Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2018

Danny Chadwick ·
Multimedia & Home Improvement Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We’ve been reviewing the best riding lawn mowers for more than three years. We spent more than 80 hours, researching, comparing, rating and ranking the best models on the market today. After considering dozens of machines to find out which ones are best for specific users and types of yards, we picked the John Deere E180 as the top choice because it has a V-twin engine and wide cutting path, and it’s easy to maneuver. It’s a bit expensive, but if you’re serious about your lawn, this is the mower you want.    

Best Overall
John Deere E180
This mower has everything you need for heavy-duty use in residential areas, whether your yard is small or large. Its 26-horsepower engine and wide cutting path make mowing your lawn a cinch.
View on Home Depot
Best Value
Troy-Bilt TB30 R
If you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, consider the Troy-Bilt TB30 R. It costs a fraction of the price of the best models and still has the cutting power and versatility to get the job done.
View on Lowe's
Best Small Riding Lawn Mower
Cub Cadet RZT-L
If you need a compact mower at a reasonable price, the Cub Cadet RZT-L is worthy of consideration. It combines a small form factor with a powerful engine and zero-turn technology.
View on Home Depot
Best Overall

John Deere E180

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.
Pros
  • It has a powerful V-twin engine.
  • Its wide cutting path reduces the necessary number of passes to mow your lawn.
  • You can adjust the blade height anywhere from 1 to 4 inches.
Cons
  • It’s quite expensive for the average user – almost $3,000.
  • The mower can jam up on grass taller than 6 inches.
  • The gas cap can become cross threaded easily.
$2899.00Home Depot
Best Value

Troy-Bilt TB30 R

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 price of less than a thousand dollars, 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 while in reverse.
Pros
  • It is much less expensive than the top-of-the-line models.
  • It’s the lightest mower we reviewed – just 320 pounds.
  • It can cut grass while in reverse.
Cons
  • Accessories, such as clipping collectors, are sold separately.
  • It doesn’t have extras like a cup holder or a padded steering wheel.
  • It’s one of the slower models we reviewed.
$999.00Lowe's
Best Small Riding Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet RZT-L

Storage space for large equipment such as a riding lawn more is often limited, so you may be left with the choice of sacrificing power and utility for a smaller form factor. 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 generally costs about $2,500 – 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 horse power 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. Only one product we reviewed has a larger tank at 3.5 gallons.
Pros
  • Its small form factor makes it easy to store.
  • It employs zero-turn technology.
  • It has a powerful engine that delivers good speeds.
Cons
  • It has a high price tag.
  • It has a relatively narrow cutting height range (1-4 inches).
  • It doesn’t mow in reverse.
$2299.00Home Depot
Best for Professionals
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.
Pros
  • RED technology in these machines optimizes performance.
Cons
  • It’s $11,000 price tag is a huge investment, even for professionals.
$10,999.00Single Cylinder Store
Read the full review
Most Compact Lawnmower
Compact lawnmowers 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 lawnmowers, 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. It’s also 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.
Pros
  • It’s compact, powerful and employs a unique air induction system.
Cons
  • Its fuel tank is a relatively small 2.5 gallons.
$1,989.99-
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

We put in dozens of man-hours collecting data on brands, models and types of machines. We compared specifications, combed through user reviews, consulted professional literature and more to make sure we picked the right models for the right purposes. We also spoke with each company’s support staff to assess whether you can get the assistance you need when you need it. We periodically re-evaluate the riding lawn mowers we feature to make sure they’re the best and most current models available.

How We Picked the Best

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 models that give you the most value for your dollar.

Our top choice earned its spot by striking a favorable balance among all these criteria. While we believe it is the best mower for most people, it isn’t necessarily the best fit for everyone. 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 each brand offers.

We also reached out to professionals who use riding lawnmowers 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 he considers productivity, price, and how many hours he will get out of a mower during its lifetime. Other considerations include serviceability, reliability and down time. For professional situations he prefers eXmark machines because they’re lower priced and functional; you won’t pay extra for the green paint on brands like John Deere.

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.

How Much Do Riding Lawnmowers Cost?
These machines can be quite expensive. But there’s a model for nearly all budgets. Among the lawnmowers we reviewed, the cheapest was about $750, while the most expensive is over $10,000. So, it runs the gamut, and if you really want one, there’s one out there that fits your needs and budget.

Speed
The faster the ride-on mower drives, the sooner you complete your job. High speed is most important if you are a professional maintenance worker or landscaper because it gets you on to your next project quickly, increasing profits.

Cutting Width
A wider blade cuts a larger area with each pass, getting the job done faster. However, some lawn mowers might be too wide to maneuver comfortably through your property. Make certain there aren’t any spots on the lawn that are too tight to fit the mower you select.

Zero-Turn Design
Zero-turn lawn mowers have the tightest turning radius, which translates to excellent maneuverability and makes it easy to get around trees, shrubs and lawn statues. However, they do have some difficulty maneuvering on hills because they tend to turn too sharply on steep terrain.

Engine Placement
In general, the mower’s engine placement determines its power. Rear-engine models are smaller and have less power, and zero-turn mowers normally have rear engines. Front-engine tractor models have larger engines and more power and cutting ability.

Transmission
Just like a car's transmission, a manual transmission on a mower means more work for you. If you prefer to focus on steering instead of shifting, you’ll want a riding mower with an automatic transmission.