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The 7 Best Riding Lawn Mowers to Shape up Your Yard This Season

Popular Mechanics 4/27/2022 Roy Berendsohn, Paige Szmodis

Mowing your lawn might always feel like a chore, but when you’re trying to cut over a quarter acre of land with a walk-behind mower, it can feel even more dreadful. The good news is there are plenty of riding mower types to help cut down on the time and energy it takes to keep up with lawn care this year, especially if you have more than a half-acre of land. Some even make it enjoyable (hello, cruise control and cup holders!). Whether you’re looking for a gas or battery-powered tractor, rear-engine model, or zero-turn mower, we’ve tested many models and researched the market to recommend the best riding lawn mowers of the season.

Best Riding Lawn Mowers

The Expert: Roy Berendsohn is our senior test editor who has been reviewing outdoor power equipment at Popular Mechanics for over 30 years. From his decades of mower testing, he’s learned you’ve got to cut a lot of grass and mow under a wide range of conditions to get a sense of what a mower is worth. He cuts grass throughout the mowing season to evaluate the latest machines, including riding lawn mowers. And he’s intimately familiar with industry players, big and small, having tested all types of tools over the years.

Types of Riding Lawn Mowers

There are essentially three types of riding mowers to choose from: rear-engine mowers, front-engine lawn tractors, and zero-turn mowers. What type of mower you want depends on your property size, terrain, budget, and preferred method of mowing. We recommend a rear-engine mower for up to two acres and a tractor or zero-turn model for up to four acres. Although lawn tractors might have convenient attachments to help with other yard work, zero-turn mowers have a better turning radius to accurately follow edges and efficiently turn around on passes when cutting large amounts of flat land.


All three types are available in gas- or electric-powered machines. Battery mowers are quieter (and often more expensive) than their gas-engine counterparts, whereas the latter can more easily handle extreme mowing conditions, such as tall, thick grass. Regardless of the power source, riding lawn mowers come with multiple cutting height settings, typically from 1.5 to 4.5 inches.

What to Look for in a Riding Mower

Popular Mechanics’ resident lawn mower expert Roy Berendsohn has plenty of advice on what to look for in riding mowers. For people with a lot of grass to mow and not much time to do it, there are three non-negotiables, he says. You’ll want the widest deck/biggest engine combo and a reliable hydrostatic transmission. In addition, don’t forget the importance of a comfortable, well-supported seat and a high top speed to help you get through long mowing sessions.

“For people with hills or mushy areas, one of the best options is a locking differential,” Berendsohn says. “Engage it to equally distribute power to the rear wheels for maximum traction.” For the best cut quality, “you want to look for a well-supported deck with maximum ability to ‘float’ over the terrain.” Look for a deck suspended from the tractor so it can follow the ground contour as much as possible.

Although this list provides mower options suitable for lawns of all shapes and sizes, remember to download the owner’s manual before you buy and look at the machine at a dealer. If you do your own service, check for good access to the air and oil filter, a sensible belt configuration, and a deck that can be easily removed.

How We Evaluated These Riding Lawn Mowers

To recommend the best riding lawn mowers, we relied on our extensive mower testing over several decades and consulted with Pop Mech Senior Test Editor Roy Berendsohn. We have tested some models (or their predecessors) reviewed below, whereas others earned our recommendation after we thoroughly evaluated their design, promised performance, features, and cost, in accordance with Berendsohn’s advice. Consumer reviews from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon helped confirm our recommendations.


Ryobi 42-Inch 100-AH Zero-Turn Electric

Type: Zero turn | Cutting Width: 42 in. | Power: 48 V 100 Ah rechargeable battery | Model: RY48ZTR100

42-Inch 100-AH Zero-Turn Electric © 42-Inch 100-AH Zero-Turn Electric


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“Ryobi’s electric mowers are a kick to operate,” Berendsohn says. “They’re light and swift (top speed of 7 mph), and because they’re comparatively small with a compact wheel base, it feels more like a lawn buggy than a mower.” Powered by a 100-amp-hour battery and four brushless motors, this zero-turn Ryobi can cut up to three acres on a single charge—no need to worry about refilling a gas tank or worn-out spark plugs. The electric design also ensures a quieter operation than gas machines. Four brushless motors and two steel blades can shape up unruly lawns, and you can set the cutting height between 1.5 and 4.5 inches tall. An investment to be sure, this mower is also fully decked out with an adjustable seat, onboard storage, cup holders, a USB charging port, cruise control, and LED headlights, so you can mow your lawn even as dusk sets in.


Troy-Bilt TB30 B Riding Lawn Mower

Type: Rear engine | Cutting Width: 30 in. | Power: Gas | Model: 13AC26JD023

TB30 B Riding Lawn Mower © TB30 B Riding Lawn Mower


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Ideal for lawns of less than two acres, the Troy-Bilt TB30 B is a compact riding mower that will save you storage space and money. Sturdy construction meets a quality 10.5-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine. Its 30-inch cutting width is slightly larger than an average walk-behind mower, so you can speed through your weekly maintenance cuts. The six-speed transmission tops out at 4.25 mph, which is slower than some riding lawn mowers but considerably faster than your average walk-behind. This mower also has just five blade-height settings—from 1.5 to 4 inches—compared to high-end models that offer upward of 10. But these compromises are hardly dealbreakers if you’re a first-time riding mower buyer or want to save some cash.


Husqvarna YTH24V54

Type: Lawn tractor | Cutting Width: 54 in. | Power: Gas | Model: 960450064

YTH24V54 © YTH24V54


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A large 54-inch cutting deck, 24-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine, hydrostatic transmission, and cruise control all ensure a smooth ride on this Husqvarna lawn tractor. According to Berendsohn, its “big engine paired with a big deck combine to help you get the job done quickly, without breaking the bank.” Even with its big power and cutting deck, its compact design makes it easy to maneuver and store. The lawn tractor is compatible with dozens of accessories and attachments, such as mulch kits, tow-behind spreaders, and aerators, all sold separately. All told, this Husqvarna offers a great balance between power, size, and price tag.


Ryobi 38-inch 100-AH Electric Riding Mower

Type: Rear engine | Cutting Width: 38 in. | Power: 48 V 100 Ah rechargeable battery | Model: RY48111

38-inch 100-AH Electric Riding Mower © 38-inch 100-AH Electric Riding Mower


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Nearly as powerful as Ryobi’s zero-turn electric mower reviewed above, this riding mower can mow for 2.5 hours or 2.5 acres before you need to charge its 100-amp-hour battery (easy to do with a 120-volt outlet). Instead of four brushless motors, this model has three, but you still get a nice wide deck with 12 height settings from 1.5 to 4.5 inches. The feature set is also great and includes cruise control, LED headlights, and a control panel with USB charging. If you aren’t committed to a zero-turn mower but want to go electric, the Ryobi 38-Inch 100-AH riding mower delivers a clean, even cut with no gas or fumes and little maintenance.


John Deere S100 Lawn Tractor

Type: Lawn tractor | Cutting Width: 42 in. | Power: Gas | Model: S100

S100 Lawn Tractor © S100 Lawn Tractor


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This John Deere is an affordable and durable lawn tractor with a solid cast-iron front axle and 17.5-horsepower engine to mow, mulch, and bag on any terrain. The deck adjusts between 13 settings for a custom cut height between 1 and 4 inches. Plus, there are plenty of compatible add-ons like a mulch kit, bagger, front bumper, and tow-behind spreaders and other tools. In addition to these features, the S100 offers a reasonable 18-inch turn radius, separate gas pedals for forward and reverse, and comfort conveniences like an adjustable seat, cup holder, and small storage compartment.


Ariens Ikon-XD 52 Kawasaki

Type: Zero turn | Cutting Width: 52 in. | Power: Gas | Model: 915267

Ikon-XD 52 Kawasaki © Ikon-XD 52 Kawasaki


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Ariens mowers and snow blowers have earned high marks in our tests for decades. We attribute that to sound engineering and better-than-average build quality. This mower combines the reliability and high-torque characteristics of a 23-horsepower Kawasaki engine with a rugged 52-inch fabricated (11-gauge) steel deck, plus a smooth-running Hydrogear EZT transmission at each rear wheel. The Hydrogear is a popular residential-grade transaxle with a one-inch-diameter axle and a 900-pound weight rating. You need that much capacity with a machine like this. The mower by itself weighs 635 pounds before you add a driver and 2.8 gallons of fuel. The Hydrogear provides a top speed of 7 mph. You also get very robust construction in other critical areas: a four-point deck mount similar to one on many commercial mowers. The deck mount hangs off a tube steel frame. And Ariens frames are stiff, models of neat welding and well-applied paint.


Husqvarna Z248F

Type: Zero turn | Cutting Width: 48 in. | Power: Gas | Model: 967844801

Z248F © Z248F


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If our previous tests have proven one thing, it’s that Husqvarna is a company that pays close attention to the details. And in the case of this mower, that attention went into the redesigned 48-inch fabricated 10-gauge deck. Each of its three blades have an aerodynamic shape reminiscent of a stingray’s wing tip. Those spinning blades not only cut the grass but are also intended to produce a tremendous amount of lift and airflow inside the deck, especially when combined with the curved air baffles welded to the deck wall. The mulching action of the grass prevents clogging, according to Husqvarna, and the aforementioned airflow is supposed to shoot the debris right out the side. (Without a test, we can’t say, but we have seen good cutting performance with similarly designed blade-deck combinations in the past.) And the blades are mounted on cast-iron spindles, a sturdy material that withstands heat and dampens vibration. Unlike some residential spindles, these have grease fittings for improved longevity. Powering the mower is a 26-horsepower Kohler engine, a powerplant that has provided sufficient torque in past tests, even in tall grass.


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