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Best riding lawn mowers 2022

Best riding lawn mower
(Image credit: John Deere)

It doesn’t matter how big your backyard is when you own one of the best riding lawn mowers. Rather than doing the hard yards with a push mower, riding lawn mowers are far more suitable for large and hilly lawns. In fact, once you’re in the driving seat, all you need to do is start the engine, steer, and use features such as adjustable cutting heights or deck positions to your advantage.

The best riding lawn mowers can accelerate to as fast as eight miles per hour, helping you to leave no stone unturned. As well as helping you finish things up quickly, hills are no barrier for the top riding lawn mowers either, especially those with a great deal of horsepower and speed. The most powerful riding lawn mowers are those that are powered by gas, but if you’re concerned with keeping your purchase as eco-friendly as possible, zero-emission mowers powered by batteries are a great option. These help to keep the noise down, good news if you have young children, pets or neighbors close by.

The best riding lawn mowers for anyone on a budget are typically gas mowers, especially those that are smaller and lighter in weight. If you have obstacles such as swing sets, outdoor furniture, barbecues or hot tubs to maneuver around, a slimmer model with zero-turn features will also be handy.

For other mowers that will tackle lawns of all shapes and sizes, take a look at our guides to the best electric lawn mowers (opens in new tab) and the best lawn edgers (opens in new tab)


1. John Deere S180: Best riding lawn mower overall

Best riding lawn mower

(Image credit: John Deere)
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John Deere S180

This is the best rider lawn mower you can buy

Reasons to buy

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Wide cutting path
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Powerful V-twin engine
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Adjustable blade height from 1 to 4 inches

Reasons to avoid

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Bulky design

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 S180 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.

A full review of the John Deere S180 is being compiled, in the meantime this review of the previous John Deere E180 (opens in new tab) is available.


2. Troy-Bilt TB30 R: Best rider lawn mower for value

Best riding lawn mowers: Troy-Bilt TB30 R Rider Lawn Mower

(Image credit: Troy-Bilt)
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A great value rider lawn mower

Reasons to buy

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It is much less expensive than the top-of-the-line models
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It’s the lightest mower we reviewed – just 320 pounds
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It can cut grass while in reverse

Reasons to avoid

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It’s one of the slower models we reviewed

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 

Best riding lawn mowers: EGO POWER ZT4204L

(Image credit: Lowe's)
A more customizable and eco-friendly ride-on lawn mower

Reasons to buy

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Power from batteries to rival gas 
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Zero emissions 

Reasons to avoid

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Additional batteries sold separately
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Pricey 

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

Best riding lawn mowers: Cub Cadet RZT-L Rider Lawn Mower

(Image credit: Cub Cadet)
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This is a powerful, zero-turn riding lawn mower

Reasons to buy

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Its small form factor makes it easy to store
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It employs zero-turn technology
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It has a powerful engine that delivers good speeds

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive

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.


4. Husqvarna YTH18542: Best small rider lawn mower

Best riding lawn mowers: Husqvarna YTH18542 Rider Lawn Mower

(Image credit: Husqvarna)
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The most compact rider lawn mower

Reasons to buy

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It’s compact, powerful and employs a unique air induction system
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Cruise control
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Powerful for such a small model

Reasons to avoid

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Its fuel tank is a relatively small 2.5 gallons

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.


5. Exmark Lazer Z: Best riding lawn mower for large spaces

Best riding lawn mowers: Exmark Lazer Z X-Series Rider Mower

(Image credit: Exmark)
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This rider lawn mower will give your lawn a professional finish

Reasons to buy

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RED technology in these machines optimizes performance
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Efficient and durable

Reasons to avoid

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Extremely expensive
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Inconvenient buying process

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.


6. Ryobi RY48111: Best battery-powered riding lawn mower 

Best riding lawn mowers: Ryobi RY48111 48-Volt Zero Turn Electric riding mower

(Image credit: Home Depot)
This environmentally-friendly mower not only runs excellently but is also ultra-quiet.

Reasons to buy

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Zero emissions, no refueling needed 
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Low maintenance  

Reasons to avoid

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Requires charging 

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. 


7. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1: Best riding lawn mower for tough environments

Best riding lawn mowers: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 riding lawn mower review

(Image credit: Home Depot)
This Cub Cadet model has a dual-cylinder engine and a fabricated deck to ensure rigidity.

Reasons to buy

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50 inch cutting path 
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23 horsepower engine 

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive  

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.


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 (opens in new tab) 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’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re selecting a great rider lawn mower. One place to begin is with its power, as this will determine how fast your ride is. You can tell how powerful the engine is by checking out its horsepower first and foremost, but it’s also key to look at how long the battery lasts. Most electric mowers will give an estimate as to how many minutes they can last without a recharge. Just be sure to choose a model with an easy-to-access charging port too.

Feeling calm and collected in the drivers’ seat is always key with riding lawn mowers, which is where digital or manual user controls come into play. Usually, this boils down to personal preference, but digital user controls can feel more intuitive. Ergonomic chairs that will properly support your spine are another handy design feature, as are grip bars if you’re expecting quite a bumpy ride. 

When it comes to the cut quality, cutting width is the number one thing. The higher the number, the more grass you can work your way through in one go.


How much do the best riding lawn mowers cost?

The best riding lawn mowers don’t necessarily come cheap. However, with premium horsepower, minimum effort and a design that’s comparable to a small tractor, that’s to be expected. If you’re trying to keep your spending as low as you can, it’s possible to get your hands on a riding lawn mower for as little as $1,200. 

The more features and the greater the horsepower, the more pennies you’ll part with. The same goes for esthetics, as snazzier designs will also add to the overall cost of your riding lawn mower. Models from Cub Cadet and other top brands, for instance, have a price tag of up to $3,000. Considering that most riding lawn mowers last between 10 and 20 years, this is a mower that will stick with you for a good chunk of your life. Plus, it’s a very valuable tool for lawns that are too hilly or large for a classic push mower to handle.

Molly is the Staff Writer for the Home Section at Top Ten Reviews, joining the team after finishing college. When she's not writing she enjoys baking and embroidery, as well as getting stuck into a good book. She now enjoys writing about kitchen appliances, gardening tools, and will even dip her toe into writing about fridges and ovens.

With contributions from