Riding Lawn Mower Buyers Guide

Your choice for a riding lawn mower should be influenced by several factors.

Most important of these factors is the type of lawn you have.

How large is your yard? Is it hilly or flat? Do you have tons of shrubs, trees, flowerbeds or other obstacles on it?

For lawns measuring more than half an acre in size, a riding lawn mower is highly recommended.

Unless you’re trying to get in shape. Personally I can think of much better ways to get into shape.  Can you say bicycle?

Unlike a push mower (ideal for smaller lawns), a riding mower can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

Depending on the nature and topography of your lawn, you can further choose from among several types of riding mowers.

Below we highlight the different types of riding lawn mower and their pros and cons.

Snapper Rear Engine Riding Lawn Rider

1. Rear Engine Riding Mowers

This is the most basic type of riding mowers, ideal for those with medium-sized lawns or are looking for the bargain priced riding lawn mower.

The rear engine riders differs from most modern riding mowers in that they have their engine at the rear of the machine.

Because of this, they are not recommended for hilly terrains where steering can be a problem.

They are some of the cheapest riding mowers, though some brands can cost as much as a lawn tractor.


  • Small and compact, allowing easy maneuverability around tight spaces such as around flower beds. They can also be stored in small spaces unlike large lawn tractors.
  • With prices starting at around $700, rear engine riders usually cost less than lawn tractors.
  • Because of the engine’s position, exhaust fumes are safely emitted at the rear away from the user. This is especially beneficial for people with respiratory health issues.
  • Because the engine is not at the front, one is able to achieve better visibility at the front. This can be especially important when navigating delicate places like around shrubs and flower gardens.
  • Two types of transmission are available; disc-drive (manual but cheaper) and hydrostatic transmission (automatic but more expensive).


  • The weight of the user, engine and fuel is concentrated at the rear. This causes the front wheels to lose grip when going up a hill, making steering increasingly difficult.
  • The smaller engines found in rear engine riding mowers result in a lower performance compared to other types of lawn mowers. This is why the rear engine rider is recommended for small and medium-size lawns only. For larger lawns, a more powerful machine would be better.
  • They have low speeds of around 1.5 to 4.5 mph. If you have a sizable lawn, it will take longer to mow it with a rear engine rider.
  • Narrow cutting width of around 28 inches.

Snapper ZTR Riding Lawn Mower

2. Zero Turn Radius Tractors

If you are looking to upgrade form the basic rear-engine rider to something a bit more powerful, this is a great choice.

The zero turn radius tractor (or ZTR mower) is a step up from the rear engine rider in terms of speed, performance and mowing width.

However, it also has its engine at the rear, presenting the same incline control problems as the rear engine rider.

One unique feature of the ZTR mower is that it is controlled using two levers.

Its front wheels can pivot very sharply, allowing better control around bushes and flower beds.

A Zero Turn Mower can be used on larger lawn sizes, thanks to their higher speed and wider mowing width.

It is ideal for homeowners who want something a bit more powerful than a rear engine rider without spending too much money.


  • Faster speeds compared to a rear engine rider. This allows one to cover a larger lawn area in a short amount of time.
  • Easy maneuverability. The ZTR mower is king when it comes to maneuvering. The lever control method allows easy control of the wheels, enabling them to turn sharply in areas where you need a close cut. This makes them ideal for lawns with flowerbeds and shrubs.
  • Good performance. Though there will be variations among models, zero turn radius mowers are generally good at their job. In fact, some tend to produce a better cut than certain lawn tractors.
  • Most are cheaper than garden tractors.


  • The rear engine position is a disadvantage when working on a hilly terrain. The ZTR mower is not recommended for steep lawns and can be even more dangerous if the lawn is wet.
  • Lack of versatility when it comes to accessories. You can use more accessories (e.g. a snow plow) with a lawn tractor than with a ZTR mower.

Snapper Garden Tractor

3. Garden Tractors

These are the most common types of riding lawn mowers.

These are popular for their performance, speed, power and versatility in accessories.

A lawn tractor features a traditional tractor design with a steering wheel and a powerful engine at the front. Because of their power and speed, lawn tractors are ideal for large lawn sizes of more than half an acre.

They can also handle different kinds of terrains including steep lawns.

A variation of the lawn tractor is the garden tractor. Garden tractors usually have more powerful engines and can be used for lawns extending over several acres.


  • The engine is mounted at the front, allowing easy maneuvering in all kinds of terrains without worrying about steering. More expensive models even come with 4-wheel steering to handle all kinds of lawns.
  • They have powerful engines that boost up its performance and speed. This is why the lawn tractor and garden tractor are perfect for expansive lawns.
  • Users have a wide variety of attachments to use from. Depending on the model, you can attach landscaping materials, seed spreader and a snowplow.
  • You can cover a very large area within a short amount of time, thanks to the high speeds of the lawn tractor. Mowing quality is in no way affected by the increased speed. In fact, most models feature advanced blade designs for better cutting.


  • The cost can be quite high, especially for advanced models, which can cost as much as $3,000. But you can also find cheaper brands, some costing from $1,000.
  • Can be a bit difficult to pull of tight maneuvers around shrubs and flower beds.
  • The front engine location may present visibility issues.


You should take time to consider which riding lawn mower will be perfect for you.

For small and medium size lawns, choose the rear-engine rider or the ZTR mower.

For much larger lawns with hilly terrain, the lawn and garden tractors are ideal.

If you have questions or comments about selecting the correct mower for you yard please feel free to contact us via phone or email.


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Riding Lawn Mower Buyers Guide
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Riding Lawn Mower Buyers Guide
Are you wanting a riding lawn mower but don't know which one to buy? This article covers the different types of riding lawn mower and pros and cons of each.
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Jack Hayes

Jack Hayes is the Head of Internet Marketing at LawnMowerPros and the editor of this blog. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, custom graphics and much more.