZT2000 48, Both look fairly similar. You dont seem to mention Bobcat – what are your thoughts on both of these machines?
Hi Deb, A year ago Bobcat – the skid loader company – purchased Bob-Cat mowers from Schuler Industries. They made a few improvements and painted them white. Bobcat mowers have been around a long time and the mowers are very good. The Bobcat ZT2000 tends to be a little heavier duty than other brands.
The Liberty Z Scag is a residential mower and is the cheapest in the Scag line. Scag has also been around for a long time and the larger mowers are very popular with landscape contractors.
Both brands are good. Both mowers are good residential machines but I will have to say the Bobcat is a little more heavy-duty and it also will ride over rougher lawns better. Personally, Since the mowers are both good machines and both have a good reputation I’d talk to the dealers and buy from the dealer that you like the most.
Jonathan M Nelson
Hi Paul – trying to decide between the Toro 75750 and the Ikon XD 52. Both have dealer support and both have the same sticker price. I have a 1 acre lot of which 80% is mowable with a lot of trees and landscaping. I think a 42″ is the “right size” for me but this late in the season nobody has one in stock right now and can get he 50″ for lesser price. Not so much focused on comfort. Build Quality/durability, cut quality – including mulching ability, and ability to use for towing small items are my priorities in that order since price is equal. Which would you suggest?
Hi Jonathan, Both are great machines and you won’t mind the 50-52 inch decks once you get used to them.
1. The Toro has the smart speed and a 3-point deck. The Smart speed is a lever that lets you reduce the maximum forward speed so you are not tempted to push the transmissions too hard when towing and it allows you to go slow when trimming so you don’t bang into stuff as much.
2. The Ariens has an offset deck and a 4-point deck. The offset deck sticks out more on the left of the mower making it very easy to trim around stuff. The 4-point deck doesn’t bounce on rough ground and follows the wheels of the mower. It gives you a slightly more even cut. The 4-point is also strong enough that you can step on it to get on and off the tractor.
Hi Paul, really enjoyed reading the article and comments I feel so much more informed now. Quick question for you. I have a rather small yard no more than 1.5 acres but I have a serious spinal cord injury that causes a very painful condition and constant mind numbing back pain so I probably shouldn’t cut grass at all but I enjoy it and it allows me to feel productive which is something I miss ever since someone’s carelessness left me disabled about 4 years back. I say all that to ask your thoughts on the Toro MyRide and whether it’s worth the money? I’ve been using my Dad’s Ikonx52 bc his grandson was cutting his yard but that stopped so he needs his back now so my turn to cough up for a ZTM. lol I was originally thinking the Toro 75742 or cubcadet ULTIMA ZT1-42 solely based on customer reviews and price but now I’m wondering if I should spend the extra to get the Toro 75755 due to the MyRide. Being disabled money isn’t coming in like it used to be but my back is very sensitive so wondering if it is worth the extra cash? Other thought was to get the 75742 then add the Rop Shop suspension seat but at that point I’m only a couple hundred from the 75755 so probably not worth it. I can get 10% off at HD or Lowes so I plan to buy from one of them unless I find other deals I can’t pass up. Anyways wanted to ask your thoughts before purchasing as you seem to be incredibly knowledgeable in this area, MyRide worth the extra money or are there other mowers out there that are a better deal in your opinion? Thanks for your help
Hi James, the MyRide will give you the best possible ride.
Hi Paul, I have 1 acre of land, flat, with fenced backyard and trees on the side in the front yard. Only thing I have to go around is the back patio. I was thinking of the Toro Timecutter 75742. My current tractor mower is a Husqvarna 46.” Will the 42″ suffice or should I get 46 or 48. Can’t go 50 because of my gate. Is the Toro 75742 the one you’d recommend or something else?
Hi Frederic, The 75742 is an excellent choice and a great value. The mower has a stamped deck (like your Husqvarna) and the Toro engine. But:
For $300 more you can get the 75746. It has the upgraded Toro IronForged fabricated deck. This deck is the best cutting 42-inch deck in the industry and it’s very rugged – a lot more rugged than a stamped deck. The 75746 also comes with the U.S.A.-made Kohler engine.
With a little practice, either one of these mowers will mow your lawn a lot quicker than your 46-inch lawn tractor. The 75746 in particular will mow 2-3 miles an hour faster and still give you a perfect cut. Both are a lot more agile so you can go around obstacles faster.
Thank you sir, the 75746 it is!! Now I just have to find one!!
Hi Paul, I have a 1 acre with about a 10 to 12 degree slope in the backyard. Do you recommend I go with a 42 inch or 50 inch deck zero turn? I am leaning toward toro and feel like the 50 has better features. I also am looking at the 46 inch cub cadet. Which do you recommend to have the best cut and ability for the slope?
Hi Paul, A 50-52 inch mower has a wider stance so you’ll feel more comfortable on your slope. Plus – you’ll get done faster!
My first choice for slopes is the Ariens IKON XD 52. It has larger rear wheels than the Toro or Cub Cadet and that gives it better traction.
My second choice is either the Toro or Cub Cadet 50 inch. The Toro has the SmartSpeed control so you can slow the top speed down when mowing on the slope but, they are both good mowers.
A secret mowing steeper slopes. Always turn uphill. Turning downhill can cause the mower to lose traction and slide down the slope.
Hi Paul—what is your opinion on the Walker ZTR’s vs the Exmark ZTR’s? I am narrowing down my decision and researched Exmark but I am not that familiar with Walker ZTR’s. My yard is fairly flat and less than an acre. I want something that will last me a very long time. I noticed you ranked Walker as the best mower.
Hi Pam, They are both very high-quality machines. The Walker will always give you the best cut because of the ground-hugging deck. The deck independently rides over bumps, dips, and follows the contour of your lawn exactly. The deck also sits out front so you can trim under stuff and with the 48-inch deck, it will trim right around fence post and landscaping without leaving anything to trim. The Walker also rides great because you sit directly over the large drive tires.
If your decision is down to the Exmark and Walker go to walker.com and request a demo. The rep who comes out will go over the mower with you, show you how to drive it, and let you use it on your yard to see if it is a good “fit.”
Thanks for all your informative responses.
I have a 1.5 acre country lot with some 10 degree slopes and trees to maneuver around. I was looking at a 52″ Ariens Ikon XD and the dealer is trying to convince me I would be happier with a Gravely ZT XL due to the upgraded transmission better warranty and superior construction. Both have the same Kawasaki engine and appear pretty similar on the surface. The cost difference is around $1200 between the two. Would the upgrades be worth the extra expense in your opinion? My Deere 212 lasted me 25 years and I would like to get the same from this machine.
Hi Jeff, The Ariens IKON XD and the Gravely ZT X are the same mower. The Gravely ZT XL is also the same mower with the next larger transmissions and a 4-year warranty instead of 3 years. There are no other differences.
Gravely ZT XL 52 with Kawasaki engine – $4399
Gravely ZT X 52 with Kawasaki engine – $3499
Ariens IKON XD with Kaw engine – $3299
The difference between the Gravely ZT X 52 and the Ariens IKON XD is where it’s sold. When you buy the Ariens at a big box store you don’t always get the same “service after the sale” as you do when you buy from a dealer. If you are fine with buying from the box store and then finding a dealer if you have issues to save $200 then go that way.
So the real difference and “apples to apples” price comparison is the ZT X to the ZT XL. $4399 – $3499 = $900. Looking around at other manufacturers They are all charging $800-$1100 for the ZT 2800 trannys over the ZT 2200. But none of them add another year warranty like Gravely does.
If you only have 10-degree slopes and you are not planning on pulling a lot of heavier loads with the ZTR then I’d stay with the Ariens IKON XD or the Gravely ZT X.
-I have a Ferris IS3200 mower with wide cut. The original seat is a good comfortable seat but I want one more conducive to one with back problems. My current seat does not have (that I can find) any electrical connections and a seated person is required to start the mower. The start sequence is enabled by a pressure switch from weight in the seat. What do you recommend?
Hi Jerry this suspension goes between your existing seat and the mounting plate. Universal Suspension SEAT KIT for Lawn Mowers.
If you have to sit on the seat to start the mower there is an electrical pressure switch inside the seat. The wire comes out the middle of the underside of the seat. You may not be able to see it with the seat attached to the mounting plate.
I appreciate your knowledge and your site as it is a wealth of information and probably the most extensive and encompassing site out there.
Several years ago you helped me purchase my Craftsman Pro Series 42″ riding mower. I am considering an upgrade to a zero turn and would appreciate your input. I mow our residential, flat, 1 acre yard with ~10 trees and fence in Pittsburgh, PA. It is more on the “lush” side in the spring and fall. I enjoy mowing the yard and do so often. I put about 75 hours a year on my mower. I will not be towing with it.
By far, the most important factor for me is the cut. I want the look of a nicely manicured lawn. I need something that will handle the cutting duties without leaving rows of grass clipping or mohawks. I would prefer one with mulching capacity that doesn’t bog down, create mohawks, or leave grass clumps on my lawn or, worse, my sidewalk and driveway. However, I can live without mulching. It’s a nicety, not a necessity.
The next most important factor is a comfortable ride as my yard, although flat, can be a bit bumpy. Of course, durability is important. I’d like to stay cost conscious but I am willing to pay more for an exquisite end result.
I am considering John Deere, Toro, and Cub Cadet likely with a 42″-46″ deck. What would you suggest to best meet my needs?
1. The best cut/mulching and the best ride is the Toro TimeCutter with MyRide suspension. It comes in a 42-inch deck model and a 50-inch deck model. I prefer the 50 inch model because the deck sticks out the side farther – which makes it easier to trim around stuff. Unfortunately, the 50 inch is in high demand this year so you may have to go to a dealer to get it.
2. The John Deere Z345R gives you one of the best cuts on the market but the mower is lightweight and has small front caters which makes it much rougher to ride on than the other brands.
3. The Cub Cadet ZT1 42 inch or 50 inch also cut well and the fabricated deck on the 50 inch is very rugged. These models also ride well but they don’t mulch quite as well as the Toro or John Deere.
Thank you so much for the insight. If you feel there is an different product that would better fit my needs then I’d love to hear from you! Take care.
Hi I was wondering what you thought about the new Riding ego zero turn 360 mower battery one I’m looking at getting that maybe at the end of the year or next year Right now it’s a low too expensive for my taste
Hi Frank, I wrote an article comparing it to the Ryobi and Cub Cadet here: 42-inch Electric Zero Turn Mowers – Ryobi, EGO, or Cub Cadet? Which One Is Best For You?. The Cub Cadet is the clear winner right now but we need to give the EGO a chance this year to prove itself.
Hi…..I am looking for the best battery (about 1.5 acres) riding mower with a steering wheel, that will bag, about 38 in, power steering, don’t have to change the blade when I am mulching or cutting (bagging)…….Thank you
Hi Frank, there is only one – the Ryobi 38 inch rider.
I mow 2 1/2 acres with some inclines and trees. I was looking at getting a new mower. I am considering a Kubota z231 BR-48 and a John Deere Z530M-48. They seem comparable but I like the Hydrogear 3100 transmission on the Kubota and the John Deere Kawasaki engine. They are the same price. Wanted to get your thoughts on both.
Hi Kirk, if you want the best cut possible – get the Deere. It is a mid-line ZTR in the Deere lineup and it will last you a long time.
The 3100 trannys are nice but the mower is Kubota’s entry model. It’s a heavy-duty mower but the Deere will have more options available – like baggers and mulch kits.
I reached out to you before on some suggestions. Since then I have went to a local dealer that sells Toro and Cub Cadet. I know I want a fabricated deck. Seems the Toro deck is 10 Ga and the Cub is 11. Looking at either the Toro 42 in Time cutter with the Toro branded engine (75744) or the 50 in with the Kawasaki engine (75750) Then on the flip side on the Cub Cadet I’m looking at the 46 in (ZT1 46) with the Cub Cadet branded engine or the 50 in (ZT1 50) with the Kawasaki engine. I know you mentioned before that the Toro is better for any sort of towing because of the Smart Speed. Discussed this with the dealer. He mentioned and agreed but also suggested that the Cub and Toro will tow the same. Just the Toro has that extra “feature”. Looks like the Cub has a stronger transmission than the Toro with the ZT2200 and the Toro has the ZT2100. So inclined to think the Cub might be better overall for towing. I realize that I won’t be towing all of the time and more of a nice to have when I need it. Dealer did mention that Cub Cadet is the hottest mower they sell now, even though he had a Toro shirt on ha ha. Seems like you get a overall better mower on the Cub than the Toro with the better transmission and extra features like the foot height adjustment, hour meter, headlights, etc. Do you have any reason that you would value one over the other? Seems like I’m hung up on Toro because of the Ex-mark connection. But the Cub seems like more for the money.. Dealer did say he had a Gravely and looking back he doesn’t understand why he spent so much more on it vs just getting a Cub. Prices all seems around the same $2,900 to $3,200 locally.
Hi Daron, The differences are so minor between the 50 inch Cub Cadet and the 50 Toro that it almost boils down to “Which color you do like? Red or Yellow.”
1. I do like the 42 inch Toro over the 46 inch Cub Cadet. The Toro’s cut is fantastic but –
2. The 50-inch decks are two of the best cutting decks on the market right now. Consumer Reports agrees with me on this.
3. The difference between 10 ga (9/64 inch) and 11 ga (1/8 inch)is less than the thickness of a sheet of paper.
4. The Kawasaki has the best fan club. The Toro engine is developing a stellar reputation. I’ve heard nothing good or bad on the Cub Cadet engine. By the way, is that cub cadet engine in a ZT1 – it must be a previous year because this year’s model has the Kohler 7000 series (also a good engine) Personally if I have a choice I’ll pick the Kaw first and then the Toro engine.
5. The ONLY difference between the ZT2100 and ZT2200 is the 2100 has 3/4 inch axles (900 lb capacity) and the 2200 has 1-inch axles (1000) capacity. There is no performance difference. Toro is the only one using the 2100 and they have been using them for years.
6. The Toro’s height adjuster is easy to use. But, since I’m a big guy the handle does dig into my thigh when I’m mowing.
7. By the way, The Gravely ZT X/Ariens IKON XD are the same price as these and I really like them also!
8. The Cub Cadet is the hottest probably because he gets a little more profit so he pushes the sale a little harder…
9. I have an Exmark Quest with the same fab deck as the 42 inch Toro. It cuts so well I use it as my “reference mower” when comparing all the rest.
Really appreciate the breakdown there! Your site here and responsiveness is some of the best I have seen in my researching journey.
I believe you’re right though on the 50 in for both. Comes down to maybe the paint color. Oddly enough I was just at the Home Depot and looking at both and wound up talking to a commercial lawn care guy. He said he prefers the Toro with the Kawasaki engine over the Cub. But he also has the commercial Toro. Nevertheless it was good convo back and forth. Seems like a few people I have talked to during my research have all said to not get Cub and go with the Toro. Mostly everybody has said stay away from any of the John Deere!
I’m leaning towards the Toro and more of the 50 inch model with the Kawasaki engine. That Cub did have the same exact engine. Even on the Cub Cadet website they advertise it with a Kawasaki engine.
Appreciate all the help and insight. Its been more helpful than you know! Will definitely refer people to this sight if they ever in need of some good honest knowledge.
Hi Daron, Most commercial guys will point you to the Toro/Exmark because they have been making a commercial ZTR since 1996 and it’s still the one to beat.
Cub Cadet has been making ZTRs for just about as long but they didn’t really get into the commercial market until 2015. Cub Cadet’s commercial stuff is awesome but it’s going to take a while yet before it catches on with the commercial guys.
– And with over 40 commercial brands out there it may never catch on…
Looking for my first zero turn. I previously have used services but now with my new property 2-3 acres of mowable lawn (ex. house/pond/etc) the cost for them vs. DIY justifies a new machine for the garage.
Also, the price for their 1 time leaf collection last year easily justifies a better solution there. I am strongly leaning toward a DR Leaf and Lawn vac for fall and spring clean up – and am concerned with weight of that being pulled by the mower.
Without concern about the leaf vac, I was looking at the Cub Cadet ZT2 54-inch or the Toro TimeCutter 54-inch (75754) – I judge those to be about the equivalent.
Stepping up from there is the Ariens / Gravely – APEX / ZT-HD 52. These have the better tranny with the ZT-3100 – but I feel like I read on your site that for towing a leaf vac maybe even more would be required…?
I’m trying to find the balance between good quality and yet not go too overboard.
Thank you for your input!
Hi iamdgw, My first choice is the Gravely/Ariens ZT-HD/APEX. It’s a very heavy-duty mower. It has ZT3100 commercial trannys. It cuts very well and its biggest feature for you is you can get an optional powered bagger. The powered bagger uses a blower to suck the leaves out of the deck and blow them into the bags. It fills the bagger full all the time. In my opinion, it will be faster than a DR leaf vac plus you don’t have to mess with that extra engine…
My second choice is the Gravely ZT XL 52 inch. It has the same trannys as the Cub Cadet XT2 but like the ZT-HD/APEX it has the optional powered bagger. The deck sticks out farther to the left on this one and with the larger 20-inch rear tires it’s great for trimming. I like the build quality of this mower, the cut quality, and I can easily recommend it for 2-3 acres.
The Cub Cadet ZT2 is a decent mower – I just like the Gravely better.
The TimeCutter really doesn’t fit with these mowers. The ZT2100 transmissions are too light-duty to pull a leaf vac. If you really want a Toro it would be the Toro Titan Model 75310
Hi Paul, Thanks so much for the reply. I read everything you wrote about ZTRs, heck I even created a spreadsheet that shows, brand, model, engine, HP, transmission, deck type, deck size, and price. Yes, I know pretty anal.
I was set on Scag, but now I think if I go with Scag, it should be the Patroit. Although, I really didn’t want to spend that much. But was is really important to me is finding a mower that will last as long as my JD LX280 has, one that is as safe as possible on my slopes, and one that has an awesome cut.
I appreciate your suggestion, and I am going to check out the Gravely ZTRs this week, at my local dealer.
Thanks again for all your suggestions.
Hi Kathy, You will be very happy with the Patriot. It cuts very well and will last you a long, long time.
I was leaning toward the Gravely/Ariens – just trying to suss this as thoroughly as I can. Thank you for your input!
My initial thought on an attached bagger is that it won’t hold the volume that the DR will (which has a 27 or 43 cu ft capacity) and you will be constantly emptying it.
How does the next step up Cub Cadet (ZTX4) stack up – same tranny & engine I believe. Is it just a matter of finding which dealer is right for me?
Is the ZT-2800 in the Titan (75312) comparable to the ZT-3100 because of the different drive modes available on the Toro?
If I’m creeping up toward 6K, is there any other brands that I should be looking at – or are the specs all going to be about the same?
Hi iamdgw, The Titan does not have the Smart Speed. Only the Timecutter has it.
I’ll be as frank as possible. ZTRs are NOT designed to pull things. Yes, there are after-market manufacturers that make pull behind leaf vacs but that doesn’t mean you should be putting one behind your zero-turn. None of those manufacturers will extend your ZTR’s warranty in case your mower breaks using their leaf vac.
Yes, there are many good ZTRs when you get up in the 6K price range. One of my favorites is the Country Clipper XLT. The Cub Cadet ZTX4 is also a great mower. But if you have to drive 50 miles to get one serviced it not always the best choice. My suggestion is to see what dealers are in your area. Go visit them and see which dealers you like. Then if you still need help deciding which mower to buy feel free to come back and ask more questions here.
Thank you for being frank. I will have to think hard about the collection aspect I am seeking. Bagger, tow behind, sweeper, or blower.
There are a several dealers not too far from my location near AA – so I will go and see what they are like. Thanks again.
I am enjoying your site. I am considering moving on from my 30″ Dixon ZTR w/ the B/S 16.5 Intek engine. My choices are one of the 42″ Toro MyRide (Kohler or Toro engine choice) or a 42″ Simplicity Courier with the Kawaski engine. I mow a little over 1/2 acre that is flat but not smooth or soft ground. My main wants are dependability, comfort and look of cut. I prefer to deal with local dealers versus the big box stores. Thank you.
Hi JD, You will be a lot happier with the cut of the Toro than the Simplicity. The Courier is one of the lowest-rated mowers by Consumer Reports for every category they test. The Toro is the highest-rated. I really like the cut of the fabricated deck on the Toro MyRide.
Thank you very much, I appreciate your input. Do you have a suggestion for the engine choice, Toro twin 24.5 hp or Kohler 22hp? The Kawasaki option does not seem to be available unless I want to order through a big box store. The Toro dealer tells me they sell more MyRide now than the standard version. Much appreciate the insight.
Hi JD, I have no problems with any of the engines. If you can’t get the Kaw I highly recommend the Toro. It is developing a stellar reputation.
Enjoyed reading your article. I own a JD LX280, which has been a great mower, but I have been looking at a ZTR for a couple years as an addition to the JD. I have looked at the Ariens Ikon 52, Bad Boy Elite, Skag Liberty Z 52″, and Toro Timemaster with Soft Ride Suspension. Disappointed that the Toro no longer is available with the Kawasaki engine. Pretty set on a Kaw engine. Seems as though your recommended ZTRs come from Big Box stores, which I prefer to purchase from a dealer. Yes, my 1.5 acres does have slopes. Not too worried about that because three of my neighbors have similar topography and mow with ZTRs. My budget is $6,000 or less. Just not sure if I should look for a ZTR that is heavy, one that has wide tires, etc. Look forward to your suggestions.
Hi Kathy, I list ZTR’s from the big box stores because many people today want to buy online (and I make a little commission off the sale) That said, You will get a better experience buying from a dealer.
To compare apples to apples (by price) my first choice is the Gravely ZT HD/Ariens APEX. (same mower – one’s red the other is orange) These mowers have commercial duty ZT3100 transmissions and Kawasaki engines like the Bad Boy Elite and the Scag Liberty Z
The second choice is the Toro Titan with MyRide. It has the heavier duty trannys and really rides nice! It is the most expensive of the mower I discuss. The Titan 48 inch with MyRide is easily the best riding and best cutting residential mower.
My third choice is the 52 inch Ariens IKON XD/Gravely ZT X with ZT2200 Trannys. (same mower – one’s red the other is orange) The larger 20 inch rear tires really make a difference for traction on slopes. Check out this video – I mow a ditch that I’ve never been able to mow with any other ZTR. Ariens IKON XD Mowing Review.
Gravely also offers this mower with the heavier ZT2800 transmissions – The Gravely ZT XL. Price/performance/and working your hills this is the best choice. I really like how the deck sticks out the left side for trimming. I especially like the price – around $4300. You can get all three with the Kawasaki engine.
I can’t really understand why Bad Boy wants to charge you $600 more for the Kawaski FR 630. It’s a smaller engine than the FR691 the other brands are using.
I’m neutral about the Liberty Z. People like their Scag commercial mowers and owners really like how well this one bags but to me it’s just another middle-of-the-road mower. The only way I’d recommend it is if you really, really liked the dealer.
Hey Paul, Very informative article! I’ve been researching alot lately and deciding on a zero turn to replace my old Cub Cadet Yard Tractor. Mostly flat land. I do have a fence, trees and a few other yard obstacles. Yard is about 1 acre. Have a 5ft gate (55 inches clear). I also have a tow behind cart I use for hauling dirt, rock and mulch. Use the cart alot in the summer it seems to move alot. Torn on 3 brands. John Deere, Toro, or Cub Cadet. Budget is around 3K or less. Any recommendations on brand and a specific mower in that brand? Thanks in advance!
Hi Daron, If you do a lot of towing the Toro TimeCutter is the best choice in that price range. Why? Because it has a Smart Speed control that lets you pull carts without damaging your transmissions.
They have two that I recommend. Both have heavy-duty fabricated decks and Kohler/Kawasaki engines.
1. The 50 inch Model 75750 will go through your gates with the side discharge up. The wider deck will allow you to trim around obstacles easier than the 42 inch model below. Check it out here: https://homedepot.sjv.io/4V5DL
2. The 42 inch Model 75746 is also a good choice since you have less than 1.5 acres. Check it out here: https://homedepot.sjv.io/P00q4N
Appreciate the insight. Doesnt the Toro have limits on towing to 85 lbs? Thoughts on a JD or Cuba Cadet?
Hi Daron, Would you please point me to where you read or heard that Toro only has a tow limit of 85lbs? With the SmartSpeed you can easily pull 350 lbs without hurting the tranny
For the other two brands, you really should limit your towing to 200-250 lbs. The Cub Cadet 42 and 46-inch ZTR’s have a stamped deck that does not cut as well as the Toro’s fab deck. The 50-inch model is over your budget.
The Deere cuts well. It’s a much lighter weight mower than the Toro or Cub Cadet. When you are looking at the price of the Deere just remember the hitch is $150 additional! I really feel you are paying extra for the green paint compared to the Toro or even the Cub Cadet.
I was looking at this one from Home Depot:
In the questions and answers, Toro says that they recommend 85 lb pulling.
I do like the 42 in you sent above. Seems to be the biggest difference is the forged deck? I think i would prefer to keep it under 48 inches as well. Aren’t the Toro engines made in China? I’m not sure on that. Was more of a general question. I have had a few power toys like 4 wheelers and things with engines made in China that haven’t held up.
I do like the ZT1 by Cub Cadet as well and the Z335E by John Derek. Any thoughts on those?
Hi Daron, What Toro means is hitch/tongue weight or the downward force on the hitch, not what it can pull. If you have ever pulled a boat or camper the “specs” always include total gross weight and the tongue weight. For example, my Dodge Caravan can pull 5000 lbs but I should not have more than 150 lbs on the hitch (tongue weight) Any more weight than that and the weight would push the rear of the van down too much – making the van hard to steer or even understeer on a corner – causing an accident. A zero-turn is the same way, Too much weight on the rear hitch will cause the front end to be light and even lift off the ground going up a hill. (It also has to do with the weight of the ZTR, the weight of the “average” operator, and how much downward weight the transmissions axles can handle)
Now that’s different from what a ZTR can pull. If you try to pull too much the transmissions can overheat and if you do it often enough they will fail. Toro with its smart speed control allows you to pull much heavier loads than all the other ZTRs. With the Toro in smart speed you can pull 450 lbs whenever you want but all the other residential ZTRs you are limited to 260 lbs.
Yes, the biggest difference is the fabricated deck. In my opinion, the Iron-Forged deck cuts a lot better than the stamped deck on the model you mentioned. In fact, I have that deck on my Exmark and I use that deck as my “reference” cut for most of my videos when I’m demoing other mowers. It’s well worth the extra money.
Yes, the engine is made for Toro by Loncin. Loncin is one of the world’s largest engine manufactures and their quality is legendary. Toro researched and went with Loncin primarily because five years ago the quality control and warranty repairs for some of the other engine brands you recognize was becoming problematic. They wanted an engine that would last and one where they could do their own warranty approvals. It gives you a much better experience if you ever have an issue with your mower’s engine.
I understand your frustration with power sports engines. That is a much larger market than Lawnmowers and there are hundreds of little “hole-in-the-wall” making engines for that market sector. The quality control for many of those power sports engines is all over the map or non-existent. Loncin and the manufacture that makes MTD’s Powermore engine are exceptions. Their quality is what you expect.
I don’t have an issue with the Cub Cadet ZT1 42. The Toro fab deck cuts better and the Toro will also pull more but overall the Cub Cadet is one of my top choices for a 42-inch ZTR.
Even though the John Deere cuts very well I just have a problem with the price. That mower should be in the $2700 range and the fact you have to spend an EXTRA $160 for a hitch is ridiculous.
Appreciate the in depth insight on the towing/tongue weight.
Leaning towards the 42″ that you specified above with the forged deck and smart speed.
I see that a local dealer and Home Depot have the same mower for this. HD is about 200 cheaper right now. Do you know of any difference between the ones you get from the dealer and the big box stores?
Appreciate all the help! Been insightful for sure. And has helped me narrow down my choices.
Hi Daron, There is no difference in the mower – just the service after the sale. You get a better experience when you buy from a dealer. If you ever have any issues with it and you bought it from your local dealer you will get a lot faster service.
Good to know. I will check out the dealer and go from there. Once again thank you for all the help and insight into the ZTR world!
Hi Paul you have a great site, easily the best reviews around! I live in the Pacific NW, have an acre of level-to-slight hill to mow. My ground is uneven in places, due to settling. I only mulch, and as often the case in the NW , the grass here is damp. I want a very good mulching zero-turn, preferably fabricated deck in the 42″ to 46″ range to fit through my storage doors. I can’t decide between the Ariens Ikon XD 42″ or the Toro Time Cutter 42″ with My Ride – though my comfort is not the issue, I just want to best cut. Is the 3-blades on the Ariens an advantage for mulching? I also like the fact that the Ariens has a center anti-scalp wheel – which will help with scalping on my uneven ground. I’m fine with spending up to $4,000. Thank you. Dave.
Hi David, Both mulch well with the optional bolt-in mulching kits. A lot of people complain about how the 42-inch deck on the Ariens doesn’t stick out very far – making it hard to trim around trees, etc. If you get the Toro make sure you get a set of the standard mulching blades. DO NOT use the Atomic blades on this deck for mulching (atomic blades have teeth/notches on the back of the blade)
Paul, great article. I am in search of zero turn to run the fence line, pond and camp area on 22 acres. I need something more maneuverable than my tractor. I am considering the Ariens Apex or a Bad boy MZ MAGNUM both based on price point and features. My land is rough and still with the frequent stump and small Yaupon bush’s still popping up in east Texas. Do you have an opinion on these two units or recommend a mother brand in the same price point? Any advise would be great. My five is in engine, transmutation and durability with Max cut height in mind. Speed is nice, but the landscape will keep me moving slow to stay in the seat.
Hi Mike, The Ariens APEX and Gravely ZT HD are the same mower (just different paint) so if you have a Gravely dealer you may get a better price than the Ariens.
The Bad boy MZ MAGNUM is much lighter-duty mower than the Ariens/Gravely. You would have to go up to the Bad Boy ZT Elite to get the same heavy-duty machine as the Ariens/Gravely. The Ariens/Gravely, Bad Boy Elite, and Toro Titan are all priced around $5000.
In my opinion, this is the lowest price point you should go for what you want to mow. If you go any less than this price range and they ZTR will only last you a couple of years. These mowers will give you a much longer life.
I am considering a 60 inch deck Ariens Ikon XD – 23 HP. I have a 4 acre property. I have seen some concern about the “non-serviceable” transmission on this model. However, I like the 60 inch deck for the price and also the fabricated deck. Have you heard of the transmission concerns? Any other concerns about this model?
Hi Anthony, Serviceable transmissions are something the internet wants but in reality, these transmissions hold up well. They are rated for over 500 hours which for most people equals 2 hours a week for over 10 years.
If you really want serviceable transmissions Ariens sells the Gravely ZT XL. It’s the same mower as the IKON XD with the serviceable ZT2800 trannys.
Hi Paul, I’m looking at zero turns for hilly and bumpy terrain. I’m cutting about 3 acres now that’ll likely go up to around 10 acres as I help my father in law. I’m looking at the Ariens Apex, Gravely ZT HD and Toro Titan all in 60 inch. All of these machines seem to be comparable to each other but of course they’re a lot of money and I definitely want to make the right choice. I’m obviously wanting good cut quality and longevity out of the machine. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!
Hi Adam, I recommend the Toro Titan with MyRide. It’s a very tough mower and with the suspension seat you can mow up to 10 acres a lot faster than the three you mentioned.
Thanks for the response. Since my post I’ve started looking at the scab patriot 61 inch. Would it be worth the extra money to go with the scag?I’ve got a dealer 10 minutes from the house as opposed to a hour and a half for toro dealer. Thanks again!
Hi Adam, The Patriot is going to give you a suspension seat and a commercial-grade engine. It is a step up from the Titan in ruggedness. Many smaller commercial owners are using the Patriot and it holds up to 10 acres a day – every day use. So, yes, if you are willing to spend the money it’s a very good mower for what you want to do. If will last you years.
Thanks again for the information! Would the HG-2800 hydros on the toro be any concern for longevity going up my hilly terrain. I know the Ariens/Gravely has zt-3100 hydros. Are these two hydros basically the same or are the 3100s be the better choice of the two? Also, do you know anything about the toro engine compared to the Kawasaki. I know the toro is 708cc and the Kawasaki is 726cc. Would this be enough to see a difference? Will the toro be underpowered? Thanks again in advance!
Hi Adam, The ZT2800 is considered high-end residential – the ZT3100 is considered low-end commercial. Both will hold up on hilly terrain.
The Toro engine is not as well-known as the Kawasaki FR but has better reliability. The Kawasaki in these mowers is the FR (residential) version. It’s not the FX (commercial version) that everyone feels is the best engine on the market.
The Toro is the same engine that
toro puts in their commercial mowers.
Thank you! Now I just need to decide if I’m willing to swallow that $1300 price difference for the Walker over the Clipper! Going to demo the Walker very soon and if I can manage to escape the seduction, I’ll head down the road and pick up the Clipper saving a few bucks. Please wish me and my wallet luck!
In all seriousness, thank you for helping me cull out the Deere and the Hustler, The Bradley is probably just too much of a pipe dream considering the distance to any dealer and fear of swimming that far from shore without a life jacket.
As much as you love the regular Toro Timecutter with the fabricated deck I would even consider that
option as I could buy two of those for the price of the Walker or Clipper, Decisions, decisions………..
Hi Wilson, Yes, Bradley is a hard sell to many people because he has never set up a larger dealer network. He started making mowers in the early 90’s and always had the idea of keeping the mowers priced so anyone could afford them – even if it meant selling fewer than anyone else.
Country Clipper was one of the first brands to make zero-turn mowers for other brands. They finally realized that their real mission was to make the best mowers for fewer people – instead of making mowers for the masses.
This is Walker’s first-ever residential mower. They’ve always made the best commercial mowers. They are very intense about quality and never compromised by making residential models for the masses. The Model R is a culmination of over 40 years of commercial experience. I easily say that this mower is thru and thru a Walker and will probably be the last mower you ever buy.
Hi Paul! Awesome site and comments.
I think I have a truly fun exercise for you with a varied list of contenders.
1.5 plus acre yard, mostly flat but bumpy enough to hammer 3 lawn tractors to death in 20 years.
Contenders must have serviceable trans with decks less than 50″ to possibly wiggle through a large walk gate. The list:
Bradley Stander 36″ (top choice because stander)
Walker Model R (local dealer)
Country Clipper Boulevard (deck tilt)
Ariens Apex (overkill)
John Deere Z530M (Local Dealer)
Hustler Raptor XD (cheapest with serv. trans)
Toro Titan (overkill)
Best ride and cut NOT as important as longevity and ease of maintenance. Please rank or help me eliminate machines that would be overkill/over buy.
Hi Wilson, Wow, what a wonderful list to work with! I too am a stand-on guy so I really like your list. I’ll list them in my opinion the best choices.
1. Walker Model R. Either the 42 or 48-inch deck but the 48 will give you the best trimming capabilities. With the 48 inch deck, you can trim around a fence post and never slow down. It uses the same commercial deck they use on all the other models. It flips up the easiest and fastest – in fact, it’s easy enough to use that you can park it in your garage with the deck flipped up to save room. Hydraulic belt tensioners so your drive belt lasts 10 times longer than the other brands. The Walker will also give you the best cut out of all the mowers and stripes as well as the best commercial decks. It uses the ZT 2200 transmissions BUT, with the one-inch axles, the way the Walker is designed, the center steering, and the low center of gravity you will never have problems with them. A Walker mower has a lot less stress on the transmission than the mid-mount ZTRs. I recommend the comfort seat and trailer hitch options. The bolt-in mulch kit is easy to take in and out for fall cleanup. You don’t need the armrests because of the way you drive the Walker.
2. Bradley Stander 48. My personal first choice is always a stand-on but I don’t recommend stand-on mowers smaller than 40 inches. The smaller ones are top-heavy, wobble around on rough ground, can be very “tippy” and don’t have good traction on rough ground or slopes. They are also very heavy for their small tire size and can groove a lawn quickly if you are not pattern mowing. Yes, the commercial operators insist on having them but they quickly realize their only advantage is getting into small residential properties. Many commercial operators go back to the 30-36 inch walk-behinds because the small standers just aren’t that great. Finally, learn to use your knees to cushion the ride and it is the second-best riding mower on this list. I really, really like the Bradley Standers. They are one of the hidden gems of the mowing industry.
3. The other hidden gem is County Clipper. The Boulevard is one of the best-built residential mowers on the market. It cuts great and is built to last way more than 20 years. I’m a big fan of the joystick steering and how tough the Boulevard is built for the price.
The rest of the mowers are all great choices but if you have the Walker Model R on your list and your budget can handle it – the Model R is the way to go.
4. The Toro Titan with MyRide is the best riding residential mower on the market.
5. The Ariens Apex is the mower I would buy for my father. He has 5 acres of farm lawn with a few steeper slopes. He’s also fairly rough on equipment, (He killed an Exmark Lazer Z in 10 years) so the Ariens Apex/Gravely can put up with his abuse.
6. Hustler fixed all the issues with the Raptor series with the new XD. The FasTrac is more in line with the mowers we are discussing here though.
7. John Deere Z530M. It cuts great. While it’s a good mower a rough lawn will shake it apart sooner than all the others I’ve mentioned.
I had a Toro time cutter Z5035 model 74376 that lasted 10 years. 24 hp jaw. Finally needed work done on the tranny’s. Looking at either a cub cadet or a another Toro.we have a farm yard ,about 2 acres . Which one do you think would be more durable?
Hi Dick, The Toro TimeCutter and Cub Cadet XT1 will give you about the same life expectancy as your old Toro.
The new Toro Titan and the Cub Cadet XT2 will give you a much longer life. They both have heavy-duty trannys, thick, fabricated decks, and very strong frames. The Toro has the option MyRide suspension that really smooths out the bumps. It one of the best riding ZTRs on the market. I recommend staying with a 48-54 inch deck.
Hi Paul. Love the articles. Need some advice. I’m moving into a just less than 3 acre lot/home. Evaluating the following ZTR’s:
– Toro TimeCutter MX Series MX5050 Zero Turn Rider 74774 (50″): $3200
– Gravely ZT HD 52: $5100
– Gravely ZT XL 52: $4200
Any advice you can give on each for a residential lawn? The $2k difference from high to low seems like a lot but the dealer was pushing the $5100 one. Just not sure I need that much but also don’t want to deal with issues after I buy it!! Appreciate it. Thanks!!
Hi Rob, Let’s start with the Toro. The MX5050 is an old model. In fact you can buy the new 2020 50″ (127 cm) TimeCutter® Zero Turn Mower (75750) for less money. By the way, the MX5050 compares to the Gravely ZT X. The Toros and the ZT X use the ZT2200 transmissions. (Since the MX5050 is an old model it should be priced in the $2500 range)
I like the ZT XL 52. It’s a good mower for your 3 acres and will last a long time. It’s very similar to the ZT X but has the stronger ZT2800 drives.
If you want a heavy-duty mower and it’s the last one you ever want to buy then the ZT HD is a good choice. If your lot is very rough and you want to mow parts of it only a few times a year it’s the best choice. It uses ZT3200 commercial transmissions. It’s worth the $5100 but the question is – do you need that much mower?
Thanks Paul. That’s very helpful. I’ll have to take a look at the land again and make a decision. Appreciate it. Will look to get something off the website too to help you!!
Thanks for your super helpful work. About to own 1.5 fairly flat property with some trees and become first time ZT owner, too. Some of the mowers you recommend are not sold by dealers in my area (or at least highly recommended dealers), only big box stores. Is it okay to buy from BB stores if you take good care of the machine? The most recommended dealer for service in my area sells mainly Hustler ZTs in my price range. Thanks again for your help!
Hi Ted, If you buy from the Box stores I recommend reading the operator’s manual before you go mow with it. Pay, particular attention to the uncrating and setting up section of the manual. Go over your machine and make sure they assembled it correctly. Lowes in particular has a habit of just taking the mower out of the crate and NOT doing any of the adjustments – for example moving the seat on the Ariens mowers.
After that, if you take care of the machine it will last for you.
I don’t have any issues with Hustler mowers. The Fastrac is a great mower and the Raptor series has a good reputation – especially if you have a good dealer to set the mower up initially. DO NOT buy the Dash.
I got 1/3 acre to mow with not much obstacles in the way (4 trees). Trying to decide between the Toro 42in Vtwin or Ariens Ikon XD 42. I’d like to mulch and have the capability to tow (not frequently). From what I’m reading here the Ariens is better built but is it worth the few hundred dollars? Would I be perfectly happy with the Toro for my very average small lawn? Thanks.
Hi Sean, If you are going to mulch all the time I’m going to suggest the Toro V-Twin 42 at this time. The owners really like how it mulches with the Toro mulch kit installed.
The Toro’s select speed control is also the best for pulling loads without worrying about your transmissions.
Well scratch my last reply…the more I talk to my neighbors with riding mowers the more I hear that they wished they would’ve gone with a bigger deck even for our small 1/3 to 1/2 acre yards…I’ll hear that around 50″ is what people think is enough/wish they would’ve gotten. As I look at prices for what I can get for a 50″ with Toro and Ariens it looks like I can get either at around $3100 which is $400 more than what 42″ V-Twin costs.
-Do you think 50″ is overkill?
It seems to me I’d get a stamped deck, better engine and some comfort things like arm rests if I do upgrade to the 50/52″ in either model so the $400 may be very much worth it. Added to that if I ever move to a bigger lawn I won’t have to buy a new mower. Do you have a preference in the Ariens XD 52″ vs the Toro 50? The toro has the smart speed technology which allows me to tow but with a bigger engine would the Ariens struggle to keep up? It seems to me that you appreciate the Ariens mowers as the better built and maybe longer lasting. Having a really hard time deciding between the two if I make the jump from a 42 to the 50/52
Hi Sean, I really don’t have a preference. Both the Toro and Ariens have great cutting fabricated decks. Both have great engines. The Toro has the Smartspeed and is great for trimming, hauling, and learning how to drive the mower. The Ariens has slightly larger rear tires for better traction and an offset deck so you can trim right around smaller obstacles like telephone poles.
Looking for a new zero turn 54” and under $3500 and under from Lowe’s. What would you suggest? We have about an acre of lawn with a lot of pine trees,
Hi Joe, that would be the Ariens IKON XD 52.
Great website and article! I have been trying to decide on a new mower. I have a huge (20 acre) yard and do not own a tractor, and don’t know if I want one. I don’t necessarily want to mow the whole thing, but at least half of it. It is mostly level ground and what is not is easy to use a push mower. What do you suggest? Thank you for your time!
Hi Jack, for that much lawn I suggest a high-end residential or entry-level commercial mower. I suggest stopping in to a local dealer and see what they have in the $6000-$9000 range. If you have any questions on what brand to buy get back to me with a list of your local dealers, please.
I have been a follower of your site for a few years now. You helped me purchase my last mower which was a 46” Craftsman Pro and it worked out great for our needs at our last home (hills/very few trees).
Now, we are in a new home and are beginning to look for a mower to better meet our needs. Our current home is a new construction home with approximately 1 acre of flat yard with about 6-8 mature trees in our yard to cut around. On the perimeter of our yard there is about a total of a half acre of wooded area which we do not cut. Our turn-tight craftsman mower has been OK, but I really think that a zero turn would improve our efficiency cutting this yard. I am 6’ and over 200 pounds but my wife is much smaller frame, so something that fits different body types is ideal. We also have a gorilla yard cart and would like some thing with a hitch pin to pull around firewood or brush etc. We are looking for something with good construction and good cut with reasonable price point. Any recommendations? Also, any recommendations for best time of year to purchase?
Hi Tommy, My first choice for mowing one acre and pulling a cart is the 42 in. 22.5 HP Toro TimeCutter.
It mows very well and is the right size for one acre. The biggest feature is “Smart Speed.” It’s a three-speed lever that so you can slow the mower down when pulling heavy loads. This will save a lot of wear and tear on the transmission.
The seat is easy to move with just two knobs under the seat.
I took your advice in May and bought a TORO Timecutter 60″ cut and the three speed are perfect. The slow speed is especially great while learning how to use the machine and I have a cart that I can tow in the second speed. Very comfortable to mow with The cut is even no lines. A little more practice needed but all of the point you made Paul are what made me decide.
Appreciate the input. In the past week, I have talked to a few local dealers; Cub Cadet, Toro, and Gravley/Ariens. I didn’t leave the Cub Cadet/Toro dealer feeling very confident as they didn’t seem overly confident in their product and also having difficulty getting parts/units in because of the pandemic. I think I’m leaning towards the Gravley/Ariens product. The Gravely ZT XL model seems to be a good sweet spot with the 2800 transaxles and well-built machine. I was hoping for Ariens (good bang for buck), but they only offer the 2200 transaxles through their “X” and “XD”units and can only get the 3100 axles on the Apex units which are pretty close to the same price as gravely ZT HD. Any thoughts on Gravely ZT XL model versus a Toro for my situation? I know you really like the Toro units. Since our current mower is 46 inch deck we would like a slightly larger deck, I think we are leaning towards the 52 inch deck size. Thanks in advance for all your help!
Hi Tommy, I like both the Toro and the Ariens/Gravely a lot. You can check out my videos of the Toro Timecutter and Ariens IKON XD here: https://www.youtube.com/paulsikkema.
The Gravely ZT XL and the Ariens Ikon XD are essentially the same mower – the Gravely just has the heavier duty transmission and a few other small features. Price-wise the Gravely is more but you get proportionately more.
I did check out your videos last week, very informative!
With occasionally pulling a small cart of wood/ mulch, should I go with the 2800 transaxle over the 2200 transaxle?
Hi Tommy, The 2200 is not as weak as everyone wants you to believe. It will do just fine and last you a long time.
I can tell you I’ve had my Cut Cadet Ultima ZT2 54″ for 2 1/2 months now, and it rocks! You are right that the dealer can often make the difference, and the one I got mine from is awesome! I hope you find a good dealer to work with and enjoy the mower you decide on.
Hi Paul. I’ve been reading your articles and I want to get your help. I am purchasing a zero turn mower for my husband as a surprise for his 50th birthday next year. I wanted to begin my research. What are your suggestions for my yard – .35 acres, flat land, no trees in the back but I do have 3 in the front and on the side.
What I’m looking for: reliability, ease of maintenance, easy to handle, budget around $3k and comfort (I can see him spending A LOT of time on it). Any recommendations you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Hi Tawanda, A good 42-inch zero-turn is a good size for your yard. I have two in mind.
1. Ariens Edge 42. (about $2699) This is a great, inexpensive mower and I know it will last years: Check it out here. Ariens Edge 42
2. Ariens Ikon 42. (About $2999) If you husband is over 200 lbs I recommend the IKON. It built even stronger and roomier for us larger people. Check it out here: Ariens Ikon 42
I recommend buying through an Ariens dealer instead of the big box stores. If you have any questions or problems your local dealer will be glad to help you.
Finally, check out my youtube channel. I have videos up of the Ariens Edge and will have videos up of the IKON XD soon. Paul YouTube
We have been in touch over the past few years. I own a summer camp with 3 large sport fields. We are finally in the position to invest in a new mower and we are considering the 2020 Husqvarna Power Zero Turn Mowers Commercial M-ZT61 Kawasaki (967 17 70-08), $7,000.
I wanted your opinion in general about the machine and specifically if it is strong enough to pull a leaf and lawn vacuum like the Cyclone Rake Z-10.
Hi G Sandler, That model, M-ZT61 Kawasaki (967 17 70-08) is a good mower with a good reputation. Just so you know this is the last year for the M-ZT line. It’s being replaced with the Z560 https://www.husqvarna.com/us/products/zero-turn-mowers/z560/967929901/. (More money)
It will handle the Cyclone Rake Z-10. I suggest getting the Cyclone with the dual-wheel casters and the electric start engine.
Great info. What would be your advise for a mostly level 2 acre lawn but use to be an old farm crop filed that is pretty rough? I am in need a smoother more comfortable ride that doesn’t brake my back every time I mow..Good ideas for a ZTR mower with suspension? Was looking at Toro with myRide setup..
Hi Dave, the only choice is the MyRide. But, Since you have a very rough lawn I recommend that you buy the Titan series with MyRide. It’s a heavy-duty mower and is stronger than the TimeCutter series so it will last mowing your lawn.
Personally, I’d go with the 48 inch but the 54 and 60 inch models will get you done faster.
Check out my article here on the Toro Titan
I read several of the links about trying to decide which one to get and after your expertise I recently purchased a TORO Time Cutter 75760 60″. Your review the other day was spot on. I looked at the Toro Time Cutter 54″ with my ride and decided for $200 more to get the 60″ without MyRide as it has a beefier trans and larger wheels in front. thanks for your great reviews.
Trying to decide between a 54″ Magnum MZ ztr Bad Boy and a Ariens Ikon X 52, any words of advise?
Hi Larry, In this price range – neither – Ariens IKON XD is the best. Ariens has really upped their game this year and the Ariens upgraded IKON XD is one of the best mowers out right now.
The Ariens IKON X is last year’s model. They revised it and it’s now called the EDGE. But when you are comparing the Ariens models the new IKON XD compares closer to the Bad Boy Magnum. Services issues are quickly fixed with Ariens – Bad Boy has fewer dealers and the quality can be spotty.
The Magnum is an “OK” mower but I read a lot of reviews and you either get a good one – or one that has continuous issues.
Thank you Paul. I did mean to say the Ariens XD, what’s your take on the Ariens Apex in comparison? I have a little over an acre.
Hi Larry, I like the Ariens XD if your lawn is fairly flat and you’re mowing 3 acres or so. The APEX is a heavy-duty mower and I strongly feel it can handle most any lawn. 10 gauge deck, commercial ZT3100 drives, and huge tires will help this mower cut well, ride well and last a long time.
Thanks for all the great info here. I’m looking for a new mower to handle about an acre of gently sloped (about 10 degrees in spots) yard and am seriously considering going for a ZTR mower. I’ve been looking at the Ariens Ikon XD 42″ which seems well reviewed. I’ve noticed that they offer two different engines though. There is a Kohler 7000 (22hp, 725cc) or the Kawasaki (18hp, 603cc). Both are listed at the same price. Any thoughts on which way I should go? Thanks!
Hi Ryan, I have no preference between the Kawasaki FR or the Kohler 7000. Both are good engines. Both have an excellent reputation. That said, the larger displacement of the Kohler (725cc) will give you more torque going up the hills with thick grass.
Thanks Paul. Great point about the extra torque for hills. I think you made my decision much easier!
Hello and thank you for all of the information that you have enlightened all of us with in reference to ztr mowers. Just wondering if you know if and when Ariens will be having a sale or promotion going on? I’m looking at the edge and ikon models.
Thanks in advance
Hi Jeffery, No, I haven’t been paying attention but:
Go to ariens.com and sign up for the newsletter. Also, like the Ariens Facebook page. They will have the latest sales info – and you can ask them.
I also noticed that once you like their facebook page their advertising will start to show up in your regular news feed and a lot of those ads talk about sales.
if I go with the ikon xl, which engine should I choose, Kawasaki or the Kohler? And which engine should I choose if I go with the edge? I’m leaning towards a 42 inch deck for either mower I choose.
Hi Jeffery, I have no preference between the Kawasaki and Kohler. They are both great engines. The governor on the Kohler is a little more responsive when mowing tall, heavy grass.
Edge, I like the Kohler. The Briggs is the base Intek and the Kohler will have a longer life.
How does the Ikon xd 52 stripe. Looks like the stripes would be off with the deck hanging out past the wheels so far. This is the only reason I haven’t bought one yet.
Hi Glen, if stripes are your thing and it doesn’t do the best for you Gravely does make a stripe kit for that deck (Ariens and Gravely are the same)
Great website and I love how you respond to everyone’s questions cause I actually browsed all your comments to help with my search and narrowed down my choices. I lived in a condo that took care of the yard for 9 years so I haven’t mowed in almost a decade. Now I own a house and boy there so much information about lawn mowers. Also I heard ztr tear up your grass, is this user error or do I need a feature to prevent this?
Suburban house in CT – 0.3-0.5 acres, small slope, about 3 trees to mow around and my backyard has oak trees bordering the edge so tons of leaves ALL THE TIME lol
What I’m looking for: Reliability, ease of maintenance, attaching and detaching bagging and mulching kit, cut, easy to handle, one user, 42 deck, budget around $3k and willing to spend around $1k for accessories (mulch kit and bag) Being a small yards I doubt I would benefit much from features or comfort so thats not important.
Could you narrow it down to 2
Toro Timecutter: (they have a fabricated deck or a stamped deck not sure which to get) Haven’t seen no negative comments on these.
Ryobi 75AH – Less maintenance for upkeeping but couldn’t find anything along with reliability, cut/bag/mulch, and they only sale at home depot (heard you should stay clear from big box stores for equipment)
John Deere Z345R
This was my original choice before researching because well it was the only brand I knew. Great Brand recognition = quality. I also read on your previous comments to another user that it provides the best cut, bag, mulch, and side discharge. However, in a different post you stated you weren’t a fan of the John Deere 300 series so wasn’t sure about this lawn mower. John Deere probably had the most mixed reviews of all, either people loved them or hated them.
Ariens XD (Which is best between Kohler or Kawasaki) I like this cause I heard these are the best engines for lawnmowers so I’m sure they are reliable. Based on your post and previous comments I know this is going to be 1 of the 2 choices so go ahead and scroll up and pick 1 of the 3 others lol
Sorry for the long post but I have NO EXPERIENCE at all with any of this. Thank You in advance!
Hi Chris, Quick change over to mulch or bag. My first choice is the Toro Model 75742. It has smooth-running V-Twin and bags well. It has baffles under the deck for mulching so it will take about 30 minutes to switch from mulch to bag.
If you want to learn more please go over to this post: Number 1, 2, 3, and 5 are good choices for your yard and what you want to do. 2020 The Thirteen Best 42-46 Inch Zero Turn Mowers
I don’t have a problem buying through the Home Depot. If you have a problem they take care of it or get you to a local dealer for the repairs. (Some other retailers want you go find the solution yourself or they want to send it out to some far away repair center.)
The Ryobi is a good choice. It’s very easy to switch from mulch to bag to side discharge. The only maintenance is sharpening or changing the blade once a year. It’s maintenance free but expect to have to change the batteries every 5 years or so (about $200 times 4)
Although I like the Ariens Edge and IKON XD they don’t have a bagger for it right now.
Feel free to keep asking questions until you are comfortable buying the right mower for you.
I’m looking at Cub Cadet PRO Z 148 S EFI and the Cub cadet Z-Force SX 48. Reason I’m looking at this style of zero turn is stability on hills. The mower will be used for residential 5 plus acres. There doesn’t appear to be much difference between the two The Pro has slightly bigger transmission, 1″ bigger rear tires and Kohler Confidant EFI Closed Loop EZT-740 engine with 12cc Hydro-Gear® ZT 3400 transmission with charge pumps.
The Z-force SX 48 has the 24 HP professional-grade Kawasaki® FR® Series V-Twin OHV engine. Hydro-Gear ZT 3100 transmission.
Most people seem to lean towards wanting Kawasaki engines. The Kawasaki I believe is the lower end residential mower engine and Kohler is the introduction lower end Commercial engine.
Q: Is Kohler EFI engine a reliable engine?
Q: What are your thoughts about Kohler vs Kawasaki quality?
Q: What are your thoughts about transmissions with and without charge pumps?
Q: How hot do these transmissions get?
I know the Pro Z might be a little much for a residential mower but I’m willing to pay $1400 more for the upgraded mower, providing the Kohler Motor is reliable and the transmission with charge pumps will add longer life to transmissions. I firmly believe you get what you pay for. My dad runs an old Wheel Horse, never had to rebuild anything on the motor or gear box and it’s going on 33 years. So with proper care anything will last a lifetime. Let me know if I’m completely out to lunch on this.
Hi Art, Good comment! It is easy to understand and I can see you’ve done your homework.
Yes, when you read the lawnmowers forums and talk to dealers Kawasaki does appear more popular. Why? When Kawasaki first introduced their engines in the mid-90’s you could buy one $300 cheaper than the competitors. So, every young kid who was getting into the lawn mowing business bought the Kaw because they were cheaper. They were also the first to use OHV across the entire line so they were more fuel-efficient and quieter. The “kids” who stayed in the business got used to the Kaws so they continued to put them on their next mower and so on. Kawasaki slowly increased the price but because of the brand acceptance the owners kept buying them.
Because of that brand recognition today the dealer can charge more (and make more profit.) Today the Kawasaki FR is the oldest engine on the market. Kohler, Cub Cadet, LCT, Yamaha, and Toro all have newer, more fuel-efficient designs.
Q: Is Kohler EFI engine a reliable engine? The Kohler Confidant EFI is the “state-of-the-art” in engine tech right now. It’s 25% more fuel-efficient and responds to heavy grass a lot faster than the carb’d engines. The Confidant Series has the same commercial quality as the old Command Pro engines. In other words, it will last you years.
Q: What are your thoughts about Kohler vs Kawasaki quality? I would never pay more for a Kawasaki FR than I would for a Kohler 7000. In this case, though the Kawasaki is a residential engine. Expect 500-800 hour engine life. The Kohler Confidant is a commercial engine. Expect it to last at a minimum twice as long as a Kaw FR.
Q: What are your thoughts about transmissions with and without charge pumps? The ZT 3100 is the entry-level commercial tranny. The ZT 3100 with charge pumps has a history of blowing the o-rings around 500 hours. The ZT 3400 is the “industry standard” commercial tranny and you’ll find it on most commercial ZTR’s in the $8000-$14,000 price range. The ZT 3400 with charge pumps has no o-ring issues. You’ll never wear out the ZT 3400’s on your lawn.
Q: How hot do these transmissions get? The manufactures don’t specify but I’d guess 140-180 F
Paul thank you for timely response.
Hope you’re doing well, great article by the way. I am looking at a 60″ Toro Z Master 2000 with 708cc 24.5 HP V Twin Toro Commercial Engine. I have about 5 acres with a few bumps but not too bad I will cut about once a week. The Toro, since it’s 2019 model, is almost 1k less than an Xmark Radius e series I was also looking at. Are you familiar with or have you had experience with this Toro model? Any thoughts on that machine?
Lourdani, The Z Master 2000 is the entry-level commercial Toro. The Radius E is the entry-level commercial Exmark.
The only real difference is the deck. Even the engines are the same. Exmark has its own decks and it’s “tuned” for the commercial operators who like to mow as fast as the mower will go. In my opinion, the Toro deck cuts just as well and is actually a little more durable with the bullnose bumper along the front edge.
You’ll like the Toro and at $1000 less it a great buy. Toro is offering a $300 discount on the 2000 series so check to see if you can stack that with the $1000 discount. Check it out here:
Thank you for your prompt response. I am more confident with the purchase now. Thank you again! I will definitely take advantage of the discounts.
Paul a number of years ago I purchased a Craftsman 42 inch mower (T2200) that you recommended. I have been going through drive belts at a rate of 1 per season. I never had this issue with a prior John Deere. Two questions who made that mower for Sears and any idea if I was lucky with the Deere, thi is normal wear (typically 35-50 hrs per season) or this is an issue? If the last what could the cause be?
Thanks for taking the time to answer.
Hi Mark, look under the seat. You’ll find a tag with the model and serial number. If the model number starts with 247 it was made by MTD – 917 it was made by Husqvarna.
It’s pretty common to go through a belt a year with the with MTD 42 and 46-inch decks made before 2015. Make sure you idler pulley moves freely and that it spins freely. Mow the lawn with the deck raised up a notch or two higher and you should get more life. The angle of the belt from the engine to mower is less when the deck is higher and that seems to help.
Thanks for the quick reply. I also bought my snow blower through your recommendation. Have used it less than 6 times since. I miss snow but if the investment makes my winters safer I am okay.
I wish you would review other lawn gear.
Hi Paul, like Mark, my mower seems to eat the blade drive belt. I bought an MTD from HD 14 years ago and I mow about 1 1/2 acre. Believe it or not, I didn’t have to replace the blade belt but about two years ago. Now it just keeps throwing the belt off. I have it professionally serviced last July and informed them of the issue. The did replace a pulley but the problem is persisting. It had been great mower but I am frustrated. I hate to get rid of it since it runs flawless. Any ideas? Thanks for your time.
Keith, If you feel comfortable doing this: Please wear safety glasses, a face shield or a motorcycle helmet and shield. Lay on the ground on the non-discharge side of the mower. Have someone engage the deck and watch the belt, idler bracket, spring, and each pulley. If you see a pulley bouncing up and down or an idler bracket wobbling – replace it. The idler bracket has a habit of wearing out the pivot hole. If you replace the bracket – replace the spring at the same time.
Some other items to check.
Remove the deck belt (you may want to remove the deck) spin each blade. There should be almost no sound. If there is a grinding noise or when you spin the blade it does not feel perfectly smooth – replace that spindle.
With the deck removed grab the ends of a blade and wiggle the blade side to side (up and down in relation to the deck) If it wiggles more than 1/16 of an inch tighten the spindle bolts. If it still wiggles the bearings are bad and you need to replace the spindle.
Run your fingers inside the grooves of the pulleys and make sure there is no debris or rocks stuck in them.
With the belt loose wiggle the pulley on the electric clutch up and down (on the bottom of the engine) there should be no play.
The only other thing I can think of is the deck shell is warped. But, you would notice that because one blade would cut higher than the other.
I would check the belt you are using as a replacement. Many repair shops carry a cheaper belt, although the same size, that is not designed for use on heat-generating engines. OEM might even be kevlar belts but they pretty much always cost more. A cheaper belt is a cheaper belt. Don’t use one from the local hardware store.
What do you think about the Craftsman 42 inch Steering wheel zero turn. Have they had problems?
Hi Charles, No, They did not have any problems with the steering and transmissions. But, like most mowers made by MTD in that time-frame (2012-2015) many of them had problems with the deck drive belt coming off a lot.
MTD went through and fixed all those small irritating issues last year and the 2020 Cub Cadet is a better choice today: 42 in. 679 cc Fuel Injected (EFI) V-Twin Engine Dual Hydro Gas ZeroTurn Riding Mower with Steering Wheel Control
Hey Paul – have you ever looked into Dixie Chopper or Bush Hog ZT products? They are a little higher priced than what you have listed in this article for Residential ZTs but I have heard good things about them.
Hi Bill, Dixie Chopper is under new ownership – again. 10 years ago they were one of the best ZTRs on the market but today almost everyone else has passed them up for cut quality, service, etc. Unless you have a local dealer that will treat you well I’d stay away from them.
Bush Hog has had zero-turns for many years and the current models are heavy-duty well-built units. Bush Hog has always catered to the farm and ranch crowd so you will only find them at a farm implement dealer. If you have a local dealer to service it I have no problems recommending a Bush Hog.
Thank you for the research and in-depth articles; I’ve learned a great deal already. Shopping question:
I had narrowed my choice to the new Ariens Apex 48 or 52 (991161 & 991159). Home Depot doesn’t seem to carry the Apex models anymore, nor does Lowes, and none of my local dealers have any Apex models in stock. I am leery of ordering one from an internet seller for after-sale service and support. I’m put off by the EZT hydros on the Ikon series. One of my local dealers does have some 2018 Gravely ZT HD 48 & 52 models in stock, and I’m tempted. How do these compare to the new Ariens?
Should I be considering someone/something else? Possible candidates would be a Toro TimeCutter HD or Titan, a Cub Cadet ZT2, or possibly a John Deere or some sort. We do also have a local Hustler dealer, but I’m not familiar with what they’ve got. So many choices!
The usage will be 2-5 acres Texas Gulf Coast, mostly flat, no big slopes but some shallow ditches, some trees/obstacles, mostly turf grasses but with some rougher stuff. I’m seeking serviceable hydros, large tires, 5″ cut height and probably 48-54″ cut for ease of maneuvering and gates. Suggestions please!
Hi Charlie, Is the dealer getting some in or will your local Ariens Dealer order the mower? Nationwide we are very early in the season ( I still have 2 feet of snow on the ground) so I’m fairly sure that there is plenty of stock.
By the way, Home Depot is not going to carry Ariens mowers. It’s Ariens Decision – not Home Depot’s. I’m also showing that Lowes is not going to carry most models in stock. That said,
The Gravely ZT HD is the same mower as the Apex. Other than engine choices there is no difference between the 2018 model or the 2020 versions (including the 2020 Apex) I have no problems recommending the Gravely – especially if you can save a few bucks buying last year’s model.
Thanks for your reply. I’m not clear about whether they’re planning to stock any of the new Apex models, but if it’s the same as the ZT HD then I don’t really see why they would. And I’m perfectly happy to buy the ZT HD instead; I just hadn’t really had Gravely on my radar before I talked with them. Thanks for your help!
Charlie Victor. If you decide on the Gravely, wait until March 20-28. I got an email from them today that they will be selling at 20% off.
Wow! Thanks for that!
Here is the Gravely sales page: Gravely Mow The Distance Sale
After I posted that I looked a little closer. Only applies to Pro machines. I think that’s unfair. And I apologize for the somewhat mis-information. Might be able to get an entry level pro machine for the regular price of a consumer unit though.
Hi Jim, Most homeowners usually buy Mid-April through June so that’s when you’ll see any sales or price drops for the residential machines.
That’s good to know. Thanks for the information. Not sure I can wait that long, though. I’ve been using a walk behind for the past 5 years. With the warmer weather and the rain we’ve had in North Texas, especially the last and projected next week, I have rye that’s about a foot tall right now!
Hi Jim, Instead of waiting for a sale you can always ask the dealer to waive the setup and/or delivery fees. If he balks at that try for a tune-up kit, blades or air cleaner etc. Or even a free tune-up this fall.
I’ve thought about asking for the mulch kit to be thrown in for free, but that’s only a $110.00 value at retail price. What’s odd, the closest dealer that stocks the mower I want is 50 miles away. I went and looked at it last Saturday and got to drive it around the parking lot. The company has a commercial implement office here in Ft Worth, but they don’t stock any mowers at all. It could be sent here to pick up, but this location isn’t open on Saturdays at all which means I’d have to take time off from a new job to pick it up. I prefer to by from a dealer for possible future support. But I do know the mother of one of the Cub Cadet ‘higher up personnel’ that could probably run interference for me on warranty repairs if need be. So Home Depot or Tractor supply might be a viable alternative. Both show it online so should be able to at least order the model I want. Home Depot sometimes runs a 10% off special if the HD Credit card is used. I think there’s always 100.00 off to new card members for their first purchase. Not sure if there is a limit on the amount or not. If the non pro Gavely units were part of the 20% off deal, I might go that route as the dealer is 5 or 6 miles from the house. Lots to still contemplate.
Your thoughts please….
GREAT website. Opinion please.
4 Rough hilly acres to mow. 1st time for ZTM.
Worldlawn 52″ diamondback
Toro timecutter HD or
Gravely ZT HD
Hi Brad, All three have transmissions capable of mowing slopes.
The Gravely has the best deck for cutting longer grass and it will handle the hills.
The Toro Timecutter HD will handle the hills. The deck is tough but mows best on “normal” lawn.
Both Gravely and Toro will be around for parts and service for years to come.
WorldLawn used to be Encore. It’s now owned by a Chinese company though the mowers are still made in Beatrice, KS. It’s not a popular brand and I don’t know anyone who actually owns one – meaning – I don’t know enough about it to tell you if it’s good or bad. Unless you have a dependable, local dealer, I’d stay away from it. For the few extra dollars buy the Toro or Ariens.
Good morning Brad,
I am looking to purchase a 60″ ztr to mow 3 acres of mostly flat yard. I think I have narrowed it to an Commercial grade Ariens 61″ with the Kawasaki or a Toro Titan. I wish the Ariens had a suspension seat, but I cant find one. Which would you recommend?
Hi Jon, I have no preference. The Ariens Apex and Zenith both have good, soft seats and large wheels so they will ride smooth. The Toro Titan with MyRide is the best ride on the market right now. All three mowers ride well, cut well and will last.
We need a new mower and at our Husky dealership they had a Rhomba like battery mower that can do up to a 35% grade. Have you any recommendations on those? Thanks, Mark
Hi Mark, I’m not aware that Tractor Supply has a robotic mower. They own the Huskee brand name. That said,
Yes, Husqvarna does have two new models that will handle hills. The gray AUTOMOWER® 435X AWD Model 967 85 33-66 is the homeowner version. The orange AUTOMOWER® Model 535 AWD 967 85 34-66 is their commercial version. Both are rated for a lawn up to .9 acres and max cutting height of 2.8 inches.
They are expensive and I’m not sure if the listed price includes installation. I do recommend that you have the dealer install it and make sure it’s programmed for your yard.
They are nice because once they are installed you don’t need to mess with them for weeks at a time. (Clean and change the blades every 3-6 weeks)
If you want to see everything involved with owning a robotic mower here is the operator’s manual for the 435 https://service.webec.husqvarna.net/documents/HUSO/HUSO2020_NAen/HUSO2020_NAen__1141841-95.pdf
Installation manual: https://service.webec.husqvarna.net/documents/HUSO/HUSO2020_NAenNAesNAfrLApt/HUSO2020_NAenNAesNAfrLApt__1140537-38.pdf
If you want to mow your lawn higher that 2.8 inches the AUTOMOWER® 430XH will cut up to 3.5 inches and cut slopes up to 24 degrees.
So yes they are going to have a demo day in April and will take a look. Yes they are expensive, but then I don’t have the maintenance and cost to run. Additionally, I don’t have to do the mowing which is hard to quantify. I would love not doing that since I have to almost schedule in like 3 hours per week and that is around other demands of my time and also around the weather which can be challenging. I like having my weekends free for fun time. Have you done any testing with the Husqvarna or any other mower manufacturers?
Hi Mark, I have not done any testing myself but I spent a lot of time with them at the National GIE-EXPO last fall. The two best are Stihl and Husqvarna for the U.S. market.
1, Stihl iMow RMI 632 P handles up to one acre and is the best for design and installation. My local Husqvarna/Stihl/Toro dealer went with the Stihl because they have the best dealer support. I don’t know how steep of slopes it covers.
2. Husqvarna has the largest selection including the articulated made specifically for steep slopes.
3. I’m also very impressed with the Worx LANDROID L 20V (4.0AH) CORDLESS ROBOTIC LAWN MOWER W/ GPS. It’s good for up to 1/2 acre and 25 degree slopes.
4. Almost everyone else including Honda, Deere, Cub Cadet, Toro, etc, is getting into robotic mowers. But the real market is Europe so not everyone is selling here yet.
Was curious your thoughts on a Bad Boy MZ Magnum 54″ vs brands in your top models? This will be my first zero turn. Mowing about 1.2 acres. Thanks
Hi Ryan, My first concern is service and parts availability. Toro and Cub Cadet both offer really good parts availability and local service. They both have the best cut.
If you are interested in the Bad Boy I would buy from a local dealer or make sure if you buy from Tractor Supply that you can get it serviced locally.
The Magnum does not have as strong of a frame as the Toro and Cub Cadets.
Hello Paul, I bought a Husky 48 with a Kawasaki engine and it runs fine but the transmission started to not like going up the hilly backyard I have. It just would not move. So I spent about $450 at local dealership to replace drive belt, tune up, etc. It seemed to be better but still after running for a while, it would falter and not be able to get up steeper slopes as it did when new. Now I am contemplating having them rebuild transmission which I believe will cost me about $1500 or maybe just get a good used or new zero turn. I know they aren’t the best for hills but it isn’t that hilly, gradual slope. I would like a bigger deck, at least a 54inch so I can be done—style points on grass not important. Any thoughts or comments? I have 2 1/2 acres and my Husky is 9 years old. Thanks, Mark
Hi Mark, if you would like to go to a 54-inch deck tractor and have slopes you will need to move up to a garden tractor. A garden tractor has a heavier duty transmission so it won’t burn out after a few years. These start around $2500 and the good Cub Cadet and Husqvarna models are around $3200.
I suggest the same for zero-turns. Stay away from the $3000 TRs with 54-inch decks – the ZT2500 transmissions will also fail. Instead, move up to the $4000-4500 heavy-duty ZTR’s with ZT2800 or ZT32OO transmissions. There is a huge selection to pick from including Cub Cadet ZT2, Toro, Ariens etc.
Thanks so much for your guidance Paul, much appreciated!
Hi Paul your opinion on a Bad Boy 54″ Maverick I have a lumpy 2 acres and hilly and my back is not good. I can buy a 2019 for 6K out the door ? what do you think ? I own a 48″ Bad boy MZ 2011 now Looking to upgrade with suspension
Hi Dan, Yes, the Bad Boy Maverick is their “best” residential mower. It’s as heavy-duty as many of the commercial machines. It will last you years.
Thanks for all you do to help your readers. I bought a Hustler FasTrack thinking it was going to be my “last” mower. At the time I spent about $2k more because I was told it was a premium mower. 600 hours later the Honda v-twin 20hp had a $700 hickup and then 6 months later one of the Hydrogears self destructed and apparently Hydrogear no longer makes a replacement so off to the scrap yard. I’m now looking to replace that mower with another “last” mower. I know you don’t recommend buying used but I’m looking at a Deere Z930M with 300 hours. The price is $5k which is within my budget and about what I would probably spend on a new 60″ mower. I simply have lost all confidence in residential quality mowers after my previous experience. At 1350 pounds it weighs 50% more than a similar size residential mower. When checking online pricing for the Z930M I found many of them with over 2000 hours still being sold. I know I am giving up the warranty but I am still tempted to buy it. By the way it was a trade-in at a local dealer where it was originally purchased and serviced. I guess I am just asking if you have any knowledge of this mower that you can share.
p.s. You should probably get a lawn service for your property so you could spend even more time answering our stupid questions.
Hi John, Sorry, I too busy with movingsnow.com and helping my daughter move into their new house.
The Z930M is the most popular John Deere mower for commercial operators. It mows really well and is a very dependable mower. You didn’t say how much you are mowing but for example, 10 acres – 25 times a year is only 60-75 hours a year.
Change the oil, air filter, and the belts as needed. The blades can be sharpened many times before they need to be replaced. I would not expect any other issues in the next 1500 hours.
Inasmuch as I know that I’m going to buy a 42″ steering wheel zero turn; my question is do you have any idea why the Toro SW4200 and the Exmark Front steering machines are no longer being made? I would be interested in buying one of these used, but don’t want to buy a basket full of problems if that’s the case with these two. Also, I’d consider the CC RZT42S. I actually would prefer the Exmark or Toro. Any insight on the Toro V-twin vs the Kohler V-twin 7000 series?
Thanks for great insights on ZTR’s!
Hi Larry, There is nothing wrong with the Toro or ExMark – except the sales didn’t meet Toro’s expectations. It appears everyone wants lap bar steering. The Toro V-twin is proving to be a very good engine so it really doesn’t matter if you get one with the Kohler or Toro.
Funny you should ask. I’m thinking of selling my ExMark Quest 42 inch steering wheel. I normally keep a zero-turn about 3 years. (Since I review mowers I like to keep a fairly new unit here) $3500, 200 hours, very well maintained. Kohler engine. Come and get it in Northern Wisconsin.
You helped me 5 years ago buying a Big Dog Alpha and have followed and supported you since. I am now in the need for something more robust as the big dog has had a tough time on my farm. The deck couldn’t handle the bumpy ground.
So now I am wanting to look for a machine that is between 42-60 inches, floating deck, deck lifts up for easy blade replacement/clean and performs well for lawn cutting/orchard.
Any suggestions? I’ve been looking at Walker and some higher end Hustler and have up to $15000 New Zealand dollars budget ($9500 USD)
Hi Scott, Thank you for your support! There are two companies that make good flip-up deck mowers. Walker and Country Clipper.
You may not like the Walker for your tasks. They are designed for nice lawns so the deck height is a little harder to adjust. The decks are robust and can handle the work. If you let your orchard get more than 8 inches tall before you mow I strongly suggest a side discharge deck. Their side discharge decks get the grass out quickly so it cuts evenly and doesn’t clump the grass.
The second brand is Country Clipper. Like Walker, Country Clipper has been around for over 30 years and they specialize in “rural or farm” properties. Their XLT, Challenger and Charger mowers a built very well, have very strong decks and deck support. I prefer the joystick steering but they do have the lap-bar option if you want. I’ve owned them myself and my neighbor has had one for almost 20 years. He is very hard on the mower (over 150 trees to mow around) and it’s held up very well. The flip=up mid-mount deck is unique and works well. Here is the Country Clipper website to locate a dealer in New Zealand: Country Clipper
I am searching for my first zero turn rider. I have just under an acre to mow with one 18 degree slope that drops off to nearly flat in about a 12 foot run in my backyard. Other than this one hill the yard is primarily flat. I have read a lot of articles that seem to prohibit the use of a ZTR on any slope greater than 15 degrees. I would never mow across the hill horizontally, just up and down vertically. Do you think ZTR’s would handle this? Also when it comes to brands, I see a lot of high praise here for Ariens Ikon. I live in Wisconsin and surely like to support the local manufacturers. I guess I am torn between the Ariens Ikon 42 and the Cub ZT1 42″. I primarily side discharge the clippings during the summer months but do mulch all of my leaves in the fall. My dad owns a Cub GT 2042 and I borrowed it recently and was really un-impressed with the mulching. My craftsman mower that recently died on me did a far superior job with the mulching. What direction would you lean?
Hi Mike, Your biggest problem is traction. Most ZTR’s don’t have enough traction to go up that hill. Your second issue is many ZTRs are light in the front and the mower could tip over backwards going up that steep of a slope.
Personally, I’d go with a little heavier machine. The Ariens IKON XL 42 comes to mind. I strongly suggest going to a dealer and talk them into demoing the mower on your lawn before you buy.
Hi Paul, great website!
i just need help deciding which mower to go for, i run my own gardening business of three years and its now time to upgrade to a ZT, I do a few commercial jobs which are about 1 acre in size and alot of smaller residencial properties with small gate access around 1/2 acre.
My budge is around the $6000 mark,
1, Walker Model R (new Model)42inch Kohler 7000
2, Toro Timecutter HD48inch 75201
which is more solid and reliable unit?
Thanks for your time
Walker Model R: If you want the best possible cut I suggest the Walker Model R with the 48-inch deck. The fully articulated deck hugs all the dips and bumps in your yards and does a great job of striping. With the mulch kit installed on the 48-inch deck it’s really only 6 inches wider than the 42-inch and will go through a 54-inch gate.
-It’s very easy to tip up the deck, remove the mulch kit and then use the Accelerator side mount grass catcher if needed.
– Trimming with the Model R is unbeatable. If you are used to a mid-mount ZTR and then use the Walker for an hour – you’ll never go back to the mid-mount.
– The Model R is very easy to work on. Everything opens up for cleaning, inspection and belt replacement.
– I believe the deck shell is the same one used as on the commercial mowers.
– The Walker Model R actually comes with the Kohler KT620 engine. It’s smoother than the 7000 series and has a larger air cleaner.
– Your Walker dealer will be glad to come out and demo it with you.
– One con. If you have curbs/islands without handicap cutouts you will have to make a set of ramps to get over the curbs. The deck won’t lift up for transport or going over curbs. (You can raise the deck vertically once it’s on the trailer so it doesn’t take up as much room.)
Toro Time Cutter HD: If you are rough on your equipment the deck and deck hangers on the HD are tougher than the Walker. The Toro also cuts exceptionally well but it won’t stripe without a stripe kit.
– The Toro is harder to work on. Almost everything like changing belts and blades, needs to be done on a lift.
– A bagger is big, semi-permanent and expensive.
– The mulch kit is also semi-permanent. There are a lot of parts to install and you’ll need a helper to get all the bolts installed and tightened.
– The Toro commercial engine also has a great reputation.
– It uses commercial-grade ZT3100 transmissions. (Because of the way the Walker steers it does not need the heavy-duty transmissions)
– Flat-out, straight-line mowing – it’s faster than the Walker. The Walker’s best feature is it’s agility when trimming. If you are mowing one acre and less properties the Walker will be faster overall.
Anyone considering buying the new Gravely zero turns need to reconsider it. The new model #991145 Gravely Compact Pro 44 Commercial mower is having many problems. From poor structural design to poor deck hangers that break and the fact that they have changed the mower from having 10″ rear tires to 8″ rear tires causes the mower to slide more easily, even on dry ground. This sliding has even caused the mower to slide into a ditch, when I was cutting the side of the road, and it flipped over!!!!! For it being called a commercial mower, it is NOT one!!!!!
Hi Joe, I want to start off and say I’m not picking on you – this comment has to do with the industry as a whole. The manufactures are building all kinds of equipment but the dealers are not qualifying the buyers so they get the right equipment for the jobs they have. As an old fart who has been using ZTR’s since they were introduced in the early 90’s I’m going to tell you a secret no one else will tell you today. It’s not the ZTR – you are using the wrong equipment for the mowing you have to do. Small ZTRS like the Ariens compact should NEVER be operated on any kind of slope. Yes, the operator’s manual says you can go on a slope up to 15 degrees but as you found out even 15 degrees can be dangerous with the “tall/narrow” ZTR’s. If you are going ANYWHERE near a ditch you need a 60 inch or larger ZTR and the angle should be less than 15 degrees. Trust me – all the compacts will slide into the ditch and most likely turn over. In fact, I strongly suggest you NEVER get near a ditch with a sit-down ZTR. In addition, ANY ZTR under 48 inches will have traction issues like sliding – even on dry ground. A 34-44 inch just doesn’t have the proper weight distribution, not to give you issues with traction. And remember dry ground this time of year can be just as slippery as wet ground. The Compacts (all brands) are only for small residential flat areas that have gates you have to deal with.
If you have ditches or slopes to mow never mow one that has a drop-off or pond at the bottom. If you have the experience, a 60 inch or larger stand-on is the best choice for slopes. If you don’t have the experience get a 36-44 inch walk-behind and use that until you get the experience.
Hi Paul, Thank you for this info, it has been a tremendous help to me. I would like to upgrade from my 2000 dixon with a 50″ deck and a 15.5 hp vanguard. My yard is just over an acre, 95% flat with a small ditch in the front. Do you think I should go down to a 42″, or stay with the larger engines and beefier decks that come with the larger mowers? (my 13 yr old shares the mowing with me, he’s getting better but still does some bumping with the deck). If I stay with a 50″ I’m trying to decide between the toro mx5000, the zt1 50, or the ikon x 52. I like some of the stuff on the zt1, like the larger tires, the lights, my kids really like the looks of it, (they say it reminds them of bumblebee from the transformers movies), but I’ve been reading about owners having problems with deck vibrations, so I’m leery about getting it.
Also I wonder if they all have 2200 axles, I thought I read that the toro had 2800’s.
Any advice would be well appreciated.
Hi Randy, All have the EZT2200 axles. You have to go up to the Toro Timecutter HD, Cub Cadet ZT2, and Ariens IKON XL to get the larger 2800 trans.
I have an ExMark 42 inch. I bought the 42 inch because of a few tight landscaping spots but after having it for a few years I wish I’d bought the 50 inch. The wider decks get done faster and make it easier to trim around stuff.
A lot of deck designs have a harmonic vibration at certain speeds. The only reviews I can find about the Cub Cadet ZT1 state the vibration is only at low rpms. When you increase the rpms to mowing speed the vibration goes away.
If you want the Cub Cadet I suggest looking seriously at the ZT2. You get the heavier trannys and a reinforced deck. It is well worth the extra $600.
My choice though is the IKON XL 52. Everyone really likes this mower. It’s built like a tank, rides well and cuts very well. It will easily last through your son’s learning stage and go on to last you years.
Thanks Paul! I was able to cut some grass at an ariens dealer with the Ikon x 52. It is a nice machine. I was also able to drive a zt1 50 at a cub dealer but he told me I could not engage the pto as then it would be considered used. I really wanted to see the deck engaged before making my choice between the two. I would prefer to get the ikon xI but since it is $1000 more than the x, it’s out of my budget range. Since I can get the zt2 for only $300 more than the zt1, do I take my chances on it and hope the deck is good? Thanks for your help!
Hi Randy, The XT2 gives you taller wider tires, 2800 hydros, thicker handles, comfy seat, and a reinforced deck. That’s well worth the extra money.
– Deck Vibration: It’s very common that a mower deck will have a harmonic vibration at certain RPMs. The only mention I find from a few owners with this deck is vibration at low RPMs. Just increase the engine rpm to mowing speed and the vibration disappears.
– Cut Quality: This mower cuts very well and depending on your grass you may be able to mow at 6-7 mph. If it’s not cutting well the most likely cause is the deck is not level. That is an easy adjustment and found on page 20 of the operator’s manual. Since you will buy this from a dealer ask a mechanic to show you how to level the deck.
Howdy Paul. Thank you for what you do. Looking for advice on a ZTR for 1.5 acres, mainly flat with about 20 deg inclines around a drainage ditch. Red dirt sandy soil. I often allow the grass to reach 10″. Looking for a workhorse that will last, not difficult to maintain, power through high grass, good cut and smooth ride. At least not a bone jarring ride.
Hi Rob, My first choice is the Ariens IKON XL at Home Depot. It has strong transmissions that will last and is one of the best residential mowers for cutting taller grass. The 50-inch size will get the lawn mowed quickly. It’s a nice heavy ZTR and with the smaller deck, it should have plenty of traction for the ditch.
My second choice is the Toro Timecutter HD 48 inch at the Home Depot. It has the same heavy-duty features as the Ariens IKON XL but the deck is designed more for weekly mowing. If you let your lawn get over 10 inches you may have to go back over areas to get a clean cut.
Hi,Paul. Love your site. I’ve just been getting more confused the past few weeks when trying to buy my first ZTR, and I hope you can help me. I’m in my 70s and I want this to be the last mower I buy. I feel like I can’t afford to buy the wrong mower, especially at these prices. This will be fairly detailed, since I read in another comment that details help you.
I mow about 3 acres. It is a yard in the country, not a city lawn. It is fairly rough ground and has two moderately steep areas. There are 15-20 trees/plants and 3 buildings (home, garage, shed) to mow around. The layout of the yard leaves me with multiple pie-wedge corners when I mow around the outside of each section.
I have lower back issues. I also have balance challenges and some minor fine motor control issues (mild multiple sclerosis). I am considering an after-market DonBar to help me get on and off. I think I am OK other than that, and I want to mow the yard myself as long as I am able.
I have been using a Husqvarna 48″ lawn tractor and have been very satisfied with it. I want to try a ZTR mainly because I feel like I’m wrestling the steering wheel constantly and I have to back up and pull forward too much at the corners of the yard. My neighbor let me try his Ferris IS600 to test the ride without actually mowing. I was able to steer it OK, and it handled the sloped areas with no problems. However, the ride didn’t seem much better than my Husqvarna tractor (my neighbor doesn’t have the upgraded seat), and the price is out of my range. I then considered a Hustler Raptor SDX (cost too high) and the MZ54 Husqvarna (user reviews pretty negative). I like my Husqvarna tractor, and the Z254F is on lots of recommended lists, but the user reviews concern me. Based on your article, I am considering the Toro MX5075 MyRide and the Arins IKON XL 52. My problem is that most dealers are out of stock right now, so I need to make a choice without actually testing one myself.
My main priorities are ride comfort, ease of service, and durability. Quality of cut is secondary, because it is a rough country yard. Mulching capability is also a consideration, since I would like to mulch the grass clippings and definitely want to avoid raking leaves. I would also want to avoid overly sensitive control bars. The Ferris bars seemed OK, but I remember trying a ZTR in a dealer parking lot about 20 years ago, and I couldn’t keep it in straight line after 15 minutes of practice.
I would greatly appreciate your advice regarding the best mower for my needs.
Hi Rob, All of the current name-brand zero-turns are a lot easier to drive than the models made 20 years ago. Better transmissions and better controls.
My first choice for you is a Country Clipper Boulevard zero-turn. (here is the link) I don’t know if you are familiar with the brand but it’s been around for over 35 years and is primarily sold to rural property owners just like yours. It’s a very dependable and well-built mower. It’s very easy to work on and has an accessory front step and handrail so it’s very easy to get on and off of. You can get it with the two lap bars but they also offer their Joystick Steering System. The Joystick is one lever – just point the lever in the direction you want to go… It’s really nice because you only use one hand and you can rest your arm on the armrest when you are driving. No one else has this type of control because Country Clipper has the patent but it’s by far the best zero-turn steering on the market. Use this dealer locator page to find a dealer in your area (Country Clipper dealers). I’ve owned them over the years and my neighbor has one that’s almost 20 years old – it runs just as good now as it did new.
My second choice is the Ariens IKON XL. It cuts well and is built like a tank. It’s made for lawns like yours. No, it doesn’t ride quite as smooth as the Toro MX5075 but rides well and is built stronger than that Toro. The lap bars are very adjustable to fit your driving style. You will like it.
Hi Paul, I think my earlier attempt at a reply went astray. My local Country Clipper only has a “new” 2018 Boulevard and a used 2016 Boulevard with 38.5 hours on the meter. The used one would be $900 cheaper, but it actually looks a little rough to me, including seat tears. I think I would prefer the “new” one. The Boulevard doesn’t have the step and rail. You have to move up to an Edge to get that option. The Edge also has a pivoting front axle. The Challenger adds the option of a Deluxe seat, which I might need to smooth my rough yard, but the Edge and Challenger are probably out of my price range. I can get on and off without the rail, but it involves using the deck as a step, which the dealer says is fine. Do you agree with that? When not in use, should the deck be kept at a specific height (all the way up or down)?
The “new” 2018 Boulevard would be $400 more than a 2019 Ariens IKON XL 52 (I cannot find one locally to test, but I haven’t given up yet). Considering the lack of step and handrail, would the Boulevard still be your first choice for me? The joystick does seem nice, but I have no idea which one might be better for ride comfort, durability, etc.
Hi Rob, The Boulevard’s deck is definitely strong enough to step on it. Later, if it gets harder to get on and off you can always add the step and hand bar. Yes, The Boulevard is a great choice and I have no issues suggesting that it is the best choice – especially since you have a local dealer. It’s worth the extra $400 over the Toro has better transmissions than the Toro and cuts as well as the Ariens. Yes, I like the Ariens but if you put the Ariens and Country Clipper side-by-side you’ll go with the Clipper. In addition, the easy access deck makes it very easy to clean and allows you to do your own maintenance on the blades.
Yes, the Joystick does take a little practice but it’s actually a lot easier to use than lap bars – and not as tiring. LapBars can really put a strain on your shoulders after a while.
I always leave my decks at the mowing height. The only time I lift them up is if I’m off using it to pull a cart around in the timber where there may be stumps or rocks to hit.
The Toro’s controls are further back than the Country Clipper.
Remember the 2018 will have the full warranty – the used 2016 will not have the same warranty, if any.
Don’t worry about the commission. Just tell your friends about Todaysmower.com and MovingSnow.com.
Paul, this almost seems like destiny. The only Country Clipper dealer within 100 miles is 17 miles from my home, and he has 2 Boulevards in stock: a “new” 2018 and a used 2016 with only 38.5 hours on the meter. The 2016 is $900 cheaper, and I would ordinarily be tempted, but it looks a little rough, including some tears in the seat. I was able to test drive the 2016. The joystick seemed a little twitchy, but I think I could get used to it. They didn’t have the optional step and grab bar, but I was able to get on and off by stepping on the deck and using the hand support in front of the left armrest to balance. I think I would spend the extra money for the “new” 2018, but I would welcome your advice.
Considering that I don’t seem to need the step-handrail, do you still consider the Boulevard my best option? I don’t think anyone has an IKON XL or a TORO 5075 MyRIDE for me to compare. I think they would have to be ordered. The Boulevard costs about $300 more than the Ariens, and about $400 more than the Toro. My only concerns with the Boulevard are that the deck adjustment is clunky (I might not change deck height much, anyway), and the armrest blocks my view of the controls (which are easy enough to navigate by feel, once familiar with them).
Do you think using the deck for a step is acceptable? When the mower is out of service, should the deck be at a specific height, like all the way up or all the way down?
By the way, Paul, I am very impressed that your top choice for me is one that wouldn’t get you a commission. If I buy the Boulevard, I’ll try to make that up to you somehow.
Hi Rob, The Boulevard’s deck is definitely strong enough to step on it. Later, if it gets harder to get on and off you can always add the step and hand bar. Yes, The Boulevard is a great choice and I have no issues suggesting that it is the best choice – especially since you have a local dealer. It’s worth the extra $400 over the Toro has better transmissions than the Toro and cuts as well as the Ariens. Yes, I like the Ariens but if you put the Ariens and Country Clipper side-by-side you’ll go with the Clipper. In addition, the easy access deck makes it very easy to clean and allows you to do your own maintenance on the blades.
Yes, the Joystick does take a little practice but it’s actually a lot easier to use than lap bars – and not as tiring. LapBars can really put a strain on your shoulders after a while.
I always leave my decks at the mowing height. The only time I lift them up is if I’m off using it to pull a cart around in the timber where there may be stumps or rocks to hit.
The Toro’s controls are further back than the Country Clipper.
Remember the 2018 will have the full warranty – the used 2016 will not have the same warranty, if any.
Don’t worry about the commission. Just tell your friends about Todaysmower.com and MovingSnow.com.
I would like your thoughts on my situation if you will, I live in rural eastern NC where the soil tends to have a lot of clay and its necessary to have drainage ditches for storm runoff. I have a .5 acre yard planted with centipede grass with a drainage ditch along the road frontage. I have been using a Troybuilt TB30 but it slips and the drive wheel spins a lot as well the cut tends to be uneven. I would like to get something better preferably a zero turn to handle the flower beds but I am open to any suggestion you might have. price is less of a concern for me than performance.
All the best to you and your granddaughter,
Hi Jason, Thank you. The biggest problem with the TB30 is it’s lack of traction on any type of slope so most zero-turns will be better but – I suggest a heavy-duty model. I’m going to suggest the Ariens IKON XL 42 in. (see it here at the Home Depot) It will have the weight to give you great traction along the drainage ditch. Centipede grass needs to be cut at 1 1/2 inches, requires more power to cut and can quickly wear out cheap residential mower blades. The Ikon XL’s blades will last 3-5 years or longer and you’ll only need to sharpen them once a year. It will give you a cut you can be proud of. Keep it in a shed, out of the weather and you won’t have to buy another mower, ever!
If that’s way out of your budget comfort zone an alternative is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42 in. (Home Depot Link) this mower mows well and will handle the ditch. You’ll need to sharpen the blades twice a year and replace them every 2-3 years. It will easily last you 10 years or more.
Hi paul, Great review!!! I have 2 acres to mow and I’ve most recently tried out a Ferris IS600z. The cut was great and the ride was pretty comfortable for a not so even yard. My question is are the Ferris mowers worth it compared to some of these on your list? Do they really ride that much better? I would like something in the 48 inch to 52 inch cut range. I also like the toro my ride and ariens ikon x john deere and cub cadet ultima.
Hi Chris, The Ferris IS600z is a commercial mower and is really overkill for 2 acres. I’m also not a big fan of mowers where the whole mower uses the suspension (like your car) because the deck can bounce up and down. There are more parts to wear out on the Ferris and that bouncing can give you an uneven cut after a few years. I prefer a mower where the operator (not the whole mower) has a suspension seat. That said, for 2 acres the Toro TimeCutter MX5075 with MyRIDE Suspension is a good choice. If you want the best possible cut and a unit that will last you years I also suggest the Ariens IKON XL 52 in.
Hi Paul and thank you for all the information, knowledge and insights you provide. I think I have narrowed my choices to the Toro MX5075 and the Ariens IKON XL. Do you have a preference between those 2? For reference, I am mowing one acre, with some moderate slopes, trees, and landscaping. The dealer I prefer carries both Toro and Ariens, so that is not a factor.
Hi Brian, That’s a tough choice. I like both of them a lot. The Toro MX5075 will give you the best ride and a great cut. The Ariens IKON XL is one of the best at cutting taller grass. I’ve seen it cut roadside grass two feet tall cleanly on the first pass.
Thanks Paul! Your site is the best, by far. As an aside, I purchased my snow blower based on your recommendations (Ariens Platinum SHO with EFI). Great machine! One last question, my dealer also carries the ExMark line, in addition to the Toro and Ariens I mentioned above. Should I be looking at ExMark as well?
Hi Brian, Talk to your dealer and the two of you can decide if the ExMark or Toro is a better choice for you. Exmark and Toro are made in the same factory. Most components are identical but the decks are slightly different. Toro is aimed more towards residential and government use. The Exmarks are geared towards commercial use.
I’m looking at the 42 inch airlines ikon x and the hustler raptor. Which one is better and is it worth the money to get the ikon xl?
Hi Jake, I like the Ariens better. And, it is worth the extra for the IKON XL. It built better than the commercial mowers we used 20 years ago. It will last many, many years.
Beverly A Martin
Paul, I need to buy my first ZTR. I have around two acres to mow, with a lot of flower beds, a large flower/vegetable garden, two out buildings, two houses, two driveways, quite a few trees, fencing along a cow pasture, and a ditch along the highway. The yard is not what I’d call perfectly even–probably typical for the country–but the man who mows says it’s not bad. I’ve done extensive research, and my head is spinning. You and Consumer Reports make me think the Toro MX5075 would be great. (I’m in Arkansas, and I think the closest place for Toro service is 50 miles away.) We have John Deere, Hustler, Bad Boy, Kubota, Husqvarna, and Grasshopper dealers, as well as stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Tractor Supply which carry other brands. We can get the veterans’ discount at Lowe’s and Home Depot.
One dealer is steering me toward the MZ Magnum, but I am concerned about its non-serviceable transmission and also think it’s not for two acres of mowing. A friend says I should get a Kubota that will last the rest of my life. Others suggest Hustler, Bad Boy, and Husqvarna. I’ve compared the MZ Magnum and the ZT Elite to the Raptor SD and SDX and read many positive and negative reviews. I’ve also read about the Ariens mowers you recommend. I’ve been told to get a fabricated deck, though I’ve read what you say about the John Deere stamped decks being good.
The man who mows for me would like for the mowing to take less time and the mower to require less repair. He is a very good mechanic, but I want to help him with a proper mower. We are using an older Craftsman lawn tractor. I’m thinking a 50 to 54-inch cut would be good, with a quality engine and transmission. I would like a mower with a long life-expectancy that is fast and dependable, cuts down on our extensive weed-eating, and won’t fall apart when/if we mow the ditch or pull a cart or lawn sweeper.
If you could help me, I would be so very grateful.
I don’t have red squirrels eating out of my hand, but my hens and roosters do every day!
Hi Beverly, Chickens are so much fun! I’d have them around my place but my wife says we have enough pets…
Yes, I’d stay away from the Husqvarna mowers. Not because of serviceability but most of the other brands mow a lot better.
For a rugged mower for two acres, I like the Ariens IKON XL and Ariens APEX at the Home Depot. Both are good dependable mowers. They are priced well especially compared to the Kubota and Hustler SD. They are fast but they can also mow 24-inch grass cleanly if needed.
If you don’t want to go through the Home Depot your local Gravely dealer sells the same mower under the Gravely brand. They are called the ZT XL and ZT HD.
Hi Paul, thanks so much for providing this great resource and helping us be informed consumers. I’ve pretty much narrowed my choice down to the JD Z355R (maybe the Z375R) or the Toro MX5075 (a bit under 2 acres, somewhat bumpy, with a few hills and some trees and obstacles to dodge). However, I’m wondering if either of these would be substantially easier to work on for basic maintenance (oil/filter changes, blade sharpening, etc.), since I’m hoping to do a bunch of that myself. Do you have any thoughts on how easy (or not) the Toro’s vs. the Deere’s are to work on? Thanks again.
Hi Pete, The Toro is very easy to work on. In addition, there is an optional jack for it so you can quickly raise the front of the mower to work on the deck. Watch this video:
Paul hope all is well. Well we got the E170 and it’s a great mower but took forever to mow the lawn and sucked almost a tank of gas. Thinking I have the wife talked into a ZRT but it would be from Lowes. Really want a 48” deck min. What’s your thought on the John Deere Z355E? Our budget is 3k and under at Lowe’s our yard has 20 pines that line both sides that we have to cut in between and some minor slopes.
Thanks for all you do !
Hi Joe, I’m not a big fan of the 300 series Deere ZTR’s. You get a lot more mower with the Ariens IKON.
Paul, I bought a Cub Cadet Ultima 54 inch deck ZTR. Can a person get by with just buying the mulching blades as opposed to the entire mulching kit?
I want to go the mulching route so that I can avoid so many grass clippings.
Hi Shane, mulching blades by themselves don’t do much. They have less lift than regular blades so they don’t cut as evenly. “Gator Blades” the mulching blades with the teeth on the back will just shred the grass and leave little puff balls all over your yard if you try to side discharge with them.
Now, if you have no one around when you are mowing and have strict instructions with all the kids and adults in your neighborhood not to come on your yard when you are mowing – you may try lifting the side discharge chute high enough so the grass clippings spread evenly. I use a bungee cord to lift the discharge cover. Just remember, if you mow that way your mower deck can throw a baseball 600 feet so make sure all debris, kids toys, rocks, and garbage are picked up before you mow.
First of all, great article. I’m looking at the Ariel’s and Cub Cadet zero turn mowers. What is your preference between the Kohler 7000 and the Kawasaki FR engines?
Hi Steve, I would never pay extra for a Kawasaki FR engine over the Kohler 7000. The Kohler is the latest design and most fuel-efficient. The new governor system on it is a lot quicker to pick up under a heavy load and the engine does not bog down.
Hey Paul. I have a one acre lot. Been using a 42 in cone drive dixon for 20 years with blower bagger. Blower has a steel blade. Bagger never gets plugged. Chews up small twigs from trees like nothing. Problem is nobody makes a blower for a bagger anymore in a 42 in size except gravely. Don’t really care for the gravely dealer. Thinking about the Deere 345r but worried the bagger will just get plugged all the time. The most important thing to me besides the bagger is reliability. Husky has a big presence here but haven’t heard good things about reliability. Thoughts.
Hi Clark, I loved the old Dixons but they had such a shallow deck that you couldn’t use a high-lift/bagging blade on them so they had to use the blower to suck the grass out of the deck and throw it into the bagger.
All the new decks are much deeper so you get better airflow and you can use bagging blades to throw the grass into a bagger.
The John Deere 345r and the new Cub Cadet Ultima mowers are the best right now for bagging. Unless your grass is wet from rain they will work well for you. I’m not familiar with Husky but the Husqvarna decks are not as good.
Paul. Spent the last couple months searching for a ZTR. Property: 4.5 mowable acres relatively flat, improved grassy land with new home build on pacific coastal high bluff in northern Cal. Planted a bunch of young 5-8′ trees around the property. Looked at: Ariens, Walker, Ferris, Skag, Toro, ExMark, JD, Husqvarna, Hustler, Gravely, Troy-Bilt, Cub Cadet, Bad Boy, and Snapper – maybe a couple others – losing count. Calculator tells me (for my peace of mind) that I ought to be looking in the 50″-60″ range if I don’t want to spend much more than a few hours doing my lawn every other weekend. BTW, north coast California mowing May – Oct. Then the rains come and mowing slows down substantially. That basically means about a dozen+ trips around the horn in the summer months. Based on my reading here (and other online platforms), I’m pretty much in line with everyone else…reliability, durability, maintainability, reasonable cut (don’t need golf course perfection!), good speed, would like towing capability (limited I suppose), and riding comfort (albeit, reliability is more important to me). About all I’ve been able to do is get caught up in the paralysis of analysis. I began to lean towards a local Toro dealer and the MX 5075 but he’s telling me carb compliance in California is preventing that model. But Ariens, Husqvarna (254) are coming into view. Skag, Ferris, ExMark and Walker are on the heavy price point side for similar specs in these others (at least that’s my interpretation of what I’m reading). Oh, I’m 62, in reasonable shape, don’t mind the exercise…in fact, kinda’ keeps the joints lubricated (smile). I’m already beginning to spend some coin having local vendors mow (3x now). This is going to get pricey…soon! Lastly, $3.5K – $5.5K or thereabouts would be presentable to the Queen Bee…just sayin’. Sure would appreciate any input (Brain muscle tired)…..
Hi Mark, It’s very easy to get analysis paralysis when there are about 40 mowers that really could do the job well for you. So let me go quickly through some of the options you’ve mentioned.
1. I don’t think you’ll be happy with Husqvarna 254 over the years. It’s really a light duty mower and a few years of bouncing it around your property and it will start to have issues like the frame stress cracking, front casters breaking, etc.
2. The Ariens IKON XL and Gravely ZTXL (Same machine) are good choices. I don’t know if they have CA versions.
3. You are correct about the Scag, Ferris, Walker – they are either too high priced for the amount of mowing you do or in the case of the Ferris – they have too many moving parts that will give you problems 10 years down the road.
4. So that leaves Toro. The MX5075 is a good choice because of the suspension seat but…In this case, they add the suspension but to keep the cost down they use a “normal” ZT2200 residential transmission. If you were only mowing 3 acres I’d say go for it.
The alternative is the MX6050. It has a heavier deck, heavier transmissions, and heavier frame. It has a normal seat but with the large front and rear tires, it really rides well. It’s only $300 more than the MX5075 but you get a whole lot more mower.
Finally, I am a little concerned that your local dealer can’t get a CA compliant mower. Home Depot has both the MX5075 and MX6050 available in CA compliant models. They offer free set up and home delivery. (It will be set up and delivered by a local dealer) I checked the Redding, CA website and they can get either one to you in about 2 weeks.
Check them out here: Toro TimeCutter MX5075 with MyRIDE Suspension System 50 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower or
Toro TimeCutter MX6050 60 in. Fab 24.5 HP V-Twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower with Smart Speed
Paul. YOU….ARE…DA’….MAN!! I just had a “…..make my day” Clint Eastwood moment but in a good way (smile). I purposely did not expand on my Toro dealer experience. It wasn’t bad…it’s just that the email communication back and forth left me conflicted with information I was gleaning on the internet…across several manufacturers by the way. I really ran across this URL of yours [I think]as a matter of the odds of just browsing, at times, painfully. SO, you really did make my day today. Thank you very much! Solid, Paul. solid!
Thanks Paul for the quick response. I forgot in my first question to ask you about the Husqvarna MZ61 with the Kawasaki engine. Since the Ariens Apex won the round out of the timecutter and ultima how does it stack up against the mz61. I live in south Alabama and have some pretty tough grass/weeds. Out of the apex and mz61 which one would have the overall better quality and longevity and have the best cut quality. Thanks in advance for your response!
Hi Adam, When the Husqvarna MZ came out 10 years ago there were very few ZTRs in the high residential/entry level pro category but today there are many more that have stronger frames, better cutting decks and ride better. The APEX is one of those mowers that it a solid step up from the MZ61. It cuts better and will last longer without any minor or major repairs. By the way, the Kawasaki in the MZ is a residential grade engine.
Please tell me what front deck zero turn commercial or semi commercial mower you recommend. I have 15 acres of grass with voles holes/tunnels, berms, bumpy grass and fences. I’m spending days with my edger to get under the fences and around trees. Please help!
Hi Laurrelle, There are very few front deck mowers on the market. The two best brands are the Grasshopper and the Walker. I prefer the Walker. In your case the Walker H with a rear discharge deck would be the ultimate choice. You’ll be able to mow your whole property in about four hours. Walker Model H. One really nice thing about the Walker is you can demo it on your yard before you buy.
You can also check out these videos:
Thank you so much Paul. I’ll look then up. Would a front deck do big berms?
Hi Laurrelle, The Walker is one of the best for hills. It has a very low center of gravity and I believe you can adjust the weight of the deck to give it even more traction if needed. In the third video, I listed they do show how well it does on slopes.
Hey Paul! I wanted to get your thoughts on a few different mowers. Now I have a cub cadet rzt 50 inch to mow about 3 acres. My terrain is hilly and bumpy with just a little bit of flat land. Ive taken over an old horse pasture. As time goes by and my father in law and neighbor get older I’ll be cutting probably in the 10 acre range. I’m looking at the cub cadet ultima zt2, ariens apex and Toro timecutter all in 60 inch. The cut of my cub cadet is pretty good so I assume the ultima would be as well. I haven’t been able to see much on the cut quality of the apex and if its worth the extra $1000. What are your thoughts on these 3 mowers. Thanks in advance!
Hi Adam, The Apex is comparable to the Cub Cadet Z-Force in price and features. It’s worth a $1000 more because the frame, deck, and transmissions are all more heavy-duty than the Ultima Series and the Toro Timecutter. All three cut very well.
The easiest way to explain the cost difference is: If the Cub Cadet Ultima lasts 5 years without any major issues mowing 10 acres the Toro will go 7 years and the Ariens 10 years. In other words, with these three ZTRs cost is directly proportional to the life of the mower.
Just wanted to mention a few things – the Apex is currently $300 off, making it a very good deal. I have looked at both in person and there is no comparison – the ultra heavy duty Apex (same as the Gravely ZT HD that sells for about $5200) makes the ZT2 look very basic and average. The Apex with the commercial style 5.5″ deep deck and ZT3100 drives will last longer, cut better and mow FASTER, especially in demanding conditions like tall or wet grass.it will also be more comfortable over your mixed 10 acres, it has 22″ rear tires, and weighs 853 lbs.,compared to the ZT2 at 640 lbs. You are getting twice the mower, as Paul mentioned. It’s just about commercial grade and only about $800 more. Look at this way, your paying the same amount as the Cub, and then making only a few additional payments to get a superior machine. It will give you 2 – 3 x the life with less breakdowns and problems.
You also have the Ariens XL 60 and the Hustler SD 60 at around the ZT2 price. Both are heavier duty than the ZT2, have better decks that will cut better and faster, however the Apex is only a few hundred more so is the best choice in my opinion. Also, notice the specs for these heavier grade machines say things like 18,400 fpm blade tip speed, 1″ aluminum spindles with sealed ball bearings, caster bearings, and axle bearings – but Cub Cadet does not mention these? With 10 acres and horse pasture, go with the Apex. You will be happy you did
How does the Big Dog Alpha compare to the others you reviewed?
Hi Thomas, The Big Dog Alpha is a Hustler Raptor painted red. It costs more than the Raptor because it has a few extra features like arm rests.
Of the 40 or so mowers from the different brands in this size range, it’s “average.” It uses the residential grade ZT2200 transmissions so if you mow a lot, have hills or need a heavy duty mower I suggest moving up to the Alpha MP or larger. The 52 and larger sizes cut as well as any other brand. I like the optional front flex forks for rough lawns.
I’ve been a regular reader of your sites for several years, and have found a lot of valuable information in them over the years. So thanks for providing that information.
I would like to get your thoughts about riding mower options for my property. I have about 1 acre of mowable grass. It is a pretty smooth lawn, with about 8 trees and a lot of bed lines to cut along in the front half of the lawn. The front half of the lawn is level, and thus can be mowed with even a basic riding mower. The back third is one long, flat, but fairly steep hillside, with a uniform slope at around 14-15 degrees, with one small section or dip that reaches 20 degrees. For that steep spot, I’ve been planting ground cover, and only have a small section remaining that can be mowed without needing to make turns on the hill (it bottoms out into a flat section). But much of the remaining hillside (15 degree slope) ends at a tree line, so mowing straight up and down requires that I make turns on the hill.
When I first bought the property, the previous owner left me an old (and basic) Craftsman riding mower, which he had used for mowing. I managed to ride it up and down the hillside a couple of times before it died on me. I did make all my turns on a flat section at the bottom of the hill, and never got a chance to try making a turn on one of the sloped sections that ends at the tree line. I did note that it was probably under-powered because the cutting deck would stop cutting while I was driving up the hill (and the motor seemed to struggle). When it died, I decided I didn’t want to put more money into having an old mower refurbished. So I scrapped it, and hired someone to do the mowing. (I did cut the lawn once with a 21” walk behind mower – took me 2 hours and 45 minutes, and walking the hillside sideways with that mower was really hard on my knees and hips.)
The first contractor I hired used some kind of walk behind mower with a 36” cutting deck, and he mostly rode on a sulky while mowing the hill side to side. It looked fairly safe and stable to mow this way. Unfortunately, he dropped me as a customer after the second year, saying that the hillside was tearing up the transmission on his (relatively old) mower. The second contractor uses a Walker mower. It gives a nice cut, and with the maneuverable front mounted mowing deck, he is able to follow the bed lines nicely. He did, on two occasions, lose traction at the steepest part of the hill and took short sleigh ride into the flat portion at the bottom of the hill. (The lawn was wet both times that this happened.) More recently, he has been showing up with a Scag zero turn, with a slightly larger deck. The cut doesn’t look quite as good, and he can’t follow the bed lines as well as before. I can’t tell if this mower is any less stable on the hillside. With the Walker, he was able to mow the hill mostly side to side, or on a diagonal, rather than up and down. I’m not sure if he does anything different with the Scag. (The neighbors have a hill that is, if anything, a bit steeper than mine. Their lawn care contractor mows with zero turns, but they mostly back down the hill, and drive back up.)
Given what I pay to have the lawn mowed, I think I could justify spending $3-4,000 on a mower and do it myself. However, I’m not sure how comfortable I am going to feel on that hillside.
When I first researched this a couple of years ago, I found your positive comments about the Husqvarna Rider mower, and thought that might be an option. However, the 4WD model is a bit out of my price range, and it now seems that few dealers still carry these mowers in the US. (I live in central Ohio).
Another option is one of the zero turns with a steering wheel, either a Toro or Cub Cadet. However, I just saw your comment that Toro is dropping their steering wheel models, so if I went that direction, I’d almost certainly be getting the Cub Cadet, one of the models with a 46” cutting deck.
Another possibility is to go back to a lawn/garden tractor. However, based on some of your previous reviews, it seems that I would probably need to be looking at a higher end garden tractor with a robust transmission and motor. I also expect that following the bed lines in the front part of the lawn will be more difficult with a garden tractor.
The last option I’ve thought about is to use a robotic mower for the back hill, and go with a lower priced mower for the flat part.
Sorry for the long back story, but I thought it was important to provide as much detail as possible.
So now to my questions:
1. In terms of riding stability and safety (making turns) on a 15 degree slope, would a 46” zero turn with a steering wheel be more stable than a lawn tractor with a 46” deck? The track widths (side to side wheel spacing) seems similar. I assume the zero turn would have a lower center of gravity, but less weight on the front wheels. I’m not sure which is more important for stability when turning on the hill.
2. If I got a tractor, how beefy of a model would I need to get? Which models might you suggest?
3. For either of the above options, is a ROPS available? (These seem to appear mostly on commercial units).
4. What is your experience with robotic mowers? The hillside is mostly tall fescue with some clover and ground ivy. (I don’t fertilize it, or treat it with lawn chemicals).
I appreciate any suggestions that you can offer.
Hi Craig, Thanks for the complete explanation – it helps a lot!
Robotic Mowers. I recommend only looking at the Husqvarna AUTOMOWER® 430XH or the just introduced Worx Landroid L. These are the only robitic mowers that will mow the grass high enough (3-3.5 inches) so that you don’t get soil erosion on that slope. They also have the traction to get up that slope.
Zero-Turn Lap Bar. To get a ZTR heavy enough to hang on that slope you need to be in the $6000 plus range. All the other lap bar ZTRS will struggle – if they can mow it at all.
Zero-turn Steering Wheel. It’s the best choice in your price range. Yes, most people don’t see the advantage of the steering wheel so Toro is discontinuing it. But it’s biggest advantage is the mower will hang on slopes because the front wheels steer and both transmissions drive all the time. (It’s like having a locking diff on a Garden Tractor) I suggest the Z-Force S 48 for long life and the extra weight for traction.
Zero-Turn Stand On. There is one mower that is designed for this type of work. It’s a stand-on mower. Unfortunately, we don’t have a residential model available. Most cost $8000 and up. There is one close to your price range and I do highly recommend it. It’s the 48 inch Bradley Stand-On. Bradley is a small Midwest company that’s been around for years. They make small batches and keep the price very affordable. They don’t have many dealers but if you order from them they will always take care of you if you ever have a problem with their products.
Walk-Behind. I know you said, walking is a “pain” but there is the Toro TimeMaster 30 in. This mower is self-propelled and can hang on any hill. The large 30-inch deck will get your lawn mowed in half the time of a 22-inch machine.
Lawn/Garden Tractor. I don’t recommend lawn tractors for slopes over 15 degrees. They don’t have enough traction and the center of gravity is too high.
I also have a chance to purchase a used exmark Z series for 4K with about 900 hours , but the concern over buying used as someone who isn’t familiar with engines is a bit scary?
Hi K.C., I never recommend buying used unless you are very mechanically inclined, have engine and transmission expertise and get such a good deal that you can fix all the “little” things that will go wrong. A 900-hour machine is ripe for $300-$1500 of “minor” repairs. Belts, blades, steering dampeners, bearings, idler pulleys, front wheel bearings, new tires, clutch repair etc., are all 2-3 times more expensive than your current residential machine. Motor repair on commercial mowers can range anywhere from $1000-$4000 for 60-inch commercial zero-turn.
Some commercial operators keep their mowers maintained and run them thousands of hours, junk them and then buy new. Others buy or lease a new machine every two-four years and then do nothing to it. They just run the snot out of them and once the lease is up buy another new one. Those 700-1500 hour machines can nickel and dime you to bankruptcy…
Thanks Paul for this definitive guide.
Hello Paul! First off I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer all of these questions! You seem very knowledgeable in the area and I would appreciate your opinion. I am very new into this arena and have always cut with a walk behind. Please excuse my novice level lol. Long story short, I have recently moved into a new home that is 2.6 acres. A little more than half of it i would consider wooded. I had a guy come in and “clear” the wooded area, as it was heavily overgrown. He did a great job and cut down a lot of the smaller trees etc. Picture something you would use a brush hog for.. he was just able to do it a lot faster with a bobcat and an attachment. So here is where I’m at: my father in law suggested to go ahead and get something that will last instead of going with a steering wheel option i was originally thinking about. Mind you he has like 10 acres he cuts.. so he has a commercial grade Scag with EFI and all that good stuff. He suggested to try and find something that was like a residential/commercial type hybrid. He suggested to me a few brands that he thought would fit the bill: kubota, scag, exmark. I went to a kubota dealer today and saw a really nice mower (i imagine they are all nice in this range!) It was the kubota z421kw (54/60 inch) with the kawasaki engines. Here are my questions: if i am willing to spend between 6-7k.. what would you say is the best mower i can get (residential/commercial). I plan to go look at the other 2 brands but have no clue if they are even in that range (scag, exmark). Yard is pretty flat with a little slope to get down to that wooded area.. but i also want to ask u if its safe for the mower to cut back in that stuff. Father in law says he believes i could take a 60 inch back there with no problem and just lift the deck to avoid any small stumps etc that was left over from the guy clearing. Now that spring has come and gone (i live in georgia) everything has grown back up.. so i just want to make sure it would be ok 2 cut again with a mower since its pretty tall weeds and stuff or does it have to be bush hogged again? Also do i need 2 worry about popping one of those front tires with the small stumps i have around? This turned into long story long so again i really appreciate your time! Recap: willing 2 spend 6-7k. Thought kubota z421kw was nice. Should i go kubota, scag, or exmark (if the latter are even available in that price range) and is it ok to cut maybe 2 foot tall weeded area. Have a wonderful day!
Hi Dante, Thanks for the complete explanation. It helps a lot to help you out.
I’m always partial to the Exmark though many contractors also like the Scag. The Kubota is overpriced for what you get.
I suggest taking a look at the Exmark Radius E and Radius S before you look at the Scag. The full suspension platform on the Radius would be really nice for mowing your rougher area. I also believe all Exmarks now have foam filled front tires so punctures are not an issue anymore. Then decide the best mower for you based on the features you like and how well you like the dealer. I like 60-inch decks but the 52-inch deck is plenty big for your lawn. The smaller deck may let you trim more areas of your woods also.
Be aware ZTR’s – even the ones in this price range are lawn mowers. They are not designed to cleanly cut tall overgrowth. That said, they are tough enough to keep your woods clear but if you let the growth get over 11 inches or so you may have to mow the area 2 or more times before you get a clean cut. Mowers in the price range are built tough enough to handle a sapling or 2-inch stump without damage – but again that’s not what they are designed to do.
Hello Paul. In in the market for a zero turn and im not sure which one to go with. I know i dont need anything crazy because i’ll be mowing up to an acre a week but i like nice things and always but more then i need. Ive been looking at a couple different options and would like your advice on which one to go with. John deere, gravely, bob cat, toro, exmark. Im looking into a 48”-52” mower. And trying to spend around $4-5k tops. Thanks. Appreciate you help.
Hi Dave, All five brands are a great choice in that price range. I suggest talking to the dealers and picking the mower you like the best from the dealer you like the best.
Of course, I’m always partial to Exmark. I’ve owned them since 1997 and they have never let me down. I also like the Gravely/Ariens in that price range. You get a great mower at an honest price.
I was looking at the exmark radius 48” but they don’t offer the kawasaki engine with them, do you know anything about those engines that exmark is using in their radius mowers.
I wish they didnt have so many mowers to choose from because it makes deciding that much harder.
Exmark radius E series 48”
Scag Liberty Z with the Kawasaki engine 48”
John deere Z540M with the Kawasaki engine 48”
Toro TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE with the Kawasaki 48”.
Hi Dave, Everyone is very satisfied with the Toro/Exmark engine. Toro spent a lot of time designing a long life engine and so far no one has had any issues with it. It’s the latest design. It is one of the best engines for fuel economy and is instantly responsive to heavy loads. My local Exmark dealer has hundreds of them out mowing lawns every day and the owners love the engine.
Just so you know. Kawasaki has a lot of name brand recognition with the small owner/operators. For years they sold a contractor grade engine that was $300 cheaper than the rest and it held up well so even though they’ve raised their prices many small owner/operators still want the name. That said, The Kawasaki FR engine you find on this price range of mowers is nothing special. The Toro, Kohler 7000 and Briggs ELS are just as good. I never recommend paying extra for the Kawasaki name. Now, The commercial Kawasaki FS and FX are great engines. They compare favorably to the high-end Kohler Command and Briggs Vanguard.
Robert G Jolliffe
Hi Paul, have you looked at the new Scag residential zero turn yet? What are your thoughts.
Hi Robert, On paper, the Liberty Z meets all the criteria for a good $4500 ZTR. Decent engine, decent transmissions and built well. The small front casters will make it ride rougher than many of the other mowers in that price range. Scag has good cutting decks so I expect it to be a good mower for the money.
I’ve spent a bunch of time reading your site over the last week as I’m looking to purchase a new mower. I have a small lawn that is only about 1/3 of an acre mowable and it has a gentle slope in the entire backyard of about 6-8., However, I have 22, 60+ year old (mostly) oak tree in my yard that makes fall cleanup by hand impossible for someone with a full-time job and two young kids at home. Last year I used 50 of those large, compostable yard bags and only about 85% of my leaves dropped before our first snowfall. My wife has demanded I either take down some trees, buy some equipment that can handle the job, or hire it out. Because of the number of trees on the property, I feel like a lawn tractor would end up increasing the amount of time it takes me to mow over my current self-propelled mower so I’m looking at ZTRs. I currently either mulch or side-discharge my clippings and will likely continue to do so. For fall cleanup, I’ll either bag or mulch and sweep. I’d also like the ability to pull a dethatcher.
I’m pretty sure I’ve narrowed down the candidates to the Toro SS 4225, the Deere Z335M, or Deere Z345M/R (unless you recommend something else), but I’m not super pumped about the Briggs engines in each of them. I’m looking to spend around $3k or less for the mower; what would you suggest?
Hi Ryan, I too have a lot of leaves. Two big Maples and six oaks keep me busy in the fall and a dozen pin oaks that don’t drop their leaves till spring. I personally don’t like baggers because they are big, bulky, and hard to store so I mulch the leaves and then pick up what’s left with a high-speed sweeper. I usually go out and mow them as they fall (every 4 or 5 days) and then use the sweeper to clean up the fine leaf clippings once or twice. I put my leaf clippings in a mulch pile but if you did your property this way I would guess you would have less than 10 bags.
So – if you are nervous about the Briggs Intek in the John Deere let’s focus on two Toro mowers. There are two models that are within your budget. Click on each item to see them at The Home Depot
1. Toro TimeCutter SS4225.
Toro TimeCutter SS Mulch Kit.
Or Bagger for 42 inch Stamped Deck.
The SS4225 is a good ZTR with Toro’s good single cylinder engine. It will do the job for you. If you have a very thick lawn you may wish you went with a V-Twin engine.
2. Toro TimeCutter MX4200.
Toro TimeCutter MX Mulch Kit.
Or Bagger for 42 inch Fab Deck.
For about $500 more you can get the MX4200. It has Toro’s great V-twin engine. (It’s been flawless) It also has a fabricated 42-inch deck. The deck is a lot stronger than the stamped deck and will handle banging against tree roots, etc. a lot better over the years. I personally have this deck and I like it a lot. It side discharges and mulches very well. (I don’t have a bagger) I usually mow in side discharge mode in the spring and then switch to mulching after the spring growth slows down. I also use the mulcher in the fall for leaves. I cut my lawn high at 4 inches so in the fall when I mulch leaves most of the clippings disappears into the grass.
Hello Paul. Can you tell if your local Home Depot uses an authorized John Dear or Toro dealer for assembly, setup, delivery for their ZT’s? We live in Maryland.
Hi Steve, Please ask the Home Depot store manager.
I really like your reviews and expertise. You provide really good information and I feel like you put alot of thought and energy into responding to those who seek your advice. I have 1 acre lot in which my home is 2200 sq ft. My yard is mostly flat in which it has been graded like a bowl. There is a ditch at 1 end and a hill/easement at the other. I am looking at zero turns and I feel like I can spend $3,000 or less and get a great mower. I would I just need a residential as opposed to commerical. I really did love the Hustler Raptor Limited, but it’s around $4200. Again, that seems too much money and I am struggling to justify spending that much.
I like the Ariens IKON X 42, the Troy Bilt Mustang Z42 670 cc V-TWIN as it seems like it has been built to last and supposedly has a smooth ride. I hate that it doesn’t have armrests, but the red/black color is sweet. I’ve always liked John Deere, but I am concerned that their decks accumulate too much grass clippings and get clogged. I’ve never been a Cub Cadet fan, however, their new Ultimata series seems pretty legit after research. It appears Cud Cadet has tried to up their game with the “big boys”.
In all honestly, there are so many different brands, it can be a challenge to keep track of them all. And with my analytical mind, I go back and forth and change my mind on many of these. Finally, given I don’t have a trailer and that my truck is a stepside bed, most of these mowers, I dont’ think will fit in my truck. So I am looking at potentially free delivery of the machine to my home.
With that said, which of these mowers or maybe one I didn’t mention that is on your mind, that you would recommend?
Thank you, for your time.
P.S. which tires are good for not tearing up the yard?
Hi Shane, I like the Ariens IKON X a lot for a one-acre yard. It’s not on my “Top 5” list but it probably should be.
The Troy-Bilt and Cub Cadet ZT1 are the same mower except the Troy-Bilt has MTD’s own good V-Twin, has a lever height adjust and doesn’t have that racing bar over the engine. If you want the mower and need armrests here are the right ones: Cub Cadet Arm Rests. The Ultima is getting all the advertising this year but the Troy-Bilt is basically the same mower for a little less money. (I grew up with International Harvester tractors so the Reb/Black paint scheme appeals to me too!)
The John Deere mulches, bags and side discharges the best of all the 42-inch ZTRs on the market. Owners never complain about grass build up under the deck.
I really appreciate your help. So at least I’ve narrowed it down to 4 potential brands.
My John Deere riding mower had issues with grass building up under the deck, but it’s 2004 model. Good to know that their ZTRs don’t have the issue.
One last question: is fabricated deck better than stamped? I’m thinking it’s ok to go stamped since I don’t commercially mow.
Hi Shane, Yes, Deere has made a lot of improvements in their decks in the last 10 years. In general, stamped decks cut better – fabricated decks are tougher and handle more abuse. If you have inexperienced operators a fabricated deck will hold up better to them banging it against foundations and trees. But, if you want the best cut, the best mulching, and the best bagging the stamped decks are the right choice.
Hi Paul. I have an ultima zt2. It’s a nice mower but I have been having issues with cut quality. I have the Mulching kit installed but I cannot keep the deck from getting gummed up with clippings. I do my best to not mow wet grass and usually remove no more than 1 inche in a mow. I have 2 acres I mow – Is this too much acreage for a mulch kit?i feel like I’m shortening the life of the mower by stressing it. I’ve been hearing good things about the g5 gator blades but haven’t found a fit for the new ultima models. Will those help with preventing the deck from getting clogged?
Hi Jon, You won’t over-stress your mower unless the grass is building up to the point where it’s stopping the deck.
There are a lot of factors that make mulching a pain in the butt.
1. New grass in the spring has a lot more moisture than grass later in the year. I suggest mowing at 4 inches and then mow in the late afternoon.
2. The type of grass will also make a huge difference. Perennial Rye and Tall Fescue have a lot more moisture in the stalk than Bluegrass, especially in the spring. Again, I suggest mowing at 4 inches and then mow in the late afternoon.
3. The Ultima deck is a good deck but residential mowers, in general, don’t like to mulch when cutting the grass at 2 3/4 inches or less. The decks just don’t have the depth the commercial decks have to hold the grass and recut it well. (Most commercial decks depth are 5-6 inches)
4. I suggest that you don’t mulch until your lawn growth has settled down. Use the side discharge until June or so.
5. Clean your deck with the deck wash every time you mow when the grass is still wet under the deck. Scrape the underside of the deck clean with a plastic scraper or stiff milker brush when you sharpen the blades.
6. Gator blades are a better solution than the stock mulching blades but they will also have problems with spring grass or tall grass. If the grass has too much water in it they actually shred the grass – not cut it – and leave little grass balls all over your lawn.
Mow high, mow in the afternoon and side discharge until the spring growth has subsided.
The for the advice Paul. Appreciate your passion and what you do for the common folks on here. Regarding the gator blades, I have heard opinions that they should not be used with mulching kits. Thoughts? Do you have an aftermarket blade recommendation for use with a mulch kit, other than the OEM blades that cub cadet sells?
Hi Jon, Wow! It’s really interesting how the Internet can get facts turned upside down. You should not use Gator Blades for SIDE-DISCHARGE. They are mulching blades made for mulching – they work wonderfully with mulching kits.
If you use them with side discharge the work most of the time but – if your grass is wet, long or the stringy (like some Fescues) they won’t cut the grass into little pieces and throw it out the discharge. Instead, they shred the grass into little “cotton balls” That leave a mess on your lawn.
I suggest using the Cub Cadet blades until Oregon comes out with a set for the Ultima decks.
I’m looking to purchase a zero turn ride on and to be completely honest and am over the place with what I want to do. My front yard is fairly steep with an 18 degree grade. I was suggested to get a zero turn with steering wheel but I am hearing those are being discontinued and then another dealer told me to get the lap bars. So I’m all jammed up! The dealers near me have cub cadet and toro. I’m looking to spend less than 4000 Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Jeff, There are NO ZTrs under $4000 that will handle that steep of slope. I recommend the Cub Cadet Z-FORCE® S 48 as your cheapest option. This steering wheel model is heavy enough to go up the hill and the front steering wheels will help to keep it on the slope.
Yes, Toro is discontinuing their steering wheel models. Toro is consolidating their residential mower line and the new MyRide is selling faster than they can make them. Cub Cadet has no plans to discontinue their Z-Force or Pro steering wheel models.
If you go lap-bar I STRONGLY suggest that you demo it on your yard to see if the mower will hold on your slope. I have a feeling you will have to get into the 800-900 lbs, 50-60 inch ZTRs to get one that will work. Cost $5500 plus.
Paul, we have a rough 1.2 acre yard with some trees, beds, stumps, etc. About half the lot is sloped from 11 – 13.7 degrees (measured with angle finder phone app calibrated with a level). I used to cut it with a Bobcat 48″ W/B but would like a rider now. Never had a ZTR, but I was initially leaning ZTR (looking at Spartan and Hustler SDX) UNTIL I stumbled on the Bradley Stand on in the same price range! Here’s what I like about the Bradley (link below):
ZT3400 drives / 23″ rear tires.
Heavy 7 gauge deck (apparently the same deck/frame as Bobcat).
I am used to walk behind operation / handling
Can ride or flip up foot stand and convert to walk-behind (NICE)
Seems safer on slopes – can easily step off in the event of a problem (try this on a ZTR)
If hill is wet I can walk behind to have more control
A lot of great reviews online / Pro landscapers rave about build/cut/speed
reviews and youtube clips indicate this thing can mow fast and stripe.
This will be handy for my open / flat areas
I may even mow a few of my neighbors lawns for extra $
How do you feel about the Bradley and the way I am leaning? Are Spartans dependable and here to stay?
Hi Trent, I’d buy a Bradley in a heartbeat if I needed another mower. I’ve driven the mower and I like it a lot. I followed the company since the ’90s and their equipment has always been built very strong for the price.
I’m not sure if Havener/Bradley would be buying decks and frames from Schiller/Bob Cat but I’ll check next time I talk to them. If I recall correctly, Bradley actually had a stand-on before Bob Cat. (There are a lot of small assembly shops that do make components for most brands)
If you are inexperienced with standons check out this article:
Spartan. Homeowners like their Spartan mowers a lot. Are they dependable? They have not been around long enough to know for sure. Yes, they look cool but if you put one next to a comparable commercial mower (Toro, Exmark, Scag, etc) you will find cheaper parts in the Spartan. Are they here to stay? That’s a hard question to answer. Right now the ZTR market is saturated badly and there are new brands entering the market every month. My understanding is he was originally a part owner in Bad Boy mowers – he didn’t like the direction Bad Boy was heading – so he started his own brand of ZTR’s. So, we’ll see if they last. The owner is the type that likes to jump into a market, disrupt it, and move on to something else if he can’t make a fortune.
The B&S Vanguard engine option is about $450 more than the B&S Commercial Turf. What can you tell me about these two, is it worth paying the extra $?
BTW – If you look at the photos of both standers, the Bobcat frame / deck does look nearly identical (look at the caster arms, deck, deck suspensions). One forum post claimed to have tested and found that parts are interchangeable. But at the end of the day its irrelevant – the Bradley looks more than durable enough on its own,.
Here are photos of both from same angle:
Hi Trent, The Commercial Series is an economical engine designed to have more 50% life than the Intek residential models. Basically, it’s the ELS residential with a high flow commercial air filter. I would guess the average engine life to be 500-750 hours – maybe 1000 if you change the air filter and oil when required. You will find it on entry level commercial mowers where the price is the most important feature.
The Vanguard is B&S true commercial engine. These are one of the best engines in the industry and I’ve seen them go over 2500 hours before they needed to be rebuilt. If you want a “one and done” mower the Vanguard is definitely the engine to buy.
Thanks Paul, that’s great that you drove this and would buy one. The 48″ 48SC-BS24 is on sale for $4207 at sleequipment.com which seems to make it the best value of the 4 Bradley Stand on options. This includes the Vanguard and is only $200 more than the lowest price online for the base 48″ ($3999). The 52″ Vanguard is $4800 at SLE, but it only gives you 4″ more deck.. I have some bare dirt sections where a lot of dust flies so I think the beefier air filter (and engine) on the Vanguard will be worth it.
3400 pumps, 23″ tires, 7 gauge deck, 10mph, B&S Vanguard for $4200? Are you kidding me? Is this not the best value out there in commercial mowers? I am ordering…I don’t think I can live with the regrets I’ll have if I pass on this and buy a $4200 Gravely/Hustler locally! And I have a good mower shop just a mile away that is not a dealer, they will service whatever you bring.
How fast can this machine actually mow, your estimation? I have some areas where I’ts nearly a football field long!
BTW – Did you have a chance to look at the Bradley frame compared to the Bobcat? They do look VERY similar.
Hi Trent, It will “finish” mow at 8 mph and if you don’t need a perfect cut it will mow at 10 mph. Don’t be surprised if your neighbors take videos just to show their friends how fast you are mowing 🙂
I’m going to be down in the Bradley, Il area the middle of June. I’ll try and stop by to ask them if they are having the frames farmed out.
Hi Paul, want your view on a commercial quality/HD zero like the Scagg Tiger II 60″ish deck, grasshopper, JD etc. HD clutch,HD motors and hydraulics, and 30 to 37 HP engines. Best in class seating( bad back) and have 4 to 5 acres to mower. Want to do most maintenance myself, easy blade change etc….
DO not know enough about the hydraulic drive motors to know what is the best of the HD motors. Do not which one cannot be rebuilt or can for that matter.
Skaggs has a good blade change system, for no lift style. The grasshopper has a hydraulic deck lift and a few others have electric.
I only want to look at shaft drive, to reduce belts.
Want the best bang for the buck, if I am going to spend 12 to 17 grand for a mower.
Hi Mike, If you want shaft drive you have to buy a Grasshopper or Kubota front deck mower. The Grasshopper is unique – no one else still produces that style of mower. Yes, It rides well and mows OK but for commercial users, the shaft drive doesn’t hold up as well as belts. The long wheelbase also makes it a pain to move around on trailers because you can fit three-four ZTR’s in the same space as two Grasshoppers. It is still a very popular mower with farmers who have long ditches and large areas to mow. They still convince municipalities to purchase them but the municipalities quickly realize the ZTR’s are better for the type of mowing they do. Lazer Z X-Series
The best mower in that price range for ride, cut quality, cutting speed and long life components – including the drive belts – is the Exmark Lazer Z X-Series. The Kohler EFI and Exmark RED technology give you the power you need when you need it and will also reduce fuel consumption by 20% over other engines. It has accessories for power deck lift and a mower jack for easy blade changes.
The second choice is the Scag Tiger II. Scag is still using horizontal shaft engines pointed backwards so they do equip that model with a driveshaft from the rear of the mower to the deck. The driveshaft is more durable than the Grasshopper’s.
Paul, I am looking for a zero turn mower for a yard that is about 2.75 acres. I can spilt and mow separate days if need be. What model should i be looking at for a rough and hilly yard? Have a small hill in front of the house and the sis who back is all a slope
I’m trying to decide between a Toro 48″ TimeCutter HD with MyRIDE (75211/75210) and a Gravely ZT HD 48″. There’s a local Gravely dealer that seems reliable and good to work with. If I went with the Toro, I would probably purchase it from Home Depot online. The other local Toro dealer is Ace Hardware. I’ve got about two acres of mostly flat lawn at my house. Any suggestions?
Hi Eric, The Toro rides better – the Gravely is a heavier built machine. You are paying quite a bit extra with the Toro to get the suspension platform. In your case I suggest the Gravely.
Thank you for the post great information! My only question is on the new Cub Cadet ZT2 is it worth the extra almost 900 dollars for the serviceable transmissions for a residential owner mowing 2.5 to 3 acres once a week or week and a half?
Hi Travis, The armrests are worth every penny! That said, You can get armrests for the XT1 and install them yourself. Arm Rest Kit for Cub Cadet XT1 and XT2.
You do get what you pay for when you move up to the XT2: Larger Front and rear tires. heavier deck, and stronger transmissions. Do you need it for mowing 2.5-3 acres of lawn every week? Probably not – but – if your property is rough, has slopes greater than 10 degrees, you want to get done as quickly as possible or you have teenagers who are learning to use a zero-turn – then it is worth moving up to the XT2.
Thank you so much! For that money is there a better brand i should consider that has serviceable parts like John Dear, Toro, or Husk? I just want to make the best choice I am not stuck on any one brand. Thanks in advance!
Hi Travis, I have a list of the mowers I like best at the beginning of the article. Other than that – I don’t have a preference. I really have to say if you don’t buy from The Home Depot go to a dealer you trust in your area. A good dealer will help you find the best mower for you and have the parts and service to help you get years out of your ZTR.
Great information! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am looking between the Ariens Ikon X 52 and the Toro MX5000. I like them both and can’t decide which would be best for me. I mow just under 2 acres of mostly flat to gently sloping grass. Not going to pull much or do much ground work with it. We do have wet grass often in the spring. Which would you recommend? I basically just want a zero turn that will last me a very long time for $3000 or less.
Greg, That is a tough call to make. Spec-wise they are almost identical. They both cut well and will last you a long time. The only real difference is the Toro has a slightly thicker deck, the automatic parking brake, and the smart speed control.
With Toro putting the MX5000 on sale right now it does make it the better deal. At The Home Depot Toro TimeCutter MX5000 50 in. Fabricated Deck 24-HP Kohler Pro
It is a hard one. Am I right I’m thinking that the Toro MX5000 has the Hydro Gear 2800 and the Ariens Ikon X has the smaller Hydro Gear 2200? Because that alone could be the difference maker for me.
Hi Greg, You have to move up to the Toro Timecutter HD and the Ariens IKON XL to get the larger transmissions.
In the bulleted info points about the Toro above it reads:
Hydro Gear ZT-2100 and ZT-2200 Transaxles on the SS and SW and Hydro Gear ZT-2800 Transaxles on the MX and SWX and Hydro Gear ZT-3100 Transaxles on the Timecutter HD. But you are saying that isn’t the case?
HI Greg, I use the specs page at toro.com. https://www.toro.com/en/homeowner/riding-mowers/timecutter-mx5000-74775. It shows ZT-2200 on the MX5000 (both new and old versions)
The MX6050 has ZT 2800 and the TimeCutter HD ZT-3100.
Even the new MyRide MX5075 uses the 2200.
My Exmark Quest 42 which is the same as the MX4250 has the ZT-2200.
Ok, thank you for the clarification. I assume that the ZT-2200’s would be fine for my use than. I wanted to have beefier Transaxles. But that just won’t be possible for under $3000. Ariens Ikon X 52 is my mower than!
Thank you for your diligence.
Paul, our 1 acre lot in PA has some trees, and is a bit bumpy in spots. I’d guess we’re actually mowing 75% of the acre. About half of this area is a long wide slope in the front (well under 13deg that Deere warns about). The other half is generally flat (this is the back, and the lower portion of the front). I would cut across the slope to ease strain on the hydros and would only have to drive up the slope in a few areas of the yard. I am looking at the Deere Z335E and Z375R. The Z335 48″ is the only ZTR I know of with 13″ front / 20″ rear tires under $3000, so it has me smitten. Love the tire size for stability, traction, and to ease the bumps. The 375 gives me the R package, a 54″ deck, and the 25 HP ELS engine. The 54″ deck would be welcome as I do have some wide open mowing spaces. My main concern is – will the EZT hydros and B&S engine be OK? I weigh 200, and the mowers are 500 and 575 lbs, putting us well under the 900 lb rating of the EZT. I would need about 20 hours per year out of the machine, at about 45 minutes per cut. I do not need to tow anything. I have heard the EZT can be very reliable if the machine weight is not excessive and they’re not cutting 5 acres a week. However, some on the forums have reported using them in light commercial use for years with no issues. Could I get 200 hours out of the Z335E? What do you think?
I did not want to step into the $4000 price class to get something like the Hustler SD w/ ZT2800’s (the Ikon XL lacks 13″ tires). There is also the Z525E but I keep reading about the Tuff Torq hydros burning up after the 2 yr warranty :(. I am not reading about anyone having the EZT hydros die early on.
BTW, I can get the Z335E for $2200 and the Z375R for $2650 by using a 10% off big box coupon and a $500 credit card bonus that I have available. It’s the Capital one Savor Card, google it if interested in the promo.
Hi Ryan, I actually recommend the John Deere Z355R. The 48-inch deck will give you a better cut than the 54 inch and still get done quickly.
EZT transmissions will hold up to regular mowing on normal slopes. Guys wear them out by trying to mow on hills greater than 15 degrees, pull carts full of dirt and gravel, mow side hills or ditches over 15 degrees and don’t keep the outside free of grass and debris (overheating)
The Briggs engine in the mower will last for your yard. Guys who blow them up try to mow hills over 15 degrees, overheat them by not cleaning the fins once in a while, don’t change the oil and air cleaner regularly.
Thanks Paul. I meant the Z355E 48″, not 335. Think you figured that out. I just noticed that the 48 Accel Deep deck is 10 gauge, that is nice. I will check out the Z355R.
I have also noticed the Craftsman Pro Series 48 ZTR is on sale for about $3300, putting it in my price range. Appears to be a heavy duty estate class machine, has 2800 hydro’s, Kohler 7000 engine, and even larger tires. What do you think of this mower, and who makes it?
Hi Ryan, I’d stay with the Deere. I’m not sure what Sears is up to so I’m not recommending their mowers until I know where the company is headed. That Craftsman Pro is made by MTD. The Cub Cadet is new and appears to be a great mower but the XT2 is a closer comparison to the Deere.
Paul, I purchased a 2018 Gravely ZTHD52 last spring. I cut about 2.5 acres per week of mostly flat terrain, including some tough pasture grass. This machine was a beast. I couldn’t be happier and you gave me some good advice last year, so thanks for that.
I’m wondering if you think it’s best to 1. Have the dealer do the 1st annual tune-up? It all seems easy enough for me to do it, but it’s got a 3 yr warranty so what is the best practice? …and 2. Do you recommend replacing blades annually? They look good and could use sharpening but no dents.
Thanks for the feedback!
Hi Mike, I knew you would like it!
1. It’s not a bad idea for the first year. The dealer will do the tuneup and make sure everything is working perfectly. Ask him about any specials he has coming up because a lot of dealers will have a spring special (i.e. free pickup and delivery or a discount on the turn-up)
2. On 2.5 acres you may only need to replace the blades every 3-4 years. The dealer will be glad to sharpen and balance them while it’s in for the tune-up. (and may be included)
My 12-year-old Craftsman 42″ lawn tractor just died and decided to replace it with a ZTR. Your site has given me a good quick education.
I mow about 1 1/2 acre of old bumpy lawn every week and another 1 1/2 acre of former pasture every other week. When my wife mows, she complains about how bumpy I want a mulching deck since I mow around my market garden and I can’t sell lettuce mix that is covered in grass clippings.
I have narrowed my choices down to the Ariens Ikon XL 52″ (for its rugged build), the Toro Timecutter with Myride 50″ (for the ride) and the Ryobi 100 ah 42″ (for the quiet operation and the cost savings over time).
I am leaning towards the Ryobi, but there isn’t much online about it besides the HD and the manufacturer’s site. Have your readers commented on it one way or the other? Is 3 acres pushing the capabilities of the batteries too far?
I’d appreciate your insights
Hi Larry, I have not seen that anyone has possession of one of the new Ryobi ZTRs yet. In my area, Home Depot is still showing delivery April 30. That said, I don’t recommend it for rough bumpy lawns and especially not areas like your 1 1/2 acres that you don’t mow every week. Also mowing the higher grass takes a lot more power and the batteries may not be able to mow that 1.5 acres all at one time. It’s going to be a great mower for the “average” suburban lawn but not for tall grass of really bumpy lawns.
The IKON XL and the Toro MyRide are much better choices. Either one will mow grass 8-12 inches tall in side discharge mode and give you a clean cut. They will also mow that taller pasture with the mulch plate installed if you lift the deck up as high as it can go. (all those clipping need someplace to go and raising the deck up will let them drop into the grass) They will both work flawlessly on your normal lawn.
The Toro and the Ariens will both mow your entire 2 acres in less than an hour so you can always just mow it all every week 🙂
The IKON XL is actually the toughest mower of the three. It also has the heavy-duty ZT2800 transmissions. The seat is thick, padded and has springs to help the ride. Run the proper tire inflation or 2 lbs less in the rear and it will ride well.
I know they are all about the same price but you are paying $1000 for the batteries in the Ryobi and $500 for the MyRide. (The equivalent Toro without the MyRide is $3699 – 50″ TimeCutter® MX5050 Model 74774.)
Thanks for your opinion on my choices. I just visited the local Gravely dealer and looked at the ZT XL 52. It’s a few dollars more than the Ariens, but I like having a local dealer in case anything goes wrong.
James E Poole
Hi Paul. Great website and resource. Thank you so much.
I decided I’d get a ZTR this spring to replace my 15 year old, 42″ Deere L110, Kohler 17.5hp, lawn tractor. It’s been good but I’d like to upgrade. I had no idea where to start looking, but thanks to you I’m on top of it now.
I’ve narrowed it down to the Deere Z345R w 22hp Briggs for $2899 or a Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 w 22hp Kohler for $2699 from TSC. Both have deep 42″ stamped steel decks – 12 gauge on the Deere and 13 gauge on the Cub, and they both pretty much have the features I want, except the Cub doesn’t have arm rests.
I noticed right away the Deere appears to have a lighter frame, which I liked, so it weighs less. The Cub is heavier like all the other Zero Turns. The Deere probably looks a little better to me too, but my mower doesn’t need to be pretty, as long as it’s not ugly and it mows well and has adequate service support if needed. I would expect both would hold up well for my use. But I don’t know if I’d like the lighter Deere better than the heavier Cub, or if the heavier Cub would hold up and work better???
I’ll be mowing my 1 acre, flat-to-mildly sloping residential lawn with minimal trees. I live in the upstate of SC, have a mixture of cool season and warm season grasses, and I try to control the crabgrass, dandelions, and other weeds. It’s not a manicured lawn but it’s not bad either. I enjoy mowing regularly (so I’m looking forward to the fun of a ZTR). And I usually just side discharge, but a mulching option and a bagging option would always be nice.
The Cub is $200 less, and has a (better) 3-year unlimited hours warranty vs 2 years/120 hours for the Deere. And because I’ve had good luck with my Deere/Kohler and I feel less enthusiastic about the Briggs, I’m leaning towards the Cub. But then again, I might like the lighter Deere better for my lawn. I think I like the idea of a lighter, more nimble mower, but perhaps the heavier one is better for most general applications. And maybe I wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference. I just don’t think I need a heavy duty mower, but maybe the heavier Cub would last longer. Do you think one would last longer than the other, or be more durable, or function better, or offer better traction?
Anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated. Many thanks to you and for your website!
Hi James, I made a comparison list of the two here: Product comparison.
1. The Frames are different so the Deere looks lighter because it uses smaller tubing. In reality, they both weigh the same.
2. You can buy an Arm Rest Kit for Cub Cadet XT1
3. The Deere has the best cut in the industry but on your lawn, I doubt if you would see a difference between the Deere deck and the Cub Cadet. Cub Cadet has put a lot of time into designing a deck that cuts just as well and from what I’ve seen so far (on YouTube) it cuts very, very well.
4. I like the flip up footplate, the Kohler, and the rear engine guard on the Cub Cadet a lot.
5. The Cub Cadet has slightly larger tires so it will ride a little better and have a little more traction than the Deere.
6. I like the fully welded frame on the Cub Cadet but on the other hand, you never hear of frame cracking on the Deere either.
7. Both are serviced by local dealers. If you have a warrantied issue contact the store where you purchased it from to get the dealer to take it to.
Let us know which one you picked!
In particular, I noticed the engine on the Deere was much louder than my lawn tractor. I had to yell to be heard over it. I attribute that to the uncovered engine and its close proximity to the operator, and perhaps to the fact that the engine enclosure basically directs the sound straight up right in back of the operator. The Cub is designed with a more open engine compartment so maybe the sound will be dispersed outwards better. Can you tell me if the Kohler 7000 is a quieter engine?