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How to Choose a Riding Lawn Mower

Looking for the best riding lawn mower? This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook takes a quick look at some options.

In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook takes a quick look at three riding mower options.

Types of Riding Lawn Mower

Basic Riding Lawn Mower

  • A basic riding mower costs about $900 and has the engine located below the seat.
  • Its narrow 30-inch mowing deck isn't efficient for mowing large lawns, but it does allow the mower to easily fit through narrow gates and into sheds or garages.

Riding Lawn Tractors

  • Riding lawn tractors have wider mowing decks, starting at about 42 inches wide, automatic transmissions, and front-mount engines. They start at about $1,800.

Zero-turn Mowers

  • Zero-turn mowers have rear-mount engines and offer superior control and maneuverability. They also cost the most, starting at about $3,000.
  • Zero-turn mowers have two handles, instead of a steering wheel, which allows for trimming very close to trees and shrubs.
  • To propel a zero-turn mower, push both handles forward to increase speed, pull back to slow or stop. Pull the left handle to turn left, and pull the right handle to turn right.

How to Use a Riding Lawn Mower

  • All riding mowers feature an auto cut-off switch under the seat. If you stand up—or fall off—when mowing, the engine will automatically shut off.
  • Adjust the cutting height to the precise depth, making sure you don't trim the grass too short.
  • You must push in the brake before the mower will start.
  • To produce the cleanest cut, mow the lawn at medium speed. Driving too quickly will produce a messy, uneven cut.