Do You Need a Riding Lawn Mower?



If you have a lawn, you need a lawn mower to keep it in good shape. But will a push mower be enough, or should you go for a self-propelled model? What about a riding mower or lawn tractor?



Usually, riding mowers are best for large lawns – you wouldn’t want to mow anything larger than a quarter of an acre with a push mower, unless you want to spend the whole weekend cutting grass every weekend. But there are other things to consider besides the size of the lawn, like the terrain and whether you’ll be cutting just turf grass or also some weeds and non-turf grasses. Here’s how to tell when it’s time to lay out for a riding lawn mower.

Consider the Size of Your Lawn

Lawn size is the number one factor most people consider when choosing between a walk-behind and a riding lawn mower. If you have a small yard, a walk-behind mower, whether a push mower or self-propelled, would be sufficient for your needs. But if you were sure you could get by with a walk-behind mower, you wouldn’t be wondering about riding mowers.


If your lawn is more than a quarter of an acre, you should be looking at riding lawn mowers. For many homeowners, even a quarter of an acre of grass is too much to cut with a walk-behind mower. If you’re on the cusp, not sure if your lawn is big enough to justify the purchase of a riding mower, you should think about how much time it will take you to mow your lawn with a walk-behind mower. Borrow a friend’s or neighbor’s walk-behind mower and take it for a test drive – or simply walk throughout your yard as you would while pushing a mower. It can take two or three hours to mow a quarter of an acre with a walk-behind mower, especially if there’s difficult terrain involved. But what takes hours with a walk-behind could take only minutes with a riding mower.

Consider the Terrain

No matter what kind of mower you decide to buy, it should be suited to your terrain. If you have hills that need mowing or uneven ground, you’ll at least want a self-propelled mower that is capable of handling steep slopes and rugged terrain. Most self-propelled mowers have either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, but you can also buy self-propelled mowers with all-wheel drive for particularly rugged terrain.


You don’t need to skip buying a riding lawn mower just because you have hills or rugged terrain in your lawn, but you should make sure the mower you buy is capable of handling those challenges. Zero-turn riding mowers, while great for cutting lawns with a lot of trees, flower beds, and other obstacles, aren’t as good on rugged terrain or steep hills. For lawns with hills and uneven ground, a lawn tractor is most suitable.


Choose Your Cutting Deck Size

Another reason why it’s a good idea to buy a riding lawn mower for manicuring a larger lawn is that a riding mower has a larger deck size, which means you can cut wider swathes of grass with it. A walk-behind mower typically has a deck size of 21 to 36 inches, while riding lawn mowers have deck sizes ranging from 42 to 78 inches wide. The larger the deck size, the more grass you can cut in a single pass. Lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers have the largest deck sizes. If you buy a riding lawn mower with a 78-inch deck, you can cut more than twice as much grass in a single pass as you could with a walk-behind mower.


So, while a lawn mower with a cutting deck of 30 to 42 inches should be sufficient for yards less than an acre in size, if you have more than an acre, you should grab one with a larger cutting deck. The more grass you have, the larger your cutting deck should be – if you have two acres, get at least a 48-inch cutting deck, and if you have more than two acres, you may want to go for the largest cutting deck you can find. The larger your cutting deck, the faster you’ll be able to get all of your grass cut.


If your yard is much bigger than a quarter of an acre, you’ll probably want to buy a riding lawn mower to handle cutting your grass quickly and efficiently. Choose one with the maneuverability and cutting capacity you need, so you can turn cutting your lawn from a chore into an escape.

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