Best Zero Turn Mowers Buying Guide 2019 – How To Choose The Right One!

Update: April 12, 2019 The 2019 Best Zero Turn Mower Buying Guide – How to Pick The Best ZTR For You!

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Introduction

This guide will help you begin to sort through the differences for the hundreds of zero-turn mowers on the market so you can decide the best brand and model for you.

Take your time – there is a lot to read – be sure to scan through the comments at the end of the article. We may have already answered your question.

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Buying a zero turn lawn mower is similar to shopping for a vehicle. Some people just want a cheap car that gets them around town, others want a luxury vehicle that gives them a smooth ride, and a few need a gravel truck that will last 500,000 miles or more.

So, just like vehicles, there are cheap Zero Turn Mowers that will mow your flat, smooth lawn or more expensive models that will mow your lawn as fast as possible while making your ride as comfortable as that of a Lincoln Town Car. Some are no more durable than you $1200 lawn tractor while there are others capable of mowing 50 acres a week for 15-20 years.

In other words, zero turning radius (ZTR) lawn mowers are all similar because they all cut grass, but the different models just do it with varying degrees of comfort, speed, and quality of components.

Finding the right zero turn mower for you can be very difficult to figure out on your own. 

 Although there are hundreds of mowers available to buy there is no one organization that lists all the models – let alone reviews and rates them. For example, Consumer Reports only rates the entry-level zero turns and lawn tractors. The other 90% of the mowers available are not rated or tested anywhere online. There have been one or two websites that have tried but their rating systems did not reflect the actual quality or performance of the mower. The rest of the websites only rate the particular brands that they sell (or Amazon sells) and don’t represent the market as a whole. Even I don’t have the time to list them all – let alone rate each one. But feel free to ask – I try to keep track of even the brands you’ve never heard of. 

Which brings up a good point – There are many great quality zero-turn mowers available from well respected companies that have been in this business for 30-40 years that you probably have never heard of. Many of these zero-turn mowers are considerably better and more cost-effective than the models you see at the big box store.  As a consumer, you really only hear of the largest brands with the largest advertising budgets. You are probably not aware of the hidden gems sold by your local dealer store, farm store, and hardware store. 

NOTE: I just want to remind you that zero-turn mowers are lawn mowers. These economy residential machines are NOT designed to go out and mow your horse pasture, paddock, roadside ditch or field. I repeat, do not use these for tall grass or mowing rough areas. The tall grass will wrap around the spindles under the deck and burn out your belts. Bouncing through the pasture will quickly destroy your deck, crack your frame and/or transmissions. These mowers are not designed to cut higher than 4-4.5 inches. If you have fields, paddocks, and pastures to mow I strongly suggest you look at the Acre-Ease rough cut mower for those areas instead.  Swisher has also updated their line of rough cut mowers and they now have some heavy-duty models Swisher Rough Cut

Note: Be very careful buying zero turn mowers on Amazon. There are some very reputable sellers but there are also a few just “out to make a buck.” There is a lot of “old stock” that wholesalers are just trying to dump.  

But you can have an excellent experience with Amazon. If a current model is available directly from Amazon or a reputable seller on Amazon I will offer you a buy link. Amazon literally is the best place to buy anything online. The delivery is swift, and if there are any issues with the shipping or the item Amazon takes care of it immediately. Buy at Amazon

NOTE: I don’t deal with used ZTR’s. I don’t keep current with used ZTR prices. In reality, unless you understand engines, hydro-transmissions and can repair your own equipment I strongly suggest you stay away from a used residential ZTR. Parts and labor to change out the components can quickly add up to more than a new machine.

At TodaysMower.com I usually only write articles on the entry level, estate and semi-pro models that work well for your residential lawns. Pro, Commercial and Industrial mowers are outside the scope of this website. 

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Types, Styles, and Quality Grades

The industry generally classifies every zero turn mower into one of five quality grades, three types, and two styles. 

Quality: Economy, Estate/MidGrade, Semi-Pro, Commercial, Industrial. I’ll explain the different quality levels below. I’ll also play Myth-Buster to help you wade through all the advertising hype in the Economy and Estate quality.

Types: Lap-Bar, Steering Wheel, Joy-Stick, Stand-on.

  • Lap-Bar Steering is the most common and uses two levers that fold in front of you to drive and steer the mower. You either like it or hate it.
  • Steering Wheel ZTR’s drive just like your car with a steering wheel and foot pedal speed control.
  • Joy-Stick models drive like a video game.
  • Stand-on mowers use two levers and are used by professional contractors. They are highly maneuverable and used for production mowing.

(Gravely introduced a completely new way to drive a ZTR on the Gravely Pro-Walk in 2017. I’m hoping we will see something similar on sit down ZTR’s in the future.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8IMWEwjiqo

Grillo Front Deck ZTR.

Grillo Front Deck ZTR.

 Styles: Mid-Deck, Front Deck. Mid-deck mowers are the most common in the U.S. and you sit over the deck.  A front deck mower is the most common in Europe where the deck sticks out the front of the mower. The front deck mower is highly maneuverable and gives you the highest quality of cut. (Commercial users like the mid-mount mowers because you can fit more of them on a trailer than you can front deck machines)

Note: Zero-Turn mowers are designed to mow lawns. They are designed to mow weekly or bi-weekly growth. They are NOT designed to mow pastures, timber, fields, and paddocks. They are NOT designed to mow grass/weeds 12 inches to 6 feet tall. Mowing grass over 12 inches can/will damage deck spindles, belts, tires and bearings on even the most expensive ZTR’s.

Pastures, fields, paddocks and timber with grass and brush taller than 12 inches require a rotary cutter or rough cut mower. Yes, I know many of the ZTR’s appear heavy duty enough but please don’t blame the mower or the brand when your mower requires $500 worth of repairs because you needed to mow your horse pasture with it. Here is a good rough cut mower: Acrease Rough Cut

Safety Tip: NEVER, I repeat never mow a slope with a pond or drop-off at the bottom of the slope. Even the most expensive ZTR’s can lose traction, slide down the slope, slide into the water or tip over on the drop-off. Animals burrowing into the bank or erosion under the sod can be deadly. Plan on using a walk-behind mower or develop a nature area for those types of slopes. It’s good practice to stay at least two deck widths away from that edge. Yes, the old neighbor next door has been doing it for years but trust me…His streak of good luck won’t last.

Before we get into the specifics of the different mowers you may also want to read this article: Do you really need a zero-turn mower? 17 reasons why you may not want one.

So Which One Is Best For You? I will go through the different quality levels in the next sections to help you decide. But first, let’s cover one more basic area – deck size.

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Sizing Your Mower Deck:

Use the chart below to give you an idea of what size to get. I do suggest going with a smaller deck if you want the best cut possible but do not go less than 42 inches with a zero-turn. I also suggest staying away from decks larger than 61 inches. Bigger decks may cut larger areas quickly but they will scalp and gouge most lawns.

Go around your yard and measure between landscape features like trees, landscape beds and buildings. A 42-inch deck requires 48 inches with discharge chute down so areas narrower than that will have to be mowed with a push mower or string trimmer.

  1. Less than 42 inches: Zero-turn mowers less than 42 inches will be very unstable on slopes. Never use one on a slope greater than 10 degrees. In fact, don’t even try to trim around an older tree where the roots taper up to the trunk. The small 32-34 inch zero-turns that I don’t recommend also have traction problems when turning and will tear up your yard. If you have gates that require a smaller ZTR I suggest making the gates bigger. These small zero-turn mowers take a lot of practice to use because they don’t have good traction in the rear and are notorious for tearing up your lawn. They are also very top-heavy compared to the larger zero-turns and in my opinion are not safe to operate on any type of slope. You can actually tip one over going around the roots of an old tree. Yes, they sell a 32-inch ZTR – but that doesn’t mean you should buy it.
  2. 42-46″ Decks. A 42 or 46-inch deck will fit in the back of a full-size pickup. If you have plenty of room to mow your residential lawn I now suggest a 46-inch deck for 1-acre yards. Today’s 46-inch, 2 blade decks all cut very well.
  3. 48″-50” Decks. A 48-inch deck will mow your lawn about 20% faster than a 42 inch so they are a good choice for one to three acres. With the discharge chute down a 48-inch deck needs about 54 inches to go between an obstruction
  4. 52″-54″ Decks. If you have the room between your obstructions or have large open areas to mow a 50-54 inch deck will save you 30-40% time over a 42 inch. The wheelbase is typically wider than a 42-inch ZTR so it can handle slight to moderate slopes better. Economy model decks tend to “flop” around so the cut will not be as good as a smaller deck.  The estate and semi-pro models will cut well.
  5. 60″-61″ decks. This size is a very common size for landscape professionals. The brands all engineer these decks to cut well and fast. With a 25 HP or larger commercial grade engine, these decks will cut up to 5 acres an hour.
  6. 72″ decks. I don’t recommend 72-inch decks unless you have 5 acres or more of flat, smooth lawn. In addition, the 72-inch decks in your price range usually have too small of an engine. A 60 inch will actually mow faster. These huge decks are best suited for large-scale commercial properties where the quality of cut is not as important as the quantity.

Summary: Slopes steeper than 15 degrees will have to be mowed with a walk behind or string trimmer.

Up to 1 Acre = 42” Deck
Up to 2 Acres = 42, 46” Deck – Give you the best cut for Residential ZTR’s
2+ Acres = 48, 50, 52, 54″ Deck – Most common sizes for Residential and Estate ZTR’s. Great for 2 acres and many trees.
2+ Acres = 60, 61″ Deck – Gives you the best cut for Estate and Commercial ZTR’s
2+ Acres = 72″ Deck – I don’t recommend this size EXCEPT for large, flat properties.

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Economy or Entry-Level Residential Zero Turn Mowers

Two-Types: Lap-Bar, Steering Wheel.

Styles: Mid-Deck.

Good For: Smooth Lawns With Light Slopes

Cost: $2300-$3500 depending on size. 

Economy zero-turns are meant to directly replace your old lawn tractor. They have the same quality and features as today’s mid-priced lawn/yard tractors but are more agile so they will get your mowing task done faster. They save time by being more agile – the decks are the same as your lawn tractor so they won’t mow well at faster speed. Two brands now have steering wheel models that drive like your economy car  – the rest all use the Lap-Bar steering system that makes the zero turn lawn mower a lot more agile than your old lawn tractor.

Myth-Buster No. 1: “These dependable – yet affordable – mowing machines will cut a yard twice as fast as a lawn tractor. They feature smaller, less-powerful engines with smaller gas tanks, maxing out at 6-7 miles per hour.”  One manufacturer started this mess by advertising in 2012 “that you can cut your mowing time almost in half.*” What that actually means is using their lap-bar zero-turn – your mower is more agile so the total time it takes to mow yard your is less than with their lawn tractor. (They no longer make the lawn tractor that was used in that claim.) * Watch this video to see the original advertising claim: Toro Time Cutter

John Deere 48

Economy Lap Bar Zero Turn

In reality, most economy zero-turns use the same decks and engines as the mid-priced lawn tractors so they mow in a straight line at the same speed. But having two transmissions allows them to maneuver faster around obstructions and turn around faster at the end of a mowing run (zero-turn). In addition, they go around trees and corners better than a conventional lawn tractor so you may save some time when trimming. Yes, they will zip around your yard at 5-6 mph but they actually only mow well at 3-4 mph – just like your lawn tractor. If you have a lot of landscaping and other obstructions in your lawn they can save you up to 45% in the time it takes to mow your lawn.

If a lap-bar zero-turn looks too complicated to learn or you are not willing to spend the extra money for the second transmission on a steering wheel ZTR the Craftsman Yard Tractors and Craftsman Pro Series Lawn Tractors with the Turn-Tight steering will mow and trim your lawn almost as fast. They use a special front steering that makes the lawn tractors almost as agile as a zero-turn mower.

Myth-Buster No. 2: “entry-level zero turn lawn mowers are constructed with less expensive components like stamped vs. welded decks and steel vs. cast iron spindle materials. They’re typically not designed for daily use, but they will still cut your weekend mowing time in half.” Economy zero-turn mowers use the same deck components as the lawn tractor they are designed to replace. If you mow your normal suburban lawn once a week and your old lawn tractor lasted 10-15 years, this economy zero-turn will last as long. There are other zero turn mowers that are built much stronger for heavy-duty and commercial use. Those types use heavier components like cast iron spindles and welded decks.

Transmissions: All economy zero-turn mowers use two hydrostatic transmissions instead of one like a lawn tractor. The transmissions are as durable as the transmissions in your lawn tractor so you can pull the normal stuff like a yard cart, small aerator, and dethatcher. I don’t recommend pulling a 400-600 lb lawn roller or 500 pound plus loads though. That extra transmission adds about $400 to the cost. Typically economy zero-turn mowers cost $2200 to $3200.

Craftsman 50 20410

Economy Steering Wheel Zero Turn

 Myth-Buster No. 3: “Entry-level models are ideal for the weekend warrior wanting the excitement of a zero turn mower without a professional price tag.” Written by a true advertising copy-writer.  The only time I have ever been “excited” using a zero-turn was sliding down a slope towards a pond. 

Lap-Bar zero-turns are the most agile and are easy to learn to use for most people. They give you the most time savings. Steering wheel zero-turns are more expensive but anyone can use them because they drive just like your car. The steering wheel versions give you the advantages of a zero turn mower without tearing up your lawn.

If an Economy Zero Turn Is Best For You go here to select the best size and brand for you: 2017 Economy Zero-Turns

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Estate, Mid-Grade or Heavy-Duty Residential Zero Turn Mower.

Two-Types: Lap-Bar/Joy Stick, Steering Wheel.

Styles: Mid-Deck.

Good For: Smooth-ish Lawns With Light/Medium Slopes

Cost: $4000-$7000 depending on size. Higher cost than economy but longer life, higher quality and easier to use. 

This is the most popular segment of zero-turns for homeowners. These mowers are an upgrade over your old lawn or garden tractor. This quality level of zero turn mower will easily cut your mowing time in half because they are more agile than a lawn or garden tractor and are designed to mow faster than your tractor. These mowers will mow well at 5-7 mph.

Unfortunately, Consumer Reports and the other Review Websites do not test and evaluate these models. I don’t have the cash to buy and test these myself, but I do have years of experience listening to owners and using them myself. I can help you narrow down the choices to decide on the best model for you. 

Ariens IKON 52

Lap Bar Estate Zero Turn

When you increase the speed that you are mowing by 40% over the Economy models,  you also have to increase the strength of the mower considerably. If you don’t the mower will quickly self-destruct.  Estate zero-turns use thicker steel for the frame and decks are built stronger. They use heavier-duty components than the entry-level models. Because of that, they will last a lot longer. If you size the mower to your yard this grade will easily last 15 years.

Being heavier they will also handle bumps and rough spots better. They typically have better tires and seats to smooth out the ride.

Decks: Decks in this class generally use a metal that is too thick to stamp with a hydraulic press so these decks are fabricated out of sheet steel. Most decks have extra wear bars welded to the sides and front so they will take more of a beating than a stamped deck.

Transmissions: A heavy-duty residential zero turn also has heavier duty transmissions. These transmissions can handle slopes and the increased speed without overheating. You can pull an aerator, fertilizer spreader and heavy-duty cart without quickly ruining these transmissions.

Frame and Wheels: Like the decks, the frames, axles, casters, and wheels use thicker steel and will take more use and abuse than the economy class.

Country Clipper

Joy Stick Country Clipper Zero-Turn

Myth-Buster No. 1: You will have a wider variety of engine choices in this class but the engines are still rated as residential or “Pro” grade. The brand of the engine in this class does not mean a better engine so don’t let a dealer or another website lead you to believe that their mower is better because it has a certain brand engine on it.  The quality of the engine is based on what’s on the inside – not what brand is stuck on the outside.

One company, Country Clipper uses a patented single joy-stick control that works very well. They also have step and handrail options for those of us with mobility issues. I recommend the Country Clipper to anyone who is handicapped or has a hard time getting on and off a zero-turn.

If a Heavy Duty Residential Zero Turn Is Best For You go here to select the best size and brand for you: Heavy Duty Residential Zero Turns

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Entry Level Commercial or Semi-Pro Zero Turn Mowers

Two Types: Lap-Bar/Joy Stick, Steering Wheel. (I’d like to see them bring back Stand-ons in this grade.)

Styles: Mid-Deck.

Good For: Smooth to Bumpy Lawns With Medium Slopes

Cost: $6000-$10,000 depending on size. Higher cost but longer life and higher quality components.

Entry Level Commercial zero-turns are good machines for homeowners with 5 or more acres. They are the best choice for farm lawns and acreages where vehicles and farm machinery drive over the lawns. They are very popular with new landscape contractors who mow 10-20 homeowner lawns a week.

Bad Boy Elite

Mid Deck Zero Turn

Being heavier they will also handle bumps and rough spots better. They typically have heavier gauge steel frames, larger fuel tanks, and stronger transmissions than the Estate class. They are built well enough to handle the daily beating of taking them on an off a trailer when mowing a few homeowner lawns for hire.  Most have thicker, high back seats to smooth out the ride.  Some even have basic suspension seats. They don’t have cruise control but have armrests and use hydraulic dampeners attached to the steering levers so your shoulder muscles don’t get sore.

Entry Level Commercial zero-turns use Pro duty engines that last 2-3 time longer than Economy/Residential zero-turn engines. Some also have commercial engine options and those engines will easily run 2000 hours and longer without major repairs. Again, the brand name of the engine does not designate the quality. Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, Yamaha, and Kawasaki all make dependable Pro and Commercial engines in this class.

Best Zero Turn Mowers Buying Guide 2019 - How To Choose The Right One! 1

Mean Green Electric

Most Semi-Pro mowers can mow up to 8 mph and the 60-inch size can mow 5 acres an hour.

Which Semi-Pro Zero Turn Is Best For You? There are a few of these models available through retail but I suggest using a local dealer instead. Selecting the best model is a combination of selecting not only the best mower but also selecting a dealer that you trust. These mowers will last you many years and when you need normal maintenance parts or repair you will enjoy the long-term relationship with that dealer.

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Professional or Commercial Zero Turn Mowers

Three Types: Lap-Bar/Joy Stick, Stand-On, Steering Wheel.

Styles: Mid-Deck, Front Deck.

Good For: Smooth to Rough Lawns With Medium Slopes. Most will mow in all weather conditions.

Cost $6999 to $17,999.

Toro Stand-On

Stand-On Zero Turn

Commercial Mowers are outside the scope of Todaysmower.com. Commercial mowers are not sold online or at retail stores. Commercial zero turn mowers are big and fast. Some can mow at 12-15 mph in all weather conditions. Professional mowing contractors use this grade because they can mow 40-50 hours a week, all year long and the machines will still last years.

All commercial zero turns have thicker, high back seats to smooth out the ride.  Some are now equipped with air-ride seats or vibration damping operator platforms. More and more models now come standard with electronic fuel injection and are more fuel efficient than carbureted engines.

They are fast, comfortable and fun to drive.

Front Deck Commercial Zero Turns follow the ground contours the best. If your lawn has a lot of berms to mow over or if you want the best possible cut the front deck ZTRs are your best choice. There is even a front deck zero-turn small enough to fit into an elevator so you can mow and bag your rooftop lawn in downtown New York. The Walker brand has a very low center of gravity so it mows slopes better than the mid-deck models.

Stand-on mowers are particularly agile and great for properties that have many landscaped areas, slopes, and berms to mow around. They are also shorter than the commercial sit-down mowers so landscape contractors can fit more on a trailer. Stand-on mowers are my favorite way to mow. Toro/Exmark, Wright Stander and Gravely have always been the go-to brands.

Walker C

Front Deck Zero Turn

Here is a list of the most popular brands. The list is sorted by popularity – not by the numbers sold.

Exmark, Scag, Toro, Walker, John Deere, Kubota, Ferris, Grasshopper, Hustler, Wright, BOB-CAT, Gravely, Dixie Chopper, Husqvarna, Snapper Pro, Cub Cadet Commercial, Bush Hog, Bad Boy, Country Clipper, Big Dog.

In addition to this list, there are another 20 or so other great U.S. manufacturers including Jacobson, Bradley, and the all-electric Mean Green Mower,

Which Professional Zero Turn Is Best For You? Selecting the best Professional model is a combination of selecting not only the best mower but also selecting a dealer that can get you parts and service quickly so you can keep your machine out on the lawns making money. Please see your local Commercial Mower Dealer for these models. 

Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Industrial Zero Turn Mowers – Government, Sports Fields, Municipalities, Golf.

Styles: Mid-Deck, Front Deck, Rear Steer

Typically Industrial zero-turn mowers cost $15,999 to $149,999. A few of these mowers can mow up to 150 acres a day!  These are specialty mowers and typically there is only one dealer per state that has the expertise to help you pick the right unit for your property or municipal projects. There are only a few brands that make these large area mowers with Jacobson, Hustler, and Toro producing the highest quality machines.

Hustler Super104_2015

Industrial Zero-Turn

groundsmaster-5910

Industrial Rear Steer Zero Turn

Which Industrial, Government, Sports Fields, Municipalities, Golf Zero Turn Is Best For You? Please see your regional Sports Fields, Municipalities and Golf dealer for these models. 

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Yes, You need a new Gas Can!

With today’s fuels, 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 finding 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 one brand that works great! It’s vented inside the spout so it pours fuel 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.

No-Spill 1405 2-1/2-Gallon Poly Gas Can. A good size for snow blowers and push mowers. 

No-Spill 1450 5-Gallon Poly Gas Can (CARB Compliant) This one has a second handle on 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 to use and built well. It also self-sealing and vented.

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 also clean your carb and fuel system without messing it up. There a man good brands but I’ve used

SeaFoam for years and it’s always worked well. I use 2 tablespoons per gallon of fuel.

Seafoam 

Other fuels stabilizers to check out: Fuel Stabilizers

Have I helped you? If would you like to buy from your local dealer or store but still want to support TodaysMower just click on this link and buy anything you need. I’ll make a small commission from the sale. Buy at Amazon. TodaysMower.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and we get a commission on purchases made through our links.

How to leave a comment that will get the best answer. When asking a question please tell me about your lawn. The size of your lawn, what city, state you live in or the general area so I can tell what type of grass you have. Do you have a good, smooth lawn or is it rough? Do you have slopes steeper than 15 degrees? Have you used a ZTR before? There are over 40 good brands so if you can take the time please do a Google search for local dealers so you can tell me what brands you have locally. There is no use suggesting a certain brand if the closest dealer is 100 miles away. Of course, if you have a specific model or brand you need help deciding on – I’ll be glad to offer my opinion.

When you’re done here I’ll help you find the best one for you here: 2019 The Best Residential Zero Turn Mowers 

Best Zero Turn Mowers Buying Guide 2019 - How To Choose The Right One! - TodaysMower.com
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Update: April 12, 2019 The 2019 Best Zero Turn Mower Buying Guide - How to Pick The Best ZTR For You! Zero Turn Mower Buyer's Guide: Introduction This guid
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Scott
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Scott

Hi and thanks for a very informative article. I’ve moved to central Texas, and I’ve got about 10000 sq feet of lawn, plus about 2.5 acres of pasture grass, wildflowers and weeds mostly 1-2 feet high. I’ve been advised that I need to mow the field once the dry season starts here. The whole place is flat. Is there one machine that will mow the lawn every week or two, plus knock down the field once or twice a year?

Toby O
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Toby O

very helpful site, Paul! I am on a bit over 8 acres in the hill country in TX. All the land is undeveloped (aka natural growth). some rocks and stumps and bumpy, but not really hilly or big slopes. I’ve been looking for something that can withstand the occasional baseball sized rock without self destructing like my old poulon pro rider, which I literally went through 3 blades in a weekend with rock hits. I also get heavy spring growth (taller grasses and some thistles) which i can cut down with a brush hog, but normally just need something to… Read more »

Jared
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Jared

Hello, thank you for this great article! I have 5 acres with mostly hilly/sloped area and few flat areas. Which one should I look at, estate/ mid grade/ heavy duty RZT or entry level commercial/semi pro ZT? I’m looking at new Cub Cadet ZT1 Ultima kohler 7000. Is it enough?

Thanks sir!

w jones
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w jones

Hi Paul, This is a great site thank you for sharing your input. I manage a large retreat in South TX and am in the market for a new mower. We have been running a Scag with a 54 ” deck for about 18 years, I am actually very proud of it. We have practically rebuilt the entire machine once about 5 years ago only it’s not what it use to be. Our grounds keeper is wanting us to purchase a Ferris 72 inch. We are mowing about 15 Acres, that is about half smooth flat yard and half semi… Read more »

Dionne Tracy
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Dionne Tracy

Hi Paul, I own a lawn care/landscaping business in Michigan. I am looking to upgrade one of the business mowers. We started out with a new cheaper Husqvarna zero turn 24hp/54″. It was fine in the beginning because we were only cutting a small amount of lawns. Now business has more then quadrupled which is great but the Husqvarna can’t keep up anymore! So I am trying to decide between a 52″/25.5hp Ferris is2100 @ $10,371 and a Country Clipper 52″/25.5hp Challenger @ $9646. I want a well made, beefy mower that is sturdy and sticks to the ground and… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

Hi Paul, I mow 5 acres of grass and it takes me about 7 hours on and old hand me down Murray 42 inch tractor. My father in law can get it done in about 2 and a half hours on his zero turn. I’m not sure how big his deck is. I want to say 50 inches is what he told me? My yard is mostly flat, but it is pretty rough in areas. It was a farm field before we bought the place. The main things I’m looking for is a mower that can significantly increase my speed.… Read more »

Daniel J Lalli
Guest
Daniel J Lalli

Hi, I am looking to replace my jd 180lt with a zero turn. I have 3 acres with a few trees and the land is flat. Looking at ferris is600 husqvarna 554 and big boy diablo. Is this overkill for what I’m mowing?

Alex Lorack
Guest
Alex Lorack

Paul,

I’m in the market for a new zero turn. I currently have an ’07 zforce 60. I live on 1.5ac rural homestead. I was looking at a Toro 75212. Would this be a good unit or should I look more at Gravely,Hustler, or Deere? If so what are the models I should look at. If not whats a good price(Iowa) for the Toro?

Rob
Guest
Rob

Hi Paul, I have a 1/2 acre yard with combination of a large flat area, some eyedrop shaped raised garden berms to maneuver around and some slightly sloped areas on the parkway that provide a natural gutter for storm water (thus they can be pretty damp sometimes). From reading your web page I assume a 42” residential zero turn is best, but I have a few questions: (1) I plan to mulch for the most part but may need to bag sometimes if the grass is too long. I get the idea changing the mulching kit is not a simple… Read more »

Jim
Guest
Jim

Hello Paul – kudos on a great resource you have provided and continue to support! With your help, I have narrowed my focus for purchase of new ZTR, but am struggling with that final decision and hoping you could offer some feedback. I am cutting 1.5-2 acres of mildly manicured lawn, very flat, a few trees to get around and about 250′ of landscaped/mulch beds to cut around. My teenage son may start mowing some neighborhood lawns next summer, very similar profile. I live in Maryland, I want a good, quick cut. I typically spend more than minimum required, as… Read more »

Jon
Guest
Jon

Paul, you helped me decide to buy my Ariens snowblower last year and it has been awesome – thanks! Now time for a lawnmower. The only lawnmower dealer within an hour of me carries Snapper, simplicity, and Ferris (which they suggested, but can’t spent close to $6k on a mower). I have a full acre of grass to cut and an considering a Simplicity Regent tractor, maybe a Broadmoore, Snapper 360Z zero turn. I am looking for speed, and ability to tow a cart and lawn sweeper. I was also looking at Cub Cadet tractors as they’re less expensive, but… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

Hello Paul, I just purchased a house that sits on about three acres of land in Wisconsin. I have a hustler/exmark dealer walking distance from the house but also have a friend who works at a dealer about 8 miles away that may be able to work a good deal for me on a Gravely or Scag. Both are reputable dealerships but the one 8 miles away will charge to pick up and deliver the mower whereas the close dealership would pick it up for free and provide a loaner if needed. Is this type of service worth the normal… Read more »

Matthew Wyman
Guest
Matthew Wyman

I have a half acre, and a fence opening 48”. I’m looking at 3 brands: Gravely, Hustler, and Scag. It’s been suggested that I buy a Kawasaki motor, over the Kohler. It has also been suggested that I step up to the Hydro-Gear ZT-2800 because it is serviceable. Much of this seems overkill for a 1/2 acre yard, so I’m just trying to make the right decision. 1. 2018 Gravely ZTX 42” with Kohler and EZT 2200 trans for $2,899 2. 2019 Gravely ZTXL 42” with 21.5hp Kawasaki and ZT 2800 trans for $3,999 3. 2018 Hustler Raptor 42” with… Read more »

Greg
Guest
Greg

I live in the valley in Oregon and early spring mowing is tough with lots of moisture. I have been using the commercial Honda walk behind that does a great job. I bag the grass as we have a dog and don’t want the grass in the house. I’m considering a zero turn mower. Baggers look a bit expensive and questionable for doing the job with wet grass. I’m 2 hours mowing currently. I have looked at the Bad Boy mowers and Grasshopper. Can you weigh in on those and my situation?

Gary
Guest

Trying to decide between the……
Skag Freedom 52inch $5500 with Kohler 24HP
John Deere 54 inch $4800 witih 24 HP
Hustler Raptor 54 inch $4100 with Kawasaki 24 HP
My yard is clean, mostly flat ( a few mild hills), fairly smooth, some trees and mowed twice weekly.
Looking to buy new but want the one that will last the longest and do a great job. I don’t do repairs beyond the very basic. A bit more than one acre. The less money spent the better.
Thanks

Matt
Guest
Matt

Hi am interested in buying the zero turn mower I have two in mind gravely ZTHD or the grasshopper 125 I really wanted the Gravley until I drove the grasshopper but this is my first zero turn purchase. I am mowing 4 acres and was wanting a 60 inch deck and would like your input thanks in advance.

Jeremy Fultz
Guest
Jeremy Fultz

Paul, This is an amazing site full of great information! Been doing a lot of research but I’m stuck deciding on a short list of mowers. I had in mind buying the Bradley stand on but was a little anxious about how I would like the stand on style mower and the lack of local dealer support. So, I did some shopping around for one of the other top recommended mowers locally. Looking for a 54 or 52 inch. I can get a Hustler Raptor SDX for $5k out the door. Gravely HD ZT about $5500 out the door. Or… Read more »

Laurie
Guest
Laurie

Hi Paul, I have just over 2 acres and previously cut with John deere L130 slow and rough ride and alot of trimming ! I am looking to buy a new one this spring one acre is rough terrain not many trees and the other acre is fairly smooth with medium inclines and a berm also . Looking for something reliable and faster and not much trimming around trees . I am looking at ZTR in John deere and cub cadet and Toro. Any other suggestions are welcome . I have read articles where you mention Toro has best suspension… Read more »

Guido J. Borgnini
Guest
Guido J. Borgnini

Paul
i am returnng after a few years absence.
i need a replacement seat for a Sears riding tractor with low turning radius – don’t recall the model but I can look it up. The current seat causes back pain – any suggestions for brand ?

thanks, Guido

Charlie Green
Guest
Charlie Green

Hi Paul, Looking for my first ZTR. I have a little under 2 acres with some rough bumpy areas mainly due to tire ruts etc but some areas are a little sketchy as severity. Plan to smooth out over time. Not really sure what my best options would be. What do you suggest?

Thank you,

Brian
Guest
Brian

Hi Paul. I have the option to buy a Toro Timecutter HD 60″ with MyRide for $5000. It has 58hrs on it. I have about 3 mostly flat acres to mow (residential). Seem like a good deal. Do you know much about that machine?

Thanks!

tony
Guest
tony

Paul, have you heard of the World lawn diamondback mower and if so is it any good?

Jeanne
Guest
Jeanne

Help! Retired, we now mow 2 farm acreages; one 1.5 acres, another 3 to 4 acres depending on whether we rough cut the old pasture or want a cleaner look. Both are rolling acreages with some rough terrain. The larger has a 15-25% grade bank along the road. Both have several outbuildings and trees. We currently mow both with a 48″ Snapper ZT. We want a bigger mower at the larger acreage which could also mow both when needed. The farmhouse on the larger acreage rents as a BnB so we want a nice cut. At local dealers we’ve explored… Read more »

Tommy
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Tommy

Paul, Very much appreciate what you are doing with your site. I reached out to you about 2 years ago and ended up buying a Craftsman 27042 46″ riding mower. Its been a great mower for our current 1.1 acre lot with some moderate slopes. Cuts better than many of my neighbors JD’s riders. We are going to be building a home a moving next spring and the next home will have a 1.3 acre flat lot with a few trees. Do you suggest making the jump to a zero turn, or keeping the Craftsman (about 180 hrs on the… Read more »

Shari
Guest
Shari

Hi Paul, I have 1/2 acre filled with gardens with winding grass paths around them as well as some flat and slightly sloped areas. Against the advice in your article I have to go with a zero turn 34″ anything larger won’t fit my paths. I am deciding between a Gravely ZT 34″ and a Cub Cadet RZT L 34″. Got a fantastic price quote on the Cub Cadet but I’m leaning toward the Gravely because it’s seems much more heavy duty and has a larger engine. I only mulch mow and have huge trees so lots of leaves to… Read more »

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy

Well Paul, I took your advice and bought a Ryobi 480ex last year, it arrived in December, so I waited patiently, and put a good charge on the battery. Now at the end of the first season, of cutting my yard and six others ( weekly) it has stood up to the test, and past with flying colors!! I’ve noticed a few squeaks up front, near the wheels, Should I be greasing something ?

Beth
Guest
Beth

Hello Paul! I am very glad to have found your informative article, comments and feedback! We are Wisconsinites now, former Chicagoans with zero lawn, all perennials. Our 5 acres of mowing is a new world. We are trying to convert some over to prairie and have many berms. There are many trees and shrubs, as well as stumps that we still need to remove. Our yard also likes to periodically purge itself of lovely glaciated boulders which are always a shock to find. We have many invasives like buckthorn, garlic mustard etc. that I am now in a better position… Read more »

Mark Graybeal
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Mark Graybeal

Paul. I live in Delaware with 2.2 acres level yard. My12 year old cub cadet 1050 broke it’s steering rod. I have borrowed my neighbor’s zero turn several times. I am looking to replace the cc with a zero turn. I have looked at exmark radius e series, hustler raptor sd, and J-D z540 in the 4 to 5 k price range. What are your thoughts about the characteristics of each. 48 inch versus 52inch decks? The dealers each said their units would outperform the others.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Hi Brian, Fellow Wisconsinite here. I have 1.5 acres that is mostly flat. However, it is pretty bumpy. I also have a mound system and one side of a ditch (that I could leave if I really wanted to). I have about 10 trees and normal flower beds around the house. I currently have a simplicity 42″ rider that is on it’s last legs. Take me 1.5 hrs to mow. My kids also mow with my 12 year old weighing just enough to keep it running when on the seat. (But if I can get it done quicker I might… Read more »

Brian Kannady
Guest
Brian Kannady

Thanks for this article, it is extremely helpful. Do you have any thoughts on the Scag or Bob Cat homeowner models? Also, mowing 3 acres a week, will I get better value over the long term from stepping up to a commercial model, or should I stick with a heavy duty homeowner model?

Rick Andrews
Guest
Rick Andrews

Hi Paul I have a 2 acre area to mow 85-90% flat with some slopes for the rest and I was wondering which would be the better mower A Husqvarna R322T or the Ariens Ikon X42 i know the Husqvarna I am looking at is the 48 ” deck and the Ariens is the 42″ deck both have 3 blades the Ariens is a true zero turn and the Husqvarna is a close second I like the Ariens for the cut it should give and Husqvarna for the AWD so in your opinion which would be your pick Thanks for… Read more »

Brian
Guest
Brian

Hi Paul,

Do you know much about the Encore Edge 48? I have the option to buy one on CR basically new for 3600

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Brian
Guest
Brian

Hi Paul, I’m up against a 3 acre lawn, mostly flat with only a few obstacles. Would like to be able to mow as fast as possible. Looking at the Toro MX 5075 as well as the Kubota z122e. Would like to stay below $4000ish. Any hesitations about these models? Have also looked at the Ariens IkonX, but thinking that may be too light for my needs. Any advice would be appreciated!

AJ Levesque
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AJ Levesque

Paul, thank you for this article. My John Deer D110 just blew on me yesterday. So I am looking to switch to a ZTR. I have little over an acre with some slope and few trees. There is a dealer for Big Dog mowers around corner from me. I am look at the Alpha model 42″ $2,999 plus 15% off. It has a kholer 7,000 series had/22hp. I do not want to go to big box stores I used to work at Home Depot and I know most of that stuff is not great. Any direction would be appreciated.

Neil
Guest
Neil

Great article I am glad I ran into this on my search. I have a question and would like your advice. I have about 4 acres of previously farmed land that I leveled myself with my JD 1026 and have been mowing with that tractor for the last 3 years. I am ready to move to a zero turn to help speed up the process. I have steep slope near the house where I created a walkout and the rest is flat. I have a 1 acre pond to mow around and a tree line and about 12 trees. I… Read more »

Ed R.
Guest
Ed R.

Ferris are very big here in upstate NY. It’s about all you see commercial operators using. Of course they are also made here.

I don’t think the deck bonces like you think. It dose follow the contour of the ground but it is independent of the frame. Here’s a video I found showing how it works.

Bill
Guest
Bill

Paul, I enjoyed your article and, like others, I’m struggling with the right ZTR to buy. I have about 4+ acres to mow, mostly flat, but with a berm bordering our road (I could just mow with push mower or weed wack) and a slight drop off toward the back of the property (not steep). There are a number of trees, a fence, gardens, house and driveway. I have a few dealerships in the area: Exmark, John Deere, Gravely, Kubota, Toro and BobCat. I’m thinking that a 60″ deck and to reduce cutting time; I have a compact tractor with… Read more »

Warren
Guest
Warren

Hi Paul, I’m currently using a 20yr old John Deere lawn tractor with a 48″ deck. It takes about 6hours to do our property in Alberta. We have wide open areas and also lots of pie shaped areas and obstacles where I’m hoping a zero turn can really save some time. There is a bit of ditch to mow but 90% is flat or gentle hills. Other than the 1/2 acre by the house I’m just trying to quickly keep the grass generally neat. I have dealerships nearby that sell John Deere, cub cadet, gravely, and husqvarna. There is also… Read more »

Frank Marinelli
Guest
Frank Marinelli

Hello Paul. I used your advice 4 years ago when I purchased my first zero turn. I live close to Philadelphia and I have approximately 2.5 acres to mow. Roughly 1.5 acres are slightly sloped and there are a few significant slopes in there to accommodate a walk out basement and my sewage sand mound. I would not categorize my lawn as super smooth but I would not call it rough either, there are definitely some spots where I bounce pretty good in the seat, but overall it is an average lawn. My current ZT is a 2014 Husqvarna MZ52… Read more »

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Beth Cobleigh
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Beth Cobleigh

Thank you for an excellent article on Zero Turn Mowers. We have ~1-1.5 acres to mow and are considering the Gravely ZT HD 48 with 25hp and a Bob-Cat CRZ 48 with 20hp. Are front yard is flat and our back yard has a very slight slope on one side of our pool (do not know degree). I’ve been told the Gravelys have problems on slopes- true?

In your article, you did not talk about HP and it’s importance which I’m curious about- please explain pros & cons to higher HP.

Thank you, Beth

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Warren
Guest
Warren

Hi Paul, Thanks for a whole bunch of information. I live in Canada and in the market for a new zero turn. we have approx 2 acres to cut with some obstacles (trees, landscaping etc). I think i have narrowed down the choices to either a Kubota or Toro. Kubota, one of 4 models, Z125SKH-54 (25 hp kohler engine, ZT3100 trans, 22 inch rear tires, 54″ fabricated deck $7300) Z121SKH-48 (21 hp kohler engine, ZT3100 trans, 22 inch rear tires, 48″ fabricated deck $6300) Z421KW-54 (25 hp kawasaki engine GH7301V, ZT3600 trans, 24 inch rear tires, fabricated deck $8500) Z411KW-48… Read more »

Charlie
Guest
Charlie

Hello Paul. I am looking for a mower and would like your help. I currently have an older Husqvarna articulating rider that is nearing retirement. It is a fun rider but cannot handle my ditch. I have 1.2 acres with 15 trees, flower beds and a playset. The ground is flat but not perfectly flat. I also have a 200′ long ditch at roughly 30 degrees. I am an hour south of Chicago and have dealers for Exmark, Toro, Husqvarna, Cub Cadet and Bradley near me. I would like to stay under $4k.
Thanks Charlie

Khan
Guest
Khan

Hello Paul; I have 0.6 acre lot to mow. I was thinking of buying ZTR. This is my first lawn mower and first lawn mowing experience. I tried my neighbor’s ZTR and it was ok to ride but I need more practice. With so many brands; not sure which one to buy. Should I buy ZTR? Which one? I have some trees and rocks on the property.

Cleve M
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Cleve M

Paul…I have 2 acres in Central Washington State, 60% of it is a 15 to 21% grade. The grass is a fescue and rye I believe and very hard cutting. I have 7 fruit trees and some rock outcroppings at one end of the property that are on a 12% slope. Everything else is mostly smooth going. As far as brands, I can get just about anything as this is farm/ orchard country. I have gone thru two Sears mowers and one small army tank! I was looking at the Troy-Bilt Mustang Pivot 46″ with the steering wheel. Sounds like… Read more »

mungomaxwell
Guest
mungomaxwell

Paul – Thanks for all this great information. I have about 1.5 acres, flat but many trees and other obstructions. Thought a 46″ would do it. Ones most available around here are the Poulans and Husqvarna. Any difference between them and would you recommend either or should I keep looking? I understand that they are both the same company. Finally, my shed has a 48″ door way. Will these fit, or do I need to drop to a 42″?
Thanks
Mungo

Bob G
Guest
Bob G

OMG, you’ve helped so many people with their choices. Hopefully you can help one more who is suffering from analysis paralysis. Here is what I’m up against. I have a shed that I store my mower in that will allow a 42″ cutting deck mower (the shed has a 47″ doorway). I’d also like something that accommodates a bagger. I want the ZRT b/c I live on 2 acres (mostly level) with lots of trees/obstacles. From what I’ve read, I think I’d like to get something w/o the Briggs & Stratton (which, unfortunately is what the JD Z345R has). The… Read more »

SgtScar51
Guest
SgtScar51

I live just outside of San Antonio, TX and have a small miniature horse farm (@13 acres). I have a Massey Ferguson Tractor with a 6 foot bush hog to take care of the pasture with. I have about eight small enclosures and about an acre of lawn around the main house to mow a total of about 2 acres between them. I have had 4 regular lawn tractors in 15 years and all have not lasted well so I thought I’d give a zero turn tractor a try since I can get them with a lot higher horse power… Read more »

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