Best Zero Turn Mowers Buying Guide 2018 – How To Choose The Right One!

The 2018 Best Zero Turn Mower Buyer’s Guide – How to Pick The Best ZTR For You!

Update: March 1, 2018

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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

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: $3000-$5000 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

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: $5000-$8000 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.

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.

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. 

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.

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Ed R.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 »

Brett
Guest
Brett

I could use some help with picking out a mower for sure! There are so many options! I live in Arkansas and grow rocks like weeds, lol. We are surrounded by the National forest and have about 4 acres we mow with numerous trees and other things to go around. It’s mostly flat except around the tree bases. We have been using a plain JD 38″ lawn tractor that takes us a good solid day to get the mowing done. I’m looking to cut that mowing time down and do it with a mower that I’m not constantly replacing parts… Read more »

Badri
Guest
Badri

Paul – sorry meant to ask you about this one – http://www.homedepot.com/Toro-TimeCutter-50-in-24-5-HP-V-Twin-Zero-Turn-Riding-Mower-with-Smart-Speed-74731/205818770. Would you recommend this one vs SS4225?

Badri
Guest
Badri

Paul, Thanks for a very informative & comprehensive article. I recently moved to Doylestown, PA & bought a property which is 1.06 acres. The land is flat with no inclines but have ~ 15 trees in the front & back. I also have a fence running around my back yard. I had a honda push mower previously & have never used a ZTR before. After some research online I have narrowed it down that I need a 42 ” ZTR. I have a dealer nearby offering Toro Timecutter SS4200 or a Cub Cadet ( with a steering wheel). I also… Read more »

Bob
Guest
Bob

Paul, thanks for the information you have on your website. I currently have an old Toro Z5000 and want to upgrade. I have about 2 acres that I mow around my house. I’ve pretty much decided on staying with Toro. I hear a lot of good about Exmark but found out they are basically the same machines, just a little different price tag. I am trying to decide between a Timecutter MX series, Timecutter HD series, or Titan HD 1500 series. The Titan HD 1500 series seem to run about 1500 to 1800 more than the MX series. Are they… Read more »

Deb
Guest
Deb

Paul – We have 2.5 acres, mostly flat, but some small hills around our culvert. We have trees spread out throughout our 2.5 acres. Looking at our local Home Depot to purchase and deliver. I’m thinking somewhere between 48-54″. Also looking to spend $2000-$3000. Suggestions?

Jeff Theall
Guest

Thanks Paul! I just bought a new house w/roughly 2.5 acres to mow. Most of it is flat, but there are a few small mole hills in the front. I currently have a 2010 JD LA 105, w/42″ deck and new bagging blades. I only have 50 hrs. on it, so selling it should be easy. I used it last week to get the last remaining crab grass, henbit and other weeds off before I treat the lawn. It took me well over 3 hours to get almost all of it done. I’m torn between buying a new eXmark, or… Read more »

Rick Bean
Guest
Rick Bean

Paul, Great web site …I appreciate your insight…There are so many ztr mowers out there. I have 1 acre with about a half dozen trees and some landscaping obstacles to deal with. I am leaning towards a 42 inch to provide maneuverability. I have it narrowed down to the Ariens IKON and the Hustler RAPTOR. I have noticed that the Ariens IKON has Kawasaki engine at 18.5 HP while the Raptor has a Kawasaki engine at 23 HP. I like the way the Ariens rides and some of its other amenities however I am worried about the different size HP… Read more »

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

Paul, I just moved to a place that has about 5 acres to mow. Live on a hillside so will be going up and down a hill constantly (not too steep for a ZTR but a hill nonetheless). I’ve been looking at the 2018 Gravely ZT-XL 60 and the ZT-HD 60. We will be living here for long long time and I want the mower I pick to last. The HD is about $1000 more than the XL, is it worth the price to get the HD? I’ve also looked into a Husqvarna MZ 61.

Mr. M
Guest
Mr. M

Paul, i’m curious as to what your thoughts are on the Bad Boy 42″ MZ and 48″ MZ Magnum. Went to a dealer and he really pushed the 48″ model. Probably a little too big but was actually cheaper since they would have to order a 42 plus shipping. Consumer Reports doesn’t rate them so not sure if that is a red flag or not? Thanks!

Mike Cummings
Guest
Mike Cummings

Hi Paul, I have narrowed my ZT search and I’m about to buy a Gravely ZTHD 52. I cut a little over 2 acres per week. Some grass is rough pasture type and some fine. Any thoughts on this model? I’ve seen many good reviews and a few not so good. This model appears close to a commercial machine and costs about $5100. Thanks for any input you may have. I do know Ariens bought Gravely, and they have been around for 100 years so that should count for something. Thanks, -Mike in RI

Alan
Guest
Alan

What are your thoughts on the Simplicity Courier in either the 42 or 44″ deck. I think some of the Curiers have a Briggs engine and others a Kawasaki? What other models would these be comparable to? Thanks!

Casey
Guest
Casey

Hi Paul, What a great website, this has been a huge help. I think I’ve narrowed down my search to the cub cadet RZT SX 42. Yard is around an acre with about a 15 degree slope in the back. It looks like they offer a Kohler 7000 twin or a cub 679cc efi engine. What engine would you suggest I know the efi has advatanges but haven’t been used in mowers for that long. Would it be worth getting the 46” for the fabricated deck?
Thanks again.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hey Paul,

I’m looking for a zero turn mower for residential use, about 1 acre. Yard is smooth and I would also possibly like to bag. I was looking at the CUB RZT-L 46H FAB, TORO TimeCutter MX4200, or ARIENS IKON X 52 in. 23 HP Kawasaki. Do you prefer one of these over the others, or should I be looking at something else? If I should look at others, what do you suggest in the $2-3,000 range from HD/Lowes?

Thanks for your help!

Garret
Guest
Garret

Hi Paul. I’m in Bremerton Washington and mow from March through November. I have a flat 1 and 1/2 acre of smooth thick lawn to mow with no trees or obstacles other than the house centered on the lawn. Due to overcast and rain here in the Pacific Northwest we can’t wait for the grass to be dry before mowing which is robbing too much time from my family with my 21hp Troybuilt tractor. In the “Commercial/Pro section of your article you mentioned “all weather conditions”. Do I need to step up to a full on Pro-grade mower to mow… Read more »

Adam
Guest
Adam

What do you think of the Country Clipper Mowers. I had a chance to look at a couple the other day and really liked it. The problem is I can’t find seem to find much info on them. What are your thoughts about them? Are the pivoting front axle worth the money or is it kind of gimmicky? I thought the axel would work better in the couple small drainage ditches that I half to mow.
Thanks.

chase
Guest
chase

I just moved into a house this past month that is just smaller than an acre, mostly flat but has close to 40 trees and is mostly fescue which looks beautiful but yikes!! I know you have mentioned smaller deck mowers tend to tear up the yard easier so I was looking at 46”. I am looking at Club Cadet, Husqvarna and Toro as my top three choices. Do you have a preference of the 3 or any other brands I’m not considering. Between the trees, the fescue and the size of the yard I have a lot to consider.… Read more »

Deborah
Guest
Deborah

Hi Paul –
From your comments below you are not a fan of the Raptor thru Lowes-What about the Ariens Ikon X 52″ thru Lowes- are there also assembly/small issues as you mention re: Hustler Raptor? I currently have a 2004 Hustler Fastrak 52″ – I’m looking to replace as the maintenance issues are starting to add up-

Kevin Paul
Guest
Kevin Paul

Paul, I live in South Louisiana on the edge of a swamp and I am looking for a HIGHLY durable ZTR for some consistently rough terrain (the damn craw fish keep making dirt mounds in my swamp like back yard). I have some pecan trees that drop a lot of small sticks and 2 1/2 acres to cut. My Toro timecutter Z5000 has done well but after 10 years it is time to replace it. I am thinking i need a thicker / welded deck to help knock down the small dirt mounds and wider tires for traction in the… Read more »

Alan
Guest
Alan

Trying to compare the Craftsman 20411 42 “and the Troy-Bilt Mustang 42” ZTR’s. Curious as to what your thoughts are on these or is there another comparable model to consider? I have just over a 1/2 acre with about 8 obtsacles to mow around.

Thanks

Mr. Ron
Guest
Mr. Ron

I have about 5 acres of pretty flat terrain. About 2 acres has many trees to go around. Right now, I have a 46″ Husqvarna lawn tractor. It keeps breaking down, often before finishing the job. I think I need a ZTR mower. What would you recommend that will last and not cost too much. My son has an Exmark that works great for him. He bought it used and I’m also leaning in the same direction. There is an Exmark dealer in my area and he has used ZTR’s in on trade. Being retired, mowing speed is not a… Read more »

greg Dixon
Guest
greg Dixon

Why am I not seeing as many steering wheel ZTRs at the store these days? Neither my local Home Depot nor Lowes has them in stock as they did in years past and I noticed last year that there were fewer than the year before. They have fewer online to choose from for custom ordering as well.

When I first saw the steering wheel ZTRs I thought for sure that the days of the lap bar were numbered… at least for the lower end models designed for the residential homeowner living on a smaller lot.

cmunoz
Guest
cmunoz

Great read Paul. Still trying to comb through everything to make my decision. I have been between the John Deere e170 and equivalent ZTR from JD. I have about an acre that is a very mild slope only so relatively flat. I want something that will get the job done well and will last. It seems like I would get a bigger engine and deck with the e170 than equivalent ZTR and does that relate to longevity. Looking for an unbiased thought. Thank you for your posts!

Josh Church
Guest
Josh Church

Hi Paul thanks for giving us your opinion on the information above. I have a quick question I just recently bought 1.57 acres mostly flat at the bottom of the property where I’m going to be building my home. I do have a pretty decent size hill going to the back of my property and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Scag Liberty Z . I’m leaning towards the 52 in with the 23hp Kawasaki.

victor
Guest
victor

Hi Paul , I’m looking to buy a new ZRT I mow about 2acre it is a little rough and slight slope. I have been looking at the SCAG patriot mower. I mow it now with 72″ belly mower on my tractor. Is this a mower that I can get many years of use out of?

Tim
Guest
Tim

Great Paul, thanks so much for the info and the quick response!

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