Most and Least Reliable Gas Riding Mower Brands

How to pick a model that will keep you cutting for years

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tractor testing
Testers prepare to judge riding mower performance at Consumer Reports' Ft. Myers, Fla., testing grounds.
Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports tests riding lawn mowers to help you find models that cut evenly and handle with ease. And though performance is key, you'll also want a riding mower that’s built to last. After all, these machines can cost $1,300 to $5,500.

Our latest member survey shows that the experience isn't always problem-free. Almost 30 percent of riding mowers are likely to develop problems or break in their first five years of ownership.

"The most commonly reported problem among riding mowers had to do with the mower belt, affecting 13 percent of riding mowers," says Martin Lachter, a senior research associate at Consumer Reports. "The next most common problem was related to the bag not filling or attaching to the mower properly."

More on Lawn Mowers

To help you find a reliable riding mower, Consumer Reports incorporates ratings for brand reliability and owner satisfaction into its Overall Scores for lawn mowers and tractors. That's along with data collected during our extensive field testing, which covers everything from handling to how well a mower cuts in multiple modes to noise output at the user's ear and at 25 feet.

To calculate predicted reliability, we survey our members about the products they own and use the results to make projections about how new models from a given brand will hold up over time. Models from brands that rate Fair or Poor for predicted reliability aren't eligible for our recommended lists of products, regardless of their performance.

We also ask members how likely they are to recommend their mower to friends or family, and that question serves as the basis for our owner satisfaction rating.

These latest findings come from CR's exclusive member surveys, which leveraged data on more than 22,404 riding mowers that members purchased between 2010 and 2020.

Below is a detailed breakdown of the winners and losers across the three gas riding mower categories we test. This year, we also have performance results on battery riding mowers. But because battery riders are a relatively new product category, we don't have yet have reliability or owner satisfaction ratings for that group.

(For our reliability results on walk-behind mowers, check out our guide to the most and least reliable walk-behind mower brands.)

Lawn Tractors

Lawn tractors are your quintessential riding mower, with a big engine in front and a seat and steering wheel mounted over the cutting deck. They make up a whopping 64 percent of the riding mowers in CR’s survey purchased in 2020, far and away the most common type of riding mower owned by CR members.

Become a member to read the full article and get access to digital ratings.

We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.