Check out our best zero turn lawn mower reviews to discover the top models on the market.
There are currently some wonderfully reliable and convenient, bargain zero turn radius mowers available on the market. In this article we delve into the brand wars that have produced these enticing buys. We accurately compare and contrast the brands by dividing the models up into their cutting deck sizes (please note that we are only analyzing residential/mid-range zero turn mowers in this article). Let’s jumping straight into the reviews. (“But which cutting deck size do I need?” I hear you thinking. We answer this tricky question after the reviews. You can also skip to this section and then come back here).
34-inch Mower Reviews
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
|Ariens Zoom 915211||B+||$|
Ariens has addressed the market demand for a smaller cutting deck that can handle narrow gates and stop-start mowing areas. This little gem makes short work of suburban lawns and even the occasional shallow slopes. It’s a good fit for small to medium sized residential properties. Functionally, it’s wonderfully reliable for such a small machine.
Equipped with the professional 6000 V-Twin Kohler gas-powered engine, which powers up at 19hp, the Ariens Zoom will reach a max speed of 6 mph when moving forwards. This may make it the slowest machine here, but only by a tiny margin.
The mower is isn’t assembled when it arrives. Your options for putting it together are to either hire a local pro through Amazon, or study the manual with care before attempting it yourself.
A note to first time zero turn radius mowers: the steering on your new machine may seem strange and a little sensitive. This unusual, touchy feel of the steering wheel is common to all zero turns. We advise that you practice driving your mower in an open space (to avoid potentially damaging any objects near you). Without practice, a zero turn mower may also tear up a chunk of lawn when you change direction. Here’s a quick and easy tut on how to seamlessly swing your new zero turn.
Stand Out Features Compared to Other Mower Reviews
The Ariens Zoom 915211 offers some wonderfully advantageous features. The stout caster assembly and large front tires are a incredibly practical addition to this smaller mower. They are usually only seen on more expensive models. Parts availability is high. There is an array of handy accessories you can order, including arms rests, a trailer hitch, a bucket bagger and a grass mulching kit.
On the other hand, some reports highlight issues with the machine. These include rough cuts on unlevel ground. Unfortunately, many of these unhappy customers have purchased the wrong size cutting deck for their mowing purposes. It’s important to remember that here we are looking at smaller, residential zero turn radius mowers. With these, it’s best to avoid steeper slopes and very long grass.
This model is an impressively functional entry level mower which will delight those who usually use more traditional machines but would love to halve their mowing time. If you clean the Ariens Zoom 915211 regularly, and service it according to the instruction manual, it will provide years of comfortable, reliable mowing performance. It can go the distance and turn your sweaty weekend chore into a fun jaunt in the fresh air and sunshine.
| Fits through narrower gates|
Loads of handy accessories available
Parts easy to find
| Struggles on slopes|
Smaller size means longer mowing time
42 inch ZTR Mower Reviews
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
|Snapper 2691402 360Z||A||$$|
Bumping up another $200-$300 from the 34-inch category, we arrive at the 42-inch cutting decks. First, let’s look at the specs comparison between the two best models available. Then we’ll jump into a detailed comparison.
|Snapper 2691402 360Z||Husqvarna Z242F|
|Engine name||FR651V V-Twin||FR Series|
|Power||21.5 hp||18 hp|
|Fuel tank volume (with reserve)||3 gal.||3.5 gal.|
|Fuel tank location||Side (Single)||Side (Single)|
|Speed forward, min-max||7 mph||6.5 mph|
|Cutting width||42 inch||42 inch|
|Deck thickness||12 gauge||10 gauge|
|Cutting height, min-max (approximate)||1.5 – 4.5 inch||1.5 - 4 inch|
|Cutting height steps||13||6|
|Blade engagement||Electric||Electric clutch|
|Deck lifting system||Commercial style, foot operated||Manual, hand operated|
|Spindle/mandrel type||Aluminium||Cast Iron|
|Deck Wash Port||No||Yes|
|Seat type||Standard||Comfort high back|
|Hour meter||Standard||Digital with pre-programmed service intervals|
|Tire size, front||11x4"||11x6"|
|Weight||724 lbs||566 lbs|
|Homeowner Warranty||3 Year Residential; Lifetime for Deck||3 Years Homeowner Warranty|
|Commercial Warranty||90 Day Warranty||None|
It’s a close race in the 42-inch division, with generally subtle differences between the two competitors. The significant disparities here are the horsepower, cutting steps, weight and warranties. The Husqvarna offers average power at 18hp, while the Snapper has slightly more oomph than the average ride-on at 21.5hp. This makes it a tiny bit faster, and more likely to make it up those pesky slopes. The Snapper has many more cutting steps at 13: generous compared to the Husqvarna’s 6. Is this an advantage? Strangely enough, the Husqvarna has a bigger cutting range, so it’s probably still more practical to use for picking your lawn’s height. The Snapper’s warranty options are much more advantageous: it offers a commercial warranty plus a lifetime warranty for the deck. The Snapper is notably heavier, though. It’s more likely to compress your lawn or tear up a little chunk of turf when you’re navigating those turns.
Delivery & Set Up
Most zero turn lawn mowers arrive in a crate that is secured onto a wooden pallet. When you have the crate open (using your preferred plying tool), you can jump straight into the assembly. The assembly process involves bolting the seat on and maneuvering the mower off the crate. Don’t forget to connect the positive terminal of the battery. Once you’ve filled the petrol tank (use high-quality unleaded petrol) and checked the oil, you’re ready to roll.
We found that there are some differences in the accessories available for these models. Most notably, the Husqvarna offers 3 collection accessory options while the Snapper only offers one, but the Snapper has some awesome light kits available for those early morning or evening lawn maintenance runs. It also has an wonderfully handy broom attachment for clearing snow and leaves.
After reading almost all the buyer comments on the 42-inch cutting deck mowers, we have some recommendations:
- Ensure that you keep your RMP around the 80% mark when engaging the blades.That way you reduce the risk of throwing your drive belt off its rotation. With 42-inch models, the manufacturers try to cram as much as they can into a smallish space. Room for error is tight, and it’s best not to regularly push your mower to its limits.
- Keep within a slope range of no more than 10%.Otherwise you’ll find yourself sliding down the hill, or at the very least losing grip on turns. These problems arise from the weight to power ratio, which just cannot support steep inclines.
Neither of these models come with armrests. However, you can easily pick up a pair of suitable armrests at bargain prices on Amazon, and install them yourself. Also, keep in mind that these models aren’t fitted with fuel gauges. We found that they both run an economic engine nonetheless, so refueling is rare, even when mowing larger areas.
We should stress again that at the 42-inch mark, these are not mowers for harsh slopes or wet grass. Be sure to investigate, and thoroughly familiarize yourself with your mowing space and the model’s capabilities, before purchasing one of these machines. If you don’t, you may find yourself sliding down the hill when the gradient is over 10 degrees.
Winner of the Best Zero Turn Mower
We reward this category to the Snapper 2691402 for its power, advantageous warranties and practical accessories. It was a close race, however. Both contenders are at the top of their game, and are available at highly competitive prices.
| Extra horsepower means faster mower|
Lots of cutting steps
Lifetime warranty for deck
Loads of handy accessories available
Highly reliable quality
| No armrests|
No fuel gauge
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
|Craftsman Z560 24 HP||B||$|
|Troy-Bilt Mustang 54XP||A-||$$$|
|Husqvarna Z254 (Kohler Engine)||A+||$$|
We make another jump in price for the larger 50-plus-inch cutting decks: they can set you back anywhere between $100-$400 extra compared to the 42 inchers. We’re also starting to rev the engines here, with all of these models boasting horsepower in the twenties. Let’s look at the specs comparison for the top competitors in this category:
|Craftsman Z560 24 HP||Ariens 915223||Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 XP||Husqvarna Z254 (Kohler Engine)|
|Engine manufacturer||Briggs & Stratton||Kawasaki||Briggs & Stratton||Kohler|
|Engine name||Gold||FR V-Twin||Commercial Turf Twi||7000 Series|
|Power||24 hp||23 hp||25 hp||26 hp|
|Transmission type||Dual hydrostatic||Hydrostatic||Dual hydrostatic||Hydrostatic|
|Cutting width||54 inch||52 inch||54 inch||54 inch|
|Deck Wash Port||Yes||--||Yes||Yes|
|Seat type||High back||High back comfort||18" high back||15" high back|
|Seat back height||High||High||High||High|
|Tire size, front||11"||11x4"||13"||11x6"|
|Homeowner Warranty||2 Year Limited Warranty||5 Year Limited Warranty||3 Year Limited Warranty, Limited Lifetime Frame Warranty||3 Year Warranty|
Start Your Engines
Let’s start with the heartbeat of the 52-plus-inch cutting decks category: the engines. It’s a close battle here; all the manufacturers have selected powerful and enduring pieces of machinery.
The standout is the Troy-Bilt Briggs & Stratton Commercial Turf Twin 25 HP engine. B&S designed this engine specifically for these mowers. It adds an extra half a mile per hour speed boost: the next top speed here is the Husqvarna’s 6.5 mph. This bumps up the productivity of the Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 XP to a neat 3.2 acres/hr. And we’ve heard that B&S catered to handling the debris thrown off the mowers via unique filtration systems. These advantages do come with the accompanying price tag, though: it’s sells for significantly more than its competitors in this category.
With the Z254, Husqvarna gives consumers a choice between two rival engine manufacturers: you can purchase this model fitted with either a Briggs & Stratton or a Kohler engine. If you opt for the Kohler, the difference in price checks out at over $500. It earns you an extra two horsepower, though, and combined with the acclaimed reliability and longevity of a Kohler made engine, in our humble opinion, it’s worth the extra spend.
Nevertheless, we have no intention of downplaying the Briggs and Stratton option. This engine is part of Briggs & Stratton’s Endurance Series. When you compare them to the engines in the Professional Series, these models have a larger oil capacity and the patented 5 step “Integrated Cyclonic Air Cleaner,” which is Briggs & Stratton’s most advanced air filtration technology yet. General customer comments and reviews report that consumers are happy with this choice, too.
Comfort and Usability
It’s easy to spot the top competitor for comfort in this division. With the three larger models, the armrests are extra accessories you’d need to buy separately, but the reliable Ariens 915223 boasts armrests that are included in the original package. All the models in this category are designed for relative comfort, though, with high-back seats and handy cup holders.
When it comes to general usability, the Husqvarna Z254 is a comfortable ride that serves up a beautifully smooth cut. It doesn’t have the Ariens armrests, but it does have generous portions of power at 26hp: more than the other models in this category. It’s lighter, too, so it’s less likely to make a mark on your lawn. It utilizes air induction mowing tech, where air is drawn from the top and bottom of the deck. This makes for a wonderfully neat and efficient cut. Since all of us here are basically after a gorgeous yet convenient lawn at a highly competitive price, the Husqvarna Z254 is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Front Lights & Heat Protector
Front facing LED lights are a rare sight on zero turn mowers. We were very pleased to see that Husqvarna has added LED headlights to their range of accessories. These are perfect for mowing in low light situations, or at dusk. Also, they have added the lawn-saving heat shield accessory. The shield is installed at the lower back end of the mower, and ensures that when you’re stationary on the mower, you are not burning the grass underneath you.
The Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 boasts the fastest speed in this division, and is fitted with a handy fuel gauge. However, the price tag places it in the upper echelons of the 50-plus-inch category. Some users highlight engineering issues unusual for a machine in this price bracket. For example, there were instances of grass clogging the rear wheels, and unexpected drive belt displacements. However, if you’d like a fast mower for cutting well-maintained, flat, dry grass, this model performs beautifully.
The Craftsman, when compared to the other models, doesn’t really stand out in any way. It has a little more power than the Ariens at 24hp, and its cutting deck is two inches larger at 54 inches. It doesn’t offer the comfort of the Ariens, and is a little less maneuverable.
In general, the Ariens offers reliable quality. However, users report more breakages and parts replacements than with the Husqvarna Z254, which is incredibly sturdy.
The Husqvarna Z254 comes out mostly unscathed in user reviews. Some customers had problems with assembling the machine. Overall, most cases are glowing reports of a well-built and reliable mower.
Winner of these ZTR Reviews
It’s a super tough race here in the 52-54-inch category. These are among the most common residential-sized ride on mowers available on the market. Above, we have weighed up the power, speed, cut quality and pricing. With these aspects in mind, we award the title of “Best Mower” in this category to the Husqvarna Z254. It’s an excellent machine that delivers long-term value for money. It may not be as fast as the Troy-Bilt or feature the added comfort of the Ariens. But it offers everything you need from a 50-plus-inch mower, including superb quality and a cut that excels.
| Efficient and low maintenance engine|
Minimal mechanical issues reported
Powerful engine to size ration
| Not as fast as Husqvarna MZ61|
No armrests included
60-inch + ZTR Mower Reviews
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
The Husqvarna MZ61 is ready to conquer any residential yard you can throw at it. This zero turn mower is a 61-inch, 27 horsepower machine featuring a fabricated cutting deck. There is a three-blade cutting system fitted underneath. Powering the ZTR mower is the industry-leading B&S Endurance V-Twin engine. Without a doubt, it would impress the pants off any onlooking neighbor.
The engine packs on horsepower, which results a faster mowing speed. And by faster, we mean a jump from the previous category’s 7mph to a whopping 8.5mph. You can also mow for longer on this model as it’s fitted with a 5-gallon gas tank. That’s a marked improvement on the 3.5-gallon tanks in the previous category.
The extra-large gas tank and motor mean the machine is heavy, which gives it additional stability on steeper inclines. If your property has somewhat steep slopes and possibly obstacles too, then we recommend you invest in the Husqvarna MZ61.
The unit arrived relatively intact and setup was a breeze. Just make sure you check and tighten any loose nuts and bolts when you’re assembling your new machine. Also, be careful to connect the battery up correctly.
Strange Design Decisions on the Zero Turn Mower
One unexpected aspect of using this model was that we could not find a washout hose input. These are usually present in lower grade models. It’s a surprise not to see it here, as it’s not easy to get under the deck to clean. We recommend picking up some anti-stick spray for the underside of the deck, and spraying it on before your first mow.
This is a very powerful mower that can cover both commercial and residential purposes. At its current market price, it’s a steal for any consumer who wants to mow extensive areas. It comes with a 3-year residential and 1-year commercial warranty, which shows that Husqvarna stands behind their quality. If you have a spacious lawn and don’t want to waste time while mowing, grab a Husqvarna MZ61 today.
| Super-fast and efficient cutting machine|
Takes on hills like a pro
Competitive price for entry-level commercial mower
| No washout hose input|
Not as even cut as the smaller cutting decks
Which Size Zero Turn Mower is Best for You?
Here is a simple size chart to help you figure it out:
|1-2||42, 46″||These are optimal for a standard, flat residential yard.|
|2+||48, 50, 52, 54″||You’ll need one of these if you have a yard that’s a little bigger than average, or an estate-sized space to mow.|
|2+||60, 61?||These are for commercial and large estate properties.|
|2+||72?||You’re into the commercial space now. These will also be a good fit if you have a massive property to mow.|
The Final Cut
The size of the cutting deck hugely impacts the final look of the mown grass. Thanks to fewer blades that are focusing on a smaller area, a modestly sized deck is optimal for a pleasant, even cut. As you move up in size, the evenness of the cut reduces. Most buyers lean towards using a smaller deck for mowing an average residential property.
Avoid The Slope
When deciding on the size of the deck, it’s important to consider the slopes in your mowing area. Even on shallow inclines, the smaller cutting decks (those around the 30-inch mark) struggle to maintain their grip. They have a tough time surmounting the roots around trees and slightly slanted mowing areas. In fact, the mower could potentially tip over if the angle it’s traversing is too steep for it to handle. The smaller zero mowers are top heavy compared to their larger counterparts. You will feel more secure on a 54-inch and above when you are mowing inclines with your zero turn.
Measure It Out
We recommend that you grab the tape measure and head out into the garden. Measure the main obstacles that will lie in your way when you’re mowing. This is important if you’re considering purchasing a model with a smaller cutting deck, e.g., a 42-inch cutting deck. You will need an extra 6 inches of space for items like the discharge chute. Measure the vehicle that you’ll use for transporting the mower as well. Most pickup trucks will comfortably contain a mower with a deck size of up to 46 inches. Anything bigger than that, and you’ll need to use a trailer for transport.
Need For Speed
And I don’t mean this:
The general rule of thumb for mower speed starts with the size of the cutting deck. The larger the deck, the more powerful the engine will be, and the faster the mower will ride. A 46- to 50-inch deck cuts around 20% faster than a 42-inch deck. And a 52- to 54-inch deck cuts 30 to 40% quicker than that again. When you jump up into the 60-inch deck range, you could finish a 5-acre lawn in just over an hour. Just remember that when you increase the speed, the quality of the cut tends to decline. The means that you may need to cover specific areas of the lawn twice in one mowing session.
What’s the Difference Between a Zero Turn Mower and a Tractor?
When zero turn mowers entered on the market in the 1950s, they were intended to be the upgrade of the ride on tractor. However, they never really caught on until the late 1970s. They are faster, nimbler and can traverse tight angles way better than the tractor. You will find that the tractor’s straight-line speed is relatively similar to the zero turn mower’s. The main advantage of the ZTR is its niftiness around obstacles in the mowing area. You can handle sharp corners and tree roots with ease, and leave the trimmer for only the most inaccessible spots.
Consumer Reports tested this out with their own independent examination.
The ZTR Mower Race
The components of modern tractors and zero turn mowers do not vary much. Both machines stock the best materials for their manufacturing budgets, and both are backed by an industry of highly reliable manufacturers. Both can carry heavier loads, which means fewer stops to empty the catcher.
One significant difference between the builds of these two machines is the transmission. Mowers are equipped with two hydrostatic transmissions, which give you extra control over the machine. The standard tractor only has one.
How Do I Care For & Maintain My Zero Turn Mower?
Excellent question, Waston! Here how to keep your zero turn mower in good condition in five easy steps.
Putting the right type of fuel in your gas tank is crucial. It helps to determine how long your mower can last between services. You should aim to top up the tank with gasoline that contains an ethanol mix of 10% or less. If you foresee a long spell of your mower not being used, mix in some fuel stabilizer. This will stop the gasoline and water from separating and ensure the fuel maintains its integrity for when the mowing season starts up again.
Make sure that you store your zero turn mower in a dry, sheltered location. This prevents the build-up of moisture that causes corrosion. A low-cost cover is a practical investment, as it will help protect the machine from moisture while it’s in storage. We also recommend that you dry your mower off after cleaning or mowing.
There are some telltale signs that your tire pressure may be off. The most obvious warning when your cuts start losing their evenness. Topping up the pressure of your tires will ensure that your cuts remain level, and also ensures the longevity of your machine.
Keep it Clean
t’s essential to clean on and under the cutting deck after each mowing session. There will be a significant build-up of mulch and grass clippings around the deck area. Luckily, some zero turn mowers are equipped with a convenient insert for your hose to make the cleaning process easier.
Grease it Up
All over your mower, metal parts rub together in order for it to function. It’s essential that these areas are kept well-greased to prevent severe wearing. Refer to your owner’s manual, as this usually highlights the locations on the mower to apply the grease.
In this comprehensive review, we have covered the best ZTR mowers on the market. We have analyzed the highest performing, most competitively priced models and brands available. Once you’ve figured out your ideal deck size, picking your mower is just a matter of choosing the right make to fit your needs. Some will lean towards a beautiful cut; others will favor speed. Then there are those who want both and are happy to pay for it. Good luck with your new zero turn mower, stay safe, and enjoy your freshly cut lawn.