Best riding mowers of 2024

Best riding mowers of 2024

Updated January 1, 2024 at 6:00 AM PT

written by

Steve Conway

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Steve Conway Laboratory Manager/Senior Technical Project Manager

I’m a laboratory director for CNET’s flagship division based in Louisville, Kentucky. My interest in technology began in the early 1990s, and soon after I began a double major in computer science and computer engineering. I have worked in many fields, including computers, software, technology, networking, graphic design, education, construction, music, and even dance! 65% Ron Swanson, 25% Ben White, 10% Andy Dwyer.

expertise I have been an outdoor enthusiast my whole life. I also renovate, flip and build houses in my spare time. In conjunction with our test lab facilities, I write about a lot of outdoor-related things – portable power stations, gadgets, etc.

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John Deere S130

Best gas powered lawn mower

John Deere S130

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Riding mowers are a great way to keep your lawn looking its best if you live in an area with large yards. It can save you time and effort, and it can be a lot of fun to use. But with so many different models and brands on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.

There are a few things to consider when you start thinking about purchasing a lawn mower. The size of your garden is a key factor – it can be overkill to use a lawn mower for a 0.05 acre plot when a push mower can do it in minutes. Furthermore, there is a huge price gap between the nicest push mowers and most budget riding mowers. Furthermore, not all lawns are created equal. You may need to take steep slopes or other rough terrain into consideration when making this type of decision.

And with recent advances in battery technology, you now also have the option of electric motors versus traditional gas engines. There is a lot to consider here. For example, if you run out of gas when mowing the lawn, you can take a few minutes to add more gas and continue working. The same scenario with an electric unit could see you with an hour or two gap in the mowing process while recharging. So sizing your device to fit your specific garden can be even more important when considering electrical options.

On the other hand, some electric units are compatible with battery platforms, which means you can take the batteries from the mower and use them in other tools as well. This also means that if you have extra batteries for those other tools, you can put them in your mower if it’s charged and find yourself on the verge of running out of power – avoiding the time delay of refueling versus recharging. However, there will still be a price compensation. There is a large upfront investment in batteries, which can be difficult to recoup.

Important note: Unlike the vast majority of best lists on CNET, this one is based on our research rather than hands-on testing — if only because the size and cost of these units made obtaining product samples logistically difficult. We’ve compared all the specifications to find the best lawn mowers on the market, so you can make an informed decision about which one might be right for you.

Let’s dig deeper. Here are my top picks.

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The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-inch riding mower is a great choice for homeowners with large lawns. It has a powerful 23-horsepower motor and a 50-inch cutting surface, making it easy to mow even the largest lawns quickly and efficiently. The mower also features a hydrostatic transmission, making it easy to maneuver around tight spaces. This also allows for a fast speed of 7 mph forward and 3.5 mph reverse.

Additionally, the Ultima ZT1 comes with a variety of features (some at an additional cost) making it a great choice for homeowners who want the best lawn care experience possible. These features include a mulching deck, bagger, side discharge pipe, tow/haul capability, snow plow, or even a sun canopy. The textured mulching surface provides superior cutting with fewer clumps and splinters, more precise cuttings, increased evenness and improved soil health, while the baler and side discharge chute make it easy to collect grass clippings. Overall, the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-Inch Lawn Mower is a great choice for homeowners who want a powerful, easy-to-use, feature-rich lawn mower.

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Some people prefer the traditional steering experience of a round wheel mounted on a steering column, and my pick for the best gas mower is the John Deere lawn tractor that offers just that. The S130 features a 42-inch cutting deck and a 22-horsepower motor that will get you up to 5.5 mph forward or 3.2 mph reverse. Just like my pick for the best zero cycle, the S130 offers several extras including a snow plow, snow blower, tire chains, and even a full cab enclosure for extra protection from the elements.

The S130 includes John Deere’s 30-second “Easy Change” oil change system, an all-in-one oil and oil filter canister that allows you to quickly change your tractor’s oil without any hassle or mess. The list price of $2,799 is attractive for a name-brand unit with these specifications. Throw in a seasonal discount that you can probably find somewhere, and the S130 becomes a great choice for almost anyone considering a riding mower.

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My choice for the best value riding mower falls into the category of riding mowers designed for lawns two acres or smaller. You still get access to plenty of power with the 19-horsepower Briggs & Stratton motor and 42-inch cutting deck. The Bronco 42 is designed to provide easy on and off access with a “Step-Thru” frame design that makes it a great choice for people at all levels of physical abilities. The automatic transmission and foot pedal control are also designed to allow the mower to drive “like a car.”

You will still have access to all of the add-ons, tow dollies, spreaders and sprayers with the rear hitch attached. When you look at these specs and performance options at a list price of $2,199, which is close to entry-level prices for name-brand riding mowers (entry level is around $2,000), the Bronco 42 becomes an easy choice for the best value.

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Choosing the defending champion for best electric riding mower is a bit more difficult, given the wide variation in how these batteries and electrical systems perform. The 42-inch Z6 runs on a removable battery platform where you can use the individual batteries from the mower (up to six of them) in the company’s lineup of other outdoor tools. The mower includes four 10Ah batteries (Ego currently offers batteries with amp-hour capacities of 2.5, 4, 5, 6, 7.5, 10 and 12) and two additional spaces for you to add your own. To start the mower, you’ll need to load at least 15-amp batteries, with a full capacity of 60 amps, which Ego says will save you up to 3 acres.

There are three driving modes: Control, Standard and Sport, which give you different degrees of aggression and speed while maneuvering. Your cutting speeds will range from 3-7 mph with an overall top speed of 8 mph while in travel mode. It includes a wall-mounted fast charger similar to a standard EV charger, so you don’t have to charge each battery individually. This is also useful if you’re invested in the Ego ecosystem and prefer to charge multiple batteries at once.

You’ll also get some nice extras like an LCD control screen and a USB port for charging things or powering them on the go. The 42-inch Z6 model is a great choice if you’re already invested in this outdoor gear rig or interested in one. It’s also great if you’re into electric power/electric vehicles/battery in general. Overall, the performance you’ll see will rival that of similarly sized 22-horsepower gas engine models. The price may be a little higher due to the battery purchase, but overall this is a great device with exceptional performance.

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Ryobi 48 Volt, 100 Amp Zero Turn Electric Riding Mower: Ryobi has some great options for electric mowers, including the 100-amp version that has the largest battery capacity of all the units we evaluated. However, looking at the math that converts the Ryobi and Ego units to watt-hours by multiplying the battery voltage by the battery amp-hours, the Ryobi has 4800 watt-hours versus the Ego’s 3360 watt-hours. With these advertised capacities, both manufacturers claim that their mowers cover “up to” 3 acres, making the Ego system seem more efficient.

Greenworks 60 Volt, 42 Inch, Electric Lawn Mower CrossoverT: This mower is the least expensive of the electric options I evaluated. I love the built-in storage bed at the back of the unit. It comes with six 8Ah batteries and there is a wide range of external tools to interface with these batteries just like the Ego platform. To recharge, you’ll need to use the three included dual battery chargers to bring your six batteries back online. Can cover up to 2.5 acres per shipment.

Craftsman T110 42-Inch Lawn Mower with 17.5 HP: This gas-powered mower has similar specifications to some of our other units, albeit with a slightly smaller 17.5 hp engine. This is a decent choice overall, especially if you’re already a Craftsman fan, but the slightly higher price per spec keeps this option out of the winner’s circle.

How much does a riding lawn mower cost?

Riding mowers vary so far At cost. Entry level costs for most well-known brands are around $2,000 and can exceed $25,000 for large, multi-function lawn tractors designed for very large lawn areas. The average lawn mower costs between $3,000 and $3,500.

How big should I have a lawn before considering a riding mower?

This answer will vary a little depending on the individual, but generally speaking anything larger than a half-acre is a great candidate for a riding mower.

You can still consider using a lawn mower for small lawns especially if you have concerns about your physical ability or stamina to push the mowing no matter how big your yard is. Even in those conditions, there are self-propelled push mowers that handle most of the work outside of the job.

Which is better, a traditional mower or a zero turn mower?

Both mowers have their advantages. Up front, one of the main differences will be cost. Zero-turn mowers typically cost at least 25% more (usually closer to 50% more) than their conventional counterparts. However, a zero turn will mow your area faster and with more maneuverability than a traditional riding mower. Smaller residential yards are easy candidates for conventional mowers, while larger yards or people who mow multiple yards (such as landscaping companies) may choose to go non-rotating to increase their time efficiency.

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