The best riding lawn mowers will get your lawn back on track, thanks to easy ride-along cuts. Whether you’ve got a hilly climb or a huge backyard, the best lawn tractor is all about power and convenience. You certainly won’t over-exert yourself, as unlike the best gas lawn mowers, there’s no need for heaving your way around hedges, plantrows and garden furniture on foot. Instead, the best riding lawn mowers 2021 reach speeds of up to eight miles per hour, so they’re just the thing to get the job done quickly.
When it comes to slopes and large lawns, the best riding lawn mowers trump push-along mowers on power. You’ll get the biggest rumble power-wise with a gas-powered riding lawn mower, but it’s easier to keep things green-fingered with a zero-emission battery-powered mower. As well as being kinder to the neighbors, thanks to the quiet engines, battery-powered mowers are simpler to keep in working order. However, if your biggest concern is hunting down the best riding lawn mower for the money, you’ll be best off with a gas-powered mower that’s dinkier and lightweight.
The best riding lawn mowers feature zero-turn features that help with skimming around narrow edges. They also come with adjustable cutting heights and a number of deck positions add an extra blanket of control. As for those of you with a particularly formidable hill ahead of you, the best lawn tractor is the one with the greatest horsepower and speed.
1. John Deere E180: Best riding lawn mower overall
This machine makes quick and easy work of cutting any size yard, and it easily navigates terrain other mowers may struggle to traverse. It features a front-mounted V-twin engine that produces up to 26 horsepower and can reach speeds up to 5.5 miles per hour. The fuel gauge sits in plain view as you mow so you know exactly how much gas you have left.
The John Deere E180 has an impressively wide cutting path of 54 inches. You can adjust the blades to 11 different height positions, anywhere between 1 inch and 4 inches, and it has a turning radius of 18 inches. These features make it easy to customize the cut to your lawn so it looks just the way you want.
The machine’s hydrostatic transmission is pedal-operated, so you don’t have to take your hands off the steering wheel while you drive. This John Deere mower also has a cruise control that lets you set the speed you want to mow at. Both of these features limit distractions, so you can focus on your lawn and not the lawn mower.
- Read our John Deere E180 Lawn Tractor review
2. Troy-Bilt TB30 R: Best rider lawn mower for value
An inexpensive riding lawn mower doesn’t really exist, but if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, the Troy-Bilt TB30 R is definitely worth considering. With a lower price than many rider lawn mowers, it’s more accessible to an average homeowner. It’s good for small- to medium-size lawns and has most, but not all, of the features we look for.
This mower features a rear-mounted 344cc engine and can reach speeds up to 4.25 miles per hour. It has a 30-inch blade, which isn’t the longest we saw but more than long enough for most users’ needs. It’s a bit slower and doesn’t cut as wide a path as our top pick, but the TB30 R’s power and maneuverability make it a good compromise, especially for its price.
It also has some convenience features, chief among them the FastAttach accessory system that lets you quickly attach accessories such as baggers and mulch kits. However, these accessories don’t come with the mower – you have to buy them separately. We liked this model’s six-speed, shift-on-the-go transmission, which allows you to quickly shift gears without stopping to adjust the clutch. Its operator-controlled reverse system even makes it possible to mow the grass while in reverse.
3. EGO POWER ZT4204L: Best riding lawn mower for customization
You might assume that battery powered rider lawn mowers can’t compete with their gas counterparts, however the EGO POWER ZT4204L seeks to change that. How come? With its 22 horsepower engine and maximum eight mile an hour speed. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants to avoid the muckiness of refueling with oil while doing your bit for the planet too.
The riding experience of the EGO POWER ZT4204L not only aims to deliver on power but on the specificities of the riding experience. There’s the adjustable seat, the super bright headlights, and even an onboard USB port for charging your phone. You can enter into different modes via the LCD interface, and choose from Sport, Control and Standard, to whizz around at whatever pace you feel is necessary.
It has zero-turn technology (essential for ride-on mowers) and a 42-inch cutting path. The one downside to this model, excluding the high price, is that it is capable of holding six lithium batteries but only comes with four upon purchase. That’s something worth remembering if you do decide that this is the model for you.
4. Cub Cadet RZT-L: Best rider lawn mower for sheer power
Storage space for large equipment such as a riding lawn mower is often limited, so you may be left with the choice of sacrificing power and utility for a machine that has a smaller frame. With the Cub Cadet RZT-L, you can have all three. This riding lawn mower is compact yet still delivers power, speed and versatility. You’ll pay a premium, however: it is one of the most expensive riding lawn mowers we evaluated.
This machine is constructed of very durable materials. Its 12-gauge steel body enhances protection against the occasional collision with rocks, trees and other lawn debris. The drive deck uses a Kevlar belt, which increases efficiency, performance and lifespan. The deck also incorporates a float system that keeps your mower level as you travel across rough terrain or inclines.
One of the things we look for in this category is zero-turn technology, which this lawnmower boasts. It can navigate around trees, shrubs and other obstacles without leaving uncut grass around them. The engine found in this lawn mower is impressive for a machine of its size. You get a 725-cc Koehler engine that delivers 23 horsepower and reaches a speed of 7 mph. Some of the full-size lawn mowers can’t compete with those specs. It also has a 2.8 gallon gas tank, which is large for a compact mower.
5. Husqvarna YTH18542: Best small rider lawn mower
Compact lawn mowers that produce high quality results are hard to come by. In our evaluation, the Husqvarna YTH1852 is one of the most compact, yet powerful machines we reviewed.
It’s smaller than most riding lawn mowers, but it has several features that put it on par with the best models we saw. It has a 42-inch cutting width, which is about double what you get with a traditional push lawn mower. It also features a unique air induction system that enhances airflow through the deck, resulting in a cleaner and more consistent cut.
The Husqvarna YTH1852 is constructed out of flat-stock steel, which stands up to harsh weather. Finally, it has a great cruise control feature that keeps a consistent speed during your mow.
6. Exmark Lazer Z: Best riding lawn mower for large spaces
If you have a landscaping or lawn care company, you need a riding lawn mower that will work every single day for years without fail, and one that you can expect to perform at the highest level consistently.
Exmark Lazer Z X-Series is the perfect fit for such a situation. It has 12 models to choose from that feature powerful engines and solid, heavy duty construction that can withstand a daily beating. Additionally, they utilize eMark’s unique RED technology.
It has on-board computer that helps different parts of the machine communicate with each other and optimize the performance based on what’s happening at the moment. It monitors engine temperature, oil pressure and electrical components. If there’s ever a problem, it will automatically correct or shut the machine down if it gets too dangerous.
7. Ryobi RY48111: Best battery-powered riding lawn mower
The Ryobi RY48111 riding lawn mower is a rare find, as it’s both super powerful and better for the planet, with its batteries providing the riding experience you need. This mower also utilizes zero-turn technology in order to create a machine that’s easy to maneuver and will take less time to take care of your yard.
The cutting path of the Ryobi RY48111 is 38 inches, which makes it ideal for larger backyards rather than wide-open spaces. This model also has a 12-position manual deck adjustment so you can get your lawn to its premium height, as well as enough charge to serve you for two and a half hours’ worth of mowing.
One of the best features about the Ryobi RY48111 is its quiet running. With just 70 decibels of sound emitted, it runs only a little louder than an average conversation, so both your family and your neighbors can safely inhabit the garden without being disturbed.
- Read our Ryobi RY48111 riding lawn mower review
8. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1: Best riding lawn mower for tough environments
The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 attempts to ensure maximum durability with its design. That includes its fabricated deck and tubular high-strength frame. It also aims to go the extra mile with comfort, with its ergonomic, fully adjustable chair, as well as lap bars and hand-grips. All of these things should reduce operator fatigue, and make for a more enjoyable riding lawn mower experience.
The zero-turn technology with this riding lawn mower also aims to be faster than competing models and combined with the 50-inch cutting path, it’s safe to say that user reviews are confident in this mower’s ability to knock the hours off your mowing time. The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 also aims to prevent refueling trips, with 3.5 gallons of fuel tank capacity available for use. It can also reach up to speeds of 7.5 miles per hour and has a 23 horsepower dual cylinder engine for providing maximum power.
- Read our Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 riding lawn mower review
How we picked the best rider lawn mowers
As we evaluated each mower, we accounted for things like speed, cutting width, overall design, engine power and transmission type. Since these are very expensive machines, we also considered price, so we could find the best riding lawn mowers that offer the greatest value.
Our top choice had a favorable balance among all of these criteria. While we believe it is the best riding lawn mower for most people, it isn’t necessarily the best fit for kind of terrain or purpose. For example, if you own a lawn care business, you need a machine that is built to handle more than the weekly mow.
Every model we feature was subject to scrutiny based on its specifications, feature set, and feedback from real-life users. Our final choices represent the best riding lawn mower each brand offers.
We also reached out to professionals who use riding lawn mowers on a daily basis. We spoke to Steve Hough of Hough Landscaping, who has used a dozen different types of riding lawn mowers for more than two decades, about what he looks for when he buys a mower for his business.
When he selects a new riding mower for his service, Mr Hough considers productivity, price, and the lifespan of the machine. Other considerations include serviceability, reliability and down time. For professional situations he prefers eXmark machines because they’re lower priced and functional.
However, for his personal use he does prefer John Deere because “It's been a trusted name across multiple generations; always reliable, high-quality service from the dealer, and eliminates a lot of headaches.”
We've identified criteria that can help you select the best riding mower for your projects. Speed, cutting width, zero-turn design, engine placement and transmission are key factors when determining which one is right for you.
What to look for in a good rider lawn mower?
There are plenty of features to consider when picking out one of the best riding lawn mowers, so you can get the greatest experience behind the wheel. If you’re hungry for power in your new mower, then check out the horsepower of each contender, as this determines how fast you can get around. Most electric models give an indication in minutes how long you’ll have to go before you charge up too.
Be sure to take note of the cutting width of each mower too, as the higher this number is, the more grass you can cut in one go. You can also get a more pleasant mowing experience with models that have cruise control or zero-turn technology.
Riding experience is also important, as you want to feel comfortable behind the wheel, especially if you have a lot of ground to cover. This covers user controls, which might be digital or manual, and depend on personal preference. Many models also have ergonomic chairs, as well as comfort grip bars that you can glide along with. If you’re opting for an electric model, make sure the charging port is easily accessible too.
How much do the best riding lawn mowers cost?
If you’ve already been shopping around for a rider lawn mower, you’ll know that they can set you back a hefty amount. Models from brands such as Cub Cadet can cost up to $3,000, though they will be equipped with the top range of features you can possibly find when it comes to the riding experience and power.
There are more affordable options available starting at around $1,200, which won’t have the flashiness of more expensive models. If you aren’t concerned about those add-on features, then this type of mower will still serve you well and get the job done. In terms of money, you can also see a rider lawn mower as an investment, as they tend to last between ten and twenty years. If you have a huge space to cover, then you can also see the cost of a riding lawn mower as drastically cutting out the time you would manually have to mow too, so you have more of your own time to focus elsewhere.