Riding mowers are the way to mow for lawns of a certain size, typically one-half acre or more. If your property is even more princely, you might want a riding mower with a wider cutting deck, so you can cut more with each pass. And if you need to mow around trees and other landscaping features, consider a zero-turn-radius (ZTR) mower—this type can instantly pivot around one rear wheel.

Consumer Reports tested 50 riding mowers ranging in price from $1,100 to $4,000. Here are some of the best from our tests:

Top Tractors

Tractors usually cost less than ZTR mowers, and they're better at bagging clippings, easier on turf, and more stable on hills. 

Top scores and high-quality features such as a comfy seat and a port for easy cleaning the bottom of the mower deck with a garden hose make the John Deere X350 worthy of its $3,200 price. But for $1,000 less, the Craftsman 20442 has a larger deck, mulches more thoroughly, and makes tighter turns. You might also like its 6½-mph ground speed, given that most riding mowers top out around 5 mph. For about half the cost of the Deere, the Cub Cadet XT1 LT46, $1,700, cuts as well as both models.

Another Deere, the John Deere S240 Sport, $2,500, comes with an extra-wide and flat chute for side-discharging, which helps it disperse grass clippings evenly. That's something we've noticed other Deere models struggling with in our past tests.

Keep in mind that according to our survey of CR subscribers, John Deere is more reliable than most other lawn-tractor brands, while Cub Cadet is more failure-prone.

Check our mower buying guide and ratings for shopping advice and test results for 50 riding mowers as well as walk-behind and robotic models.

Top Wide-Deck Tractors

Wide-deck lawn tractors have traditionally fared worse than their smaller siblings in our tests of cutting evenness. But these models do a better job at even cutting.

The 54-inch deck of the Craftsman 20445, $3,500, is the largest in our tests, yet the tractor makes relatively tight turns. The Troy-Bilt Super Bronco 50, $1,900, is a bargain for a model with a 50-inch cutting deck, and that makes it a CR Best Buy. It matches the Craftsman snip for snip in cutting and still gives you the same electric power takeoff, which extends belt life, and an automatic drive system, which makes it easy to adjust your speed. The John Deere D155, $2,200, is slightly smaller, with a 48-inch deck, but it tests well in all side discharging, bagging, and mulching modes.

Top Zero-Turn-Radius Mowers

ZTR mowers offer the greatest ground speed for scooting back and forth across your property and nimble turning around obstacles on fairly flat lawns.

The Troy-Bilt Mustang 42, $2,300, is our top ZTR, with perfect cutting performance in all three modes at a price that's much lower than other models. But its 42-inch deck is slightly narrower than the 46- or 48-inch decks you'll find on most zero-turn-radius riding mowers, and it utilizes the typical ZTR steering levers, which can take some getting used to, especially on hills. By contrast, the Troy-Bilt Mustang Pivot 46, $2,900, and Toro SW4200 74784, $3,000, each use a steering wheel, providing a more familiar driving experience. 

Behind the Numbers of Our Lawn Mower Tests

  • 991,800: square feet of grass cut to test mowers in CR's ratings
  • 5,216: pounds of grass clippings bagged
  • 4,900: pounds of grass seed planted to ensure optimal cutting conditions
  • $155,220: dollars spent purchasing the mowers in CR's ratings
  • 58,651: miles traveled by CR experts and staff to test mowers