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What is a zero turn lawn mower?

Man on a zero turn lawn mower
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wondering what is a zero turn lawn mower? Essentially, it's a type of riding lawn mower where the front and rear wheels are able to work independently from each other. This enables a zero turn lawn mower to be much more maneuverable than other types of mowers, which is perfect if you have tricky corners to contend with

The best riding lawn mowers (opens in new tab) are a handy tool for anyone with large amounts of grass to cover, whether it's in a residential or professional setting. However, another reason why you might want to plump for a zero turn lawn mower is that they tend to be faster than other riding lawn mowers, enabling you to cover more ground in less time. This is why zero turn lawn mowers are often chosen for large expanses of space, such as school fields or gold courses. 

Unfortunately, these premium features do come with a premium price tag. Zero turn lawn mowers might be a fantastic way to make cutting grass easier and quicker, but they also tend to be more expensive than ordinary riding lawn mowers – or even non-riding mowers, such as the best gas lawn mowers (opens in new tab)

If you're considering investing in a zero turn lawn mower, we've broken down exactly what you need to know about these handy machines below. 

What is a zero turn lawn mower?

So, what is a zero turn lawnmower? “A zero turn lawn mower is a riding lawn mower but has several distinctions for superior performance,” says Andy Massignan, Product Director for the Residential Lawn Portfolio at AriensCo (opens in new tab)

Andy Massignan
Andy Massignan

Andy Massignan is a Wisconsin native and is currently the Product Director for the Residential Lawn Portfolio at AriensCo (opens in new tab). This includes brands such as AS Motors High Grass Mowers and Gravely, a well-known manufacturer of zero turn lawn mowers. 

Like other riding lawn mowers or lawn tractors, they allow you to cover large spaces that your average mower can’t handle. You can choose between seated and stand-behind models depending on personal preference. If you’re not used to a riding lawn mower, the novelty of it makes mowing feel less of a chore.

Zero turn lawnmowers are specially designed to give you enhanced handling. “Instead of a steering wheel, zero-turns use two handles that steer the front and the rear wheels independently, giving them a near-zero turning radius that is useful for navigating tight spaces and mowing close to structures and around obstacles,” says Andy. So if you have awkward tight spots, a zero turn lawn mower can tackle these hard-to-reach areas. The maneuverability means they’re easy to handle which takes the chore out of maintaining your lawn.  

Yet what’s the difference between a zero turn lawn mower and a lawn tractor? “As zero turn lawn mowers are purpose-built grass cutting machines, they offer significantly reduced grass cutting times over traditional lawn tractors,” explains Andy.

What are the benefits of a zero turn lawn mower?

Zero turn lawn mowers have the edge over traditional lawn mowers when it comes to maneuverability and speed. 

What the expert says…

Andy Massignan, Product Director for the Residential Lawn Portfolio at AriensCo (opens in new tab), says, “Zero-turns are useful for most grass cutting when speed and maneuverability are desired with the quality of a professional cut. This can include large lawns, sports fields, commercial properties, and more."

Looking for turning capability? Superior handling is where a zero turn lawn mower comes into its own. “For those with landscapes that require a more maneuverable machine due to tight spaces and obstacles, zero-turns are ideal mowers,” says Andy. So if there are obstacles like trees, planting beds, or swimming pools in the way, a zero turn lawn mower can get you out of a tight spot. Even better, many zero turn mowers allow you to reverse, which makes it easy to navigate around whatever is in your way. 

If you want to get the job done quickly, a zero turn lawn mower is your friend. Andy advises they’re a great choice “for people with large spaces to cut, such as sports fields or large lawns.”  Andy adds that zero turn lawn mowers are typically much faster than your average lawn tractor. You’ll free up time to sit back and enjoy the view. 

You’ll find that many of the latest zero turn lawn mowers are battery-powered. Andy explains that this can “help owners save on fuel costs, reduce noise, and simplify maintenance.”

What are the drawbacks of a zero turn lawn mower?

While zero turn lawn mowers offer a host of benefits, you’ll want to be aware of the drawbacks too. These are high-end products common to professional settings. As you might expect, these premium features come at a price. “Zero turns cost more than traditional mowers, but they provide exponential speed, maneuverability, and quality of cut,” says Andy. While they may be more expensive than other models, a zero turn lawn mower may be worth the investment if you’re mowing a large area. 

However, if you have a smaller backyard, you'll likely find that a standard lawn mower will be more than enough to keep your grass looking healthy and tidy. It's also worth noting that all riding lawn mowers, including zero turn models, will need significantly more storage space than other mowers. 

Essentially, unless you have a large amount of grass to cut and a large space to keep your mower (you'll want to avoid storing any lawn mower outside), you might want to avoid a zero turn lawn mower. 

Another potential drawback that's worth keeping note of is a zero turn lawn mowers ability to handle steep terrain. Andy cautions against using a zero turn lawn mower on a hill, so if your backyard features a significant slope, then you might want to look elsewhere. 

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Louise Bond is a UK-based writer specializing in health and wellbeing. She has over eight years of experience in management within health and care and brings this passion and expertise to her writing. Louise has been published in The Guardian, Live Science, Fit & Well, Tom’s Guide, Planet Mindful, Breathe, and Psychreg. She is at her happiest when she is out in nature, whether that’s on an invigorating hike or pottering in the garden.

With contributions from