Is A Narrow Mower Better Than A Wide Mower?

You might assume a wide mower is better than narrow, but depending on your specific needs, bigger isn't always better. Let's explore why.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson

We’ve often voiced the opinion that bigger isn’t always better. When it comes to farm equipment, it can be easy to assume larger machines are more capable and effective than their smaller counterparts. But in many cases, a smaller (and less expensive) option might be the better tool for your needs.

Wider Is Better (Right?)

The width of a lawn mower is a perfect example. Let’s say you’re shopping for a tool to mow your lawn. You’ve analyzed several options. You looked at a garden tractor with a 4-foot mowing deck and a zero-turn mower with a 5-foot deck. You even checked out a 6-foot finish mower that mounts on the three-point hitch of your utility tractor.

Your first assumption might be, “the wider the better!” After all, the wider the mower, the more grass you can cut at once.

All else being equal, a 6-foot finish mower will cut grass 50 percent faster than a 4-foot mowing deck, freeing up time you can spend on other projects. Even the 5-foot deck on the zero-turn mower offers a 20 percent improvement. And there’s a good chance the zero-turn mower will operate at a higher speed than the garden tractor.

This would further increase your time savings.

Read more: Check out these important steps for preparing your garden tractor for winter.

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Smaller Mowers Offer Advantages

But hang on—let’s point out some of the advantages offered by smaller mowers. What type of land will you be mowing? Wide mowers are great for mowing open spaces and flat fields. But imagine driving your utility tractor and finish mower through a compact yard dotted with trees, buildings and other obstacles.

A smaller mower is more maneuverable and can squeeze through tighter spaces. That five-foot gap between two stately maple trees? A garden tractor with a four-foot deck will mow between them no problem. But it’s physically impossible to squeeze larger mowers through the small gap.

Think About Weight, Too

Weight is another factor. A smaller machine is likely to weigh less than a larger one, which can be a benefit if you’re concerned about soil compaction or rutting up your lawn. Turf tires can minimize the damage inflicted by machinery.

But there’s only so much you can do to prevent a heavy utility tractor from leaving a trail in its wake if the ground is soft and you need to mow before the grass gets out of hand.

Also, where are you going to park your mower when it’s not in use? Unless you intend to leave it out in the elements, size is a factor when placing a mower under cover.

I know from experience that a garden tractor with a 4-foot deck can squeeze into some tiny places when needed—the corner of a garage, for example, or even between two cars. The wider your mower, the more space you need to store it.

Read more: Do you know the differences between different kinds of turf tires?

Wider May Be the Way

This isn’t to say you should always opt for a smaller mower. To the contrary, if you have acres of fields you would like to tidily mow, a wide mower (the wider the better!) can save you tons of time.

Instead, the goal is to get you thinking about your specific needs. If storage space and maneuvering room are limited, and if your lawn is like an obstacle course constructed over soft ground, a small and lightweight mower might be a sounder investment (at a lower price point) than a larger mower.

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