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The Best Riding Mower for Your Property

According to CR's tests, these tractors and zero-turn-radius riders are a cut above, for mulching, bagging, and even mowing

Riding mowers are generally the way to go for lawns of half an acre or more. And your options fall into one of three broad categories. Rear-engine riders are the smallest and are usually built with a 30-inch cutting deck. They also tend to be cheapest and are a smart choice if you have limited storage space.

More on riding mowers

Traditional lawn tractors turn with a steering wheel, and most feature a 42-inch cutting deck. They typically top out around 4 to 5 mph, and they tend to be more stable than zero-turn-radius (ZTR) mowers on hills.

ZTRs are sized like tractors, but instead of a steering wheel most have arms for turning and navigation. ZTRs can turn in place, nimbly maneuver around obstacles such as trees, and reach a higher top speed than tractors. They’re also generally more expensive and a little unsteady on hills.  

“In our lawn tractor ratings, we divide traditional tractors and ZTR models into standard size and those with extra-wide decks,” says Courtney Pennicooke, the CR market analyst who oversees lawn mowers and tractors. “If you’ve got acres of lawn to cut, you’ll want to jump right to wide-deck tractors and ZTRs, which cut much more with each pass.”

How CR Tests Mowers and Tractors

Each year we send a team of experts to our dedicated mower-testing facility in Fort Myers, Fla., where the climate enables us to grow grass in January. This makes it possible for us to test all the newest models and publish ratings in time to help folks who need to make a purchase. We plant a blend of grass, cut acres and acres in all three cutting modes (mulching, bagging, and side-discharge), and look at convenience features on every model we assess. We also note how easy each tool is to handle and maneuver. 

CR Mower Testing by the Numbers

What does all that testing really look like?
• 4,900 pounds of grass seed planted, predominantly annual rye, which is prized for the density with which it grows.
58,651 miles traveled by CR experts and staff to test mowers.
991,800 square feet of grass cut. We cut on level turf, slopes, and in ditches to get a feel for each and every model.
2,000 pounds of clippings bagged. If composted and returned to your lawn, this amount would eliminate the need for 1,300 pounds of commercial fertilizer.

Best Riding Mowers From CR's Tests

If you’re in the market for a new riding mower, our mower buying guide will help you determine which type is best for your yard. Read on for ratings and reviews of this year’s top lawn tractors and ZTRs. CR members can also scan our comprehensive lawn tractor ratings of more than 50 models.

Best Rear-Engine Riders

Ryobi R48110
Overall score: 66
CR’s take: Ryobi’s all-electric riding mower straddles the line between traditional mower and rear-engine rider. It has a 38-inch cutting deck—most tractors have 42- to 48-inch decks, and most rear-engine models max out at 30 inches. It cuts well, runs quietly, and eliminates the need for buying gas or worrying about any engine maintenance. 

Cub Cadet CC30 H
Overall score: 63
CR’s take: This Cub Cadet behaves like a scaled-down version of larger tractors. It cuts in a 30-inch swath, less than what a tractor can cover but more than what a walk-behind mower can do. It cuts well when mulching or in side-discharge mode but is less effective when equipped with the optional bagging kit. Nice features include automatic drive, and a washout port for cleaning the cutting deck with a garden hose. 

Riding Lawn Mowers & Tractors Rated
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