Below we will delve into the brand wars that have resulted in some bargain zero turn radius mower buys. By dividing the models up into their cutting deck sizes, we can more accurately compare and contrast the brands. Please note that we are only analyzing residential/mid-range zero turn mowers in this article. We will start by 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).
30-inch Mower Reviews
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
Husqvarna RZ3016 ZTR Review
Husqvarna have addressed the market demand for a smaller cutting deck for your smaller gates and stop-start mowing areas. This little beauty handles most neighborhood lawns with ease. The design of the Husqvarna RZ3016 lends itself to flat lawns on a normal residential size property.
Dawning the popular one cylinder 16.5 HP Briggs & Stratton gas-powered engine, this machine will reach a max speed of 6.5 mph moving forward. The rated productivity is 1.6 acres/hr. These engines are known for their reliability on the market.
The mower will arrive on your doorstep in a crate and should take less than an hour to unpack and set up. Husqvarna has added multiple safety mechanisms for secure shipment. Therefore, read the instruction manual carefully. It will involve connecting up the battery to its correct position. So when you turn the engine on, it starts immediately.
A note to first time zero turn radius mowers. You will find the steering strange and a little sensitive to movement. Don’t worry that is normal. You will just need some practice and open space (for the safety of everything around you).
Stand Out Features Compared to Other Mower Reviews
When we tested the Husqvarna RZ3016, there are some noticeably clever features. The stout caster assembly and large front tires are a great addition to this smaller mower. They are usually only seen on more expensive models. Refueling was a breeze and oil change was relatively simple if you follow the instructions.
On the other hand, some reports highlight issues with the machine. These include having to replace drive belts as well as rough cuts on unlevel ground. It seems many 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. It’s best to avoid steeper slopes and very long grass.
The Husqvarna RZ3016 is an excellent entry level mower for those looking to half their mowing time in comparison to more traditional machines. If you clean it regularly and service it according to the instruction manual, you should not see any issues. It will go the distance and turn your afternoon chore into a fun break from the couch!
| Easily fits through any gate
Nice even cut
| Not good on slopes
Reported isolated incidents of mechanical issues
46-inch ZTR Mower Reviews
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
|Poulan Pro P46ZX||A-||$$|
Bumping up another $300-$400 from the 30-inch category, we arrive at the 46-inch cutting decks. Firstly, let’s take a moment to look at the comparison between the two main models. Then we will jump into a detailed comparison.
As you can see it’s a close race in the 46-inch division with only subtle differences between the two competitors. However, one notable difference is the engines. The Husqvarna Z246 utilizes the 23 horsepower Endurance Series V-Twin Briggs & Stratton engine. Whereas the Poulan Pro P46ZX only has a 22 horsepower Professional Series Briggs & Stratton. A keen eye will then see the benefits this has for the final product. It allows the Husqvarna Z246 to travel half a mile per hour faster (despite weighing a little more too). However, the Poulan Pro P46ZX is no pushover as the productivity of both machines is a tie at 2.4 acres/hr.
Delivery & Set Up
Both arrived on a wooden pallet that was secured into a crate. When you have the crate open (using your preferred plying tool), you will 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. Strangely, the Poulan Pro P46ZX manual forgets to mention this part. Once you have filled the petrol tank (use good unleaded petrol) and checked the oil, you’re ready to roll.
We found that there are also some subtle differences in the included extras between the two models. The Husqvarna Z246 has some great front-facing LED lights. This addition makes it perfect for mowing in low light situations or just at dusk. Furthermore, they included a heat shield at the lower back end of the mower. This will ensure that when you’re stationary, you are not burning the grass underneath you. These are also available for the Poulan Pro P46ZX but do not come included with the stock model.
After reading almost all buyer comments for the 46-inch cutting deck, we have some recommendations. To start with, 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. At the 46-inch mark, the manufacturers try to cram as much as they can into a small space. Therefore, room for error is tight and it’s best not to push your mower to its limits regularly. Furthermore, try to 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 due to the weight to power ratio just cannot support steep inclines.
You will not find armrests as an added extra. However, you can easily pick up a pair on Amazon at next to nothing and install them yourself. Also, keep in mind, you will not find a fuel gauge on these models. But we found that they all run an economic engine nonetheless, so refueling is rare, even for mowing larger areas.
We should stress again, at the 46-inch mark, these are not mowers for harsh slopes or wet grass. Be sure to investigate and know your mowing space thoroughly before purchasing one of these machines. If not, you may just find yourself sliding down the hill when the gradient is over 10 degrees.
Winner of the Best Zero Turn Mower
We will have to reward this category to the Husqvarna Z246 for its implementation of a great B&S engine. Furthermore, the added extras deliver value for money. However, it was a close race. Both of these contenders are at the top of their game at very competitive prices.
| Extra horsepower means faster mower
Front LED lights included
Minimal mechanical issues reported
| No armrests
No fuel gauge
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
|Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 XP||B+||$$$|
|Husqvarna Z254 (Briggs & Stratton Engine)||A-||$$|
|Poulan Pro P54ZX||A+||$$|
|Husqvarna Z254 (Kohler Engine)||A||$$$|
Again, we jump another $300-$400 in price for a larger 54-inch cutting deck and starting to rev the engines! Let’s take a looks at a comparison of the competitors in this category:
Start Your Engines
Let’s start with the heartbeat of the 54-inch cutting deck category, the engines. It’s a close battle here as all manufacturers have opted for powerful and enduring pieces of machinery. The standout here is the Troy-Bilt B&S Commercial Turf Twin 25 HP engine, where B&S specifically designed the engine for these mowers. It gives an extra half a mile per hour speed increase. This effectively bumps up the productivity of the Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 XP to a neat 3.2 acres/hr. Although, this does come with the accompanying price tag, which is perceptibly higher than it’s competitors in the category. Hear how B&S specifically catered to handling the debris thrown off the mowers via unique filtration systems.
B&S ZTR Mower Commercial
Husqvarna, on the other hand, opted to give consumers a choice between the two rival engine manufacturers producing a model with Briggs & Stratton as well as one with Kohler. However, consumers will ponder the difference between the two machines being over $500. This is difference results in an extra two horsepower. Then combine that with industry known reliability and longevity of a Kohler made engine. In our humble opinion, that’s worth the extra spend.
That’s not to take away from the Husqvarna V-Twin 724 cc’s engine that is part of Briggs & Stratton’s Endurance Series. Compared to 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. And by all reports, consumers are happy with the choice.
Comfort and Usability
It’s not too hard to divide up the bunch by looking at how they address your comfort while using the mower. Just sitting on this mower and you will feel more comfortable than sitting on its rivals. This is due to a 19-inch very high back seat which can accommodate a taller and larger person easily. The three other models all have the smaller 15-inch seats. An important feature to highlight is the fuel site gauge. This allows for easily assessing fuel levels (which is a little harder to do on the other models).
Regarding general usability, the Poulan Pro P54ZX is a comfortable riding and smooth cutting machine. Its wheels are designed very ergonomically for maneuvering around tight obstacles. Another impressive feature is the lack of having to “redo” areas. These are areas that their old mowers would typically miss. Are you after a beautiful looking lawn from a mower at a very competitive price? Then the Poulan Pro P54ZX would be your choice.
Front Lights & Heat Protector
Front facing LED lights are a rare sight on these mowers. That’s why it’s great to see Husqvarna add LED headlights. It’s also included extra to both Z254 models. Perfect for mowing in low light situations or just at dusk. Also, you will also be thankful for the addition of a heat shield. The shield’s located ideally at the lower back end of the mower. This will ensure that when you’re stationary on the mower, you are not burning the grass underneath you.
The Troy-Bilt Mustang 54 does have a larger and faster engine. However, the price tag places it in the upper echelon of the 54-inch category. Some users highlight engineering issues not usual in this price bracket. For example, there were instances of grass clogging in the rear wheels or drive belt displacements. However, if you need a faster mower for regularly cut flat and dry grass, then look no further.
Customers of both the Husqvarna models raised some issues of defective parts. Not only on arrival of the shipment but within the warranty period too. However, Amazon is very good at handling refunds and repairs if these issues occur. They may be rare, but you will not be left in the dark when a hiccup arises.
The Poulan Pro P54ZX comes out mostly unscathed in user reviews. Some have seen drive belts come loss. Other customers have reported having to replace one or two missing or lost parts. On the whole, however, most cases have reported glowing ratings for a well built and reliable machine.
Winner of these ZTR Reviews
It’s always a super tough race in the 54-inch category. This is one of the most common residential size ride on mowers on the market. Above, we have weighed up the power, speed, cut and competitive pricing. With that in mind, we will award this category to the Poulan Pro P54ZX. It’s a true “value for money” machine. It may not be as fast as the Troy-Bilt or have the added extras of the Husqvarna models. But it does everything you need from a 54-inch mower and more.
| Efficient and low maintenance engine
Minimal mechanical issues reported
| Not as fast as competitors
No additional LED headlights included
60-inch + ZTR Mower Reviews
|ZERO TURN MOWER||QUALITY||PRICE||OUR RATING|
Welcome to the semi-pro leagues my mowing prodigy. With a 60-inch + cutting deck you’re moving into the big leagues now. This mower is ready for any residential yard you can throw at it. The Husqvarna MZ61 is a 61-inch, 27 horsepower mower with a fabricated cutting deck. Not to mention that it would impress the pants off any onlooking neighbor. There is a three blade cutting system sitting underneath. Powering the ZTR mower is the industry-leading B&S Endurance V-Twin engine.
This engine packs on horsepower, which results in a faster mower. And by faster, we mean a jump of 2 MPH from the previous category to 8.5 MPH. You can also go for longer on this mower as it has a 5-gallon gas tank. That’s a jump from the 3.5-gallon tanks in the previous category.
The extra large gas tank and motor mean the machine is a little heavier and gives it some more stability on steeper inclines. Let’s say your property has a steeper area to mow that possibly includes obstacles too. Then the Husqvarna MZ61 is recommended for you.
The unit arrived relatively intact and set up was a breeze. Just make sure you check and tighten any loose nuts and bolts. Also, ensure that you correctly connect the battery up.
Strange Design Decisions on the Zero Turn Mower
One interesting choice for this model, however, was that we could not find a washout hose input. These usually are present in lower grade models. So it’s a surprise not to see it here as it’s not easy to get under the deck and clean. Therefore, we would recommend picking up some anti-stick spray for the underside of the deck. Then ensure that you spray it on before your first mow.
This is a very powerful commercial/residential mower. At its current market price, it’s a steal for any consumer looking to mow more extensive areas. It comes with a three year residential and 1-year commercial warranty which shows that Husqvarna stands behind their quality. Do you have space and you don’t want to waste any time while mowing? Then 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 understand:
|1-2||42, 46″||This is optimal for a standard residential flat yard.|
|2+||48, 50, 52, 54″||If you have a little bigger than average yard or an estate size space to mow|
|2+||60, 61?||This is for commercial and large estate properties|
|2+||72?||Into the commercial space now, or if you have a massive property to mow|
The Final Cut
The size of the cutting deck impacts highly on the final look of the grass. A smaller deck is optimal for a nice and even cut. That’s due to fewer blades that are focusing on a smaller area. As you move up in size, reduces the evenness of the cut. Most buyers lean towards a smaller deck for most residential properties.
Avoid The Slope
When considering the size of the deck, it’s important to consider the slopes in your mowing area. Even on small inclines, the smaller cutting decks (IE ~30-inch mark) struggle to maintain their grip. This includes the roots around the trees and slight uphill mowing areas. You could even potentially tip the mower over if the angle is too much. The smaller zero mowers are top heavy compared to their larger deck counterparts. You will find that 54-inch and above is where you will feel more secure on inclines with your mower.
Measure It Out
We recommend you grab the tape measure and head out into the garden. Measure out the main obstacles that will lie in your way. This is important for the smaller cutting decks, e.g., 42-inch cutting deck. You will need another 6-inches of space for items like the discharge chute. Also, measure out the vehicle that you may be moving the mower around in as well. For example, most pick up trucks will fit up to a 46-inch mower comfortably. Anything bigger than that and you’re looking at a trailer.
Need For Speed
I don’t mean this type of need for speed:
The general rule of thumb starts with the size of the cutting deck. The larger the deck, the better the engine will be and the faster the mower rides. A 46-50-inch deck will cut around 20% faster than a 42-inch deck. And a 52-54-inch deck will cut 30-40% quicker than that again. When you jump up into the 60-inch range, you could quickly finish a 5-acre lawn in just over an hour. But remember as we mentioned earlier, as you increase the speed, the level of the cut tends to decline. The means you may need to revisit specific areas of the lawn twice in the 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 designed to be the upgrade of the ride on tractor. However, they never really caught on until the late 1970s. They were faster, more nimble and could cover tight angles much better than the tractor. You will find that the difference in straight line speed is relatively similar between the two types of machines. However, the main advantage of the ZTR mower is its nimbleness around objects and obstacles in the mowing area. You will be able to handle the sharp corners and tree roots with ease. This means you can leave the trimmer for only the harder spots to reach.
Consumer Reports tested this out with the own independent examination.
The ZTR Mower Race
The modern components of the tractor and the zero turn mower do not vary too much. Both machines stock the best materials within the budget. And both have an industry of very reliable manufacturers.
Another significant difference between these two types of machines is the transmission. Your mower will be equipped with two hydrostatic transmissions, purposed for extra control over the mower. The standard tractor only has one. So just like on your tractor, you can carry around heavier loads. That also means fewer stops to empty the catcher.
How Do I Care For & Maintain My Zero Turn Mower?
Excellent question Waston! Here are five easy steps to keeping your mower in top nick:
Putting the right type of fuel in your gas tank can be crucial. It decides how long your mower will last before it needs a service. You should aim to put gasoline in the tank that contains an ethanol mix of 10% or less. Furthermore, 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 it’s integrity for when the season starts up again.
Make sure that you store your zero turn mower in a dry and sheltered location. This will prevent the build-up of moisture that eventually causes corrosion. Furthermore, we recommend you dry your mower off after cleaning or mowing. A good idea would be picking up a low-cost cover. This will help prevent moisture entering the machine while in storage.
There are some telltale signs that your tire pressure may be off the recommended level. The most obvious of all is when your cuts start to lose their evenness. Therefore, topping up the pressure of your tires will ensure that your cut returns to an even level as well and ensuring the longevity of your machine.
Keep it Clean
After each mowing session, it’s essential to clean up and under the cutting deck. There will be a significant build-up of mulch and grass clippings. Luckily, some zero turn mowers are equipped with an insert for your hose to make the cleaning job much more accessible.
Grease it Up
There are many parts of your mower where metals are rubbing together for it to function. It’s essential that these areas are kept well greased to prevent extreme wearing. Refer to your owners manual as this will typically highlight the locations on the mower to apply the grease.
There you have it, we have attempted to cover the best ZTR mowers on the market. Taking into consideration the top models and brands on the market at the most competitive prices. Once you know your deck size, it’s then just a matter of choosing the right make to fit your needs. Some will lean towards the cut; others will favor the speed. Then there are just those who want both and are happy to pay for it. Good luck with your new zero turn mower and remember to stay safe and enjoy your freshly cut lawn.