7 Best Riding Lawn Mowers 2021: Buying Guide & Reviews

7 Best Riding Lawn Mowers 2021:
Buying Guide & Reviews

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Matt's Top Picks for Riding Lawn Mowers in 2021

john deere lawn tractor
Best Riding Lawn Mower for 1/2 to 2 Acres​
John Deere S120 42 in. Riding Mower​
cub-cadet-riding mower for 2 acres
Runner Up Riding Mower for 1/2 to 2 Acres​

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46 in.​

ryobi-best electric riding-mower
Best Electric Riding Lawn Mower ​

Ryobi 38 in. Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower​

best zero turn mower
Best Riding Lawn Mower for 2-4 acre​

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1: 50in Zero Turn​

toro best zero turn mower for 4 acres
Best Riding Lawn Mower +4 Acres​

Toro 60 in. Riding Mower​

poulan-pro-lawn-tractor best riding mower for hills
Best Riding Mower for Hills​

Poulan Pro 42 in. Lawn Tractor​​

Troy Bilt best small riding mower
Best Budget Pick​

Troy-Bilt Neighborhood Rider 30 in. ​

Large beautiful properties take a lot of dedication to maintain. They take the right tools and expertise. If you’re dedicated to maintaining the beauty and form of your property, you want to have one of the best riding lawn mowers to help make that happen. But there are many different top brands and models of riding mower to choose from, each with different strengths and weaknesses.

We’ve considered the best of them, from traditional riding mowers, to lawn tractors, to zero-turn riding mowers. Our top-rated riding lawn mowers all out-perform other mowers in their class and price point. 

We’ll discuss their pros and cons, in addition to a detailed review of the whole system. We’ve also provided a short buying guide so that you can judge for yourself which mower is the right fit.

Since we’ve chosen from a wide range of different styles of riding mower, with different specialties and add-ons, we’re confident that we’ve picked at least one good match for you whether you’re just looking to leave your old push-mower behind or want a tractor that can be a real workhorse for your whole property.

Table of Contents

Different Types of Riding Mowers

There are several different types of mower to choose from, even among riding mowers. This quick overview can help you narrow down which types suit your needs. 

Rear-Engine Riding Mowers

These mowers are somewhere between walk-behind mowers and lawn tractors. They are a little more compact than some riding mowers, and better suited to smaller properties around 1-2 acres. But they don’t cut as well as a lawn tractor and cut a narrower swathe. They’re also cheaper though, starting only a little more expensive than a self-propelled push motor. 

Lawn Tractors

Lawn tractors are relatively slow-moving, but they cut a wide swathe of grass. They also offer impressive consistency where they cut. However, they can be difficult to maneuver, need a lot of storage space, and regular maintenance. Additionally, bagging kits for lawn tractors tend to be expensive and only moderately effective.

Garden Tractors

Garden tractors are a step up from your average lawn tractor and are designed to handle a wider variety of tasks. With the ability to operate as a snowplow, till your garden, and haul heavy objects, these are all-year equipment. They’re also significantly more expensive and still need quite a bit of storage space. So, garden tractors are best for larger properties with a lot of upkeep required.

Zero Turn Mowers

Zero-turn mowers are more like a tractor than a rear-ending riding mower, but they are more expensive than both. They offer the most maneuverability of the three, higher speeds, and faster cutting. However, they still require the same maintenance and storage space and don’t offer the versatility of a garden tractor. Zero-turn mowers are also more expensive than lawn tractors as a rule.

Matts Best Riding Lawn Mowers Reviews

Now that you know a little more about the differences between the types, let’s look at the best models out there. We’ve picked a variety of different types, so you’ll be able to find something of what you’re looking for no matter which type you’d prefer.

John Deere S120 42 in

  • Yard Size: 1/2 to 2 acres
  • Cutting Width: 42 inches
  • Power: 22hp
  • Power Type: Gas
  • Terrain Type: Flat with Obstacles, Hilly
Matt's Rating:
5/5

John Deere is one of the best names in riding mowers and tractors, so no list considering the best models would be complete without at least one of their mowers included. This lawn tractor performs better than your average lawn tractor, and better than other mowers in its price point, regardless of type.

The cutting deck has been revamped for this model so that raising and lowering the deck is much easier. The rider station is ergonomically designed, making it more comfortable and effective for large properties. No more sore back after mowing.

It’s also made from an impressive 13 gauge welded steel frame. That means, as long as you take care of the engine properly, this is a durable lawn tractor that will last for years.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46 in.

  • Yard Size: 1/2 to 2 acres
  • Cutting Width: 46 inches
  • Engine Make: Kohler
  • Power: 22hp
  • Power Type: Gas
  • Terrain Type: Flat, Obstacles, Gentle slopes
Matt's Rating:
4.3/5

This front-engine lawn tractor combines some of the best features of a good rear engine mower with the ease and comfort of a lawn tractor. The hydrostatic transmission is very smooth, with no jerky motions or difficulty. It’s smooth both forward and reverse.

You also have the added advantage of single button cruise control. Perfect for taking the tractor out to the back five or driving back to the garage after mowing.

While this mower is sold as a lawn tractor, it has the option of added versatility more like a garden tractor. The additional accessories are a separate purchase, and this tractor isn’t quite as powerful as we’d want to see in a garden tractor, but it will get the job done.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Ryobi 38 in. Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower

  • Yard Size: 1/2 to 2 acres
  • Cutting Width: 46 inches
  • Engine Make: Kohler
  • Power: 22hp
  • Power Type: Gas
  • Terrain Type: Flat, Obstacles, Gentle slopes
Matt's Rating:
4.5/5

This rear engine mower is a little more expensive than average, and it’s certainly a high-end version of the type. However, fully electric operation makes this a savvy investment for anyone who doesn’t want to keep gas in the garage or is looking for an exhaust-free option.

Batteries have advanced far enough that this mower isn’t noticeably less powerful than it’s gas-powered competitors, and it has lower maintenance costs in addition to not needing expensive fuel. You’ll still need to get the blades sharpened once a year, but that is likely to be your main maintenance for years.

This is also a better choice for properties with close neighbors. The brushless motors not only allow for a more powerful mower, but they also cut down on operation noise significantly. That means that your neighbors will have a lot less to complain about, even if your houses are side by side.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1: 50in

  • Yard Size: 2 – 4 acres
  • Cutting Width: 50 inches
  • Engine Make: Kawasaki
  • Power: 23hp
  • Power Type: Gas
  • Terrain Type: Flat, Obstacles, Gentle slopes to moderate hills
Matt's Rating:
4.7/5

The Cub Cadet Ultima is dual cylinder Zero Turn Mower with a comfortable seat and wide tires. The frame is made from welded tubular steel, providing all the support you need. It’s also a durable and long-lasting design.

The mower itself is only designed to go up and down moderate hills and prefers a flatter terrain. However, the wide durable tires and strong deck both make this a model that can be pushed to go a little further than its ratings if you need to.

Offering speed up to 7.5 mph, and an advanced cutting system designed that cuts evenly and consistently, this zero-turn mower is a good option for lawns up to about 5 acres in size. It can be used on slightly larger properties, but for the sake of time, you might want to break up your mowing into several sections and tackle them separately.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Toro 60 in. Riding Mower

  • Yard Size: 1/2 to 2 acres
  • Cutting Width: 46 inches
  • Engine Make: Kohler
  • Power: 22hp
  • Power Type: Gas
  • Terrain Type: Flat, Obstacles, Gentle slopes
Matt's Rating:
4.8/5

If you’re looking for a riding mower that cuts out the vibration and bumps, this is a good option. A wide decked zero turn mower, the Toro 60 in offers incredible maneuverability combined with an advanced My Ride suspension system.

That wider deck makes this system less suited to smaller yards, or properties with narrow gates and a lot of landscaping. But the wider deck makes mowing most spaces faster and easier. This mower is best for flat properties, but it can handle some mild hills and rolls in the land.

Toro is also well known for their mower seating and back support, and this model is no different. They offer a comfortable seat with plenty of back support, perfect for the large, 4+ acre properties it’s designed to handle.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Poulan Pro 42 in. Lawn Tractor

  • Yard Size: 1/2 to 2 acres
  • Cutting Width: 38 inches
  • Power: 100Ah
  • Power Type: Battery
  • Terrain Type: Flat, Obstacles
Matt's Rating:
4.4/5

One of the biggest weaknesses of most riding lawn mowers is that they don’t handle rough terrain and hills very well. Fortunately, there are options out there for hilly properties, like the Poulan Pro.

The automatic transmission on the front-engine lawn tractor gives you a lot of control over the speed and power of your tractor. You can match the needs of the landscape instead of using a one-speed-fits-all approach.

It’s got a dual blade cutting system, so you can expect consistent results no matter how fast or slow you’re cutting.

While it doesn’t have the added versatility of a garden tractor, this model does come with the option of purchasing a separate mulching bag. That gives you a little more utility for the price, which we appreciate.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Troy-Bilt Neighborhood Rider 30 in.

  • Yard Size: 1/2 to 2 acres
  • Cutting Width: 42 inches
  • Power: 20hp
  • Power Type: Gas
  • Terrain Type: Flat, Obstacles, Gentle slopes
Matt's Rating:
4.3/5

Of course, not everyone is looking to buy a premium riding mower. You, like many, might be more in the market for a high-performance but low budget pick. Fortunately, this budget option still more than deserves its place among the best riding lawnmowers.

Only slightly more expensive than the bottom price for a riding mower, this model comes with a 6-speed transmission. It’s not automatic but shifting is relatively smooth and easy. The manual transmission also gives you a lot more control over the power of the mower.

The cutting deck is adjustable, although not as flexible as a lawn tractor. The 30-inch deck has the added benefit of coming with a mulching kit, no additional purchase required.

The mower also comes with a rear trailer hitch, though it can only manage relatively low-weight accessories and hauling carts.

Matt Loves:

Consider:

Buying Guide: Choosing the right Riding Lawn Mower for the job

While we’ve picked out some of the best riding mowers available, we also know that our opinion might not match the needs of your property. So, here is a short buying guide to help you find the right riding mower for you, whether that’s one of our choices or a different model entirely.

Riding Mower Deck

Look for a heavy gauge steel deck. This will add a lot of weight, but it’s worth it in terms of durability. Welded decks are generally more durable than stamped decks, though a stamped deck out of heavier steel may wear better.

Mower Manual Or Automatic Transmission

More and more mowers and tractors are adopting automatic transmissions these days, but there are still some pros and cons to each design. An automatic transmission will generally be a smoother ride, and there are new adaptive technologies that help to match your speed to the terrain and grass thickness.

Manual transmissions might not be as smooth, but they give you more direct control over the speed and power of your mower than an automatic.

Gas Or Electric Powered Riding Mower

Electric riding mowers are still far less common than gas-powered versions, and they’re usually more expensive. But, electric mowers need less maintenance and have fewer ongoing operation costs. They are also fume and exhaust-free, which makes them a healthier option for you and your family.

If you’re concerned about environmental issues, electric is the way to go. However, some models are still slightly less powerful than gas-powered competitors. Electric mowers are also just harder to find, so you might have to spend more time shopping to find one.

Property Considerations

You should also keep your specific needs in mind. A zero-turn mower is probably worth it for people with large properties, and wide-open landscaping mixed with trees and other obstacles. But the added cost isn’t going to be worth it for large, flat, clear properties.

A wider deck is a better fit for larger properties since you’ll be able to cover more ground in a single pass. But you might want a smaller deck with better back support in the seat, depending on the property and your physical condition.

Most importantly, you should always look as see what kind of hills the mower is capable of handling. On relatively flat, even ground you don’t need a mower than handles hills, but you don’t want a top-heavy machine on a property that’s mostly hills and slopes.

Final Thoughts on the Best Riding Lawn Mowers

Hopefully, after reading this article, you feel more confident in your ability to choose a good riding mower not just generally, but also for your particular property’s needs. We’ve covered the differences between several different types of riding mower, as well as provided a review of each of our best-rated riding lawn mowers.

We’ve also highlighted some of the most important features of a riding mower, both in the reviews themselves and in our buying guide. Keep those features in mind any time you evaluate a new riding mower, and you’ll be in good shape. 

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