Best Ride-On Mowers
If you’re tired of pushing your round a huge garden, a reliable ride-on mower could save you time, labour and buckets of sweat. But since these backyard beauties don’t come cheap, it can be helpful to know what to look out for before shelling out the big bucks on your lawn care.
The Razorback All Terrain range of mowers feature a front-positioned mechanical drive train that makes light work of heavy-duty cutting jobs - including on steep acreages.
Price (RRP) $12,490.00 to $22,990.00
Powerful, hard-working engine
Works well on hills
Not as effective on manicured lawns
- Build Quality4.1 (10)
- Value for Money4.2 (10)
- Ease of Use4.9 (10)
- Cleaning & Maintenance 3.7 (10)
- Safety4.7 (9)
- Noise Level4.0 (9)
- Engine Displacement389 cc to 653 cc
- FeaturesDeck Clean-out Port
- Catcher Type None
- Cutting Deck MaterialsSteel
- Zero Turn No
The AS-Motor AS 940 Sherpa 4WD is a permanent 4-wheel drive ride-on mower that offers faultless performance, according to reviewers.
Price (RRP) $27,000.00
Slashes through overgrown grass and weeds
Remains stable on steeper slopes
- Build Quality5.0 (8)
- Value for Money4.6 (8)
- Ease of Use5.0 (8)
- Cleaning & Maintenance 5.0 (8)
- Safety4.9 (8)
- Noise Level3.8 (8)
- Engine NamesBriggs & Stratton, 44 Professional Series 8, V-Twin
- Engine Types4-Stroke and OHV (Overhead Valve)
- Engine Displacement724 cc
- Cutting Deck MaterialsSteel
- Zero Turn No
- Transmission TypeHydrostatic
- Horsepower22.4 hp
- Max Speed6.2 km/hr
- Dimensions 1520 x 980 x 1910 mm
- Award Winner 2021
The compact yet effective Rover Mini Rider fits through standard-width gates, and is easy to store - but doesn’t compromise on cutting power.
Price (RRP) $2,699.00 to $3,199.00
Compact, narrow design
Tight turning circle
Easy to use
- Build Quality3.9 (14)
- Value for Money4.1 (14)
- Ease of Use3.9 (14)
- Cleaning & Maintenance 3.9 (14)
- Safety4.7 (12)
- Noise Level4.0 (12)
- Engine TypesOHV (Overhead Valve)
- Engine Displacement382 cc
- FeaturesSide Discharge and Deck Clean-out Port
- Catcher Type None
- Cutting Deck MaterialsSteel
- Zero Turn No
These John Deere ride-on mowers offer more than just a reputable brand name - according to reviewers, they are reliable, durable and get the job of cutting large lawns right.
Price (RRP) $5,632.00 to $11,999.00
The RZT Zero Turns range from Cub Cadet offers effective 4-wheel steering and zero-turn agility, to make ride-on mowing experiences smoother and more enjoyable.
Price (RRP) $5,699.00 to $7,399.00
Is it worth buying a ride-on mower?
Zipping around on a ride-on mower definitely looks like it beats the back-breaking work of pushing around a mower under the hot sun (and needing about twenty ice-cold lemonades or beers to cool down afterwards).
However, ride-ons are the most expensive type of lawn mowers you can buy - starting at around $3, 000 and ranging to well over $15, 000. So it makes sense to spend some time thinking about whether you really need a ride-on mower to take care of your lawns.
- Quicker to use than a push mower. Their cutting widths are much larger (27-46 inches), compared to standard push mower cutting widths (around 18-19 inches).
- Less labour intensive than using a push mower.
- Good heavy-duty or all-terrain models can cut more than grass, tackling tall and overgrown brush and weeds as well.
- More enjoyable than using a cumbersome push mower, especially mowers with a steering wheel.
- Expensive to purchase and maintain.
- Can be over the top for small gardens, like suburban gardens or those smaller than 500 square metres.
Properties over half an acre
Properties that are half an acre (around 2000 square metres) or larger are potentially a good match for a ride-on mower. There's enough lawn here to makr the price of a ride-on mower worth spending. On the other hand, a smaller property - including most suburban properties - will do just fine with a walk-behind mower.
In the case of large rural properties that have acres in the double digits, a reliable ride-on mower with a maintenance regime that's cost-effective can actually save you money. This is because you won’t have to pay handsomely for a regular lawn mowing service. A ride-on mower can also bestow you with the satisfaction that you can capably maintain your property yourself, including lawns as well as any overgrowth of weeds or brush.
Types of Ride-On Mowers
Tractor-style ride-on mowers
- Suited to large lawns with minimal obstacles.
- Usually have powerful engines with good horsepower, averaging around 18-25 horsepower.
- Solidly built machines that have weight and bulk to them. This makes them trickier to manoeuvre around obstacles.
- The bulky front engine often compromises visibility in front of the mower.
These are usually what people picture when they think of a ride-on lawn mower. They always have an engine positioned at the front of their mower. Tractor-style mowers are controlled by a steering wheel and pads, and can use automatic transmission (referred to as ‘hydrostatic’ models) or manual transmission.
They’re usually a good match for properties around 4, 000 square metres or larger, especially those with few trees or obstacles like veggie patches.
Tractor-style lawn mowers are further divided into two styles - lawn and garden.
- Lawn ride-on mowers are often small riding mowers that are more agile and more likely to be able to navigate through tight spaces than garden ride-ons.
- Garden ride-on mowers are more powerful, with a larger build and bigger cutting widths for larger jobs.
Rear engine ride-on mowers
As their name suggests, rear engine models have their engine positioned at the back of the mower. They are the most basic type of ride-on lawn mower, and are comparable to a high-powered push mower in terms of their power.
Rear-engine models are designed with smaller builds and smaller cutting widths compared to their front-engined counterparts.
Rear-engine mowers are also operated using steering wheels, which makes them more straightforward to operate (than machines that use a level.
- Easy to manoeuvre and more lightweight than tractor-style ride-on mowers.
- Small, compact design often gives them a tight turning circle.
- The most affordable type of ride-on mower available for purchase.
- Sufficient for lawns with a smaller surface area.
- Less powerful than other ride-on mower types.
- Smaller cutting widths means you’ll need to make more passes to finish mowing your lawn. This can be a pain if you have a larger lawn.
These have a turning circle so tight and seamless that you can rotate them at a 360-degree angle, which gives them their ‘zero-turn’ nomer. This means you don’t have to do million-point turns to avoid obstacles and get to the spot you need to.
Zero-turn ride-on mowers are the most premium ride-on mowers that you can invest in. The reason is that they combine generous cutting widths with light frames and rear engines. This makes them quick, efficient and easy to manoeuvre.
- Outstanding for getting around obstacles like trees and flower beds, with ease and precision.
- Their lightweight chassis adds to their easy manoeuvrability.
- Good for large properties that aren’t just made up of uninterrupted lawns.
- Some models lack a steering wheel, and are operated by levers instead, which can be tricky to get used to at first.
- The price is dear - you’ll pay extra for the convenience and superior manoeuvrability of a zero-turn mower.
How to choose the right ride-on mower for you
Here are some things to keep an eye out for before you inspect a potential ride-on mower in person.
Rear engines tend to be less powerful than front engines. If your yard is around 1 acre, a rear engine mower with 16-20 horsepower will probably be sufficient. However, mowing a larger area is likely to be frustrating with a rear-engine ride-on mower. You’ll be better off with a tractor-style or zero-turn mower instead.
There are two main engine types here; single-cylinder engines and V-twin engines.
- These engines are more basic, smaller and generally less durable than V-twin engines.
- They offer less horsepower, which is the measure of power that moves the lawn mower forwards, and allows it to accelerate. A single-cylinder will offer around 12-19 horsepower, which is towards the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to ride-on mowers.
- More horsepower: In comparison, a twin engine offers more raw power, with around 19-27 hp. This is more suited to lawns that have slopes or hills, or aren’t otherwise flat - as these lawns will need a little more grunt.
- Makes less vibrations than single-cylinder engines. This makes them quieter, more stable and comfortable to ride, and also makes for a more durable machine, due to less wear and tear on other components.
- Can pull attachments like trailers with ease, whereas with a single-cylinder powered ride-on, you’d have too much rattle and not enough power.
The cutting width of a ride-on mower refers to the width of the cutting deck, which houses the blades. The larger the cutting width, the more lawn your mower will cut with each pass.
Larger cutting widths make for more efficient mowing. However, they’ll also make a lawn mower more expensive, so it’s good to choose the correct cutting width based on the size of your lawn. Here’s a rough guide to help.
- ½ acre to 1 acre: Source a mower with a cutting width 30-42 inches. Opt for the lower end of the width spectrum if you have a lot of obstacles on your property to contend with.
- 1-2 acres: A cutting width of 42-50 inches will do the job.
- Larger than 2 acres: Source a cutting width of 50 inches or larger.
Depending on how you like to stylise your lawn, some ride-on mowers offer adjustable cutting heights. This refers to the height, in millimetres, that you’d like your lawn to stand after the mower has done its cutting work.
There are two options here, manual and automatic. Most ride-on mowers offer automatic transmission. These are commonly referred to as hydrostatic transmission, since they’re powered by both a hydrostatic pump and motor.
These let you move freely at a variety of speeds. They are easier to drive and run smoothly.
Much like manual cars, these use gears that operate the mower at different speeds that are pre-set into the mower. These may take more time to learn how to use, especially for riders who are unfamiliar with manual vehicles. However, on the plus side, manual ride-on mowers are cheaper than those with hydrostatic transmission.
Fuel tank size
The size of the fuel tank is important, because it determines how often you’ll need to keep re-fueling. If you have a relatively small yard for a ride-on, a 6-litre fuel tank may be sufficient, but for larger spaces sourcing a larger fuel tank will save you time and hassle.
Grass disposal method
chop blades of grass to tiny pieces, which are distributed back onto your lawn by the mower. These grass clippings will dry up and decompose, providing it with nutrients. This also saves you time having to dump grass clippings in the bin, offering a win-win situation.
Some ride-on mowers have in-built catchers that will catch the cut grass so you can collect it later and dispose of it in the green bin. If you have a larger lawn, choose a larger catching bin, so you won’t have to stop part-mowing through your mowing session to empty the catcher.
A discharging mower spits cut blades of grass out of the mower and back onto the lawn. This is usually done from the . This is sometimes more suitable for coarse grass that’s difficult to mulch. However, it can be time-consuming to rake away all the grass afterwards.
Comfort and Ease of Use
Make sure to put yourself in the driver’s seat of a ride-on mower before parting with your money. Check to see the following can be ticked off:
- The seat: Should be comfortably cushioned, with a high back, and ergonomically-friendly design. It should be height adjustable.
- The steering wheel: A telescoping steering wheel allows you to adjust it to the optimum position for you.
- The controls: Along with any levers (if you’re using a lever-operated mower), these should be easy to reach without you having to stretch, and easy to use.
- Visibility: This is aided by a height-adjustable seat, and also shouldn’t be excessively restricted if you’re using a tractor ride-on mower.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The underside of the mowing deck requires regular cleaning, so that grass clippings don’t stick to it and make it clogged. This can interfere with a mulching function, and also cause the deck to rust (especially if clippings are wet).
If your riding mower doesn’t have a deck washing system, you can use a hose and sometimes a pressure washer. Just be careful to avoid any electrical components or bearings, which are not waterproof and can become damaged if they become wet.
Check the manufacturer’s recommendation of how often the mower needs to be maintained, for example, after a certain number of hours in operation. Maintenance will include more general tasks such as checking fuel and oil, but will have more specific requirements depending on the machine you choose.
Maintenance of a ride-on mower can be expensive, so factor the yearly cost of maintenance into the ongoing cost of a riding mower when you buy one.
It’s important to balance build quality with convenience. For example, a durably built ride-on mower might be quite bulky, and be difficult to turn and/or take up a lot of space in your garage or shed. Consider side and weight alongside build quality - and that you have a reliable parking space, ideally indoors or otherwise, sheltered.
The larger the cutting deck is, the wider and bulkier your riding mower will be - and therefore need more storage space.
Should you buy a second-hand ride-on mower?
If you’re thinking of investing in a riding lawn mower for residential use, you might be thinking that they’re not exactly cheap. Buying second-hand is always an option, however a series of rigorous checks will have to be done before you can safely ensure the ride-on you're buying is right for you.
In a nutshell, buying a second-hand ride-on mower that's reliable and still in good working condition - and won't cost you an arm and a leg in maintenance and repairs - is likely to save you money. However, finding the right fit will be time consuming.
Avoid buying a ride-on mower on the spot, no matter how attractive the deal looks. Do independent research online first - read reviews on the make and model, and check there are no product recalls.
Secondly, make sure you ask for a test drive from the vendor first. This will also allow you to inspect the mower and its condition. This includes checking the condition of the wheels, cutting deck and blades, engine, belt, wiring, brakes and fuel tank. To go this route, you need to know what you are looking for, so you can either use your new knowledge from this guide, or take someone trustworthy with you who knows all about riding mowers.