Choosing the type of mower should be based on various factors including the mower capacity, speed, maneuverability, and lawn size. If the last three are some of your major concerns, the best zero-turn mowers would be the best choice.
What is Zero-Turn Mower?
Zero-turn mowers are known to deliver faster mowing action due to their great maneuverability. However, unlike riding mowers, zero-turn mowers commonly come with two levers located on both sides of the operator instead of a steering wheel. These levers allow the operator to control the mower and literally make it possible to turn on a dime. Though it lets faster turning, it has a learning curve that new owners unfamiliar with it would face.
How Does Zero-Turn Mower Work?
Zero-turn mowers work by commonly utilizing four wheels: two swiveling front tires and two large drive tires located at the back. The two drive tires can rotate independently in opposite or the same directions. This determines the direction of the mower.
Most zero-turn mowers nowadays are using differential steering to change directions. By controlling the levers that change the individual speeds and movements of the drive tires, the operator can move forward, backward, and turn.
The mower can move forward by pushing both of the levers forward with the same force, and vice versa if you want to move it backward. On the other hand, the mower can make a gentle turn by pushing the lever with more force than the other. The famous zero-radius turn, lastly, can be achieved by pushing one of the levers forward and pulling back the other one. This ability allows the mower to pivot freely, hence faster movement and mowing activity of the machine.
Zero-Turn Mowers Capabilities and Limitations?
Controlling a zero-turn mower pretty much looks simple but it actually takes time to learn and get comfortable with its levers and movements. Nonetheless, once you have mastered it, it can offer you the best way to cut an incredibly considerable size of lawns with ease and speed. With the right control, a user can work on acres of grass in a matter of minutes. This makes it ideal for mowing fields and other vast areas of grass that walk-behind mowers and push mowers can’t handle in a short period of time.
Moreover, it can reach tighter areas as its mowing deck is located in front of the mower. This allows users to cut closely around obstructions. This is what separates it from a tractor with mowing decks installed underneath it.
You can even use some attachments to a zero-turn mower such as fertilizer spreaders, dethatchers, and collection bags. That being said, zero-turn mowers can also excel when it comes to versatility and functions.
However, it needs to be mentioned that a zero-turn mower also has its limitations. When used on wet turf, there is a possibility of a decrease in the control of its spinning movement. This could result in the unfavorable sliding of the mowing deck and possible lawn damages.
Zero-turn mowers can also pose risk when used on slopes with angles between 10 to 15 degrees. Since the movement or force of the mower is produced and controlled by the rear drive tires, the two small swiveling front tires can’t support the mower to climb on steep slopes. This results in the mower rolling over.
As such, having the experience in controlling its movement and the knowledge of its capacity is highly suggested. Nonetheless, if you are a new owner or plans to buy one, it is really recommended to do a thorough research of how it works. It is also important not to abruptly take advantage of its ability to mow lawns quickly if you still don’t have much experience and control over it.
5 Best Zero-Turn Mowers
If you are on the look for a zero-turn mower, it is important to identify the future use and purpose of the unit. That said, if you’re in need of a zero-turn mower unit, we got you covered. Here are the top picks we prepared with our experts that can complement both your commercial and residential needs. We hope that you’ll find the zero-turn mower that you need here.
Best Zero-Turn Mowers Comparison & Rating
1. Husqvarna Z254F 54" Zero-Turn Mower
1.5 inches to 4 inches
What we love about Husqvarna Z254F 54” ZT is its great control. The levers are appropriately sensitive that the mower directions can be easily achieved without struggles. You can also move the steering levers either inward or outward to activate the park brake system. The deck lift is pretty convenient as well since it is spring-assisted and within the reach of the operator. It has a maximum forward speed of 6.5 mph and a maximum reverse speed of 3.2 mph which are fast enough for you to cover a lawn that is not lower than 9 acres. Most of all, we really appreciate that Husqvarna listened this time to the needs of users to have a unit with headlights. This makes it easier to use the mower even in low-light conditions. With that, we must say that Husqvarna Z254F 54" is a tough competition on the market.
2. Ariens 915223 IKON-X FR691 Series 52" Zero-Turn Mower
1.5 inches to 4.5 inches
This commercial zero-turn mower of Ariens can provide you great mowing experience. The rear wheels have dimensions of 45.7 x 21.5 cm - 20.3 cm. Given their sizes, the wheels are big enough to support the mower on some slopes without any tipping problems. We tried it with a mulching kit on a 2-acre area with some slopes present and the triple blade system provided a smooth cutting action on thin grasses and weeds. Without even reaching an entire hour, we were able to cut the lawn clean, with some slopey portions just receiving a few passes to get them completely even. With its fuel capacity, we wagger that it can last for more than three hours since we were able to use it after the test. We also commend that this 52” Arien ZT uses a Kawasaki engine. One of the big deals about using this engine is that it supports the faster and easier starting of the machine. Also, it is far quieter than other competitions on the market which makes it ideal for residential use, as well!
3. Snapper 2691319 48” 23 HP Zero-Turn Mower
1. 5 inches to 4. 5 inches
This Snapper ZT mower is a multifunctional machine that can work beyond its purpose of cutting grass. Compared to Husqvarna Z254F 54", Craftsman 17ARFACQ091 50”, and a lot more, it comes with a rear bed. This allows the mower to double as a cargo vehicle that you can use when you need to transport heavy sacks of soil or fertilizer around your lawn. With a 50-pound capacity, it can be a helpful machine for those who love to work on their lawns. We also love that the model uses the well-known Briggs & Stratton Professional Series engine that is highly recommended by professionals due to its longevity that can last for years. The operation is very smooth as well and the grass can be effectively mulched. When we tested it, it produced nothing but even sounds, smooth sound. This translates to the untroubled motor that easily handles thin to the moderately thick amount of grass. That being said, we really approve of this model! Hands down!
4. Craftsman 17ARFACQ091 50” Zero-Turn Mower
1.25 inches to 3.75 inches
This Craftsman 50” ZT can start up easily even during the coldest days of the winter season. With its Kohler twin-cylinder engine, the mower can outlast the operation of the 52” Ariens ZT that only offers 2.80 gal fuel capacity. So, despite having a cutting width that is 4-inch behind, it can still manage to handle 1 to 10 acres of grass. The wheels are smooth even in some bumpy areas we experienced and the traction is quite great. The rear drive tires create a strong grip on the ground which gives you great control on moderately wet grounds. Works really great for its size and features!
5. Simplicity 2691318 23 HP 42” Zero Turn Mower
1.5 inches to 4.5 inches
Of all the zero-turn models we have, we must say that this by far is the most comfortable to sit on. It boasts of a suspension system that minimizes the effects of an uneven lawn and bumps you commonly encounter. The rear and front suspension support of the mower greatly decreases shaky motions and bounces of the machine. As a matter of fact, you’ll appreciate that it would work like the stability it could offer as you ride the mower. Almost no bumps at all! And although this is a commercial type of mower, we are confident to recommend this to you as it has just the right size of cutting width perfect for residential lawns. It also offers forward and reverse speed that can compete with other leading brands at 7 and 4 mph, respectively.
Best Zero-Turn Mowers - Buyer's Guide
The first thing you should be looking for is the cutting width of the zero-turn mower. Apparently, a massive lawn would benefit more with a ZT that has a considerable size of the deck. This should cut your effort and time in half when mowing your lawn.
Nonetheless, there are more factors that should be considered in picking the size of the deck. Commonly, smaller ZT units are tippy and often encounter problems with traction. So, if you have a lawn that is slopey or soft or sandy, zero-turn mowers that are lower than 34 could not be the best choice.
On the other hand, you don’t want to buy a ZT that is too big for your lawn, especially if it would just be for residential purposes. Instead, go for something in the middle of a small ZT unit and a large one. That said, we recommend choosing a deck that is at least 42 to 60 inches that can manage 1 to 10 acres of land. Most residential units range from 48 to 60 inches. However, there are also a lot of commercial-type zero-turn mowers that come in the same sizes. If you want to have a machine that will not require too much maintenance, commercial units are definitely a choice and that is why we have most of them here.
From the size of the rear drive wheels to the casters to the seat, there is a need to check every detail of the zero-turn mower. They will determine how comfortable you would be when you are operating the unit.
This also helps in the efficiency of the mower, especially if you are dealing with a lawn with too many slopes present. If that is your case, ensure that the drive wheels of the unit come in great sizes to promote the balance of the mower. Since tipping has always been an issue in this kind of mower, wheels are a very important factor to consider.
Also, look for some additional features that will give more value to your purchase whether it is a cargo bed, a suspension system, or a first-class chair. They should make your mowing task way easier and faster.
It is a fact that zero-turn mower units don’t come cheap. Nonetheless, they are a pretty great investment for your lawn that could last for years. Currently, some brands offer them starting with $2500. The price apparently increases as the size of the deck gets bigger. Nowadays, most reliable economy units start at $3000 and if you looking for a heavy-duty model, you should be willing to pay at least $6000. The prices seem intimidating but given the time and effort these machines could save you, they are worth every penny.
Best Zero-Turn Mowers - FAQs
A zero-turn lawn mower is well worth the time and money because it cuts grass smoother and better than a regular mower.
ZT mower units are known for their speed and maneuverability. It can cut your time and effort in half when mowing a lawn. Furthermore, compared to conventional mowers like push-type and walk-behind mowers, the operator can mow the lawn while riding the unit which translates to comfort and ease in performing the task.
It can be a little challenging for first-time users due to its controls. Instead of a steering wheel, ZT mowers commonly come with levers. Depending on your input, you can make the mower to go forward, backward, or turn.
Yes, it is. Zero-turn mowers are best for homes with vast yards. There are some residential-type ZT mowers available that allows easy storage of the unit but if you have the need for a bigger mower due to the size of your lawn (3 or more acres), there are also commercial-type ZTs available on the amrket.