Best Lawn Mowers for Big Yards

These top-performing models from CR's tests hit the sweet spot for ½- to 1-acre lawns

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Lawn mover at work in yard Photo: iStock

Looking for a lawn mower for a yard that’s big but not huge? Your search isn’t so different from that of Goldilocks. You want something just the right size: not too small to tackle the job properly, and not so big that it’s overkill.

For small yards of up to ¼ acre, walk-behind push mowers are a solid choice. For slightly larger yards—from ¼ acre to about ½ acre—self-propelled walk-behinds are ideal; the powered wheels pull the machine forward, freeing you from having to push much yourself.

But if you’re tackling a lawn of around ¾ acre, even powered wheels won’t make the job seem easy if you’re clearing only a 21-inch-wide swath on each pass. That’s the standard width for walk-behind mowers. And yet a regular riding mower or zero-turn-radius model might seem unnecessary for a yard that size—plus, they’re inconvenient to store and can be much more expensive.

More on Lawn Mowers

Let us direct you to two better options: the wide-deck self-propelled mower and the rear-engine rider.

The former resembles a standard walk-behind mower, but it boasts an extra-wide cutting deck, typically 28 inches. That extra width will shave about a quarter of the time off each mowing—which adds up to a lot of hours saved over the season.

Rear-engine riders, on the other hand, are scaled-down riding mowers, with engines mounted behind (rather than in front of) the seat. Most have 30-inch-wide cutting decks, compared with the decks on riding mowers, which range from 36 to 54 inches. The narrower profile means they’re about 25 percent smaller than full-sized riders, which means these rear-engine riders require less storage space.

Both types of mowers are typically powered by gas, but we have tested two battery-powered rear-engine riders.

“Wide-deck self-propelled mowers and rear-engine riders make up a small share of all the lawn mowers sold in the U.S.,” says Courtney Pennicooke, an analyst who oversees the lawn mower market for Consumer Reports. “But they can be an economical choice for people with larger-than-average lawns.”

Each year, Pennicooke makes sure that a number of both mower types are among the dozens of models we evaluate at our dedicated testing facility.

How CR Tests Lawn Mowers and Tractors

To get you ratings and reviews of the latest models by early spring, our testers travel to our mower-testing facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to conduct tests in late winter at grounds we prepare each year. We plant 1,800 pounds of grass seed (predominantly annual rye, prized for its dense growth) and cut 500,000 square feet of grass in three modes—mulching, side-discharging, and bagging a total of 3,000 pounds of clippings. We mow both level turf and slopes to get a feel for each model and review the convenience features.

The Overall Score incorporates all that performance data, along with predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings from our latest member surveys. They leverage data on more than 61,600 lawn mowers and tractors that members purchased between 2011 and 2021.

Best Lawn Mowers for Big Yards

Size isn’t the only factor that should dictate your decision. Start with our lawn mower buying guide, which explains how the slope of your yard can change the equation. You’ll also find a thorough overview of battery-powered models, which make up an ever-growing slice of the mower market. Next, check our comprehensive lawn mower ratings.

CR members with digital access can also read on for ratings and reviews of the very best mowers for big yards (up to an acre).

Best Wide-Deck Self-Propelled Mowers

Best Rear-Engine Riding Mowers for Big Yards

Finding the Perfect Lawn Mower

Is your lawn mower failing to make the cut? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert John Galeotafiore explains to host Jack Rico how to find the best mower for your needs.

Tobie Stanger

I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger