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How to Choose a Riding Mower or Lawn Tractor

By Edited Jun 20, 2015 0 0

So you were wondering how to choose a riding lawnmower?

If you have never had a riding lawnmower before, it is natural to have questions when pondering the purchase of this size. Unless you are content with a refurbished or used lawn tractor, you are looking at a minimum of $800 to buy a reasonable quality riding lawnmower. As with anything, you get what you pay for and at these lower prices often you are buying a smaller unit, that has less features and has a narrower blade cut.

 

How do you know if you need a riding lawnmower?
Best riding mower under $2000

Generally you need a riding mower when you have over a third of an acre of lawn to cut. If you're finding it takes more than a couple of hours to cut the grass with the push mower, then a lawn tractor may be advisable. If you have just moved to a new property with a larger yard to maintain, this is another ideal time to consider buying a riding lawnmower.

 

Important features of a new riding lawnmower

When looking at listings for riding lawnmowers on the Internet, you will see a few major terms that show up in each listing for the specifications for each model. Also if you are fortunate, there will be customer reviews from previous purchases and owners of the model that can give you a heads up to any shortcomings and with positive reviews, can give you the confidence to go ahead and order online.

 

Engine horsepower

The horsepower of any mower that you buy, should be sufficient for the width of cut and number of mower blades. If the machine has a wide cut, but inadequate force power you may find it struggling to cut longer grass.

A small horsepower engine mower is

Best lawn tractor under $1500
generally less expensive to purchase, but should have a narrow cut.  That may mean it will take longer to complete mowing if you have a large yard. One of the advantages of a small of horsepower motor is that the fuel consumption is lower.

When looking at the brand of lawnmower engine, you should be looking for a good quality brand name. Briggs & Stratton, and Honda are great engines and reliable for many years. 

 

Width of cut

The length of the blade dictates the width of the cutting path for each machine. The wider the cut, the more likely there are actually two or three blades cutting the grass at the same time. The wider the cutting path or mowing width of the riding mower, the faster you will get the lawn cut every time you have to do it. Sometimes a smaller width cut is better if you have a lot of landscaping and trees in your yard.

 

Turning radius
Best zero turn riding lawnmower under $2500

The turning radius dictates how easy lawn equipment is to maneuver and turn the lawnmower. It correspondence to the extra width needed to do a U-turn.  Smaller turning radius equals more maneuverable. Some makes and models have a 30 inch turning radius, there are others that have an 18" radius and the recently developed zero radius turn lawnmowers can turn on a dime, literally.  The only disadvantage of these zero turn riding mowers is the cost. These are highly sought after mowers. 

For those on a budget, and 18"  turning radius traditional style of riding mower with automatic transmission or hydrostatic transmission is also an excellent and affordable option.

 

Riding mower transmission type

Generally, the more affordable riding mowers under fifteen hundred bucks tend to come with the six or seven speed transmission.  That can lock you in at specific constant speed. For large stretches of open lawn, this is ideal. If you tend to leave your lawn a while between cuttings, and it is often too long when you trim it, this is also a great option. The reason for this is that it allows you to go along very slowly and continue to cut even if the grass is a little longer or wetter than is ideal.

Best riding lawnmower under $1500

The best and most comfortable transmission to have in a riding mower isn't available until the $1500-$2000 price range. It is the hydrostatic transmission. It is a lot more intuitive, faster to use, and it's great if you are doing a lot of stopping and starting, backing up, changing direction and speed. It can make it easier for less experienced family members to take their turn cutting the lawn.

 

Other nice riding mower features

It may seem trivial, but having a decent deep cupholder that does not allow your drinking bottle to be lost out of the tractor while you're driving it makes for a much better mowing experience. Bear in mind any carbonated drinks soon go flat when bumped around on your lawn tractor on a hot sunny afternoon, but it is nice to have a refreshing drink when you are outside mowing for a few hours.

Having easy access to the battery is important, especially if you tend to use the lawnmower in cooler weather and need to charge it in the winter. Certainly some people do use their lawn tractors for snow removal, lawn de-thatching, lawn aeration and rolling.  With a small trailer it can be quite a useful setup for moving mulch, topsoil, gravel, calm possible and plants around the garden. Most of these activities are done in the spring and fall when the mower doesn't necessarily start quickly.

Best riding mower under $1500

Having a fold-down seats can keep the seat dry when the mower is stored outside protecting the soft vinyl from UV light from the sun, and can make the more a little more compact storage in a limited space.

It is always nice to have the largest gas tank capacity available that you can. Less time is wasted filling up the tank partway through cutting a large yard, also there is less chance of you running out of gas at the far end of the property.

The availability of bagging systems, trailers, attachments for mechanical removal of snow, leaves and other lawn care can make a lawn tractor very versatile and useful around the yard in all seasons.

 

Warranty, replacement parts and service

By buying a reputable brand of riding mower, you should have easy access to replacement parts, belts  and local service. When you're buying the product, you should be looking at warranty length and any exclusions or limits. Often the riding mower reviews can be quite revealing as to the true customer service of a power equipment company.

 

Where to buy a riding lawnmower?

 There are a number of options for buying a new lawn tractor, your local Walmart, Lowe's and other big box hardware stores certainly have a large inventory or outdoor power equipment each spring. Sometimes, it seems as though you are looking at the flyers all the time and the prices never seem to dip down low enough.

Once you start to look online at Amazon and other large internet retailers, you can actually see these are very popular items to be bought online and shipped. Even some of the reviews mention trepidation and concern when purchasing online, but then the allure of no sales tax or free shipping allowed them to buy with confidence, and actually have a pleasant experience.

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