What’s The Best Lawn Tractor Deck Size For Me and My Yard?

What’s The Best Deck Size For Me and My Yard?

I know my grammer is a little off but I wanted you to understand that finding the right deck size for your lawn is both a practical choice and a personal choice. There are many factors that go into deciding what is the best deck size and I’ll go through those factors before we discuss the decks sizes themselves.

by: Paul Sikkema

How big is your lawn? I like to keep my mowing and trimming under 2 hours a week.

  • A typical lawn tractor will mow well about 3 mph.
  • Yard Tractor/Garden Tractor about 4-5 mph.
  • Residential Zero-Turn 4-5 mph.
  • Landowner Zero-Turn 6-7 mph.
  • Commercial Zero-Turn 6-10 mph.

Using this productivity chart I can determine how much a lawn tractor will mow.  So for my one acre lawn a deck around 42 inches is the best size. Go Here For The Chart: Acreage Chart

Is your lawn flat and level? If you lawn is flat and level you can use larger decks. If your lawn has slopes, ruts, swales, ditches and mounds a smaller deck will give you a more even cut. Lawn tractors (except Simplicity) with decks 48 inches and larger use floating decks and they tend to give you an uneven cut going across slopes and over mounds.

Do you have slopes? How many? How Steep? If your lawn has slopes less than 10 degrees just about any lawn tractor will mow your lawn. The quality of the cut is based on the cost of the mower and how well the deck is designed. If your lawn is steeper a smaller 42-46 inch deck is easier to control and will mow evenly without tilting and gouging on the downhill side as you cut. There are a few lawn tractors over $2300 that have traction control or locking differentials that help you get up and down these steeper hills easier. (Always mow up and down slopes with a lawn tractor. This is different than mowing with a walk-behind mower)

How many landscape beds, trees and driveways do you have? How wide is the space between the areas you trim around?  Figure the width of the deck and the discharge chute when determining if a deck will fit. A Craftsman Yard Tractor with the 6 inch turn tight steering and a 46 inch deck is 52 inches (width of deck and discharge chute)

Do you circle each tree and bush when you mow? I have a group of 40 pine trees that I mow. I go through once or twice a season and use a garden rake to clean an 18 inch circle around each tree. That way I don’t have to circle each tree when I mow. I can pretty much mow in straight lines that way. If you do circle each tree or bush consider a 46 inch or larger deck. The deck sticks out the side of the mower far enough so you may be able to just circle the tree once. Lawn tractors with turning radius less than 14 inches really help here.

Do you have fenced in areas? How big are the gates? Do you have small areas tucked in behind patios, bushes, or buildings? I have one area that has 34 inch gate and one area with an 8 foot gate. I need a 30 inch mower to get through the 34 inch gate. If you have a side gate from the front to back yard, a dog yard, grass inside your garden fence consider how large a deck you can get through those areas. If you have an area of grass between two landscape features and you want to mow it with your riding mower be sure the deck is small enough.

Do you want to use a string trimmer and/or walk-behind to trim areas where your mower can’t go? I built my landscape beds so there is enough room to go between them with a 46 inch deck. I have changed my yard to the point where I only need about 10 minutes of trimming with a Cordless Line Trimmer. I can mow and trim everything else with the lawn tractor. Plastic, Metal, Wood, Mulch, Rock and Chemical Edging all can be used to separate your lawn to reduce trimming around your landscape beds and other obstructions in your yard. I use a growth retarder along the chain link fence around the dog yard so I only have to trim there once a month.

What type of grass do you have? Do you want to mulch?  Southern bent grasses that are cut short need smaller decks. Smaller decks are easier to keep level and give a better cut. Midwestern bluegrass/fescue lawns can use any size deck for mowing but all of the 3 blade decks have issues for mulching. If you want to mulch a 2 bladed deck works the best.

Common Deck Sizes:

Deck sizes and why you may want that size deck. I am only going to discuss residential/homeowner mower decks. Commercial decks are designed for higher ground speeds. For example a 36 inch commercial deck can mow as much in one hour as a 54 inch homeowner deck. Note: Use this data to give yourself an accurate estimation of how long it will take. These times are figured on 80% productivity which takes into account overlapping each pass you mow, turns and trimming.  If a retailer lists how much their mower can mow it is usually based on 100% width, no turns and no overlap.

Mowing at 3 mph. If your deck will mow at 4 mph you can add 10% to the amount you can cut per hour.

28-30 inch single bladed decks:  3/4 acre and hour. My one acre acre home takes about 1 1/2 hours to mow with a 30 inch deck because I have 40 trees, 14 landscape beds and a dog yard for obstructions. These decks cut, bag and mulch well but none of the riding mowers are very agile compared to the Craftsman YT3000. If you have a really small lawn consider them, but if you have a lot of trees to go around look at a 42 inch because none of the 30 inch riders have a small turning radius.

38 inch, 2 bladed decks: Less than 1 acre per hour. The main issue with these decks is the overall quality of the current lawn tractors. Lawn tractors like the Yard Man and Bolens are just cheap machines and the quality of cut is average to poor.

42 inch, 2 bladed decks: About 1 acre per hour. This is the most common size deck. It works well for lawns up to 2 acres and all the manufactures make both quality machines and economy lawn tractors in this size.

46 inch, 2 bladed decks:  About 1.2 acres per hour. 46 inch, 2 bladed decks generally give you the best cut. They mulch well and bag well. If you have hills and want to put chains on your rear tires there is not enough clearance between the deck and rear tires. The chains will hit the deck.  You will have to go to a 42 inch or 48 inch, 3 bladed deck.

46, inch 3 bladed decks: About 1.1 acres per hour. This deck is obsolete, but you will find this size on older, used lawn tractors. They side discharge well but do not bag well. Most were never designed to mulch and you will have problems finding specialty blades.

48, inch 3 bladed decks: About 1.2 acres per hour. A quite a few of these decks are still sold. Consumer Reports lists these with the larger decks because they generally don’t mow as evenly as the 42 and 46 inch decks.  Only decks that have internal baffles mulch well. (Usually a $100 option)

Baffled Deck

Baffles keep the grass under the deck for mulching

54, inch 3 bladed decks: About 1.4 acres per hour. 54 inch decks are very common. They are floating decks so the edge between each swath is not always even because they tilt and bounce around, but if you are mowing large areas this shouldn’t be a reason not to buy one. Don’t buy one if you intend to mulch unless the deck has a special mulching kit available that includes internal baffles. (These kits cost over $100) The reason these are not good mulching decks is they are designed to side discharge well. They have large air intakes in the top of the decks that allow the decks to lift the grass and cut it. They then discharge the clippings and all that air out the side discharge.   When you plug the discharge with a mulch plug all that air still has to go somewhere and it usually comes out the right front of the deck. On a nice day these clippings get thrown up and over you and the tractor. These decks disperse the clippings well and bag well.

What else would you like to know? Ask away in the comments below.

Price:

Once you have figured out what is the best size and type of mower then determine how much you want to spend. There is a wide price range of mowers in every size. Here are 4 lists to help you get started

2015 Lawn Tractors under $1500
2015 Lawn Tractors over $1500
2015 Residential Zero Turn Mowers (R-ZTR)
2015 Landowner Zero Turn Mowers (L-ZTR)

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94 Comments on "What’s The Best Lawn Tractor Deck Size For Me and My Yard?"

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James
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James

Are there any mowers that have a higher cutting height of more then 4 inches deck height max

Chip Sommer
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Chip Sommer
Hi Paul. Great site. I’m starting a small residential (to start) mowing/landscaping business. I’m looking for a few good options as to make/model/deck size (recommendations) in the Houston area for my first commercial mower. Did this 20 yrs ago to pay my way thru university, but am unfamiliar with new technology. Flat, trees, fences, beds only obstacles likely dealing with. Currently have two standard 24in Snapper walk behinds. Looking for something that will get me thru the first year or two and then I’ll have a better idea of my needs. Cheers for the input. — Chip Loading...
Mike
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Mike

Paul. I have option to buy toro zero sw. Either 42 or 50. Close to same price. What would give me better cut. Feel for same price should get bigger mower. Storage and gates etc not issue. What would u do. Mike.

Gary
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Gary

Howdy. I live north of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country. I have about 2.5 acres that I mow when we get rain and sometimes when we don’t. The area is mostly flat with some areas of rock (that I try to avoid).
I currently have a Grasshopper Model 721 with a 52″ mowing deck but it seems that every year I am spending $$$ to get it operable. Thinking about buying something new. What do you suggest? Thank you in advance.

Mary
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Mary

Paul, I am getting ready to order a 2016 John Deere X739. What is your opinion on the new Accel mower decks? I am trying to decide between the 48″ Accel and the 54″ regular deck. I have lots of hills and trees and fence and I am getting ready to turn about a half acre of my side yard into a lavender patch with over 1000 plants. I like the idea of a rear discharge mulching mower that is not too wide. Thank you.

Paul S
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Paul S

Howdy Paul! I have 3 acres flat with no obstacles. But its a bumpy ride. My old Murry has bit the dust. What’s out there for a smooth ride and good cutting?

Alan
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Alan
Hi Paul, purchased a entry level tight-turn Craftsman YT 3000 (paid around $1,000) about 6 years ago after reviews on this site. It worked great, but after moving to a new home, with a slightly larger irregular shaped yard (close to 1 acre), mostly flat with a gradual slope (but bumpy) lawn, I’m looking for something that provides a even/smooth cut and handles the lawn better (preferably would like to mulch). I have a mulch kit on my mower, but the mower doesn’t seem to mulch well (must go slow and still clumps), so I mostly use side discharge. I… Read more »
Ken
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Paul,

Not sure if site is still active. But, was wondering how a Toro Timemaster 30 inch would do going over moderate roots on a tree. Most of yard is flat. The roots are my only concern.

Leah Thomason
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Leah Thomason
Hello Paul, I’m so glad I found your site! I have been mowing my yard in Arkansas with a very old, dilapidated, not-real-reliable White riding mower that I bought used (I thought it was going to be very temporary, but it turned out to be eight years!) My poor mower has finally exhausted itself to death. Now I have to buy another mower, and I want something (new) and as sturdy and reliable as I can on a limited budget. My yard is pretty uneven, tree roots and some slight hills in the back. I have around 1.5 acres, give… Read more »
Jim Bollibon
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Jim Bollibon
Paul, I have a flat 1.5 acre lawn with some trees and landscaping. Since 1990 I have been using a Sears 18 Hp-44″ model 917.2559101 tractor. It has a dual range 3 speed transmission and has been very reliable. I also use it to move a small 14′ boat and trailer from the backyard storage area to the driveway and to haul mulch and firewood with a small trailer. The yard is flat, but has a lot of mature trees with exposed roots causing a bumpy ride! I have never babied it and also use it to chip up any… Read more »
Paul R
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Paul R

Hi Paul:
Always had a push mower. My new lot is 1 acre. Steep Slope!!! Maybe 30 degrees from front of house to the road. Need some riding mower advice. Tractor will be only for mowing and pulling a garden cart. no attachments. Do not plan on mulching the fescue either. Open to a 46-54 inch deck.
Paul R in Spring Hill, TN

Augie
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Augie
Howdy Paul, I’m about to move into our new home on 5 acres in the foothills of east TN. Minus the house and a fairly level surrounding lawn, there’s a good 4 acres of open pasture that we plan to use for our horses. Some of it has slopes and a couple of them are moderately steep somewhat greater than 20 degrees. A lot of that pasture also has ruts which need to be mitigated. I’ll also need to pull light to moderate cargo, i.e mature spreader, cargo wagon for some bails of hay, aerator, etc. I’m torn between a… Read more »
DominicT
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DominicT
I recently purchased a home with about 3/4 of an acre of ground, flat and level with just a bit of minor slope to the front yard and not many obstacles or landscaping issues. I own a snow blower so I don’t plan to plow with the mower. I may pull a small yard cart infrequently. I have been torn between a basic riding mower like a Craftsman/Ariens/Poulan Pro/Troy Bilt 19-20 HP 46″ deck or something a bit beefier like a Husqvarna YTH24V48 or V46. I don’t know whether to go with a B&S V Twin or Kohler. Most of… Read more »
Dietz Gregory
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Dietz Gregory

Paul great site! From Cincinnati,OH I have just under an acre with lots of trees,beds, 1 small incline. Will do some light hauling and maybe the 14″ snow blade for a 100′ driveway.I was looking at the 20381. now I see they have a new model out for 2015. Is one better than the other? Should I go to the next size motor? When does sears traditionally have the best deals on yard tractors?
Thanks
Greg

Jack Niemyer
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Jack Niemyer

Jack Niemyer
Laytonsville, MD

Looking at a John Deere X540. What size deck 48 or 54. I have two acres with some hillside and plan on using a mulching kit.
Leaning toward the 48 based on what I have read.
Appreciate your thoughts.
Thanks

Stewart Guthrie
Guest
Hey Paul, Contracting you from Penryn, CA. Thank you so much for the work you do on this site. I went from not even thinking about a riding mower in the ‘burbs to five acres of land, an acre of which is lawn. To say I became very focused on your opinions is an understatement… To my question, and I don’t know if this is the best place for it or not, so please forgive me: I acquired a Craftsman DGS6500/917.28746 used with about 300 hours for a good price. I had to remove the 54″ deck to transport it… Read more »
Sara
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Sara
Hello Paul! I have about 5 acres in Southern warm season grasses–Bahia and Bermuda. They grow very fast if there is rain. There are also some tough weeds here and there and small trees trying to sprout in some areas. There is a slope to some areas and lot of trees and fences to mow around. I have a garden cart and a DR dirt mover (sort of like a drag behind box blade) that I would like to use on an uneven hilly driveway. It requires at least 20hp and a 400lb Mower. I never want to mow more… Read more »
Michael K.
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Michael K.

where is the gas tank on the 20381? Someone told me it’s better to have it in the rear of the tractor for better stability.

Michael K.
Guest
Michael K.

Would the twin allow me to pull mulch and other items easier?

Michael K.
Guest
Michael K.

Would the walk behind be faster than a tractor? My 4 year old son just asked “Dad but what about hay rides”?

Michael K.
Guest
Michael K.

Does the electric require a trickle charger when not in use? Never had an electric start before.

Michael K.
Guest
Michael K.

My new house is on just over 3/4 acre. Front and back lawn have no obstacles. Would a 30 inch push work. If so what would you recommend. I have a Toro and Exmark dealer close by.

lisa
Guest
lisa

I was needing to know what other mower deck will interchange with a john deere deck

Bob
Guest

Hi Paul,

Looking at the Husqvarna – YT42LS or the YT46LS – The price difference here is $100. Does the bigger engine make less noise? Why go with one or the other? 2 acres or so. One is a soccer field the other on a slope with some dips.

Thanks,

Bob

Nicole
Guest
Nicole
Hi Paul, Thank you for taking the time to develop this website as the info is quite useful. I am new to lawn tractors and have been reviewing for a while. Some things I understand and others I just don’t. I live in FL on a 3/4 acre lot without rocks and with a few fruit trees to navigate around but I don’t mind having to cut then go back with my trimmer/edger/weed eater. I am unable to spend big bucks on a new lawn tractor and simply looking for a good used one. I have a slight slope…..doubt it… Read more »
Steven
Guest
Steven

What’s your thoughts on the 2014 Craftsman 54 Inch Model 20414 Zero Turn Riding Mower as far as is it good for mulching or using a bagger, where as reading about deck sizes, it says 54 decks are better for bagging, but wanted to see about this one ztr mower.

Karen Fteist
Guest
Karen Fteist

Chesterfield, MI
I currently mow with a Simplicity that has a 38″ deck. It is very old, and I will most likely be purchasing a new one this year. However, I cannot afford another Simplicity at this time.
I am cutting an acre of grass with a lot of edged flower beds and mature trees to cut around. The current mower deck size is difficult getting around the beds.
Can you recommend a good mower for me and a deck size?
Thanks for your help
Karen

CCinJoCo
Guest
CCinJoCo

It has the rocker pedal.

CCinJoCo
Guest
CCinJoCo

Clayton NC. I have used a Murray Select 42 inch from Lowes since 2002. It looks like it has seen its last season. I really loved the fact that I had one foot pedal for forward and reverse and it would mow in reverse and it did a decent job mulching once I started using Gator blades. What is a comparable machine on today’s market? The Murray site lists the 42 inch select but WalMart sez it is out of stock…..

diana gallagher
Guest
diana gallagher
Thank you for this site. It has a wealth of information. 20 years ago, I moved to AR and maintain 2 acres that sits on top of a hill. 1 acre is fairly flat but the remaining acre is on a slope that ranges from 15 degrees up to 40 degrees. Rocks and tree roots are a problem. I recently sold the Hustler and was not happy with it’s performance on the slopes. I am surrounded by woods and would love to be able to mulch and pick up the leaves as well for the compost. I appreciate any advise… Read more »
Eugenia
Guest
Eugenia

Hi Paul, Thanks a lot for your answer, the yard does have some areas with more than the 15 degrees slope, Ideally I would not want to spent more than 2K on a riding lawn mower but I do want to buy one that is for the task and that will last. Can you help me with the options?… even if I need to stretch out the budget…. Also what is the advantage of a zero turn?

Eugenia
Guest
Eugenia

Hi, I have 3.7 acres a little hilly. What would be good options for me & my lawn?

Steve
Guest
Steve

I want a new Zero Turn mower and just sold my 2005 Jazee One 42 inch. Which Zero Turn will last me as long as the one I just sold?

Nick
Guest
Nick

Hi. My lifestyle block is quite rough. Bumps will put a stain on the transmission and steering. There are also occasional rocks and roots that I cannot seem to avoid. It would probably suit a tow behind mower with swing blades but I cannot afford to buy the mower and a quad bike to pull it. I have been using a John Deere LA110 and it has managed but has taken a battering and is getting to the end of its life. What would you recommend I look for? Cheers

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