PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock
April 7, 2017

One of the joys of living on a farm, even a small-scale one, is having a yard with plenty of room. Push mowers do a fine job on small lawns, but with a large yard, you’ll need a dedicated riding mower in order to keep the grass under control. However, with a wide variety of riding lawn mower types to choose from, figuring out what type and size is right for you will require some research. Here’s a quick look at some of the different riding mowers that are on the market.

Lawn Tractors

For most people, thinking about a riding mower likely conjures images of these. They’re traditionally designed with the engine in the front and are equipped with a steering wheel, along with foot pedals or a stick shift for driving, making them a more familiar option than the zero-turn mowers discussed later. While they aren’t as maneuverable as zero-turns, they can be used with basic attachments, including small trailers, making them more versatile and useful for tasks other than mowing. (Zero-turns don’t always have a hitch for attachments.)

Rear-Engine Tractors

Essentially, these are small lawn tractors with engines in the back and a steering wheel to control the front wheels. They tend to be inexpensive and are easy to store due to their small size, but they don’t have much power or many extra features. Their mower decks aren’t exceptionally wide, so determining whether a rear-engine tractor is right for you depends on the size of your yard and your machinery storage area. If both are small, a rear-engine tractor might be perfect; if both are large, you’ll likely want to invest in a larger and more powerful mower.

Garden Tractors

A sizable step up from lawn tractors, garden tractors aren’t designed exclusively for mowing lawns; in fact, removing the mower deck is common with garden tractors. They tend to have nicer features than lawn tractors—wider mower decks and hydraulic steering—and are generally more powerful, making them a great choice if you’re looking for a machine that will mow your yard while also handling a wide variety of other farm chores involving larger implements and attachments.

Zero-Turn Mowers

Zero-turn mowers are rising in popularity due to the many advantages that they offer for saving time and simplifying the process of mowing. They look substantially different than regular lawn tractors, given their rear-mounted engines and many models’ lack of traditional steering wheels. Instead, zero-turn mowers are controlled using a pair of handles on either side of the seat; these control individually driven rear wheels that allows for remarkably sharp turns, even spinning in place. This makes it easier to cut clean rows in lawns without missing any grass. In addition, zero-turn mowers can effectively cut grass at much greater speeds than lawn tractors, though they aren’t as well-suited to sloping ground.


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