Riding Mowers for Larger Lawns

By   December 1, 2015

A riding mower is your key to easy lawns if you have a medium to a large lawn. Riding mowers range from basic sit and mow machines to lawn tractors and then up to professional machines.

Start your selection by analyzing your mowing needs.  If you are a homeowner and all that you want is something to cut grass, then a simple sit on riding mower may be ok for you.  There is a good selection to choose from, and prices are moderate.  Here are a few examples:

The next step up in riding mowers is a lawn tractor.  Lawn tractors can offer wider cuts and more powerful engines, but the principal reason for going to a lawn tractor is the ability to add accessories.  Most lawn tractors have hitches and PTOs (Power Take Offs) to run a wide assortment of accessories like carts, plows, and tillers. Accessories are nice but don’t overpay for the ability to add them unless you are sure that you will use them.

Some Common Sense About Riding Mowers and Lawn Tractor Accessories

There are some things that a lawn tractor can do well with attachments and others that are really out of its scope.  Snow plowing is one of the later.
Most riding mowers and lawn tractors with a snow blade can handle light snow, but anything more than a few inches becomes problematic.  It’s not for a lack of power.  It’s just that snow is real heavy and it builds up heavier and heavier loads as you push it.  A lawn tractor, even with chains and extra weights, just can’t get enough traction to push a lot of snow.  You’ll need to constantly back up and ram forward to move the snow.  It’s real hard on the tractor, transmission, and driver.  If your area sees more than an occasional dusting of snow, you’ll be much better served by a snowblower than a plow.  A snow blower attachment for your lawn tractor can be a good compromise if you have a lot to plow and some room to maneuver.
The same goes for plowing dirt or tilling your garden.  Most lawn tractors just don’t have enough weight and heft to do it effectively.
Let’s talk about power for a minute.  Most lawn tractors and riding mowers, even with the basic engine, have enough power to handle just about any garden task.  The limiting factor is traction and more power only spins the wheels more which can tear up your lawn and driveway.  Stores like to sell bigger machines because they’re an easy up-sell, and they make more profit.  Instead, look for engine and transmission features.  A better engine will have heavier bearings and automobile type oil filter.
The next step up in riding mowers are the professional mowers. Many of these are zero-turn models that you might see with professional landscapers and golf courses.  Each wheel operates independently, usually with steering bars.  They can turn in place or operate forward and backward.  Most have wide cutting decks.  Pros like them because they are fast.
As attractive as these mowers are, be careful buying one.  They are designated as professional machines for a reason.  Most are a bit difficult to use and lack the safety features that are mandated on home machines.  They go and turn fast enough that they can injure or dump the driver.   The speed that the blade spins on a home owners machine is limited so that if you run over a stick or a rock, the speed that it’s thrown out of the side of the machine is limited and safer.  Pro machine blades spin much faster and are much more dangerous if you run over toys and debris. If you still want one, here’s a couple ideas.

Garden Tractors

Garden Tractors are big brothers to Lawn Tractors.  They’re generally bigger, have stronger frames, bigger engines, better transmissions, and higher costs than a lawn tractor.  As the name implies, they are more suitable to light garden tasks than a lawn tractor.
Look for a garden tractor for mowing if you have more than an acre or two of lawn to cut or if you have difficult terrain.  The extra size and guts on a garden tractor may support faster speeds and a larger cutting deck than the typical lawn tractor to finish large areas faster.
On the down side, because of their size, garden tractors are more expensive, more complex, and less maneuverable than lawn tractors.  Choose based on need and don’t get carried away with the bigger is always better sickness.